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L’affaire de l’aéroport de Neuville continue de faire son chemin dans les médias anglophones: Articles dans The Montreal Gazette:

They point to a 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court that the federal government’s jurisdiction in aviation overrides provincial laws, meaning a private operator could build a new airport and ignore provincial environment or farmland protection laws.

The ruling was a seven-two decision, with two Quebec justices dissenting.

In addition, the Union of Canadian Municipalities is concerned there could be a proliferation of new airports across the country, said Robert Jasmin, who organized a demonstration in Neuville on the weekend attended by about 600 people.

Jasmin noted a recent study by Marie Lynn Miranda, a University of Michigan environmental health scientist, that found blood-lead levels of 2 per cent to 4 per cent in people living near airports.

“That’s small,” Miranda said. “But we’re getting more and more evidence that indicates even very small amounts of lead is bad.”

Children in particular are vulnerable to lead, which can damage young brains and nervous systems, Miranda wrote in her report, saying exposure can cause “decreases in IQ, changes in test scores, changes in attention, hearing threshold, all sorts of things like that.”

Martin Mercier, president of Neuville Aéro, the private operators of the new airport, said Monday that leaded fuel – banned from Canadian highways since 1990 but still allowed to fuel small aircraft – has been used for years in all 6,000 airports across Canada.

“I have never heard of anyone who was sick,” Mercier said in a telephone interview.

The weekend demonstration was attended by federal and provincial politicians, including federal Liberal Denis Coderre, several New Democrats and Maria Mourani of the Bloc Québécois, who raised the issue in the House of Commons on Monday.

Answering Mourani, Transport Minister Denis Lebel said his responsibility is the safety of air travellers – and “there is no safety issue here.”

When Mercier and his partners broached the idea of an airport in Neuville, Mayor Bernard Gaudreau proposed a bylaw saying no airport could be built “within five kilometres of a residential area.”

Mercier showed up at the town hall with the Supreme Court judgment, telling Gaudreau he could not block the airport. The mayor, a lawyer, realized he had no choice, so he negotiated an agreement on flight paths and hours of operation.

Townspeople raised objections and the mayor sided with them, saying he had signed “with a knife at the throat,” Jasmin said. “The citizens decided to fight.”

Last week, the National Assembly adopted a unanimous motion proposed by local Liberal MNA Michel Matte calling on Ottawa to respect Quebec’s laws in this case.

Mercier said he will not back down.

“When you sign an agreement,” he said, “you have to respect it.”

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