Every now and again, opposition parties in the House of Commons are given the opportunity to bring a motion of their choosing. On March 9th the Conservative Party brought forward a motion criticizing the government for blocking the jet expansion of the Island Airport.
This is part of the transcript of that debate. You can find the full debate at this address,
Opposition Day Motion March 9‑10, 2016
Motion brought by Mrs. Kelly Block (Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, CPC)
That the House: (a) acknowledge the contribution Bombardier makes to the Canadian economy and the aerospace industry; (b) recognize that there is a market solution already available that could support Bombardier; (c) acknowledge that Bombardier has designed the quietest and best aircraft in its class that is well suited to urban airports like the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport; (d) recognize that the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is a major economic driver for the Greater Toronto Area that supports both business and leisure travel; (e) recognize that the expansion of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport would allow airlines to purchase Bombardier aircraft; and (f) call on the government to reverse its decision on restricting the expansion of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Members who spoke in opposition to this motion, and excerpts from their speeches and questions, from Hansard:
I am curious whether or not she is aware that the cost of doing this project has been estimated at close to $1.6 billion, of which there is no source of funding. This would include the cost of filling half a kilometre of Lake Ontario and paving it over for the extension of the runway; the cost of a 20-foot wall that would run the entire length of the runway from Bay Street to Dufferin Street, which is almost a mile in length across the waterfront; the fact that the reconfiguration of this airport would require fitting an airport the size of the Ottawa international airport into one-seventh of the its mass, again with no funding source at all to pay for the land site improvements that would be required to move 4.3 million passengers; and it would also require additional dollars to be paid through an airport levy tax to do the lakefront
… the city of Toronto has debated this issue for three years and the city council of Toronto has had five opportunities in those three years to make a formal request to open the tripartite agreement: in April 2013, July 2013, November 2013, February 2014, and March 2014. At no time in any of those public meetings, at which I was a voting member at some, did we ever request the opening of the tripartite agreement.
As well, the port authority, or PortsToronto as it is now known, has been meeting for three years and at no time in its three years of existence, while this debate has gone on, has it ever asked for the tripartite agreement to be opened to consider jets. In fact, the only person who wants this is the owner of a single operator at the island airport. That individual, in a letter to Rob Ford, then mayor of Toronto, pursued this with great vim and vigour.
Why have the signatories to the tripartite agreement, the Government of Canada, the port authority, and the city of Toronto, never formally requested that this issue be opened?
…Is the member opposite aware that within 500 metres of the end of the runway, the most significant impact is being felt by a low-income community, largely Toronto Community Housing co-ops, but in particular a group of housing units, not people in condos sipping lattes as the member opposite suggested yesterday, but senior citizens and people with severe disabilities?
This airport has now been identified in a public health report on the record at city council as the single largest source of air pollution in the entire GTA. The report notes that the asthma rates are starting to spike among school children who live in this neighbourhood, and that the most vulnerable population is bearing the brunt of the existing operation, let alone a doubling of the size of this airport.
Is the member aware of the extraordinary health impact this will have on a low-income and vulnerable community?
…When a report was tabled on November 2013 at the City of Toronto, it showed that the land-side cost to configure the airport, to even begin to think about expanding it at its current configuration, would cost close to $600 million. The proponent of this project, the airline, not the port authority and not the City of Toronto, said that the city could use the money from the new building Canada fund, $600 million from the federal government, to pay for all the changes that were required on the city’s property.
The federal government at the time was given the choice. It could fund the port authority and the airline’s request, but it chose a different course. It actually funded transit in Scarborough with that money instead of acquiescing to Mr. Deluce’s request. In light of the fact that the previous federal government did not support this project when given the opportunity, does the member think that the current opposition should support its previous position on the file?
… Have you ever met with Air Canada and WestJet to discuss the fact that they have completely limited access, that there is a near monopoly that has been granted to the operator of Porter Airlines? Have you discussed that WestJet and Air Canada have grave reservations about how Conservative appointees to the port authority configured this airport in a near monopoly setting, which is so restrictive that they are not allowed to compete with Porter Airlines with flights?
… This idea comes from Mr. Deluce and Porter Airlines in a private communication to Mayor Ford, and was given six weeks for approval. The city has six weeks to approve this or else the deal will fall through. When it came to council, the questions that sprung from that ridiculous proposition were so serious and of such magnitude that the city has struggled through five public meetings of council, numerous consultation meetings, as well as 25 reports tabled by economic consultants, planning consultants, aeronautic consultants, and everyone else trying to figure out why this idea would even get to see the light of day, let alone be put on the order paper at city council.
