For some reason – inexplicable to me but demonstrative of our politicians’ complete lack of economic nous – there is a campaign for a direct flight connection from Belfast to Toronto.
This is straightforward wrong-headedness. Even the connection from Belfast to New York – the largest city in North America and main economic centre of the world’s superpower – is loss-making and effectively now subsidised by the Northern Ireland ratepayer (through lower air duty). Has any of the MLAs nonsensically promoting a Toronto link been challenged on exactly how much subsidy that would require – all for an air link to a city half the size of London in a country with half the population of the UK?
It is astonishing, frankly, that any politician could advocate a link to a distant city on another continent in a country of 30 million, while missing the obvious fact that we have no direct link to nearby cities on this continent in a country of 80 million! Germany is Europe’s obvious economic power and engine; it is the UK’s largest trade partner; and Northern Ireland has not a single air link to it!
Sure, Canada and Northern Ireland have long-standing heritage links – but that is not what highly subsidised air links are for! Those who wish to pursue them can quite happily travel via Dublin. What we need, for jobs and wealth creation, is a proper trading link to our largest economic partner right here on our doorstep.
We need a direct link to Frankfurt, not Toronto or anywhere else.