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Connections That Work - My First Big Speech

DTB curb & towerI officially became a speech-giving YVR CEO when I delivered my very first presentation to the Vancouver Board of Trade earlier this week.  I’m honoured to be carrying on a longstanding tradition established by David Emerson and Larry Berg before me.


Rather than inundate the crowd – about 400 in the room and several hundred more who tuned in live online – with pie charts and bar graphs, I took a storytelling approach. I used four real stories to illustrate why YVR matters to the people, products and businesses of B.C. More pictures, less pie charts. 

This special edition of YVR Air Mail captures these stories, and I hope you enjoy learning about Mike, Nalini, Mr. and Mrs. Ho and the beautiful B.C. cherry as much as I enjoyed getting to know them. 

Before you read the stories in the rest of this newsletter, I'd like to heap some praise on a very important government policy (not something we do every day): Introduced in the early nineties, the National Airports Policy is responsible for the beautiful and award-winning Canadian airports we see from coast to coast to coast today. The key building blocks of the policy were:

• Independent airport authorities were created
• No longer would airports be funded by taxpayer dollars, but would be self-funding entities
• There would be no shareholders; rather, all money earned by the airport authorities would be reinvested back into the infrastructure of the airports

The result? An economically sustainable, self-funding airport authority model whose mandate is to connect the people and products of Canada to the world – thereby creating jobs, powerful economic impact and a competitive edge.

This is not my opinion alone: the World Economic Forum just rated Canada number one in the world in terms of airport infrastructure. This is written right into our articles of incorporation - to create economic activity.

And one important note: I’d like to state for the record (but probably not for the last time) that the Airport Authority is not a government department or a Crown Corporation: we are a not-for-profit private company. Not only do we not receive government funding, we actually pay substantial annual rent to Ottawa - $40 million in 2012 alone.

The federal government did a great thing for Canadian airports and the citizens they serve when it created the National Airport Policy, and since this change in 1992, much has improved.

At YVR, we’ve built award-winning terminals and Canada's first Category III runway. We've seen passenger growth accelerate from 10 million in 1992 to almost 18 million in 2012. We’ve helped increase jobs from 14,000 in 1992 to more than 23,000 today. We’ve also won four consecutive awards for Best Airport in North America as voted by our passengers.

This Canadian model not only works, it has translated this success into the for-profit airport sector. I recently returned to Vancouver from the grand opening of the final phase of the international and domestic terminal in Nassau, Bahamas. The Nassau Airport is managed by our associate company Vantage Airport Group, headquartered here in Vancouver and operating 10 other airports in Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.  I spent a few years in Nassau myself.

Vantage is a true YVR and British Columbia success story. Vantage was created to export Vancouver Airport Authority’s airport know-how globally.  Not only does YVR help facilitate the export of B.C. goods, we’re actually an export ourselves.

Much has changed in the past 21 years, and for the better. But now it’s time for more change - change as powerful as that which got us into this airport game in the first place.  An equally longstanding tradition of the YVR address to the Board of Trade is the big ask of the federal government, and here it is:

Let the YVR team compete freely on the global stage.
Let us deliver on the great promise of the National Airports Policy. That means three specific things I need from the federal government:


• Open up air service bilaterals with other countries
• Keep up your end of the bargain and fund CATSA passenger screening
• Remove barriers to trade by simplifying the visa process

YVR, Vancouver and British Columbia are on the cusp of greatness. With these three requests answered, we are on the brink of incredible economic growth, job creation and prosperity that will serve all British Columbians well.

Enjoy these stories, and let me know what you think.


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  • John Bliss wrote on Oct 24 2013 AT 9:22 PM

    Being a private company makes it easy for you to charge whatever you want in the way of an AIF.  Vancouver particularly has gone overboard in spending vast sums on a fancy atrium and other unnecessary artwork and retail outlets.

    All travellers want is a practical and functional airport with easy access to aircraft instead of long walks through shops.

    The AIF is taxation without representation and you are losing passengers who are travelling out of US airports to avoid this imposition. 
  • Fred wrote on Apr 26 2014 AT 6:58 AM

    John Bliss is incorrect in stating that all passengers want is a practical and functional airport... Time and time again, passengers in overwhelming numbers (me included) want the shops and beautiful and pleasing surroundings. Travel is stressful enough.

    Vancouver is a pleasant experience and is a balance between distraction and practicality. The airport is a reliable provider of air service so I know I will get to where I want to go in most weather that befalls the lower mainland.

    The AIF is in line with other airports and their infrastructure needs to provide. I have no complaint with paying for the service I use. Also, those shops and services you bemoan pay for the right to be located at the airport. That keeps the AIF lower.
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