Nelson city council passed a resolution at last week’s council meeting to send a letter in support of WestJet regional flight service to the West Kootenay Regional Airport.
Even though the letter will be sent with the majority of council’s support, two councillors voted against.
“My concern with WestJet or any other airline coming into Castlegar, and I’m not sure that this would happen, but having more airlines serving Castlegar or the Kootenay region could mean more and cheaper flights, which would mean more greenhouse gas emissions,” said councillor Candace Batycki who voted in opposition to the letter.
Nelson’s Mayor John Dooley will be joining Castlegar’s Mayor Lawrence Chernoff in Calgary later this month to present a case for having WestJet service to the area.
Councillor Donna Macdonald also voted against the resolution.
“Having reliable service into the West Kootenay is crucial,” said Dooley. “For as long as I’ve been around the unreliability of flights coming into either Trail or Castlegar has been identified as the number one challenge for economic development because business people need to get in and out, and they need to have a schedule and know it’s certain.”
But Batycki said people are able to use the West Kootenay Regional Airport now with Air Canada and that making service cheaper and more frequent will increase greenhouse gas emissions.
“People are getting here now,” she said. “I’m not saying don’t fly, although in the future we may have to say don’t fly, I’m just saying I wouldn’t want flying to become so cheap and so readily available that our emissions go up. We see that in Europe where there are numerous cheap flights available, people fly at the drop of a hat and emissions have gone up 87 per cent.”
According to Dooley, tourism and backcountry ski operators like Baldface need reliable service to draw in and satisfy clients.
“How can they can depend on a flight coming in with 15 clients who are paying thousands of dollars to ski and that plane can’t land in Castlegar. That’s just an example. That’s a big part of our economy now a days,” he said.
While Batycki acknowledged the role of tourism in the economy of the West Kootenay, she questioned what that might mean for long-term sustainability.
“I do believe over time that an economy that is based on burning fossil fuels to move people in and out of the region is actually not sustainable over time,” she said.