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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why I still have misgivings about air cargo

A few weeks ago, committee of the whole examined and endorsed some large potential projects to put the city on the road to economic recovery with the hope of replacing the job losses that we have experienced in the manufacturing sector.

Among the proposals is the prospect of an expanded airport that includes a focus on air cargo that would bring perishables (exotic foods) and other items into the city for re-packaging and redistribution to other parts of Canada and the US. The vision is that if we build a warehouse/distribution centre at the airport, given that our landing fees are significantly lower that Toronto's and that we are in a central position with good access to the 401/402, exporters will want to use London and create lots of handling and spin offs jobs at the airport. A number of other airports are looking at this possibility so why not London?

I have a number of concerns:
  1. A number of other airports are engaged in going after the same possibility and they are way ahead of us in feasibility studies and grant applications. Rather than compete with other communities, like Windsor and Hamilton, which are in need of jobs just like we are, I would prefer to find our own niche. Let's not just copy others!
  2. The airport is a private business and not prepared to invest in its own ambitions. It is looking to various levels of government to finance the whole endeavour. The other airports are actually owned by their respective municipal governments. If this is an opportunity that just can't miss, why is the private sector not anxious to invest?
  3. Air transportation is a very environmentally unfriendly form of transportation. In a time when we are trying to reduce our environmental footprint, air cargo encourages just the reverse.
  4. Societal values are changing. People are seeking to reduce consumption, not increase it. People are looking at ways to support their local agriculture and businesses rather than looking for more carbon-laden imports.
  5. Every dollar we invest in environmentally unfriendly endeavours is a dollar lost to environmentally friendly initiatives like light rail and local food production.

There are many things to endorse about the proposals for building the new economy. I'm not convinced that this is one of them.

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