NoJetsTO Campaign Against Island Airport Expansion Another David vs. Goliath Struggle TORONTO - What would our city look like if lobbyists got their way? The Spadina Expressway would have meant the demolition of many grown neighbourhoods. We would have the Port Lands handed over to a mega mall and Ferris wheel. We would have a mega-casino blighting our downtown area. But luckily, Toronto residents fought back against wrong-headed plans — and won.
Now civic-minded Toronto residents are engaged in yet another fight: the fight to stop the jets on our waterfront. It’s a fight that shows the finest Toronto has to offer: civic engagement, passion and a firm belief in the future of our city.
The island airport expansion debate has consumed our city for almost a year now. Residents have been inundated with full-page ads in all major newspapers, radio ads, emails, social media campaigns and robocalls. The total spend from the pro-jets, pro-expansion camp is in the millions. Add the money spent on lobbying city councillors and city staff and we are close to $10 million. This is more than what was spent on the waterfront casino debate.
With all that money, the jets would be approved quickly, the pro-expansion camp thought. But they didn’t expect the resilience of Toronto residents.
Despite the massive media campaign and intense lobbying, residents from across the city joined forces to create a grassroots movement — NoJetsTO. Since our inception, we have steadily gained ground against the pro-expansion forces.
NoJetsTO has grown by neighbours talking to neighbours, through countless volunteer hours knocking on doors, making phone calls and collecting petition signatures. It’s a grassroots organization fuelled by the shared belief that Toronto is a livable city that belongs to the people, not corporate interest. We share the belief in a city with a revitalized waterfront cherished by millions, not a city that turns its back on its waterfront again by allowing a major jet airport.
One of the results: more than 14,000 signatures collected across all wards, with the vast majority coming from areas far away from Queens Quay.
With supporters coming from all parts of the cities, from all backgrounds and all ages, the diversity of NoJetsTO mirrors the diversity of this great city. Through their civic spirit and dedication, we are giving Porter Airlines and the Toronto Port Authority a run for their money.
We need to be clear: it’s a David versus Goliath fight. It’s citizens standing up to a major airline and a rogue federal agency. It’s a fight that’s far from over, no matter how city council votes today.
But why do Toronto residents have to keep fighting flawed self-centred business plans and lobbying time and time again? It’s simple: while we are long on citizens passionate about a vision for this great city, we are short on politicians that share and stand up for just that.
Instead, we have generations of politicians that too eagerly ditch the public interest and succumb to corporate propaganda and lobbying. That campaign donations will flow later is a safe guess.
City Hall has too many politicians that can’t look beyond their own re-election chances. They are unable or unwilling to look at the long-term consequences of their actions.
This is clearly the case with the Island Airport expansion issue: after almost a year of city staff studying Porter’s proposal, there are more questions and concerns than ever, but Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and his allies are still pushing for the jets.
Instead of politicians that take care of their corporate buddies and lobbyist friends, we need elected officials that put the city before their own interests. We need politicians that look beyond their four-year terms and that think about the impacts 20 to 100 years from now. We need politicians that base policy decisions on facts and objective analysis, not advertising and lobbying.
Any candidate for mayor or city council that is willing to sacrifice our waterfront for the jets does not deserve the seat they are campaigning for. They do not deserve to lead Canada’s largest city and the fourth largest city in North America.
The fight to protect our waterfront and the ongoing revitalization will continue beyond Tuesday’s city council vote.
We at NoJetsTO are strong, passionate and organized. We will see this fight through. After the Spadina Expressway, the Ferris wheel in the Port Lands and the casino, we will add the jets on our waterfront to the list of grassroots victories.
Anshul Kapoor is chair of NoJetsTO. Source: Toronto Star op-ed, published 2014-03-31
Toronto Star Columnist and Waterfront Champion Urges City Council to Reject Jet Proposals TORONTO - Like the Spadina Expressway, expanding Billy Bishop for jets is one of those projects that for some make a city feel richer, better connected and forward-looking. But like Spadina, the price is too high.
