MPPs Stand Up for Buttonville
By Rob Seaman
On a sunny afternoon in mid-August, amidst the comings and goings at what is the third busiest airport in Ontario, York Region Progressive Conservative MPPs Peter Shurman (Thornhill), Frank Klees (Newmarket-Aurora) and Julia Munro (York Simcoe), held a media event on the ramp of Buttonville Airport.
By Rob Seaman
On a sunny afternoon in mid-August, amidst the comings and goings at what is the third busiest airport in Ontario, York Region Progressive Conservative MPPs Peter Shurman (Thornhill), Frank Klees (Newmarket-Aurora) and Julia Munro (York Simcoe), held a media event on the ramp of Buttonville Airport. The purpose? To express their support and concern for the future of the airport.
|Ontario MPPs (left to right) Frank Klees, Peter Shurman and Julia Munro, and Toronto Airways president, Derek Sifton, provide a media update at Buttonville airport.
The event was in response to a recent letter from the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport owners and management, sent to federal, provincial and regional/municipal politicians. The letter advises that in light of the decision by the federal government not to provide infrastructure or operational funds to replace monies lost by the airport when the GTAA cancelled its capacity agreement with Buttonville, effective April of this year, that as land owners and businesspeople, they are proceeding with appropriate planning and initial support development to convert their lands into a more viable venture. Speaking to those in attendance, Derek Sifton the president of Toronto Airways Ltd. (management and operators of the airport), advised that, “Continuing with the status quo is not an option for us. We must develop and implement medium- and long-term business strategies that more appropriately suit our new circumstances and provide clarity for the airport’s future and the alternative use of the lands and the realignment of our business units.” Sifton stressed that it will take time – years in fact – to rezone the lands and prepare the site for development. So closure today is not an issue. That said, it was clear and apparent that as things stand now, development of the property is the focus for the future.
Shurman, who is the economic development and trade critic in the Ontario legislature, noted how many years ago he first learned to fly at the airport and has since been an active pilot and aircraft owner. “I am not doing this for personal reasons. This is not about Peter Shurman. It is however about the constituents that I represent, the community as a whole and the businesses and people who need and use this airport.” He went on to say, “without government investment in aviation infrastructure, the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport will close.”
According to the three MPPs, this closure will significantly undermine York Region’s economic potential (most recent impact studies show that Buttonville contributes just shy of $100 million annually to the region).
Following GTAA’s termination of its funding agreement earlier this year, both Shurman and Klees asked Ontario’s Transportation Minister Jim Bradley to ensure that the airport, whether through federal or provincial investment, continues to operate. “I was very encouraged by Minister Bradley’s response to my question when I first approached him on this issue,” said Shurman. That, according to records, was some time ago now and nothing has changed or been put in place to fix the problem it would seem.
In his comments, Frank Klees, who also approached the Transportation Minister on this topic, stated, “Whether the funds come from the Ministry of Transportation, Public Infrastructure Renewal or Economic Development, the province has a responsibility to step in and resolve this issue. We are counting on Minister Bradley to follow through on the commitments that he made in the House and work with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure the continued operations of this airport.”
And then in a moment that only Hollywood could have scripted better, a large medevac helicopter descended to the adjacent ramp and was met by a waiting ambulance. This occurred just as MPP Julia Munro was expressing her concern for continuation of the number of critical care transfers that occur daily through the airport and overall social and community support it provides.
In closing, all three MPPs thanked Derek Sifton and his family for their years of support to aviation and the York Region and acknowledged the longstanding battle this airport has had to get its public and unrestricted accessibility supported or aided by government sources. “For over 45 years, they have supported numerous enterprises, provided essential services and created jobs in the region,” observed Shurman. Klees concluded his contribution by forcefully and pointedly saying, “this airport must stay open.”