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Toronto island airport not the same issue it was a decade ago: observers


 

MONTREAL – Porter Airlines’ expansion plans may be headed for months of turbulence, but not the fierce opposition it faced a decade ago to change at the waterfront airport, says a political observer.

On Wednesday, the airline announced it had placed a conditional order for 12 Bombardier CS100 jets, with 18 options worth about US$2.08 billion. The aircraft will allow it to fly to Los Angeles, Florida, Calgary and the Caribbean from Toronto.

The plan immediately stirred vocal opposition from local political and community leaders.

But University of Toronto assistant professor Zack Taylor said this time around, the success of the airline may blunt some of the negative outcry to its latest growth plans.

“This airport is a lot less threatening to people than it used to be,” said Taylor, whose focus is on local politics.

He said most people have become used to Porter’s service, except perhaps island residents and those living in nearby condos.

In 2003, former Toronto mayor David Miller rode his opposition to expanding the waterfront airport to replace incumbent mayor Barbara Hall.

But Taylor called that election a “unique confluence of events” that resulted in the island airport becoming a symbol of Miller’s vision of the waterfront being the centre of a clean city.

“I think that was a very unique moment that won’t be repeated.”

He said the next municipal election won’t take place until the fall of 2014 and other issues will likely dominate.

Still, Taylor said it’s far too premature for Porter to claim victory, especially because you can’t count out “articulate, highly educated middle-class professionals” to mobilize.

Ultimately, he said it will come down to technical issues about the plane and the runway extension.

Walter Spracklin of RBC Capital Markets said the airline needs to clear several hurdles but believes it will likely be able to use the 107-seat plane at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport.

He said the aircraft’s noise emissions are significantly lower than other jets, similar to the Q400 currently in use and the proposed runway extension would still likely fit within the airport’s marine exclusion zone.

The CSeries will also have much lower takeoff and landing frequencies because of longer flight routes, said Spracklin.

“Coupled with a strong economic case… we see little reason for an economically-focused government to not approve Porter’s plan,” he wrote in a report.

Among the required approvals is a change to the tripartite agreement signed in 1983 that sets out permitted aircraft at the airport. The deal was signed by Ottawa, the city of Toronto and a predecessor of the Toronto Port Authority, whose board is appointed by all three levels of government.

Joseph D’Cruz, a professor of strategic management at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business, said the outcome is uncertain because of the many players and interests.

He said the federal government will likely support Porter, especially since it has financially assisted the development of Bombardier’s new aircraft.

“There’s good reasons why the feds should support it because this aircraft, CS100, is an import development for Canada,” he said.

D’Cruz added that it could prompt support from the Toronto Port Authority by funding the runway extension.

“If that happens then I think we will have a situation where there’s momentum behind this development.”

He said Porter will succeed if it can win over “fence sitters” whose opinion can influence politicians at city hall.

Nearly half of Torontonians approve the use of jets at the airport, according to a Forum Research survey published in the Toronto Star. Forty-seven per cent of the 850 adults polled supported jets, compared to 37 per cent who opposed.

“There’s only a small role for rational analysis here. A lot of it has to do with positions of individuals which are really baked very deeply into their psyche,” said D’Cruz.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s minority Liberal government has had little to say about Porter’s plans.

Transportation Minister Glen Murray called the airport a federal area of regulation.

“We certainly value the island airport as a very important asset,” he told reporters following the Porter announcement. “This has not been an issue in which the Ontario government has been approached.”


 
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Toronto island airport not the same issue it was a decade ago: observers

  1. As long as there are persons who are committed only to economic policy, really money, Toronto will not have a waterfront to be proud of. If you look at the Gardiner Expressway, the Don Valley Parkway, the portlands, the island airport, they were all built for the sake of development of the city. This is a process that dates back to the earliest days of Toronto’s development, when the Don River was the number one sewer. The portlands was built for the sake of industry, wiping out the largest wetland on the Great Lakes. The harbour used to be much larger than it used to be, filled in for railway and port development. The Gardiner wiped out a large part of the waterfront used for recreation and decimated nearby neighbourhoods. The Don Valley Parkway wiped out the last remnants of a large natural area that was once praised for its natural diversity of animals and plants.

    As long as we choose these choices over making choices to preserve, protect or improve the natural environment from what little we have left, then we will not have a waterfront to be proud of, or is healthy. We will have land that is used, and used up, for its economic potential, then virtually abandoned. The portlands has all sorts of abandoned buildings. Look at the cruise ship terminal for a recent example. The old power plant. How many millions went into redevelopment of the port lands to build industrial land. And the lands are not suitable and never were, because it was old marsh, for building development. The Sunnyside lands were a major cleanup of polluted waterfront in the 1910s. Today its is 16 lanes of highway for commuters. And it is the noisiest place in Ontario.

    Are we ever going to do an accounting of the value of the lands we have destroyed? Are we ever going to do an accounting of the harm to our health? Are we ever going to do an accounting of the harm to wildlife? We cannot put off this reckoning forever, but why can’t we look to a more sustainable approach to our natural resources where we have them? We need to stop taking the easy choices and think long-term.

    It’s not even clear that Porter is making a profit. But they do have the support of the Port Authority, and the generous and cheap use of prime waterfront lands. Today, the provincial government authority for transit is building a rail service for downtown-to-airport shuttle service. And is even going to use dirty diesel trains. Won’t expanding the island airport undermine the spending of money ? Will it be spent for nothing?So that people can travel quicker. In an age of abundant internet usage, do we really -need- this?

    • i think you should take your bike and move west,like vancouver island.

  2. atorontoguy: this isn’t just economics. Its common sense. It fits into a larger development plan for a city thats becoming an international hub. There are numerous parks around toronto for the public’s enjoyment and the city can continue to improve its park areas and its environment without having to close or reduce the toronto island airport. The real issue is about maximizing the benefit this airport offers Canadians. Porter has already done its due diligence in procuring jets that satisfy noise regulations and represent the best in green aviation technology. How about we be pragmatic and deal with 21st century problems and demands. If youre soo concerned about animal and plant diversity don’t frequent the highways you mention-but of course you have to to get anywhere. I can only imagine the impact on your quality of life when trees and flowers were destroyed for highways allowing us to travel downtown.

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