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Fact-finder on Vancouver float plane terminal needed, says PavCo chair

A West Coast Air float plane comes in for landing near the south terminal at the Vancouver Airport December 2, 2009.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Pavilion Corp. (PavCo) chair David Podmore has suggested an "independent fact-finder" to resolve a dispute involving float planes that fly in and out of the Vancouver harbour. In a statement Thursday, Mr. Podmore said PavCo is frustrated that that the managers of the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre and a group representing float plane companies has not been able to reach an agreement to use a new $22-million terminal under construction in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre.

PavCo operates the Convention Centre and leases the terminal site to VHFC.

VHFC and the Vancouver Commercial Seaplane Operators' Association, or VCSOA, are at loggerheads over the costs of using the $22-million facility. VCSOA says the rent structure proposed for the new terminal would result in a $12 increase to each trip in and out of the terminal and has refused to sign a lease. That's left VHFC - which says the rent reflects costs associated with a new, passenger-friendly terminal - without an anchor tenant.

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Float plane operators rejected the suggestion of a fact-finder, saying previous reviews had not resolved the issue, which has been brewing for several years.

"The independent officers of the legislature, who act in the public interest, are the best people to get to the bottom of this. That's why we have approached the auditor-general and Ombudswoman's Office," Philip Reece of Saltspring Air said on Thursday.

The float plane operators, who were bumped from a former site at the foot of Burrard Street in 2003 and now operate from a base in Coal Harbour, have proposed an alternative terminal east of the convention centre. So far, that proposal has received a cool reception from Port Metro Vancouver, which owns the property.

Under a lease with the City of Vancouver, the float plane operators are to move from their current site when their lease expires in 2012 or when a new terminal is ready, whichever comes first.

VHFC has said its terminal should be finished in May.

The float plane group says it carries about 350,000 passengers in and out of the harbour every year.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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