MLAs have voted in favour of increasing fees at the Yellowknife Airport starting in July.
By a vote of 10-7 Thursday night, MLAs approved the launch of airport improvement fees of $10 per ticket for flights heading north from the city, and $20 for flights heading south.
While a number of MLAs questioned the timing of the fees and real reasons behind them, Transportation Minister Wally Schumann insisted the added cost to passengers will be minimal.
“I want to make it quite clear, this is raising the cost of living by less a tenth of one per cent,” Schumann said on Wednesday.
“If I thought this was something that was going to raise the cost of living by 10 or 15 per cent in the Northwest Territories, this bill wouldn’t be in front of the House.”
Schumann added that a revolving fund would free up $4 million already being spent by the GNWT in subsidies to the airport.
“What that money alone is going to do just in the Yellowknife area for every million dollars that we bring forward is going to create three and a half jobs,” he told members.
“Just out of that $4 million, not even counting capital, is going to create roughly 14 jobs in the city of Yellowknife at the airport. So that’s going to be an economic driver alone.”
The fees are meant to turn Yellowknife Airport into a self-sustaining entity.
Prior to the vote, a number of airlines and the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines expressed their opposition to the fees, saying they will raise the cost of doing business in the territory.
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green said for many tourism operators, they sell travel packages well in advance, before the additional cost of these fees could’ve been calculated.
“They would not have had an opportunity to include this extra cost in pre-paid tours,” Green said.
“The result could cost them literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of having to pay those airport fees out of their own pockets.”
The government says fees collected will be deposited into a revolving fund, and be reinvested back into the airport.