In 1972, the federal government (which then owned and operated all major Canadian airports) expropriated 7430 hectares of farmland, including some hamlets like Altona which is now a ghost town. The Pickering Airport Project was postponed due to opposition by community activists and environmentalists. However, the government did not resell the Pickering lands to its original owners, maintaining the ability to revive the project in the future. To this day, the original owners have continued to lease the land from the government. 3,051 hectares have been protected as green space in perpetuity, including a corridor of land connecting the Rouge Park with the Oak Ridges Moraine. A similar major land expropriation took place north of Montreal for the Montréal-Mirabel International Airport, which opened in 1975, the same year that the Pickering project was postponed.
Transport Canada revived plans for the Pickering Airport in 2001 and the federal government has revived the land's designation as an airport site citing a number of reasons such as:
- Toronto Pearson International Airport (ICAO: CYYZ) - will be unable to indefinitely be the sole provider for the bulk of Toronto's commercial air traffic, although critics argue Hamilton John C. Munro International Airport has more than enough capacity to accommodate any future traffic.
- Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport (ICAO: CYTZ) - is limited to light jets and propeller planes - Porter Airlines and Air Canada Express fly out of CYTZ.
- Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (ICAO: CYKZ) - is also limited to smaller commuter aircraft and currently serves mostly privately based business travel. Upgrading the airport for longer runaways is unachievable because of urbanization around the airport. The GTAA is hoping this airport might be closed if Pickering is approved, and in 2009 announced the end of its $1.5 million annual subsidy to Buttonville for handling overflow general aviation traffic from Toronto Pearson. The airport is slated to close by 2015.
- Hamilton John C. Munro International Airport (ICAO: CYHM) - is being claimed by the GTAA as too far from the city of Toronto core to be practical as a major hub for travellers.
Read more about this topic: Pickering Airport
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