THUNDER BAY – The importance of aviation in Northwestern Ontario was one of the topics up for discussion at a forum on Thursday held in the city. The roundtable jointly hosted by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Thunder Bay International Airport and the National Airlines Council of Canada, business and community leaders met to discuss air transportation’s role in driving jobs, tourism, economic growth and investment across the Thunder Bay region and beyond.
Participants also reiterated concerns that the recent hike in the Ontario aviation fuel tax – to the highest rate in the country – is hurting Thunder Bay’s ability to grow business, travel and tourism.
“We continue to hear from every corner of the province that aviation plays a critical role in unlocking the potential of Ontario’s communities,” said National Airlines Council of Canada Executive Director Marc-André O’Rourke. “The impact of Ontario’s aviation fuel tax is felt especially in Thunder Bay and surrounding regions who rely heavily on air transportation for the delivery of goods, services and health care,” added O’Rourke.
“Today’s discussion has highlighted many tangible ways our community and remote regions rely on our airport and air operators on a daily basis for everything from heating oil to groceries. Participants clearly paint a picture that, while they’re doing everything they can to remain competitive, decisions like those made by Ontario on its aviation fuel tax are having a real negative impact,” said Ed Schmidtke, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thunder Bay International Airport.
“It is important that we provide an environment where our businesses can thrive. As such, we should be working together to minimize the cost of doing business in Thunder Bay and promoting growth instead of adding to the existing challenge of rising operating costs,” added Charla Robinson, President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Roundtable participants called on the Ontario government to show leadership in helping to foster vital, competitive air access across the province.