• my city councillor here in the Beach has promised to support no jets, according to a reply to an email I sent. Thanks for keeping us attentive to this issue, Susan.

    • Oh, that’s good news about your councillor! And city hall announces its report on the proposed airport expansion tomorrow. I think they are going to defer the decision.

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Mar 12, 2014 - Literary    2 Comments

We thought the city agreement protected us


My name is Bob Ramussen and I live near the island airport. Why am I against its proposed expansion? When the large jets start flying, whether louder or quieter, the increased traffic congestion will make the waterfront a dead zone.

It is simply not possible to squeeze the same number of passengers who now fly through Ottawa’s airport through Billy Bishop. The island airport is located smack dab in the middle of an area that the city of Toronto has zoned as a residential, park and cultural community.

Let me say it again: Why am I against the proposed expansion of the island airport? Because it will only make the quality of downtown life worse. Recently, the island airport has expanded to over two million passengers a year, and that makes our quality of life bad enough. But the proposed expansion to well over four million will degrade our once beautiful waterfront even more.

Here’s some background on me: When my wife and I purchased our harbourfront condominium in 1996, we lived in Hong Kong. But we had decided to retire to Canada, and we wanted to live in a waterfront environment close to city amenities. We chose downtown Toronto over Victoria and Vancouver so we could enjoy the cultural excitement of this city and, in particular, Toronto Island, Harbourfront Centre and the Music Garden.

We knew there was a small airport serving mainly small planes. We also knew the city’s Tripartite Agreement protected our investment because the agreement forbid the use of jet planes. But we really never worried about airport expansion because no city would ever consider destroying its greatest asset. Or so we thought.

Our building has a beautiful garden plaza. It was a spot where, for many years, we could lounge, eat, visit with friends and enjoy the greenery and lake view. It has now become a noisy, unpleasant place to be. During the busy late afternoon flight period, eating and talking with friends is no longer the joy we used to experience. In the past, we also kept our windows open to let the lake breezes blow through our home in the summer. Rarely did we use air conditioning. Now the island airport makes it necessary to always keep windows closed when watching television, listening to music or talking.

Many years ago we lived in Mississauga underneath a flight path to Pearson. We looked up, way up, to see the planes fly overhead. Now we look down to see the planes pass by our windows. Hong Kong had an airport like the one being proposed for our waterfront. Hong Kong closed it. Toronto wants to build one.

Toronto’s Department of Health voted against expansion last November. So here’s my last question: Why are city councillors still debating this irresponsible expansion?


  • I think a columnist recently said, “Fix Pearson. “Some truly snazzy buses from downtown to the airport surely are possible. Brazil has some very luxurious, comfortable buses..

    • We are getting the rail link to Pearson in 2015. That will make a big difference!

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Feb 28, 2014 - Literary    9 Comments

What’s With the Sticky Black Stuff on the Window Sills?

smudged window

Photo by Llima Orosa

I’ve made it my job (since the papers aren’t doing it) to find out about the sticky black stuff on the windows of downtown residences along with the impact of jets on our air and water quality. So check out my blog next week for missing information about Toronto’s air and water quality. On Dec 9, 2013, Toronto’s board of health voted against the expansion of the island airport because it is a threat to Torontonians’ health.

In a city map based on the board’s report, NOW magazine demonstrated that serious pollution from the airport goes as high as Queen street and reaches as far as Queen’s Park. More pollution brings more lung and heart disease, the Toronto Board of Health says. So don’t assume you’re safe from the impact of the airport just because you don’t live on the harbour.

In the meantime, here’s my interview with Rick Persich who will move out of his home on Bathurst Quay if the airport expansion is approved. By the way, Rick Persich is still waiting to hear what the city’s health officials have to say about the black sticky substance on his window sills:

I live in Windward Co-op at 34 Little Norway Crescent. Looking out my window, I can almost count the distance on my fingers from my town house to the airport hangars. It feels about three hundred meters. (The quotes are different depending where you’re counting from.) So if the airport expansion is approved I will move after living here twenty-five years. Ideally, I’d like to stay close to the city but I’m an actor and a recently certified teacher and I will go where the work is.

The particulate matter on my window sill used to be a brownish colour but it’s turned blacker. In February, some city inspectors took a sample of the sticky black residue and put it in a petri dish. They haven’t got back to me yet. Inspector Barbara La Chapelle was here in her fur coat. She said while standing on my balcony, “You sure do live close.” Or something like that. She said the city’s health study would not be biased. That was one of my concerns because the Toronto Port Authority paid for the city’s study.

