Air Wars

From the swirl of traffic that engulfed our post last week about the Toronto Port Authority and Porter Air came this little gem from a blog in Friday’s National Post. Apparently, Air Canada has filed suit against Porter and the TPA in its ongoing battle to resume flying out of the island airport. Blogger Peter Armstrong tsk tsks these strong arm tactics by AC.

To suggest it laughable in the extreme that anyone would portray Porter Air as the ‘David’ in a David and Goliath battle is, in itself, more than laughable in the extreme. Laughable to the infinity only begins to hint at the absolute absurdity of the comparison. The only way that the litigiously prone Porter Air’s Robert Deluce with his friends in high places could be perceived as the ‘David’ in a David and Goliath struggle would be in a struggle with an actual Goliath. And then only if his first name was David rather than Robert.

This story would be exceedingly funny to island airport opponents, drenched in life affirming irony as it is, if not for the ominous implications of the lawsuit. Clearly, Air Canada wants back at the table to fly out of the airport again. The fact that its regional partner, Jazz Air, agreed to buy 15 Bombardier Q400 airplanes in mid-February – Porter Air’s turboprop aircraft of choice – lends credence to AC’s designs. Once a second company is flying out of the island airport how far behind will a 3rd be? Come on down, WestJet!

With that, the dream of shutting down the airport at best or keeping it small, local and for medical emergencies at worst will be dead for those fervent Goliaths who’ve been waging war against the diminutive Davids of Porter Air and the TPA for over a decade now. Airport expansion will take root and there’ll be no turning back. Unless of course, flying out of the airport turns out to be as economically unfeasible as it was for the likes of City Express, Air Ontario and Air Canada Jazz when they all previously operated from the airport.

This whole tale is a head scratching curiosity when considering the state of the airline business in the rest of the world. Europe has been wracked recently with strikes by pilots and air traffic controllers who are battling austerity measures being introduced in the face of continued recessionary pressures throughout Europe and billions of dollars in losses for the airline industry over the last couple years. An uptick in business for the U.S. for airline industry is not causing an outpouring of optimism there.

Yet here in Toronto, it is all systems go with a $50 million dollar expansion in the works on the island and airlines clamoring for space to start servicing it. Should we take this as a sign of a strong economy recovery in the works for us here? Or is it just a corporate pissing match whose only loser is bound to be local democracy?

curiously submitted by Urban Sophisticat

10 Responses to Air Wars

  1. John Spragge says:

    Local democracy cannot, by definition, suffer in this fight; we don’t have a local democratic body that represents everyone affected by airport decisions in the GTA. Toronto City Council’s mandate stops at Steeles and Etobicoke Creek, but the people affected by regional air traffic extend far beyond those borders. Absent a genuinely representative local body, we have an agent of the (democratic) federal government that represents all the stakeholders in Canada’s transportation system, from the mother in Iqaluit who needs to get a sick child to hospital in Toronto, to a father in Malton who wants more quiet time to study for his children, to a Toronto business owner who wants to get overseas in a hurry.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr. Spragge,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke throw up our hands in defeat and offer an unconditional surrender to you. You have bested us in this war of words. The TPA is a fully functioning, democratic body who operates with the best interests of the Canadian people in mind. Loaded up as it is with appointees from a federal government known the world over for its enlightened environmental policies, it makes logical sense (as you suggested in your previous comment) that the TPA is concerned with environmental justice especially for the poor and distressed homeowners of Rexdale and Malton.

      Community AIR is a misguided pack of self-serving Richie Riches who are only in it for themselves while the titans of industry.. or Toronto business owners as you call them… the ardent supporters of the island airport are just trying to make a living and are doing their part as well for the poor and distressed homeowners of Rexdale and Malton by flying from the island airport.

      All Fired Up in the Big Smoke = Deluded self interest. Mr. John Spragge = fighter for the common man.

      There. Happy?

