Porter Airlines expansion plans for Toronto’s Island airport will not be considered by the city until the new year.
The city’s executive committee voted to defer debate of the controversial proposal to bring jets to the waterfront airport until their next meeting on February 4 or to a special meeting to be called by the chair.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, chairing the meeting for the first time since he was given most of the Mayor’s powers by council, put forward the motion saying the extra time would allow for more information to be gathered.
Only two members of the committee voted against the delay – Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Peter Milczyn.
Mr. Ford, who was relegated to a seat between councillors Peter Leon and Frank Di Giorgio, said waiting a month to have the debate would not change anything. “You are either for or against it,” he said.
Mr. Milczyn argued that enough time had been spent on the issue, saying the report should be shelved.
The decision to defer the debate was the first major move by Mr. Kelly in his new role as the de facto leader of council. As he entered the committee room before the vote, Mr. Kelly pledged to keep focused on the city’s business in spite of the new bombshell allegations involving Mr. Ford and his involvement with hard drugs and gangs.
“The mayor is no longer at the centre of affairs here at the city so I see this as a personal issue and not a political one,” he said. “The government of the City of Toronto goes on unaffected.”
After the vote, Porter Airlines CEO Robert Deluce said he was still encouraged by the support he’s gotten from councillors. He said if the executive wants a little more time to bring all the parties to the table and find solutions to the lingering questions outlined by city staff – among them noise, traffic and health impacts – he supports the decision.
“I think the step that was taken today is an important one and the proper one to take,” Mr. Deluce said. “There certainly are solutions to any of the items that have been identified by city staff and they’re not anywhere near as big as what would be indicated by some of the opponents.”
As he spoke, a group of citizens opposed to the expansion who had attended the meeting watched, sometimes shouting out jeers at Mr. Deluce.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, an opponent of the expansion who represents the downtown ward that includes the airport, said despite the delay, the answer when executive committee brings the report to council will still be “no.”
“There is no will because there is no way to make this situation work,” he told reporters outside of the meeting.
“This project has never about whether or not the jets are quiet enough – we don’t know, they’ve only been tested once – it has always been about whether or not you can fit an airport the size of Ottawa International Airport on the waterfront without a massive, and I mean a massive, half-billion plus investment.”
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