Council endorses YVR’s opposition to sale of Canada’s big airports to global investors

yvr5Vancouver city council today joined Vancouver Airport Authority in opposing a proposal to sell Canada’s major airports to global investors, a move that would undoubtedly drive up the cost of travel.

The vote came in response to a presentation by YVR CEO Craig Richmond, who raised the issue during his annual update to council. (Vancouver’s representative on the YVR board is Vancity Credit Union CEO Tamara Vrooman.)

The scheme to sell major airports, including YVR, “within three years to a share-capital structure for the larger airports, with equity-based financing from large investors,” was a key and surprising recommendation of the Canadian Transportation Act Review, chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson.

It reflects a new fad in government circles for “asset recycling,” the sale of valuable public assets to raise funds for new capital investment. (YVR’ is a non-profit corporation with a board appointed by a range of public and profeessional organizations. It pays rent and has made billions of dollars in investments in YVR.)

The asset recycling scheme, Richmond said, is under active consideration in Ottawa, It would amount to forcing Canadians to buy YVR a second time through increased fees and reduced quality of service as new investors recouped the cost of purchase.

YVR’s airport improvement fee is currently the lowest in Canada and the authority has taken other steps to reduce the cost of travel and improve the airport experience. All of those investments would be at risk if the decision-makers shifted to a distant global investor’s boardroom.

YVR management would be accountable to global shareholders, not British Columbians and there is no guarantee that Ottawa would reinvest the capital in BC or even in the airport system.

Mayor Gregor Robertson was directed to write to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to oppose the proposal.