We would have to ask Mayor Ford—and maybe the former Prime Minister could have done that when he had him on stage during the campaign. However, we have no idea why this idea ever came forward. PortsToronto did not promote the idea. The City of Toronto did not promote the idea. The Government of Canada did not promote the idea. None of the signatories to the tripartite agreement have ever agreed to this proposition. We are studying it to try to figure out if it makes sense.
All that the studies have done is to result in more questions.
… We could not get an answer as to whether that was the right configuration of the airport, the wrong configuration of the airport, how wide it would be, and whether taxiways would be involved. There was no design. In fact, there was no business case ever advanced by anyone around this entire process.
The city has tried to study it. It put some very serious conditions in place before it would ever even consider approving this project. Those conditions have never been met. In fact, the port authority said it could not meet them, which meant that when this eventually did get to the floor of council, it was dead in the water…. when we ask the party opposite whom it has spoken to, the only people it has admitted to speaking to is the airline operator. They have met with Mr. Deluce. Mr. Deluce and his lobby organization, the Sussex Strategy Group, have been lobbying on Parliament Hill for well over a month. If we were to check the lobbyists’ register, we would find that they have not registered.
The party opposite is acting on behalf of lobbyists who have not obeyed the rules and have brought to the House a motion to further the private interests of a single airline at the expense of all the other public investments.
At the very least, we would expect this operator to follow the rules for once, to follow the rules and register as a lobbyist before talking to parliamentarians about these business interests, but that has not happened. That is shocking. It is not surprising from the party opposite, but still shocking.
Mr. Deluce has not registered as a lobbyist. Porter Airlines has not registered as a lobbyist, despite the fact that he has been up on Parliament Hill talking to individual members of Parliament and the ministerial staff. He has not obeyed the rules.
How can your party advocate for a lobbyist and a private interest that refuses to obey the laws of Canada? Where is the shame in your party in standing up for a private individual who will not obey the rules of Parliament?
… there is an astonishing record of poor public administration at the port authority. It does not follow the rules. The proponents of this project are not following the lobbyist registration rules. They have not registered yet. A complaint has been filed and received.
It is shocking that, in the midst of all of this poor governance, one individual has convinced the party opposite to come forward with a motion from which he alone would profit. It is just an abysmal process. To suggest that we are going to sit here today and overrule a decision we made, a promise we committed to and kept, which is to protect the waterfront, the balance, and the airport as it is currently configured, and move forward in a coordinated and consensual way, to say that we are going to throw all of that aside for the rights of one individual who will not play by the rules is just not the way good governance is conducted. It is not the way good public policy is pursued.
In terms of consultation, I would suggest the party opposite consult more widely. Perhaps if it did, it would not be shut out in the city of Toronto every time there is a federal election.
… the report from the Board of Health identifies the island airport as the single largest source of pollution in the entire GTA. That has very serious implications for the low-income community that surrounds the airport, in particular the building that is closest to the end of the runway, which is a supportive environment home to people with significant disabilities.
We are also seeing a spike in childhood asthma at the local school. The local school sits on one side of the street, a two-lane road to a park in this community, and the entire access to the airport runs between a school in the community and the community centre. There are no plans and no capacity to expand that roadway, even though they want to jam an airport the size of the Ottawa international airport into one-seventh the land mass.
… the City of Toronto requested an environmental assessment be done, but only after the port authority agreed to put a cap on the current operation of the airport, because the current operation of the airport is overwhelming the transportation infrastructure in the community, including transit, the intersection of Bathurst and Lake Shore, and that of Eireann Quay and Bathurst.
With the current configuration, the airport is already too big for the land mass it currently occupies, and the ground transportation infrastructure is inadequate for an airport of the current configuration of 2.4 million passengers per year. The port authority refused to put the cap in place and proceeded with an environmental assessment that it configured, to which it set the terms of reference, and for which it would have the sole decision as to whether it would be approved or not. Therefore, the City of Toronto was at the point of walking away from this process because of the lack of co-operation from PortsToronto.
… I am sure the hon. member opposite is aware that the future of Bombardier rests on more than one plane and one airport; it rests across its entire platform. I wonder if he could perhaps help to explain this. The previous government, when presented with an opportunity to purchase LRT streetcars for Toronto and source them specifically from Bombardier, specifically from workers in Thunder Bay, chose not to. His party told the City of Toronto, and I cannot use the words—they are words more properly spoken by Donald Trump than by me—to basically get lost and for that contract not to be pursued; it would not be funded by the previous government.
If Bombardier is such an important component of the Canadian economy and the future of Bombardier is so critically important to workers right across the country, why did the previous government not support the purchase agreement for the City of Toronto’s streetcars?
