After nearly shooting down the idea, Osoyoos town council voted Tuesday to chip in $700 towards the cost of a Penticton airport service study.
The contribution fell well below the $4,000 suggested by town staff, and leaves the City of Penticton far short of its goal to raise $30,400 to fund the study.
In a letter to Osoyoos council, Penticton city manager Peter Weeber explains the study is meant in part to persuade Air Canada there is sufficient passenger volume to replace with larger 74-seat Q400s the 50-seat Dash-8-300s it currently flies between Penticton and Vancouver.
“The new Q400 aircraft has modern avionics equipment that allows for operation in low-ceiling conditions, unlike the older technology avionics used by the Dash-8-300, which is often prohibited or delayed from landing or departing at Penticton, particularly during the winter months,” Weeber writes.
In addition, the study is expected to help make the case to Air Canada for more flights to Vancouver and schedule changes to improve connections, plus show WestJet there is demand for more runs to Calgary.
Coun. Carol Youngberg suggested a $2,000 contribution “for the benefit of the Osoyoos community and the business sector.”
“Yes, it’s a federal service,” she continued, “but Penticton has to spend a lot of money politicking with Air Canada and WestJet to get the service in there and they need the funds.”
Youngberg’s motion was defeated by a 3-2 vote with Coun. CJ Rhodes among those in opposition.
“Federal airports are supported by taxation in Canada,” Rhodes said.
“They are put there for the benefit of all residents, not only in the area, but every person in Canada, and we have paid already for this service and we should be the beneficiaries of all things that happen there.”
Osoyoos chief administrative officer Barry Romanko pointed out, however, that while airports like the one in Penticton are operated by the federal government, commercial flights are dictated by private businesses.
“Airlines don’t just come to airports. Airports are there, but communities have to make cases to try to get the air service they want for themselves and the region,” said Mr. Romanko.
To date, less than half of the study cost has been committed: $10,000 from the City of Penticton, $4,000 from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and $700 from the Town of Osoyoos.
Municipal councils in Princeton, Keremeos, Oliver and Summerland have also been asked to chip in, but have yet to discuss the matter.
The study would be conducted by SNC Lavalin, which would update work it carried out in 2011 that helped convince WestJet to set up shop in Penticton and sway Air Canada to increase service.
— Penticton Herald Staff