Sparks fly over island airport expansion at Trinity-Spadina debate

The question of the Toronto’s island airport expansion proved to be a divisive issue in an otherwise amicable Trinity-Spadina all-candidates debate held at the Harbourfront Centre Tuesday night.

The expansion of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport continues as home to Porter Airlines welcomes a little friendly competition in the form of Air Canada, who will start using the island May 1 for short haul flights.

Incumbent MP Olivia Chow of the New Democrat Party has been staunchly opposed to the expansion of the airport. When asked by an audience member about how she plans to help further the development of the waterfront, she was quick to complain about the Toronto Port Authority.

“Toronto Port Authority is a rogue agency, unaccountable, stuffed with former Liberal friends who are now Conservative friends,” she said. “They are able expand through public dollars. If it is a private business, let them do their own thing.”

The island airport has been the source of controversy for the city over the last decade. In 2003, former mayor David Miller famously battled against the building of a pedestrian bridge with Chow’s support. Chow’s website states she “committed to the fight” against the expansion of the airport and construction of the tunnel.

Liberal candidate Christine Innes said she thinks it would be a huge expense to pull out of the airport now.

“Your MP (Chow) promised five years ago she’d close it. Instead, it has expanded and it has expanded great,” Innes said. “This is a choice that people of Toronto will have to make. It will cost 10-20 million dollars to cancel contracts. It is a licensed airport until 2030.”

Instead, Innes proposes looking into other areas that money could be spent, such as transit.

Conservative candidate Gin Siow offered his full support to the expansion of the airport, stating it is vital to the business model of the city, and one that is fully supported by the people of Toronto.

“The people of Toronto are using the island airport daily. That must mean that it is what the people want,” Siow said. “Toronto is an international city and it is an airport that supports that.”

3 comments:

  1. I’ve lived for years on the waterfront – for several I faced south towards the island, overlooking Queens Quay Terminal and now I’m just to the north of the Gardiner with my balcony looking onto the main runway at the Island Airport. I’ve never been even remotely bothered by noise from the planes – you can barely even hear them even when sitting outside. Cars and street cars are much more disruptive. I heard a helicopter for a few minutes the other night that seemed to be hovering nearby but never had a problem with the airport. If anyone other than the handful of privileged cottagers who reside at the east end of the island are using noise as the issue for objecting to this great service, they’re full of it.

  2. I find the “airport noise” argument spurious. If anyone actually hangs around that side of downtown as I do, you never hear the planes. Auto and streetcar traffic is much louder, especially on the Gardiner. Venturing down there, it is amazing how quiet those planes are. One might argue for the row of condos right on Harbour Street along the channel but I’m not convinced it is so much more noisy than the ambient city noise. Secondly, I’ve lived at Yonge/Davisville for a few years next to the tracks. The subway station noise, especially during maintenance work late at night around 2-4am, is unbelievable and this affects rows of apartments along Lawton, Lascelles and Yonge Street. It started to affect my sleep so I moved. But anyone would be a fool to propose this as an argument to shutdown the subway.

  3. Porter and YTZ are well used and well regarded by many in and around the GTA. It saves money, time and stress. The Toronto-built Q400s use 30-40% less than similarly sized turbofan jets at Pearson operating at similar ranges. Have you seen gas prices lately? This plays right into one of Porter’s competitive advantages, and have them around is good for the consumer. (It also happens to be good for local advanced manufacturing jobs.) We need *more*, not less, competition in the regional airliner market to drive fairer pricing and service levels. Of course who ever said knee jerk lefties like Chow and Layton understand how free market economics works. They know how to politic and morally posture, strumming just the right chords that resonate with their usual hard ideologue followers.

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