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.