… Mr. Speaker, members on the opposite side have been quoting from a July 2013 study, page 18, that identifies that the economic impact at the airport as currently configured generates approximately 6,500 jobs, both inside the operation of the airport and outside.
If they read the full report, in fact the other half of the page, they would also see that the investment in transforming our waterfront has created 16,000 jobs, almost three times as many jobs, for a smaller investment than is now required to expand the airport.
The airport’s flight capacity is capped, and all the jets will do is to change one aircraft for another aircraft but not expand the airport. Given the fact that there is phase two and phase three of waterfront development, which is cheaper than reconfiguring the airport, would the member not agree that the wiser economic investment, with the bigger spinoff, more employment, and more economic activity, would be to invest in the waterfront, not in the airport?
When we compare it to the performance of the Liberal government taking decisions around the Toronto harbour out of the hands of the residents of Toronto and putting them with the Toronto port authority, we have seen in both of the old parties a lack of respect for the residents of Toronto that is quite palpable.
It seems to me that the Conservative Party has not done its homework. That is really apparent.
… This whole running around and saying that the sky is falling, that Bombardier will be doomed if we do not expand Billy Bishop airport, is total garbage. It makes no sense whatsoever. The Conservative policy wonks in their leader’s office have made the decision to try to use it as an issue to divide. I believe that the government’s approach in dealing with this issue has been very clear, virtually from the beginning.
The government … feels that the current tripartite agreement strikes the right balance between commercial interests and the interests of local communities, and the environmental and cultural challenges, including the evolution of the waterfront. Also, with other jet capable airports very close by, the government believed there was no compelling case to change the current approach.
The government is not alone in this position. Several citizens groups in the GTA have opposed any proposed expansion of Billy Bishop airport. Accordingly, they support our position against reopening the agreement.
… this is about more than just the airport. It is about Torontonians wanting a greater say in the development of their waterfront, which will be significantly affected by the expansion of the airport.
this decision was based on achieving a proper balance between commercial interests and the interests of the community. That counts for something, and that is fundamentally what the opposition fails to understand in this debate about Billy Bishop airport.
The concerns of the community are important. We have achieved the right balance with Billy Bishop airport.
A number of noted architects, a former mayor of Toronto, and chief planners have reiterated the importance of the Toronto waterfront for parks and trails, linked neighbourhoods, and places to live and work. There has been a lot of comment about the economic advantages of preserving and developing the waterfront. As I understand it, by and large, it is not so much the residents of Toronto Island, who historically have opposed some development. It is the people living on and recreating on the waterfront who have been opposing the expansion.
…my colleagues and I acknowledge the contribution by Bombardier to the Canadian economy, not just for aerospace but also for the manufacture of rail and light rail. That is the motor transport of the future—something that the official opposition fails to recognize.
… I also note that the Emerson report, the mandatory report that was prepared, is recommending that due consideration be paid by the Government of Canada to investing in the expansion of commuter rail so that we can reduce greenhouse gases and pollution from car traffic.
So, yes, indeed, my colleagues and I fully appreciate the contribution of Bombardier to our country, but it is not simply through the aerospace aspect of its efforts.
… One of the greatest criticisms of the process on deciding whether or not to allow the extension of Billy Bishop airport has been this facade of a proper environmental assessment, which as I understand has been led by the port authority. As I mentioned, I am informed that the vast majority of the revenue for the port authority come from the airport. Therefore, is this a proper authority to be leading and making determinations on whether or not this development would or would not have environmental impacts? People in the Toronto area are saying no.
There has also been no comprehensive plan to assess southern Ontario transportation needs or how Toronto island may contribute. I understand that there has been some assessment of the need for an expansion of the Pearson airport, and of the potential strategic use of the Hamilton airport, and possibly Waterloo airport. Toronto island airport or Billy Bishop has never been mentioned in any of the reviews by Transport Canada on addressing southern Ontario’s needs for air traffic.
The Island airport is already physically constrained. A litany of issues has been raised about why this airport could not be expanded despite the fact the official opposition is proposing this. Public parking is undersized in capacity. The terminal building is too small. There is no opportunity to put in de-icing facilities. The airport has likely already reached its capacity limit. Moreover, drop-off and pick-up space is undersized and the taxi queueing space is already at capacity.
… As has been suggested by one of the councillors in Toronto, Mike Layton, if we are to support Bombardier, why not have the federal government give dollars to build more streetcars and trolleys, including support for the Union Pearson Express that will deliver air passengers from Toronto Pearson airport to the city of Toronto? That is the method of transport for the future.
… The issue is that 25% of the emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide are caused by transport, including the aeronautics industry.
It is important that the federal government step up to the plate and start looking into this matter. There have been no commitments on taking action to reduce the emissions from the transport sector, and I welcome the member raising that matter in the House.
