Airport expansion plan slowed by executive committee

The city's executive committee votes against a motion to give immediate conditional endorsement to Porter's plan to expand the Billy Bishop airport.

Motion to give immediate endorsement fails, but Porter CEO remains optimistic

City's executive committee votes against giving an immediate endorsement to expanding the island airport. 3:02

The city's executive committee has opted to take a go-slow approach to Porter Airlines' plan to extend the runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

In an 8-4 vote Tuesday, the executive committee rejected a motion put forward by Mayor Rob Ford that called on the city to give their immediate conditional support to Porter's expansion plans.

Instead the committee agreed with city staff that more detailed information about expanding the runway is needed before the plan is endorsed.

The committee also ruled that jets must make up no more than 25 per cent of the daily flights operating out of the downtown island airport.

Porter CEO Robert Duluce said Tuesday's decision was encouraging.

"What we have to do now is get back to the drawing board and make sure that we cover off all the things that need to be done, and move this forward," he said.

Coun. Gord Perks said it would be "idiotic" for the city to give conditional approval to the expansion when staff reports point to a handful of outstanding questions, including the lack of a detailed runway design and a lack of information about jet noise.

"I'm astonished at the amount of time, the amount of energy and the amount of money that's been spent considering a proposal where none of the major questions are answered," said Perks.

Porter wants the expansion so the company can operate Bombardier CS-100 jets from the downtown island airport. Such a move would allow the regional airline — which currently only uses Turboprop planes — to serve destinations beyond its current routes in Ontario, eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

A city report presented to executive committee last week calls for limits —  largely in the form of caps to passenger volume — to control growth at the airport.

More than 190 people spoke about the issue at Tuesday's meeting, which ran all day.  Deluce spoke before the noon break and said allowing jets to operate at the airport would mean 2,000 new jobs. He also said 500 waterfront residents have signed a petition in favour of expanding the runway.

But opponents of the plan were also out in force. One woman used her time at the mic to sing an anti-expansion protest song to the tune of the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies.

The issue will now come before full council. A similar vote there will mean the expansion plans won't be voted on until a new council comes in after the Oct. 27 election.

With files from CBC's Jamie Strashin, Shannon Martin


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