Speech given by Mr. Pierre Laferrière
President of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
Spokesman for the Groupe de soutien au développement des aéroports de Montréal
April 11, 2000
Mister Speaker, Honourable Members,
Thank you for allowing us to address this committee, convened to shed additional light on a debate of concern to all citizens of Greater Montreal and Quebec.
Let me start by saying that it is very clear to us that the true purpose of the instigators of this debate is not to question the way Aéroports de Montréal is managed but rather to achieve their goal of transferring flights back to Mirabel airport.
We are here to confirm that we fully support ADM's decision to grant airlines the freedom to choose the airport they wish to use for regular scheduled commercial flights to Montreal.
And we also support all related decisions, such as the plan to invest $498 million at Dorval by 2004 to make it a world-class hub airport.
The Groupe de soutien au développement des aéroports de Montréal is composed of some fifteen Greater Montreal organizations.
It includes all major economic-development organizations, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the Chambers of Commerce of the East and West Island of Montreal, the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the South Shore and Laval, the Conseil Régional de Développement Économique de l'Ile de Montréal (CRDIM), Montréal International, Tourism Montréal, several municipalities, and representatives of civil aviation employees, including pilots, maintenance workers, and flight crews.
In fact, in a few moments, I will ask two of my colleagues - Mr. Jacques Girard, the president of Montréal International, and Mr. Charles Lapointe, the president of Tourisme Montréal, to explain their own vision of airport activities in Montreal.
Together, the members of organizations associated with the GSDAM represent 80 to 85 percent of jobs, almost 750,000 jobs, and 90 percent of private economic activity in the Montreal area.
On these grounds, we would like to speak here on behalf of the economic interests and socio-economic health of Greater Montreal.
Mirabel was planned thirty years ago on the basis of input from economists from much the same backgrounds as those who have come to testify here today and who made serious forecasting errors in terms of demographics, regulations, and technology. These were at the root of Mirabel's problems.
Today, Mirabel offers us twenty-five years of concrete experience that allow us to base our analysis on facts, not hypotheses.
The questions we must ask ourselves can be summed up as follows: why is it that twenty-five years after its inauguration, Mirabel has still not taken off?
- Why did the federal government not close Dorval when Mirabel opened? ADM was not in existence back then!
- Why was a rapid-transit railway never built between Mirabel and Montreal? This does not fall within ADM's jurisdiction.
- Why were direct highway facilities never completed between Montreal and Mirabel? This too is outside ADM's jurisdiction.
- Why did Bombardier decide to build its factories in Saint-Laurent and Dorval - and even between Dorval's landing strips?
- Why did CAE develop near Dorval, where it corners 70 percent of the world's flight simulator market with its more than 4,000 employees?
- Why did Rolls-Royce develop near Dorval?
- Why did Air Canada recently invest $60 million in its Dorval maintenance depots with their more than 3,000 employees?
- Why do we now find 73,000 jobs around Dorval that depend on the airport?
- Why has much of the activity that makes Montreal the world's third largest civil aerospace centre developed around Dorval? ADM has nothing to do with this.
- Why, when given the choice, did all major airlines (except Aeroflot) choose to operate out of Dorval?
- Why did Royal Airlines take ADM to court to fight for the right to choose Dorval over Mirabel?
The answer is that, for the past twenty-five years, almost all stakeholders, companies, carriers, travellers, - and both government levels have preferred Dorval to Mirabel.
Since the decision was made to allow airlines to choose which Greater Montreal airport to use for their commercial flights, we have finally seen an increase in airport activity, after twenty years of stagnation or decline.
New carriers have chosen to service Montreal, and others have returned to our city, while the business volume of many airlines has increased.
In less than two years, we have seen the addition of new direct flights to Denver, Tel Aviv, Brussels, Dallas, San Francisco, and many other destinations in the U.S. and Canada.
The number of transit passengers has increased significantly, jumping from less than 9 percent to more than 16 percent. Some airline companies have seen the number of transit passengers rise by more than 20 percent and now enjoy higher passenger loads.
In 1999, the number of passengers passing through Montreal airports increased by more than 5 percent, reaching the highest level of any major Canadian airport.
Liberalization is very favourable to flying activity in Greater Montreal. It is a logical continuation of the experience of the past twenty-five years and fully justifies the business decision to speed up renovations at Dorval airport.
We ask the Canadian government to accept this reality and to do everything in its power to favour the investment plans put forward by ADM and to support this project by negotiating a new lease that will enable ADM to reinvest the amounts gained from the efficient management of this valuable public resource in improvements to Dorval that will benefit the entire community.
Dorval airport can easily meet most of the region's airport needs for many decades to come.
Let us protect the vitality and value of this facility, which is essential to the development of our metropolitan area.
Before concluding this brief statement, allow me, Mister Speaker, to invite my colleagues, Charles Lapointe and Jacques Girard, to deliver their own testimonials concerning the basic question underlying the issue now under review by this committee.