On the upcoming Council vote on Porter's proposal to expand Billy Bishop Airport...a letter to Toronto City Council:

 

 

Dear Councillors,

 

I am writing you today to ask that you vote against allowing jets to fly out of the Billy Bishop airport, against the expansion of Billy Bishop's runway, and against the recommendations of the most recent staff report, for the following reasons:

 

1. It will negatively impact my health and well-being.

 

2. It will negatively impact the health, well-being and future of the city.

 

3. Robert Deluce is a bad businessman who has been lying to the City from the moment he first presented it with this proposal, and for the past year he has effectively hijacked City Hall and sucked up our scarce budget dollars. Council should not let one man’s self-interest trump the interests of Toronto as a whole and monopolize the city’s public resources.

 

4. Next year, as waterfront traffic congestion continues to increase and the high-speed rail link to Pearson is completed, it will suddenly be just as convenient to get to Pearson from downtown as it is to get to Billy Bishop Airport currently, and justifications for the expansion will be almost non-existent.

 

Allow me to elaborate.

 

1 & 2. For the record, I am not a waterfront resident, but a Torontonian who considers the waterfront and Toronto Island critical to my health and well-being and to my identity as a Torontonian.

 

I’m going to hazard a guess that when you're at the cottage and sitting by the lake, gazing out over the water, you’re probably not thinking to yourself, “this sure is lovely…the only thing missing is an airport and the sound of jets roaring overhead, traffic gridlock and the smell of jet fuel in the air." Am I right? Well, Toronto Island functions as a cottage and a backyard for more than a million people every year, myself included. We are people who choose to vacation in Toronto and spend our money here. We rely on the Island as our relaxing, rejuvenating escape from the noise and stresses of living in a big city. We go to the beach, swim in the lake, picnic in the parks, listen to the birds, listen to the waves, watch the sunset and reconnect with nature. We boat, bike, rollerblade, ski, and sail. And we bring our families and our friends; we share the Island and our glorious waterfront with more than 9.5 million visitors each year--visitors who rank the waterfront as one of their top 3 neighbourhoods in Toronto.[1] And we also share our special place with Porter, who contributes the roar of turbo-props idling on the tarmac, serene sunrises and sunsets that are noisily interrupted by arriving and departing planes, traffic congestion, traffic noise, and air pollution. But Robert Deluce isn't satisfied. He wants even more. He wants to encroach on more of the lake, more of the spectacular view of the skyline, more of the serenity and nature spaces that can be found all along Toronto's waterfront, and bring us more traffic congestion, more pollution, and more ecosystem risk. And even better, he wants my tax dollars to be redirected from building the city I want to live in, to supporting his singular vision/bank account.

 

Waterfront Toronto is in the middle of implementing a pretty fantastic vision for a spectacular, sustainable, vibrant waterfront. It is a massive project that has involved considerable public input and represents a massive investment of public resources. It is building a new home for 40,000 residents and will support 40,000 new jobs.[2] An expanded airport was never considered in its vision or extensive planning processes. The design does not incorporate an expanded airport. This fantastic vision is one of the most positive, forward-thinking and exciting things Toronto is doing right now, and it will be impeded, undermined and jeopardized by one man's financial self-interest: an airport that believes itself to be more important than everything else in the city and has no interest in being part of a well-designed and integrated plan for the waterfront that aims to balance interests and uses.

 

Traffic congestion is already a problem by Billy Bishop Airport and consultants Urban Strategies and BA Group both concluded in their airport studies that if the number of hourly flights/passengers increases, as could happen even under the existing Tripartite Agreement, traffic congestion will become so serious that no changes to infrastructure will be able to improve the traffic situation.[2a] This means that an increase in travellers will necessarily mean increased traffic congestion and air pollution and decreased safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, making it less attractive to tourists and a worse place to live for residents.

 

The Health Impact Assessment also noted the increased risk of a fuel spill or toxic run off into the lake and our city's water supply due to the proximity of the airport to the lake.[3] I worry about these contaminants getting into my drinking water. I worry about the impact of these and other contaminants on the ecosystem in the lake and on wildlife. And, because I am concerned about the long-term impact of the decisions we make, I also worry about the impacts of climate change and the prioritization of activity that significantly increases carbon emissions.