True, we rely on the airport as we do the expressway, though both are incomplete, unintended and bottomless pits of congestion, pollution and disappearing quality of life.
But as badly as things turned out, they could have been a whole lot worse. Imagine a highway running through downtown, cutting into neighbourhoods and slicing the city in half.
Today, it is obvious that this would have been utterly wrong, hugely destructive. This didn’t stop people at the time from extolling its (non-existent) virtues.
And so it is with jets at Billy Bishop. The dazzle of convenience overpowers the annual reality of two-million-plus passengers, thousands of cabs, fuel-storage tanks and the whole panoply of goods and services that come with a major airport. At the same time, there’s the park across the road, a primary school and community centre down the street and a fast-growing residential component that extends everywhere but into Lake Ontario.
Let’s not forget Queens Quay, now being transformed into a tree-lined boulevard along which visitors will wander over to Spadina and beyond. A water’s-edge promenade will hug the shore line, where it can.
An infrastructure of pleasure — the Music Garden, HTO urban beach, Little Norway Park, the WaveDecks, Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common, Corktown Common — hints at where the waterfront is headed. Upwards of $3 billion has been invested and much more will follow. Revitalization, more than a decade in its genesis, is well underway.
To ignore that would be folly. The waterfront is the best thing to happen to Toronto since the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood in the 1970s. It is where much of Toronto’s future will play out and indications so far are that the original vision of smart, sustainable, multi-use communities organized around transit and strong public amenities has survived mostly intact.
Key to the Waterfront Toronto approach has been a balance of uses and an understanding that redevelopment must be as public as possible. That’s why spaces between buildings are a priority. That’s why the waterfront has so many facilities. The rest is filling in — residential, commercial, institutional . . .
The Island Airport is already a significant problem; local air quality has suffered and schoolkids must dodge traffic. It threatens to overwhelm a major stretch of the waterfront and compromise much more.
In the heat of debate, which will focus on technical issues such as marine exclusion zones, noise management and endless federal aviation requirements, many will lose sight of the big picture. The city, with few details of Porter’s plans, is being asked to say yes today and discover what it said yes to tomorrow.
That doesn’t make sense. Neither does the fact Toronto’s duelling mayors, Rob Ford and Norm Kelly, are Porter supporters. When empty, two heads, it seems, aren’t better than one.
City Council Candidate J.P. Boutros Emphasizes Anti-Competitive, Bailout Nature of Porter Request TORONTO - Picture this: In 2006, an entrepreneur opened a shipping business in Toronto. The warehouse he rents is small but the location is great. Even better, he has a legal right to keep his competition out of the area. Unfortunately for him, things get challenging. He's not filling the trucks like his backers had hoped; they tell him he's got to make more money on their investment. He must get bigger trucks, which means a larger warehouse. Even though there's a great warehouse in Mississauga with all he needs, he doesn't want to move; the competition he's kept off his turf is already in there. He decides he needs serious money - $3 million - to stay and expand from where he's at. Guess what? He asks you and me - taxpayers - for that $3 million. Not as a loan, mind you. He wants us to expand the facility and improve his access for the fancy new trucks. Well, if I was a decision maker, I wouldn't give him that $3 million. I'd tell him that he made his business decisions knowing the rules of the warehouse. I'd tell him to rent part of that big Mississauga warehouse and compete. I'd keep our money off the table. Now, let's say it's not $3 million that he needs from you and me; it's more like $300 million. What I described above is basically what Robert Deluce is trying to do to taxpayers with his Porter Airlines. Porter's plans require a different runway, changes to the airport, and new traffic infrastructure which the federal government and the City of Toronto would have to agree to provide using taxpayer money, reportedly up to $300 million. All this would help improve Porter's business future, but no one else's. So, why am I against a "little guy" story like Porter's? Taxpayers - whether fiscal conservatives like me or not - should get mad. For me, this really isn't about jets, flight paths, the Island, or other stuff being talked about. Porter's plans are an anti-competitive scheme which is, essentially, corporate welfare. It's not taxpayers' responsibility to help one company make more money. Of note, we don't even know if Porter is a good business to invest our money into; it's a private corporation, with private books. At least with the GM and Chrysler bailouts, we saw the financials, as scary as they