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The Latest Toronto Island Airport Expansion Scheme

Here are some initial comments on the announcement today that a new airline will be expanding service at the Toronto Island Airport, aided by a $15-million fast ferry project:

  • Perhaps I'm being cynical, but I find it the timing of this announcement very interesting. Was it delayed until after the federal election in hopes of saving Tony Ianno's seat?
  • Deluce has ordered ten 70-seat planes, and intends on sending them to destinations such as Chicago or New York. Based on that distance I'd imagine each plane might make three round trips per day. That translates into 60 more take-offs and landings per day over the harbour.
  • However, Air Canada says that construction of the ferry will improve airport access to the point where it would be economical for them to reinstate flights cancelled due to lack of demand.
  • The $15-million fast ferry is essentially being funded by Toronto Port Authority lawsuits and bail-outs. The airport loses money perpetually.
  • The TPA, however, may dream that expansion will eventually put them into the black. But I doubt that this level of expansion will lead to financial success. This would have to be a stepping stone to an even greater expansion.
  • Will the fast ferry make enough of a difference to allow Air Canada Jazz and Deluce's Porter Airlines to make money at the Island?
  • In my view, the appeal of flying out of the island airport on a slower, smaller plane is overrated. Combined with the lack of US Customs preclearance, it's particularly hard for me to imagine how the island airport can be competitive with Pearson on flights to US markets.
  • Politically, the jobs card will be played on this issue. It just so happens that these planes will be manufactured by Bombardier in Toronto. But before we consider that I think we need to recognize that we've already decided we don't want airport expansion downtown. As Mayor Miller said, "You have to make a choice: do you want an industrial or revitalized waterfront?"
  • The election of a Stephen Harper government changes one major part of what had previously been an all-Liberal combination: A Liberal-created Toronto Port Authority, staffed will Liberal-connected appointees, doing business with Liberal-lobbyist backed Robert Deluce, promising to buy planes from Liberal-funding Bombardier that would be manufactured by unionized workers organized by Paul Martin backers.
  • During the election campaign, the Conservatives sent mixed messages about their position on the Toronto Port Authority. But a spokesman did tell the Globe and Mail: "Obviously we want to work with Toronto on a number of issues and certainly this is one we will be looking at as well. We have said we want to look at allowing Toronto to make decisions about things that affect it directly, such as the Toronto port." And added that doing so would fit "Mr. Harper's philosophy of keeping local decisions local."
  • However, when it became clear that the TPA's last airport scheme was jeopardized by David Miller's imminent victory, they attempted to protect their plans by signing contracts related to the bridge construction. Ultimately these contracts may have been part of the reason the federal government handed them $35-million to settle unnamed lawsuits. It would not at all be surprising if the TPA has followed this approach again, making legal commitments that attempt to entrench their position.
  • On the other hand, Community Air reports that: Section 55 (3) of the Tripartite Agreement (between the City, the Port Authority, and Transport Canada) states, “The (Port Authority) shall use its best efforts to include in any lease that it may grant in respect of the whole or any part of the (Port Authority) lands a provision whereby the lease will terminate upon the closing of the Toronto City Centre Airport.”
  • AM 640 reports that Mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield doesn't think this issue matters to many Torontonians. I'd say that's a bad first step to her campaign.

The big question to me is this: who is the Toronto Port Authority working for? What is their mandate? Whose interests are they serving when they keep pursuing an unwanted airport expansion right in the middle of many billions of dollars worth of residential construction? Shouldn't they be serving the interests and wishes of the people of Toronto?

Here's more background on the TPA.

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