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.”