News that ridership on both the WestJet and Air Canada Jazz flights to Calgary is very high is great news for Nanaimo Airport and the mid-Island economy.
As they did in Comox, with projections that included a steady stream of personnel into and out of CFB Comox, WestJet had to be confident in their research before launching the flights from Nanaimo on their new fleet of Q-400 jets.
That the passenger loads have been at an almost unheard of 96-98 per cent is confirmation that WestJet made the right move. Now that the numbers justify the investment, discussions steer towards Edmonton, the Alberta capital, and even Fort McMurray, the destination for an increasing number of local workers.
It seems inevitable that at least Edmonton will be added to WestJet's route offerings. Don't be surprised if there is a direct Nanaimo-Fort McMurray option just around the corner.
There are some who, somewhat tongue in cheek, say that Nanaimo's biggest employer is not Vancouver Island University or the Vancouver Island Health Authority, but Fort McMurray.
At this time, it's difficult to know exactly how many people now live in Nanaimo who commute regularly to and from the northern Alberta oil fields.
We know it is substantial. Stories abound about parents putting in two-and three-week stints in our neighbouring province and returning home for one-or two-week breaks.
Some of those that have families say that the arrangement certainly has its drawbacks, but they can also spend more quality, unencumbered time with their children and spouse.
That, along with the healthy paycheques, can make for a different, but fruitful family life.
With the recent announcement of Energy East, an Alberta-New Brunswick pipeline, the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that could cross northern B.C., the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through the B.C. Interior to the lower mainland, and the possibility of the Americans approving the Keystone pipeline, the possibilities for Alberta crude seem almost limitless.
That, of course, means more jobs, and the demand for skilled trades and other jobs continues to increase.
These are the new realities of life on Vancouver Island. To comfortably raise a family with a couple of children or more, household income closing in on six figures is desirable.
That will cover food, mortgages, vehicle payments and offer the opportunity to enjoy entertainment, sporting events and other activities that are available in our region.
Prior to the last election, when pressed about the possibility of creating jobs that pay in that vicinity, local politicians said they believed they could be generated here. They were partially right.
Where are those $100,000-plus per year jobs? Not here, directly. The people that work them are here, but they have an air commute awaiting them before getting to their place of employment.
It's a different way of living and working, but it's working just the same.
Air Canada Jazz ridership to Calgary has also increased, and their fares have been reduced to compete with WestJet, which is even more good news.
It's been a long, patience-requiring journey to get the Nanaimo Airport up to speed with its instrument landing system and extended runway, and upgrade of its terminal building.
To see the fruit of one's labours must be more than satisfying for airport boosters. The Calgary ridership is a stamp of approval on the airport's investment.
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