Park or Planes?

Imagine New Yorkers being asked if they want a city airport instead of Central Park. The answer would surely be no. Recently citizens in Chicago, Berlin, Edmonton and Santa Monica were facing that question – a small airport or a big park – and they all favoured parks over airports.

Now Toronto is facing the same question. We are critically short of parks and recreation, especially downtown. Losing the Rail Deck Park would make it worse. The Island Airport is stagnant and looking for investors, hoping to resume commercial flights. Its lease to use this publicly-owned land runs out in 12 years.

It is time to review Port Toronto’s industrial use of 215 acres of valuable land on our Waterfront. Does a city airport fit into Toronto, the fastest growing city in North America? Is it even needed, now that we have a 25-minute ride with UP Express from Union Station to Pearson Airport? Will a great recreational space by the lake serve future generations best and become an urban treasure like Central Park?

YQNA wanted to learn more about the options and invited Brian Iler of CommunityAir as our guest speaker. Feel free to share his illustrated presentation from our May meeting.

Our Team on the Hill

Photo: Adam Scotti

The seismic shift in Parliament brings us this cheerful team: Ange Valentini, chief of staff to MP Adam Vaughan (top right) and the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. We congratulate them on the outcome of their successful campaign that brought them to the Waterfront many times. YQNA has always worked closely with our elected officials.  We are pleased that this new government already is committed to maintaining the tripartite agreement that governs the Island Airport. Not opening the agreement to negotiations allows the current airport operations, but will prevent massive jet expansion that would seriously threaten life on the Waterfront. Go team, go!

Citizens Seek Independent Airport Studies

Flocks of geese at the Island Airport create danger of bird strikes, even worse if they are sucked into jet engines. (Photo: Ron Jenkins)
Flocks of geese at the Island Airport create danger of bird strikes, even worse if the geese are sucked into jet engines. (Photo: Ron Jenkins)

Numerous neighbourhood associations and community groups, including YQNA, have recently formed the Greater Waterfront Coalition. The Coalition has requested funding for independent experts and consultants to study certain issues arising out of the Porter Airlines proposal to expand the Island Airport to allow jets.

The request for funding and covering letter over the signature of lawyer Ed Hore (also YQNA’s new co-president), both dated December 8, 2014 can be seen here.

Jets require 200 metre extensions of the existing runway at both ends. The governing document, the Tripartite Agreement between the City of Toronto, The Toronto Port Authority and Transport Canada, however, does not permit jets, so Porter Airlines asked that the Agreement be amended. That requires the approval of City Council.

After some rushed studies and a staff report, Council passed a resolution in early April, 2014 requiring among other things that the Toronto Port Authority, owner and operator of the airport, conduct an Environmental Assessment of the effects of expanding the airport to allow jets. The City resolution also called for robust public consultation. Toronto Port Authority is now embarking on just such an Environmental Assessment, and wrestling with how to make it thorough enough to satisfy the City.

The Coalition formed because community groups shared concerns that they cannot provide real public input into the EA without their own independent experts and consultants. The issues are extremely complex. There is a widely-held concern that TPA experts and consultants will not represent or seriously consider the public interest, but rather will act as hired guns whose job is to make expansion of the airport happen.

If the Coalition receives funding to hire arm’s length experts and consultants, their mandate is to examine the complex issues from a public interest perspective. The request focuses on two areas seen as particularly in need of independent analysis: aeronautical safety, and the economic benefits and costs of expansion.

The aeronautic safety issues include: Will the Marine Exclusion Zone expand if the runway is extended? What are the effects of blasting jet engines near boats. What effect will aeronautical safety regulations have on new building development around the Harbour and in the Port Lands, and what would happen in an emergency? The economic questions include: Would jets at the Island Airport really bring travellers into Toronto, over and above those who would come anyway through Pearson? And what would be the economic cost of jets, for example, if they cause a reduction of tourism in the Waterfront, lower real estate values or restrict new Waterfront developments?

Representatives of the Coalition met with Toronto Port Authority on December 15, 2015, and we are waiting to hear if TPA will grant us intervener funding.

Ed Hore
Co-Chair of YQNA

Public Meeting: Jets and the Environment

TPA Jets

The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) is scoping an environmental assessment (EA) of Porter Airline’s proposal to introduce jet aircraft and extend the main runway at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport by 400 meters.

A public meeting will provide information on the purpose of the EA; review the areas to be studied and the process of creating an EA; explain how the public can participate throughout the EA process by provide a forum to ask questions.

Meeting Details:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
6:30 – 9:30pm
Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 107
255 Front Street West

After this meeting, the EA will be delivered in two steps — first to determine the scope of it, and secondly to implement it. Consultation with the public and stakeholders will be an important part of both steps.

Swerhun Inc., the independent facilitation team, will document all public feedback on the EA regarding a jet expansion. The TPA and its technical consultants assures that a transparent feedback throughout the process will be made available to the public.

This meeting is not the first step to “the sure road to jets,” but a pivotal forum to hear public concerns about the validity of this EA.

Serious Setback for Jets

Transport Canada oversees all airports in Canada. No airport or airline can override their federal safety regulations. To see what Billy Bishop would look like as a jet airport, Transport Action Ontario superimposed the federal rules for extended runways, jet-blast zones, safety zones and marine exclusion zones. Only exemptions could change that picture.

City Council spent all of April 1, 2014 grappling with Porter’s request to include jets on the Island Airport. Would the Waterfront be dominated by a jet airport with extended runways blocking sailing and future developments? Despite a costly advertising campaign by Porter, a privately owned company, the bid for fast approval suffered serious jet lag when Council voted to defer the expansion pending extensive studies until 2015 or later. The grassroots group NoJetsTO had good reason to celebrate.

Councillor Pam McConnell reported: “Council did not approve Island Airport expansion or the introduction of jets… The reports presented to City Council were never an endorsement of airport expansion or the operation of jets on the Island Airport. Rather, the studies highlighted many unresolved problems and contain numerous conditions before City Council should even contemplate amending the Tripartite Agreement.”

YQNA and many other citizens groups have worked tirelessly to educate people about this issue, which comes down to: Save our Waterfront! It belongs to all of Toronto, as NoJetsTO showed with 13,000 city-wide signatures on their petition. It is remarkable that Robert Deluce’s request could get so far before brakes were applied. This jet airport has no master plan, no environmental assessment, no business plan, no infrastructure plans, no certified jets, and no application for this airport has even been received by Transport Canada, which oversees all Canadian airports.

With so little information coming from Mr. Deluce and his landlord, the Toronto Port Authority, an impressive illustrated document from Transport Action Ontario fills a void. Their aeronautical experts applied all of Transport Canada’s safety regulations to the proposed jet airport; only exemptions could change this picture of the inner harbour. It shows extended runways, jet-blast zones, safety zones and marine exclusion zones. [See complete report here.]

As councillor Peter Milczyn said: “A larger airport on the lake is not the City’s or the people of Toronto’s vision for our Waterfront.”