Citizens Seek Independent Airport Studies

<strong>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)</strong>
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)

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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