OTTAWA - The Ottawa International Airport Authority (OIAA) has moved forward with the destruction of a 10-acre red pine forest on Hunt Club Road despite widespread community opposition.
Over 20,000 residents signed a petition calling for a cancellation of this plan, but the OIAA had virtual free rein to develop land leased to it by Transport Canada through its 1997 mandate without meaningfully consulting the public. This decision reflects a lack of oversight and accountability for airport authorities across Canada.
“The Canadian government has abdicated responsibility for regulating these airports,” said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands.
In 2021, the government said in its throne speech that it “will work with municipalities as part of a new commitment to expand urban parks, so that everyone has access to green space.” Protecting urban plantations, forests and wetlands around airport authorities from further development needs to be a priority in this session of Parliament.
Examples from across Canada demonstrate the lack of accountability for airport authorities. Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) has another 50 years on its lease with Transport Canada for 272 hectares of land. In 2019, much of the 19-hectare park and swampland in Technoparc near the Montréal Trudeau International Airport was slated for development. This threatened the biodiverse ecosystems of the area, notably one of the smallest heron species in the world, the least bittern. It was only due to the advocacy of environmentalists and activists that the authority was pressured to announce it would protect a portion of the land as an ecological park. Elizabeth signed an open letter in 2021 calling for a federal wildlife reserve project on the land. However, ADM has since continued developments across Technoparc that threaten flora and wildlife, notably razing milkweed plants that serve as a crucial food source for the at-risk monarch butterfly.
The Green Party is calling on the federal government to open a review of the mandates of all 26 airports in the National Airports System (NAS). These outdated mandates must be modernised. Transport Canada needs to be able to intervene and modify and prevent developments on lands leased to these authorities without contractual barriers. In the interim, a moratorium must be placed on all developments taking place on leased Transport Canada land at the OIAA.
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