Further study needed on island airport expansion, councillors vote
Paul Johnston, Chris Kitching and Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, April 1, 2014 9:34AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 1, 2014 9:13PM EDT
More information is needed before a decision on the expansion of the island airport can be made, city councillors decided Tuesday night.
At around 8 p.m., councillors voted unanimously 44-0 in favour of further studying the potential expansion of the airport.
On an issue that has greatly divided both councillors and city residents, representatives from both sides seemed to claim victory with the vote.
“It should really come together really quite nicely sometime during the early part of 2015,” Porter Airlines’ CEO Robert Deluce told reporters at city hall Tuesday night.
“It’s moving forward as planned, and we’re thrilled,” he added. “That was a 44-0 vote. We’re actually happy to have even Adam Vaughan on board. It’s great.”
Coun. Pam McConnell saw the vote decidedly differently.
“In fact, today, as much as Mr. Deluce might want to put a good spin on it, council did not decide to approve his jets,” she said. “In fact council said we need more time.
“That’s why you saw the NoJets(TO) people jump in the air in excitement. What is true today is the council came together and they said in one voice no jets at the moment.”
Ford arrives late, mum on reason
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was a late arrival to Tuesday’s debate.
Ford was absent in the morning as councillors began debating the proposal to extend the airport’s runway and allow jets to use the facility.
When he did show up at around 1 p.m., he pushed through a crowd of reporters on the way to his office and did not answer any questions relating to his tardiness.
Earlier in the day, Coun. Doug Ford told reporters that his brother had thrown out his back but would not miss the afternoon session of council.
“He lifted a few too many weights and he was at the chiropractor getting his back fixed because he got carried away,” Doug Ford said. “He’ll be here, though. Nobody has debated this vote more than Rob has and nobody has encouraged more people to vote for economic development of the airport than Rob Ford.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly was pushing for a vote on a motion that would allow city staff to begin negotiations and studies with the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) and Transport Canada.
Meanwhile, Ford had pledged on Monday to table a motion that would fast-track negotiations.
“They are just trying to drag this out,” Ford said. “We need to move on.”
Last week, Kelly and the rest of council’s executive committee voted 11-1 to move ahead with talks, but the motion needed council’s blessing before staff could proceed.
In a report to council, city staff recommended a series of studies and conditions that must be met before they will give a final opinion on Porter Airlines’ proposal.
Council had been urged to delay a final decision until 2015 at the earliest to allow for further study and planning and regulatory approvals.
Jet-powered aircraft are currently banned at the island airport, which is governed by a Tripartite Agreement signed in 1983 by the city, Toronto Port Authority (TPA) and Transport Canada.
Porter is asking the co-signers to amend the agreement to allow the use of jets and the expansion of the runway by 200 metres at each end. The changes would allow Porter to expand its flight network to farther destinations in North America.
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