Just yesterday we had an all-party committee meeting on climate change.[Linda Duncan] talked about the importance of having a long-term plan to combat climate change, which could help Bombardier. It is very important to the future of our society in general, and even to the future of our existence on this planet.
Could my colleague tell us a bit about what the Liberals could do not just to combat climate change, but also to support our manufacturing companies, such as Bombardier or rail companies?
I see this [motion today] as a stretch. It is almost like a Hail Mary pass thrown at the end of a football game. Every once in a while it will work, but not often. It is not a play that a team expects to make. I see this Bombardier production as that type of attempt. It is a desperate measure to think that we could have a strategy for aerospace based upon increasing the landing strip of one runway, whether in Toronto or somewhere else. That is not a strategy in the true sense
Mr. Speaker, in my many years here, I have seen some incredible displays of ridiculous behaviour in terms of pretending that we have a party that understands the economy and then it comes in with a solution that is ridiculous. Then, it huffs and puffs that nobody is taking them seriously.
We are talking about 6,000 to 7,000 job losses at Bombardier. Its solution is that the little island airport in Toronto is going to somehow fix that and that we are wasting our time in Parliament talking about that notion of a solution.
I remember the last government and how much it ridiculed the notion of public transit when we were trying to get subway cars down from Thunder Bay, from the Bombardier plant, where we have hundreds of jobs. Public transit across the country is seen as a great wish, but, of course, it goes against the fundamental ideology of the privatized oil lobby that is known as the Conservative Party and we are wasting time in this House talking about the little island airport as somehow being an economic solution.
Thank God, the Conservatives do not control the economy anymore. For all the folks back home, I want to say that they pay these people a lot of money, and their solutions are always about wedges; their solutions are always about trying to find some ridiculous point that we waste time on in this House.
If that party were serious about supporting Bombardier, it would have come with something that was a little more coherent, and perhaps something that supported public transit. I know it is very hard for them to say those words, but it is something that would cause most Canadians to say, “Well, that was not a bad discussion. That was not a bad way to spend an afternoon in Parliament.” That is as opposed to this ridiculous motion, which is another of many ridiculous motions that we have been subjected to by that party.
The issue is not the quality of Bombardier’s jets, nor even the noise from these planes. It is the disruption from the air traffic, the impact on wildlife, the impact on small watercraft on the lake, and the impact on the people of Toronto.
… I am opposed to the motion, because it does not accord with the vision my community has for Toronto’s future. The expansion of the island airport is not compatible with a waterfront that is a livable and accessible place. It detracts from what we have worked to build, for people to study, work, and visit. An expanded island airport does not include space for sailboats, dragon boats, and canoes. This is Toronto’s space to relax. It does not allow for migratory bird colonies on a spit of land that was once just construction material. It does not allow for quiet secluded beaches with endless lake views, and it is a version of Toronto that is fundamentally contrary to the type of development the city needs and wants in spaces surrounding its harbour.
If the Conservatives strongly believe that increasing airport traffic and creating an environmental nuisance and traffic problems in the largest city in the country will really help an industry that is so important to Quebec and Canada, they are dreaming in technicolour. We wonder why, in 10 years, they did not do something to avoid the current situation.
Once again, the Conservative motion reflects the politics of division. It is trying to pit Toronto against Montreal; it is trying to pit the quality of life and concerns of Torontonians against the future of a sector mainly based in the metropolitan area. The Conservatives are mixing apples and oranges for political gain and to put the other parties on the spot.
However, the government also had to consider other interests of the surrounding community, the people who live near the airport, the people who work near the airport, and those who use the waterfront and Toronto Islands for recreation. Those people also had to be considered. The opportunities for recreation that the waterfront and the islands provide for the entire population of Toronto are equally important.
The ongoing efforts to redevelop Toronto’s waterfront also had to be considered, and as I just said, the waterfront is very important to the people of Toronto and the people who visit Toronto. The efforts to improve it, enhance it, and make it even more useful and interesting to all those people are most certainly worth protecting.
Toronto Pearson is 25 minutes from downtown Toronto by train. It is a fully jet-capable airport with flights to all parts of the world. The C Series can just as easily be operated from that airport as from Billy Bishop. There is nothing to say that Porter Airlines or any other airline is forced to fly from one airport.
Airlines are not licensed and certified to fly out of one specific airport, and they can weigh the options, make the business assessment, and choose to fly out of many airports all across the country. That is why we have an economically deregulated system. It allows airlines to exercise their business judgment.
The vote was the next afternoon ‑ March 10. All Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Green MPs voted against the motion. All Conservatives voted for it.
March 10, 2016