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GTAA to cancel Buttonville funding

 

It has recently come to light that the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) intends to cancel the current "Capacity Maintenance Agreement" between the GTAA and Buttonville Airport, effective April of 2009.

The cancellation of this agreement could jeopardize the future existence of the airport.

In response to the GTAA’s intent, COPA along with ATAC, CBAA, HAC, Flight Exec and Air Georgian wrote the following joint letter to The Honourable John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure & Communities urging him to find a resolution with the GTAA or come up with new funding to help preserve Buttonville Airport.

Dear Minister Baird;

The organizations and support agencies mentioned above represent varied and significant elements of the aviation community from across Canada and more specifically within the GTA region.

We have drafted this correspondence to convey to you our collective apprehension and concern regarding the future and well-being of the Buttonville Airport and its related community of resident and extended business and service interests. This has come to light after the recent disclosure by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) of their intent to cancel the current "Capacity Maintenance Agreement" between the GTAA and Buttonville, effective April of 2009.

The monies from the GTAA under this agreement form an important part of this airport’s ability to remain open and functional as an aerodrome. The economic well-being and job security of a significant number of tax paying Canadian families and businesses are directly and indirectly tied to this location and the services it provides. Loss of the funding and support to this airport places the owners in what they have expressed to us as the unpleasant and unfortunate position of having to revisit their best business practice, well-being and liability/ability to continue supporting the current airport operations – yet alone proceed with the infrastructure maintenance and improvements that are required today and in the years to come.

These monies are not a hand out, nor is such requested, they are part of a greater contribution to driving many financial direct and indirect benefits. They also enable the owners to move with a sense of security as to their future for investment in growth and redevelopment – something that is even more important in our current economic environment.

In point of fact, the money received under this agreement is far exceeded by that spent and invested by the owners to maintain the facilities and business today and as planned for tomorrow.

Buttonville airport is a major aviation gateway to the GTA not only for Canada, but also for trans-border traffic. It has long served as an airport to handle aviation business that is not readily welcome or accessible to the larger and more congested Lester B. Pearson International airport. In point of fact, in their own published documents, the GTAA has consistently stated that "Other southern Ontario airports such as Buttonville, Peterborough and Oshawa provide opportunities for general aviation and limited turboprop commercial service.

A disruption or closure of any of these other airports could impose additional capacity burdens on the Airport. To address this concern, the GTAA has entered into an arrangement with Toronto Airways Limited, the operator of Toronto Buttonville Airport, to ensure that airport capacity at the Buttonville airport is maintained."

Further, the GTAA’s 2004 Pickering Airport Draft Plan states, "Buttonville receives an annual subsidy from the GTAA to remain operational… should Buttonville close, it would be imperative that a new airport at Pickering be provided, as no other airport in the GTA is expected to have the facilities and capacity to absorb the displaced corporate and charter activity."

In its 2006/07 Corporate Strategic Plan, the GTAA identified that "the future success of Pearson requires involvement at some level in the sustainability of a regional system of airports… studies undertaken by the GTAA with respect to airport capacity confirm the need to protect Pickering lands for a future airport… the GTAA will continue to study future requirements… and to fund Buttonville Airport to maintain aviation capacity in the interim."

Buttonville is the home base for significant and important aviation activity that could neither be supported at other airports nor, as noted above, is welcome. First there is time sensitive, numerous daily medical and patient transfer flights to hospitals and medical care specialists in this region that transition through Buttonville.

Additionally, this is the airport of choice as a center for aerial police security and support flights from several municipal, provincial and federal law enforcement agencies.

Consider too the corporate, commercial, charter and private aviation traffic that brings business to and from the corporate community and immediate regions. There is also the significance of the aerial media coverage activity from this site, the three aviation training schools and the 300 private aircraft that are resident at Buttonville.

All of this is business with financial considerations of significance beyond the boundaries of the Buttonville airport.

We are firmly of the consensus that this region and the aviation industry would suffer a significant and irreplaceable loss should Buttonville not exist. Accordingly, we have come together with the mutual concern on behalf of our various members to request your assistance please to achieve the following:

a) that assistance or an alternative be found to replace the monies that will be lost from the cessation of the current GTAA agreement;

b) or that a working and appropriate solution be found in which to restore the GTAA agreement in an equitable fashion for both the interests of Buttonville and the GTAA; and

c) we strongly urge that a realistic and appropriate time-frame be assigned to this agreement to better enable the airport owners and management to assess what level of investment and infrastructural development be undertaken immediately – and more significantly in the long term over the period between now and when any additional airport space can be developed to supplement or replace that capacity now handled by Buttonville.