PORT HASTINGS: Airports became a matter for discussion around the table at Inverness Municipal Council.
The municipal group, which met on May 1, saw district 6 Councillor John Dowling present a resolution calling for the municipality to withdraw support for the expansion of the Margaree airport. The resolution came as council considers a funding commitment of $3 million for the airport.
Dowling said he feels with Celtic Air Services announcing development plans for the Port Hawkesbury Airport – plans that include a fully-staffed passenger lounge for the facility — the focus ought to shift from Margaree to the Port Hastings-based airfield.
“My motion, which was seconded by councillor John MacLennan, was tabled because we realized we had to rescind the previous motion of support for the Margaree airport before we go any further with it,” he said.
“What I want to get across is that this is nothing against the people of Margaree or the councillor for there. It all boils down to the dollar amount.”
Dowling said it would be best to let private industry expand the Port Hawkesbury Airport rather than use taxpayer money for one in Margaree.
He also said the possibility of having land expropriated for the Margaree airport doesn’t sit well with him. So far, no decision has come to expropriate any land, but such a measure is possible.
“I have no problem spending on what people really need,” he said. “I just don’t think the taxpayers need another airport. We can’t just build an airport for one company; we can’t push ourselves to live on tourism of the golf industry.
“It doesn’t make financial sense to spend $10 million in Margaree.”
While Inverness County considers a $3 million investment, the total projected cost of the expansion would be in the $10 million range. The province and federal government would have to provide funding as well.
Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie noted that the municipality has a committee reviewing the role it can play in the expansion of the airstrip in Margaree. That committee consists of both MacQuarrie and Dowling, along with Margaree-area councillor Laurie Cranton and CAO Joe O’Connor.
She said the committee was nearly ready to return to council with a report, but the resolution beat them to the punch.
“We’re not ruling out the possibility of having two airports in Inverness County at the present time,” she said. “We’re studying it, and we’re looking at all the information. We’re not ready for a resolution to stop it in its tracks.”
She also noted that before any action is taken on Dowling’s resolution, the previous resolution in support of the Margaree airport would have to be rescinded. She said council has not yet decided if rescinding that resolution is a good idea.
Taking a position against rescinding support is Cranton. He said the suggestion that the Margaree airport would largely cater to clients of Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs is misleading, as the airport is directly on the Cabot Trail and would be a boon to other tourist markets as well.
“We could have passenger planes landing right on the Cabot Trail and utilize everything the trail has to offer,” he said. “There’s not just golf in Inverness but also Cheticamp and Baddeck, there’s the Margaree River with all the fishing, and all the beauty of the Cabot Trail for people who want to take that trip.
“I see the Port Hawkesbury Airport having a real industrial importance to the town, and the Margaree airport will be developed and promoted as a tourism component.
“Some say it is one airport against the other. I don’t see it that way.”