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Annual Public Meeting - May 4, 1999

Paul Benoit

President and CEO

Text of his address during the 1999 Annual Public Meeting

There are two reasons we are here today. One, of course, is to look back at 1998. The other is to hear from you, our stakeholders. The Airport Authority is a unique business, a private enterprise managing a public trust.

Ottawa International is a community-based, not-for profit and, as you have heard, a not-for-loss airport, with all surplus dollars reinvested in the facility. So when you heard of a four million dollar surplus, that is our capital fund. No surplus, no renovations, no improvements.

The Airport Authority's first objective is to deliver a service to the public that is safe, convenient and affordable. Hearing from our stakeholders is key to reaching that objective.

The Airport Authority made great strides in that regard last year. 1998 was a good year; in fact, it was an outstanding year. A performance that will be difficult to repeat but we will rise to the challenge. We improved customer service at every level, from parking to boarding and produced a healthy bottom line.

We increased the parking lots capacity by 15%. We rid the airport of parking meters, opened a convenient day lot adjacent to the terminal and expanded the main parking lot.

Also in 98, we added a 9th passenger bridge, a baggage carrousel and began renewing the airport's fleet of heavy equipment vehicules at a cost of over 1.5 million dollars.

Nous avons également amorcé un projet d'immobilisations de 6 millions de dollars visant l'amélioration des pistes.

L'aérogare a été complétement re-peinturé et subi d'importantes rénovations. De nouveaux magasins et restaurants, de nouvelles salles de toilettes ainsi que des installations pour améliorer l'accès pour les personnes handicapées.

For people on the go, we added business centres with phones and faxes. We offer great meeting rooms at reasonable rates.

For children, or is it for parents, we built a children's play Aeropark, an employee innovation and we are well on our way to making the airport youth friendly.

After only two years of operations, we are returning to acceptable service levels. But it wasn't cheap.

All in all, over 3.5 million dollars spent in 1998 alone. Our two-year total approaches the 11 million dollar mark. That tells you what kind of shape the airport was in at the time of transfer.

I want to take a moment to credit the hundred and forty Airport Authority employees for this turnaround - they made this change possible.

They are to be commended for their professional attitude, which peeked during the ice storm, as many stretched the workday to accommodate storm-stayed passengers while their families lacked electricity and heat. Also, for their innovation and will to accept change. It hasn't been easy.

I am pleased to report that in 1998 a new collective bargaining agreement was reached with our employees. Both negotiating teams are to be commended for their good faith bargaining and professionalism.

Again in 98, the Airport Authority focused on noise issues. In consultation with communities, the Ottawa-Carleton Homebuilders Association and local municipalities, the Authority established an "airport zone" that will protect citizens living in close proximity to the airport for the next 20 years.

Cette zone est essentielle à la mise en oeuvre de notre plan directeur. Une ligne d'information a également été mise en place afin de permettre au public de faire état de plaintes relatives au bruit.

Et enfin, tel que mentionné par notre président du conseil, la réalisation par excellence de l'année 1998 : le Plan directeur. Le guide du Programme d'expansion de l'aéroport. Le futur de ce bien public qui, rappelons-le, a été approuvé par le gouvernement fédéral en décembre dernier.

J'aimerais maintenant vous entretenir de ce futur, de cette expansion, des besoins qui la rendent nécessaire. Je désire également partager avec vous les étapes à franchir avant le lancement du projet et la conjoncture dans laquelle il s'inscrit.

Le dynamisme économique de notre région et sa croissance démographique font pression sur l'aérogare qui ne suffit plus à la demande.

The fact is we've outgrown the airport. Despite 11 million dollars in capital improvements, current facilities and services barely meet the needs of today's passengers.

Most days, six or 7 U.S.-bound flights depart at 7 a.m. but the preclearance facility only holds 150 passengers. Our flight activity to the U.S. has more than doubled, from 21 to 44 flights per day. This trend must continue to maintain our region's access to the biggest marketplace in the world. And we now have 10 flights per week to Europe using 747, 767 and A-340. Two years ago, we had zero non-stop flights to Europe.

