One of Canada’s busiest GA airports will be closed within five years to make way for a massive housing development. And while the Sifton family, which owns the 160-acre Buttonville Airport, near downtown Toronto, will make hundreds of millions of dollars on the deal, they’ve fought for years to maintain the money-losing operation that serves as an important reliever to Pearson International Airport. “We definitely do have mixed emotions on this,” owner Derek Sifton told the National Post. The airport has been in the Sifton family for 40 years and, while the family has other interests to keep food on the table, the airport has been their passion. It was not, they claim, their idea to close it. The Greater Toronto Airport Authority cancelled $1.5 million in annual funding for the facility last year and Sifton said that without the grant, the airport can’t go on. The closure has prompted a lot of discussion in Canadian aviation circles, particularly about where the various aviation companies, a community college and hundreds of based aircraft will go.
Buttonville is the only GA airport within Toronto that can accept jets and is heavily used by business aircraft because it’s relatively close to downtown. Trish Kale, a spokeswoman for the airport authority, told the Post the decision to cut Buttonville’s funding was based on declining traffic at Pearson. “Our focus really is Toronto Pearson. It’s the only airport that we operate and we decided we needed to look more closely in-house,” she said. “We do support air traffic in the entire region, however, we really think it’s the government’s responsibility to properly oversee and develop that system of airports that could exist.” The federal government turned down numerous requests by the Siftons for help, saying it does not subsidize private airports. The development of the site will create a “town within a city” with a mix of residential, commercial and professional space.