Peterborough County council has asked city council for a seat on the new Peterborough Airport Strategic Initiatives Committee (ASIC).
The City of Peterborough owns the airport, which is on lands within Peterborough County and the Township of Cavan Monaghan.
Peterborough city council, sitting as general committee on Monday night, received the request but did not respond by sending a letter to the county at this time.
Scott McFadden, Cavan Monaghan mayor and Peterborough County councillor, wasn’t pleased with the direction of city staff.
“Quite frankly, I understand politics and politically they may not wish to respond and that’s their thing. That’s not staff’s role to get involved in the politics,” McFadden tells Global News Peterborough.
“It’s rude, it’s ignorant, to provide a staff response to your elected officials that you should absolutely ignore a request from the county. Whether you agree or not, that’s beside the point. I’ve never witnessed such arrogance on behalf of staff. It’s not their role. Therein lies the fundamental problem at city hall between the staff and the council and the absolute disrespect towards county politicians and staff, township politicians and staff and it needs to stop.”
McFadden says it would be a logical step forward to consider having a member from the county or township on the advisory committee to discuss the future of the airport.
“Whether the city agrees or not, the location is fundamental to the future for all these discussions for future expansion,” McFadden said.
“Although they’ve set aside $15 million in future budgets to run additional municipal servicing of water and sewer to the airport, not only have they not involved the county or township in any of those discussions, they haven’t even acknowledged they need the township’s approval to run the pipeline.
“To suggest there is no room around an airport advisory committee to discuss the future of the airport in this region and the county and township aren’t worthy of participating in those discussions, to me displays a complete lack of understanding of the fundamental issue before us and the importance of the regional airport to all of us.”
The committee is comprised of Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien, councillors Don Vasilliadis and Stephen Wright, two Peterborough residents and two members with experience in the aerospace industry.
Applications for the four citizen seats closed on April 9 and the Citizen Appointment Selection Committee is currently evaluating applicants and preparing to recommend appointments to council for consideration at a later date.
McFadden applauded Wright for speaking in favour of working collaboratively with the township and county on a regional approach.
Wright tells Global News Peterborough the county can’t be ignored in this process.
“As the airport is being developed to its full potential, it’s going to require collaboration and significant partnership,” he said. “There’s a lot the city and county does as partners and we can’t ignore that.”
The report that went to general committee Monday night advised should council wish to expand ASIC’s membership and extend a seat to a county council member, it would require an amendment to a bylaw.
But the report went on to state that should council not support the request, it could simply receive the report for information or direct staff to notify Peterborough County warden J. Murray Jones and county council that they do not support the recommendation.
One councillor who did not support having the county on the committee at Monday’s meeting was Dean Pappas.
He says the county missed the window to be on it.
“We didn’t get anything formally at any time after the bylaw was passed,” he tells Global News Peterborough. “We’re already interviewing for the citizen positions tonight and it’s out of order. In the terms of reference, you have to be a resident of the city. From a procedural standpoint, you’re kind of late to the party at this point.”
Pappas noted if ASIC feels the need to add a county voice at a later date, it could be identified and revisited.
County council adopted the motion to ask the city for a seat on ASIC on March 17.
Wright tells Global News Peterborough he plans to bring up allowing the county to be on the committee once it convenes after the citizen members are appointed.
“That partnership is essential. How we service the areas around the airport, it’s essential the county has a say in it. It’s regional economic development, so the county should have a say.”
Wright said he’s looking forward to the committee finding ways to unlock the potential for the airport.
McFadden also noted that during the general committee meeting on Monday, councillor Keith Riel kept erroneously referring to the township as Cavan North Monaghan.
“For a councillor to sit around a table with the neighbouring municipalities in the County of Peterborough and not articulate and understand the name of the township underlies the most unfortunate lack of respect for one’s neighbour,” McFadden said.
“If you’ve been on council for 10 years, there’s no excuse to not know your neighbouring township’s name. It’s an insult and quite frankly, it needs to stop.”
Therrien was unavailable for comment on Tuesday and Riel didn’t respond to requests for an interview through text messages.
The report states the airport accounted for $74 million in gross domestic product, $61 million of the gross domestic product was labour income in 2020.
The airport is home to approximately 20 businesses employing almost 400 people and is home to the Seneca College School of Aviation and Flight Technology.