Fact sheet and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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In 1972, the Government of Canada acquired 18,600 acres of land, 56 kilometers northeast of downtown Toronto (known as the Pickering Lands), to develop a new airport. In 1975, this plan was put on hold in favor of expanding existing airports. Properties on the Pickering Lands have been leased by the government to residential, farm and commercial tenants since then.

In June 2013, a balanced approach to the management of the Lands was announced, including the transfer for approximately 19.1 km2 (4,700 acres) to Parks Canada Agency (PCA) for the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP). The transfer was completed in April 2015. Subsequently, on April 1, 2017, an additional 21 km2 (5,200 acres) was transferred to PCA to further expand the RNUP. Transport Canada has retained approximately 35 km2 (8,700 acres) for a potential future airport. No decision has been made to develop an airport on the Pickering Lands.

As Transport Canada has determined that only a portion of the designated lands would be required for a potential future airport, the federal regulatory process to update the Pickering Airport Site Order and the Pickering Airport Site Zoning Regulations (PASZRs) was initiated. The PASZRs aim is to protect the smaller airport site for potential future aviation needs by ensuring land use and development adjacent to and in the vicinity of the airport site does not interfere with safe aircraft operations.

A Needs Assessment Study released in 2011, predicted an additional airport would be needed in the Greater Toronto Area between 2027 and 2037 and confirmed that the Pickering Lands would be an ideal location for a new airport. However, the data used for the 2011 study dates back to 2010 and needs to be updated.

In 2015, Dr. Gary Polonsky, the Independent Advisor on the Economic Development of the Pickering Lands, was mandated by the Government to conduct targeted stakeholder consultations on the future development of the Pickering Lands, including a potential future airport. Read the Advisor's report, as well as Transport Canada's response to his recommendations.

In May 2016, Transport Canada awarded a contract to KPMG to undertake a Pickering Lands Aviation Sector Analysis. The study updated supply and demand forecasts for aviation traffic, developed options for the type and role of an airport in the regional airport system, and provided an assessment of the economic impact of these options. The final phase of the Aviation Sector Analysis was completed in spring 2019.

Land use

  • The Government of Canada has taken a balanced approach to the management of the Pickering Lands, ensuring environmental, community, economic and aviation demands are being met. The vast majority of the Pickering Lands are used for agriculture, primarily horticulture.
  • Land use, by lease type, is comprised of:
    • 172 agricultural leases
    • 64 residential leases
    • 48 commercial leases/licences
  • The number of residential and commercial tenancies typically varies due to regular turnover. The number of agricultural tenancies is fairly constant.
  • Transport Canada manages the Pickering Lands Site to ensure the health and safety of its tenants, employees, property management agents, partner agencies, first responders and the general public.
  • Transport Canada may take steps to demolish structures which are vacant, dilapidated and/or uneconomical to rehabilitate and which could pose a threat to the safety of those who venture in or near them, whether authorized or trespassing.

Lease terms and lease transfers

  • Agricultural lease rates are $120/year per workable acre. All agricultural leases effective April 1, 2018 have 10-year terms at the same leasing rate.
  • Commercial lease rates are negotiated between individual lessees and Transport Canada and vary by site, intended land use and the ability to recover operating expenses such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes. The terms of commercial leases vary between month-to-month and multiple years.
  • Residential lease rates vary. The vast majority of residential leases were negotiated more than 20 years ago and were historically based on comparable type structures. The term of the residential leases are month-to-month and rental increases follow provincial requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are residential leases on a month-to-month basis and not for a longer term?

Month-to-month terms are standard in Ontario for residential leases after one year of occupancy.

What is the policy on residential tenancy?

Transport Canada aligns its management approach with Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act in managing residential leases. In addition, Transport Canada must also abide by a number of Treasury Board policies on land management, which require Transport Canada to take into consideration costs to the Department when managing a residential property.

Does Transport Canada lease to new tenants once an existing tenant vacates a property?

For agricultural properties, Transport Canada currently maintains a waiting list of potential tenants wishing to acquire vacant farm land. Currently, there is essentially zero vacancy of arable land; farmers very rarely, if ever, elect to terminate their agricultural leases, and if they do, there are local farmers waiting to take over the leases.

For both residential and commercial properties, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Transport Canada assesses the condition of built structures to determine whether marketing for re-tenancy is the best course of action or whether alternate actions (i.e. disposal, demolition, etc.) may be warranted should the structure's condition require significant capital investment for which the costs cannot be recovered through future revenues.

