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Porter, Jets, and the Island Airport: A Primer

The issues, questions, and politics involved in Porter's proposal to fly jets out of the island airport.

If you’ve picked up any newspaper or turned on the radio recently, you’ll know that Porter Airlines has a big campaign going on—we’re not talking about its perma-seat sale, although you may have noticed lots of ads for that, too. No, this campaign involves asking the airline’s supPorters (really) to contact their local councillors and tell them that they really want the airline to fly jets out of the island’s Billy Bishop Airport.

Today, council debates the issue and will decide whether and how to move forward with Porter’s plan to expand its operations. Here’s a rundown of the often technical arguments and issues involved in this turbulent debate.

The Tripartite Agreement

Signed in 1983 by the federal and municipal governments and the predecessor to the Port Authority, the tripartite agreement [PDF] lays out regulations and restrictions intended to govern Billy Bishop Airport until 2033. What it contains that’s pertinent to the current debate are limits on noise levels (referred to as the Noise Exposure Forecast Contour, or NEF contour), a prohibition against jet-powered aircraft (turboprops like the existing Porter planes are okay), and a prohibition against constructing or extending runways without agreement from all three stakeholders.

Modifying the tripartite agreement would require all three stakeholders to agree to do so and then to negotiate all changes. It’s been done twice before, in 1985 and in 2003. Re-opening the agreement would come with some risks: it would not simply affect certain line items, but would make the whole document subject to change. That is why the motion at council will spell out what negotiating terms the City will proceed with if it gets to that stage, so a needless and complicated mess can be avoided.

The Jets

In April 2013, Porter Airlines announced that it had placed a conditional order with Bombardier for up to 30 jets valued at over $2 billion. It was the first order placed for the CS100 jets, referred to as “whisper jets” for their allegedly quiet takeoffs and landings.

The jets can accommodate more people than Porter’s existing turboprops, and fly farther. This means the airline could expand its list of destinations to include Vancouver, Los Angeles, Florida, and various spots in the Caribbean. In effect, Porter would no longer be just a regional commuter and business airline, but a departure point for vacation hot spots. The desired business shift might hint at Porter’s need to attract new investors and provide liquidity for existing shareholders.

There’s also the matter of procurement deadlines. This morning on Metro Morning, Porter CEO Robert Deluce said he needed to make a deposit on the Bombardier jets this month, effectively passing off his company’s problem to city council by pressuring it to rush the decision he wants.

Worth mentioning is that if council decides to allow jets in a re-negotiated tripartite agreement, it will open up the airport to all jets that meet the criteria. Because of Open Skies agreements that govern the aviation industry, any class of jet of any company would be able to land at Billy Bishop so long as it had a slot and met the noise and runway requirements.

The Runway

In order to accommodate the new jets Porter hopes to procure, the main airport runway would have to be extended 200 metres over the water on both the east and west sides, which would represent a 33-per-cent increase. Unless Porter is granted an exemption by Transport Canada, this move would affect what’s called the Marine Exclusion Zone (MEZ), which for safety reasons excludes boating and other marine activity in a radius along the runway. The transportation advocacy group Transport Action Ontario commissioned a study [PDF] on the runway that found the MEZ could end up tripling to over a kilometre away from the runway, kayaking and sailing could be severely limited in the west harbour, and new flight paths might limit development in the Port Lands.

Transport Canada has stated it will not formally comment on these concerns at this time because of insufficient information, and because it would need to wait until a request for a review is submitted by the airport [PDF].

While the Toronto Port Authority has indicated it would pay for a runway extension, its $52.1-million borrowing limit currently prevents it from doing so, as the runway is estimated to cost in the neighbourhood of $75 million to $100 million. The Port Authority will likely look to a P3 to help manage costs on the project, although it is unclear what form that would take.

Slots and Caps

Among the restrictions on Billy Bishop airport is a strict cap on the number of flights per day. There are 202 flight slots per day between 6:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., and Porter Airlines uses an average of 86 of them (there are a handful of others for commercial flights, and the rest are for non-commercial uses). Billy Bishop is currently at capacity when it comes to its number of daily flights (although not when it comes to the number of people on each flight); the Toronto Port Authority projects that there will be 2.4 million passengers in 2014. This is a far cry from 2005, before Porter began operating at the island airport, when only 26,000 passengers flew from the downtown airport.

The City wants to maintain current passenger volumes with a phased increase to 2.7 million passengers after a set of conditions have been met, including accompanying infrastructure improvement. After that, the City would negotiate a yet-to-be-determined flight cap based on the experience to date.

However, the Port Authority has resisted a long-term cap on the number of flights—although it’s amenable to a short-term phased increase. Without caps—which are currently self-imposed by the TPA—the capacity of Billy Bishop’s passenger volume with current turbo props could grow to 3.8 million, which would move it past Winnipeg’s and Halifax’s international airports and make it the seventh busiest in Canada.

