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Questioning Feds’ Possible Porter Bailout

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As the Federal government considers bailing out Porter, CommunityAIR asks:

  • Export Development Corporation, a federal government agency, has already loaned Porter $135 million.  It has laid off most of its workforce and isn't paying its bills. What has Porter done with the money?

  • Pearson Airport will require immense sums to ensure its survival.  To reduce the subsidy Pearson needs, doesn’t it make sense to move Porter’s operation to Pearson, as a condition of further federal support?

  • The federal government has spent some serious money for a high frequency Windsor - Quebec City rail corridor. A recent report suggests the upcoming federal budget should contain further funding. Once up and running it would erode Porter's busiest routes, as is already happening in Europe. Why would the government throw good money after bad?

  • Our waterfront is closer to enduring peace and quiet than it has been for many years. Isn’t this the opportunity to explore alternative more compatible uses for the 215 acres of Island Airport land? Other cities have done so[i] with great success.

  • The Tripartite Agreement, which permits the Airport to operate, expires in 12 years.  There is no indication that it will be renewed or renegotiated.  Given pressure on the federal government to meet climate change and the high cost to the environment of short haul flights, Porter's business model is unsustainable. Why would the government give money to a best-before-date company?

[i] Berlin has now shut two of its four airports – Tempelhof (maintained as a public park, as decided by a 2014 plebiscite),  and Tegel (where housing is planned).

Chicago’s mayor famously bulldozed the Meigs field runway under cover of darkness – it is  now a public park, Northerly Island

Edmonton City Centre Airport was closed in November 2013 and is being redeveloped as a planned community called Blatchford.

Santa Monica will close its problematic airport in 2028, with plans to convert it to parkland, while drastically shortening its runway in 2017 from 5000′ to 3500′ to reduce jet traffic.


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Wow ...lots of self serving points to be made, especially the one regarding how quiet it is now...surprised they don’t want the Gardiner shut down.

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I'd like to know why we're still letting Islanders live virtually rent free downtown and be provided with municipal services including ferries and flood protection when the city is in the middle of a huge housing and budget crisis.  They're freeloading off of  all of us who pay municipal taxes here.  They're a blight on the city.

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2 hours ago, Specs said:

I'd like to know why we're still letting Islanders live virtually rent free downtown and be provided with municipal services including ferries and flood protection when the city is in the middle of a huge housing and budget crisis

Because they have a long term lease on the land their owned house sits on and pay property taxes based on the assessed value?

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That's a completely disingenuous response.  Those house are held in a trust and do not reflect real world realities. 

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4 hours ago, Specs said:

That's a completely disingenuous response.

If pointing out some simple facts is being disingenuous - guilty as charged. They may well be a collective of granola crunching whiners but they have signed lease agreements extending through 2092 and pay property taxes entitling them to a number of city services. On what basis would you see evicting them?

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I'm no Porter or Deluce fan.... but I say let jets fly from YTZ and lift the curfew.

The airport has been there longer than anyone at CommunityAir has been alive. Go away NIMBYs.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It’s time for Toronto think about whether the island airport should fly post-pandemic


Tue May 11, 2021 - The Toronto Star
By Matt Elliott - Contributing Columnist


The year the $1 per year lease agreement governing Billy Bishop Island Airport signed in 1983 is set to expire. With airport investment needed, Toronto city hall should start thinking now about whether the city wants to renew it

It’s really quiet at the foot of Bathurst Street these days. For more than a year, commercial passenger flights out of Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Islands have been grounded because of the pandemic. Porter, the airport’s busiest airline, has repeatedly pushed back its plans to take to the skies again. At last update, they were looking at June 21 as their tentative reopening date, but they’ve had to revise that date at least 10 times already.

Odds are pretty good that the airport will stay quiet for a while yet.

So what the hell, let’s use this time while grounded to wade back into an old and contentious debate. Here’s an idea: maybe Toronto’s island airport should be quieted permanently.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that’s the view of Brian Iler, chair of CommunityAir, an advocacy group that has been fighting the island airport for decades. His group is gearing up to make a new push to replace the airport with parkland.

“When you see reports from the city that say there’s a dire shortage of parkland in downtown Toronto, and with all these hundreds of thousands of people living there and moving in, it’s kind of obvious that the airport doesn’t belong as an airport. We really need to push to convert to parkland sooner rather than later,” Iler told me last week.

He pointed out that joining the approximately 215 acres of airport land to the existing parkland on the islands would create a public space about as large as New York City’s Central Park.

And then there’s the tunnel.

“We now have a tunnel that they spent $83 million on to get to the airport. If there was no longer an airport, that provides amazing access to the islands,” Iler said. “Which would fundamentally change how the islands are used, and how many people can access them. Because the real pinch point is, of course, the ferry system and the water taxi system.”

Appealing, right? Imagine being able to walk over for a quick trip to the islands. No ferry schedule required.

And now’s the time to start this debate, Iler says. The airport exists today because of a 50-year lease agreement forged in 1983, that saw Toronto agree to lease some of the lands that make up the airport to Ports Toronto, a federal agency, for $1 per year.

That means a due date for making a decision on the airport’s future is coming in 2033. Which, yes, feels like a long way off. (Don’t do the math on how old you’ll be then. You won’t like it.) But it’s a short enough time that Porter and Nieuport, who own the terminal building, are already looking for indication from city hall on whether an extension is in the cards.

Because if a new airport deal isn’t put together, it makes little sense to spend on airport upgrades over the next decade. And the airport needs some work. Runways may need to be extended to meet Transport Canada safety guidelines. A preclearance area, so U.S.-bound passengers can go through customs before boarding, has been long in the works, but it’s not clear who’s paying, if anyone. And in March, Ports Toronto announced it was looking for potential investors in the airport — but any investment seems a waste if the airport isn’t going to be around after 2033.

So it’s time to think about what happens to the airport in 2033. And I write that as someone who is not a long-time opponent. For years, I found it a pretty darn convenient way to jump a flight to Montreal, Chicago or New York for a weekend. (And the cookies in the Porter airport lounge? Awesome.) For a downtown dweller, it was a much more accessible experience than Pearson.

But that’s changed. The UP Express airport train has made it way easier to zip from downtown to Pearson. And Pearson offers way more options for both airlines and destinations.

With that shift, I’m ready to consider a future where Toronto moves on from its island airport. City hall should be ready to consider it too. This pandemic, after all, is a good time to reconsider our status quos. Maybe the island airport isn’t one that should take flight again.

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The lands leased by the City of Toronto zoned as parkland are worth in the realm of tens of thousands of dollars.

It is also pretty crazy to think that that the federal lands are just going to be relinquished to the city to be used as the Toronto City Council sees fit.

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