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National Press Club - April 13, 1998

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB SPEECH
BY PAUL BENOIT, APRIL 14, 1998

Introduction

Perhaps, these days, it is the worst kept secret that there is a lot going on at the airport -- and there is even more planned. Like the region it serves, the Ottawa Airport is a fledgling enterprise that (pardon the pun) is taking off. This morning I wish to relate where we've been and where we're going.

J'aimerais présenter le plan établi pour le développement de l'aéroport. Je discuterai de la contribution de l'aéroport international d'Ottawa dans notre région et de la façon dont il répond aux besoins toujours changeants de la région. Mes commentaires seront brefs et je répondrai à toutes vos questions par la suite.

1997 marked the first year Ottawa International Airport was managed and operated by a local Airport Authority. Today, Ottawa International is a community-based, not-for profit (and, I hasten to add, not-for-loss) facility, with surplus dollars reinvested in the facility. We are a business.

It is tied directly to the community through its Board of Directors, who are this region's business and community leaders. The Airport Authority has 15 directors selected from the region's economic bodies -- they are local business owners with a keen interest in the well-being of the region.

The Airport Authority Chair is stepping down next month, and David Gavsie will be moving to Toronto. His contributions over the last five years are memorable. The airport and our community will miss his tireless energy and valuable insight.

Significant Economic Factor

The airport is a significant economic factor within the region. It is a net generator of wealth.

In 1997, there were 161,000 aircraft movements through the airport and over 3 million passengers served. The airport employs 4,600 people directly and indirectly. It has a wage bill of $85 million and an indirect wage bill of $56 million. Within the region, the airport generates $240 million of economic activity.

Although those numbers are impressive, the most significant economic factor I can relate to you is the fact that the airport is a taxpayer. Up to 1997, the airport was a drain on the taxpayers of Canada, losing several millions of dollars a year. Now that its operations are managed by the Airport Authority, the airport does not take a dime from the taxpayers -- on the contrary, it contributes more than $7 million of taxes to various levels of government.

Qu'est-ce qui a entraîné ce changement positif? En un mot, la privatisation. La cession de l'aéroport en février 1997 est d'une importance capitale pour la région puisqu'elle permet à la communauté d'exploiter l'aéroport comme bon lui semble et de de profiter des nombreuses possibilités qui en découlent.

Avant la cession, Transports Canada assurait l'exploitation de cette installation sans se soucier de la rentabilité de son investissement. Aujourd’hui, l’Aéroport international d'Ottawa est une entreprise et les opérations qui auparavant reflétaient les processus gouvernementaux sont désormais axés sur les clients et l'intérêt de la région.

A year of "catch up"

The airport is a changed facility. And, it is a changing facility. The region's travelling public and businesses can expect a more convenient, customer-oriented approach to services at Ottawa International.

I would like to take a moment and a glimpse of where we have come from. I look back at 1997 as a year of "catch-up". The first goal of the Airport Authority was reached within four months of being handed the keys -- and, of course, I am speaking of the delivery of the US Customs and Immigration preclearance facility.

On February 4, when we were handed the keys by the Federal Government, the Airport Authority -- that day -- made the commitment to deliver US preclearance in July. And, we did exactly that -- on time and on budget.

On July 7, the preclearance facility opened and changed, for the better, the nature of travel to the United States for our local pleasure and business travellers. We can now travel anywhere south of the border, quicker and more conveniently after being pre-cleared through US Customs here at Ottawa International.

Connection times at stopover airports have been reduced and the traveller has more final destination alternatives and greater flexibility in planning trips. The result of preclearance has been a 50% increase in transborder flights.

Today, the airport offers 39 daily non-stop flights to major US cities -- this number will increase to 41 on May 1 when Continental Airlines begin its new service. Ottawa International offers 82 daily non-stop flights to major Canadian cities. We also have service to Europe, and as of June 1, we will have 10 flights per week to Europe. Ottawa International is the region's link to the world's markets -- we are your "Capital Connection."

Much has occurred over 1997 and we will have an opportunity to review the first year's initiatives at the Airport Authority's annual general meeting, being held three weeks from today.

