Sarnia, ON

Regional air transportation is crucial to local economies, the movement of people and goods across the country and maintaining operations with our trading partners. The pandemic has had major impacts on regional air transportation ecosystems, affecting communities and local businesses from coast to coast to coast. With strategic positioning close to the border and surrounding growing industries, southwestern Ontario’s regional air transportation infrastructure helps to foster economic growth and regional connectivity.

The Government of Canada’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI) supports access to air transportation and regional ecosystems. In particular, it enables the continuation of existing air routes and ensures airports remain operational and able to contribute to regional economic growth, while adapting to new post-COVID-19 realities and requirements.

Targeted support for southwestern Ontario air transportation ecosystem

Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), announced non-repayable contributions totalling over $3.5 million for three regional southwestern Ontario airports: Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport, St. Thomas Municipal Airport and Tillsonburg Regional Airport.

Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport has been serving the Sarnia-Lambton community for over 60 years. FedDev Ontario’s $1.9-million non-repayable investment will support the construction of a new hangar and critical upgrades including plexi-glass barriers, sanitization stations, signage and equipment to assist in re-establishing regional scheduled service.

St. Thomas Municipal Airport, owned and operated by the Corporation of the City of St. Thomas, is a key municipal air facility providing complete service to a range of customers, including pilots and military aircraft. A $1.1-million non-repayable FedDev Ontario investment will improve airport operations through the construction of 8,000 square-meters of ramp space to accommodate the parking, fueling and servicing of regional aircraft. The project will facilitate the growth of industrial clients at the airport and throughout the region. 

Tillsonburg Regional Airport, owned and operated by the Town of Tillsonburg, is Oxford County’s only paved runway and welcomes a variety of aircraft. This $535,000-non-repayable FedDev Ontario investment will support the expansion of the airport’s apron where aircraft are parked and maintained, extend its taxiway, the construction of access roads and perimeter fencing.

As a result, these investments will help create and maintain local jobs in the Tillsonburg, Sarnia and St. Thomas regions.

Regional air transportation is key to the economic development of communities and businesses right across Canada. It is essential to connecting Canadians living in rural and remote communities to urban centres, delivering Canadian goods to the global market and welcoming international visitors to all parts of the country, when it is safe to do so. 

“It is important to protect our regional air transportation ecosystems for the thousands of workers employed by this sector and for the many businesses and communities that depend on it. We know that air connectivity to all regions is essential to healthy, inclusive economic growth, and supporting it is part of our plan to build back a stronger, more resilient economy.”

– The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario 

“Through this investment in the Sarnia, St. Thomas and Tillsonburg airports, the Government of Canada will help bolster the region’s air transportation ecosystem and strengthen connectivity, supporting a strong and prosperous future for this unique region of Ontario.”

– Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario and Official Languages)

“Sarnia, St. Thomas and Tillsonburg regional airports not only offer a gateway for visitors and locals alike, they help boost local economic development. Support through the Regional Air Transportation Initiative will help position these local economies to rebound from the pandemic and allow the airports to continue offering safe, reliable air travel options for passengers to and from the region.”

– Peter Fragiskatos, Member of Parliament for London North Centre 

“I am pleased to recognize the support of the Government of Canada for the valuable Regional Air Transportation Initiative funding through FedDev Ontario. This contribution will assist with our ongoing investment to ensure future sustainable growth at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport. In our expanding focus on regional connectivity, safety and future economic development we remain committed as a community to work with our partners to ensure our aggressive mandate is realized. This investment is important in ensuring our goals are realized.”

– Mayor Stephen Molnar, Town of Tillsonburg

Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport is named in honor of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and services Sarnia and Lambton County. The airport is classified as an airport of entry into Canada supported by Canadian Border Services Agency. Prior to the pandemic, the airport had scheduled airline service and currently services Corporate, Private, and Emergency Service aircraft operators, as well as a private flight training facility. 

St. Thomas Airport is a full-service airport, that serves industry and the public and has the capacity to handle small jets as well as the largest aircraft used by the Canadian Armed Forces with access to flight school and training facilities, aircraft maintenance and repair facilities and customs and immigration services. 

Tillsonburg Regional Airport is also home to the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association (CHAA) and the Tillsonburg Flying School.

Recognizing the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the air transportation sector, the Government of Canada introduced the Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI) to help businesses and organizations in regional air transportation ecosystems to remain operational through these difficult times and continue to support the economic growth of our regions.

With a national budget of $206 million over two years, Canada’s regional development agencies (RDAs) are delivering this support, with FedDev Ontario delivering $24.2 million in southern Ontario. The RATI complements the measures in Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan and measures implemented by Transport Canada.

Since November 1, 2015, FedDev Ontario has invested over $695.3 million in 818 projects in southwestern Ontario.

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