NOW Magazine: Porter Puts Up Noise Barrier

NOW Magazine Cuts Through the Clutter: Jets on the Waterfront Are Not About Noise - and NoJetsTO Gets Featured September 23, 2013 TORONTO - Got to hand it to Robert Deluce. He’s one slick operator. That was quite the charm offensive at last Thursday’s public consultation at the Direct Energy Centre. The Porter Airlines CEO had employees bussed in to make sure the one and only real public consultation on his Island Airport expansion plans wasn’t going to be a free for all for opponents. At least two buses were spotted outside. They came armed and ready with talking points about Porter being representative of an iconic Canadian company, driving innovation in the aviation industry and it’s contribution to the Toronto economy. A compelling argument, given the current state of the manufacturing economy in Canada. Even though the CS100s Porter’s planning to buy from Bombardier will be built in China and Ireland. There were feel-good stories, too. Like about the grandmother from Halifax who could now visit her grandchildren, which didn’t quite have the desired effect, eliciting boos from the gathering. The emphasis was on putting a human face on Porter. The effort succeeded. Especially in painting the jets debate as one between well-heeled residents on the waterfront (concerned about a little noise) and the needs of the rest of the city. One Porter supporter suggested waterfront residents have it better than the rest of us. She noted there’s an 11 pm curfew on flights on the airport, unlike other parts of the city where streetcars and buses run 24-7. Have to admit, that one left my ears ringing, but Porter has some of the best creative minds in the biz of marketing on this one. Besides the lobbyists flooding the offices of city councillors, there’s Winkreative the London-based firm behind Porter’s image makeover and those award-winning raccoon ads pushing “flying refined.” Check the flyers to get folks out to Thursday’s meeting. They suggest those opposed to Porter’s expansion plans, which has its own hashtag (#PorterPlans) don’t you know, are no smarter than first graders. To Porter, residents opposed to their plans are a mere nuisance. This one may already be in the bag. At the first public consultation at Metro Hall during the Toronto International Film Festival a week earlier, flyers advertising Porter fights to Los Angeles were being handed out. The talking points delivered by Porter employees had the desired effect. A few at the meeting who spoke against airport expansion ended up looking a little, well, flakey. When one speaker mentioned the nearby bird sanctuary and the increased risk of bird strikes posed by the CS100 jets, you could almost feel the collective eye-rolling. At least, judging by some of the back and forth going on simultaneously on Twitter. This video illustrates the seriousness of the issue.

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But that’s been part of the problem with the debate over Island Airport expansion. All the noise about noise has become a distraction. The potential health effects from a 30 per cent increase in jet travel on the waterfront and the impact on jet travel on the lake, our drinking water, have received less consideration. What will an expanded airport mean for traffic at the foot of Bathurst, which is a chaotic mess now? It’ll probably suck the life out of the area. But that issues has barely registered outside of those directly affected. One of the biggest misconceptions: that most of the opposition to Porter’s plans is coming from folks opposed to the existence of the airport, period. In fact, not even NoJetsTO, the group spearheading opposition, is against an airport on the waterfront. It’s against expansion. The city deserves part of the blame for the narrow focus. The city’s own public consultation information document deals only with the potential benefits of Island Airport expansion. Council, in its wisdom, didn’t see fit to ask staff to enumerate the drawbacks. That seems by design, since it’s Deluce’s friends at the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) that are paying for the consultation, presumably they get to make the rules. Island Airport expansion is not just about the noise, of course. Or the Richie Richs on the Island. Those who’ll be most immediately affected by an open-skies policy, are folks living in co-ops a few hundred metres away from the runway, not the members of the nearby National Yacht Club. The false perception persists. Deluce wants nothing more than to make the debate about anything but the economic viability of his expansion plans or the fact his expansion plans will be make or break for the airline. All the while, more questions are being asked about the cost overruns associated with the CS100s. *** Deluce wants us to believe his is an airline for all Toronto and not just his business buddies on Bay Street. The Toronto Port Authority, who’ve embarked on a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to bust “myths” about airport expansion, are helping engage in a little misinformation on that one. The TPA’s annual Ipsos survey released earlier this month claimed that the majority of folks using the Island Airport, some 60 per cent, are leisure travellers. Proof positive, Porter spokerperson Brad Cicero told the Globe, that “the idea that this is an airport for certain small segment of business travelers is very outdated.” Seems, however, that the Ipsos results were a little, shall we say, skewed, forcing the TPA president and CEO, Geoffrey Wilson, to issue a statement clarifying that the opposite holds true – most Porter users are business clients. A point made clear by a more detailed survey conducted last year by Advitek Data for the city’s Strategic Transportation Study back in 2012. “In light of the recent media coverage, the TPA believed it was in the public interest to clarify the issue,” Wilson said. The Ipsos survey also says that 60 per cent or Torontonians support Porter’s expansion plans. On that point, however, there has been no clarification issued by the TPA. enzom@nowtoronto.com | @enzodimatteo Source: NOW Magazine article

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