were. "You can trust me" isn't good enough. Ask yourself: if Porter's smart shareholders are satisfied with the business Porter has built and the way the company has been run, why do taxpayers need to give those shareholders a $300-million gift? More importantly, if Porter's shareholders are not satisfied, why should councillors even contemplate such a huge taxpayer investment? Oh, do you have Air Canada or Westjet points? Porter's plans won't help you use them because Porter currently controls most of Billy Bishop Airport's takeoff and landing slots. With taxpayer money, bigger jets mean those slots would become far more valuable, but we won't all benefit from free and open airline competition because those airport gates remain Porter's. Anti-competitive? A sole source deal? Corporate welfare? As presented, Porter's plans rely on a potential $300-million taxpayer investment benefitting just one company: Porter. I trust councillors will see through the lobbying and judge their intentions this way. Jean-Pierre Boutros was senior adviser to former TTC chair Karen Stintz. He is running to become councillor for Ward 16. His campaign website iswww.BoutrosTO.com, e-mail is JP@BoutrosTO.com and on Twitter at@BoutrosTO. Source: Toronto Sun op-ed, published 2014-03-31
Spacing Magazine's John Lorinc Takes a Closer Look at the Latest Transport Action Ontario Report TORONTO - Let’s play fill in the blanks: Jets are to the Toronto harbour as _________ is to Crimea. Okay, okay. I acknowledge the comparison may be over-reaching just a tad. But as the independent aviation analysts with Transport Action Ontario (TAO) made clear at a press conference yesterday, the geographical contours of a jet-based airport – runways, approach lighting, marine exclusion zones (MEZ) and the so-called “precision approach” flight path – will, uh, occupy much more of the harbour than was previously understood, or officially acknowledged. As one speaker trenchantly noted, Porter’s jet proposal will be profoundly transformative – no longer will Toronto have an airport on the waterfront. We’ll have a waterfront within an airport. As executive committee convenes this morning to mull over a staff report that recommends an elaborate set of pre-conditions, including a new agreement with the Toronto Port Authority to impose hard passenger and slot caps, the TAO group, together with veteran planners Ken Greenberg and Paul Bedford, will urge the members to “just say no.” But the staff report that was released last week — which recommends punting the decision until next March due to a dearth of data about the Bombardier CS-100s that Porter wants to use at the facility — doesn’t quite say no. Rather, it lays out an elaborately phased set of hurdles that TPA and Transport Canada must meet before council can proceed with an amendment to the Tripartite agreement. These include adopting measures to contain noise and deal with road congestion, completing an environmental assessment of the runway extension, negotiating an airport master plan, and, obviously, ensuring that all the regulatory approvals are in place. Last year, council also added another condition: that any new activity on the airport not encroach on the Western Gap. The TAO’s 62-page report shows that the staff report failed to describe in detail the potential impact on the harbour of the safety measures used by Transport Canada for runway approaches at airports across the country. Because jets fly in at a shallower angle than propeller planes like the Q-400, they require a longer approach and depend on navigation lights when landing in low visibility conditions. Consequently, the footprint of the whole operation could be far larger than what Porter is proposing. It encompasses much of the Western Gap, a swath of the inner harbour that extend as far as Harbour Square, and some of the Portlands. The Port Authority, says the TAO, would also need to set up a line of navigation lights in the middle of the harbour, forcing the Hanlan’s Point ferries to change their route. The imponderable in all this is whether Transport Canada grants Porter and the yet-to-be-launched CS-100s an exemption from rules that govern all other airports in the country. “There’s no prospect of meeting the stringent conditions set by the City of Toronto and Transport Canada unless the exemption is granted,” said TAO president Peter Miasek. “Safety will overrule all other uses of the harbour.” It’s difficult to know why council would proceed with a rush vote, as urged by deputy mayor Norm Kelly and mayoral candidate Karen Stintz, in the absence of much more precise information from the agency that controls the future of the proposal. Transport Canada has not yet revealed its assessment of the plane, or the runway/MEZ requirements. But one could reasonably ask why the government, which asserts its regulatory authority in the interest of public safety, would opt to withdraw from that fundamental obligation in one of Canada’s most densely populated areas. Then there’s the issue of the risks and liabilities associated with an exemption that allows jets to use the facility. Do the city’s insurance premiums rise because jets will be landing and taking off so close to key pieces of