Traffic and Planning

The possibility of a passenger increase at Billy Bishop Airport creates its own set of planning issues. The City’s official plan for the foot of Bathurst would have to be modified to bring it in line with the proposed changes. Already high traffic levels at Eireann Quay could get worse, although they might be somewhat alleviated when the pedestrian link to the airport opens in 2015. But the costs to manage the traffic will be significant, as 70 per cent of the airport’s passengers arrive by taxi or private car.

In January, the Toronto Port Authority issued a request to the federal government for $100 million (over and above the $75 million to $100 million for the runway) to improve traffic infrastructure on the mainland. This was done without the City’s knowledge, and the funding could come from the Building Canada Fund, which the City would be counting on to fund other infrastructure priorities.

The jets proposal also comes before the Union Pearson Express train is set to roll out in spring 2015. It remains to be seen what kind of impact, if any, that infrastructure will have on Porter’s business model, as it will make it easier for Toronto’s business community to access Pearson.

Then we have the issue of long-term planning on Toronto’s waterfront. Waterfront Toronto opposes Porter’s proposal, arguing in a December 2013 letter that it will materially and adversely impact planning along the waterfront, and points to its traffic implications in particular:

The serious transportation, road congestion and community impact issues created by the airport’s current operations need to be addressed before considering expansion and the potential exacerbation of these issues. For example, the City of Toronto technical studies show that the proposed expansion could more than double peak car volumes at Eireann Quay from 750 per hour to 1,715 per hour….

Given the findings of the City of Toronto’s review and the problematic conditions for transportation and traffic created by the airport’s current operations, Waterfront Toronto believes that expansion has the potential to create significant risks for waterfront revitalization.

There are also several existing community amenities that are not frequently found in close proximity to an airport. Across the western gap there are a school, a community centre, and a few smaller parks. There is also a growing waterfront community in local condos; at community meetings, a number of these groups have raised concerns about the airport expansion.

After all, if any change is made to Billy Bishop Airport, its effects will likely last longer than any current tenant or local use: with this in mind, the plans should focus on the long-term sustainability and well-being of the community and waterfront at large.

What the Report Contains

The report passed by the Executive Committee has lots of different parts. It lays out which items would need to be studied in an environmental assessment (which would take a year), provides a provision that the MEZ cannot materially change the western shipping channel, refers to phased slot and cap limits, and covers issues related to noise certification, runway design completion, and more.

Even if this does pass council, the results of the year-long environmental assessment would be presented to the next council, so it would be up to that group to decide. And there are enough unanswered questions and outstanding issues—who will pay for infrastructure upgrades, what noise and design certification will involve, how to resolve local planning issues and anticipate the implications for the waterfront—to give even the most ardent Porter supporter pause.


Porter has some high-profile boosters in the mayor and deputy mayor, but the passing of the motion is no sure thing. Downtown left-wing councillors like Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) oppose the expansion plans—but so, too, does conservative councillor John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West), and right-leaning councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke Lakeshore) strongly objected to corporate handouts when the Executive Committee discussed the issue.

One headcount has the issue evenly split, with 14 supporting expansion, 15 opposing, and 16 toss-ups. Among the undecided councillors are Paul Ainslie (Ward 43, Scarborough East), Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York-Centre), Ana Bailao (Ward 18, Davenport), Michelle Berardinetti (Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest), Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River), Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence), Gary Crawford (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest), John Filion (Ward 23, Willowdale), Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), Chin Lee (Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River), Ron Moeser (Ward 44, Scarborough East) and Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West).

Either side will need 23 votes to win the day.

Among the mayoral candidates, Rob Ford has offered the strongest endorsement of Porter, John Tory argues there’s not enough information to make an informed decision, Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) offers conditional support—a flip flop from her previous no-jets position—David Soknacki offers more conditional support (he does not, for example, want City money subsidizing the company), and Olivia Chow opposes the airport’s expansion.


  • Paul Kishimoto

    Assuming the usual relationship holds between (mostly civil) commenting on Torontoist and (less civil) discussion at council, this is going to be a shit-show.

  • Melissa Goldstein

    Nice work. There’s also this part of the story:

    On December 19, 2012 Porter secretly signed a signed a Letter of Intent with Bombardier to acquire $870 million worth of 12 CS-100 jets with options on an additional 18 (another $1 billion worth of jets). At the time, Bombardier noted that, “The CSeries aircraft are in the development phase. All data and specifications are estimates, subject to changes in family strategy, branding, capacity and performance during the development, manufacture and certification process. All performance references have been estimated based on a 500-nm North American operating environment and comparisons are to in-production aircraft.”[5]

    It was noted at the time by industry enthusiasts, that Bombardier’s CSeries was experiencing slow sales as the planes were still in the development phase and airlines didn’t want to commit until they had performance guarantees; a wise decision from a business standpoint. However Porter, without performance guarantees or even a place to fly the planes, entered into this deal.[6]

