Jim Flaherty characterized the decision to finally break ground on a new airport at the federally owned Pickering Lands as a "responsible, balanced approach" to development of the 18,600-acre property.
"For residents of Durham Region and the GTA, the Harper government is ending decades of uncertainty about the future of the Pickering Lands," Flaherty said. "There will be land for an airport, there will be urban and industrial development and there will be considerable green space on these lands."
The plan is to develop 4,650 acres of the land for the airport, then devote the rest of the space for an urban park and economic development.
The government acquired the Pickering Lands in 1972, but opposition to plans for the green space to be developed for an airport forced the project to be shelved for years.
Building a new airport, particularly in light of the imminent closing of the Buttonville Airport, would position Durham Region as a transportation hub that will spur job creation and energize business development, Flaherty said.
2011 report identified lands as ideal for airport
The government conducted a Needs Assessment Study in 2011 that concluded that an additional airport in the region would be needed between 2027 and 2037. The report identified the Pickering Lands as a prime space for such an airport and the government has now focused on the southeast quadrant of the site as appropriate for the facility.
"As we protect land for a future airport, a considerable tract of land will also be made available for job-creating development that will bring new opportunities to Pickering and Durham Region," Flaherty said.
Another 5,000 acres will be reserved for Parks Canada to create what will be known as Rouge National Urban Park — a plot of land that will be more than 13 times the size of Vancouver's Stanley Park.
Environment Minister Peter Kent said the development of a national urban park in the Rouge Valley would be the realization of a vision outlined in the Conservative government's 2012 Economic Action Plan.
"With federal and provincial commitments for lands, we are not one, but two steps closer to creating a true 'Canadian first' with Rouge National Urban Park — a place where nature, culture and agriculture can be protected, appreciated, experienced and supported," Kent said.
Transport Canada plans to meet with stakeholders, businesses and local communities for feedback on the proposed expansion project and management of the Pickering Lands.
The airport is tentatively scheduled to be built by 2027.