 

3. As I demonstrate below, Robert Deluce made a financially irresponsible business decision when he committed to buying close to a billion dollars’ worth of aircraft that were still in development and had not yet been tested, and that he could not legally fly from Billy Bishop Airport. He then dumped this poor decision in the City of Toronto's lap via a two-page proposal with no supporting research or information, in which he wholly misrepresented the situation and pressured the City to make a rushed decision on a matter of critical importance to the city's future before necessary information was available.

 

In entertaining Robert Deluce's proposal, for the past year City Council has let this one man effectively hijack City Hall, public resources and Torontonians' tax dollars. It was completely and utterly irresponsible for City Council to allow the financial interests of one man and his business to sideline a host of City priorities, suck up scarce City budget dollars, monopolize increasingly scarce staff time, take up Councillors’ time, and force residents to devote their time and energy to responding to this issue, as it did.

 

Please, don't make the same mistake again; Robert Deluce's half-baked proposal doesn't warrant any more of our time, energy or money. Next year, as waterfront traffic congestion continues to increase and the high-speed rail link to Pearson is completed, it will suddenly be just as convenient to get to Pearson from downtown as it is to get to Billy Bishop Airport currently, and justifications for the expansion will be almost non-existent.[3a]

 

Don't be fooled: this proposal isn't about creating value for the city. That isn't Robert Deluce's concern. This proposal is about enabling the owner of a company that is over $300 million in debt, is barely profitable and has almost no growth potential, to create a "Good News Story" that can be sold to investment bankers who can then sell Porter on the public markets so that Deluce and Porter’s existing investors are finally able to liquidate their ownership and get a return on their investments.[4] This is about one man trying to make his own desire for profits more important than anything else in the fourth largest city in North America.

 

Here are the details:

 

On December 19, 2012 Porter secretly signed a signed a Letter of Intent with Bombardier to acquire $870 million worth of 12 CS-100 jets with options on an additional 18 (another $1 billion worth of jets). At the time, Bombardier noted that, "The CSeries aircraft are in the development phase. All data and specifications are estimates, subject to changes in family strategy, branding, capacity and performance during the development, manufacture and certification process. All performance references have been estimated based on a 500-nm North American operating environment and comparisons are to in-production aircraft."[5]

 

It was noted at the time by industry enthusiasts, that Bombardier's CSeries was experiencing slow sales as the planes were still in the development phase and airlines didn't want to commit until they had performance guarantees; a wise decision from a business standpoint. However Porter, without performance guarantees or even a place to fly the planes, entered into this deal.[6]

 

On February 12, 2013 and March 19, 2013, Deluce met privately with with officials in the mayor’s office to discuss the company’s plan to buy jets capable of long-haul flights and to extend the island airport’s runway. The meetings were not initially included in the City’s lobbyist registry, but were later added to the registry upon receiving complaints.[7]

 

On April 10, 2013, Porter issued a press release announcing their conditional purchase order for Bombardier’s planes, carefully avoiding the word “jet."[9] The press release gushed about Porter's plans as though they were a done deal, providing the public with promises of exciting new locations, luxurious aircraft, discount pricing, and considerable economic benefit to the city. “In order to proceed, we require the support of the signatories to the Tripartite Agreement that has governed Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport since 1983: the City of Toronto, Government of Canada, and Toronto Port Authority.” This public announcement was the first that City Council, representing one of the three Tripartite Agreement signatories, had heard of this plan. In some circles, this tactic could be understood as corporate bullying.

 

The press release made claims about the planes that were very misleading, given that a press release issued by Bombardier on the same day noted that the planes were only in the development stage and not “in production” and the performance capabilities of the plane in terms of noise, emissions, and runway requirements were unknown, untested, and unproven.[8] As stated in the press release:

  • “Bombardier has developed an environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art aircraft that will have a comparable sound level to our existing quiet Q400 turboprops, and offer passengers wider seats, larger windows and more baggage space.”

  • “We chose the Bombardier CSeries aircraft because they are the world’s quietest commercial jets in production. The CS100 jetliner is ideal for operation at downtown urban airports, is comparably quiet to our existing Q400 aircraft fleet, uses less fuel per seat than many modern compact cars, and creates up to 50 per cent lower emissions than similar aircraft.