    On February 12, 2013 and March 19, 2013, Deluce met privately with with officials in the mayor’s office to discuss the company’s plan to buy jets capable of long-haul flights and to extend the island airport’s runway. The meetings were not initially included in the City’s lobbyist registry, but were later added to the registry upon receiving complaints.[7]

    On April 10, 2013, Porter issued a press release announcing their conditional purchase order for Bombardier’s planes, carefully avoiding the word “jet.”[9] The press release gushed about Porter’s plans as though they were a done deal, providing the public with promises of exciting new locations, luxurious aircraft, discount pricing, and considerable economic benefit to the city. “In order to proceed, we require the support of the signatories to the Tripartite Agreement that has governed Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport since 1983: the City of Toronto, Government of Canada, and Toronto Port Authority.” This public announcement was the first that City Council, representing one of the three Tripartite Agreement signatories, had heard of this plan. In some circles, this tactic could be understood as corporate bullying.

    The press release made claims about the planes that were very misleading, given that a press release issued by Bombardier on the same day noted that the planes were only in the development stage and not “in production” and the performance capabilities of the plane in terms of noise, emissions, and runway requirements were unknown, untested, and unproven.[8] As stated in the press release:

    “Bombardier has developed an environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art aircraft that will have a comparable sound level to our existing quiet Q400 turboprops, and offer passengers wider seats, larger windows and more baggage space.”

    “We chose the Bombardier CSeries aircraft because they are the world’s quietest commercial jets in production. The CS100 jetliner is ideal for operation at downtown urban airports, is comparably quiet to our existing Q400 aircraft fleet, uses less fuel per seat than many modern compact cars, and creates up to 50 per cent lower emissions than similar aircraft.

    “We are delighted that with the CS100’s performance capabilities, Porter can serve destinations across North America while staying within the airport’s current boundaries and not affecting the boating community’s use of the water.” [9]

    Also stated in the press release: “Another 1,000 jobs at Porter are possible through the addition of these new aircraft.”

    Two weeks later, and four months after he signed the letter of intent with Bombardier, Robert Deluce finally formally approaches the city about his interests. Or rather, he approaches the Mayor. On April 22, 2013, Robert Deluce submits a two-page letter with no supporting material, that functioned as his proposal.[9a] The City of Toronto asks more of people submitting planning applications to get necessary approvasl to build an extension on their house. And the two-page letter, already wholly insufficient given the scale of the project and the resources that Deluce was requesting be directed towards it, was not even an honest document: it was based entirely upon lies, half-truths, and unsubstantiated claims and promises. Quoting from the letter:

    “These plans will bring significant economic benefits to the City of Toronto and also to the travelling public with increased competition and lower airfares.”

    “Another 1,000 direct jobs will be added if these new growth plans proceed.”

    -No evidence to support these claims: To date, Porter has provided no business plans or any research or evidence regarding the economic impact, industry impact, impact on jobs, or impact on fares of this proposal. A mere two weeks earlier Deluce had claimed that “1,000 jobs are possible through the addition of the new aircraft.” (emphasis added) What are we to believe?

    “This state-of-art whisper jet is the ideal aircraft to operate from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. It is the quietest commercial jet in production, has the best performance capabilities and a peerless environmental scorecard.”

    “The CS100 is the only jet that is comparable to the sound profile of our current 0400 planes and is quieter than the Dash 8-100, which flew from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for over 20 years.”

    “The performance capabilities of the CS100 also minimize the required runway extension to provide service across North America and ensure that it can be accomplished without affecting the boating community’s existing use of the lake, while also accommodating the implementation of anticipated Runway End Safety Area requirements.”

    -LIES: As already mentioned, Bombardier has already stated the jet is not in production and its performance capabilities are unknown and untested. It therefore doesn’t have an environmental score at all because it doesn’t yet exist and has never flown, and its eventual environmental performance is therefore also completely unknown. Similarly, its sound profile is completely unknown as the plane doesn’t yet exist and has never been tested.

    “Jet aircraft also operate from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport today. Since 1983, the Tripartite has provided an exemption for jet aircraft to use Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for medevac purposes.”

    -Misleading: The medevac jets are far smaller and in the example cited, deliver around one-tenth of the thrust provided by a typical engine than the CS100.[10]

    “Our order with Bombardier is conditional on receiving full support from all three parties to the Tripartite Agreement.”

    -Misleading. This makes it seem as though Porter is far more sensible a business operation than it is. In reality, Porter was scheduled to make non-refundable payments on its “conditional” order for 12 of Bombardier’s new CSeries jets in December 2013, but won an extension to April. 2014. Jets that have not yet been built or tested and that Deluce has no legal place to fly.[11]

    “To ensure the parties have sufficient time to finalize the amendment to the Tripartite Agreement, we require the City of Toronto’s approval in July 2013. This would allow for the infrastructure requirements to be designed and completed ahead of our first delivery in early 2016.”

