In 1956, the Toronto Islands were transferred from the City of Toronto to the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto to be redeveloped for recreational and park use. More than 400 homes were demolished; the remaining residents successfully fought eviction.
The airport, which opened in the 1930s, was expanded in the late 1950s to take more commercial flights – the first in a series of expansions and reversals that continue right until today.
1967-1972: Harbour City
The Toronto Harbour Commission proposes “Harbour City,” a dramatic plan to redevelop the islands as a canal-based neighbourhood, and including a new, relocated island airport that will accommodate jets. It dies in 1972, when plans for a Pickering airport are announced.
1978 to 1983: Liftoff with limits
Ottawa expresses interest in developing the island airport for short takeoff and landing operations. The government had been expressing interest in turning the airport from recreational to commercial use since 1969. City council was backed by residents in their disapproval, taking the fight to the Canadian Transport Commission.
In 1981, City council, under new mayor Art Eggleton, agrees to permit short-takeoff-and-landing airplanes to use the airport. Several restrictions – including a ban on a bridge or tunnel and jets using the airport – are introduced by council. Two years later, a 50-year agreement is signed between the City of Toronto, federal government and the Toronto Harbour Commission with restrictions on the airport’s capacity.
Federal and provincial governments and the business community make an unsuccessful push to bring both commercial and corporate jets to the island airport. The City continues to oppose jet service. Toronto Island Residents Association said downtown groups are worried about noise.
The bridge battle, 2002-2003
Toronto City Council, under Mayor Mel Lastman, votes to allow the construction of a bridge to the airport. The Toronto Port Authority signs a contract to build a bridge, months before gaining the federal approvals to do so.
In 2003 David Miller is elected mayor, with a central point of his platform to stop the Toronto Port Authority from “turning our sleepy downtown commuter airport into a busy commercial airport.” In December, Mayor Miller leads a decisive vote to reverse its support for the construction of a bridge.
The Porter era, 2006-
In 2005 Air Canada Jazz, the lone airline operating at the airport, is pushed out. Porter Airlines launches in fall, 2006 with flights between Toronto and Ottawa. In 2009 Porter invests $45-million for a new terminal at the airport. Island residents picket outside.
The not-so-big dig
A $60-million tunnel project begins, connecting downtown Toronto to the island airport. Despite opposition from community groups, the project proceeds; it is expected to be complete in 2014.