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2006 08 31
What’s So Important About Toronto Island Airport?
With the Toronto Island Airport debate raging it is difficult, no, almost impossible to keep all the players straight -- not to mention their motives. Reading Toronto thought we would take a moment to look at the various forces at work on our waterfront. From the macro level we have the Mayor who, as far as we can tell, seems genuinely committed to the Creative City initiative. You know, objectives like promoting the city's cultural sector, improving the waterfront, cleaning our air and water, encouraging tourism and all the other things that seem to make sense to Torontonians. On the micro level we have a federal government agency -- perpetually bankrupt -- that seems to careen from one disaster to another in an endless stream of activities that undermine any attempt to achieve the above. Oh, they also don't seem to be accountable to anyone.

The latest news is that Porter Air will use the airport for its short-haul flights whether people in Toronto like it or not. John Barber of the Globe and Mail has waded into the fray. Barber sees the latest moves by the Toronto Port Authority as political payback by the Tories for Miller's endorsement of non Tory candidates in the last election. That could be true. Probably is. I wonder though if there are other forces at play here.

Porter Air will use the exceptional short-haul aircraft made in Toronto by Bombardier Aerospace. The sale and/or lease to Porter of those planes means a lot to Bombardier and to the local economy. Most of the people who benefit from those jobs live in Toronto's suburbs or satellite communities. They are not going to suffer too much from the takes offs and landings at the island. Is it also a coincidence that the TTC's contract for its new subway cars is going to Bombardier?

These high-tech manufacturing deals generate huge revenues that are easy to quantify. That's why governments love to get behind them. What is more difficult to do is quantify the seemingly intangible benefits of having a usable waterfront or smog free air (how crazy is it that we even have to defend the need for clean air?). Until we have a better way of accounting for the things that are not manufactured but designed and experienced, we will always come back to the dynamics behind this dispute around the waterfront. In the end, buying votes in the larger community is about money not sustainability. Times are changing though.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 08/31 at 03:49 PM

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