Canada’s Transport Minister confirmed the Liberal government will not allow passenger jets to fly out of Toronto’s Island airport, dealing a blow to Porter Airlines Inc. expansion plans and a potential aircraft order topping $2-billion for Bombardier Inc.
Marc Garneau took to Twitter Thursday night to say that the government will not reopen an agreement necessary to expand operations at Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Centre Airport.
“I confirm that [the government of Canada’s] position is the same as [the Liberal Party’s commitment during the election campaign]: We will not reopen” the agreement, Mr. Garneau tweeted.
The Minister’s definitiveness on Twitter contrasts with his fuzziness earlier in the day Thursday when he suggested the matter was still under review. “What I’m doing at the moment is examining all of the factors that are involved in this. It’s a complex issue,” he said.
Porter has put in a conditional purchase agreement for as many as 30 Bombardier C Series jets as part of a planned expansion. The order is for 12 CS100 planes and options for another 18 of the same jets, worth $2.15-billion (U.S.) at 2015 list prices if it exercises all purchase rights and options. Porter said the airliner in a 107-seat configuration would be ideal for its planned operations.
Porter said it would place the order only if the runway at the Island airport is extended to accommodate jets. Authorization for such a runway extension would require opening and renegotiating a three-party agreement between Ottawa, Ports Toronto and the City of Toronto.
Bombardier had not counted the order as firm on its order book so isn’t losing a customer as such. The company has 243 firm orders for its C Series jets but hasn’t signed a new deal in more than a year. The jet development program is more than two years and $2-billion over budget.
Porter declined immediate comment. Company spokesman Brad Cicero said by e-mail that the airline is “not in a position to do interviews or provide a statement at the moment.”
Officials with Bombardier were not immediately available to comment Friday.
Ottawa’s decision puts the Trudeau government in a tough spot. Quebec had requested that the federal government deliver financial aid to Bombardier in the wake of Quebec’s own $1-billion investment in the company announced last month. At first glance, it would appear hypocritical for Ottawa to dash Bombardier’s hopes for a C Series order of that magnitude while also helping the plane maker with a sizable level of funding.
Porter is seeking changes that would lengthen the runway at Billy Bishop by 200 metres in each direction to allow the C Series jets to take off and land. The airline currently flies a fleet of Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes from the airport. Having the C Series would allow the carrier to offer longer flights, from Toronto to Western Canada, for example.
Opponents of expanding Billy Bishop lakeside airport in Toronto say they will not compromise in fighting the damaging plans
The fight by Toronto citizens against permission for much noisier jets to use Billy Bishop lakeside airport continues. There has been the suggestion that there could be “compromise” to resolve the dispute. Opponents do not accept this, as the impact of effectively doubling the size of the lakeside airport – with jets not turboprops; with greatly lengthened runway and rows of light approach towers extending up to 700 metres beyond the runways; and planes landing and taking off every two minutes. There would also need to be high and obtrusive walls lining the runways to shield small boats using the lake from jet thrust. And on the land side, doubled volumes of traffic carrying passengers, jet fuel, services and etc creating bad road congestion. That is on top of noise concerns, impacts on air quality and habitat. Concerned residents fear the expansion means not a change in degree, but a different kind of airport. The justifications for the rush to judgement to approve this massive shift are convenience for some business travellers and a purported economic advantage. Campaigners against say both are specious. Much more important is what would be sacrificed. Toronto people love their waterfront, which has been improved by adding new and improved places for the public to enjoy. The airport would destroy much of that.
In Toronto expansion of lakeside Billy Bishop airport is strenuously opposed by thousands whose lives it would adversely affect
Pearson airport is the main airport for Toronto. It has several long runways, can take large jets, and had around 35 million passengers in the past year. By contrast, Billy Bishop waterfront airport is tiny, lying along the lake edge close to central Toronto. Its one runway, by the water, is only about 1,200 metres and it had 2 million passengers last year. There are plans to greatly expand Billy Bishop airport, with the runway extended by 200 metres at both ends, to take jets rather than the current turboprops. There are plans for greatly increased numbers of passengers. There has been very vocal opposition from the local group, NoJetsTO, who fear having this enlarged airport will have highly negative impacts on the city, creating noise, air pollution, water pollution, disruption to leisure activities that take place on the lake, traffic congestion, interference with childrens’ learning in school, and lowering the quality of life of many living in the area. They say the large jets should stay at Pearson airport, which is well equipped to deal with them. Now the airport’s plans, by Porter Airlines, will not be considered by the city until February. Toronto city’s executive committee voted to defer debate of the controversial proposal till February 4 or to a specially called meeting.