N.L. airspace claim ‘worth a look’


It would be fool­hardy for the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment not to take a se­ri­ous look into a claim by re­tired engi­neer David Fox that the prov­ince is owed bil­lions of dol­lars for the use of its airspace since Con­fed­er­a­tion, in­de­pen­dent MHA Paul Lane says.

“I have no idea what­so­ever as to whether there is any va­lid­ity to what he is say­ing, but for $9 bil­lion, to sit down with the man for an hour to see what he has to say and look into it is a small in­vest­ment of time,” Lane said.

In a Saltwire Net­work story on Wed­nes­day, Fox claimed his re­search shows that New­found­land and Labrador has con­tin­ued to be the sole owner of its airspace since 1949 and that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has col­lected about $19.7 bil­lion, in­clud­ing in­ter­est, from the use of that airspace since Con­fed­er­a­tion. He said that if half was taken to go to­ward pro­vid­ing avi­a­tion ser­vices, then the re­main­ing half — about $9.85 bil­lion — should be re­turned to the prov­ince.

Fox said Term 33 of the 1949 Terms of Union item­ized the ex­act public works and prop­erty of New­found­land that, upon Con­fed­er­a­tion, would be­come the prop­erty of Canada. Airspace, an im­por­tant as­set to any coun­try, he noted, wasn’t in­cluded on that list.

This is not the first time in the 20 years of his re­search into the is­sue that Fox has come for­ward with his claim.

A Feb. 26, 2005 story by then-Tele­gram re­porter Rob An­tle re­ferred to brief­ing notes pre­pared for then-pre­mier Danny Wil­liams on the is­sue af­ter Fox had been in­ter­viewed about his the­ory by lo­cal me­dia.

The brief­ing notes sug­gested the prov­ince would not have reaped mil­lions yearly from con­trol of its airspace and, in fact, may have lost money if it had main­tained that con­trol.

The brief­ing notes re­ferred to Term 31 of the Terms of Union, which states that “Canada will take over the fol­low­ing ser­vices and … the public costs in­curred in re­spect of each ser­vice taken over, namely … civil avi­a­tion, in­clud­ing Gan­der Air­port.”

“If NL had re­tained re­spon­si­bil­ity for the airspace/nav­i­ga­tion above the re­gion, fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits ac­crued would have been limited and would have likely con­sti­tuted a fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity over the long term,” the anal­y­sis in the brief­ing notes stated.

In Thurs­day’s Tele­gram, Ed Hol­lett, se­nior re­search fel­low for the At­lantic In­sti­tute for Mar­ket Stud­ies (AIMS), said Fox has it wrong in sug­gest­ing that airspace was an as­set not in­cluded in the Terms of Union be­tween Canada and New­found­land in 1949.

Hol­lett said that un­der Term 3 of the Terms of Union, New­found­land was to be­come part of Canada in the same way the other prov­inces did, with the con­sti­tu­tion ap­plied, ex­cept for changes specif­i­cally out­lined in the Terms of Union.

There was no ref­er­ence to airspace or any other ter­ri­tory of New­found­land and Labrador be­ing treated dif­fer­ently, Hol­lett said.

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