Deborah Flint-de Groot: I was just an assistant to the CEO for just shy of a year. The same time as I was going to be running the airport, an outbreak of the SARS virus – they actually called it a “pandemic” in the UK but not in Canada.
But by that time, I was on notice that we were seeing the peak of a full-blown SARS virus outbreak at Pearson. And I recall being very distressed with the human toll and also thinking about all the human sacrifice – where so many of the community services were saying that they could not get blood and blood products on this frontline. They needed them now. They needed them to stop this epidemic. And I remember wanting to do something to try to stem that flow and make the community easier to cope with, and certainly by the time I would leave there I had gone through all the various prevention programmes and P.A. systems and technology systems that have been put in place in terms of tracking, testing for SARS.
But I do think that airport is a really important population centre when you have to manage a pandemic. At times when you are working as I did in a hub airport or a critical mega airport – which Pearson is – I think that’s where you’ve got to do your best work. Because it’s all about stopping the spread of disease to the next step, not managing its spread from one area to another.