A group branding themselves as Envision Edmonton are calling for a plebiscite to keep the downtown airport open. I believe that this is a tired issue in the minds of many Edmontonians, but judging by the slick television advertisements showcased on their website, this group might be in the position to spend as much money as it takes to make the airport an election issue in October. Mack Male has done an excellent job researching who is behind this group.
In June 2009, after a year of consultations and three months of public hearings, City Council voted to close the City Centre Airport over a phased period of time. That year saw some incredible public debate and citizen-driven advocacy that is not always a common sight in our city. Supporters of the airport were obviously dismayed when they could not convince Councillors to keep the airport on life-support, but many of them who I spoke with accepted the decision and moved on. I genuinely feel that a many Edmontonians on either side of this debate are simply tired of this issue, which has been debated to death over the past 30 years.
With most Councillors seeking re-election (and most likely to get re-elected) and a court challenge defeated injunction denied, a plebisite seems like the last logical step in the political process. If they are successful in collecting 80,000 signatures to force a plebiscite, one could be held in the October 2010 election.
I have lived in the Capital Region my entire life and have only used the City Centre Airport once. I will be stepping foot on the City Centre Airport lands for the second time in my life to enjoy the Honda Indy Edmonton in July. I am damn excited for the races, but I could care less if it were held on the City Centre Airport runways.
I am proud of the decision that City Councillors made in June 2009. By voting for a phased closure of the airport, Council demonstrated responsibility and made a courageous decision. They have taken up the challenge of implementing some (literally) ground-shifting positive change to how urban Edmonton will develop in the next decades. It is extremely rare for any major urban area to be given the challenge of developing such a large piece of land so close to the city core.
As a proud Edmontonian, I am very excited about the unparalleled opportunity that developing this land will give our city.
In May 2010, I wrote a two-part series describing some of the opportunities and challenges facing Edmonton’s downtown core.