Oops! $150K Pickering airport study was 'a pure typo,' city staff say

A Pickering staff report is causing unexpected turbulence for city officials after residents found plans in it to spend more than $100,000 studying a long-discussed but never-approved airport east of Toronto.

City says 'Pickering airport feasibility study' was mistakenly labelled — but residents aren’t convinced

This photo appears at the top of a page on the city of Pickering website dedicated to the potential development of an airport. On Tuesday a correction was posted to clarify what staff say was a typo in a budget document. (pickering.ca)

A Pickering staff report is causing unexpected turbulence for city officials after residents found plans in it to spend more than $100,000 studying a long-discussed but never-approved airport east of Toronto.

A $150,000 "Pickering Airport Feasibility Study" is listed as a recommended development charge in the 2018 budget.

But it never should have been there, according to city staff, at least not by that title.

"Unfortunately, it was just a pure typo on the part of our finance department," Tony Prevedel, Pickering's chief administrative officer, said in an interview.

On Tuesday, a correction was posted on the city of Pickering website.

It says the $150,000 isn't for an airport feasibility study, but rather "a public engagement initiative on the Economic and Employment Impact within the Highway 407 Corridor, which includes the Pickering Innovation Corridor and the potential airport in Pickering."

A correction posted on the city of Pickering website this week. (pickering.ca)

The Pickering Innovation Corridor is roughly 300 hectares of employment lands along Highway 407, directly adjacent to the 7,530 hectares of land expropriated by Transport Canada in 1972 for a potential airport.

Prevedel says the initiative will seek feedback from residents about both sites, even if the airport hasn't been approved.

"As a planner, as an engineer, I have to think of the big picture," he said.

Typo explanation is 'fishy'

For Mary Delaney, the city's typo explanation "sounds a little fishy."

Delaney is a Pickering resident and chair of Land Over Landings, a community group that's staunchly against an airport.

Mary Delaney is the chair of Land Over Landings, a community group opposing the development of an airport in Pickering. (Jonathan Castell)

In October, despite fierce and long-standing opposition from some residents, Pickering city council formally supported the development of an airport, subject to federal government approval.

Delaney doesn't think the city should be spending money on a still-hypothetical project.

"There's no business case, there are no air carriers interested. So why is the city of Pickering doing this?"

Tuesday's correction about the study is found on a recently-created page on the city of Pickering's website titled "Airport Lands."

The page includes information about the economic benefits of an airport and is topped with a photo of a smiling young girl who has her arms extended like wings.

The web page rubs certain residents the wrong way. They view it as taxpayer-funded "marketing" for a still contentious plan.

"Why would Pickering be advertising about an airport that is non-existent, not approved, and may never be?" Mike Borie, a Pickering resident who supports the Land Over Landings group, said in an interview.

Transport Canada is currently in the midst of the Pickering Lands Aviation Sector Analysis, a study of the business case and demand for an airport in the area that is expected to be "instrumental" in any future decisions. Results are expected in 2018.

About the Author

Trevor Dunn

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español. trevor.dunn@cbc.ca


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