municipal infrastructure? Does an official exemption from Transport Canada protect the Port Authority, or Porter for that matter, from liability lawsuits in the event of a crash or collision? The island ferry, TAO analysts pointed out, is high enough to protrude into the flight path of incoming jets. What if a careless skipper someday steered his craft into the MEZ and it’s struck by a plane. Who pays? None of these questions, which all involve money as well as safety, are thoroughly addressed in the staff report. Nor, indeed, is the other big money question – how to pay for the ground-side infrastructure required to sort out the transportation tangle created by the airport. The report hints at the possibility that the city, the TPA and the federal government could negotiate some kind of quid pro quo understanding that would lead to investments in transit or road improvements in exchange for council approval for the jet service. If council decides to ground Deluce’s jet plan, the City will likely have less leverage to extract financial contributions from Ottawa or the TPA. Adam Vaughan, however, believes the City can still pressure the Port Authority or the federal government to help pay for transportation improvements that will make the status quo airport function more efficiently as passenger volumes continue to grow. Ultimately, the most salient question for the executive committee and council (April 1) is to ask whether there’s any point in proceeding with a tremendously costly and time-consuming assessment process that seems designed to tell us that there’s almost no way to reconcile current and future harbour uses with the proper safety requirements needed to accommodate a jet-based airport. “If permission is granted for jets,” said Bedford, “I believe the market will prevail, and the city will lose control over decision-making on the waterfront.” Source: Spacing Magazine article, published 2014-03-25
Airport Safety Zones Report, Statements by TAO Supporter Paul Bedford Focus of Pre-Executive Committee Article Restricted air space - before and after runway extension TORONTO - Toronto’s City Hall is set for a heated marathon meeting Tuesday over a proposal to expand the Toronto Island airport and pave the way for jets along the city’s waterfront. As of Monday afternoon, about 200 deputants had registered to speak at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting over a staff proposal to allow negotiations that could lead to jets at the airport. The issue has for many months divided councillors and attracted the attention of both big-name supporters and opponents – the latter arguing that the proposal would threaten revitalization along the waterfront. On Monday, advocacy group Transport Action Ontario – which includes in its list of supporters former city planner Paul Bedford and former president of the Conference Board of Canada Anne Golden – released a report maintaining that allowing jets would require blocking off about three times as much of the harbour to boaters as is currently excluded. “This is about choice and consequences,” Mr. Bedford said, adding that he views the airport issue to be “a 100-year decision.” If talks over the expansion proceed, one requirement would be that expansion have “no material effect” on the so-called marine exclusion zones (MEZs), which keep boaters away from the airport. Transport Canada has consistently said it cannot “speculate” on possible changes without getting more information from the Toronto Port Authority, which owns and operates the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The TPA insisted again Monday that the exclusion zones will not have to move. Opponents of expansion counter that stretching the runway by 400 metres would logically necessitate a corresponding shift in the MEZs. But the TAO warned that the change would be even greater. Currently, each of these areas, which are marked off by buoys beyond the ends of the runway, is 305 metres long, but TAO said that each would have to stretch to 830 or 1,190 metres, depending on how Transport Canada interprets the situation. And even on the eve of the airport meeting, councillors remained divided over the issue. “What this group has shown us is, using existing regulations, you must extend runway infrastructure from Dufferin to Bay Street, there’s no two ways about it,” said Councillor Adam Vaughan, a vocal opponent of expansion. “And that’s unacceptable.” Mr. Vaughan predicted that the city’s executive committee, which he described as “very supportive of the idea” of expansion, will approve the proposal, and said that the real fight will happen in front of council next month. “I think council is beginning to realize the scope of this project, and I think they’re getting very nervous about what they’re being told.” Another group of councillors told The Globe and Mail last week that they are working to bring a motion before council in April to vote to continue the ban on jets – a bid to remove jets from the airport debate entirely. Meanwhile, both the city’s mayor and deputy mayor support the expansion. “Let’s move on and support these people,” Mayor Rob Ford told reporters at City Hall. He said the expansion would create hundreds of jobs and bring “millions of dollars to our economy,” while vowing to “fight the hardest I can to make sure it gets through council.” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he’s working on his own airport motion – this one to move up the decision on jets. He wants the jets approved, provided they meet certain conditions, by this council instead of going to a vote in 2015 with a new council as recommended by staff. “You can study things ad nauseam,” he said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to make a decision.” Source: The Globe and Mail article, published 2014-03-25
