Mascouche could be the next Mirabel if the municipal government get its way, said hundreds of protesters on Saturday.

Residents and farmers gathered to protest Mayor Guillaume Tremblay’s plans of selling the land the Mascouche airport is on so that it can be turned into a multipurpose commuter and business hub.

The airport would then be moved to agricultural plots neighbouring the current location of the airport.

The new airport would take up about four million square feet and would result in the expropriation of 11 homes. Protesters compared it to the expropriations of the little-used Mirabel airport.

“One of them is going to lose his job; they’ve been working there three generations. The other one is losing his 200-year-old house,” said protest organizer Micheline Chauvette.

"They're taking some of the best agricultural land in the province of Quebec, and they're going to cover it with asphalt for an airport that’s used for pleasure,” said resident Rohan Pointer.

Pierre Boudreau, the president of the Mascouche Airport Pilots and Owners Association, disagrees.

He said it’s a myth that the airport is only used for hobby pilots. He said 80 per cent of the flights going in and out of Mascouche are for training purposes.

Legal subterfuge?

Stéphane Sansfaçon, president of agricultural workers’ union UPA in l’Assomption-Les Moulins, said the mayor needed to listen to his constituents before diving head-first into a project that is “unacceptable at all levels.”

Because building an airport is a federal matter, the City of Mascouche doesn’t need permission from the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec, the provincial organization that oversees all agricultural land sales.

Nicolas Lemieux, the spokesman for the citizens’ committee against the moving of the airport, said the mayor had ample opportunity to talk to residents about his plans during the last municipal election campaign but chose not to.

Lemieux said now the mayor is presenting Mascouche residents with a done deal that has, he said, doubtful arguments and legal subterfuge regarding the economic benefits behind it.

Boudreau said building the new airport is a must because using other airports like Mirabel is too expensive.

Mascouche’s administration declined CBC’s request for an interview.