In the early 1990s, airports were managed by the federal government and taxpayers responsible for all capital investments and operational costs not covered by airport charges. With taxpayers directly subsidizing the Canadian transportation system, the annual cost to taxpayers for operations alone was $135 million a year (with minimal investment in facilities).
By 1992, the Government of Canada began transferring control and operation of airports to non-share, not-for-profit airport authorities. Airports have many stakeholders, including local communities served, air carriers, passengers, and local businesses. In accordance with normal corporate governance best practices and to provide appropriate oversight of the management of Canada’s airports, airports are managed by boards of directors with broad skills and experience across a wide range of areas. Aviation expertise is but one important skill set, however, others include engineering, legal, marketing, and financial accounting.
A robust board member evaluation process is in place at most Canadian airports. The process is transparent and does not provide any one particular entity, such as a particular air carrier or elected leader, with a veto.
Airport Authorities are mandated to operate as self-sustaining businesses and to facilitate economic development in local communities. Airport authorities are equipped to respond to local economic needs and priorities through more business-like management practices and Boards of Directors appointed
from the community.
Airport authorities have introduced commercially focused management practices creating a more predictable business environment for airlines
and other airport users.
They have invested heavily in improving facilities for passengers – capital works at Canada’s airports rose from less than $50 million in 1992 to
over $21 billion in 2015.