    -LIE. It became clear very quickly that Porter had no idea what the infrastructure requirements would be or how long it would take to design and complete them. This date is clearly pulled out of the air.

    “Our track record is proven as a responsible and responsive airline operator, and a good neighbour.”

    -No evidence to support this claim/LIE. It depends on whom you ask. Waterfront and Toronto Island residents who regularly complain about Porter’s curfew violations would likely disagree. The people who submitted an Access to Information request to learn about the Notices of Suspension that Transport Canada issued to Porter would probably disagree, since Porter took Transport Canada to court rather than let them release the material in question. The Porter employees who were on strike for 5 months because Porter refused to give them the 25 cent/hr wage increase that would bring them up to the industry standard would probably disagree.

    “Providing service across North America will influence the economies and competitiveness of all our current destinations, stimulating new business and tourism interest. This is especially true for Toronto and our home base at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.”

    -No evidence to support these claims.

    So, in other words, Robert Deluce made a financially irresponsible business decision when he committed to buying close to a billion dollars’ worth of aircraft that were still in development and had not yet been tested, and that he could not legally fly from Billy Bishop Airport. He then dumped this poor decision in the City of Toronto’s lap via a two-page proposal with no supporting research or information, in which he wholly misrepresented the situation and pressured the City to make a rushed decision on a matter of critical importance to the city’s future before necessary information was available.

    In entertaining Robert Deluce’s proposal, for the past year City Council has allowed the financial interests of one man and his business to sideline a host of City priorities, suck up scarce City budget dollars, monopolize increasingly scarce staff time, take up Councillors’ time, and force residents to devote their time and energy to responding to this issue.

    And Deluce’s proposal isn’t about creating value for the city. This proposal is about enabling Deluce, the owner of a company that is over $300 million in debt, is barely profitable and has almost no growth potential, to create a “Good News Story” that can be sold to investment bankers who can then sell Porter on the public markets so that Deluce and Porter’s existing investors are finally able to liquidate their ownership and get a return on their investments.[4] This is about one man trying to make his own desire for profits more important than anything else in the fourth largest city in North America.


    [1]Tourism Toronto, 2011 Toronto Visitor Market Report
    [2] Waterfront Toronto: Our Waterfront Vision: Economic Growth
    [4] Porters Plans are Pretty Public
    [5] Air Carrier in the Americas Signs Letter of Intent for up to 30 Bombardier CSeries Airliners

    • lovetoronto

      Nicely done! Thank you for posting this.

    • David Church

      That’s more than a comment, it’s an op-ed PR piece complete with footnotes. You obviously cut and pasted it from something prepared by one of the anti-airport groups. The original source should be clearly credited. Are you working for one of the anti-Porter groups?

      Most of the criticism in “your” comment is about Porter’s conditional purchase agreement with Bombardier, and the technical operating specifications of the production aircraft. But the criticisms are based on a flawed understanding of major equipment purchase contracts and contemporary aviation design engineering.

      Porter has a CONDITIONAL agreement to purchase CS-100 aircraft from Bombardier – conditional on the production aircraft meeting specific specifications (most importantly noise levels produced by the aircraft, plus some other key specs.) Up until now, Porter could cancel the order without penalty. As the purchase agreement is moving forward (for now – it can still be cancelled for specified reasons), Porter is required to make a standard non-refundable deposit on the order. There is nothing unusual about this.

      (Similarly, purchasers of new condos are required to make a deposit on their unit before the developer even starts construction. You can still cancel your agreement to purchase your condo but you’ll lose your deposit – unless you are cancelling for specified reasons: such as construction is delayed by XX years, or your built unit will be materially different from the design specifications on which you based your decision.)

      Porter has based their purchase decision on Bombardier’s design specifications for the aircraft. But rather than being the crap shoot you have suggested, the design specifications and the production specifications should be nearly identical. Airplane design is a highly technical engineering process involving sophisticated computer modelling and testing. EVERYTHING is researched, tested and quantified by computers. (Cars are designed the same way today also. The days of experimenting in the machine shop are long gone. That’s why Honda and Toyota can introduce and produce completely new Civic and Corolla models every three years.)

      The production aircraft will be measured and evaluated with scientific testing equipment to confirm that the production specs match the design specs. But Bombardier will make sure that the CS-100 aircraft meet their designed noise specifications and the very restrictive noise standards at Billy Bishop Airport. They won’t want to give Porter any reason to cancel such a large order.

      • Melissa Goldstein

        I cut and pasted it from something *I* wrote, thank you very much. Specifically, a letter I wrote to Council members, urging them to vote against the staff report.

        All of that may be true about the development and testing of the planes, but that doesn’t change the fact that Deluce lied to and misled City Council regarding the status of the jets and their proven capabilities.

