The Billy Bishop Airport is the only airport located in downtown Toronto. It was originally called Port George VI Island Airport and was renamed on Nov 2009 in honor of a Canadian First World War fighter known as Ace Billy Bishop.
Billy Bishop Airport is owned by PortsToronto.
In 2000s, the Billy Bishop Airport (BBA) was incurring significant loses. It required major improvements and only operated flights by Air Canada to Ottawa. PortsToronto, the owners of BBA along with the City of Toronto wanted to change things around for the airport. This is when Mr. Robert Deluce, CEO of Porter Airlines suggested bring Bombardiers Q400 turboprops to the airport.
Porter Airlines was started in 2006 by Mr. Robert Deluce who is considered one of the boldest entrepreneurs in Canada. He was able to build a profitable airline from scratch and provide excellent customer service. The Q400 turboprops, which are the airplanes used by Porter Airlines, are extremely fuel efficient which is why a break-even load on each flight is only at 49% as compared to 80% by other planes.
Billy Bishop Airport allows business travellers, downtown residents a short trip to the airport as compared to going all the way to Pearson Airport in Mississauga.
It is estimated that the airport contributes $2.1 billion in annual economic output and has directly created 1960 jobs in Toronto.
In 2013, Porter Airline proposed an expansion of the airport so that it can offer more destinations to the customers. Flights, currently, are regional in nature because of the size and type of aircraft that can operated from the Billy Bishop Airport. Porter proposed extending the runway so that it could bring in the bigger C-Series plane into the airports.
Expansion of the runway is not possible without amending the tripartite agreement between PortsToronto, City of Toronto and the Federal government signed in 1983 which leased the airport for 50 years; to 2033.
The Tripartite Agreement contains terms about the type and size of planes that can operate at the airport. It also enforces strict noise and curfew restrictions on the airport. Porter Airlines cannot possibly offer other destinations without an amendment to this Tripartite Agreement.
Many community activists, residents and urban experts are opposed to this Airport expansion because they believe that it will impact the livability of the waterfront and damage it ecologically.
Urban experts believe that although the Island Airport in its present form is an asset to the community, further expansion will severely compromise the revitalization efforts of the Toronto Waterfront in which huge investments (tax payer’s money) have already been made by three levels of governments. They believe that the noise from the planes, increase in traffic, the segregation of the harbor between the airport and recreational activities will have a combined negative effect. Therefore, the multi-generational effort and decades of work that has been involved in recreating the waterfront will be lost with the expansion.
Further critics also point out that the noise pollution created by the larger aircrafts will make it difficult for the community to enjoy the waterfront.
Another concern is that the Billy Bishop Airport Expansion will increase traffic in an already congested downtown. They state that the roads of Toronto do not have the capacity for the extra cars that will come in because of the airport.
Additionally, the new Union Pearson Express Rail will facilitate customers to get to the Pearson Airport more easily.
Some critics also worry that if the ban on bigger aircrafts is lifted then other commercial companies will also want to enter the Billy Bishop Airport because of competition.
Several notable urban experts including Ken Greenberg, Former Chief Urban Designer of the City of Toronto, Anne Golden, chair of the Transit Investment Advisory Panel, David Crombie, Former Mayor of Toronto, Paul Bedford, Former Chief Planner of the City of Toronto, Jack Diamond, Architect are all vocal critics of the Billy Bishop Airport.
The conservative government was open to hearing the proposal of the expansion of the Billy Bishop Airport if a proposal was submitted from the City of Toronto and PortsToronto. The conservative government also built the underground tunnel to the island airport, which was opposed by the Liberals.
With the expansion of the Billy Bishop Airport, Porter Airlines has stated that the area will have significant economic benefits in terms of jobs, economic growth and options for customers.
• 2000 news jobs would be created
• 18 C-Series jet will be purchased from Bombardier
• Cheaper airfares and greater choice of destinations would be offered to customers
There has been intense criticism regarding the noise pollution created by the C-Series jet to which the CEO Porter Airlines Robert Deluce has stated that these will be “whisper jets” and not more noisier than the current turboprops that fly at the Billy Bishop Airport.
A week after the Liberal government came into office the new Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced in a Tweet that the tripartite agreement between the federal government, the PortsToronto and City of Toronto will not be altered meaning that the Billy Bishop Airport will not be expanded
Rumours are rife that Porter Airlines which is a private business is currently looking for a buyer after its plans for expansion have busted. Porter Airlines, so far, has denied these rumours .
If you learn more by watching videos and interviews then check out the video’s below:
• The Agenda with Steve Paikin - Toronto Island Airport Dilemma
• The Agenda with Steve Paikin - Robert Deluce: Airline Boss
Read the City of Toronto Council Report on the airport expansion: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-58197.pdf
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Seemal Saif is a city builder. She loves making maps and conducting data driver analysis to guide policy on cities. She has worked in cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. She has an undergraduate from McGill University in Finance/Economics and completed her Master's(M.D.P) from University of Waterloo focusing on Urban Planning. Her day job at the Planning and Economic Development Branch at the Region of York allows her to combine her interest in planning and economics.