The Moncton airport is hinting it may pull out of the Atlantic Gateway if it doesn’t get federal money earmarked for the scheme.

“I’ll have to make some really tough decisions,” said Rob Robichaud, president and CEO of the Greater Moncton International Airport, one of the major players in the Southern New Brunswick Gateway Council.

Members of the council, a group designed to “improve the competitiveness and efficiency of the transportation of goods through southern New Brunswick,” believe that gateway money applies only to infrastructure leading up to the gates of a port or airport, Robichaud said.

“These words were uttered at the meeting I was at three or four months ago, and when I heard that, my antennae went up,” he said. “What that really means is road and rail.”

The federal government has said it’s prepared to dole out portions of a $2.1 billion gateway fund for the Atlantic Gateway – a plan to make the region a key eastern access point for trade coming through the Suez Canal.

Some estimates have the gateway creating 61,000 new jobs, $2.1 billion in wages and $3.4 billion in GDP growth by 2025.

But if what the council fears is true, that means none of the federal gateway money will be spent on areas such as runway extensions, building or equipment costs, or approach lighting system upgrades.

Council members have sent a letter to Transport Canada asking for clarification on whether airports, ports and their infrastructure are eligible for any of the gateway funding.

“We need to get an answer – clear and unequivocal – on those issues before we can make a decision as to the total benefit to the airport,” Robichaud said, adding that Transport Canada has yet to respond.

Robichaud said he understands the importance of highways and rail systems within the province, but said the region is heavily reliant on air accessibility.

At the meeting, he said, it was mentioned that airports in the Asia-Pacific gateway didn’t receive any federal funding.

“Road doesn’t cut it, particularly if you’re accessing major communities in Canada,” he said, noting that the closest major centre to Moncton – Montreal – is 11 hours away by road.

“Air is our lifeline to the rest of the world,” he said. “If airports aren’t eligible for those kinds of moneys, I think that the Atlantic Gateway initiative is not realizing its full potential.”

Paul Zed, Liberal MP for Saint John, said the federal transport minister needs to clarify where the funds can go.

“There’s this global announcement that we have an Atlantic Gateway fund, yet no one knows what the criteria is going to be,” he said.

Zed said Saint John’s needs, like repairing docks or runway extensions, might differ from other areas of the province.

Ottawa has said it is prepared to release some of the money once a comprehensive plan is in place.

“Talk is cheap,” Zed said. “The reality is that the Government of Canada has been dangling to New Brunswick all kinds of new ideas and new initiatives. Well, I’m growing more impatient, and I think more importantly the public and the business community is growing more impatient because their tax dollars are not being reinvested.”