        And the REAL crap shoot here is the successful renegotiation of the Tripartite Agreement. Deluce signed the deal with Bombardier months before he presented the City with a request to get the necessary approvals to fly the jets out of Billy Bishop. He even made a public announcement about it before he made the request to the City. That is the most idiotic business decision EVER. The specs on Bombardier’s planes might be a sure thing, but everyone with half a brain knows that NOTHING involving Council is ever a sure thing. Ever. To use your condo-buying analogy, that would be like committing to buy a condo and inviting all your friends to the housewarming party before the condo developer had submitted the development application to the City. Except that in this case Deluce is the developer, and rather than submit a properly completed development application that includes all the necessary blueprints, permits, environmental assessments and what have you, he ends up submitting a letter that says, “please approve my condo building because I’m buying a condo in it and I’ve already told all my friends when the housewarming party is.”

    • Thunupa

      You are aware that three CS100′s are currently operating as test vehicles, meaning they are flying, and that the 4th will roll out shortly?

      • Melissa Goldstein

        Yes, I am. That was not the case a year ago, when Deluce made his claims about the performance of the planes. At that time, not a single plane had been built. And those test planes are being flown, but no tests have been completed to date. Meaning, their performance is still unknown.

        • Paul Kishimoto

          “no tests have been completed to date”

          “More importantly is really the test results, and I’m actually going to walk you through how we’re progressing in terms of the results we’re getting to date.”

          You also said: “[Deluce made a] financially irresponsible business decision when he committed to buying close to a billion dollars’ worth of aircraft that were still in development and had not yet been tested.”

          In fact, most commercial aircraft are bought in this way. Airbus had over 150 cumulative orders for its >$400m A380 before the first one flew in 2005 (see Wikipedia); that’s SIXTY billion dollars.

          As David Church points out, the “irresponsible business decision” would be for a manufacturer to accept orders and payments for aircraft based on promised performance which they could not deliver. If Bombardier’s aircraft do not meet their noise performance standards, Porter could either sue, or receive some agreed penalty for breach of contract. It would be “irresponsible” of any lawyer to allow their employer to sign an order agreement that did not preserve these options.

          So, while your reference to “aircraft … still in development and … not yet … tested” is not false, it promotes a misunderstanding of the industry; one which makes those duped more likely to sympathize with your position. Is that really necessary?

          • Melissa Goldstein

            Oh, I’m sorry, I should’ve been more clear: no tests have been completed to date that relate to any of the performance claims that Deluce has made.

            And as I’ve said twice now, at length, committing to buying planes that are in development is one thing, but committing to buying planes that you have no legal place to fly is something else altogether. See my response to the other commenter who made the same criticism as you did. I dare you to find me another example where an airline committed to buying almost a billion dollars’ worth of planes that they weren’t legally able to fly out of the airports where the airline operates.

          • Paul Kishimoto

            Do you believe the aircraft will not perform as advertised?
            If you do, please share your basis for that belief. If not, then the tests will validate expectations, and there is no meaning (again, aside from impressing the impressionable) for dwelling on the fact that they’re still in progress.

            As pointed out by many, all of Porter’s other endpoints allow jet traffic. Porter is, indeed, “legally able to fly [the CS100] out of airports where the airline operates”—all but one. In addition, they are free to bid for take-off and landing slots at Pearson, or at other airports within the larger range of the new aircraft. Aircraft purchases in advance of expansion to new destinations are also common. Here’s one, for six billion three hundred million dollars’ worth of planes (seems so much, when written out!):

            Obviously, they would make *more* money if they could also fly them out of their existing, central base at the island airport. This is why they’re asking to be allowed to do so.

            I sympathize with the valid (but not the hyperbolic) environmental and land-side transport concerns around the proposal, and I think there’s not enough clarity on how large the runway expansion will be. But it truly irks me when these serious matters get overshadowed by irrelevant points raised merely to manufacture drama. You don’t need to “dare” me to do such-and-such; people need to have a rational discussion about what it means to improve both the airport and quality of life for people who live near or use it.

            If one is against a hasty decision in favour of Porter’s proposal, one should also be against a hasty shutdown of discussion, and against obstructing real discussion with pointless noise.

          • Melissa Goldstein
  • OpportKnocks

    Toronto City Council needs to send a clear message to Porter Airlines
    and the Toronto Port Authority that the Central Waterfront is going to
    be protected for the cultural and recreational enjoyment of all
    residents. This ill conceived expansion, intended primarily to serve
    tourists leaving the central part of the city for vacation destinations,
    cannot be allowed to trump the needs of the current recreational and
    cultural users. There is no good reason that Porter and their downtown
    customers cannot spend an extra 20-30 minutes and fly jets out of

    I have been a resident of Toronto for over 40 years and have a great
    deal of pride in what was done by both the private and public sector to
    convert the derelict, post-industrial Inner Harbour of the 1960s into
    the jewel that it has become today. The introduction of jets to BBTCA
    would be a huge step backward for the 40 years of progress that has been

    Toronto Island Park is ranked the 2nd most popular urban park in Canada,
    after Stanley Park in Vancouver. All the waterfront parks, plus the
    quality of concerts at the Molson Amphitheatre and other waterfront
    amenities will be compromised by the sight and sound of jets (or even
    more turboprops) flying overhead.

