Morinville Council grounds funding for EIA

Air Services Opportunity FundCouncil voted 7-0 to not fund a second year of contributions to the Edmonton International Airport

by Colin Smith

Morinville will not be contributing financially this year to a regional initiative aimed at increasing the number of flights at the Edmonton International Airport, but has left the door open to doing so in 2023.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday council was presented with an administration proposal that the town halt its contributions to the Air Services Opportunity Fund, a one-time three-year initiative of the airport and the regional investment promotion body Edmonton Global.

However, Council decided instead not to make the planned contribution for 2022, but to give further consideration to contributing next year.

In June 2021, Council approved a contribution of $28,194 for that year to the Air Services Opportunity Fund following a presentation by the EIA and Edmonton Global.

With a funding goal of $15 million, the fund aims to increase the number of international flights at the airport, which had fallen drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money would be used to offset start-up costs for targeted direct flights to and from strategic destinations,

The concern was that If the number of flights to the EIA did not return to the previous level, it would have a significant impact on the regional economy, decreasing business competitiveness and resulting in a smaller number of visitors spending money here, as well as being a nuisance for residents who have to make connections for travel.

Edmonton Global sought contributions over three years from regional municipalities that are members of Edmonton Global, with each share based on a cost-sharing formula derived from equalized assessment and population.

Morinville was asked for a three-year contribution to the fund of $122,750, with an installment of $28,194 in the first year, then $47,278 in 2022 and 2023.

Council approved the first year’s contribution, with expenditures for years two and three to be authorized on receipt and acceptance of metrics and outcomes to its satisfaction.

The decision was controversial and was made on a vote split four-three. All three current council members who were part of that council, Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe, Councillor Rebecca Balanko and Councillor Scott Richardson, voted against the move.

At Tuesday’s meeting, there was overall agreement that the Air Opportunities Fund Contribution should be dropped because of Morinville’s shaky financial situation and questions about reporting results from the fund.

A motion to that effect was on the table when Councillor Ray White proposed it be amended so that rather than a contribution in 2023 simply being done away with, council could reevaluate the possibility.

“The one thing that I think it might be in our interest to consider is that we don’t do anything in budget 2022 and revisit it in 2023,” White said. “That would give us more time to monitor the success of the money that has been put forward by other communities and we would also see what our financial picture looks like in 2023.”

The amendment was passed with a no vote by Balanko.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe, who made the original motion to write to Edmonton Global to indicate the Town would not contribute to the Air Services Opportunity Fund in 2022, said he was opposed when it first came to the table last year. “I’m glad that we’re not going to contribute this year,” he said. “When we get some information back [on the impact of the program] it may well make sense in 2023 to revisit that.”

The motion was carried unanimously.

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