We have 19 gate positions for aircrafts but we need 23 - today. This has resulted in 15 to 20 minute delays for aircrafts as they wait for an available gate. Indeed, delays of up to 45 minutes are not uncommon.

The current parking lots, with 1500 spaces, are insufficient for our peak periods. An off-airport competitor is profiting from our lack of parking spaces. With more parking, we would re-invest this additional revenue.

À l'heure actuelle, le hall des douanes canadienne de l'aérogare peut recevoir 160 passagers alors que les avions qui arrivent à l'aéroport transportent de 250 à 300 passagers et souvent deux ou trois avions arrivent en même temps.

Par ailleurs, une fois les voyageurs passés aux douanes, ils se rassemblent dans des aires de retrait des bagages conçues pour des petits avions, et non des 747 ou A-340, que nous accueillons chaque jour.

Autre point soulignant l'inefficacité de l'aérogare, celui-là bien caché du public. Cet édifice, construit il y a plus de 30 ans, fonctionne toujours avec les systèmes de chauffage, de climatisation et de plomberie d'origine. Ces systèmes sont dépassés. Ils ne correspondent pas aux normes actuelles et augmentent nos coûts d'opérations. Et la liste d'améliorations à réaliser demeure longue.

I guess, if 11 million dollars had brought the terminal up to par, it wouldn't be so bad.

But the airport is running out of space.

In fact, we are breaking down walls to maintain service levels. Renovations of this kind are expensive, but we have no choice.

No choice given the rapidly rising pressure on air travel. In the past three years, five hundred thousand more passengers have used our facility. Over the next twenty years, forecasts indicate the current passenger level of 3 millions at Ottawa International Airport will nearly double to 5.8 million passengers.

Projected commercial aircraft operations are expected to increase from 70,000 to 98,000 by the year 2020 - and these are conservative estimates.

Every month that goes by more and more people use the airport. In the near future, congestion will be a daily routine. The airport is running out of time. Remember that any project is 4 years away from completion.

L'expansion est nécessaire, voire inévitable. Elle offrira au public voyageur d'important bénéfices.

Plus d'espace pour les aires d'enregistrement, d'embarquement et de retrait des bagages.

Plus d'espaces pour le pré-dédouanement américain et pour les services d'inspections canadiennes.

Des restaurants et des boutiques additionnels afin d'offrir une plus grande variété aux clients et d'augmenter nos revenus.

Un aménagement compact qui réduira les distances de marche au minimum.

Une augmentation du nombre de place de stationnement, pour les voitures et également pour les avions afin de ne pas faire attendre inutilement les passagers après l'atterrissage.

Enfin, l'expansion permettra une amélioration de la circulation autour de l'aérogare et des accès aux réseaux de transport en commun.

Cela inclut l'identification d'un couloir de transport léger sur rail tel que proposé par la municipalité régionale d'Ottawa-Carleton.

On transit, I would like to state that the Airport Authority is in full support of all forms of public mass transit - whether it be buses, taxis, limousines or a light rail train. This Master Plan provides us with the option of running an LRT track into the terminal building, if and when the region brings an LRT to the airport.

With respect to the runways, the Master Plan proposes no changes to the current airfield configuration. That's good news: no construction of a new runway for at least the next 20 years.

Une excellente nouvelle en effet: pas de nouvelle piste avant au moins 20 ans, donc pas d'augmentation des niveaux sonores reliés aux opérations de l'aéroport.

In fact, it should get better. In the next few years airlines must retire older aircraft like DC-9s and 727s and replace them with regional jets and airbuses that have much quieter engines.

Your airport is not merely looking at the future; it is planning for it, quantifying it, pricing it.

Ottawa International Airport is on the threshold of much greater things, if certain conditions prevail.

Nous sommes sur le point de débuter un voyage économique, un voyage d'intérêt public. L'aéroport est prêt à s'envoler vers de meilleurs services et d'importantes retombées économiques. Notre objectif : assurer à notre région, en cette ère de globalisation, un accès convenable aux marchés internationaux.

