Two years ago, the councillors of Inverness Municipality rescinded a previous motion to support an airport expansion in Margaree. There were many reasons, but bottom line was that Inverness County could not financially afford the project and there was an existing functioning airport in Port Hastings.
Since those two years have passed, rumours have persisted that an airport was still being championed by the owners of the Cabot golf courses to our provincial and federal governments. Late last week, the rumour resurfaced again. On Monday, I spoke with a high-ranking federal official who confirmed that, yes, those discussions are in fact on going and possibly getting close to reality. My understanding is that the provincial and federal government would provide an unconfirmed amount of $18 million dollars to develop a brand-new airport in Inverness County to fly in wealthy golfers to Cabot for six months of the year. I was in shock. I was upset upon hearing the justification for spending so many tax payer dollars, but I guess the needs of the elite outweigh the needs of the many.
As municipal councillors, we all are aware of what is needed in Inverness County. We do not need another airport. I was told by the same source that an airport has not been built in Nova Scotia for over 40 years. So why now when those existing ones are struggling?
I do see the seasonal benefits that Cabot brings to our region, but we need more than seasonal employment in our municipality. Government subsidiaries do not sustain our economy after they dry up.
I would love to take our federal and provincial representatives, who are supporting a new airport, on a drive and tour Inverness County. I’d start at the Canso Causeway and try to navigate through the minefield of potholes and patches that plague almost every road in the municipality, but are the first ones to welcome our tourists on to Cape Breton. We could travel any direction from the rotary but don’t expect cell service as you pass through the many areas that still are without. Port Hood Island is a great place to visit, but be careful getting off the boat to the wharf. The municipality needs to replace the wharf but has been unable to convince the federal and provincial government to help financially. Maybe it needs a golf course? We could travel all over the municipality and see the struggles our residents encounter daily, but it’s the shortages in our health care system, our need for affordable housing, and our antiquated infrastructure that is invisible to most people visiting our beautiful island.
Inverness County has just completed a report on the condition of the water and wastewater infrastructure in the municipality. The total cost of the projects needed is substantial over the 10-year projected time line. An $18 million-dollar contribution from Ottawa and Halifax would sure go along way to assist thousands of residents of our municipality.
As we continue through the drive around the county, let’s stop at the Alan J MacEachen Airport in Port Hastings. The airport is owned by the Town of Port Hawkesbury, but Inverness and Richmond Municipalities are funding partners. Two years ago, Celtic Air took over daily flight operations. They provide services to our Life Flight, Coast Guard, and other military services, aside from the hundreds of private aircraft bringing tourists and golfers to our region. Last year, I was able to witness the Snowbirds along with thousands of other residents from our local airport. It was an amazing accomplishment for our area and Celtic Air.
I am extremely disappointed by the lack of consultation with the residents and local businesses in our communities by those who are in charge of deciding where our federal and provincial tax dollars are spent. Another airport to cater to the non residents who fly in and fly out would be a gross mismanagement of tax dollars when they are needed elsewhere.
The residents of Inverness County need to voice their displeasure so that this possible expenditure does not become a reality past the current negotiations.
Councillor John Dowling
Municipality of Inverness County