Nav Canada cuts in Whitehorse not warranted, says minister

·2 min read

Yukon's highways and public works minister says he'll work with Nav Canada to try to prevent any cuts to air traffic control services in Whitehorse, saying such cuts aren't warranted.

"At first blush, this government does not support such measures being taken by Nav Canada, and we will certainly communicate that to Nav Canada," Richard Mostyn said in the legislative assembly on Wednesday.

Nav Canada, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, is considering cutting air traffic controller jobs at seven towers across Canada in an effort to save money as the global health crisis continues to drag down air traffic.

CBC News obtained an internal memo from Nav Canada president and CEO Neil Wilson informing staff that the not-for-profit company — which operates Canada's civil air navigation system — is conducting studies of air traffic control towers in Whitehorse, Regina, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Prince George in B.C., and Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor in Ontario, which "will result in workforce adjustments."

That prompted Yukon NDP MLA Liz Hanson to press the territorial government to explain what it was doing to prevent any cuts in Whitehorse.

"The fact is that safe air traffic management depends on the air traffic controllers in the tower," Hanson said.

"What is this government doing, actually doing, to ensure that Whitehorse airport maintains its level of safety for all pilots flying in and out of our airport?"

Wayne Vallevand/CBC
Wayne Vallevand/CBC

Mostyn said he's not surprised to hear that Nav Canada is looking for ways to cut costs during the pandemic.

He said his department is currently "in conversation" with Nav Canada and assessing the issue.

"I don't support cuts to Nav Canada, Nav Canada's flight staff, and frankly, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's warranted," Mostyn said in the legislature.

"Our aviation industry, once this pandemic is dealt with, is going to rebound in a way that will be absolutely glorious. And I look forward to those days, and we need those staff in the tower when that happens."