Peeing in the Wheaties this morning

If you can read this, it’s my latest column designed to annoy just about everyone. I am calling for the consolidation of NB’s air services into one single airport for the province. Ouch. But don’t judge me until you read the figures.

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0 Responses to Peeing in the Wheaties this morning

  1. mikel says:

    An interesting article, except that all the facts don’t necessarily prove the case (tho they are interesting).

    Anytime I’ve flown into NB the planes were always full. IF a route is not filling the plane, is not cost effective or profitable, it will be cancelled. What evidence is there that ONE airport for the province will address all the ‘problems’ that currently exist? Your article doesn’t have any.

    Toronto and Halifax has the population base, which means the carrier can set up there and offer services they can’t elsewhere. Those services then entice a wider audience that can’t otherwise get them. That’s how they grow- ‘naturally’ (for lack of a better word).

    Plus, as you mention, the drive to Bangor is reasonable from NB-it’s not from PEI or Halifax. And prices in Bangor are half what they are in Canada. Much the same is true here in southern ontario where many people-depending on the destination, will travel to detroit or Buffalo and get flights out of there.

    In ontario thats changing, Waterloo now has a regional airport (which you didn’t mention) that is growing faster than Pearson. I’m in Waterloo and I ALWAYS flew into Moncton from Hamilton. It takes ‘roughly’ the same amount of time and I can drive through a rural countryside and not be terrified on the 401. Traffic is a breeze as they don’t have that ‘critical mass’ at Toronto. But mostly its just ‘nice’. Hamilton’s airport is much like Moncton’s, so its not an ordeal. Plus, the flights are usually cheaper. Until now they didn’t have transit services, but thats also changing. However, most people I talk to aren’t even aware Hamilton HAS an airport (not everyone researches this stuff).

    But I have a feeling that your ‘bias’ may be showing a bit. The argument may continue…’well, we need ONE airport…and since Moncton’s is the busiest…well, you know..’

    THAT is where the hubbub comes in. First though, you have to detract from market forces, you have to tell airlines to stop doing what they are doing and listen to the government, which is going to decide their airport strategy.

    Then, you have to pick one. Obviously this is a provincial government matter-so ideally, the best candidate SHOULD be Miramichi City. It’s got the proximity to service the majority of fliers, its the middle of the province, etc. It has the most need of economic development (of the south). To find out just how hard it is to make this policy, can we get YOU to admit that Moncton should lose it’s status based on a government decision of ‘whats fair’ and what’s best in the long term? I thought not.

    If it weren’t for the gas shortage we wouldn’t even have this conversation. The economic models are to move to smaller planes and niche markets. Municipalties are jumping on the bandwagon because administrative costs for airports are getting lower, most have vacant land somewhere, and its ‘quick and easy’ economic development. The business class in virtually EVERY town or city would like one, and they are the ones who make policy. Here in Waterloo the public certainly wasn’t clamouring for an airport, I enjoyed the hour drive to Hamilton. Yet massive regional tax dollars were spent to build an airport that only a minority ever use because their prices are so much higher than Pearson (now westjet has moved in so you can fly west competitively)-and because most people don’t fly.

    From what you’ve mentioned I think its clear that the problems have ZERO to do with a central airport. New Brunswick is also close enough to ontario and quebec to drive easily in a day, we never used to think about flying. Plus all your other factors make it surprising that NB’s number is so HIGH compared to Nova Scotia. As usual though, the statistics and analysis were very interesting.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great article that provides a good example of how duplication and redundancy is hurting New Brunswick on many levels.

    Another example will appear Thursday; after a consultant’s report highlighted we have duplication with our universities (not just regionally or provincially but on adjacent campuses!), university Presidents were asked to revisit the issue. We can confidently expect that they their report is not likely going to be focused on on more effective spending; it is a virtual certainty it will call for more even more funding.

  3. richard says:

    Halifax has the NS airport because it is by far the dominant metro region in NS. Likewise, TO dominates Ontario. There is no NB equivalent; that, to me, is the greatest hurdle you face here.

    Moncton makes the most sense to me of the three competitors (SJ and Freddy Beach being the others), because of location. But what steps do you think would have to be taken to turn Moncton into THE airport? Given Moncton’s relative growth, that seems to be the direction in which things are moving anyway.

    It will be interesting to see how higher fuel prices affect airport growth over the next few years.

  4. mikel says:

    Since NBT is not around anymore I should mention what he would (or I suspect he would, tho he gets antsy about that). Competition is a GOOD thing. What David seems to be suggesting is that government CHOOSE the ‘winner’, which tends to exacerbate the regional problems. Moncton WOULD be the clear choice if a decision needed to be made now and made on current statistics, but we are not talking about policy for NOW, we are talking about long term growth.

    Moncton’s airport did not grow ‘naturally’ (for lack of a better word)-the governments came to bat when the railyard closed. A new highway was built right through it to increase transport, and purolator (a crown corporation) made it a mainstay (it COULD have chosen Saint John or Fredericton).

    But the conscious decision was made because Moncton had just lost the railyard. Again, it wasn’t just ‘moxy’ that helped Moncton, all levels of government joined together to make Moncton an industrial hub-which of course hurt Saint John (though I still don’ remember many St. Johners complaining).

