Adding to the growing list of pro-island airport expansion articles is yet another. While it is like the others in demanding that Ottawa allow the city to decide on the value of the studies currently underway, the Star’s November 25, 2015 article, What happened to the Liberal commitment to our cities?, takes a slightly different tack in arguing for expansion.
It attempts to shame and embarrass the federal government into allowing the city to decide the issue. At least three times, the article hammers home that Ottawa has dissed Toronto. It’s as if repetition will strengthen what is basically, at best, a weak argument.
In arguing that the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau ran explicitly on a pledge to be more supportive and respectful of the needs of Canada’s cities during the last election, the author, Ambarish Chandra, conveniently ignores the Liberal Party commitment before the election to deny the expansion issue. Ignoring the promise and attempting to build a case on ignorance does not make for a compelling argument.
It is not the first time that Dr. Chandra has weighed in on the Porter Airlines file and like this time, it came at a crucial time in the politics of the expansion issue.
In a ‘note’ dated March 11, 2014, three weeks before the crucial city council April 1 vote on expansion, he argues that Porter Airlines is good for reducing airfares in the markets it serves.
There seems to be no readily available context in which to put the ‘note’. There is, however, the author’s opinion piece, Why it would pay to expand Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport, that appeared three days earlier in the Star and in plenty of time before the council vote.
An avowed champion of more competition in the Canadian airline industry, the author bases his argument on economics. However, the piece, Why it would pay to expand Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport, allows that there are arguments other than lower fares at stake.
“We do not claim to have informed opinions about the other issues at stake, such as noise, pollution and traveller convenience, and we acknowledge that these are legitimate factors that Toronto City Council needs to consider.”
Unfortunately, there is no room in Dr. Chandra’s traditional economic model, the kind that ignores incidentals like quality of life and the environmental costs. The Liberal party and its leader Justin Trudeau’s pledge to be more supportive and respectful of the needs of Canada’s cities is looking at the broader picture when chooses to support a cleaner, greener waterfront over its return to an industrial use.
As for the main thrust of Dr. Chandra’s timely November 25 article – cities losing faith with the Liberal government over an election promise – the Liberal government’s decision should give cities comfort in knowing that it follows through on its promises. After all, it conveyed its promise to deny airport expansion on June 4. The election was called on August 2. Expansion proponents had two months before the election to oppose the decision and 11 weeks during the election to get the Liberal party to change its decision.
The time to fight the decision was before and during the election, not after, as expansion proponents are so keen to do.