SARNIA, ONT. -- COVID-19 has had a negative impact on Sarnia’s airport, but the writing on the runway was already in place long before the pandemic.

In July, the last commercial flights operated by Air Canada ceased - and not just for as long as the pandemic lasts - but permanently.

Now, a consultant’s report headed for Sarnia City Hall has backed continued public operation of several city-owned entities, except for one: Chris Hadfield Airport.

While the report remains in the hands of politicians, at the moment all admit it paints a bleak picture.

However, not all agree with its conclusion for the airport. Mayor Mike Bradley is one.

Arriving at the barren parking lot at the terminal, for an interview with CTV News, the mayor stated the municipally-owned airport, operated by a private contractor, must stay viable.

“The times we are in are different. We have lost Air Canada to this airport. What we need to do, is look at the opportunities out there. It does look like a ghost airport when you drive up here, but we can turn that around, it just takes the community to come together."

Bradley points to Kingston, Ont. where a smaller air carrier is flying 12-seat planes to Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island.

He believes a similar service, from Sarnia, would be just as successful.

Further, Bradley contends losing municipal control over an airport named for the city’s famed son, retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, would be a blow to the community.

“But it’s much more than emotion. An airport is critical to a community's economic development and turning over the keys, just to sell it off, it’s not the right direction.”

But Sarnia City councillor Bill Dennis, often a backer of Bradley, does not agree.

He says, “If the airport is not being used, you lose it."

Dennis says he’s only used the airport once, and believes most people in the area look at other alternatives, “They tend to use the London airport. Being a border city, a lot of people fly out of Detroit Metro and Flint airport."

While Dennis says he will listen to those who believe the airport should stay in public hands before making a decision, he contends the facilities glory days are over.

“Back in the golden era, when Dow had their Canadian headquarters here, when Polysar had their world headquarters here, a lot of executives used this airport. But we’re living in a different place now, a different world. Those times are long gone.”

Overall passenger volume (including all types of commercial and recreational aircraft) has dropped in recent years at the airport, figures shared with CTV News show.

The first debate over the consultant’s recommendation will take place Monday.