Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pickering's Take-Off

Edit: A reader pointed out some problems in my initial posting, so I edited it to correct these errors.

In the 1970s a proposal was made of the future of the Greater Toronto Area. In this proposal a strategy was developed to help deal with the lacking success of the eastern sections of the GTA, Scarborough, and Durham Region. One of the key proposals was the introduction of an airport in Pickering, Ontario to stimulate growth.

If you look at a map of the GTA you will quickly notice that the towns to the left (or west) of Toronto are doing better than those on the right (or east). Development in Mississauga, Brampton, and Etobicoke has been spurred on by the business drawn in by quick and easy access to Pearson International Airport. Richer suburbs further along the Golden Horseshoe such as Burlington and Oakville have grown because of the success of the Peel cities and the area west of Toronto.

Mississauga is now a major city of its own rights with a service-centred economy. Meanwhile the cities east of Toronto – Ajax, Whitby, and Oshawa – are industrial towns. It is unfair, and illogical to say that because there’s an airport in the west and not in the east that that has resulted in the differences. The west is also closer to the American border, a major economic driver. Economic policies by both the provincial and federal government have hurt the cities in the Durham Region. Pickering has benefited from being on the edge of Toronto, as have other cities in Durham.

However, the Pickering Airport is no longer a vanity stimulus exercise. Pearson Airport is rated for a capacity of 50 million travellers. Presently we are at 35 million, projections say that by the 2020s the airport will reach capacity. Pearson is maxed out, without levelling parts of Mississauga, or some creative engineering I don’t know about. Therefore something needs to be done if the business capacity of the Toronto region is going to grow.

There are downsides. The Pickering Airport was vocally opposed by community groups in the 1970s. Many of the same people are still around from the fight in the 70s, and they are prepared to do battle again. There seems to be a certain inescapable logic of the Pickering Airport though. The region needs to be able to handle a greater number of flights, an airport needs to be close to centre – downtown Toronto, and it needs the space to be properly developed, which is available in Durham.

I, for one, would support such a proposal. Ultimately, the people of Pickering and Durham must decide if they want an international airport in their backyards. Likewise, they must consider if they want Durham to become like Peel, which would be a likely consequence, airports attract development and more local employment. While Pickering cannot be characterized as a struggling industrial community, cities like Oshawa, dependent on the automotive industry can be. A local major airport would likely stimulate supportive industries to help ease away from an automotive-centered economy.

On a closing note, a bit of personal news, tomorrow I’m heading to Ottawa. It’s the first time I’ll be visiting our nation’s capital. I’m there to do the tourist thing, which I plan to embrace wholeheartedly, possibly at the irritation of locals. It’s a trip I’ve wanted to make a long time and I’m very excited to see the Parliament in person.

No comments: