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Pickering to get airport: Flaherty

The federal government says an airport will be created at the Pickering Lands, ending decades of uncertainty for the federally-owned land that encompasses Pickering, Markham and Uxbridge.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made the announcement Tuesday morning with Environment Minister Peter Kent while at the 7,440 hectare Pickering Lands, which is about 56 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

Flaherty said there will be land for an airport, urban and industrial development and considerable green space on the Pickering Lands.

“I’m here to confirm the uncertainty ends today,” Flaherty said. “The Harper government is moving forward with a responsible and balanced plan for the development and preservation of the Pickering Lands.”

Flaherty said that with the Buttonville Municipal Airport closing,  Highway 407 being extended eastward and now clarity around the Pickering Lands, “Durham Region is well positioned to be a hub for transportation, business development and job creation.”

The announcement angered some local residents again who weren’t allowed to attend the announcement.

Members of Land Over Landings, a group opposed to a Pickering airport, say they’ll continue their 40-year fight, arguing the land is valuable farmland.

Group member Mary Delaney said the airport has been the No. 1 issue in every election for the past 40 years and it’ll be an election issue again.

“We’ve got the best agricultural land. We’ve got fresh water, fresh food, Class-1 agricultural land,” she told CityNews. “We just can’t be paving it. It’s a global issue not just local.”

Part of the announcement also includes some economic development on the lands and transferring 2,000 hectares from the western portion of the Pickering Lands to Parks Canada to form part of the future Rouge National Urban Park. The new park will be more than 13 times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

“Today marks a truly exciting milestone as we are not one but two steps closer to creating Rouge National Urban Park, the first of its kind in Canada,” Kent said. “It will be a place where nature, culture and agriculture are protected, appreciated, experienced and celebrated, a legacy for future generations to embrace.”

Flaherty didn’t say when the airport would be built. But in 2011, the government released a needs assessment study that indicated an additional airport in the region would be needed between 2027 and 2037 and that the Pickering Lands would be an ideal location.

The government has now identified the southeast quadrant of the existing lands as the site for the future airport and that the amount of land required is smaller than originally thought.

Transport Canada will meet with stakeholders, businesses and local communities on the future of the remaining Pickering lands. Information sessions will occur on June 24 and 27.

CORRECTION: An earlier version misstated that Pickering would get an airport by 2027.