The federal government will move military aircraft testing from Cold Lake to Ottawa, reported the National Post yesterday.
Moving the centre of excellence means jobs will be leaving Cold Lake.
A recent economic impact study commissioned by the Northeast Alberta HUB noted that Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) brings approximately 165 military and reservist jobs and 22 civilian jobs to the area, and it is unclear at this time how many jobs will be relocated.
Mayor Craig Copeland said the federal government did not contact them about the move.
“Certainly nobody phoned our office or gave us anything that was written. We had heard chatter out there over the years that AT was looked at possibly moving,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate. there’s a lot families that will be affected and jobs will be moving from Cold Lake to Ottawa, and certainly whether it’s 50 positions or 200, we aren’t too sure what’s going on. It would be nice to get some clarity. But as depressing as it is, we hope the federal government is going to start investing in the wing.”
The National Post reports that the move would save the feds $14 million, and would make room for the purchase of used fighter jets from Australia and new CF-18’s.
“We definitely need to get a new fighter jet for our men and women for our armed forces. Hoppfully that new fighter jet, whatever they decide to purchase, will start to roll in Cold Lake somewhere around in 2023 or 2025. The hope and intent that with the new fighter jet will come a lot of infrastructure.
“So we’re anticipating a lot of growth in development over on the wing, but losing those positions right now in this economy is a serious blow to the City of Cold Lake,” he said.
“I think the federal government being in Ottawa need to step it up with community relations and work with the municipalities that they’re in because it is having a big affect. We’re in dispute with them – they owe us quite a bit of tax money,” said Copeland.
The City of Cold Lake has contested the Payment in Lieu of Taxes – or PILT – which the federal government pays to the city for the military base. Since 2012, the city has maintained that the federal government has shorted PILT payments to the city by about $1.8 million a year.
In 2015, the City of Cold Lake won a decision at the PILT Dispute Advisory Panel in regards to the 2012 tax payment, but the federal government continues to dispute its payments for 2013 onward.
“When you’re talking millions of dollars outstanding for a little community like ours, it’s significant. It’s nothing against the Wing Commander and all his staff out there, they do a great job. This is a battle with the federal government itself.
Copeland says the city will continue to work with 4 Wing on important issues, such as bringing CATSA-screened, commercial air flights to the community, and in supporting the bi-annual air show program.
“The decisions we need to look into are being made in Ottawa, and so that’s where we will turn to for answers.”
The AETE program has been on CFB Cold Lake since 1971.