The need for a new airport in Pickering is back under the magnifying glass of Transport Canada in what could be its final needs assessment. Launched, then withdrawn, the study is now back on. Nothing it seems can stop the final Pickering airport study from getting airborne.
The Minister of Transport himself, the Honourable Omar Alghabra announced the new study on aviation capacity. The introduction of his announcement says it all:
“Southern Ontario is Canada’s most populous area, with the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone home to over 6.3 million Canadians. Ontario’s population is also expected to grow significantly over the next two decades. This is why the Government of Canada needs to assess the requirement for additional airport capacity in the region.”
As noted in a previous post, this is expected to be the final aviation capacity study providing the bases for moving forward with developing the new Pickering Airport. An airport that is now a centerpiece of Durham Region’s new development plan.
The study was originally announced three weeks ago (March 28th) on Canadabuys, a procurement arm of the federal government but was then quickly withdrawn. It had issued a request for proposal seeking an aviation consultant to evaluate all existing Pickering airport studies and analyses, and to recommend a roadmap for moving forward. This request was then removed without an explanation. Its removal and now re-announcement directly by the Minister of Transport is notable. As is the updated wording that points to the political shenanigans that may be going on behind the scenes.
Unlike the earlier ASA report released in 2020 that used pre-COVID data and was full of “what if” scenarios, this final study looks to be reality focused. Wording suggests it is to look at all expected post COVID aviation growth and capacity, not just passenger aviation. Aviation is the lynchpin of Canada’s connection to the global economy. Today, by value, a third of all goods and services move by air. Hopefully this new study will be reality focused on capacity that exists, is already funded in an airport master plan or could be funded efficiently.
The previous ASA study assumed “unlimited federal government funding and power” to override regional community and business interests. This new capacity study appears to be a reality check working with, rather than overriding, local interests. It should correct the political problems created by the ASA report. It is a recognition that it is nonsensical to warp the development plans of distant regional airports (such as waterloo) just to delay building Pickering Airport. It should also take into account Pickering airports new role as a priority in the region of Durhams latest development plan.
The wording of the minister’s announcement suggests it will focus on all aspects of aviation capacity. This should include the industrial aspects of the new Pickering airport (as suggested by the ASA report) not just consumer passenger capacity. Currently the Pearson airport economic zone has the lowest vacancy rate of industrial land in all of North America at 0.5%
The announcement does include the phrase “…the conclusions of the study could lead, for example, to a determination that an airport on the Pickering Lands is not required in the long term”. This statement does not worry pro-airport supporters. A fair and transparent evaluation of the full economic potential of the Pickering Lands will clearly demonstrate the true value of its development.
Yes, the COVID pandemic impacted everything and a change in the timing for Pickering Airport, as needed airport capacity, would not be a surprise.
Of greater import has to be the acknowledgment that airports are economic engines, attracting companies, creating jobs and producing prosperity far beyond the narrow vision of “it’s just an airport”. Additionally the new airport could be open from day one to support net zero emissions aviation. Enabling the support of booming growth with new net zero emissions aviation fuels and large-scale cargo drone technology.
The Greater Toronto Area is forecasted to experience tremendous growth now through 2050, including the potential doubling of the population in Pickering and Durham Region. Development of the federal lands serves a vital role in this growth.
Time is of the essence. Get ready to stand up and be heard for Pickering airport and the economic develop of all of these federal lands.