A Pickering airport could hurt business by siphoning some of Toronto's overflow away from Hamilton.
That infuriates critics of Hamilton's airport development policy.
They say that success for the Hamilton airport has long been portrayed as being just one more step away.
Michael Desnoyers calls it a strategy of "hopeful survival."
"Get that one more thing and things will turn around," said Desnoyers, chair of a group called Hamiltonians for Progressive Development.
"I don't believe that this airport can economically survive in this geographic area," Desnoyers said. "I could be dead nuts wrong, I'm no visionary.
"But historically, since the '60s, that airport has struggled. What's been any different about its location in the past 40 years?"
Even one of the airport's major longtime tenants has raised doubts about the direction of the facility.
"I don't want to take a slap at TradePort but before (TradePort), the Hamilton airport was run very efficiently," said Barry Lapointe, founder and president of Kelowna Flightcraft, one of the largest and longest-serving cargo operations at the airport.
"They really went a little crazy on the administration," said Lapointe. "They were going to make Hamilton into another Toronto.
"We kept saying, 'Slow down and focus on developing traffic and revenue and things will come.'"
Lapointe also started Greyhound Air in 1996, one of the first low-cost airlines to try to make Hamilton a major passenger hub.
Lapointe said he learned his lesson.
"I don't ever see Hamilton being a major scheduled passenger hub," said Lapointe. "We opened up Hamilton to the passenger market. I lived it."
Lapointe said Hamilton airport would be better off concentrating on cargo operations than passengers.
"Hamilton has turned into one of the great cargo centres of Canada," said Lapointe. "It's an affordable-to-build place."
But it's becoming less affordable as a place for his planes to land.
Since 1996, when TradePort took over, Lapointe said Hamilton has had the largest percentage increase in landing fees of all the Canadian airports he uses.
Over those 10 years, Lapointe said his landing fees in Hamilton have increased 150 per cent. The next highest increase is 95 per cent over 10 years at the Moncton airport, which has the same parent company as Hamilton.
What bothers Lapointe is that there is no independent agency that oversees the Hamilton airport.
"If TradePort wants to increase my landing fees, they can," said Lapointe. "I don't have any mechanism of appealing it, short of pulling my business and we don't want to do it.
"The problem is you can't land airplanes in the middle of Highway 91," Lapointe added. "We are a captive group of people."
The structure of the contract between TradePort and the city is unique in Canada.
When the federal government transferred ownership of regional airports to municipalities in the mid-'90s, most municipalities chose to own and operate them as well.
A small number, including Hamilton, turned over operation of their airports to private companies, such as TradePort, and each of those municipalities negotiated their own distinct deals.
But Hamilton's contract with TradePort is the only one that built in such a high level of secrecy in combination with the lack of an independent agency to oversee operation of the airport.
"It doesn't sound like Hamilton made a very good deal, but maybe it made sense at the time," said Douglas Reid, a Queen's University business professor who specializes in the airport industry.
Next year marks one of two chances for Hamilton to break the contract with TradePort. The only other opportunity will come in 2012.
If the city wants out, however, it will have to show that TradePort has failed to meet at least half of certain projections made back in 1996.
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