I recently signed a petition initiated by NoJetsTO urging City Council to vote against expanding Billy Bishop Airport (a.k.a. “Toronto Island Airport”/YTZ), and NoJetsTO kindly profiled me on their website. Amongst the many insightful conversations I’ve had with Torontonians since launching the Robb Not Ford campaign, I had a particularly interesting one about YTZ, from an industry standpoint, after Paint‘s show at Rancho Relaxo on Friday. Given the upcoming (February 25) public consultation on YTZ, it seemed fitting to expand upon the issue here (no pun intended).
As a resident of Toronto’s Greektown, I’m not a citizen with a direct vested interest in the waterfront so much as a concerned citizen when it comes to potentially expanding a service with unclear environmental and economic impact to a community that may not necessarily welcome it.
I support Porter Airlines and agree that their customer service and the convenience of flying from YTZ to select destinations are appealing. Upholding the status quo at Billy Bishop, which was in 2011 Canada’s 9th busiest airport (2.3 million passengers in 2012 compared to 31.8 million at Pearson in 2010), is not necessarily detrimental to Toronto or the waterfront. Pushing the envelope, however, without definitive noise information for CS100 jets, or a conclusive health consultation process, not to mention that 16 of 44 city councillors did not have a firm position on the issue, could be putting the local community and environment at long-term risk in the interests of corporate investment. Furthermore, pushing nature’s boundaries could be dangerous terrain given that Toronto Island may already an inadequate space to host such an airport expansion; Bombardier’s specification for a runway is 4600 feet, which Porter has cut to 4000 and consequently reduced passenger counts from 78 to 70 to accommodate the reduced space the Island affords.
I signed the NoJets petition because there isn’t a consensus on whether or not expanding YTZ would be counter-productive to the investments that have been made to Waterfront Renewal and Ontario Place Revitalization, or what Toronto could (potentially) be like if every day was like the Air Show or the Honda Indy. Expanding YTZ is a recent development that was not part of the initial plan, and it would seem wise to examine other options, such as providing an UP Link from Union Station to Pearson Airport, and separating cargo and commercial flights between Pearson and, for instance, Downsview (YZD) or the planned airport in Pickering.
I am not taking the position of “No Jets Forever” so much as advocating for greater consensus amongst the waterfront community, health and environmental science, and city councillors, before taking any action. A “study” claiming that two-thirds of residents agreed with expanding the airport, funded by Rob Ford’s campaign manager in 2010, bereft with misleading questions, is hardly evidence of consensus. A tripartite agreement between 1) Toronto Port Authority; 2) Toronto City Council; and 3) the Government of Canada, appears to be resting largely upon the shoulders of Toronto City Council, who will be having an Executive Committee Meeting on March 25, and a City Council Meeting on April 1 (tentative date).
But first, putting aside the irony that a consultation primarily about the waterfront is happening on February 25 in Scarborough, I strongly encourage any concerned citizens to make the commute and make their voices heard. A list of issues on the table can be read HERE.
I will see you there!