2013 Villain: Porter Airlines
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2013 Villain: Porter Airlines

Nominated for: trying to use public space for private interests.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

villain porter brett lamb

Beware the uniformed raccoon.

Adorable, yes, but also conniving, and indifferent to its effect on the surrounding environment. In other words, the ideal mascot for Porter Airlines.

In its few years of existence Porter has won over many skeptical minds with free cashews, booze poured in real glasses, and pillbox hat-wearing flight attendants. But however successful Porter has been—one hundred times more passengers use the island airport than did seven years ago—its stylish branding and nice perks are not a substitute for being a good or honest tenant of Toronto’s waterfront.

When he launched Porter, CEO Robert Deluce promised that jets were not a part of the airline’s business model. He scoffed at a 2003 mayoral campaign ad that featured two dozen jets in the air, arguing that the image was misleading. But now, it turns out he wants jets, 30 in all, and would like to re-open a 30-year-old tripartite agreement that currently prohibits them. And it needs to happen now: there’s a conditional order for those planes sitting on a Bombardier executive’s desk.

We are told not to worry about the accompanying traffic that would come from another doubling of flights, or potential health risks, or how this might limit the kind of waterfront development we might want. We are told not to worry about the $300 million cost of extending the runway by four football fields into Lake Ontario, although no one has stood up and said they will pay for it. We are told not to worry about a potential influx of flights to the airport, since it’s currently limited to 200 flight slots anyway. Sure, the change would mean that any jets that meet the noise requirements could fly there, and flight slots could change, and WestJet really wants to join the party, but just don’t worry.

Don’t worry, we’re told, because the raccoon is cute and innocent, and is just trying to survive in its raccoon way. Forget that this is a debate about giving private companies control over public space, about how we plan for and think about our waterfront, about the wisdom of re-opening broad agreements for specific business interests over which we have little control.

Beware the uniformed raccoon.