Airport at centre of Ward 1 debate

The City Centre Airport was a hot topic at an all candidates meeting in West Edmonton Monday night.

The City Centre Airport was a hot topic at an all candidates meeting in West Edmonton Monday night.

Several questions about the airport's future were raised at the Ward 1 forum at Westlawn Junior High School.

Council voted in 2009 to close the airport and earlier this month rejected a petition seeking a public vote in the Oct. 18 municipal election. 

Candidates were asked if they thought it should be kept open for emergency medical flights.

Candidate Jamie Kenneth Post said he backs council's decision to close the airport.

"Councillors made a decision last summer, and regardless of what you think of the decision, they stuck by it at a very difficult time, and I do respect that," he said.

Candidate Andrew Knack turned the attention to improving health services in northern Alberta saying the closure of the airport is just a small point in the bigger issue.

"We could upgrade the Grande Prairie or Fort McMurray hospital to accept these time-critical patients. So instead of being concerned about the potential 10-minute difference between the City Centre Airport and [Edmonton International Airport], we could actually cut two hours off their time," he said.

Incumbent councillor Linda Sloan said that as a former nurse, she knows the importance of getting patients to hospitals as quickly as possible.

She backed an unsuccessful petition by Envision Edmonton to hold a plebiscite on the airport's future.

At the debate, Sloan was asked why she introduced a motion in council, without success, to hold a plebiscite.

She said not enough information was available when council voted to close City Centre. 

"It was a very uninformed way about making a decision about an asset that is probably worth more than $4 or $5 billion and I could not in good conscience vote to close and sell that asset which belongs 100 per cent to the citizens of this city without having some form of public debate," Sloan said.