Toronto Star Publishes NoJetsTO Op-Ed Ahead of Vote

NoJetsTO Campaign Against Island Airport Expansion Another David vs. Goliath Struggle Laura_Cooper_Photo_NoJetsTO_2013_09_05TORONTO - 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