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Airport Lands: It’s been 50 years, decide now, says Henry

Regional Chair John Henry

With financing being announced for GO train to Bowmanville and process on new hospital started, attention of top regional politicians has turned to the proposed airport project in Pickering.

“This been going on for over 50 years now,” John Henry, Regional Chair and CEO of Durham Region told Durham Post in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts from the full interview are scheduled to be published tomorrow.

“The challenge is that it’s out of our control. This is a federal issue, and they need to make a decision, and then we need to go forward,” says Henry.

He clarified some misconceptions about the use of Airport Lands, which were acquired more than 50 years ago.

He said the proposed airport would support some travel but would focus on aerospace industry – and vertical farming.

“We’re speaking of an airport that would support some travel, but mostly the aerospace industry as well, and the people that are in that business. The business is slowly being squeezed out of Pearson,” said Henry.

He pointed out that in Canada, Durham was a leader in the aerospace industry. “We should be leader again”.

Vertical Farming

The Regional CEO was for creating vertical farms on Airport Lands. “I believe it can be done on those lands and it should be done, so that we can make sure that our residents have that food security.

“You can grow a tomato in vertical garden inside a building using 95 per cent less water than you would growing a tomato outside in a field. There is a merit to this”.

Durham Region is a huge agricultural community. “Our farmers are good at what they do, but with those lands we have an opportunity to use them 365 days in a year,” Henry pointed out.

Plan for Future

He said the report that was generated around building the airport said you would need an airport in about 16 years. “If you started today, I doubt you could be ready in 16 years”.

When you look at immigration and the people that are choosing to come to Canada, we know that half of the new immigrants who will come to this great country will be in the GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area), said Henry.

Great growth is there, and the government knows that. They measured our growth to 2051. They know our population is going to double. So doing the right things – getting the GO train built, deciding what they’re going to do with the Airport Lands, watching our world change in the manufacturing of vehicles, going electric – there’s all these great things happening, and we just need to think of the challenges,” Henry pointed out.

He said when you look at building an airport, the aerospace industry, vertical food, the components that are around an airport, the moving of goods, it all really makes for a very good conversation.

“I really wish the federal government would make a decision and then we can go forward. The public deserves that. They put it off, and put it off, and put it off,” he added.

Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan earlier told Durham Post: “I believe very strongly that we need the airport as part of the GTA. We need the airport in Pickering specifically because the lands are already set aside for an airport. It is an economic catalyst, an economic driver. I’ll go so far as to say it’s an economic imperative. If we want to provide meaningful jobs for all the people moving to the east side of the GTA, to Durham Region, then we need to have that economic driver”.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said: “I think the airport plays an important part in not only our economy, but moving people around North America, and around the world. If this project moves forward… we absolutely need to make sure that it is future-looking, so agriculture, greenspace, the environment, the airport itself – all these things need to be taken into consideration, and not just a bunch of cement and pavement”.

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