  • “We are delighted that with the CS100’s performance capabilities, Porter can serve destinations across North America while staying within the airport’s current boundaries and not affecting the boating community’s use of the water.” [9]

Also stated in the press release: “Another 1,000 jobs at Porter are possible through the addition of these new aircraft.”

 

Two weeks later, and four months after he signed the letter of intent with Bombardier, Robert Deluce finally formally approaches the city about his interests. Or rather, he approaches the Mayor. On April 22, 2013, Robert Deluce submits a two-page letter with no supporting material, that functioned as his proposal.[9a] The City of Toronto asks more of people submitting planning applications to get necessary approvasl to build an extension on their house. And the two-page letter, already wholly insufficient given the scale of the project and the resources that Deluce was requesting be directed towards it, was not even an honest document: it was based entirely upon lies, half-truths, and unsubstantiated claims and promises. Quoting from the letter:

 

  • “These plans will bring significant economic benefits to the City of Toronto and also to the travelling public with increased competition and lower airfares.”

  • “Another 1,000 direct jobs will be added if these new growth plans proceed.”

    • No evidence to support these claims: To date, Porter has provided no business plans or any research or evidence regarding the economic impact, industry impact, impact on jobs, or impact on fares of this proposal. A mere two weeks earlier Deluce had claimed that “1,000 jobs are possible through the addition of the new aircraft.” (emphasis added) What are we to believe?

 

  • “This state-of-art whisper jet is the ideal aircraft to operate from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. It is the quietest commercial jet in production, has the best performance capabilities and a peerless environmental scorecard.”

  • “The CS100 is the only jet that is comparable to the sound profile of our current 0400 planes and is quieter than the Dash 8-100, which flew from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for over 20 years.”

  • “The performance capabilities of the CS100 also minimize the required runway extension to provide service across North America and ensure that it can be accomplished without affecting the boating community's existing use of the lake, while also accommodating the implementation of anticipated Runway End Safety Area requirements.”

    • LIES: As already mentioned, Bombardier has already stated the jet is not in production and its performance capabilities are unknown and untested. It therefore doesn't have an environmental score at all because it doesn't yet exist and has never flown, and its eventual environmental performance is therefore also completely unknown. Similarly, its sound profile is completely unknown as the plane doesn’t yet exist and has never been tested.

 

  • “Jet aircraft also operate from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport today. Since 1983, the Tripartite has provided an exemption for jet aircraft to use Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for medevac purposes.”

    • Misleading: The medevac jets are far smaller and in the example cited, deliver around one-tenth of the thrust provided by a typical engine than the CS100.[10]

 

  • "Our order with Bombardier is conditional on receiving full support from all three parties to the Tripartite Agreement."

    • Misleading. This makes it seem as though Porter is far more sensible a business operation than it is. In reality, Porter was scheduled to make non-refundable payments on its “conditional” order for 12 of Bombardier’s new CSeries jets in December 2013, but won an extension to April. 2014. Jets that have not yet been built or tested and that Deluce has no legal place to fly.[11]

 

  • "To ensure the parties have sufficient time to finalize the amendment to the Tripartite Agreement, we require the City of Toronto's approval in July 2013. This would allow for the infrastructure requirements to be designed and completed ahead of our first delivery in early 2016."

    • LIE. It became clear very quickly that Porter had no idea what the infrastructure requirements would be or how long it would take to design and complete them. This date is clearly pulled out of the air.

 

  • "Our track record is proven as a responsible and responsive airline operator, and a good neighbour."

    • No evidence to support this claim/LIE. It depends on whom you ask. Waterfront and Toronto Island residents who regularly complain about Porter's curfew violations would likely disagree. The people who submitted an Access to Information request to learn about the Notices of Suspension that Transport Canada issued to Porter would probably disagree, since Porter took Transport Canada to court rather than let them release the material in question. The Porter employees who were on strike for 5 months because Porter refused to give them the 25 cent/hr wage increase that would bring them up to the industry standard would probably disagree.

 

  • "Providing service across North America will influence the economies and competitiveness of all our current destinations, stimulating new business and tourism interest. This is especially true for Toronto and our home base at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport."

