The federal government has stated that they will not open the Tripartite Agreement to allow jets at the Island Airport, and the Ports Toronto has decided to stop work on their so called EA. The Porter jet proposal is now good and truly dead.
This is a major victory. Politicians like Adam Vaughan, Olivia Chow, and Joe Cressy have been central in this struggle, but it was the hundreds of community activists that supported the movement of NoJets that led to the cancellation of the jet proposal. However, the fight against the airport is not over.
The objective of CommunityAIR has always been to close the Island Airport. We believe that a busy commercial airport is incompatible with the redeveloped Waterfront, the residential communities from Etobicoke to the eastern Beaches. It also devalues recreation on Toronto Island, the harbour and Lake Ontario.
Jets would have been far worse, but even the Q400 planes, operated by Porter and Air Canada on the Island, have led to a deterioration of the quality of life of all Waterfront communities. The greatest price has been paid by those who live in the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood. Not only has this community been plagued with intolerable noise and air pollution, but the vehicle traffic has made the streets unsafe.
Members of CommunityAIR have long argued that Torontonians do not need the Island Airport. Pearson has excellent facilities, and with recent improvements, it has more than enough capacity to handle all commercial traffic from the region. Now that the Union/Pearson fixed link is open, the argument that the Island Airport is good for business cannot be used. The airport is merely a convenience for some, a convenience the Waterfront cannot afford.
The reality is that Porter Airlines located at the Island because they were given a favourable deal by the Toronto Port Authority, desperate to keep the airport open. At the same time the Conservatives have done everything in their power to make the Island Airport a success.
Across North America small airports are closing as air traffic is centralized in large airports like Pearson. Now is the time for the Island Airport to close and transform the airport lands into uses that are compatible with the new, redeveloped Waterfront.
The Island Airport has 215 acres of land. This is the most spectacular underdeveloped property in southern Ontario. It borders on Lake Ontario to the west and Toronto Harbour to the east, while the dramatic skyline of the city is to the north and east.
There are any number of possible uses for the airport lands. In the distant past, before the airport was built, this was Hanlan’s Point with an amusement park and the city’s most popular beach. Across the wire fence from the airport today is the Toronto Island Park, the “jewel in the crown” of the Toronto park system.
Some have speculated that, if the airport closes the park should be expanded. Others say we should have an iconic building or buildings, such as a center to celebrate Canada’s aboriginal people. A university campus is another suggestion. Some affordable housing built to environmentally sustainable standards is another. Maybe the lands should be a combination of different types of uses.
The debate about expanding the airport to accommodate jets is over. It is time for a more positive, exciting debate on how we turn the airport lands into a stunning feature that complements the Waterfront and adds to Toronto and its cultural life.
The best public agency to take the lead on this debate is Waterfront Toronto. It is a joint project of the federal and provincial governments and the City. They have the most robust public consultation process of any agency in Toronto and can accommodate debate and develop a viable plan that will benefit everyone.
CommunityAIR wants to play a role in this transformation. We are going to continue our efforts to close the Island Airport, and we will add our voice to the many in the city calling for the transformation of the airport lands into something truly exciting for all of the people of Toronto.
Soon we will hold a community meeting to discuss next steps. If you want to be informed, follow our activities via our blog, www.communityair.org or contact either Brian Iler, or Bill Freeman and we will put your address on our online mailing list.
We hope that you join us in this effort. Only engaged citizens will close the Island Airport and transform the lands into something truly spectacular.