The Bulletin: Accept the will of Downtown Residents: NoJetsTO!

Columnist Chris Moise Endorses NoJetsTO in The Bulletin Opinion Piece October 18, 2013 TORONTO - The Billy Bishop Airport, formerly known as the Port George VI Island Airport—and unofficially known as the Toronto Island airport—has been part of the Toronto landscape since 1939. It was built around the same time as the Malton airport, which we now call Pearson International Airport. The Island airport was always one of the busiest airports in Ontario. With Porter’s arrival in 2003 as a regional airline carrier, the airport passenger traffic increased significantly. For the last 10 years the residents of the Downtown core and the Island have remained rather quiet in regards to the changes that have taken place at the Island airport. Of course, people in the area have always grumbled about air and noise pollution. The number of flights in and out of the airport was also a concern. But nothing substantial ever materialized from these grumblings until a few years ago. The community rallied together when the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) proposed a bridge to the Island airport. It was believed that a bridge would mean a busier airport, that it would result in a larger environmental footprint, and that it was bad for the area in general. In 2010, the Toronto District School Board Trustee for the area, Chris Bolton, led an initiative to study the situation. It was determined that during an 8-hour period approximately 4000 taxis passed through the intersection of Bathurst and Queens Quay—the foot of the Island ferry dock. Eventually, the TPA proposed a pedestrian underground tunnel to the Island airport. The Island residents and those who live along the waterfront agreed this would be a more appropriate plan for the area. It seems, however, that when one battle ends, another ensues. Porter Airlines has since proposed to use Bombardier CS100 jets at the airport. This proposal means that larger jets would be used at the Island airport for the first time. The community has come together again, even more determined than ever, and formed a group called “NOJetsTO.” This coalition is concerned about the noise level that these jets may bring. They are also concerned about the amount of pollution that these jets will discharge upon landing and take-off. This past May, Toronto city council voted in favour, 29-15, to study Porter’s proposal to bring jets to the Island airport. If the proposal for the jets is approved, then the Island airport runway would have to be increased by 168 metres at each end. Approval would also make Porter the third largest airline in the country. Island and waterfront residents share similar concerns. Parents of children at the Island and waterfront schools have voiced concerns about their children’s long-term exposure to the noise and pollution of the jets. Several yacht clubs have said they may not be able to use the harbour as they now do. And this is just a fraction of concerns that have been raised. I, along with many other residents who live in the core of the city, are certainly puzzled as to why Toronto needs such a radical project like the Island airport expansion when the Ontario government—through Metrolinx—is building a multimillion-dollar rapid-express train from Union station to Pearson Airport. This project is to be completed in the next few years. With this in mind, whose interests are being served by an Island airport expansion? I am of the opinion that if Porter and others want to grow their fleets, then they need to speak to, and co-ordinate with, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA). The expansion of their business should happen at Pearson. The people of Toronto have made more than enough concessions for the sake of large corporations’ profits. The city’s waterfront has been divided and carved up to the point that local residents have little to no access to a great part of it. When will this city become a leader like Vancouver and other coastal cities in Canada and around the world? On Sept. 19, a town hall meeting was held at which both proponents and opponents spoke. Many, if not most, of those who spoke in support of the airline were employees who were bused in by the company. The opponents were residents of the Islands and those who live in the near vicinity on the shore. It was argued that many of the reports about the new jets have not been made public. For example, the noise and pollution output questions have not been publicized. City council is expected to make a decision on this expansion. However, the TPA and Transport Canada have not yet commented upon or made any decisions about the expansion. Indeed, city council’s decision may not even matter. Winning the battle will hinge upon gathering public support. It is apparent to me that this issue is really only just starting. It is far from over and I, for one, will stand with the area residents—being one of them—and say “NOjetsTO.” May those who represent us hear our pleas and, for a change, accept the will of the people. Source: The Bulletin October edition