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Briefing note – 2022 Toronto Civic Election.

Parks not Planes’ Briefing Note for the 2022 Toronto Civic Election.

Toronto Island Airport

The need for more parks

Adding to the 300,000 people who now live in the city core, new development will bring

even greater numbers of people to live downtown. Our waterfront attracts many tourists and visitors from all over the city.

the city, says a 2019 City report. The huge line-ups this summer for the Island ferries provide strong evidence of the demand for parkland.

To address that deficiency, the City has even considered spending in excess of $1.7

billion for a park of just 20 acres over the railway lands.

The opportunity

There is a far better way to address that severe park deficiency: convert the Island

Airport lands to parkland.

That would add 215 acres to the Island Park, making it as large as New York City’s

Central Park.

That’s not far-fetched: on June 30, 2033, less than 11 years from now, the City’s lease[1]

of an essential portion of the Airport lands ends. Now is the time to start imagining

how those 215 acres should be used – is the public interest best served by

renewing the Airport lease, or converting them to parkland?

Edmonton, Berlin, and Chicago have converted their downtown airports to parkland, and

Santa Monica will do so soon. It is time for Toronto to join them.

The mandate

It just happens that the Federal Government is committed to establishing new urban

parks. This is from the Prime Minister’s recent Mandate Letter to his Minister of

Environment and Climate Change:

“To ensure all Canadians have access to green space, establish at least one new national urban park in every province and territory, with a target of 15 new urban parks by 2030.”

The Island Airport lands - mostly owned by a federal government agency, Ports Toronto

- should be one of those 15 - another wonderful federal government initiative, akin to its

founding of Harbourfront in the 80s.

The last noxious industrial use

The Island Airport is the waterfront’s last remaining noxious vestige of its industrial past

- delivering noise, pollution and threats to our natural environment, our health and

quality of life.

The Island Airport’s operations are incompatible with the rejuvenation and development

of Toronto's Waterfront.

The airport disturbs the sleep of nearby residents: medevac planes take off and land

throughout the night, the ferry begins at 4 am and runs past midnight and maintenance

and upgrades are done overnight.

What about Porter?

Like City Express and Air Ontario, which both failed in their efforts to fly out of the

Island Airport, Porter was losing serious money pre-COVID: $19M in 2017, a projected

$40M in 20184, and $30M in 2019), is threatening to leave the Island Airport, and has

announced plans to operate jets out of Pearson[3].

Porter has found, to its chagrin, that people prefer the better choice of flights at

Pearson, and the convenience of the Union-Pearson Express to get there.

Short-haul flying is the worst!

Aviation is a significant greenhouse gas emitter. Short-haul flights, which the Island

Airport exclusively provides, are the transportation sector’s worst emitters as evidenced by the chart below.

There’s good news: the Federal Government is planning electrified High Frequency Rail

in the Toronto to Ottawa/Montréal corridor, to be operational by 2030. It has potential to

displace the Island Airport’s short-haul flights with fast and frequent train service, as

high-speed trains have for many Europeans.

If we are to reduce the prospect of an unlivable world for our children and grandchildren,

we need to fly a lot less and choose vastly more environmentally-friendly travel


Doesn’t Medevac need the Island Airport?

helicopter service: more than half of its emergency destinations are north of the City,

and operating from the Island Airport results in longer response times for the majority of

its patients during the critical initial minutes.

ORNGE should be stationed north of the City, and it certainly doesn’t require an airport

to operate its helicopters out of.

Patients requiring critical care do not arrive at the Airport. They are delivered directly to

hospital heliports.

This issue was advanced as a reason to not close the Edmonton City Centre Airport but

did not stop the closure. Subsequently, a 2015 study concluded that moving medevac

to the Edmonton International Airport had no impact on safety or the quality of care

received by critically-ill and time sensitive patients.

Who we are

Parks not Planes is a Toronto community group. We think the public interest is best

served by turning the 215 acres of airport lands into a spectacular Waterfront Park.


[1] An agreement among the City, Ports Toronto, and Transport Canada, called the Tripartite Agreement, is, essentially, a lease of those lands.

[2] From vol. 2 Porter Responding Record, Nieuport v. Porter February 5, 2021: In a letter of December 21, 2018, Porter told Newport (page 1123).

“Increased ridership traction on UP Express has reduced the locational advantage that [the Island Airport] once had relative to Pearson"

“In 2018 Porter is forecast to have a net income loss amounting to approximately $39,650,000"

“If Porter were to leave [the Island Airport], there appears to be no viable alternative for the airport. … Given that the cost of operating from [the Island Airport] is almost 3 times that of Pearson we do not think it is likely that either Air Canada or Westjet would significantly expand operations to fill the gap that would be left if Porter exited the market”

[3] On July 12, 2021, Porter Airlines announced it will purchase 30 Embraer E195-E2 aircraft with the right option to purchase an additional 50 jets. Porter intends to operate the jets out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport, as well as Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.


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