The expansion of the Jean-Lesage airport still raises questions

News 9 December, 2017
  • Even if the total number of passengers (over 1.6 million) rose for a fifteenth consecutive year in 2016 to the airport Jean-Lesage Régis Labeaume is concerned about the reduction in the number of direct flights to the United States and formed a committee to work this week to attract carriers.

    Jean-Luc Lavallée

    Saturday 9 December 2017 00:00

    Saturday 9 December 2017 00:00

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    The author of a report very critical of the governance of canadian airports raised questions about the relevance of the expansion of the Jean-Lesage airport in the aftermath of the creation of a working committee mandated to attract air carriers.

    Nearly four years after the publication of his report, co-authored with the director general of the Institute of governance Michel Nadeau, a professor of HEC Montréal, Jacques Roy, regrets always the lack of accountability and transparency of the airport authorities in the country, including that of Quebec.

    Recall that a mega-site of$ 277 Million — of which$ 225 Million has been allocated for the new terminal, which opens its doors on Monday — has been subsidized to the tune of$ 100 Million by Quebec city and Ottawa.

    “Is that the traffic growth that we have observed in recent years will be sustainable, and if so, why ? The airlines are not queuing up to offer new direct flights, it is rather the opposite. So, in this sense, one can ask whether the investments are truly justified “, inquired he.

    The private companies, non-profit organization that manages the airports, such as Airport de Québec inc. (AQi), act “as if they were owners” of the places so that they are “long-term tenants,” insists Mr Roy in an interview.

    Accountability inadequate

    “The main issue for the governance of airports lies in the fact that they are quasi-monopolies managing the public goods that the board is accountable to nobody “, one can read in the report, made public in February 2014.

    In order to increase the accountability mechanisms, the two co-authors had recommended to establish a transparent mechanism and independent review of strategic decisions (expansion projects and their financing with, inter alia, of the improvement fee airport) or to transfer the management of airports to the provinces or to the municipalities.

    No follow-up to the recommendations

    Nothing has changed since the publication of the report, laments Jacques Roy. “There was no follow-up. The airport authorities benefit from an environment that is very favorable. I was not expecting that all of them, they decide to change it. The report was addressed, perhaps, more to the various levels of government to try to put pressure, ” he confided.

    By transferring the management of airports to the private sector in the 1990s, the federal government has ” escaped the bullet “, nods approval. The professor also believes that it is “not normal” that the remuneration of the senior executives of airports is confidential.


    “The creation of a committee is a good thing, but there is a lack of representatives of the federal and of the aviation industry. The people of the committee may, without doubt, to ask the right questions. However, one wonders if they will be able to get the right answers. “

    — Jean Rousseau, a municipal councillor of Democracy Quebec

    “The Jean-Lesage airport is important for the region of Quebec, as demonstrated by the expansion and opening-up (future) of the center of pre-clearance. The principal value of the establishment of this committee is the collaboration between the business community to support the work of the airport. “

    — Jean-Yves Duclos, minister federal liberal

    The direction of the airport defends its decisions

    The chairman of the board of directors of the airport of Quebec, André Fortin, defends tooth and nail the decisions that have been taken in recent years and the governance model in place.

    The real estate developer of Levis, who is at the head of the C. A. of the airport since 2012, is struggling to understand the criticism, particularly on the FAA (improvement fee airport) $ 35 for Quebec, which are among the highest in the country. These costs, which are disputed by the carriers, are passed on to passengers in the price of the airline ticket.

    “When you look at what is said on our behalf, that we down a little bit. We sincerely believe that we have done a good work, but this is not written, what is not said. One receives the criticism, the reviews. On the airport fees that are high, we commissioned a study, there is a consultant who will produce a report, so we will have the conclusion of it, ” he said in a rare interview.

    “We are in the process to deliver a beautiful project (expansion) in the budgets in a timely manner. The only problem is that there are acceptability mitigated to some levels, but at the level of our governance and all processes at the airport it meets the rules of ethics and the usual rules. “

    The compensation of the executive officers, our questions about this to both Mr. Fortin, chairman and chief executive officer Gaétan Gagné have all hit a wall. “It is private. It is a private corporation. These are sensitive data. The other airports do not give the salary of the president and the vice-president, not more, ” said Mr. Fortin.

    Incentives for airlines ?

    Several airlines, joined by The Journal, were also well received, yesterday, the creation of a working committee, which will evaluate the possibility of offering financial incentives to carriers to develop new routes to Quebec.

    “We’re going to have it going on, what to Quebec because it is not in a great position with regard to the service,” commented the ceo of American Airlines Quebec city, Guillaume Tremblay. In addition to the FAA high, he deplored some of the ” hidden costs “.

    “We encourage all airports to keep (the rates) as low as possible,” said by e-mail as a spokesperson for WestJet, Lauren Stewart, stating that incentives can be effective. Incentive or not, at Sunwing, the executive vice-president Sam Char rather believes that the consumer demand is all-important. “If there is no market, it withdraws. “

    — With the collaboration of Stéphanie Martin