Land Over Landings says it’s time for the Pickering Airport dream to be finally put to bed

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Published April 21, 2023 at 11:36 am

Land Over Landings, an organization fighting against the proposed Pickering Airport for nearly two decades, believes Mayor Kevin Ashe is trying to “strong-arm” Council into delaying any action to rescind support for the now 51 year-old plan to build an major airport in north Pickering.

Council was expected to withdraw its official support for the airport at a meeting last month until Ashe, in the words of Land Over Landings Chair Mary Delaney, “subverted the process and engineered a deferral of the vote.”

Delaney said Ashe “broke with tradition” by preventing other councillors from speaking during a debate on a motion from Councillors Mara Nagy and Linda Cook to withdraw the City’s support for the airport and not spend any more money or resources on the proposal.

Ashe’s rationale that Council should delay their decision because of an upcoming review of aviation needs in the GTA from Transport Canada doesn’t hold water, in Delaney’s mind, who said the issue has already been “studied to death” since the lands for the airport were first expropriated by Ottawa in 1972.

“Pickering has spent scarce taxpayer-funded resources and god knows how many hours of staff time lobbying for an imaginary airport, while mostly ignoring the real potential of an actual national park within its borders,” she said.

Ashe is the lone public supporter of the airport on Council and all six councillors said during the election they oppose an airport in north Pickering, Delaney pointed out. All, she added, support farmland protection and favour lobbying Ottawa for a north Pickering stop on the planned high-frequency rail line instead of an airport.

Delaney, as well as Pickering Councillor Maurice Brenner and Pickering-Uxbridge MP Jennifer O’Connell, who chimed in on social media, also pointed to the announcement on the aviation study that contained a statement from Transport Canada Minister Omar Alghabra that Ottawa has “no intention” of building an airport in Pickering in the near future and the outcome of the study could lead to a determination that an airport on Pickering Lands is “not required in long term” either.

Delaney and Brenner both say this statement should “seal the deal” on the Pickering Airport’s future and McConnell, who said “study after study” has shown there isn’t a business case for an airport, welcomed the new study, which will “once and for all” release the lands from a “constant threat” of an airport.

Ashe, for his part, also welcomed the new study, which will help the ministry analyze current and future airport supply and demand in the GTA and southern Ontario.

“Transport Canada’s issuance of an RFP to undertake a new and updated aviation study is one major step forward towards the federal government making a final decision on a Pickering airport,” Ashe said. “As such, it would be pragmatic for Pickering Council to pause its discussions on the Pickering airport until the study is completed and its findings released.  It is only then that we can have a meaningful and informed dialogue.”

Brenner, who expects a packed house at Monday’s Council meeting, said his “gut feeling” is that Ashe will get his wish and the motion to rescind the City’s support for the airport will be deferred once again.

He believes the three-part motion will be split, however, and that Council will agree to not spend any more taxpayer dollars or staff resources on the airport dream, as well as renew their support for a high-frequency rail stop in north Pickering.

 

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