BY RICK PUSIAK
City councillors have been asked to rename the Sudbury Airport in memory of the late J. Leo Gauthier, the Liberal MP for Sudbury from 1945 to 1958.
His daughter, Liliane Beauchamp, made the request on behalf of the family at Wednesday nightÂ?s meeting of the municipal priorities committee.
The MP was instrumental in Sudbury getting its first airfield in 1952.
Beauchamp provided some historical background on her father.
Â?(He) was born in Copper Cliff, moved to Sudbury shortly after his birth, was educated and worked here before being elected a federal politician,Â? said Beauchamp.
Â?He represented the interests and needs of this and many surrounding communities. His failing health forced him not to seek re-election in 1958. He died in 1964 at the very young age of 60.Â?
Gauthier served as a volunteer on many boards in this community, everything from the parks commission and the Sudbury Wolves to CHNO Radio and the separate school board.
Â?As a federal member of Parliament, (he) worked tirelessly with the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce to convince Trans-Canada Airlines at the time to build an airfield on the present site that was officially opened in 1952,Â? said Beauchamp.
Prior to 1952 mining equipment, supplies and people were brought to Sudbury by aircraft equipped with pontoons and skis, landing at an airbase established on Lake Ramsey by the Ontario government.
A pitch was made to build a runway in Sudbury prior to the Second World War, but the idea was put on ice when hostilities in Europe broke out in September 1939.
Gauthier, however, continued to press in Ottawa for a land-based airport in this region and the matter became an election issue in Sudbury in 1949.
A newspaper editorial from 1951 suggested the MP be honoured for his contributions by calling the airport the Gauthier Airfield.
SudburyÂ?s MP didnÂ?t stop when the first airstrip was built. He kept pushing until a second runway was constructed at the Sudbury airport.
Ward 2 representative and former Rayside Balfour mayor Lionel Lalonde spoke on behalf on many politicians Wednesday night when he said BeauchampÂ?s request deserved serious consideration.
The politicians agreed to refer the name change proposal to the Greater Sudbury Airport Development Corporation, which will study the matter and provide council with a recommendation.
The Sudbury Airport terminal building is undergoing a $6.3 million expansion project that will feature a new two-story section with a restaurant on the upper level designed to provide a view of arriving and departing aircraft.
The project is expected to be complete by the fall of 2003 and will include new baggage and conveyance systems, a larger hold room with 120 seats, and enhanced security with an explosive detection system.
Transport Canada is picking up about 90 per cent of the cost.
Ottawa made a commitment of funds to upgrade the facility when the then federally owned airport was transferred to the city in March 2000.
The design of the terminal building was developed by local architects Castellan, Luciw, James + Architects Inc.
Earlier this year Ottawa also came up with $1.12 million for replacement of the runway approach lighting system and approach indicator which assist pilots in making a safe landing.
A new runway sweeper will also being purchased with that federal money.
SudburyÂ?s airport, one of the busiest airstrips in Northern Ontario, is currently served by Air Canada, Jazz, Bearskin Airlines and WestJet.
Statistics for 2001 indicate almost 86,000 inbound and close to 74,000 outbound passengers used the airport. That figure is expected to increase once the renovation and expansion project is complete.