It has become fashionable for “Headline Environmentalists” to believe that climate change can be fought with political decrees opposing growth. In Pickering, two new councilors’ put forward just such a motion, in this case opposing a new airport on federal land, using misleading information from a lobby group. Luckily for us and them, the majority of the Pickering Council including the mayor appear to know better. The motion, hastily tacked on to a February 27th meeting, then postponed to a March 8th meeting, has now been deferred to April 24th. In the name of balanced growth, achieving our net zero emissions goals and good governance, this motion needs to die completely. The current path of supporting a new airport in Pickering immediately is the correct one.
While appearing as a delegation to Pickering Council on February 27th, I worried that the new Councilors where unaware of the important role the new Pickering airport and its associated industrial land will fulfill. It is time for all our elected officials to realize that Pickering Airport’s time has come.
The airport is critical to Canada’s economy and in helping us achieve our net zero emissions goals for three reasons:
- Canadian international airports are not just for passengers but are the cornerstone of our advanced industrial economy. When measured by value, one third of all goods in Canada are delivered by air. All advanced services and products produced in Canada rely on components and services from other nations. In turn, those nations rely on fast efficient access to us. Successful businesses know, the closer you are to a major airport and population centers, the more competitive you are. One look at the businesses clustered around Pearson airport tells the story. Four hundred thousand jobs, $53 billion in economic activity.
- A Pickering industrial/utility airport and its new employment lands (with an estimated 30 million sq ft of floor space) are desperately needed in the Greater Toronto region. The Pearson Economic Zone (PEZ) now boasts the lowest industrial land vacancy in North America at 0.5% according to the Toronto Board of trade. Thanks to Federal government immigration policies, 300,000 new immigrants per year are expected in southern Ontario by 2025, many of whom will be looking for jobs and career opportunities.
- Aviation and the advanced industrial economy that rely on it are on an easy-to-see path to net zero emissions. With a combination of new Canadian refineries producing net zero carbon SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) the new airport will be net zero. With space for new infrastructure, Pickering Airport will help reduce congestion at Pearson airport as well. This will assist in the achievement of regional net zero emission goals.
Businesses are prepared to invest in the development of the Pickering lands and an airport. For example, on February 27th, one of the other delegations was the CEO of Hitachi Canada. He drove out on a snowy night to advise Pickering Council that he and other investors stand ready to invest in the airport, its industrial lands and a High Frequency Rail system connected to the airport.
Regardless of whether it supports or opposes the new airport, Pickering will be spending money and resources on the airport issues. Spending time and money in a futile attempt to divert growth by delaying a federally mandated airport is counterproductive. It sends the message to investors in general that Pickering is not open for business. Working with the region and investors to properly coordinate airport development, including a high frequency rail stop in North Pickering, is a better use of the city’s resources.
The Pickering City Council must work with other levels of government to drive sustainable economic growth and achieve our emissions reduction goals. It can use its influence to encourage the new airport in Pickering, the fuel for its flights, and its surrounding employment zone to be carbon neutral.
Proclaiming that all growth must stop is not an answer. The answer lies in providing good governance, coordinating with industry and other levels of government.
Together Pickering Council can guide our economy towards a net zero emissions future.