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Muskoka Airport Board of Directors Documentation

Muskoka Airport Master Plan

Strategic Plan

Terms of Reference

Aerospace Sector Analysis and Action Plan

Meet the Muskoka District Airport Board of Directors!

Zaina Alhillou photo Zaina Alhillou

As the Director of the Program Management Office at Nieuport Aviation, Zaina has spearheaded transformative initiatives, showcasing a unique approach to data analysis and a future-oriented vision in relation to the advancement of aeronautical and non-aeronautical initiatives and revenues. With a focus on strategic thinking, master planning and growth projections, and a demonstrated ability to navigate the complexities of airport operations, Zaina will contribute significantly to the continued success and growth of the airport, as a contributing member of the Board of Directors.

Leadership is at the core of her expertise. Zaina has successfully inspired and motivated diverse teams, fostering a positive and collaborative work culture. With exceptional stakeholder management skills, engaging internal and external stakeholders, negotiating contracts, and navigating complex political dynamics, Zaina is established as a trusted collaborator in the aviation industry. Being Chair of the Sustainability Committee further underscores commitment in implementing environmentally responsible practices – a valuable asset for any organization committed to sustainable growth.

Zaina’s journey in the aviation industry, coupled with a robust educational foundation, positions her as a candidate with the skills and experience required for effective oversight on the Muskoka Airport Board of Directors. As a Professional Engineers Ontario Affiliate, LEED Green Associate, and member of the Ontario Good Roads Association, Zaina brings a wealth of knowledge and a commitment to excellence.

In her spare time, she loves road cycling (100’s of kilometers a month) and more importantly, she practices her love for interior design!

Smiling blonde haired, middle-aged woman Robin Garrett 

Robin continues to build a distinguished career in both the public and private sector sides of tourism in Ontario.  She spent five years as the President and CEO of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) and a further three years as the CEO of the Tourism Partnership of Niagara.  Robin has taught tourism management at Niagara College and prior to joining OTMPC, Robin had senior executive roles in the food, restaurant and consumer products industries.  More recently, Robin has been actively involved in modernizing the governance of the Niagara District Airport.  

District Chair John Klinck Poses in a suit infront of the Canadian and Ontario flag Jeff Lehman - District Chair

Jeff Lehman is Chair of The District Municipality of Muskoka, having been elected by Council in December 2022. Previously, he was the 46th Mayor of the City of Barrie, serving from 2010-2022, and was twice Chair of the Ontario Big City Mayors’ Caucus, representing Ontario’s 28 largest cities. Chair Lehman was also a founding director of Alectra, the second largest community-owned utility in North America, serving more than a million customers in southern Ontario.  

Chair Lehman holds a Chartered Director (C.Dir) designation and has served on the Boards of Directors of 9 separate organizations over his seventeen-year career in public service, including on the Board of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). His articles concerning the future of municipalities have appeared in the Globe and Mail and industry publications and he has been a frequent keynote speaker at conferences, focusing particularly on innovation in the public sector and the intersection of business, community, and government. He liaises frequently and directly with senior government both on behalf of his municipality and on behalf of the municipal sector. 

Jeff comes from an aviation family. His grandfather Captain Walter Kent flew the first scheduled airline flight in North America by a turboprop aircraft, piloting a Vickers Viscount for TransCanada Airlines in 1955.  Walter later went on to be Flight Operations Manager for Air Canada.  Jeff became a professional pilot through the Ottawa Flying Club at YOW and flew in central Ontario himself before becoming Mayor of Barrie, a job which kept him out of the cockpit!

A professional, medium-length haired woman smiles at a camera Selma Lussenburg

Selma is an experienced senior executive and corporate director.  Selma is a member of the Board of Directors of MAG Silver Corp (MAG:TSX/NYSE) and Ontario Power Generation; and, Chairs Ontario’s Justice Sector Internal Audit Committee.   Selma served previously as VP, Governance, Corporate Safety and Security, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (Toronto Pearson Airport).  Selma also served as Chair of the joint ACI-IATA World Smart Security Management Group.  Selma holds two law degrees; an LLB from University of Ottawa and Masters of Law from the Australian National University (Canberra).  Prior to joining the GTAA, Selma was Chair of the Ontario Capital Growth Corporation and prior thereto, Selma was SVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) and served as VP, Legal Affairs and General Counsel at AT&T Enterprises Canada and AT&T Global Services Canada. Selma holds the C. Dir designation from the Directors College and the GCB.D designation with respect to ESG from Competent Boards. 

