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Saskatchewan’s economy expected to take a hit as airlines leave the province

Saskatchewan’s air transportation system is in turmoil and the province is predicting it will have a negative effect on the province’s visitor economy as 2023 begins.

“The visitor economy fuels all aspects of our economy,” said CEO of Discover Saskatoon Stephanie Clovechok. “That Calgary connectivity is significant.”

Fewer flights mean less business happening in Saskatchewan, and with Air Canada and Sunwing cancelling flights, the province will take a hit to certain industries.

“Most of these decisions, particularly with Air Canada, are not made anywhere near Saskatchewan. They’re going to be made in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, those kinds of regions. And, you know, we’re not really on their radar,” said Jason Childs, associate professor of economics at the University of Regina.

Air Canada’s last flight between the province and Calgary will happen next week.

The cancellations came after decisions by Air Canada to focus on its main hubs of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

“We are the food, fuel and fertilizer that the world needs. Our community and elective officials really have to take into consideration the impacts that the lack of connectivity is going to have on the continued strength and momentum of our economy,” said Clovechok.

Ken Coates, public policy professor, said Saskatchewan’s employment rates are in a great place right now with the mining industry bringing in workers from out of province.

Saskatchewan currently has a 4.1 per cent unemployment rate, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2023, Saskatchewan had two major business conventions planned with upwards of 400 people each that have been cancelled due to the lack of access to the province.

“These are the people that take commercial flights, that travel on a regular basis that are propping up our regular economy,” Coates said, adding that less visitation will affect the success of local restaurants, entertainment services and tourism attractions.

Coates said the airline cancellations are nothing short of neglect for the province.

“It really brings the idea of Canada being a national enterprise where our national institutions look at the country as a whole.

“This kind of stuff hurts your reputation, it hurts your confidence, and it hurts your sense of belonging.”

The loss of direct flights with Air Canada means passengers will have to start booking indirect flights and shelling out more money.

“Just because the economy as a whole is booming doesn’t mean that every industry is, and it doesn’t mean that specific industries aren’t facing really specific challenges,” said Childs.

One of the benefits of a more open airline market in the province is the opportunity for the entry of new lower-fare airlines.

In May, Flair Airlines will be coming to the province to pick up the Saskatoon-to-Calgary route in an attempt to fill the void left by Air Canada.

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