Last Monday, perhaps because of stormy weather, the airport activity was almost nil. I couldn’t put my finger on what was different until I realized how quiet it was. My whole being felt calm and peaceful. It was a profound feeling, and I realized how the ubiquitous din from the airport helps create a kind of inner tension in my personal being. One seems to get used to it and not realize what an assault constant noise is.

When I moved to the Bathurst Quay neighborhood I expected to live a fairly peaceful life, slightly separated from the inner city core and near the fresh air of Lake Ontario. At the time, BBTCA was a small and acceptable regional airport. But that changed when Porter expanded its flights in 2006 and the proposed expansion would pretty much finish off our wonderful neighborhood by the water.

By the way, an increase in cancer has been recorded in my area, especially in Arcadia Co-op which has a high concentration of people with cancers on the 6th and 7th floors of their building. I mention this because a dear friend of ours, who lives in Arcadia, has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. One cannot conclusively say that this cancer was caused by air pollution emanating from jet fuel but a connection could be drawn. The turboprops now in use at the airpot have jet engines with propellers and they run on the same highly toxic fuel as jets.

Read more on this topic at Now Magazine’s: The Island airport: hazardous to Toronto’s health


  • This is so alarming! I hope this information will be picked up by the media, although I notice The Star is featuring ads promoting Porter Airlines before its on-line videos. I wonder whether, in this great cold, there was a healthy(!) turnout in Scarborough regarding the proposed expansion of flight frequency at the Island. Thank you for bringing this to your readers’ attention.

  • I’m glad you clarified you live near the airport so your readers are now aware that your writings are of a personal and not subjective nature. I thought this was probably the case when I read another of your reports yesterday. I forget the title.
    As for health issues from pollution, it is proven that automobile pollution is far greater by comparison and the cancer issue would most likely be due to the aging populations in your area. You have to admit most people have been there at least as long as you and so the average age for the area is much greater now than when you moved there.
    As for the noise I would bet you are in favor of the noise pollution that comes with the installation of the windmill farms in our urban areas. (I find it highly improbable you would vote anything but NDP or Liberal living where you do).
    Sorry, no sympathy for you from me or any of the people out here in the boonies.

    • Wrong, wrong, wrong! I don’t live near the airport! You have misread me. It is Rick Persich who lives on the harbour and Rick is the one telling the story about the black sticky stuff on his window sills. I live in the Bloor Spadina area of Toronto. So far there is no black sticky stuff on my window sills but I am still concerned about the impact of more pollution on Toronto. And you are very much mistaken to think that the effects of the pollution are limited to the harbour residents.

      Your comment about Toronto already being polluted by cars doesn’t make sense. It is true that cars pollute too but why add to their pollution by expanding the airport? The proposed plan for expansion calls for doubling the number of passengers from over two million to well over four million a year. That means more traffic in the downtown, and jet fuel emissions. The Toronto Board of Health has already voted against the expansion plan because it says it is bad for the health of Torontonians. Does their decision mean nothing to you?

      • Actually, no it doesn’t. Health Boards are political entities, not scientific. They tend, especially in Toronto, to lean towards what the politicians want and also to make decisions not asked for that lean towards the same direction.
        Toronto’s left wing political leaning means a lot of bad Health Board decisions over the years that have cost the city a great deal of revenue.
        Also, there will be negligible traffic increases as studies have shown that since the bridge was never built most people using Billy Bishop use public transportation to get there.
        As for the extra pollution, jets use a special fuel that has minimal pollutants. The extra pollution would, therefore, also be negligible. Being ex-navy and having had to learn about it, I know this to be fact. Canadian warships use jet turbines for propulsion along with diesel depending on the speed needed.
        The current Q400s at the airport are Turboprop which means they use jet fuel. This fuel burns clean (meaning low pollution and clear emission) and would never leave a black sludge because of this. That doesn’t mean the sludge isn’t from the airport in some way. Just not the Porter aircraft.

