Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre says he wants to see the runway at the Toronto Island airport expanded so that jets can fly in and out of downtown Toronto.
In a statement released on Thursday, his campaign said if elected leader of the Conservatives and then to form a federal government, Poilievre would “direct his transport minister to remove the gatekeepers and open the skies to competition.”
The statement said they would approval a future proposal for Billy Bishop airport to expand its runway, though a spokesperson for the airport said they are not currently looking to expand.
“Travel at Pearson is a mess right now,” Poilievre said.
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“There could have been way more flights out of Billy Bishop airport in downtown Toronto, meaning more competition and more choice, but the dreadful gatekeepers wouldn’t let it happen. I will reverse Trudeau’s decision to side with them and allow jets to fly in and out of Billy Bishop airport to give people back control of their lives.”
The statement said, “Toronto island residents and waterfront condo owners opposed expansion” but the airport wanted to expand.
In 2015, the federal government nixed a plan to expand the airport.
Any expansion would have to be self-financed so that taxpayers don’t foot the bill, the Poilievre team statement added.
Poilievre’s campaign said that by expanding the runway and adding jets, the airport could serve 4.8 million customers per year, up from 2.8 million in 2019.
They claimed it would create 2,000 new jobs, $55 million in tax revenue and take pressure off of Pearson Airport.
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Currently, only Turboprop aircraft, which fly shorter distances, are able to fly out of Billy Bishop.
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But in a statement, Deborah Wilson, vice president of public affairs and communications of PortsToronto, said they “have no plans currently to seek to make changes to the airport or its operations beyond ensuring that our passengers have a positive and efficient travel experience.”
“Any growth is within the parameters of the Managed Growth Strategy that was put forth in our 2018 Master Plan,” Wilson said.
“The last two years have been challenging, and as we emerge from the pandemic, Billy Bishop Airport is singularly focused on recovery, customer service, and investing in improvements that will make the airport cleaner, greener and quieter.”
The group NoJetsTO also posted a message to Twitter opposing Poilievre’s pledge.
“We will fight to save our waterfront and our planet,” it said in part.
In response, Polievre tweeted, “How is it good for the planet to force people who live downtown to drive to Pearson rather than fly from the Island airport?”
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