Speaking Notes for
Regis Trudel, Chairman, Board of Directors
Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Authority
"RETURN FOR SHAREHOLDERS"
To the Authority's Annual Public Meeting
Held on May 10, 2000
At the Maison du Citoyen, Hull, Quebec
PLEASE CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
[Introduction by Louis Bertrand]
Thank you Louis.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, the management and staff of Ottawa International Airport, I want to begin by saying just how pleased we are that you have joined us this morning. We appreciate your interest and continuing support.
It is a pleasure to be here, in Hull, to meet with our constituents. These annual gatherings are part of an ongoing commitment to stay in touch with the community we serve by sharing, listening and learning.
Each of us is a member of this community. We live and work here. We are involved because we care about the people of this community and hope to help shape its future.
One of the most critical elements of any successful enterprise is leadership. Ottawa International Airport is privileged to have a senior management team, who have in total, over 187 years of collective experience in aviation-related industry. They know many different aspects of the industry and they sure know how to run an airport. Indeed, our community has stated its appreciation of their work.
As your representatives, my colleagues on the Board of Directors and myself have been asking some very tough questions and continue to challenge our management team. This accountability process is critical to fulfilling the Airport Authority's mission.
Another element critical to a successful enterprise is continuity. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that Carol Stephenson, Claude Bennett and Michael Robinson, nominated by the Region of Ottawa-Carleton, and who's initial terms expired this year, have agreed to continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Authority for another term.
In this pivotal year for the Authority and for our community, Board Members will be finalizing our preparations for take off. After three years of governing this not-for-profit, independent enterprise, we are nearing the most important decision about the future of this organization. Indeed, given the significance of the decision, it is imperative Board Members are fully knowledgeable of where the Airport stands on many related issues.
In retrospect, this Board can be proud of the work performed to-date. In 1996, after much pressure from the community, the Federal Government finally obtained agreement from the U.S. to establish a Customs and Immigration office here at the airport. However, our Government did not proceed with it. In 1997, our first year, your new Airport Authority did it. Within seven months of the establishment of the Airport Authority in 1997, we financed and installed the U.S. customs pre-clearance area ourselves. With pre-clearance, flights to the U.S. have doubled from 20 to 40 per day. And today, pre-clearance barely handles the community's US access requirements.
Since our inception, our goal has been to improve service for our community. Of course, capital improvements required to meet customer demands took precedence. With the terminal renovated and over-performing, we turned our attention to diversifying our revenue base and expanding customer service to new areas. Bringing more flights, more destinations, better amenities and improved community presence and programs.
This winning transformation has allowed the Airport to truly act as a facilitator of economic development, to create more and more opportunities for the people and businesses we serve.
The people we serve. Only four words, yet they have formidable meaning.
Customers come first. Safety above all. Linking family and friends. Jobs for the community. Connecting our Region to the global marketplace.
We have received many kind words and encouragement, as well as some complaints and suggestions from the people we served over the past years. Thank you for this feedback; it is being put to good use.
To formalize this process, some of you received phone calls from Decima Research last year. We were looking to confirm what our community thought of our performance. The results proved enlightening.
77% of those asked rated the overall quality of Ottawa International Airport as "good" or "very good." We interpret this good rating as an approval of the Airport's transformation.
95% agreed that Ottawa International Airport is an "important part of the economic structure". Our role, indeed our mission, was re-enforced by this exceptional endorsement.
88% of those asked were confused about the Authority's status as an independent corporation. This was a surprise. We need to better communicate with you, with our community, and to that end we have already started to open many new channels of communication.
81% mistakenly believed that the Airport received some or all of its operating revenue from government. This misconception, held over from earlier times, is hurting our ability to properly communicate key messages. How can our audience properly evaluate us when they do not know who we are?
Our community must be made aware that we have transformed an entity that once was a substantial drain on the taxpayer into one that annually contributes literally millions of dollars to government coffers.
We believe that the transfer of Ottawa International Airport has been an unqualified success. Today, the Airport enjoys the privilege of serving the Region like never before.
Since we started just three years ago, our community has climbed past the 1.2 million-population mark. The housing market has not seen such activity in almost a decade. We have witnessed the birth of hundreds of local technology companies.
With the likes of Nortel, Mitel, Cognos, Corel, JDS Uniphase, Cisco and many others calling our Region home, we are establishing a global reputation. Our Region is what many like to call 'a hot property'.
It seems our Region cannot do wrong, that this upswing is spreading to all economic sectors.
With the support of the Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority, the Hull Casino, SLOTS, the Festivals Network and a host of others, our local convention and tourism markets also continue to expand.
One of the key factors for this growth has been, and will continue to be, the efficient services of an international airport. Certainly, the interdependence between our Region and its airport has never been so perceptible. The demand for air travel is exploding and the airport must answer the call.
Our region's economy is now worth over $28 billion and has been rated by the Globe and Mail as one of the top five business centres in Canada three years in a row. The advanced technology industry is valued at over $11 billion.
Foreign export sales from Ottawa-based technology companies have been growing at 30% annually since 1996. 90% of the products developed locally are exported. Marketing and sales representatives travel around the globe in search of new clients and to service existing accounts. Similarly, investors and firms come here from around the world in search of expertise.
Virtually all of them travel by air. Air travel is convenient. It is quick. It is cost-effective.
We are situated within two hours by air of a combined population of 120 million people and we have one of the most highly educated populations in Canada. As our friends at the Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority will tell you, our community is becoming one of the strongest air travel markets in Canada. There is every indication that this trend will continue, even accelerate. Brian Barge, president of O.E.D., recently referred to it as "growth at Internet speed".
It is reassuring that our community overwhelmingly agrees with our conclusion that Expansion is the only solution. In fact, 94% agree that the Airport must grow in synch with the community it aims to serve.
In other words, a modern city needs a modern airport to compete globally. Everyone agrees with this basic principle.
I know that many of you are anxious to learn about our expansion plans. Some are concerned that we are not progressing fast enough. They want to see construction begin now. They want to know why we haven't started building yet.
The answer is simple: Accountability. Our approach to expansion is flexible, methodical, accountable.
While a self-reliant and independent organization, the Airport cannot act as a venture capitalist. As custodian of a public trust, we must act in the public's interest and not blindly enter into risk-taking activities. Nor can we simply invoke the good of the community and take our public asset hostage.
The advanced technology, tourism and government sectors each has unique transportation needs that only a vibrant, viable Airport can fulfill. To our community, expansion may seem like a no-brainer, however, to the Airport Authority, corporate survival must take precedence.
Come this Fall, the Board of Directors will make a decision on whether or not to proceed with the expansion our thriving Region desperately requires. No matter the outcome, the airport will always serve the people to the best of its ability.
Without expansion however, the airport cannot continue to be efficient and facilitate economic growth and improve the quality of life in our region.
We are looking for ways to make expansion happen. There must be an answer. To not expand is simply unthinkable. Devastating for the local economy. The airport and our many stakeholders, including the business community, the airlines, and governments, must share the solution. And let's not forget our shareholders, the residents of our Region.
The airport, our partners, the airlines, municipalities, the province of Ontario, the Federal Government. We all serve the same shareholders. The people we serve.
Our shareholders deserve a fair return on investment for the current facilities. Our thriving Region deserves appropriate air service and facilities. We have until the Fall to find a solution.
Ladies and gentlemen, merci, thank you.