Advocating to Save the Port Hawkesbury Airport
Town of Port Hawkesbury
When a proposed project for a second airport in Nova Scotia’s Inverness County threatened the economic viability of the existing Allan J. MacEachen Airport in Port Hawkesbury, the Town of Port Hawkesbury asked Proof Strategies for public relations and advocacy support. Using Proof’s plan, Port Hawkesbury’s Mayor led an effort to investigate the airport proposal, gather supporters for the Allan J. MacEachen Airport and inform other elected officials of the opposition to the airport proposal in Inverness County. Proof Strategies’ work with Port Hawkesbury resulted in the federal minister of rural economic development cancelling a review of the funding application, putting the proposed airport project on hold indefinitely.
Where Did We Start?
We needed to understand who the players were, who supported the new airport and who else, outside of Port Hawkesbury, had reason to be opposed to the it. To that end we conducted information and intelligence gathering of who the proponents were for the funding of the new airport while also looking for potential allies.
What Opportunities Did We Identify?
We learned that the majority of municipal leaders in the northern half of Nova Scotia were concerned about the proposed new airport and the precedent it might set; of the federal government coming in and supporting the development of a competing airport with no oversight. The existing airport was also a hub for the Coast Guard, Search & Rescue and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
What Did We Do?
We supported a campaign to build a coalition of like-minded municipal leaders in the province and obtained letters of protest from them, to compile into a document to share with officials at various levels of government; and show them the groundswell of support for the status quo.
How Did We Do?
Up against a prominent, well-financed campaign that was supported by some within the federal government as well as several big political players, we were able to garner media attention and support from other communities by highlighting their concerns that the federal government was subsidizing an airport that would be in direct competition to an existing one that is important for the Coast Guard, Search & Rescue and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Our work with Port Hawkesbury resulted in the federal minister of rural economic development cancelling a review of the funding application, putting the proposed airport project on hold indefinitely. Our insights and strategic thinking helped a small town ward off the designs of the federal government which would not have been beneficial to them in the long term – a real David versus Goliath situation.