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Sudbury Airport gets a $3.5M liftoff from the feds to plug budget hole left by COVID-19

Passenger volumes were down 72% in 2020, leading to a millions in lost revenue

The Greater Sudbury Airport has been given a helping hand by the federal government to the tune of more than $3.5 million after the facility lost millions in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This non-repayable contribution to the Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation (SACDC) will help mitigate the financial pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting the operations of the Sudbury airport for a one-year period. 

The project is expected to help maintain 27 local jobs.

The funds are being flowed through the Government of Canada’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI). It enables the continuation of existing air routes and ensures airports remain operational and able to contribute to regional economic growth, while adapting to new post-COVID-19 realities and requirements.

With Greater Sudbury Airport passenger volumes down by about 72 per cent, it means total revenues were down by about $4.7 million last year, or 51 per cent from the previous year. The SACDC finished its fiscal year on Dec. 31, 2020, with a deficit of $3.4 million. 

Todd Tripp, airport CEO, said the funds will help the airport pay down some of the debt it’s incurred due to the pandemic. 

“In 2020, we had a significant loss, and also in 2021, the loss continued,” he said, speaking at a July 29 press conference at the airport where the funds were announced. “This will definitely help us pay back some of our debt that we have, and it will help us grow and be ready for the new traffic when it happens.”

As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, airport traffic is already starting to heat up.

“We’re up to two flights a day now with Air Canada, potentially going up to three flights a day beginning in September,” Tripp said. “Porter’s coming back in October; Sunwing is coming in in December.”

He said it’s great the federal government is recognizing the role that airports play in the community.

“I caution there will still be some black days ahead,” Tripp said. “This is not going to save us right now completely, but it’s sure going to be a great help.”

The funds were announced by Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré.

Lefebvre explained that because the airport is affiliated with the municipality, it didn’t qualify for federal wage subsidies. 

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with (CEO Todd Tripp) and the team here and other airports across Northern Ontario,” he said.

“The structure they had in the city, they couldn’t qualify for any other government subsidies directly. That’s why we worked hard through FedNor to make sure they had the subsidies and the help that they needed.” 

Serré spoke about what the airport means to the community as an economic driver.

“The mining sector, the health sector here, there’s a lot of good jobs that are linked to the expansion of this airport,” he said. “As a federal government, looking at relaunching the economy, it was really important to provide that financial support to the airport.”

Greater Sudbury city councillor Mike Jakubo said the federal investment will ensure the airport is primed and ready to take advantage of the expected upswing in traffic as people begin travelling again.

“It’s a key connection point for the northeast, to connect with the rest of Canada and the world."