DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
For more than 40 years, residents have fought to preserve area farmland in their opposition to the proposed Pickering Airport, and recently an advocacy group made an impassioned presentation in Port Perry.
In July, Queen Beans and P’Lovers hosted a Land Over Landings presentation as the group sought to inform local residents of the issues surrounding the project.
Land Over Landings is the latest group to take on the proposed airport, carrying on a fight that began with People Over Planes when the project was originally announced in 1972.
On the heels of an announcement in June by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that the airport would indeed be going ahead, Land Over Landings has renewed their energies by hosting these information sessions in neighbouring communities.
"The government isn’t caring about this land but we are," stated Land Over Landings spokesperson Mary Delaney. "We’re focusing on the land because it’s still there. This is not a case of NIMBY (not in my backyard), we don’t want it anywhere because it’s not needed. It’s such a no-brainer if only we could get the government to listen."
Among the chief concerns of the group is the feasibility of a second major airport for the GTA as well as the apparent lack of a business plan for the project going forward.
"There is a lot of misinformation out there, and the government is creating false hopes on the basis of smoke and mirrors," explained Pat Valentine of Land Over Landings. "There is no business case or price tag for this project."
The group points to Montreal’s infamous Mirabel Airport as an example of why an airport in Pickering would be doomed to fail, and residents of Durham Region would be left to pick up the pieces.
When Mirabel opened in 1975, it was originally envisioned to be the largest airport in the world in terms of surface area as more than 98,000 acres of land were expropriated.
In comparison, the Pickering Airport lands were originally composed of 18,600 acres of federal lands, and a further 25,000 acres provided by the provincial government. As Land Over Landings pointed out, that would be enough land for four airports the size of Pearson International Airport in Mississauga.
"If the project ever does go through, the people of Durham will be the big losers. We’ll end up with a white elephant, because it’s going to fail just like Mirabel and just like across the United States where airports were built and expanded with grand ideas and no plan," added Ms. Valentine.
The other main issue at hand for Land Over Landings is the disappearance of prime agricultural land to make way for the project.
"This is class one farmland, the best in the world," explained Ms. Delaney. "One day, we will need an airport to fly in the fruits and vegetables we can’t grow."
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