    That’s why I say Miramichi is the logical choice for a provincial government decision (plus seeing if David would actually come out and make the Moncton argument:)

    This is all hypothetical though, since NB governments rarely get involved in manipulating the market (large markets anyway). As mentioned, Moncton has grown, perhaps David’s bias is showing WAY too much as Saint John’s is also growing and has the opportunity to perhaps surpass Moncton.

    But because St. John’s airport grows, even if Fredericton’s grows, it does NOT hurt ‘New Brunswick. It may hurt MONCTON, and if you’re in Moncton that may be something of interest. But there is no evidence that having one airport serve ALL NB is going to lower prices. There is no battle going on here in Waterloo because Hamilton’s airport is just an hours away-and Hamilton also has lots of room for growth, in fact Hamilton’s airport is LESS busy than Moncton. MONCTON is actually an ordeal compared to Hamilton. But it didn’t become a provincial matter when Waterloo announced its airport. People weren’t decrying Waterloo from Hamilton about how another airport was not necessary. And
    Westjets operations in Waterloo have ticket prices that are not much different than Hamilton.

    That’s not ‘duplication’, if it IS, then you might as well tell stores to stop selling pepsi because they are bottled in Moncton, and coke is bottled in saint john and they are both essentially the same product. You might as well tell Irving to stop making chips because other companies are already doing so.

    As for universities, that’s another example of competition, and from a competitive point of view that’s NB’s problem more than anything else. Fewer and fewer ontarians are getting post secondary education, the per capita ratio is now LOWER than MICHIGAN-which is pretty bad by american standards. That’s a bit off topic but ontario universities look worldwide and across canada-partly because they charge those students more. I’ve mentioned before that in the summertime Waterloo looks more like asia than Canada-in fact in winter it looks more like that.

    Both of those universities offer many of the same faculties, and are right down the street from one another. Like STU and UNB they also share some facilities and faculties to save money, but essentially compete with one another.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I fully support duplication when it leads to true competition. I do not support it when the majority of costs are paid by taxpayers.

    Paying for a half capacity english class accross the street from another half capacity class is not a good use of taxpayer’s money; I don’t care what you call it but it is a luxury we cannot afford.

    As has been demonstrated through several failed attempts, the much needed direct US flights from NB cannot succeed with 3 under utilized flights. So, we suffer flying to a hub so we can get to the US. Our greed and unwillingness to cooperate holds us back. The same reasons explain why we have not had a medical school.

    I’d fully support the ontario and Quebec airport models of a major airport supported with several municipal ones.

  6. mikel says:

    First, there are FEW, probably not ANY english classes at ‘half capacity’. Even the post secondary report of a couple of years ago could only give ONE example where that had happened, and that was a past anecdotal example which was rectified.

    Of course it depends on the fundamentals-STU brags about its small class sizes, and they were relatively small, at least in the upper levels. But even over a decade ago there was little duplication-each had introductory courses, which usually were pretty full. Then other courses were ‘shared’. I graduated from STU, but over half of my courses were from UNB. Most of the courses I took at UNB were not offered at STU, and vice versa-except those introductory courses that were pretty full.

    In the case of airports, its already a given that Moncton is the ‘major airport’. And that was pretty much by design, even a little forethought will tell you that if you offer upgraded facilities, have a major transit route nearby, and prop it up with a major tax supported courier, then it will become the major airport. That’s no accident.

    You can’t forget the feds, as all three NB airports are part of the national airport policy and are ‘owned’ by the feds. THe national airport policy has been to download the responsibilities to the regions and let ‘the market’ do the rest. In ontario there is no provincial policy that says ‘london can only get so big’ or that says that Toronto is by defition the major airport. If London, Waterloo, or Hamilton grow to compete then thats fully recognized by the feds as the way it should be. In fact the feds almost specifically state that they’d act to ENHANCE the ‘free market’ of air flight (such as it is).

    So the NB model is very much how most places are moving. IF NB had the customer base then things may be different. But there is no ‘need’ for direct flights to the US-that’s quite obvious if there are not enough customers to service the flights.

    Finally, that’s completely wrong about the medical school-that is NOT why there has been no english medical school. There has been a FRENCH one for awhile in Moncton, and nobody from Fredericton has ever said boo, let alone Campbellton or Bathurst. St. John is FINALLY getting one because the province is FINALLY paying for it. And so far I’ve seen nothing but kudos about that decision and haven’t read anything in any other paper to denounce its location-and as we know, the IRvings LOVE to be the match that makes it look like the municipalities are constantly warring.

    There does seem to be a problem with something David’s new post mentions-and thats ‘how decisions are made’. I’ve seen new programs and departments and schools set up all over the country, virtually NEVER are they at the behest of the provincial government. They start out local. So, the question that we still dont have answered is ‘why hasn’t UNB been at the forefront of demanding a medical school?’

    Perhaps it HAS, and the media just never talks about it. But again, when Sudbury wanted a new cancer research centre they started it locally, they got some funding together to contribute, then went to the province and the feds. In Fredericton most of their concern has been for a convention centre.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great. If there is no problem with university over capacity then they don’t need more money; they simply need better management.