As one of the city's economic drivers, the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport creates nearly $2-billion in overall economic output and 1,700 jobs directly, according to a study released Friday.
In the airport's Hanger 6, executives of the Toronto Port Authority, Porter Airlines and others such as city councillor Michael Thompson were on hand to mark the study's release and the beginning of drilling the new 244-metre, underground walkway linking the island airport to the shoreline. The tunnel is to be completed in the spring of 2014.
Representatives heavily sold the economic benefits of the airport, even though any political opposition to the airport has been quiet recently.
Expanding the scope of the study to include the Greater Toronto Area, the study estimates Billy Bishop helps create a total of 5,700 jobs, including the assembly of the Bombardier's Q400 planes at the company's Downsview plant. The study though doesn't directly count these jobs. They are based on statistical models used by the province and Statistics Canada.
"This airport is punching above its weight in its economic impact and value to the city of Toronto," said Geoffrey Wilson, Toronto Port Authority's president and chief executive officer.
More than two million passengers are expected to fly through Billy Bishop this year, up from 1.5 million in 2011. Those passengers are forecast to contribute $220-million in gross domestic product. Looking more broadly, the total GDP output is estimated at $640-million this year, including $290-million in wages. Anyone looking at the lines of cabs waiting at the foot of Bathurst Street can easily see the impact Billy Bishop has on the city's taxis.
Community Air, the neighborhood-residential group opposed to the airport, questioned some assumptions of the report. "Wouldn't this economic activity have occurred at Pearson [International Airport] if Porter and Air Canada flights were located there? This study does not ask, or answer, that question," the group said in a statement Friday.
It added, "Have the environmental and economic costs of flying as they impact climate change been considered in this report? No." The study was prepared by the transportation and tourism consulting firm InterVISTA in Vancouver.
With WestJet scheduled to launch a regional carrier in the second half of next year, expectations are that more planes will fly out of the airport. Currently the airport, however, doesn't have available slots for more carriers. Accommodating more would require building additions or reconfiguring the airport, the Toronto Port Authority's Mr. Wilson said.