News for June

Community leader Helen Kennedy asks Transport Minister to Ground Porter Airlines

June 27, 2006

Residents and businesses in downtown Toronto are increasingly alarmed by the prospect of commercial airline activity at the Toronto Island Airport, according to community leader Helen Kennedy, who helped lead the successful battle in 2003 to stop the planned bridge to the Island.

Responding to Porter Airline's plans of Ottawa/Toronto Island passenger flights, Kennedy said that there is widespread opposition and significant challenges to Porter Airlines, the operation of the Island airport, and the Toronto Port Authority. She says that people in Ottawa should be very wary of Porter's promises of regular flights to downtown Toronto.

Kennedy, who worked at Toronto City Hall for the past seven years as constituency affairs assistant for Ward 20 where the Airport is located, has been actively involved with the City of Toronto's opposition to Airport expansion, and has worked extensively with concerned residents and with business associations at the waterfront.

"Porter Airline's business plan would require passenger flights every few minutes right through downtown Toronto, flying a stone's throw from Canada's financial district and from condominiums and apartments that are homes to thousands of people," says Kennedy. "This is a disaster waiting to happen, and I urge the Minister of Transport to ensure that Porter never gets off the ground."

Kennedy cites such safety and security problems as the short runways on the Island, proximity to Canada's most densely populated urban centre, unpredictable weather on Lake Ontario, exacerbation of Toronto's smog problems, and sensitivity of the lake's and island's ecosystem. She notes that even the planes ordered by Porter Airlines have raised reliability concerns; two Japanese airlines have expressed concerns about faulty landing gear with Bombardier's Q400 Turboprop "As well, a large bird population nearby creates a significant hazard," Kennedy says. "When Air Canada Jazz operated from the Island, shots were fired frequently to clear the birds. Does anyone really relish the thought of ongoing gunfire for the number of flights Porter has planned at the waterfront?"

Kennedy also notes the problematic and consistently unprofitable operation of the airport by the controversial Toronto Port Authority, which has been subject to ongoing battles with Toronto City Hall, and which owes the City literally millions of dollars in unpaid back taxes. The Port Authority is under review by the Minister of Transport, has six vacancies on its seven-member Board of Directors, and has proceeded with a multi-million dollar expansion of the airport to accommodate Porter, in the face of clear opposition from City Hall.

"Three years ago, Mr. Robert Deluce of Porter Airlines said he couldn't operate without a bridge to the island. Opposition to the bridge was central to David Miller's campaign, and people in Toronto united and elected Mayor Miller and others who joined our campaign. Little did I think this would be an issue again in the 2006 municipal election," said Kennedy, who is running for City Councillor in Ward 20, the seat previously held by MP Olivia Chow.

Read Helen's Open Letter to the Minister of Transportation and Minister responsible for the Toronto Waterfront:

  1. Helen's Letter to the Minister of Transportation and Minister responsible for the Toronto Waterfront

Read online media coverage:

  1. Toronto Star - Island airline set to fly despite criticism
  2. Reuters Canada - Toronto island airline to press on, shuns protests
  3. Singtao Daily
  4. The Ottawa Citizen - Region's tourism expected to rise