The expansion is required. It will be a reasonable, affordable expansion that meets the needs of today and the near future. Nothing extravagant. But as of today, there is no expansion.

We know the airport is running out of space, out of time. We know this region needs an airport expansion to remain competitive. And we do know a return to the days when you had to fly through Toronto or Montreal to go anywhere is not what this region wants. But before the project goes forward, much remains to be done.

1998 was about consulting the public, our customers, the airlines, our regional partners and all levels of government to identify needs. In 1999, we are refining our project to address those needs.

The project will be finalized in the fall. A precise cost estimate will follow shortly thereafter.

Only then will a board decision be made as to whether or not we go ahead with the project.

How do we raise funds for this project? Carefully.

Notre feuille de route en matière de responsabilité fiscale est impeccable et nous entendons bien conserver cette réputation. Plusieurs autres facteurs doivent cependant être considérés lors de la prise de décision.

The industry is evolving. Current market conditions call for prudence. Ottawa is one of very few airports who froze rates and charges for airline carriers last year. The two major Canadian air carriers lost a substantial amount of money in 98. For the Canadian industry to be viable, certainly our major carriers must be viable.

Nous partageons les préoccupations de l'Association du transport aérien au Canada relatives aux frais et aux surcharges imposés aux administrations aéroportuaires, que ce soit sous formes de taxes ou de loyer. En bout de ligne, c'est le client qui paie la note.

À l'Aéroport d'Ottawa, 70 pour cent de notre clientèle provient du secteur des affaires. Et de plus en plus de voix d'affaires lancent des avertissements de baisse de compétitivité résultant du haut niveau de taxation au canada.

Nortel and the Senators are but two of the most public organisations to state Canada is taxing itself right out of the marketplace. In Silicon Valley North, business travel is a major expense for many companies. In this region especially, air travel must remain affordable or business competitiveness will be hurt.

An airport brings business to a region. It doesn't drive business out. Our expansion must be affordable to business.

Still, the airport must expand to sustain and help create business opportunities in the global marketplace for our region. And the airport must pay for that expansion. In case "someone" forgot, the airport doesn't rely on taxpayers anymore.

To finance the expansion, we are looking at many options: an airport improvement fee, a bond issue, or a combination of financial instruments.

In 1998, the airport paid over 10 million dollars to various levels of government. And the airport is looking at a 100 % increase in rent and taxes within three years. Yes, over 20 million dollars in 2002.

Indeed last year, as a result of changes brought about by the federal and provincial governments, we saw our regional tax assessment go from 2.9 million to 7.1 million dollars. Enough is enough.

This airport is an economic facilitator, not a cash cow. There is no money for such high taxes. This position we share with Air Transport Association of Canada, IATA, and ACTA.

Unless this issue is resolved, we will have to take a very hard look at our project. We may be forced to downsize dramatically. A little downsizing doesn't sound so bad? What about a little more downsizing? At what point does downsizing become like boarding the wrong plane?

When the project can't meet the needs of the community for a long enough period of time, then it's the wrong plane, the wrong project.

The wrong connection will not help this community to remain competitive in the 21st century.

At the end of the day this is not an airport issue, not a Nortel, a Senators, or even an individual issue.

It is a national issue and we urge all levels of government to address it, now.

L'expansion est nécessaire. L'expansion sera bénéfique pour la communauté. Elle permettra au secteur des affaires de conserver son accès au marché mondial. Mais l'Administration de l'aéroport ne pourra lancer son projet seule. Tous, le public, le secteur privé, les compagnies aériennes et les gouvernements, doivent prendre place à bord de l'avion de l'expansion.

Everyone relies on the airport - for the millions of dollars we spend each year, the millions we will spend during the expansion, and for access to consumers and families throughout the world.

The airport is your business connection, the preferred people connection - but the airport won't go anywhere without you.

If everyone agrees this region needs a healthy connection to the world, then expansion will happen.

If this community, businesses, airlines and governments agree, we all will benefit from the right connection.

And if everyone gets on board, then fasten your seatbelt. Ottawa Airport Authority will get you there on time and on budget.