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How the Ottawa Airport Authority and the city work together by navigating complexity

Ottawa Airport Authority

When it comes to the intricate relationship between the Ottawa International Airport Authority (Authority) and the City of Ottawa, a sophisticated interplay emerges – one built on decades of collaboration and shared goals. 

Over the years, the relationship between the city and the airport has evolved to better serve residents and visitors, reflecting a common vision of economic prosperity, infrastructure development, and community well-being. Despite their shared goals, each entity brings a unique perspective and role to the city’s ecosystem.

Federal land & governance 

At its core, the Authority is a non-share capital corporation managing YOW and surrounding airport land through a complex, long-term lease with Transport Canada. While respecting the city’s input, the Authority retains control over the federal property it oversees and develops. This nuanced partnership acknowledges the federal jurisdiction of the airport’s location while ensuring the city’s voice is considered in decisions impacting the broader community.

One way this is achieved is through the city’s classification as a nominating entity to YOW’s Board of Directors, ensuring the city has visibility and input into the airport’s operations, opportunities, and challenges.

“It’s important for the Ottawa Airport Authority to work alongside the city, as in many cases, we are both looking out for the best interests of the community,” said Code Cubitt, chair of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Airport Authority.

Who funds what at the airport 

From an economic perspective, the airport pays its own way when it comes to on-the-ground services.

Emergency response bodies at the airport, such as the YOW Ottawa Police Service Airport Detachment and the Ottawa Airport Fire Service (AFS) are both funded by the airport, with situational back-up support and assistance from other available officers and the City of Ottawa Fire Services when needed.

The LRT terminal station built at YOW was originally planned to be fully funded by the airport; however, some federal support was provided to complete the project to offset the financial impact of the pandemic.

“The airport’s purpose within Ottawa is to safely connect people, move goods, and create economic prosperity for the community, and the city directly benefits from that as well,” says Mark Laroche, president & CEO Ottawa International Airport Authority. 

YOW is also not taxpayer-funded. In fact, the Authority remits a payment in lieu of municipal taxes to the City of Ottawa, based on a fixed rate multiplied by the airport’s prior year passenger volumes. Over the past five years, the Authority has paid $19 million to the City of Ottawa. This is in addition to paying for the terminal Ottawa Police detachment it employs on-site.

Where they work together

The airport continues to collaborate with the city on future expansion projects, such as the widening of the Airport Parkway, currently under review. There is also a healthy dialogue about economic development, as YOW endeavors to fulfill its mandate by attracting new air service, such as Air France’s non-stop service to Paris, and Porter Airlines growth, as well as encouraging private-sector investment, such as the Alt Hotel Ottawa Airport, currently under construction.

 “Our airport serves as a vital economic engine for our city, promoting growth, connectivity, it opens doors to global opportunities, and attracts international businesses and tourists,” says Mayor Mark Sutcliffe. “We are committed to fostering a collaborative partnership to amplify the Ottawa International Airport’s accomplishments and contribution to the prosperity of our community.” 

Laroche summed it up: “The partnership between the Ottawa Airport Authority and the City of Ottawa is a sophisticated one that transcends traditional collaborations. Navigating the intricacies of economic and community development, and critical infrastructure requires a genuine commitment to mutual growth. Both parties work well together and share in each other’s success. We’re both interested in serving this community, and there is total consensus on that.”