With a motion on Oct 10, 2017 the Pickering City Council reversed its stance over four decades and urged the development of the Pickering Airport, subject to the results of a study that's currently underway.
On that night, Pickering City Council was presented with a staff report on investment attraction and job creation, which outlined the need to develop the requisite infrastructure to attract multinational companies, like Amazon, to Pickering's Innovation Corridor. One of the report's key recommendations focused on a Pickering airport.
Council approved the City of Pickering’s plans to bid as a candidate to host Amazon’s second North American headquarters (HQ2). Landing Amazon would attract 50,000 jobs to the area, and construction costs are expected to exceed $5 billion US.
Buried in the many different recommendation was one advising the Federal Government of the City of Pickering's support of the development of an airport in Pickering, subject to the results identified in the Aviation Sector Analysis - Pickering Airport Study (currently prepared by KPMG) and the appropriate Environmental Assessments. The Federal Government is waiting to review that Airport Study report before making a decision on the project.
Newcomers to Canada after the 1980's may not know anything about the Pickering Airport land expropriations in the early 1970's. In 1972, 7,500 hectares of Pickering Lands were acquired by the federal government to be retained for a possible future airport and to protect all future aviation options. It is located in Pickering, Markham and Uxbridge (55 km northeast of downtown Toronto). Opposition to the project was widespread. Preliminary airport construction activity was halted in 1975 when the provincial partner in the enterprise, the Government of Ontario, declared it would not build the roads or sewers needed to service the site.
On the expropriated lands, the farmers do not own their family's home or the land. The government is leasing land to farmers on short-term contracts, which discourages agricultural businesses from investing in diverse crops, even though the area is so close to Toronto markets and restaurants. The land is being used mainly for nutrient-depleting cash crops, such as corn to make ethanol. This also leads to the dilapidation of country houses due to years of neglect under the imposed rental system for properties. The lease contracts stated that the farmers can not make repairs or improvements to their properties. Some of them do anyway, because they love their heritage properties.
“Land over Landings” is an organization established in 2005 as a successor to “People or Planes” to oppose a new round of evictions and demolitions. They were and remain a strong voice for protesters but they are also advocates for the preservation of this rich farmland for the benefit of future generations. This organization is very upset about what was considered by what many have described as “sneaky” and “underhanded” tactics to pass recommendations in support of an airport was buried in a bid to attract Amazon – a prospect that’s sending ripples through big cities all across the continent.
Pickering airport was the subject of most of the discussion and delegations at the Pickering Council meeting. The pro-airport faction had clearly been notified of the recommendation well in advance and was present in force and well-prepared. While the real stakeholders – the residents of North Pickering, the voters in Ward 3, and “Land Over Landings” – were NOT informed of the meeting’s incendiary purpose by anyone on Council. They learned of it through other channels and was able to spread the word only the day before the meeting. This reminds me of the Arena fiasco in Markham a few years back where our Council used every advantage at their disposal to get things going their way and minimizing all oppositions to their proposals.
Next time, I will continue to give more details on the saga of the proposed Pickering Airport and its current status with regard to the reduction in its total area.
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