Passengers in the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

Tiny change spells relief for Yukon government’s airports act

‘They’re not going to give us a veto, we know that, but they are going to provide us with input’

A one word change to the Yukon’s proposed Public Airports Act appears to have mollified some concerns of industry representatives.

Conflict over the act has taken up much of the last few weeks of this sitting of the legislative assembly. Complaints about of a lack of consultation have come from both major local airlines, industry groups and municipalities.

Now Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn says he’s going to change the section of the bill that deals with creating a new advisory committee as a way of providing industry with “more certainty.”

The amended legislation will now require that the minister “shall” create the committee as opposed to the earlier version which just said he “may” create one.

The committee will report directly to the minister and review any regulations that are made to go with the act.

Air North president Joe Sparling said his concerns have been addressed.

“They’re not going to give us a veto, we know that, but they are going to provide us with input,” he said.

“I think the government can always choose to ignore our input but I think that wouldn’t be a great strategy and they’ve assured us that they’re not going to do that.”

Specific details about the committee, like who will be on it and what other kinds of powers it will have, are still being discussed, the minister said.

The Yukon is the only jurisdiction in the country without a public airports act. The legislation is supposed to more clearly define roles and responsibilities when it comes to running the Yukon’s airports.

It was tabled Oct. 4. Industry representatives began complaining that they hadn’t had enough time to look at a draft. Some described short conversations with department officials which they said were not enough to qualify as “consultation.”

The government eventually yanked its own press release regarding the act and replaced it with a version that made no mention of consultation.

Mostyn said he has held meetings with industry since the bill was tabled. It was at one of those meetings that the idea of changing the language around the advisory committee came up, he said.

The suggestion to change the language also came from the Opposition Yukon Party last week.

Other industry concerns, like those around the power of enforcement officers, will be dealt with as part of the regulations that need to go along with the act, Mostyn said.

Rick Nielsen, president of the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), said the change to the advisory committee is a step in the right direction.

“In the view of many people, the consultation was not done properly,” he said. “Having said that though, the government did step up to the plate and certainly in the case of Yukon aviation stakeholders they did offer to make a change to the legislation.”

The “real meat on the bone” will be when the roles and responsibilities of the board are laid out, he said.

The airports act is Mostyn’s first major piece of legislation as a minister. He said he always tries “to be self-reflective.”

“Clearly there were some things that I should have paid attention to and I will pay more attention to them.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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