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Ottawa commits $75M for essential air access to remote communities


On Thursday, the federal government announced a $75-million funding program to ensure airlines serving remote communities will be able to provide minimum levels of essential transportation services for at least the next six months.

The government has committed to investing up to $174 million over 18 months, if needed, to protect against disruptions a loss in service would cause, and ensure food, medical supplies, and other essential goods and services are delivered to remote communities.

Ottawa did not specify how much money individual provinces and territories would receive, only saying that over 140 communities across the country are considered “remote” under this program. Twenty-two of the communities on the list are in the NWT.

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To qualify as “remote,” communities need to use air travel for essential needs like medical visits and food.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis in the aviation industry’s ability to service communities, which is having a significant impact on the remote communities that depend on small air carriers for essential goods, services, and access in and out of the community,” the federal government said in a media release.

Ottawa said it will seek a bilateral agreement with the Northwest Territories government “to ensure continuity of service.”

The federal government said the millions it is contributing, alongside contributions from provinces and territories, will help replace revenue from passenger flights that typically covers the cost of flight operations and cargo delivery.

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“A fixed funding amount would be allocated by province [or] territory based on the historical passenger volumes into remote communities,” the federal government explained.

It added, the six-month bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories may be renewed with adjusted rates depending on the need and the pace of recovery of air travel into remote communities. 

“Flights are an essential link for fly-in and remote First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. This funding will go a long way in ensuring that fly-in communities have the essential services, goods and equipment they need to prevent and respond to any outbreak of COVID-19,” said Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller in the media release.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has already channeled $8.7 million in federal funding to five passenger airlines, as well as an additional $2.94 million in territorial money to northern air operators who were not eligible for earlier federal pandemic support.

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