New study on aviation demand for Pickering Airport shelved (probably) by Transport Canada

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Published April 3, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Photo courtesy of GTAA

A planned study update on a future international airport in Pickering has been shelved by Transport Canada, though Pickering City staff have not been able to confirm the proposed study’s demise.

Mark Guinto, the Division Head, Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, said it was his “understanding” the federal agency had decided not to go ahead with the review but Transport Canada has not given the City a final decision yet.

“We’re in contact with Transport Canada,” Guinto said, “but we don’t know if it has been withdrawn, cancelled or is just a budget issue.”

The proposal has been removed from the Transport Canada website and a search comes up with “subject not found.”

There is a movement on Pickering Council to put the issue to bed and not spend any more time or City resources on approving the airport, with the matter coming back to Council April 24.

Mayor Kevin Ashe, a strong supporter of the long-proposed airport on lands expropriated more than 50 years ago, said a final decision on the fate of the airport would be “premature” if Transport Canada decides to do an updated study on aviation demand in southern Ontario.

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.”

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.

Guinto said he will know more about the fate of the Transport Canada study next week.

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