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No funding for Stephenville airport

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose. – File photo

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press

STEPHENVILLE — On Feb. 9, Premier Andrew Furey announced at an event in Deer Lake, that is to be a $1 million investment in three airport authorities across the province, Deer Lake, St. John’s, and Gander. St. John’s airport authority is to receive $500,000, while Deer Lake and Gander will each receive $250,000.

“We recognize that air access is a priority for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Airports in Deer Lake, Gander and St. John’s are important for air transportation throughout the province. Supporting activities led by these airports is a strategic investment for economic development,” said Furey.

Also present at the announcement was Steve Crocker, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation, who agreed that flights in and out of the province are of critical importance.

“Air access is a lifeline for the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. A significant portion of travel to this province is by air and this contributes to the economy in a myriad of ways. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador values our strong relationships with both airport and airline partners, and we remain committed to nurturing those relationships and aligning air access priorities.”

The intention of the funding is to assist each of the airport authorities with re-establishing routes that were cancelled or reduced over the last two years following the events that resulted from the global pandemic.

Noticeably absent from the funding announcement was Stephenville Airport which has, in recent months, been going through the process of sale to the Dymond Group of Companies. As part of this purchase, the plans are to continue to operate the airport for domestic flights, with plans to entice international flights as well.

With the upcoming promise of a bright future at Stephenville Airport, Mayor Tom Rose was not pleased that it hadn’t been announced as a recipient of government funding.

“To me it’s poor politics. I’m not very happy because, here we are, Come Home Year, and for them to give money to three airports, and other airports in Labrador, Stephenville, and St. Anthony get no money, when route development is just as important in Stephenville as in any other airport in the province. We got the announcement that Sunwing is coming back, so Sunwing is going to bring tourists to Newfoundland for Come Home Year and for some reason we didn’t qualify or nobody thought to reach out to us.”

Mayor Rose said Lew Short, the manager of Stephenville Airport, reached out to the Deputy Minister of Tourism.

“We’re trying to re-establish routes, trying to get back Porter, trying to establish new routes. Stephenville is on the cusp of growth. The Dymond Group has some plans for route development I’m sure, but as it stands right now, until the transfer happens, the management team at the airport have to continue trying to do what they can to attract business before the transfer happens. There’s a window. This is the 2022 Come Home Year, so it was a bit insulting from my perspective as the mayor, to see these announcements and Stephenville has not seen one, single penny.”

Rose also questioned provincial leadership about airport management.

“Here we’ve got a few airports on the island, and if we can’t find leadership at the provincial and the federal level, let me just also say that, to support all of our airports, you know what, they’re not worthy of leadership. That’s a harsh statement, but I’m saying it because I know the importance of transportation. Transportation separates a developed nations growth to an undeveloped nation. So here we are on this island, our airports are key, and government on all levels better understand that.”

The area that Stephenville Airport serves is large, and it is vitally important to the region.

“When you look at the demographic of Western Newfoundland there is approximately 90,000 people. Corner Brook South has a bigger population than Corner Brook North, and if you look at Corner Brook South, Stephenville Airport is in that geographic region. We’ve got a big population base and this airport is important and we need good leadership on it.”

Adriene Luther, Media Relations Manager with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation responded to e-mail inquiries.

“The funding granted to the St. John’s, Gander and Deer Lake airports resulted from proposals submitted by the airports to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Air access is a priority for this government and is an important issue for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This investment will spur economic recovery and will provide much-needed options for travel and tourism in the coming year. We’re happy to work with all our airport partners to discuss how we can support them.”

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