The City of Brandon has taken the first major step in its attempt to secure government funding for its airport redevelopment plan.
Scott Hildebrand confirmed yesterday that the city’s application for the New Building Canada Fund was submitted and received by the province. The application and business case was also sent to Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire and his staff.
"We’ve submitted the initial review document … which from my perspective is our application," Hildebrand said. "It will require the premier and the provincial government to raise this as a priority to the federal government in order to make this happen."
The city has been waiting anxiously to submit its application to the federal government’s $14-billion New Building Canada Fund. There is $1 billion set aside in the Small Communities Fund for local projects in communities with fewer than 100,000 residents. The application period opened March 31.
"We had to wait until Building Canada to come out in order to understand the criteria," Hildebrand said. "Now in the last number of weeks, we had to wait for the application process and the connection between the federal government and the provincial government which is now in place, so now both of those pieces are there and we are ready to go."
In March, when Premier Greg Selinger was in Brandon, he committed verbally to the project.
"We believe the airport upgrade … is one of the projects we could fund together under the (New) Building Canada Fund," Selinger previously told the Sun. "We’re very positive about that project. If (Brandon-Souris Conservative MP) Larry Maguire and the federal government wants to do it, we’ll partner with them on it and get it done."
Also in March, Maguire took Peter Braid, the parliamentary secretary for infrastructure and communities, on a tour of Brandon Municipal Airport.
"It is a huge opportunity so we need to make sure we get the airport expanded as well," Maguire said at the time.
The Brandon Sun contacted Maguire in Ottawa yesterday. He said he was glad to see the City of Brandon making progress on this proposal.
"I’ve been through the whole constituency and the people in each community have indicated — as well as the City of Brandon, the Chamber of Commerce … the oil industry, agricultural industry — very clearly that the expansion of the airport in Brandon is going to be a huge economic benefit to our whole region."
The city is pleased to have the support of both the premier and the local MP.
"I think two of the three hurdles are complete. The next one will be simply executing the plan," Hildebrand said.
The city doesn’t want to get stalled in the middle of provincial and federal discussion, especially since the support has been made known.
"The commitment from the premier was that he would support this, so now we need the follow-through in order to get this on the federal radar to get this done," he said.
The city released detailed plans of the airport redevelopment in March.
The major $8.8-million overhaul would see the airport terminal building expanded to three times its current size, in order to better accommodate daily air service currently provided by WestJet, and potentially attract service growth.
"Modernizing our current airport is really our goal," Hildebrand said. "I think the expansion of the airport is important to our current operation … but it’s also important for future growth… and I think we just need to have a facility that’s modern and up-to-date, hoping it’ll draw additional growth, additional routes in all directions."
Included in the plans are a dedicated check-in area, spacious boarding lounge, additional space for security screening, separate arrivals area, new baggage carousel and improved network connectivity via fibre optic installation.
Hildebrand hopes work could begin as early as this fall, if funding is approved in time. The construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.
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