Shawinigan — The number of passengers, followers of flights of seaplanes, tourism has experienced a phenomenal growth in Bel-Air Laurentien aviation between 2009 and 2017, according to a document produced by the company in connection with the instruction of the class action of the Coalition against noise, which is entering its fourth week at the palace of justice of Shawinigan.
The day of Monday was devoted to the testimonies of four people called to the bar by the defendant, which the technician accounting officer of the company. Ashraf El Harf Mohamed had produced a document following a request made in advance of the examinations prior to the trial, which confirms Bel-Air Laurentien aviation has greatly benefited from the discontinuation of activities of Aviation Mauricie, in 2013, to increase its activities in its offer of tourist flights.
In 2009, Transport Canada issued new restrictions on the lake at the Turtle in order to better manage the two operators. At this time, Bel Air Laurentien aviation had hosted the 1999 visitors to 133 bus. The growth has been constant thereafter. In 2012, the company welcomes 4978 visitors to 224 buses.
Stopping activities, Aviation Mauricie, in the following year, blew the attendance. The number of passengers on tourist flights jumped by 47 % in a single year, rising to 7299 tourists in 341 bus. The activity remains almost stable during the following two years. She then resumes the tone in 2016 and 2017. In the last year, Bel-Air Laurentien aviation hosted 9174 tourists from 392 buses.
“We cannot say that the tourist flights have declined,” concludes Marie-Anaïs Sauvé, counsel to the Coalition against noise. “It is the opposite!”
I Saved also retains this testimony that these data are slightly under-estimated, because the tourist flights involve also visitors who do not arrive by bus. It is thus necessary to add a 5% to 6 %, she noted.
I Saved notes that the air transport is the third of the activities of Bel-Air Laurentien aviation. The tourist flights occupy a fraction that is unknown to this sub-group, but certainly less than 33 % of the total activities, she noted. It concludes, therefore, that a closer supervision of this activity would not sign the death warrant of the company.
“Bel-Air always claims that what we want is closure”, grieves Me Saved. “This is not it, and these data, it is one more proof. We do not request that it stop doing the tourist flights. People want a decrease in the noise. Bel-Air has started itself to offer sightseeing flights in 2009. The’hydrobase exists since 1919!”
Jacques Saulnier, a technician in geomatics from the City of Shawinigan, has also been called to testify in order to estimate the number of persons involved in the scope covered by the appeal.
The parties do not agree on this, or on the number of exclusions from the class action, which will certainly at the heart of the debate by the end of the trial. For the defendant, it is a central element.
“We want to demonstrate that it is not true that the whole world is suffering from the downsides,” explain to Me, Myriam, Brixi, attorney for Bel-Air Laurentien aviation. “There are local residents who are not always there during the year, some are only on weekends, others are not even aware that there is a collective action. We quickly come to a small group of maybe 100 people who claim to be bothered. This is not it, a collective action! It is therefore important to have the figures, because there is a lack of homogeneity in the group.”
The plaintiff has also been witness to two experienced pilots on Monday. This is Jason Ouellet, who has worked for Bel-Air Laurentien aviation between 2009 and 2014 and Frank Enjalric, still employed by the company. The two witnesses have responded to roughly the same questions, in particular on their compliance with the restrictions in force and mitigation measures, when the climatic conditions allow it.
They have also deplored the consequences of the closure of the company in this environment if ever justice Suzanne Ouellet granting damages to the class members.