I attended presentations today at the Metro Convention Centre’s South Building. First, a word about the complex itself. It’s big, sprawling, polished, comfortable and functional. The surroundings are as artificial as you can get, but a pleasant enough place for an environmental assessment meeting. Meetings, plural actually. I liked being there. The fact that the current Yoga Convention filled the front lobby with shapely women in Lululemon pants didn’t hurt either.
Back to the EA Study. It’s being conducted, as requested by City Council last year, on behalf on the Toronto Port Authority which has already issued plans for airport expansion. The experts who will report are not tasked with making a recommendation, jets or no jets. They will study issues, present findings and leave the decision-making to others. Easily followed, but extensive details here.
A civilized, rational veneer covers all of these considerations, but the battle over Billy Bishop Airport is high stakes, contentious and passionate. Powerful economic interests are motivators, of course, and many fans of Porter Airlines are keen to enjoy more flights and destinations from the perceived convenience of a downtown airport.
I side with those who feel that jet traffic is incompatible with balanced use of our downtown waterfront. Negative impacts simply outweigh the desire of Porter passengers for jets.
So the struggle is on, and the Environment Assessment will help shape the battleground.
I don’t question the integrity or expertise of those who will conduct the study. They seem sincere in their effort to listen to all sides, issues and concerns. But since the Toronto Port Authority is paying the piper, it is important that the no-jets advocates keep watch on every detail of how the study is done.
This is not a normal Environmental Assessment study, required by federal and provincial law to follow stringent rules. It is something City Council has asked for and it is being shaped “as we go along”.