Island airport expansion takes flight as top issue in Ward 20 council race

A band of taxis stream south on Bathurst Street toward the waterfront.

Jackhammering from construction sites on Queen’s Quay and the faint humming of turbo-prop engines from the island airport rise above the morning street noise.

Slowly, the gridlocked traffic progresses toward the airport ferry terminal at the edge of Bathurst Quay.

The waterfront belongs to the people and not an industrial entity.

—Anshul Kapoor

This congestion, Anshul Kapoor says, should not be allowed to get any worse.

“The waterfront belongs to the people and not an industrial entity,” he said. “The notion that this is an airport with a waterfront around it — that’s the notion that we’re fighting — because from our perspective it’s a waterfront with an airport on it.”

Kapoor, the founder and former head of NoJetsTO, has stepped back from the organization to run for the Ward 20 council seat in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

He opposes any airport expansion, which would likely include lengthening the runway to allow for jets. Earlier this year city council deferred any decision on expansion plans until after the election.

Unlike some airport opponents, Kapoor has no intention to shut Billy Bishop down. He hopes to maintain the status quo, which would see Porter Airlines, the airport’s largest tenant, continue its popular short-haul flights.

The company has nearly single-handedly catapulted annual passenger traffic at the airport from 26,000 in 2006 to 2.3 million, according to the Toronto Port Authority.

I walk around Ward 20 and certainly I see a lot of signs saying no jets, but I see far more houses without the signs.

—Sam Goldstein

Sam Goldstein, also a Ward 20 council candidate, says there has been a failure of leadership on Toronto’s waterfront in the past decade. He is not ready to endorse or dismiss airport expansion.

“There’s a small group of very vocal people who are against the island airport,” Goldstein said. “I walk around Ward 20 and certainly I see a lot of signs saying no jets, but I see far more houses without the signs.”

Goldstein says he would listen to both sides of the debate before making a decision.

“That’s why you elect leaders,” he said, “Any leader who doesn’t listen to people and then use their good judgment is not doing their job.”

Gabriel Eidelman, a public policy and governance professor at the University of Toronto, shares Goldstein’s view that it is too early to tell what expansion will mean for Toronto.

“There are risks involved in any island airport expansion,” he said. “That’s not to say that it shouldn’t happen or that it should. It’s just that it would take careful planning and thought, and you have to have all the players at the table to really consider that.”

While noise levels, congestion and environmental concerns are all issues rising out of expansion plans, it is how an expanded island airport will effect the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront that remains at the top of the council candidates’ agendas.

[The airport] absolutely has to be the number 1 [issue] that everyone’s concerned about.

—Joan Prowse

Chris Glaisek, a planner for Waterfront Toronto, has said that when construction is finished on Queen’s Quay, the organization hopes the redesigned street will serve as the city’s Champs Elysees.

Joan Prowse, a member of the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Association, says Waterfront Toronto has done great things for the city and does not want to see those gains reversed.

She and many others — including the approximately 2,000 members of NoJetsTO from Ward 20 — are pledging their support to candidates who stand firmly against any airport expansion.

“There are other issues that are important,” Prowse said, “but [the airport] absolutely has to be the number 1 [issue] that everyone’s concerned about [this election].”

One comment:

  1. Residents and businesses on the Waterfront had to cancel the important Waterfront Debate on Sept. 16, because John Tory bowed out the day before. This was the question waiting for him and Olivia Chow (Chow against jets, Tory mum so far):

    1) Do you support City Council’s resolution to cap air traffic at this Airport as a condition to revisit the proposed jet expansion?
    2) Based on the information and reports available today, do you support expansion of the Island Airport to fly jets, double the passenger loads and extend runways and runway approach lights into the lake?

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