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Air Canada planes sit at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Mar. 19, 2020.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

The federal government is waiving the monthly rent paid by airport authorities to Ottawa for the rest of the year as revenues plummet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the measure will provide support worth up to $331.4-million in ground lease rents from March through December.

The move applies to 21 airport authorities as well as PortsToronto, which operates Billy Bishop airport and pays a charge to the federal government.

Mr. Morneau says the air transportation sector has “suffered tremendously,” as airlines cancel the vast majority of their flights and lay off thousands of staff, leaving airports bereft of traffic and fees.

The Canadian Airports Council thanked the government, and called for further aid in the form of regulatory flexibility and new funds to compensate for lost income.

Trade group president Daniel-Robert Gooch says the relief “does nothing for airports that pay no rent at all” such as Hamilton and Fort McMurray, Alta., but called it “encouraging” that Transport Canada has acknowledged the issue.

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