  • Noise and air pollution are only two of the many issues. The project has four elements – expanding the runways, larger aircraft, long haul service and jets. Each has it own set of problems, that collectively or even individually, make Porter’s proposal unsuitable. Unfortunately the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) has no plan to deal with the problems. Rather, it is content to stay out of the debate. It has offered to complete a full environmental assessment (EA) AFTER council renders a positive decision. It has offered to address some issues in the Master Plan AFTER a positive decision has been rendered. Sadly the items covered in an EA or Master Plan need to be dealt with BEFORE a decision is rendered, a point the TPA does not grasp. Hopefully the councilors will.

    • i’m curious about who is paying for the building of the tunnel to the airport … if it’s an investment on behalf of Porter by Porter the pressure on the city to ensure that investment pays off must be considerable …

      • The tunnel is being designed, built, financed, operated and maintained under a “P3” arrangement with a consortium. The capital cost is $82.5 million. TPA will repay the costs with a series of monthly payments coming from a revenue stream generated by a portion of the $20 Airport Improvement Fee paid by departing passengers. The real question is who will backstop this revenue stream in the event Porter goes under or abandons the airport? Given the number of airlines in Toronto’s aviation dustbin this is within the realm of possibility. (Porter has not released any financial information since its IPO was suspended in 2011 and it no longer issues monthly activity data that is common in the industry.) In this scenario, there is no guarantee that Air Canada and WestJet would fill the void. They could decide to serve the market from Pearson thereby avoiding the costs of split operations. The result would be an airport with a tunnel, extended runways, no airlines, no passengers, no revenue stream and huge financial obligations.

      • Good question. I suspect the taxpayer is paying for it. Will find out!

    • We can’t count on the TPA–except that it is obliged to follow city council’s decision. And that’s where we need to put pressure. Such a frustrating situation. Thanks for your reply!

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Feb 20, 2014 - Literary    15 Comments

Our Young People Are at Ground Zero in This Mess


Photography by Abdallahh, and elPadawan (adapted work).

I said I’d talk more about how an expansion of the island airport would change our lives. Not only would it bring in more passengers (a jump from well over two million to a possible 4.8 million). Our waterfront has been marked as parkland for mixed use by Toronto citizens. The proposed expansion would tip the balance even more to planes. Here’s how a sailor, Ron Jenkins sees the impact of the proposed Porter expansion.

1. How would an island airport expansion affect you?

I’m a member of the National Yacht Club, which is adjacent to the airport. The NYC and Alexandra Yacht Club both contend with significant aircraft noise and exhaust fumes. Our balconies are sometimes unusable and we often move our outdoor activities indoors or to the north of the building to get away from the noise. The NYC has been on the waterfront since 1894, and I think this inappropriate and unnecessary airport expansion would destroy a Toronto waterfront legacy for my children and others.

2. What were your expectations when you started living near the airport?

I’ve never lived near the airport but have sailed from the National Yacht Club all my life.

2. How has the landscape changed?

I started sailing at the National Yacht Club on my grandfather’s 25 foot wooden sailboat boat when I was three months old — in the late 1950s. The area has vastly changed. The area between Stadium Road and Bathurst was an empty dirt field. Now it’s populated with many residences. It’s also the staging point for over two million passengers a year at the airport. Commercial use of the airport has increased one thousand fold.

3. Can you tell me a personal story that demonstrates the impact of the airport?

Back in the 1960s, my grandfather had no motor on his boat, and when there was no wind and we were hurrying to get to races that started off Hanlan’s beach, we’d paddle across the Western Gap. Then, in the style of Volga boatmen, we were able to pull the boat along the seawall and across the end of the airport runway.

In the last ten years the expanse of lake at the end of the runway has changed dramatically. Marks now encircle the so-called “Marine Exclusion Zone” (MEZ) — the area all boats must stay out of to keep a safe separation between boats and aircraft. This makes sense, and yet we boaters have seen the area marked out by the MEZ grow season over season. It’s pretty intimidating to have a Q400 pass overhead when you’re in a sailboat.

My involvement with the summer sailing school also makes me concerned about the health of the young sailors coming from around Toronto to use our water and breathe our air. The recent Board of Health report shows there are health hazards because of the scale of airport operations. Our young people are at ground zero in this mess.


  • Thank you Susan and Ron. These are the stories people need to hear. I too believe that Toronto’s waterfront is a legacy that no generation has the right to destroy.

