ASKILTON: Inverness Municipal Council is hopeful that a meeting can be organized to find some common ground over the airports controversy.

Inverness Municipal Councillor John Dowling told The Reporter council decided at a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting to facilitate a discussion between both sides in the airports debate because of the lack of information surrounding potential federal and provincial government funding for an airport in the Inverness area.

Dowling said those invited include the Town of Port Hawkesbury, the Municipality of the County of Richmond, Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster, Ben Cowan-Dewar of Cabot Golf, and the company running the Allan J. MacEachen Port Hawkesbury Airport, Celtic Air Services Ltd.

One of the problems identified by Dowling is that the municipality has no information on exactly what is planned.

“Nobody has come to the municipality at all to say, ‘here’s what’s happening in your county,’ and that’s where we’re at,” the councillor noted. “We’ve been left in the dark by the federal government, by Ben Cowan-Dewar with Cabot. Nobody has come to us and spoke with us since we … stopped funding the proposed Margaree airstrip.”

While it appears there is a regional divide over the issue, Dowling believes there is strong support for the existing airport.

“If you look at through the whole municipality of Inverness, I think there’s support there for the airport in Port Hastings,” Dowling said. “I hear from residents all over, right from Cheticamp, to Margaree, to Inverness, right to my own area of course, and all of them don’t want taxpayer money [for this].”

Although other municipalities like Port Hawkesbury, the Town of Mulgrave and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough have come out against the second airport, the Municipality of the County of Inverness has still not taken a formal vote or made an official stand on the issue.

Also last week, the Nova Scotia NDP claimed the McNeil Liberals should reconsider its plan to provide financial support for the proposed new airport outside Inverness because it could negatively affect existing airports in Port Hawkesbury and Sydney.

Local municipalities are united in their support for the Port Hawkesbury airport and are worried an additional airport could undermine its success, the NDP said.

“It’s wrong for the province to overrule local leadership. Communities in the area have done important work to support the Allan J. MacEachern airport in Port Hawkesbury and to spread out the positive economic impacts of the Cabot Links development,” said Lisa Roberts, NDP Municipal Affairs spokesperson. “That work is being threatened by this recent decision from the McNeil government.”

On June 20, Premier Stephen McNeil said the province was asked by the federal government to put the Inverness airport project on a list of priorities.

“Who is driving this project? The province and municipalities did not request this project. Why has the federal government decided it’s a good idea to build a third airport in Cape Breton? These questions need to be answered,” added NDP Leader Gary Burrill.