On July 25, the Toronto Star published an opinion piece by freelance writer and former Globe and Mail columnist John Barber about his recent attempt to spend time on the Toronto Islands.
Titled The unfulfilled promise of the Toronto islands, the article compares access to the islands for two different groups: ordinary Torontonians and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA) users, primarily the business class and its hangers-on, like lobbyists. Mr. Barber takes issue with the treatment afforded each group.
The article makes quite clear that money has its privileges. The airport users have not one but two ferries to get them the short distance across the Western Gap and at the time of the writing, the tunnel was days away from opening. It would represent a second no-wait option to take time-sensitive business travellers to the island so they could get away from it as conveniently as possible.
Meanwhile, at the foot of Bay St. the masses lined up in the sun for up to an hour for their boat ride to a place designated the jewel in the parks department crown, a much better use of the islands in Mr. Barber’s opinion.
The article appeared on a Saturday. By Sunday morning the Friends of Billy Bishop Twitter account was at work. A note of explanation: John Barber’s Twitter name is @Annegonian a play on a resident of the Annex. Kathy English is an editor at the Star.
At 11:06 the next day, Sunday morning, Friends of Billy Bishop went on the attack with the first of three successive tweets to Kathy English. Rather than addressing Mr. Barber, they chose, in a petulant schoolboy manner, to tell on Mr. Barber because his writing ‘strongly implied’ and ‘misleads’ and ‘unfairly leads’.
Reading from the bottom up, one can see the diversionary arguments Friends of Billy Bishop uses to deflect from the gist of the article: a divide in this city based on wealth and privilege. The article makes clear that the powerful, wealthy and privileged can cut out a piece of the island for an airport, access it at their convenience and, ironically, use it to get quickly away from it while the not-so-privileged access it by endurance.
Friends of Billy Bishop might take a look at the 11:09 am tweet above and reflect on how two ferries and a tunnel address the source of access issues in the broader scope of things.