    • No evidence to support these claims.

 

Please put the interests of the city over the interests over this dishonest businessman and his poorly-run business.

 

Thank you.

 

Footnotes:

 

[1]Tourism Toronto, 2011 Toronto Visitor Market Report http://www.seetorontonow.com/media/research/toronto-visitor-market-report-2011.pdf

[2] Waterfront Toronto: Our Waterfront Vision: Economic Growth http://www.waterfrontoronto.ca/our_waterfront_vision/economic_growth

[2a] http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Waterfront%20Secretariat/Shared%20Content/Files/BBTCA/BBTCA%20Transportation%20Memo_FINAL%20Dec16.pdf

[3] Health Impact Assessment: Proposed Expansion to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Golder Associates http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Waterfront%20Secretariat/Shared%20Content/Files/BBTCA/City%20of%20Toronto/13-1151-0215%20RPT%20Final%202013Nov26%20BBTCA%20HIA.pdf

[3a] http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/01/27/pearson_airports_up_express_train_prepares_for_takeoff.html

[4] Porters Plans are Pretty Public http://mycarlsbergyears.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/porters-plans-are-pretty-public/

[5] Air Carrier in the Americas Signs Letter of Intent for up to 30 Bombardier CSeries Airliners http://www.bombardier.com/en/media-centre/newsList/details.41089-air-carrier-in-the-americas-signs-letter-of-intent-for-up-to-30-bombardier-cseries-airliners.html?filter-bu=all&f-year=all&f-month=all&f-type=all&show-by-page=50&page=6

[6] http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1599693&page=3http://www.thestar.com/business/2012/12/21/bombardier_wins_extension_from_metrolinx.html

[7] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/ford-had-advance-briefing-on-airport-expansion-plans/article11117837/

[8] http://www.bombardier.com/en/media-centre/newsList/details.43556-porter-airlines-signs-purchase-agreement-for-up-to-30-bombardier-cs100-aircraft-becomes-cseries-aircrafts-canadian-launch-customer.html?filter-bu=all&f-year=all&f-month=all&f-type=all&show-by-page=50&page=5

[9] https://www.flyporter.com/About/News-Release-Details?id=a6289179-1ee3-40fb-ae07-33bed5554463&culture=en-US

[9a] http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-64319.pdf

[10] http://www.thegridto.com/city/places/4-things-about-the-jets-already-using-the-island-airport/

[11] http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/21/porter_airlines_faces_payment_deadline_on_cseries_jets.html

 

To send an email to all Toronto Council members, copy and paste these email addresses into an email.:

 

To councillor_crisanti@toronto.ca, councillor_dford@toronto.ca, councillor_leon@toronto.ca, councillor_lindsay_luby@toronto.ca, councillor_milczyn@toronto.ca, councillor_grimes@toronto.ca, councillor_mammoliti@toronto.ca, councillor_perruzza@toronto.ca, councillor_augimeri@toronto.ca, councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca, councillor_nunziata@toronto.ca, councillor_digiorgio@toronto.ca, councillor_doucette@toronto.ca, councillor_perks@toronto.ca, councillor_colle@toronto.ca, councillor_stintz@toronto.ca, councillor_palacio@toronto.ca, councillor_bailao@toronto.ca, councillor_layton@toronto.ca, councillor_vaughan@toronto.ca, councillor_mihevc@toronto.ca, councillor_matlow@toronto.ca, councillor_filion@toronto.ca, councillor_shiner@toronto.ca, councillor_robinson@toronto.ca, councillor_parker@toronto.ca, councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca, councillor_mcconnell@toronto.ca, councillor_fragedakis@toronto.ca, councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca, councillor_davis@toronto.ca, councillor_mcmahon@toronto.ca, councillor_carroll@toronto.ca, councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca, councillor_berardinetti@toronto.ca, councillor_crawford@toronto.ca, councillor_thompson@toronto.ca, councillor_debaeremaeker@toronto.ca, councillor_delgrande@toronto.ca, councillor_kelly@toronto.ca, councillor_lee@toronto.ca, councillor_cho@toronto.ca, councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca, councillor_moeser@toronto.ca, mayor_ford@toronto.ca