  • What also makes my skin crawl is that the Toronto Port Authority’s position now is that they need the Tripartite Agreement extended another 50 years, to 2083. This to amortize the cost of addressing the ground side infrastructure deficit that they have already created through letting airport passenger traffic increase unchecked 1000-fold in six years. So children born today will be senior citizens before they get a say in this part of the waterfront. I’m not OK with that.

  • As someone who IS A YOUNG PERSON, i thank you for helping us to have a voice who I wish more would listen or give us the opportunity to be consulted to speak. This is an – all ages issue.


  • I couldn’t agree more. The city is always trying to sell the waterfront as a great place to work, live and recreate. It won’t be if the airport expands. Why kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Everything that makes Toronto a great place to live is being decimated, inch by inch. So many things those of us who live here cherish, and use, are gone or being ruined.

  • The Island airport was a small regional airport until the mid-80’s where only helicopters and small craft would fly into. When the The Tripartite Agreement was changed, so was the size of craft that could fly in and the airport began to serve commercial aircraft. I remember when Hanlan’s Point used to be quiet and relaxing (I’ve been taking my dogs there over the decades since I moved downtown in the late 70’s), now, nothing of the sort. Allowing jets is for nothing more than to put more money into stockholders pockets at the expense of those who live near and enjoy the waterfront and islands. Pearson is projected to handle expansion and increasing demands until around 2030. This is absolutely unnecessary.
    Here’s hoping Toronto Council makes the correct, informed decision.

    • Thanks for this. I don’t know how councillors and the public can make an informed decision
      when the newspapers and media don’t give much space to the downside of expanding the airport, never mind
      the impact of the airport as it is now. The whole thing is a disgrace and that’s why I’m using my blog to get out
      information that the media ignores. Keep in touch!

  • I agree with the comments that expansion is not necessary or safe. I live on my boat directly across from the airport. There is am existing way of life in this community that is unique and valuable to Toronto. The infrastructure cannot incorporate more here. The health concerns exclude further growth. Expansion would be a short-sighted financial gain for Deluce and Porter shareholders only, and be only detrimental to Toronto. The Pearson link, the Harbourfront redevelopment, Ontario place redevelopment, and the Pan-Am games development would be compromised by a misguided choice.

  • My main concern is everyone’s Health ! How can anyone argue with this: “Toronto’s board of health has unanimously endorsed a motion calling on council to reject the expansion of the Island airport.

    Members of the board cast their votes on Monday afternoon after considering a report from Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown, which found that even without expansion, the Billy Bishop Airport is having an adverse effect on the wellbeing of the surrounding community. “

    • Thanks for this! I intend to write more about the airport and health next week. Keep in touch.

  • The airport in Montreal is not only a health hazard but also dangerous, The planes come in so low over Ville St Laurent if your on a 6th floor balcony you can see the pilot, I have ask who will be responsible if heaven forbid one of these aircraft crash into the heart of an area of apartment buildings, Not one level of Government will answer, There is an aircraft taking off or landing every fifteen minutes, So I ask what can be done about it, Who will be responsible??

    • These are all important questions that business people ignore. It’s like they see out of only one eye. Thanks for this information about
      the Montreal airport. I didn’t know it had these problems too. Send me some information about it when you have time.

      • Canadian taxpayers spent millions and millions of dollars to build Mirabel Airport, Now it is laying there like a ghost town with the exception of a few courier companies, It appears a group of Montreal business men formed a company called Les Aireport de Montreal who rent the Montreal Airport and convinced the Federal Government to transfer all flights from Mirabel to Montreal they claimed its easier access and they don’t care about the pollution or noise or the danger of a crash, As usual its all about money , And as you can see no politician will touch Quebec, So the noise pollution, and danger remains

        • That is a disgrace, and an all too common story. Business executives commandeering airports for their own use. But in the end their short-sightedness
          will mean that they, too, suffer. Hurting the environment eventually results in hurting profits. (See Nike and Coca Cola story in New York Times this month. They are changing their strategies after this became obvious to their corporations.)

  • This video speaks for the younger generation.

    • It’s not all about convenience, you realize, although there will be a fixed rail link to Pearson next year and that should help you because it provides an alternative we don’t have now.

      If the expansion is allowed to happen, it will damage the already challenged downtown environment. Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible for a business to expand an airport on a small island in the middle of homes, urban communities and a school. Porter should have kept its word about no jets. But now I’m beginning to think it never meant that promise to the city of Toronto. If the company wants to expand it should go to Pearson.

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