Realty Check on Island Airport Expansion

Dear Mr. Ian Wilcox (Re: Your letter to The Bulletin dated October 11, 2013)

Thank you for this opportunity to clarify some of your misconceptions, or deliberate misinformation you are spreading through your letter. I understand you are an employee of the Porter Call Centre.

The issue under discussion has been succinctly explained in this remarkable video, by two 16-year olds, one of who lives in Councillor Matlow’s ward, well away from the Waterfront.

The illusion that is being propagated about the convenience of the Island Airport to the financial district is fast disappearing, as you will see from these two videos taken to provide a reality check.

It already takes 24-26 minutes to and from the airport to the intersection of King and Bay Streets. The main reason is the TPA has from the start grown this airport in relative secrecy, without proper planning, EAs, and community consultation resulting in traffic chaos.

In addition, I believe the total lack of credibility in the TPA is at an all time high in spite of extensive use of paid marketing experts and of Mark McQueen speeches to the old boys clubs.

You mentioned the potential creation of 4000 jobs. Waterfront Toronto is already creating 40,000 real jobs through its plans for cleaning up the heritage of last century’s industry. It has already attracted $3.4 B in private investment from developers. Mixed use will provide recurrent tax revenue to the City. If Porter can grow its popular jet offspring, it should take those jobs to Pearson. TO will not lose out at all.

The TPA must start contributing its fair share to the enormous drain of taxpayer resources in Toronto. So far it has behaved like a dead-beat dad. It is way behind on its back taxes and is whining about paying a fair PILT (payment in lieu of taxes). Worse still, it appears that in a ‘back-room deal’, ironically a replay perhaps of the monkey-business unfolding in the Senate, the TPA has given Porter a lease for incredibly expensive land at practically a nominal rate until 2033, at the taxpayers’ cost. Porter does not even contribute its share of property taxes to the City.

An independent economic evaluation must have access to Porter Airline’s operating data, to even establish what financial risks the TPA has exposed all parties to the Tripartite Agreement, and what financial liabilities will accrue to TO taxpayers, in the event of a failure of Porter’s operations.

Not all of the various groups that have come together under the NoJetsTO umbrella to oppose expansion of the island airport have demanded the closure of Porter’s successful boutique airline. No one who is already employed need to worry about their jobs.

But jets belong at Pearson. The Waterfront belongs to the 17 million people who gleefully visit each year. This number is expected to grow exponentially as soon as the current phase of improvements on Queens Quay are completed in March 2015.

Mr. Wilcox, I am sure you are a decent man like any other Canadian. You will understand that the first priority must be to fix up the traffic management and other services that are under stress. The Community of 20,000 is undergoing tremendous stress.

This will require a large infusion of cash to ameliorate. The scale of investment is not known. Neither is the source of financing. Will the federal government be willing to donate the sums required? Will the TPA put up the cash? Can it ask Porter to reopen its lease agreement and make a realistic contribution towards cost of infrastructure?

Then there is the issue of public safety and security. Currently, four double-tanker trucks loaded with highly inflammable aviation fuel maneuver their way daily through dense traffic, past residential areas and school playgrounds to get to the airport ferry. Passengers and private cars are also loaded on to the same ferry, without any security checks, presumably not in compliance with the stricter standards at Pearson, in order to maintain the illusion of speed and ease at the island airport. In an age of international terrorism, who is looking into this issue? How will growing the airports with jets, improve its security?

I have kept the most important issue for last. There are numerous studies that show conclusively the dangers of airport noise and fumes on health and safety, especially in relation to cardiac, pulmonary diseases and various forms of cancer. The City has been very lax in looking at these issues. When it did, earlier this month, it was a very cursory, closed-door session for invited guests. Presumably the TPA paid for this too.
Here is an outline of the health and safety issues explained by a Toronto doctor.

In order to have a broader discussion of the issues, a public meeting has been arranged by a group called: Citizens for a Safe and Healthy Waterfront. You and your friends are invited to listen and learn. Bring your neighbors. They will thank you.

There are a couple of minor issues you raise. You quote, Logan Airport, Boston; Washington Regan; and New York Kennedy. None of these airports is located on prime waterfront but all appear close as the infrastructure is in place to cope with traffic and other servicing requirements. Please check it out. Our island airport, especially in the past decade is nothing but hi-jacked public land by any common sense-description.

You also keep repeating the line that the CS100 is manufactured in Canada. Not true. The aircraft is assembled in Canada at Mirabel while 50% of the manufacturing takes place in Ireland.

There is considerable public Canadian investment in Bombardier and to capitalize on it, flying this jet from Pearson, rather than the smaller island airport should improve its visibility and attraction to other airlines.

Finally Mr. Wilcox, I want to assure you I am not a paid consultant. I was moved to action to join NoJetsTO, like hundreds of others, to try and save our precious waterfront from total destruction. I am a writer, but when it comes to fiction, airport expansionists win hands down.

Braz Menezes