National Airports Policy

National Airports Policy

Regional/Local Airports


  • The federal government's National Airports Policy (NAP) provides a framework that clearly defines the federal government's role with airports. That role will be defined through two main levels of federal involvement in airports with scheduled passenger traffic: nationally-significant airports that will form a National Airports System (NAS) and regional/local airports. Those airports that handle scheduled passenger traffic but are outside the criteria for the NAS are important in terms of their regional or local significance. The federal government will actively promote local airport ownership and operation of these regional/local airports and will create a federally-funded Airports Capital Assistance Program to assist with safety-related capital infrastructure.
  • The government is currently involved in the operation of 71 non-NAS airports that have regional or local significance. It will be withdrawing from any ownership or financial/operational involvement in these airports during the five years beginning April 1,1995.
  • If a case can be made by a new operator that a continued operational subsidy may be required for a period slightly longer than the five years, it will be considered.
  • The federal government will be offering the ownership and operation of regional/local airports to local entities. These entities can better determine and provide the level of service needed by the local community. Operation and ownership will be offered to provincial and local governments, airport commissions, private businesses or other interests, in that order. While Canadian airport authorities (CAAs) are the preferred option for managing NAS airports, owners of regional and local airports will be free to decide their own preferred management options in accordance with community needs.
  • In a five-year period beginning April 1, 1995, the government will introduce measures to increase the viability of regional/local airports by reducing the variance between costs and revenues at each site. This will be accomplished by increasing efficiency and revenues at the airports as well as by streamlining policies and regulations. Local entities may find it advantageous to assume responsibility for an airport before the end of the five-year period. This would allow them to introduce enhanced efficiency measures not possible under federal control and make them eligible for capital contributions under the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP).
  • The ACAP, to be introduced April 1, 1995, will contnbute funds toward safety-related airside projects. To be eligible for ACAP, airports must not be owned, operated or subsidized by the federal government and must have regularly-scheduled passenger service. Airside projects are those relating to infrastructure such as runways and taxiways.
  • If the proposed operator can demonstrate that the airport can be self-sufficient and serves interprovincial or international flights, and is prepared to forgo access to the Airport Capital Assistance Program, application can be made for inclusion in the National Airports System.

Criteria for Regional/Local Airports

  • Regional/Local airports are defined as those sites:

Local Orientation of Regional/Local Airports

  • At regional/local airports, passengers usually begin or end their trips at that airport. Passengers fly from regional/local airports to busier "hub" airports for connections to larger domestic or international centres.
  • In total, regional/local airports serve six per cent of the total annual passenger/cargo traffic in Canada.

Local Ownership and Operation of Regional/Local Airports

  • The federal government will be withdrawing from operational and financial involvement in regional/local airports within five years, beginning April 1, 1995.
  • During those five years, regional/local airports will be offered to provincial and local governments, airport authorities, private businesses or other interests, in that order.
  • This transfer provides for a variety of local management options. For example, a province may wish to obtain title to airport lands, yet have the airport operated by a local airport commission.
  • Experience has shown that local airport operation has been more viable, more responsive to community needs and better able to match service levels to local demands and resources.

Operational Efficiencies for Regional/Local Airports

  • To make regional/local airports more attractive for local operation and thus ensure their viability, the government will initiate a number of measures to improve airport self-sufficiency within the five-year period beginning April 1, 1995.
  • These include adjustments to current levels of service and a wider application of user charges and fees.
  • Once a local operator assumes responsibility for a regional/local airport, there is significant potential to generate commercial opportunities and identify operational efficiencies (such as reductions in overhead costs, timely capital investment and quick response to local commercial initiatives).

Airports Capital Assistance Program

  • An Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) will be established to help regional/local airports finance safety-related capital projects.
  • Funding will be limited to safety-related airside projects such as runways, taxiways, and aprons and to those airports not owned, operated or subsidized by Transport Canada.
  • Subject to the financial situation of each airport, local operators will be required to contribute a maximum of 15 per cent toward project costs.
  • ACAP recognizes the role that regional/local airports play relative to the national airports system and it serves as a means of providing project-specific financing to these airports.
  • Passengers originating or concluding their travel at regional/local airports contribute to the revenues of larger national or international airports as they pass through these larger facilities. ACAP provides an indirect means of returning revenues to the regional/local airports because lease revenues paid to the federal government, by CAAs operating the larger airports, will fund the ACAP program.
  • ACAP will be established April 1, 1995.

Regulatory Amendments

  • The federal government will continue to set safety and security standards for all Canadian airports. The means to accomplish this are already in place and include policy-setting, airport transfer agreements, airport certification and regulation.
  • At certain larger regional/local airports, standards for emergency response services will be regulated to ensure that current standards are maintained as the federal government withdraws from the operation of these airports. At the remaining regional/local airports, emergency response plans will be mandatory under the airport certification process, as is currently the case. Local operators of these airports will be in a position to establish emergency response services that reflect the capabilities of the surrounding community.

Other Transport Canada Services

  • In addition to airport operation, the federal government currently provides air navigation facilities and services at Canadian airports. Provision of these services is based on airport traffic volumes, not airport ownership. The federal government is currently reviewing these services to ensure they match the needs of the local aviation communities while maintaining safety. The government is also consulting with the aviation community and affected parties on the potential for commercializing the air navigation system.
  • Aviation security measures at NAS airports are provided under existing security regulations. These regulations apply to certified airports, regardless of who owns or operates the airport. Regulatory consultation on certain aspects of security regulation is being undertaken by the federal government.
Date modified: