Chris Hume: Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly Missteps on Island Airport Report

Toronto Waterfront Revitalization in Peril by Jet Plans: Toronto Star Columnist November 28, 2013 Toronto_Star_Photo_Chris_Hume_2013-11-28TORONTO - It didn’t take long for Toronto’s newly empowered deputy mayor, Norm Kelly, to make his first misstep — and it’s a huge one. Responding to a rare display of sanity from city hall, Kelly rejected a staff report that suggested it would be “premature” for council to decide whether to allow Porter Airlines to fly jets out of the island airport. Despite the lack of information, he wants the vote held as soon as possible. “I don’t care,” said Kelly, putting his ignorance on full display Thursday morning. “It could be planes propelled by rubber bands, as long as it’s quiet.” With these few words, the poor man confirmed every doubt Torontonians may have had about his sudden rise to power. Not only has Kelly swallowed the Porter Kool-Aid as served up by its founder Robert Deluce, he revealed a disturbing ignorance of what has unfolded on the waterfront over the last decade. Expanding Billy Bishop flies quite literally in the face of the renewal that has occurred along the shores of Lake Ontario since 2001 when the federal, provincial and civic governments pledged $1.5 billion to remake Toronto’s long neglected water’s edge. The question is simple: Why should Deluce be allowed to jeopardize the billions of dollars — public and private — invested in waterfront revitalization over the last decade? That’s why the city report is good news to anyone who cares about Toronto, and who believes there’s a better use for precious waterfront real estate than handing it over to a grasping entrepreneur who puts his own interests above those of the city. Even Porter’s fiercest critics acknowledge his right to run turboprops from the island, but he wants more. Though jets would mean lengthening the main runway by up to 200 metres at both ends as well as an enlarged fuel tank farm, even more taxis, worse pollution, major infrastructure changes paid for with public money, these are not things Deluce or Kelly want us to worry about. For them, it’s enough that Porter’s jets are quiet. But even that they cannot guarantee because the planes have yet to be properly tested. As the city report makes clear, however, “the key question is not the type of aircraft technology proposed, but the number of passengers, flights and required infrastructure.” As it goes on to say, the airport “has experienced significant growth following the launch of Porter Airlines in 2006, with annual passenger volumes rising from 26,000 in 2006 to 2.3 million in 2012.” That could increase to 4 million if Deluce and Kelly prevail. Keep in mind that 80 per cent of passengers arrive and depart by cab. For the waterfront, the impact, already damaging, would be disastrous. Perhaps that’s what Kelly had in mind when he devoted one of his first meetings after his ascension to — you guessed it — Bob Deluce. One wonders whether His Deputy Worship also took time to read the report prepared by Urban Strategies and presented to the city Nov. 25: “Other airport sites,” it stated bluntly, “are better suited to meet growing regional air transport demands given their potential to expand and incorporate complementary employment land uses….” Furthermore, it continued, “(Billy Bishop’s) location also runs contrary to provincial policy preferences for airports because of the proximity of homes and other sensitive uses….” The issue is one of scale and balance. The airport has long since reached the point where, regardless of airplane technology, it is too big for its location. Deluce is lucky to have gotten this far; it’s time the city tells him to cool his jets. Christopher Hume can be reached _____________ Source: Toronto Star article, 2013-11-28