New Report on Island Airport Expansion Impacts Garners Media Attention TORONTO - Independent research by the non-profit organization Transport Action Ontario is making waves with Toronto news outlets. Here is a selection of media hits: Toronto Star article: "Jets at the island airport would close off harbour, critics say", published 2014-03-24 The Globe and Mail article: "Allowing jets at Toronto's island airport would increase limit on boating, group says", published 2014-03-24 CP24 video: interview with Transport Action President Peter Miasek and former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City of Toronto Ken Greenberg, broadcast 2014-03-24 CTV News article and video: "Ford to push for Toronto island airport expansion in council", published 2014-03-24 York Guardian (InsideToronto.com) article: "Extending Billy Bishop runways for jet aircraft could have additional impacts, group warns", published 2014-03-24 City News article and video: "Island Airport expansion will restrict boats, ferry routes: report", published 2014-03-24
Air Canada CEO Invites Porter to Join 65 Jet Airlines at Pearson in Op-Ed TORONTO - Toronto City Council will soon consider whether to proceed with a multimillion-dollar proposal to extend the runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and allow jet aircraft, despite the various community concerns voiced so far. When they do, let’s hope that reason prevails over private corporate interest. While Air Canada generally supports the concept of expansion at Billy Bishop airport, we have very serious concerns about the current proposal by Porter Airlines that will be before the council’s executive committee on March 25. Billy Bishop airport is a public facility that has been handed over to a private operator, Porter Airlines, which owns the terminal building and controls more than 85 per cent of the slots. Air Canada wants to expand our access at Billy Bishop but we have been rebuffed in our numerous attempts to increase service, something we encounter nowhere else in the country or indeed the world. In fact, most airports aggressively lobby us to increase service. The answer that we and other airlines have been given is that the island airport is “at capacity” and that there are simply no slots available. It is in this slot-constrained, virtual monopoly context that Porter has made a proposal to extend the runway at the airport and to allow jets to use the facility. However, in the public documents from the city on this proposal is a unique twist — there is a discussion of fixing slot and passenger capacities in the Tripartite Agreement, the document that governs Billy Bishop airport. Such a measure would permanently entrench Porter’s monopoly on the airport. If Porter was granted the ability to use jets without any increase in slot growth, this means that current communities being served by Porter (e.g. Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Halifax) could be dropped to make room for new routes from among the proposed destinations listed on their website. In addition, with jets doubling the passenger capacity, a passenger cap would in fact suggest that the total number of available slots would actually decrease, rather than increase. City staff estimate that between $100 million and $300 million of infrastructure upgrades would be required on the city side of the airport in addition to the millions of dollars in infrastructure needed on the island which would be paid by passenger levies. There is no available source of funds for this infrastructure, which would have to be financed by the city or other levels of government. This is up to a third of a billion dollars to finance infrastructure upgrades for a facility that is essentially used by a single, privately held company. There is no urgency here. Porter is free to fly jets from Toronto’s Pearson airport at any time it wishes under the same conditions that are applicable to the 65 airlines that operate at Pearson. There is now more incentive than ever to do so as a brand new rail link — the Union Pearson Express opening in spring 2015 — will shorten the travel time between downtown Toronto and Pearson to 25 minutes. City staff have been challenged in their efforts to obtain adequate information and documentation in their study of the proposal, and have asked for the necessary time to gather this information and make an informed analysis. To this end, they have recommended that this be put over until May 2015. In the circumstances, Air Canada believes this is the right path for city council to choose. Calin Rovinescu is President and CEO of Air Canada.
