By Mark Brooks
The debate around the development of Pickering Airport is often focused on the business case, the demographics of growth and the environment. What about the moral case? What opportunities are we forgoing, and what future problems are we creating for our children, if we fail to build a new airport in Pickering? Is it immoral to allow the local interest of a select few to overpower the greater regional and national interests of Canadians?
The new airport is part of the long-term plan that was created decades ago and continues to evolve today. The land has been purchased and the zoning set. The Federal Government, the Province of Ontario, Durham region and the City of Pickering have all had a part in this planning. Some levies have already been raised and invested in roads, water and sewer services. The consequences of further delays, or even a cancellation of the airport, will be felt nationally and internationally.
Aviation is expanding to become a lynchpin of a growing global capitalist economy that is generating huge benefits worldwide. These include extending life expectancy, raising living standards and enabling the rise from poverty of a large percentage of the human population. In Canada, Aviation is now the safest, most time- and emissions-efficient way to travel long distances. By value, a third of all trade moves by air.
Globally, utility, cargo and passenger aviation is expected to double by 2050 while new fuels and technology will enable aviation to reach net-zero carbon emissions. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the aviation industry technical path and programs to achieve net-zero by 2050. New infrastructure is part of this plan. The expected growth and reliance on Aviation will define our children’s future. Our children will be a globetrotting “Generation Aviation”.
Pickering’s new airport will add to Canada’s increasingly important national aviation infrastructure. It will strengthen the local, national and international economy. It will create tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars of economic activity and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year. It will improve the efficiency of supplying local residents with the goods and services they consume every day. It will reduce commute times by creating local jobs. It will improve the reliability and safety of travel; reduce aviation congestion and the excess emissions it creates. The new airport will enable the city, the region and Canada to meet its net-zero emissions goals.
The Ontario Growth Plan forecasts that the population within 25 kilometres of the Federal airport lands will be 80 percent larger by 2041 and will more than double by 2051.
Similarly, aviation industry sources predict that global commercial passenger traffic will also double by 2050. Additional aviation capacity will be required in the GTA, and what better place to put it than within an area also forecasted for major population growth.
Is it fair to forego tens of thousands of higher paying jobs associated with the full economic development of the Federal airport lands for just the relatively few agriculture-industry jobs? Is it fair to turn down private investment in a new airport and logistics hub while asking taxpayers to subsidize the inefficient overbuilding of other distance airports to fill the gap in services?
The Golden rule is the answer to these questions. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It is not fair to allow the eastern Toronto region to choke on its own growth while a select few benefit from land set aside to resolve that logistics problem. Unfortunately, this rule is in danger of being transformed into “Those that have the gold make the rules” by lobbyists spending money to convince us that a new airport is not needed and that we do not need to be connected to the global economy.
It can be easy to be led astray by the sensationalized misrepresentation of the negative effects of aviation. It can be hard to hear the needs of future generations over the noise made by a select few local interests pushing Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) politics. In Pickering, a well-funded NIMBY narrative against the airport has been promoted for years. It both opposes the growth the airport supports and insists that any new aviation infrastructure needed be placed in other regions instead.
Why should other communities agree to suddenly change carefully made plans? Why should we expect others to pay to expand their air, rail and road logistics infrastructure to support our rapid growth just because we do not wish to do it ourselves? While it is important to concede and make accommodations for the downside of building a new airport in Pickering, these are tiny compared to the regional and National benefits of building new infrastructure in an efficient location. The timely development of the airport is key to not burdening others with congestion created by the growth of the eastern Toronto region.
From a philosopher’s perspective, the idea of sacrificing the benefits of a new airport and burdening citizens in other regions, just to benefit a select few, is immoral. Predictably, Waterloo and other regions are rejecting this idea unless it is funded by endless billions in federal subsidies. Tax dollars better spent on healthcare and education.
The people of Durham region and Pickering want to embrace the economic growth, improved living standards and global connectivity the new airport will bring. Our new airport and the growing use of aviation worldwide is nothing that we need to apologize to anyone for. Building the new airport is the morally correct thing to do for a prosperous, just, net-zero emissions future.