SCUGOG: The residents of Greenbank received answers, and a list of new questions, after a presentation from the Federal Government in Greenbank last week.
Durham Region MP Erin O'Toole hosted a long-awaited standing-room-only meeting with the residents of Greenbank inside the Greenbank Hall, during the evening of Wednesday, April 8.
Those in attendance heard MP O'Toole, Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett, and representatives from Transport Canada speak – who, according to MP O'Toole, attempted to provide clarity on the newly-drafted Bill C-43, and the Federal Government's involvement in the Greenbank Airways site.
MP O'Toole opened the meeting by saying “This Bill is an attempt to modernize the Canadian Aeronautics Act – which wasn't built to address the concerns of fill operations and rural aerodromes like the one in Greenbank.”
Bill C-43 is a new piece of legislation, passed in December of 2014, which gives the Minister of Transportation the power to prohibit future expansion or changes in an aerodrome, if the expansion or changes are likely to adversely affect safety or is deemed not in the public interest. In addition, consultation meetings with the surrounding residents must be carried out before any expansion or changes.
He continued to explain that the often quoted belief that the Federal Government has sole jurisdiction over Greenbank Airways is false, and that Transport Canada is only in-charge of facilities which are integral to flight, such as hangers and the airstrip itself.
“The Province of Ontario and Municipality of Scugog need to exercise their power over the fill operation and roadways,” said MP O'Toole. “We've taken steps to remove uncertainty in the future, as we cannot go back in time. In the future, new growth or expansion will be carefully assessed, and will include public feedback.”
Michael Stephenson, regional director for Transport Canada, also spoke at the meeting. He offered background on Transport Canada's certification process – explaining that larger airports such as Pierson International in Toronto undergo constant checks, while smaller rural aerodromes – such as Greenbank – are certified at their inception and then largely left alone, unless there is an obvious safety threat or public outcry.
“We just don't have the resources to do checks on the thousands and thousands or rural airstrips across the country, a lot of the requirements are left up to the owner,” said Mr. Stephenson. “We have no authority over Greenbank Airways, and we don't certify or permit roads or trucks or gates. Our [Transport Canada] area of interest is solely in the runway and hangers. Fill testing and regulations are a Provincial and Municipal concern.”
Mr. Stephenson continued to say that while it is great when local aerodrome operators consult and inform their neighbours – it is not part of the law, and that operators don't need to necessarily tell anyone if they wish to fly planes or helicopters out of their property. “Bill C-43 tightens this up a bit, and says that if future changes or growth are to occur – the public would need to be notified in a meeting like this one.”
“I've seen projects like this across the country – some are legitimate airports, and some aren't – but the concern is always on the quality of the fill, and how much money is being made,” said Mr. Stephenson. “We're trying to prevent operators from hiding behind the Federal shield – the point is, these operators are not given a bullet-proof vest by Transport Canada.
Greenbank resident Nicole Robertson asked the delegation what steps would come if Greenbank Airways sought to expand. MP O'Toole explained “If the expansion had to do with runways, ramps, or hangers – a meeting would be set up with the residents of Greenbank, before the first truck of fill arrived.” After the public info session, and a close examination or the proposed site plan, the expansion would be reviewed before approval.
If the expansion was vetoed, or the site were to be shut down for any reason, Mr. Stephenson said that a Ministerial Order would be given to the site operators – and that he presumes air traffic and dumping would cease without a struggle.
When a member of the public inquired about the Federal position on the need for Greenbank Airways, MP O'Toole stated that “I personally feel that either Oshawa or Pickering could make up for the loss of Butonville Airport – and that the Greenbank Airways site is not suitable to make up for it.”
One local resident asked Mr. Stephenson if he believed the Greenbank Airways site was a legitamite airstrip, and if he had seen plans. He responded with “Our folks went out and said that Greenbank has a stockpile of fill and a site plan, and that it seemed sound. Contrary to what any people have said, the fill pile is not the runway, it will be spread out and tamped down.”
The Standard spoke to Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett, who said “I think this meeting has clarified where the responsibilities lay, but many issues are still left on the shoulders of municipalities across Canada.”
In regards to the ongoing contract negotiations between the Township and the proponents of the Greenbank site – Mayor Rowett explained that “We've had talks, but it hasn't passed the legal stages yet. The ball is in the owners court.”
The Mayor continued to remark that he was doubtful the proponents would sign the document as written by Council, but that only time would tell.
The amendments to the contract, presented to the public in a recent meeting, will seek to halt trucks from dumping fill on Saturdays, doubling the tipping fee given to the Township from $1 per cubic metre to $2, and a drastic increase in security deposits and site insurance.