Op-Ed in the Toronto Star by the Chair and CEO of Waterfront Toronto TORONTO - The proposal to expand Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is a generational decision. It is not a decision about a specific airline, but about our collective vision for the long-term future of this airport. And it should be a decision that ensures a balance between a thriving waterfront that is a draw for residents, business, recreation and tourism, and the convenience of a downtown airport that primarily services a business market.
As the agency entrusted by the federal, provincial and city governments to be the steward of waterfront revitalization, Waterfront Toronto is successfully implementing one of the largest urban regeneration projects in North America — and one of the largest in the world.
Our waterfront is being transformed into new, dynamic mixed-use neighbourhoods, anchored by beautiful new parks, public spaces and infrastructure geared to generate economic growth and employment. The revitalization of our waterfront is a unique opportunity for Toronto to leverage its economic profile. We know that cities which have successfully revitalized their waterfronts have become more globally competitive. The more than $1.3 billion in public monies invested to date in revitalization has already generated an additional $2.6 billion in private sector development, which will return $1.5 billion in revenues to governments. The work done so far has also helped to spur a further $9.6 billion in private sector investment.
To date, our revitalization efforts have coexisted with the airport in its current size. Waterfront Toronto recognizes that the airport provides a service valued by Torontonians and is an important contributor to the local economy. However, enabling the airport to expand and potentially double passenger numbers to 4.8 million per year would exceed the current passenger volumes of the Ottawa airport — the 6th largest in Canada — and profoundly and negatively affect revitalization prospects for the entire waterfront.
Waterfront Toronto’s overarching concern is scale and balance. Our revitalization approach removes barriers and reconnects Toronto to its waterfront in a way that ensures no one element dominates. Our approach to transformation represents a careful balance between neighbourhoods, commercial uses and public spaces. This also reflects the city’s Central Waterfront Secondary Plan, a plan which does not anticipate an expanded airport on the waterfront.
Waterfront Toronto believes the central question to be asked is: at what point does the airport cease to be compatible with a thriving waterfront and instead become a presence that overwhelms it? How large can the airport become before a tipping point is reached that threatens the present and future potential of the waterfront?
Already, the airport’s current operations have created serious transportation, road congestion and other community impact issues in the area. The city’s own technical studies show that expansion would double peak car volumes at Éireann Quay. These issues need to be addressed before considering expansion and the consequent potential to exacerbate these problems.
In addition, there are specific areas where the impact of expansion on the waterfront needs to be carefully evaluated, including the impact on development prospects in terms of the appeal of the waterfront as a destination for builders, employees, residents and tourists. What is the overall sensory and experiential experience created by an expanded airport environment on these groups? It is worth remembering that in an era where employment and investment chooses where to locate, quality of life is a key factor in economic decisions.
