Canadian government pledges $12.5M to essential air services in remote Northwest Territories communities

The airport in the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) community of Ulukhaktok. In the N.W.T. there are 22 communities considered remote under a government program agreement because they rely on air services as their only year-round mode of transportation. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The federal government is giving an additional $12.5 million to the Government of the Northwest Territories to help support essential air services for its remote communities.

It’s meant to help maintain “minimum levels of air transportation services” to those communities to ensure “continued access to essential goods and services,” the federal government said in a news release Tuesday.

That includes community resupply of food and medical supplies, it said. The funds are on top of $17.1 million provided to the territorial government in 2020 to maintain essential air services to remote communities.

“Our government understands the importance of reliable air services in sustaining the social and economic well-being of our northern and remote communities,” wrote Omar Alghabra, the minister of transportation.

“We are pleased to be working with our territorial and Indigenous partners and the air industry to support communities as we start to build back better.”

Each province and territory with remote communities receives a fixed amount of funding under the Remote Air Services Program. Each jurisdiction is responsible for allocating the funds to specific carriers.

‘Harsh financial burden’ on a critical northern industry, says territorial finance minister 

In the N.W.T. there are 22 communities considered remote under the program’s agreement because they rely on air services as their only year-round mode of transportation.

Caroline Wawzonek, N.W.T.’s minister of finance, wrote the “plunge in air travel demand” due to COVID-19 has put a “harsh financial burden” on a critical northern industry.

“We want to provide relief for this important industry as it struggles to remain in operation and as the N.W.T. continues to depend on them for commerce and connectivity,” she said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Nunavut airlines get $24M governmental aid for COVID-19 in Arctic Canada, CBC News

Finland: Finland joins other Nordic countries in virtual tourism due to pandemic, Yle News

Greenland/Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland and Greenland implement COVID-19 testing for travellers, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Scandinavian airlines cancel thousands of flights and lay off most of their employees, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden to lift domestic travel restrictions in mid-June, Radio Sweden

United States: Airline shutdown creates new challenges for rural Alaska, The Associated Press

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