    The bottom line is that there no confidence that the public interest is
    being served by allowing even a study for the future possibility of
    island airport expansion to proceed. The time to say no to airport
    expansion is now.

    I voted for David Miller in 2003 solely because of his promise to cancel
    the island airport bridge. In the coming election, I will vote for
    candidates that support the continued public enjoyment of the central
    waterfront over private interests.

  • Gord Campbell

    Porter is all smoke and mirrors. They are leveraging the sale of jets on some concocted deadline. Besides the CS series is delayed. Any aircraft maker is usually very flexible on deadlines, especially since the dumb aircraft still hasn’t been certified by the FAA and Transport Canada.The numbers provided by Porter and Bombardier don’t make any sense at all. After study I am certain that Transport Canada reports will magically turn a 200 metre extension into a 500 metre extension and probably another 15 metres in width.

    Below are my notes. The bottom line is that regardless of what anyone advocating jets say, there will be severe impingement on the recreation quality of Toronto Islands and the Harbour. Extra costs are going to be incurred by the ferry service since access to Hanlon’s ferry docks will be impaired. Each sailing would take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes in each direction.

    Visually, the runway will occupy about 50% of the present Harbour, more if your numbers on the marine exclusion zones are extended by transport Canada. The only people to get any benefit from this are the Porter Shareholders. If they get all this, if history is consistent, the owner will shortly flip the airline over to another buyer. The capital value of the airline triples at least with jet service.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    —Who are you quoting?
    —The current aircraft, many have pointed out, already burn lots of jet fuel.
    —Air pollution has been discussed. Click on the words “different parts” above; they are a hyperlink. Click on the link under “Report from the Deputy City Manager”, this one: — and then scroll to page 23. Read the first paragraph.
    —Suppose fuel burn doubles with the new aircraft, and their pollution output is the same per unit fuel. Then the “10–15%” quoted will also double; i.e. pollution will increase by 10–15%. Is this “massive”? What amount of pollution is acceptable?
    —What is “ironic” about this, exactly? That you have overlooked the discussion of what you claim has been overlooked?

    • MER1978

      Except it doesn’t sound like Porter wants to simply replace their existing planes with these new jets… they want to have a lot more flights as well.

      • Savannah

        There is a cap on the number of daily flights.

        • Squintz

          There is also an existing agreement until 2033, things can still change.

  • Bruce Dickson

    Porter’s and the Toronto Port Authority’s rich ranks of paid propagandists are overly fond of trivializing their opponents’ long, long lists of serious, far-reaching,
    farsighted and fact-based concerns.

    Whatever Deluce claims would ensue from an expanded, jet-ridden
    airport located only metres away from densely-populated, high-rise
    neighbourhoods, schools, community centres and irreplaceable waterfront
    parklands and environmentally/family-friendly attractions (which the
    Toronto Board of Trade already admits make for a far bigger
    people-puller than Porter’s heavy-industry behemoth would ever be) can
    be accomplished, sooner and more safely, at Pearson, which already
    manages to handle huge crowds, is in the throes of long-planned
    expansion and can use the added traffic and is imminently to be
    connected via ultra-fast, greener, affordable, hugely
    publicly-subsidized fixed rail to the same urban core Porter is hoping
    to service. With no need to spend hundreds of millions of even more
    public money completely redesigning and remaking one of the city’s
    busiest and most congested traffic areas – while multiplying the
    existing chaos there to unprecedented levels while yet another of
    Toronto’s inescapable and omnipresent mega-build projects takes its
    forever time to generate confusion/delay/obstruction, etc.

    Deluce could be in business at Pearson the moment those
    currently-nonexistent jets are ready for delivery with no need to await
    environmental assessments, commission new expensive studies, siphon off
    needed and scarce infrastructure funds, compromise residents,
    ecosystems, local businesses, decimate property values, despoil ever
    more of a diminishing supply of healthy recreational space or lock horns
    with a more than skeptical public health office. There’s nothing about
    his beloved jets that requires a lakefront for their operation: in fact
    you can be sure that absolutely none of the destinations he plans to add
    to Porter’s menu will be located anywhere near as closely to an urban
    core, let alone a sensitive, mixed-use waterfront. For darned good
    reasons, not the least of which is that virtually every other city
    figured out long ago what a bad combination the current Porter
    proposition represents.