The January city staff report outlines answers required from the Toronto Port Authority and Porter Airlines in relation to their expansion request, including the total infrastructure needed to operate an airport of this scale, the rules for planning and funding expansion and its impact and appropriateness on Toronto’s waterfront. Only when the city receives all the pertinent information can a decision be made on the appropriate growth and size of the airport. In this way, we can all be assured that the island airport can continue to provide a valued service in balance with the waterfront and not become an element that places at risk the delivery of this city, provincial and national asset.
There are a number of proposals coming forward which attempt to address some of the issues raised by the expansion request. The proposals, crafted in haste, do not change the fundamental need for information to allow a thoughtful, complete discussion of the long-term vision and plan for our island airport. Waterfront Toronto believes no decision on expansion should proceed in the absence of the information required to make this generational choice.
We only have one waterfront. Its vitality and value to the city should not be put at risk by an airport expansion proposal that currently raises more questions than answers.
John Campbell is the CEO and president of Waterfront Toronto. Mark Wilson is chair of the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors. Click here for the original article in the Toronto Star
The Star Quotes NoJetsTO in Article on Porter's Misleading Social Media Ads TORONTO - Porter Airlines is hitting turbulence with an online poll that critics say misleads voters into supporting the Billy Bishop airport expansion.
In sponsored Facebook and Twitter posts, the airline is asking users to select their favourite new destination. Once they click through, a site asks for their postal code, identifies who their local councillor is and encourages them to write or call in support of quiet jets.
Some opponents and councillors are peeved by the campaign, but a Porter spokesman denied it was manipulative.
“We would think that the people who are voting are typically supporters and contacting their councillor is a natural option for them. There’s no requirement to do that,” said Porter spokesman Brad Cicero.
Porter hopes to fly Bombardier’s new CSeries planes from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which would allow the regional carrier to fly to cities farther afield like Vancouver and Miami.
But the airline must win approval from the city, the port authority and Transport Canada to lift an existing jet ban as well as extend the runway as much as 200 metres at each end.
On March 25, council’s executive committee will decide if councillors should vote on Porter’s proposal on April 1. Officials have urged councillors to put off making a decision until March 2015, after October’s election.
Cicero said the poll is targeted at supporters, since it lets users select far-flung locations like Vancouver, Miami, Los Angeles and New Orleans. The top location will be announced Monday, he added.
But after users cast their vote and enter their postal code, a page appears with their councillor’s name, phone number and a form to send an email of support.
The form is blank, but the site suggests talking points, including that the plan will result in “more than $250 million of incremental economic impact” and that the CS100 jets will meet noise guidelines and produce lower emissions than similar planes.
No personal information is gathered from people who simply vote in the poll, said Cicero. However, those who choose to send an email to their councillor are prompted to enter their name and email address, which Porter does collect and may use to send updates about their expansion plans.
Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 — Trinity-Spadina) said he hadn’t noticed an influx of emails supporting the expansion. Layton, who opposes Porter’s plan, questioned whether those who clicked on the poll were getting the full story.
“Does the link also say, ‘Tell your councillor to spend public funds to enrich (Porter CEO Robert) Deluce?’ ” he asked. “Or, ‘Destroy the aquatic environment of the largest freshwater water system in the world?’ ”
City staff estimate it will cost up to $300 million in transit or road infrastructure to accommodate the increase in passenger traffic. Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20 — Trinity-Spadina) said with so much public money at stake, he wasn’t surprised by Porter’s campaign.
“It’s the same sort of smoke and mirrors that Deluce’s proposal is. He focuses on the destinations but doesn’t talk about what’s happening to the city he lives in,” said Vaughan.
More than 40,000 people have registered their support for expansion onPorterPlans.com. On the airline’s Facebook page, response to the poll has been mixed but largely positive.
Anshul Kapoor, chair of NoJetsTO, a citizens’ group opposed to jet expansion, said he hopes councillors take the emails with a grain of salt. “I hope they don’t make a decision based on baseless emails from misled residents.”
Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said the poll was fair because it was at least more transparent than other forms of lobbying which often take place behind closed doors.
