Airports bringeth and they taketh away

For as long as I have been involved with economic development I have been a fervent believer in the critical importance of airports as facilitators of economic development. The more flights to diverse destinations at competitive prices the better. Once, on a whim, I looked at tier two cities in the US (under one million population) and correlated population growth with status as a regional hub – and found a tight correlation. Now there are many factors that drive growth but fast growing cities tend to have fast growing airports.

But the Globe and Mail story this week, was not exactly what I had in mind:

Air Canada adds express route from Alberta to Newfoundland

On one level, it’s yet another sign of boom times in Fort McMurray. Air Canada plans to start same-plane flights from the oil-rich northeastern Alberta city to St. John’s.

Read another way, the new flights simply make it easier for job-starved Newfoundlanders to leave home. It’s called the Fort McMurray-Toronto-Newfoundland Express, and the new route illustrates the impact the Alberta oil boom has had on Canadian job migration.

Despite enjoying an offshore oil boom of its own, Newfoundland still exports workers by the thousands and the biggest draw of all are the Alberta oil sands. It’s estimated that about 17 per cent of migrants to the city of almost 75,000 are from Newfoundland.

Golly gee, isn’t Air Canada nice. Even making it easier for Newfoundlanders to move to Alberta. I expect a direct flight from the Acadian Peninsula will be next.

But that should encourage the government. A mass exodus would, at least in theory, reduce the unemployment rate.