Ottawa wants to build a major new airport in Pickering, despite local MP’s pre-election reservations

Ottawa wants to build a major new airport in Pickering, despite local MP’s pre-election reservations

According to Transport Canada predictions, increased traffic at Pearson could necessitate a new airport by 2027 (Image: Phil Marion from the Flickr pool)

As Toronto gets used to the Island airport being a busy hub, we idly wondered when the GTA would get to have another big fight over air travel. Here comes Ottawa to light some more fireworks on just that topic: having held onto some land in Pickering for decades, it looks like the Government of Canada would like to build an airport on it to take pressure off of Pearson in coming decades.

According to the Globe and Mail:

A Transport Canada study released Monday found that the Greater Golden Horseshoe—a sprawling conurbation centred on Toronto—will likely require another airport in 16 to 26 years’ time and determined a rural site 50 kilometres northeast of Toronto in Pickering, Ont., would be a good fit.

The government expropriated 7,530 hectares of land at the site in 1972 in anticipation of a new airport. However, the facility was never built and the government opted instead to expand and upgrade Lester B. Pearson International, the country’s busiest air hub.

Under the scenarios envisioned by the study, Pearson will likely reach a maximum capacity of 54 million to 60 million passengers annually between 2027 and 2037, up from 32 million now. Meanwhile, John C. Munro International airport in Hamilton and Waterloo International Airport could see as many as 10.5 million and 6.9 million annual passengers, respectively.

This issue came up during the last federal election, when then-candidate and now MP Chris Alexander told the Toronto Star, “I am absolutely opposed to the construction of an airport,” and promised to work against the building of any airport in Pickering. He is, of course, just one MP (and a backbencher at that), so even if he was sincere then, it looks like he might lose this fight.

Looking to the future, the government’s projections look a little questionable to say the least. Where does the government imagine oil prices are going to be by 2030? How exactly will airlines keep increasing their traffic if fuel costs start pricing them out of the market? And how does traffic at Pearson almost double in an environment where ticket prices keep going up? In the most pessimistic scenario the report considered, Transport Canada still projects the need for a new airport by 2040 or so. Three decades years is a long time, but call us skeptical.

Controversial Toronto-area airport plan may soon take flight [Globe and Mail]
Pickering a ‘prime location’ for new airport: Transport Canada [Toronto Star]
Needs Assessment Study – Pickering Lands [Transport Canada]