In defense of Porter Airlines and the Island Airport

I started writing this on the Spacing website ( but it got a little long and I don’t want to clog up their space. Also, I haven’t posted here in a long time so why not come back with a wildly unpopular opinion bundled with some inflammatory comments. Here goes…

I’m a regular business traveler and also (I’d like to think) a city booster who believes strongly in people over vehicles. It is that belief in accessible transit for all that prevents me from getting on the bandwagon against the Island Airport and, by extension, Porter Airlines. Regardless of the lousy way in which the TPA continues to fleece us through the federal government, they allow a wonderful company like Porter to exist and in the long term, that’s positive. I get fairly exasperated listening to people like our Mayor tell us out of one side of their mouth that we should support mass transit while the other side is telling us that some mass transit is better than others. What makes air travel so undesirable? 

What could possibly be more accessible than a central airport? And what could be more responsible than a company that uses one of the quietest passenger airplanes in the world (the Q400) to service it? Add that the airplane was designed and built in Canada and people should be down at the airport on the weekends writing love notes on the terminal wall. Alas, this is not the case. The fight over the airport has at times become so vitriolic that that the TPA has had to sue for defamation. A case they won, by the way. (Tip: If you want to prove that an organization is the enemy, don’t lose a defamation case to them.)

So what’s the real problem here? It can’t be that an airport exists in downtown Toronto that allows people in larger Canadian cities and New York City access to our city easier and cheaper than if they had to go to Pearson. Can it?

Is the problem that the airport is thought to be only for stodgy, rich businessmen? Well, that’s precious bullshit. As you may or may not know, I work in theatre, the very dictionary definition of which is “an art form that is hugely rewarding, just not in a financial way” followed by “have you ever thought of being a banker?” Point is…I ain’t rich and neither are my friends and colleagues who are also enamoured with Porter. Neither is Porter particularly expensive. It’s just a well run service that attracts people who think it’s nice to be treated like a human and that travelling all the way out to Pearson just to go to Montreal is total crap. 

Is the problem that it makes people who live on the Toronto Islands miserable? OK, I’ll concede that it might reduce the quality of life for people on the island…for 10 seconds at a time!! They get the idyllic setting AND all the convenience of the city one their doorstep BUT don’t want to deal with any of the bad things that come with living in a city, like occasional noise…well, too bad. That is the very essence of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. They shut down the Docks, another successful Toronto business, so they could sleep better at night and to be frank…that’s OK with me. People should be able to sleep at night. Porter’s last flight out is at 9:15pm and they’re last flight in is around the same time. That more than fits into the city’s noise bylaw (which cuts off anywhere between 10pm and 11pm depending on the situation). If the occasional 10 seconds of prop wash noise is really that unnerving, then move…I and many others that have some perspective would gladly take your place. If you’re really that attached to living in a CIVIC FUCKING PARADISE, then take the very good with the bad and move on.

Is the problem that we think the land could be better utilized? The city has more than enough on their plate with the rest of the waterfront. If they manage to turn that into a success I’ll consider supporting the redevelopment of the airport. In the meantime, having it sit idle is ludicrous.

Like so many of you that live downtown, I don’t drive at all. And that’s fine with me. I deal with noise and smell and all that comes with a city and that’s fine too. I don’t get the lovely setting of the island neighbourhood as my reward. Instead when I need to fly to NYC, Ottawa or Montreal for work I get to skip the hell of Pearson and be treated like a human being for 90 minutes. That’s got to the essence of what we’re fighting for when we ask for better transit option. Sure, it’s not run by a government and that means we’re more removed from setting it’s agenda than we are with TTC. And perhaps the TPA should be run by the city. But if the net benefits of transferring control to David Miller are the death of the airport, the death of Porter and few more minutes of silence every day for island residents, then it isn’t worthy of our support.

6 thoughts on “In defense of Porter Airlines and the Island Airport

  1. You are entitled to your opinion — but get your facts right.
    1.Porter’s flights start at 7 in the morning and they often don’t finish until 11 pm at night. There have been several instances of flights taking off and and landing outside of this time — issues that are being dealt with after months of complaiining by the TPA.
    2. The notice porblem is not confined to the Island residents. It affect everyone who lives or uses the parkland along Queens Quay from Bay to past Bathurst Street.
    3. This is not about 10 seconds of noise– it’s about engines running at full speed for 20 minutes to test them, airplanes warming up or sitting on the taxiway waiting their turn. These planes may be quiet inside but they are anythinb but if you’re on the outside.
    And please don’t tell me to move. I pay my taxes like everyone else but I can’t compete with the lobbyists and politicians who decided that Pearson wasn’t sufficient to service Toronto.

  2. The info on flight schedules for Arrivals and Departures was taken from Porter’s website. I knew someone would jump on me if I didn’t get it right.

    I’m glad you pay your taxes. I think we all should. I pay my taxes too, and I’d like them to be spent on the airport. So, how do I weight what I want against what you want? I don’t know either. That’s why the tax argument rarely proves fruitful.

    Regardless of our tax records, my point is that living in a city requires one to take the good with the bad. People who live on the island have a living environment that’s already far better than a large portion of the city. Where others have to trade safety for low rents (Jane/Finch, for example), islanders trade noise for an approximation of perfection in an urban environment.

  3. The island airport has been there since the 30’s. That means that every singe one of the island residents moved in knowing there was an airport there. Pearson gets its fair share of noise complaints too, and that’s just a reality of airports – people who choose to live next to them complain about noise.

    The real shame is that our Mayor decided to politicize and thus denounce a Toronto based company using Toronto made product to vastly impove quick access to downtown Toronto which promotes Toronto business and tourism. Maybe it would be better to promote the city revenue generated from having the island airport (Pearson is in Mississauga) instead of closing pools and hockey rinks.

  4. Pingback: New streetcars, new planes…is transit winning? « Good Toronto

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