Pique n' Your Interest 

Airports: what should happen now?

1. This airport process should be about four things: education, consultation, co-operation and some decisions.

2. Everyone must remember that, for whatever reason, an airport in either Pemberton or Whistler just might not work.

The Pemberton airport might not be an appropriate area for 737s to land because the residents could have an unsolvable problem with it.

But airports can pump millions of dollars into municipalities for a lifetime, so the studies have to be done and the public must be consulted.

The key is to make some decisions because there is still a lot of opportunity for Pemberton’s airport the way it is now.

Either way, the public should support a thorough examination of an airport.

3. How will we ever know if an airport in Whistler or Pemberton can work if all the stakeholders don’t co-operate?

If anything ever gets approved then you’re all going to need each other’s money to get started – so work together. If you work together then you can turn the mistakes that have been made in the past into lessons for the future.

4. Create a task force comprised of representatives – from Pemberton, Whistler, Tourism Whistler, Intrawest, SLRD, residents, provincial and federal aides/politicians, Westjet, Alaska Air, YVR etc – to follow the issue through to the end.

There are scores of examples that this task force could be modelled on, such as the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation.

5. Create time lines for work to be finished and make them public.

6. Be transparent and accountable at all times.

This won’t happen if reporters or the public aren’t allowed to ask questions and/or get answers.

Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner often says, "that’s not on the agenda" when the airport is discussed at council. But I would argue that it is the agenda until a decision is made.

Moreover, there are several organizations that have tried to donate money and/or help with the Pemberton airport since 1978 but many of them have been sent packing.

A lot of this inaction is due to confusion and the passing of time because airports are just so complex, politicians forget about offers that organizations make.

But if the politicians are open about the process then the press and the public are going to know what’s going on and will be in a better position to help move the process forward.

7. Residents and administrators in Pemberton need to remember that if an airport is ever built anywhere then it will be for services to Whistler.

Major carriers such as Westjet are not going to start daily services in the winter to fly people to Pemberton.

This doesn’t mean Pemberton can’t also make huge progress from this deal. Just don’t be confused about the motives behind the money. This realization might also help ease the pain if Whistler goes ahead with its own airport.

8. Remember what the Pemberton council has done – good and bad.

That council and the people currently involved with their airport have made a lot of mistakes because there still isn’t an air service in Pemberton.

But they have also invested a lot of time and money in the airport and done a lot to raise awareness about the opportunity.

9. Don’t listen to the naysayers – get the facts.

Airports are incredibly controversial so during this process there is going to be people who write and say things like "no domestic carrier not contemplating suicide would underwrite direct flights into Whistler."

What these people don’t realize is that there’s already evidence in other ski areas that proves an air service into this area could involve one-stop flights in from Germany or France or Chicago etc.

10. Don’t worry about the money for an airport; just get the planning done.

The B.C. Transportation Minister, Kevin Falcon, has already identified a $50 million, fund called the Transportation Partnerships Program, as something that could be used to help develop an airport in this area, and there is a raft of other funds that this project(s) could tap into. But if you don’t have a plan – that the majority of the public and politicians are behind – then you have nothing.

11. Don’t lose sight of what’s important for the residents because no project should move forward unless the community(s) agree.

In this area of Canada the well-being of the environment is vital in any debate and noise is always an issue whenever airports are discussed, so if an airport is feasible, start tackling these issues sooner rather than later.


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