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Montreal mayor asks Ottawa to intervene to delay demolition of Mirabel airport

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre answers reporters’ questions about a plan to demolish Mirabel airport during a news conference Friday, May 2, 2014 at city hall. The airport, which has been described as a white elephant, first opened with great fanfare in 1975 , but was shutdown in 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Ray

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Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre answers reporters’ questions about a plan to demolish Mirabel airport during a news conference Friday, May 2, 2014 at city hall. The airport, which has been described as a white elephant, first opened with great fanfare in 1975 , but was shutdown in 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Ray

MONTREAL - Montreal's mayor wants Ottawa to prevent the local airport authority from demolishing Mirabel airport.

James Cherry, president and CEO of the Aeroports de Montreal airport authority, has launched a call for tenders to demolish Mirabel, which has had no passenger flights since 2004.

Since then, all such traffic has passed through Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in suburban Dorval.

Mayor Denis Coderre said Friday he wants Denis Lebel, the federal minister responsible for infrastructure, to contact Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to halt the demolition to give Mirabel Mayor Jean Bouchard time to present an alternative solution.

"I'm asking him (Lebel) to speak with minister Raitt and tell her to give us more time — a couple of months, so we can look at alternatives," Coderre said.

"There's no need to demolish it tomorrow morning," Coderre told a news conference.

He said he and other Montreal-area mayors are behind Mirabel's efforts to protect the airport from the wrecker's ball.

"If you have men and women who think they can find an alternative, our role is to support them," Coderre said. "If that doesn't work, then at the end of the line, we'll take decisions."

The Montreal-Mirabel Corporation, a non-profit group, is preparing a feasibility study on transforming the airport into a convention centre. One proposal would be to have it play host to an international aeronautics show, similar to the one held annually in Europe.

The Mirabel mayor and former Quebec premier Bernard Landry are members of the corporation.

Mirabel was billed as the airport of the future when it first opened in 1975. Officials predicted at the time that 60 million passengers would pass through its gates annually by 2010, but yearly passengers traffic never surpassed three million.

New infrastructures, which were to include a high-speed rail link and a highway linking Montreal directly to the airport were never completed.

The federal government expropriated more than 324 square kilometres of prime farmland, but only used 16 square kilometres for the airport. A total of 10,000 people had also been forced from their homes.

Aircraft manufacturing giant Bombardier still has a huge plant and a testing centre near the sprawling airport complex, 40 kilometres north of Montreal.

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