A professional, middle-aged man smiles at a camera Don MacKay
Don is a Chartered Accountant and has had significant audit experience as a result of a ten year career at the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte. Don is a long-time Muskoka business owner and resident. Prior to starting the Muskoka Highlands Golf Course, Don spent well over a decade in General Manager and Chief Financial Officer positions in corporations active in the manufacturing, real estate and construction industries in Ontario. Don's business experience is complemented by his significant experience serving on the boards of numerous national, regional and local not-for-profit organizations.
A professional, middle-aged man smiles at a camera Bud Purves
Bud is currently the CEO of the Sorbara Group of Companies and was previously President of the York University Development Corporation, the real estate development arm of York University. Bud also has a good understanding of the tourism industry having been the President of the CN Tower for a number of years. Bud has also sat on the boards of several nationally significant cultural and health care institutions. For instance he sat on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) board for nine years and served as Chair for two of those years. Bud has also served on the Toronto General Hospital Project 2003 Building Committee, the board of the Canadian Opera Company, and he served as Chair of the Board of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation for six years. Bud has been a cottager in Muskoka for over 30 years and is a life-long general aviation pilot with significant first-hand experience using the Muskoka Airport.
Eileen Waechter Photo Eileen Waechter

Eileen is an experienced aviation executive, bringing a depth and diversity of knowledge and experience across many dimensions of an airport’s business and operations. Prior to her recent retirement from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), Eileen provided direction and oversight of its engagement with a broad cross-section of industry, business, and academic stakeholders that played an important role in supporting Toronto Pearson International Airport’s strategy and growth plans. During her tenure at GTAA, Eileen also held leadership roles in the areas of strategic planning, commercial and land development, and terminal operations.
Through her board role at the Mississauga Board of Trade, Eileen enjoyed contributing to the success of local business community. Eileen previously worked for Transport Canada, in Ottawa, and at Toronto Pearson and Vancouver airports, in roles that focused on planning, commercial development, and economic analysis. Eileen is a part-time resident of Muskoka

About the Airport

The Muskoka Airport has been owned and operated by The District Municipality of Muskoka since November of 1996 and is currently managed through the District's administrative department, guided by a 7 member Airport Governance Board. 

In a 2009 survey of airport users, airport businesses and surrounding businesses revealed thst the Muskoka Airport contributes over 40 million dollars annually to Muskoka's economy. Not only do companies outside Muskoka rely on the airport, but there are more than a dozen businesses based at the airport that provide jobs and benefits to our local economy. Many of these operations are expanding, and as the airport grows, so does the interest for aviation businesses to operate in Muskoka. 

During the summer tourist season, the Muskoka Airport sees over 70% of its annual 15,000 aircraft movements from charter companies, corporate flights, recreational flyers and new scheduled service in 2019. Designated as an 'Airport of Entry' by the Canadian Border Security Services Agency (CBSA), many of the larger business jets that frequent the airport during the summer months are from the United States and overseas. Recently, FLYGTA Airlines began offering a summer season air taxi service between downtown Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport and the Muskoka Airport. Thus, the airport is of great value to the Muskoka tourist industry and the local economy. 

The airport also provides a variety of community and social services. Air ambulances move sick and injured patients to hospitals routinely. Electrical power companies survey and repair our remote power lines with helicopters, especially after high winds or snowstorms. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources frequently stages their water-bombers at the airport during periods of high risk for forest fires. The airport was a significant transportation hub during the 2010 G8 summit held in Huntsville. Many other government organizations use the airport including the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Corrections Canada, and the Department of National Defence. 

The District Municipality of Muskoka continues to move the airport forward to ensure it serves our community needs. One of the many improvements was the addition of the Little Norway Memorial. This addition to the air terminal building ensures that passengers and pilots that arrive in Muskoka are treated to a first class and memorable facility, fitting to a Muskoka Experience. 

History

Construction of the Muskoka Airport began in 1933 as a "make work" project for depression era men. The Town of Gravenhurst had made several representations to the Department of Defence (DND) (then responsible for civil aviation) regarding the establishment of an airport in this area. Initially, the airport was built as an emergency field on the Trans-Canada Airway. 

The Town of Gravenhurst asked that the field be named Ferguson Airport after the first aircraft owner in Muskoka, but the federal government policy at the time was to name all airports after the nearest postal outlet. Thus, the airport was officially named Reay Airport. The town then asked that the name be changed to Gravenhurst Airport, and after a compromise on both sides, the field was renamed Muskoka Airport in 1938. 