The annual general meeting is being held at the Palais de Congrès de Hull on May 5 at 10 am. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish to extend an invitation to our region's public to hear about the first year's operations -- a year in which we, as an airport and a community, can be justifiably proud.

Looking Ahead

Il est excitant de faire partie d'une région aussi dynamique, une région qui prend de l'ampleur et qui s'épanouit sur les plans à la fois économique et social. La communauté dans laquelle nous vivons est formidable!

À l'aéroport, nous voulons faire notre part afin de contribuer à la croissance de la région. Nous avons amorcé, cette année, un processus de plan directeur visant à orienter le développement des installations et des services de l'aéroport jusqu'à l'an 2020.

Contrary to what you may have read or heard, this Master Plan consultative process is far from over. The consultants are still gathering information and the Board of Directors has not seen a final report. Any decisions on moving ahead will require Board consideration and Board approval first.

We have been consulting -- and are continuing to consult -- with the local business organizations, with community groups and with the public to determine our options for growth and develop a plan that will meet the needs of the region into the next century.

Tomorrow evening, we are hosting the last in a series of public open houses. These have been important meetings for they have provided the public with the options that are before us -- to 1) expand the air terminal building, and 2) develop the airport lands.

We have been receiving the public's feedback. The comments and suggestions are being reviewed by our master plan consulting firms of MAXGROUP and Landrum & Brown for inclusion in their final report to be presented and considered by the Airport Authority's Board of Directors later this spring.

On reconnaît le besoin de développer les installations actuelles de l'Aéroport international d'Ottawa et d'améliorer notre aérogare qui prend de l’âge. En effet, il nous faut prendre des décisions concernant cette aérogare, qui, aux heures de pointe, réussit à peine à répondre aux besoins de nos clients.

Today, the airport facilities are bursting at the seams. We serve approximately 3 million travellers per year. In 2020, the conservative projections for Ottawa International's passenger volumes will be close to 5.8 million -- almost double the number of travellers through our airport facilities! This growth demands that we do some planning today!

Through the master plan process, our bottom-line objective is to be responsive to the community's. An airport should reflect its host community. And, in the case of the Ottawa Airport, it is changing and developing to meet the needs of our changing and developing region.

When the master plan is announced, it will include an analysis of the airport facilities and services, reports on the public consultations, economic development potential, environmental and land use planing studies, air services studies, a review of business and tourism travel demands, and a long term development plan.

It will be a comprehensive plan that will be exhaustive in its review of airport's potential to develop and meet the needs of the region's travelling public. Specifically, it will recommend one option, from a series of options, for expansion of the existing main terminal and development of runways and airside facilities.

I invite the public to the last of the master plan open houses. It is tomorrow at the RA Centre between 4 and 6:30 pm. This open house is followed by a public meeting that is scheduled for 7 to 9 pm.

La séance portes ouvertes, qui se tiendra dans l'aprés-midi, suivie de l'assemblée publique de demain, de 19 h à 21 h, sont d'importantes occasions de présenter aux membres du public les options pour l'expansion de l'aéroport. Comme prévu, il s'agit de la dernière d'une série de séances d'information à l'intention du public. Les commentaires du public seront inclus dans le rapport final des experts-conseils qui sera soumis au Conseil d'administration plus tard ce printemps.

Conclusion

The Airport Authority's objective is to deliver a service that is safe, comfortable, and convenient.

At Ottawa International, we are committed to a higher level of customer satisfaction and to making the airport more efficient. We also want an airport that truly reflects the character of the region -- one that the community can be proud of.

And, if we coin 1997 as the year of "Catch-Up", 1998 will be "The Year of Transition". As we become a partner to more and more of the region's social and business opportunities, the airport will contribute its strengths to ensure continued high standards of prosperity and quality of life for the region's residents.

The Board of Directors and the Airport Authority staff are working hard to meet the needs of our community. We are confident that with the Master Plan we will be meeting the needs (and exceeding the expectations) of this vibrant, developing region. With the changes and the plans for future changes, the airport is, more and more, your Capital Connection to the world.