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Porter Airlines aircraft passes the Toronto skyline on approach for landing at the Toronto Island Airport on Sept. 24, 2013. (MOE DOIRON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Porter Airlines aircraft passes the Toronto skyline on approach for landing at the Toronto Island Airport on Sept. 24, 2013. (MOE DOIRON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Toronto residents split on downtown airport expansion, new poll reveals Add to ...

A new survey shows Toronto residents are divided in their response to a proposal to operate jet aircraft from the downtown Toronto Islands airport.

A telephone survey commissioned by the city concluded that “half of Torontonians say that an expanded airport with jets does not fit with the revitalized waterfront, and Toronto residents living in the waterfront area are most likely to say that the airport does not fit.”

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The plan to expand the airport and use jet aircraft had the support of 47 per cent of those surveyed, while 45 per cent were opposed.

The survey was released on Tuesday as part of a staff update for the city’s executive committee, which is debating proposals by Porter Airlines to extend a runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and operate Bombardier CS100 jets.

The city survey found that the concerns of people who live near the airport dwelt mostly on the environmental impact on the lakeshore and increased traffic congestion in the area at the foot of Bathurst Street.

Also on Tuesday, former Toronto mayor David Miller came out with an endorsement for the No Jets T.O. campaign created to fighting the proposal.

In an open letter, Mr. Miller said, “it is clear that jets, and the accompanying runway expansion, violate the idea of a clean, green waterfront that Torontonians have embraced.”

Mr. Miller noted in his letter that “the Toronto Islands area [is a] place where families from all over this city come for their summer recreation. Our waterfront is undergoing a massive revitalization that will create literally thousands of modern green jobs. Both of these things are put at huge risk by being under the flight path of jets.”

A spokesman for the No Jets T.O. said that Mr. Miller will likely continue to be involved in the campaign, although nothing has been planned yet.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a long-time supporter of the island airport, said the former mayor’s past predictions about its negative effects on the waterfront have not happened.

“David Miller thought the island airport was going to be the end of the world eight or10 years ago and we’ve seen nothing but huge development there -- thousands and thousands of people wanting to live there," he said.  “Mr. Miller clearly has a credibility problem in terms of what he said would happen and what has happened.”

The city survey of 1,002 Toronto residents suggests a far more mixed public response compared with previous surveys released by the Toronto Port Authority and Porter Airlines.

The Toronto Port Authority’s latest survey, released on Sept. 4, found that 60 per cent of Torontonians – and 50 per cent of those living south of Queen Street, close to the waterfront – support Porter flying jets into the airport, so long as they make no more noise than the turboprop planes in use now.

The city’s survey was conducted in late August. According to the city staff report, the survey was conducted by Environics Research Group and included in its sample 100 people living in the immediate area of the airport. The margin of error for the sample size was reported as plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95 per cent confidence level.

With a report from Elizabeth Church

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Toronto Port Authority had put forth proposals to extend a runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and operate Bombardier CS100 jets. The proposal is Porter's, and the TPA takes no position on it.

Follow on Twitter: @Guy_Dixon

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