Feds not ruling out airport on Pickering Lands
TORONTO – The federal government has not ruled out building an airport in Pickering 40 years after expropriating land for its construction and a year after announcing a massive national park next door.
“For residents of Durham Region and the GTA, the Harper government is ending decades of uncertainty about the future of the Pickering Lands,” said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in a media release Tuesday.
Although the airport deal hasn’t been rubber stamped yet, the government has reserved part of the area for its construction.
The Pickering Lands is made up of approximately 18,600 acres of land in Pickering, Markham and Uxbridge, 56 kilometres northeast of downtown Toronto.
The federal government acquired the land in 1972 promising to build an airport. But the project was stuck in a holding pattern for decades due to concerns from residents and nearby airports.
And Pickering mayor David Ryan came out in support of the airport Tuesday suggesting the region’s growing population will create the demand for a local airport.
But John McCallum, the Liberal MP for Markham-Unionville, said his party cannot support the federal government’s plan.
“We think they’ve behaved very badly. They’re not consulting at all with local communities or residents and they haven’t presented a credible business case,” McCallum said. “This will affect a lot of people’s lives in a major way; I don’t think they just cut them [the public] out without proper consultation.”
Two public information sessions have been set for June 24 and June 27 in Markham.
Transport Canada is responsible for the day-to-day management and long-term planning of the Pickering Lands.
“With the Buttonville Airport closing, with Highway 407 being extended eastward, and now clarity around the Pickering Lands, Durham Region is well positioned to be a hub for transportation, business development and job creation,” Flaherty said.
In 2011, the Government of Canada released a Needs Assessment Study that showed the region will need an additional airport between 2027 and 2037.
But long-time area resident and anti-airport activist Michael Robertson says the land should not be used for an airport but instead, for agriculture.
“We need to redevelop the farming side of this and get it producing food,” he said.
Transport Canada also plans to transfer nearly 5,000 acres from these lands to Parks Canada towards the creation of Rouge National Urban Park, which will be more than 13 times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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