With so many funding requests crossing desks at a federal level – how can small B.C. communities rise to the top of the pile?
One way is to put a face to the name – even better is to present to the government as a united front.
That was the impetus behind a recent trip Trail and regional leaders made to the Pacific Caucus meeting in Kelowna. The reason was to make a strong case and exemplify regional support for the city’s airport. The regional allies also backed Trail’s $4 million submission to a federal grant program called ACAP, the Airport Capital Assistance Program.
“What we were doing was apprising them of the Airport Capital Assistance Program funding request that we have for the rehabilitation of the runway at the Trail Regional Airport,” Mayor Mike Martin told the Trail Times.
“We recognize that this airport, although it’s owned by the City of Trail and the responsibility of the City of Trail, does provide a regional benefit. And as such, we reached out to both the East End Services and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) looking for their support in our submission – and we did receive unanimous support.
“Not only as signatories to the briefing note we submitted but in fact, three regional reps that could get away, actually accompanied us.”
Joining Martin and Coun. Kevin Jolly, chair of the Airport Steering Committee, were: Grace McGregor, RDKB board chair and Area C director; Fruitvale Mayor and regional director Patricia Cecchini; and Area B Director Linda Worley.
“What we are doing is looking at every avenue we have available for support of the application that we have in front of Transport Canada,” Martin added.
Notably, both the city and the RDKB (the airport’s former owner) previously submitted the runway project for federal funds. Both entities had their applications denied, so the shelf ready project has remained just that – shelf ready.
Though the details of the July 20 meeting were held in-camera (no media or public), the local representatives were given 45 minutes to speak and answer a myriad of questions from the the 17-member MP caucus, Martin said.
“We took advantage of this opportunity,” he explained. “Typically these meetings are held in Vancouver and Ottawa, but they held it in the Interior of BC, and it was obvious they were making a real effort to understand the issues and concerns of smaller communities ,” Martin noted.
“We were very encouraged with the reception we received and the openness and interest of this group. We were well listened to and we were asked a lot of questions.”
The airport is viewed as a key economic driver for the entire region, so runway upgrades are crucial.
It goes back to the original principles that guided Trail to move forward and purchase the airport in 2014, Martin pointed out.
“That is to provide reliable, convenient and affordable air service into our region, and it is another key transportation link that we require in order for us to be successful economically … and with 10 years of Pacific Coastal servicing this region at the Trail Regional Airport, we’ve demonstrated that we are meeting those goals,” he said.
“That will manifest itself in helping the economy as a region, whether it’s through the movement of people or through the movement of goods.”
With the bug now in the Liberal caucus ears, Martin referred to another key ally in the city’s quest for federal dollars.
“We have kept Richard Cannings (MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay) in the loop,” he shared. “Richard has been very supportive of the application we have, so this meeting was just another avenue to garner additional support.”
Hopefully, the federal outcome mirrors the success of another recent regional collaboration.
With support from outlying municipalities and areas earlier this year, Trail landed a significant provincial grant earmarked for a new airport terminal.
The province’s transport minister Todd Stone made a stopover at the Trail site in June, announcing to an audience of municipal and regional leaders that the city was approved almost $1.2 million from the BC Air Access program for the new build.
“What it’s going