New federal aviation study to update need for airport in Pickering beyond 2036

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Published March 30, 2023 at 2:53 pm

Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe says a final decision on the fate of the half-century Pickering Airport proposal is “premature” now that Transport Canada looking at an updated study on aviation demand in southern Ontario.

The federal agency issued a request for proposal on Monday for a new study to update supply and demand forecasts and “re-assess how to address future demand” on aviation services capacity.

A KPMG Aviation Sector Analysis report released in 2020 concluded that existing airports in the GTA could be enough to handle projected growth to 2036 as long as additional expansions were realized.

“A new airport is not expected to be required in southern Ontario prior to 2036 to meet the forecast demand,” the report declared, with the proviso that the study findings “do not preclude the need for a new airport in southern Ontario beyond the 20-year planning horizon.”

KPMG reached their conclusion based on data compiled between 2016 and 2017 and Ashe said it’s time to re-assess.

“Here we are six years later, and no substantial expansions were done to existing aviation infrastructure,” he said. “As such, one might argue that the 2036 date is no longer accurate, and that we may have already reached our aviation capacity limit, considering that Canada has been leading the G7 in population growth during this span.”

“I applaud Transport Canada for recognizing the critical need to undertake a comprehensive review and update of southern Ontario and the GTA’s aviation capacity, as well as supply and demand forecasts.”

Ashe believes the new aviation study will help in developing options, establishing the new aviation capacity timelines, and formulating recommendations on how to best move forward.

He also asked that Transport Canada “meaningfully engage” with the private sector, which has openly advocated for the need of a commercial-industrial airport in Pickering that would connect to a planned high frequency rail line transportation hub in north Pickering.

The airport lands were first expropriated by the federal government in 1972 and have been either vacant or continued to be farmed ever since. The lands have been reduced in size several times in the intervening years, with some going to create the Rouge National Urban Park.

Lobby groups such as Land Over Landings have actively advocated for the rest of the lands be returned for the past 51 years while local businesses and municipal leaders like Ashe, his predecessor, long-time Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan, and Durham Region Chair John Henry have praised the economic potential of an airport in Pickering.

Pickering Council will be considering a motion on April 24 for the City to stop wasting any more time and resources on the airport dream and Ashe believes the impending study should be reason enough to defer that decision.

“Any Council decision on an airport would be premature in light of this forthcoming Transport Canada aviation study,” he said. “It is Council’s responsibility to its residents and businesses to make informed decisions based on the most relevant and up-to-date information.  That can only occur after this new aviation study is completed.”

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