    Doubtless Pearson’s area residents (who, by the way and with minimal
    exception are located many miles away from its tarmacs) would welcome
    the use of so-called “whisper” jets in lieu of the current stock. So,
    why not be pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-competition,
    pro-all-those-other-purported-benefits, far sooner and more safely at
    Pearson, a place already designed and publicly-subsidized to handle
    precisely what Deluce & Co. claim to have in mind? Why sacrifice
    hundreds of millions in avoidable and needless and largely duplicative
    expenses, why virtually undo all that the multi-multi million dollar
    Queens Quay makeover is intended to accomplish, why commandeer an
    already over-scheduled city staff with an outlandishly ill-thought-out
    and premature initiative, why polarize huge swaths of the populace and
    take a chisel to Toronto’s jewel of a waterfront when all of that could
    be avoided with a single, sensible directive to use Pearson, instead?

    • Savannah

      “Porter’s and the Toronto Port Authority’s rich ranks of paid propagandists are overly fond of trivializing their opponents’ long, long lists of serious, far-reaching, farsighted and fact-based concerns.”

      I was on the NoJetsTO website and was a little surprised that very few of their claims were substantiated or supported by linked research. Do you have a more fact-based resource?

      • Bruce Dickson

        Really? If you were actually looking for research, how did you happen to miss the “Research Updates” link there?

        • Savannah

          Thanks, Bruce – I’ve already read that page and it’s virtually all opinion pieces rather than actual research. Further, on their issues page they make a number of claims re: pollution, noise, property values, danger, etc. that either aren’t supported or have been refuted through the City’s staff report and the ongoing commitment that no jets will fly unless they meet current noise restrictions.

          I’m looking for concrete facts and I’m just not finding them.

          • Bruce Dickson

            Try these sources found here ( on the site, then:

            Aviation Environment Federation: Report “What are an airport’s impacts?”, 2008-02-15

            City of Toronto: City Council decision, 2012-04-20

            City of Toronto: staff report “Report on Air Pollution from Toronto’s Airports”, 2008-05-29

            City of Toronto: staff report titled “Update on Air Pollution from Toronto’s Airports”, 2009-10-27

            Dr. Garfinkle and Dr. Woodhouse: letter to Toronto’s City Council on the health impacts of the jets, 2013-08-03

            NewScientist: article “Noise Damages Children’s Reading”, 2002-10-18

            UCLA Health Impact Assessment Santa Monica Airport, 2010

          • Bruce Dickson

            And, on environmental issues, try the following found here (

            Aviation Authority: report “Large flocking birds – an international
            conflict between conservation and air safety”, 2002-05-28

            Davidson-Arnott, professor emeritus, University of Guelph: Porter
            Airlines Runway Extension Proposal Review Coastal Processes and
            Environments, 2013

            Transport Action Ontario: Review of Potential Future Safety Zones at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, 2013

            Transport Canada: evaluation of the efficacy of products and techniques for airport bird control, 1998

            Transport Canada: CADORS reporting tool website
            Several other reference sources can be found be drilling down under the “Issues” tab.


          • Savannah

            Thanks for this. Again, very little is germane to the BBTCA, much is old information and not necessarily relevant to the proposed aircraft, and others (like TAO’s ‘review’) are sheer speculation.

          • Bruce Dickson

            Savannah, with all due respect, the lack of data “germane to BBCTA” hardly argues in favour of the proposal nor does it invalidate the concerns being expressed by the group. Of course there are no data sufficiently specific to meet your narrow criteria because such studies as are extant naturally pertain to other situations which, each in their own way, will not be exact parallels. Therefore, in the absence of absolute precision, the best we can do is work with what’s available. Of that material, there appears to be enough on hand to give pause to a populace in a position to be greatly impacted by Porter’s plans.

            Bear in mind that Porter had been more than content to impose a timetable that would allow for few, if any, of the kinds of studies you are now demanding to be conducted. That behaviour, ought to hoist a huge red flag with respect to the company’s bona fides.

            Furthermore, dismiss as you might the sources and studies listed above, but there’s no way in the world anyone can reasonably argue that increased conventionally-fueled air and surface traffic which also involves far larger and heavier aircraft will fail to increase the volumes of noxious by-products in the area. And no one can reasonably argue that taking an approved level of noise and repeating it every two minutes as opposed to four amounts to no adverse change.

            Given that all the things Porter wants to engage in on the island can be engaged in at Pearson – sooner, more safely, at considerably less expense and with much less disruption and parkland despoilment – I would argue that the exacting studies and the gathering of all those ideal data you seek represent a huge waste of time and expense invested in what, patently, is an undeserving idea.

          • Savannah

            Again, I’ve read all of this and there is nothing specific to the situation regarding the BBTCA. Further, info re: noise is moot if jets must conform to existing noise restrictions, as City has insisted is a deal-breaker, and Santa Monica Airport study was done on different types of jets so it’s like comparing apples to kumquats. Additionally reports on air pollution from Toronto’s airports is moot, unless your argument is to close down the BBTCA entirely.

