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Educating our elected officials on the need for a replacement for Buttonville

Kevin Psutka

 

In my December column, entitled “So Buttonville is closing” I highlighted the need to come up with a plan for replacing this important GA airport.

COPA member Bill Harding asked Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement if he knew about the situation. Minister Clement responded that he was not aware of the situation but would enquire with Transport Canada.

The response received from Transport Canada was as follows:

“Transport Canada is aware of the announcement regarding the closure of the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport.Toronto Airways Limited, the owner and operator of the airport, is a private corporation and is responsible for making its own business decisions.Former users of Buttonville will need to explore alternate general aviation capacity in the region.

“While convenience is an important consideration for users, there is capacity in Southern Ontario for general aviation including at the airports mentioned (Oshawa, Toronto Island). No decision has been taken regarding the future need for Pickering Airport. Due diligence is underway to assess the need and make recommendations for Ministerial consideration. The due diligence process is ongoing and timing for a decision regarding Pickering is not known at this time.”

The response from Minister Clement indicated that this statement from Transport Canada was sufficient and that he would do nothing else, so Bill Harding took issue with the belief that there is capacity in the remaining airports and I was copied on his email correspondence.The following is what I sent to Minister Clement to back up what Bill said and I copied Transport Minister Chuck Strahl.

Dear Mr. Clement:

I was copied on this correspondence and would like to add my national perspective on this very important issue.

Although Trudy Waldinger (Minister Clement’s Executive Assistance) did not identify the source of the Transport Canada statement, it appears to come from the Minister of Transport or one of his advisors. The statement illustrates a lack of appreciation for how critical the loss of Buttonville will be for General Aviation (GA) and this mode of transportation in the GTA.

Contrary to Transport Canada’s belief that there is sufficient capacity in the Toronto area, I would like to highlight my recent article on this subject www.copanational.org/PresColumnDec10En.cfm that appeared in our national newspaper and was also sent to the Minister.

I would like to emphasize that Buttonville is the tenth busiest of all airports in Canada, including the largest ones.There are currently 160,000 movements there and I can assure you that there is insufficient capacity at neighbouring airports to accommodate any more than about half of this amount. Loss of 80,000 movements or more will have a significant negative impact that will extend well beyond the GTA.

For example, the pilot training now occurring there cannot be accommodated at the other airports to any significant extent for many reasons, including those presented by Bill Harding. Transport Canada should perform a thorough study of the capacity issues, including examining the limitations at other airports for accepting more than only a portion of Buttonville’s activity.

In over 10 years of this issue being a reality, the aviation industry has demonstrated that it alone cannot solve this problem. Governments all levels must step up to the plate and develop a plan for dealing with the loss of this airport.The impact of its closure is not limited to those in the industry but society will be affected in many obvious ways, including loss of training for future airline pilots and mechanics to name just two.

I strongly urge the federal government to take an active leadership role in developing a plan for GA in the GTA and COPA stands ready to assist. The clock is ticking toward the loss of a major transportation mode for Canada.

I would like to thank Bill for taking the time to raise awareness of this issue and I strongly urge every member, at this critical time in the history of GA in Canada, to make your federal representatives aware of the closure of Buttonville and urge them to engage the Minister of Transport in finding a solution.