“In a world where lobbying takes so many different forms, I don’t find this one dramatically offensive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eric Kirzner, a finance professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, disagreed.
“When you ask people to do something in a questionnaire, you’re supposed to be up front . . . to lure people in and then to spring this is, in my opinion, an inappropriate way to do business.” Source: Toronto Star article "Porter Airlines Facebook poll misleading, critics say", published 2014-03-17
Post City Magazine Features John Sewell's Take on the Waterfront Jet Plans TORONTO - Some public issues start out as narrow concerns and stay that way, but some germinate and fester into bigger decisions than anyone expected. The future of the Island airport — renamed Billy Bishop Airport to give it panache by linking it to the First World War flying ace who was famous many years before the airport even existed — is one of the latter. When Porter Airlines applied to amend the agreement with the City of Toronto to permit jets at the airport, most everyone thought it was simply a question of noise. The small jets Porter said it would use apparently had a noise footprint at or below that of the propeller planes currently authorized, and in any case, argued Porter, the footprint was well within the limits set by the agreement. City council seemed ready to approve the matter. City experts, such as Richard Florida of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, argued jets on the Island was too good an idea to refuse. Some argued that Toronto Island residents and condo owners along the lake were too ready to protect their own interests in the face of creating a more competitive city. Then another issue raised its head: the runways would need to be expanded by 200 metres at each end to provide a level of safety for these jets. Boaters said this would interfere with sailboats using the Western Gap and Toronto Bay. Porter supporters dismissed their complaints as self-centred. But the main group against the proposal, NoJetsTO, aligned with the long—standing CommunityAir, among other groups, pushed on. It demanded more public meetings by city council and more studies by the city. Up to this point public meetings seemed to be tawdry affairs, stacked either by Porter supporters or by Island residents or by NoJetsTO supporters. As the mayor and his brother flexed their dubious political muscles, city council was on the verge of approving Porter's request. But then in the middle of 2013 the big questions finally found voice. What was the actual plan that Porter had in mind? If Porter were permitted to run jets in and out of the Island Airport, what about Air Canada and WestJet? How could they be stopped from using the airport? How many passengers would be using the airport? How would the airport deal with emergencies when the link between the Island and the mainland was nothing but a pedestrian tunnel now under construction? How could emergency vehicles deal with a possible crash? Protecting boats from jet blow back would require walls around the airport. The lighting infrastructure mandated by Transport Canada to ensure safe takeoff and landing would require strings of lights even beyond the 200-metre runway extensions. By the fall of 2013 it was no longer just a question of noise from jets. It was a question of scale. The city had hired consultants to look at the Porter proposal, and while they expressed serious concerns that Porter had never filed documents that explained its visions of the airport in a decade or two, the consultants were of the opinion that what was proposed was an airport that handled more than four million passengers a year, with flights landing and taking off every few minutes. In plain language, Porter’s proposal was for a facility at the same scale as the Ottawa airport being dropped on our waterfront. Those two airports are both on the edge of each city with lots of room for passenger pickup and delivery and passenger parking. There’s no easy way to accommodate these changes at the bottom of Bathurst Street without major disruption to the existing and growing residential communities in the edge of the lake. The effect of a good public debate after many months is that the issue to be decided by city council is finally in focus: amending the agreement to permit jets means the city will get an airport that significantly changes the Toronto waterfront because of its scale. The deputy mayor keeps delaying the vote, but it seems enough city councillors are ready to turn the proposal down. That is to be hoped for. What’s nice about using the Island airport is that there’s no need to get to the airport more than an hour early for a simple flight to Ottawa, Montreal or New York. The failure of Pearson Airport to offer timely service is the advantage that the Island airport offers. The political pressure by city council should be on Pearson to be a more efficient airport for travellers. JOHN SEWELL Post City Magazines' columnist John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto and the author of a number of urban planning books, including The Shape of Suburbs. ____________ Source: Post City Magazine, March 2014 edition