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Porter ramps up PR campaign for CSeries at Billy Bishop

Dec. 4, 2013, Toronto - As Porter Airlines ramped up its public relations campaign for jets at the island airport, talk at city hall turned to shelving the proposal or giving it wings, with a passenger levy among the ideas floated.


December 4, 2013
By The National Post

If a revenue-generating mechanism is suggested, it could be pitched
as a way to help the city address planning issues on the congested
mainland.

 

Both Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and Mayor Rob Ford support Porter’s
expansion bid, which includes extending a main runway by up to 200
metres in each direction. It has to first get past the executive
committee, which on Thursday will consider a staff report recommending a
decision be put off until March 2015.

 

A six-month study concluded it is “premature” to amend the agreement
governing use of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, as Porter has
requested. Staff believe it will cost up to $300-million in transit or
road infrastructure on the city side of the airport to accommodate the
increase in passenger traffic in an already congested area. Porter has
placed a conditional order for up to 30 of Bombardier’s CSeries planes,
so called “whisper jets,” but it needs permission from the city, the
Toronto Port Authority and the federal government. Transport Canada
won’t certify the noise levels of the CS100 planes until May, although
preliminary data suggest it is likely to meet current regulations.
Ultimately, city staff say the Porter proposal raises the larger
question of how big the island airport should be. They say the Toronto
Port Authority should draw up a master plan.

 

Councillor Peter Milczyn, a member of the executive, said there is
“some interest” among the executive to shelve the proposal, and he will
move to do so at Thursday’s meeting. He said a levy or perhaps a
financial commitment from Porter to help pay for land side issues had
also been discussed. “It’s nice to offer levies but for what? There is
no plan for the airport,” he said.

 

Brad Cicero, a Porter spokesman, would not comment on what, if any,
offer had been made by the company. “We’re supportive of both the deputy
mayor’s approach to consider a conditional approval and the Port
Authority’s public commitment to contribute financially to necessary
infrastructure. I can’t say what form this may take,” he wrote in an
email.

 

Deputy Mayor Kelly, who now chairs the executive committee, is still
trying to rally support around some kind of conditional approval of
Porter’s plans. “Working on it,” he told reporters on Tuesday. He has
modified his pitch somewhat, arguing now that conditional approval would
enable the city to control how the airport grows.

 

Opinions on the executive are varied. Councillor Gary Crawford said
the staff report raises a number of “red flags” but he is “leaning
towards” expansion because that’s what his constituents support.

 

“I don’t want to see an election issue fought on the airport. I’d
like to see it approved with some conditions or put it on the shelf and
leave it for another day,” said budget chief Frank Di Giorgio.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another executive member, opposes
shelving the issue, and wants to see it go to city council for a full
airing. “I’m supportive of Porter and I’d like to see them succeed but
there are some significant issues that I believe need to be addressed,”
he said.

 

Porter, meanwhile has taken out full-page newspaper ads, sent out
emails and recorded radio spots urging its customers to lobby
councillors on their behalf.

 

“Your voice is key because there are people in this city fighting not
only to stop these new flights for you but also to bulldoze our city’s
downtown airport, completely,” a radio ad stated.

 

Mr. Cicero, the spokesman, said the core group of people who oppose
expansion actually want to see the airport close one day. He said the
company is “hopeful” it will earn conditional approval at the executive
committee, and then at city council.