Agricultural lands

  • There are currently 172 active agricultural leases.
  • As of April 1, 2018, all agricultural leases were signed for 10-year terms.
  • When agricultural leases end, Transport Canada re-leases the lands for the same purpose. Transport Canada currently maintains a waiting list of prospective farmers waiting to expand their agricultural lease holdings should any become available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why has Transport Canada made the decision to update lease terms for agricultural properties on the Pickering Lands?

Tenant farmers have indicated a desire for greater stability via longer term leases. The new agricultural lease structure will provide this through longer tenures and fixed rental rates.

Ten years is a standard term for agricultural leases and provides adequate flexibility to the parties should there be a future decision to advance with an airport on the Pickering Lands.

Is Transport Canada reducing the amount of agricultural land available for lease?

No. Arable land is essentially fully leased and Transport Canada maintains a waiting list of farmers seeking to rent arable land should ever it become available.

Does Transport Canada limit what types of crops can be grown on the Pickering Lands?

No. Transport Canada has not mandated the type of crops agricultural tenants are allowed to grow.

Does Transport Canada allow for land improvements made by tenant farmers on the Pickering Lands?

Yes. Transport Canada is open to land improvements, such as the installation or improvement of field drainage tiles, made by tenant farmers. Transport Canada must be notified prior to undertaking any work.

Management of heritage properties

  • All structures on the Pickering Lands Site 40 years of age and greater are subject to the Treasury Board requirement to be reviewed by the Federal Heritage Building Review Office (FHBRO) for federal heritage significance. Transport Canada manages all heritage structures in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property.

Environmental stewardship

  • Transport Canada has partnered with several organizations to strengthen environmental stewardship of the Pickering Lands. Partnerships with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Canada and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and others has resulted in numerous aquatic and terrestrial ecological restoration and improvement projects completed on the Pickering Lands throughout the past 15 plus years.
  • Utilizing the services of our on-site property services agent, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions, any illegal waste is identified, contained, tested (if required) and disposed at an appropriate waste facility.

Pickering airport site order and zoning regulations

  • In 2013, the Government of Canada announced that the amount of land needed for a potential future airport will be smaller than originally planned. Accordingly, a new airport site designation and new Pickering Airport Site Zoning Regulations (PASZRs) were developed to reflect this smaller airport site. The new regulations (which enable the smaller planned site) will result in two key changes:
    • A newly designated smaller airport site; and
    • New height restrictions along take-off and landing corridors associated with the new airport site.
  • The existing Wildlife Hazard Zone and aviation communications restrictions will not change. Overall, the updated PASZRs will result in less private lands adjacent to the Pickering Lands Site being impacted by height restrictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the current status of advancing the proposed new Pickering Airport Site Zoning Regulations (PASZR) and Pickering Airport Site Order for approval?

The Pickering Airport Zoning Regulations are awaiting publication in Canada Gazette Part II, at which time they will come into force.

Do the proposed PASZRs mean that an airport is being developed?

No decision has been made to develop an airport on the Pickering Lands. The objective of updating the PASZRs is to ensure that land uses in the vicinity are compatible with aviation safety and that they do no create potential aviation hazards should a potential future airport be developed at the Pickering Lands.


Aviation Sector Analysis

  • The Aviation Sector Analysis is a three-phased study commissioned to KPMG in 2016 to undertake an evidence-based economic analysis of the Pickering Lands. The objectives of the study were to:
    • Update supply and demand forecasts for aviation traffic in Southern Ontario to determine whether a shortfall in aviation capacity is expected in the next 20 years (phase one);
    • Develop and evaluate options for the type of airport and its potential role in the Southern Ontario airport system (phase two); and
    • Provide an assessment of the revenue-generating potential and economic impact of these options (phase three).
  • The final phase of the Aviation Sector Analysis was completed in spring 2019. Transport Canada will use the Aviation Sector Analysis as part of its considerations and advice to the Minister on the future of the Pickering Lands. The Aviation Sector Analysis is one of many inputs into the development of advice to the Minister. Any future decision on the development of the Pickering Lands will be made based on a sound business case and updated data on aviation demand and capacity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the expected results of the Aviation Sector Analysis?

There are no predetermined expectations. With the study phase now complete, Transport Canada will use the Aviation Sector Analysis as part of its considerations and advice on the future of the Pickering Lands.

Does the Aviation Sector Analysis consider the possibility that other GTA airports could expand to meet demand instead of new airport being developed?

The Aviation Sector Analysis examined present and future capacities of all major commercial airports within Southern Ontario. As such, it considers that other airports could expand to meet demand.

Would Transport Canada recommend a new airport on the Pickering Lands without a sound business case?

No decision has been made to develop an airport on the Pickering Lands. Any future decision on the development of the Pickering Lands will be made based on a sound business case and updated data on aviation demand and capacity.

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