            What’s missing is actual info on MEZs, pollution/noise outputs from the specific jet in question, etc. And without that information it’s impossible to take a fact-based position on this issue.

      • Paul Kishimoto

        Further, counting comments in this thread, the “rich ranks of paid propagandists” seem to be wholly unaware of Torontoist.

        Perhaps it’s hard, these days, for the forces of evil to find good astroturfers for hire. Fervent opponents of the island airport must feel like they are arguing against straw men.

        • dsmithhfx

          They probably view this as singularly infertile ground on which to ply their trade.

        • Savannah

          Sorry, was this meant to answer my question?

  • lovetoronto

    Great information. Thank you.

  • Conservative Astroturf Brigade

    There does not appear to be a taxiway connected to either end of the runway in this rendering. Is this being drawn this way to reduce the apparent width of the fill, only to be added on later when they “realize” that this proposed setup will severely impact operations?

    While your departing plane is on the runway, taxiing out, turning around then leaving, nobody else can use it, you get maybe a fifth as many flights out as you could if you just queued them up at the threshold (arriving planes will land early and brake hard – which will add to noise – to try and get out on a taxiway, but that’s not always possible and you have to schedule them overrunning and having to turn around, especially on a short runway like this one).

    Methinks there is substantial sugar coating going on. May as well throw a couple hundred extra metres on either end too … etc, etc, etc.

    • dsmithhfx

      Ruining the waterfront one chunk at a time.

    • OpportKnocks

      Like all critics of the expansion, you are being too logical and do not appreciate what modern technology can do. See those little flare outs at the end of the runways. Those are for “jet turntables” – the jets stop on top, rotate 180% then head back the other way.

      But seriously, this “sketchy” (pun intended) proposal is what happens when you have a “Delucional” entrepreneur driving the process. The TPA (Trained Porter Axx-kizzers) is not qualified to manage an airport expansion of the magnitude envisioned here. Why do we need two airport authorities in the GTA? Hand the planning and operation over to the GTAA, they have the expertise.

  • Notcleverguy

    I’m not sure how this will work. I do not pretend to know what Porter has planned as far a new routes go and the like, but there is one thing I do know. If they only extend one runway to accommodate jets it won’t mean you can land a higher volume of planes, to do that you need an auxiliary runway, Transport Canada is pretty clear about that. At this point I’m not for or against the idea until I educate myself a little more on the ramifications. I just know that this will not mean Porter can take off and land a greater number of planes, so does Porter want to cut service on existing routes and add destinations further away (Florida)? I just don’t know what Porters motive is here.

  • Simple Russian Guy

    Let them do A before they do B.
    Let Billy Bishop extend the runway. I don’t see any problems there. The water line of the city was changed in that area many times before. The airport says they got money, don’t they. By the time it would be done Bombardier would have the new plane ready. They would bring it to downtown, do some noise tests with specifically designed tools and that would answer the question. According to the prelim data (again, it’s an estimate only) the new C-Series would be less than 1dB louder to compare to Q400. And those Q400 are really quite planes. When the city signed the memo with the airport 30 or 40 years ago the jet plane engines were different.

  • hgushee

    Thanks for this information, Torontoist (David Hains). One point of difference however, relating to slots: BBTCA is NOT slot restricted, as you suggest when you state, “Among the restrictions on Billy Bishop airport is a strict cap on the number of flights per day.” The fact is that BBTCA is Noise Exposure Restricted (NEF25). The airport can have as many slots as can fit within that noise constraint.

    At the moment, that number is 202, based on the current uses of the airport (commercial flights, General Aviation, helicopters; and their noise), but if that mix changes (and it has over time) or if noise characteristics change, then the number of slots can change accordingly.

    This point is well emphasized by a study that the TPA commissioned from the Jacobs Consultancy (available on the TPA site) that delineates scenarios up to 440 slots with the removal of helicopters and General Aviation.

    But all the scenarios (especially but not exclusively groundside impact scenarios) that the City has considered to this point are premised on the existing 202 slots not changing — and that’s a major problem. That is why the Staff Report just submitted (and passed by City Council April 1) introduces explicit slot restrictions. The original Tripartite Agreement — and its subsequent revisions — did not visualize an airport that would diverge so far from its initial concept as to have aircraft with 110+ passengers contemplated as using those slots; it did not contemplate a single carrier with the dominance of Porter Airlines having control of BBTCA’s hangars and using that power to systematically squeeze out General Aviation; and it did not imagine the TPA signing a CCOA with Porter that delegates slots in the future to Porter in the same quasi-monopolistic concentration as exists right now. A truly distorted business relationship between the TPA and Porter, and power residing with Porter, that the framers of the Tripartite Agreement never imagined when creating this document with the intention of constraining airport growth and protecting the various uses of the waterfront from uncontrolled airport expansion.