The first recorded landing at the Muskoka Airport (then Reay) was on September 11, 1935 by a Mr. and Mrs. Wallace of Cleveland, Ohio. At the time, the east-west runway was upgraded to full length. The initial construction of the field was completed in June 1936. Upon completion of the project, the foreman in charge, Mr. W. Price, was appointed as caretaker and the Civil Aviation Division of the DND oversaw daily operations. 

From 1942 to 1945, the airport was used as an auxiliary base for flight training and was made available to the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNAF) for training. At the end of the war, the RNAF returned to Norway, and control of the airport license was issued to the Department of Transport (DOT). The original airport license was issued to the DOT on May 20, 1946. By this time the airport had three turf runways, two at 3,100 feet in length and one at 3,000 feet. Doherty Air Services Muskoka Ltd. was the sole airport tenant. 

In 1951, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) established North Bay as a training facility for their new F-86 Sabres. Muskoka Airport was selected as an alternate emergency landing field by the DND, and construction of a new 6,000 foot paved runway began. The construction was completed in 1952, and runway lighting was added by 1954. 

In the mid 1950's, scheduled air service between Muskoka and Toronto was established by Trans Canada Airlines (now Air Canada). 

The Department of Transport (Transport Canada) continued to operate the airport until November of 1996, when control of the facility was transferred to The District Municipality of Muskoka. 

Since 1996, the Muskoka Airport has been owned and operated by The District Municipality of Muskoka. The Muskoka Airport was one of many airports in Canada transferred to local interests between 1995 and 1997 as a result of the 1994 National Airports Policy. 

In 2001, the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated Norwegian Training in Canada during World War II an event of national historic significance. The subsequent Little Norway Memorial was established at the airport in 2007. 

The Little Norway Memorial

During World War II, the Royal Canadian Air Force operated the airport as an Auxiliary Base for CFB Borden, to conduct flight training. In 1942, the field was made available to the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNAF) under the British Air Commonwealth Training Plan. The RNAF moved their training base to Muskoka from the Toronto City Centre Airport (then Toronto Island Airport). During this period of World War II, the Muskoka Airport was referred to as "Little Norway". Throughout the war, hundreds of Norwegians escaped to Canada to train as pilots and aircrew before returning to the battlefields of Europe. 

At the end of the war, the RNAF returned to Norway, and control of the airport was transferred to the Department of Transport (DOT). 

In 2001, the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated Norwegian training in Canada during WWII an event of national historical significance. 

With funding from the Government of Norway and FedNor Canada, The District was able to construct a memorial to the Norwegian soldiers and airmen that trained in Muskoka from 1942-1945. 

The District of Muskoka worked closely with Norway, Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion to design and construct the memorial. The purpose of the project was two-fold; to recognize the historical significance of the Royal Norwegian Air Force training program in Muskoka during the second World War; and to establish a new cultural heritage attraction at the airport. 

The Little Norway Memorial commemorates the lives and sacrifices of those that trained at "Little Norway" ensuring that their legacy will not be forgotten and to provide understanding and appreciation of the long-standing and continuing connections between Norway and Canada. 

As a dedication, King Harald of Norway signed an inscribed piece of Norwegian granite stone during his visit in May of 2002, which has been placed in the floor of the memorial.

On behalf of Muskoka, acting District Chair Gord Adams was pleased to welcome the Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg, other Norwegian officials and approximately 60 Norwegian veterans and the Honourable Tony Clement MP to the opening ceremony on September 25, 2007.

A plaque recognizing this historical event has been erected outside the airport terminal building at the Muskoka Airport. It reads: 

"Norwegian Training in Canada During the Second World War 
Located near here, Little Norway, one of the Norwegian Armed Forces training centres in Canada during the Second World War, was officially opened by Crown Prince Olav in May 1942. It embodies for Canadians the importance of the alliance of nations fighting for freedom. Between 1940 and 1945, more than 3,000 Norwegian airmen, sailors and soldiers and up to 3,000 merchant seamen and civilians trained in Canada for the struggle to liberate their occupied homeland. The strong bond between the two countries, forged in the experience of those years, has become a symbol of Canada's continuing friendship with its wartime allies.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Government of Canada

The Little Norway Memorial attraction belongs to the Government of Norway and is managed through the Norwegian Embassy. 

The Town of Bracebridge in Ontario, Canada, has established a friendship agreement with Gol Kommune in Norway. For more information. please see the Town of Bracebridge and Gol Kommune, Norway Friendship Committee Agenda and Minutes

© Copyright 2021 The District Municipality of Muskoka