Matthew Slutsky
August 25, 2009

Toronto City Centre Airport, aka the Toronto Island Airport, is a small airport located on the Toronto Islands. The airport opened to aviation in 1939 and during World War II it was used for air force training by the Royal Norwegian and Royal Canadian Air Forces.

Since its inception, the Toronto Island Airport has been the centre of mystery, intrigue, and controversy.

Everyone in Toronto knows about the controversy about the Bridge, but did you know that in 1935 City Council received approval from the federal government to spend $1 million on a tunnel across the gap? Council itself approved the tunnel on August 8 1935 by a vote of 15–7, against the opposition of Toronto mayor Sam McBride. Construction even began, with the idea that the tunnel would make the airport feasible. But, nope, construction was never completed. That fall, after construction began, a federal election was held and William Lyon Mackenzie King was elected; King’s government reversed the previous government’s decision, cancelling the tunnel project. Dang.

Here we are again, and the tunnel debate rages on.

As per the article Ottawa set to approve Toronto island tunnel cash in the National Post,

“A request for millions in federal stimulus funds to build a pedestrian tunnel to Toronto Island airport will “meet a favourable response,” federal officials have told Global News. The contentious project, which sources describe as a compromise that is supported by the majority of Torontonians, would get underway by 2011.”

The Plan

The Port Authority sent a request to the federal government for $19-million from the stimulus fund to help finance the tunnel. Federal monies would represent half the cost, with the Port Authority putting up $7-million and the final $12-million coming from the Provincial Government.

Sounds great. I am in! WAIT… What about the bridge?? Wouldn’t it be cheaper? Who knows. These things are studied for years and the final outcome is decided by a select few people who cry the loudest.

The Opponents

The opponents are attempting to frame the debate as a class issue, making claims that it would be wrong to alter the path of federal stimulus funds to a private business that serves a “privileged few”.

The National Post article state:

“NDP MP Olivia Chow, whose federal Trinity-Spadina riding includes the island airport, released a statement yesterday calling on Ottawa to invest in repairing Toronto’s “aged infrastructure” instead of “funding a tunnel for a privileged few.” In an interview, Ms. Chow said an unelected body such as the TPA should not compete with city hall for stimulus funds, diverting money away from projects that elected members of the city council have approved.”

But, I don’t understand, isn’t the Toronto Port Authority a public company?

But, who are these “privileged few”? A healthy Island Airport decreases congestion on the overcrowded highways going to Pearson, as well as allowing people short commutes to the airport. Further, prices on Porter are cheap cheap cheap. It is the “privileged” who are using Pearson.

Here is a real kicker, according to Oliva Chow in the article:

By subsidizing Porter Airlines, the popular airline that has been flying out of the airport since 2006, the government is taking business away from Air Canada, which flies out of Pearson International Airport, and thus limiting the airline’s ability to service smaller Canadian communities…

Okay. Okay. Okay. So, Chow says it is unfair that Porter gets a benefit when it will hurt Air Canada from being able to serve small communities… so, on the one hand they are arguing against helping Porter…on the other hand they want to help Air Canada? Seems a little hypocritical. Oh yeah: isn’t AC is perpetually going bankrupt despite having the highest prices in the industry.

The further National Post article states:

“The Mayor … believes that the proposed $38-million in public funds should be used to benefit the broader general public and not just one private business,” Miller spokesman Stuart Green said in an email.

What is “the one private business”? As far as I understand, there are a multitude of companies running out of the Island Airport. Cameron Air Service? Canadian Flyers International? Flight School and Charters? Ornge Transport Medicine CHC Helicopter? Private Air? Island Air Flight School & Charters? Trans Capital Air? And, Porter Airlines.

I am going on a helicopter ride in two weeks departing from the Island Airport, so, lets add Toronto Helicopter! to the list.

Don’t forget about all the stimulus money that will be spent on creating the bridge! Construction jobs. Environmental assessments. So forth and so on.

I don’t care if we get a bridge or a tunnel, but a direct link to the Island Airport would greatly benefit the City and the Region.

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