      • John Spragge says:

        My emotions have nothing to do with it. However I feel about the subject, the Greater Toronto Area has no local body which represents the interests of the people of this region affected by aviation noise and pollution. The word democracy means rule by the people, and implies, at least today, that all the people affected by a decision have a voice in it. Toronto City Council cannot make a democratic decision to close Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, because that would affect the people in Malton who have no way to have a voice in the decision. Until and unless we have an actual democratic body that makes these decision, we cannot have local democracy. I see no way to refute this, except by changing the meaning of “democracy”, perhaps using it to mean decisions you happen to agree with.

        If you don’t like my conclusions, please address the facts I have based them on.

  2. Bob Kotyk says:

    As a fabulously wealthy volunteer researcher for Community AIR, I, while clipping interest coupons on a small fraction of my countless bonds, have often come across Mr. Spragge’s comments on various blogs and forums.

    Like you, I was taken in by Mr.Spragge’s unabashed support for all things Island Airport,thinking that he was writing in earnest. See links following for a sampling of his comments.
    http://www.readingt.readingcities.com/index.php/toronto/comments/1295/
    http://torontoist.com/2006/09/the_toronto_por.php
    http://spacing.ca/wire/2007/04/29/time-magazine-why-torontos-island-airport-isnt-taking-off/
    http://ch.aoti.ca/2007/02/reaching-for-energy-independence-linda-mcquaig/
    http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20090427/talkback_to_090427?hub=CalgaryHome

    At first, the frequency and repetition his arguments had me fooled into thinking, quite erroneously, that he was a shill for the Toronto Port Authority or at least the airport, especially when he self-identified as a pilot. Then I came across your reply to him and in its light I believe I can now see Mr. Spragge’s true purpose: to present masterful satire in the guise of a defence of the indefensible, especially when he comments on the putative need for and benefits of the island airport.

    I look forward to guffawing at his next post, which will no doubt come soon.

    • John Spragge says:

      Good, Bob, you’ve located my posts. Now, for the second part of your assignment, please locate something I have said that contains a factual error. Not something I wrote you wish I had gotten wrong, but something that you can rigorously disprove.

      For part marks, you might consider locating a fact I have posted and ask me to source it. As I mentioned in the other thread, I usually take considerable care about backing up what I have to say, so I’ll try to provide references for anything I said. Who knows? You might actually uncover something I said that I don’t have a reference for, in which case I will retract it. Although I doubt very much you’ll seriously undermine my central arguments; I simply have too large a body of evidence for it. But go ahead, try.

      • cityslikr says:

        Dear Mr. Spragge,

        We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have come to the conclusion that you have little interest in engaging anyone in actual dialogue or conversation. But rather, in typical bloviating fashion, seek to suppress any healthy exchange of competing ideas in a wet blanket of illogic, circular reasoning and questionable assertions that consist of proof from unsourced Wikipedia entries and your own film work. Leni Riefenstahl made a film too! Should we take Triumph of the Will as gospel truth?

        We no longer have the energy or time to dedicate trying to discuss matters with you. Feel free to continue contributing your thoughts here however. It is an open forum after all. That’s what makes the interwebs such a magical place.

  3. great coverage of this issue. great blog in general. don’t let the haters get you down, especially the overblown rhetoric of Mr. Spragge. the sick Iqaluitian child? that’s just weird. and since when does Porter fly “overseas”? and how can anyone claim that the TPA represents “all the stakeholders in Canada’s transportation system” when it has proven stunningly incapable of maintaining even the slightest thread of substantive dialogue with its waterfront neighbours? Mr. Spragge’s peculiar, tendentious invocations are best explained – like most reactionary spin – by JK Galbraith’s observation: “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

    • John Spragge says:

      Ad hominem argument has two problems, which you’ve illustrated perfectly. First, you have made a classic invalid argument. Whatever my general political views, the people of Malton still have a legitimate stake in a shift in aviation that has the potential to reduce the noise spikes over their childrens’ heads by as much as 10%, Toronto City Council still has no legitimate, democratic basis for making decisions that affect the whole region without consultation or consent, and no forum for such consultation that could legitimately set aviation policy for this region currently exists. Second, you’ve got your estimate of the person in this case gloriously wrong, as usually happens when you make ad hominem arguments.

      You only made two other comments worth refuting: the people of Iqaluit do use, and need to use, medical services located in Toronto; they have no way of getting here in medically reasonable time except by air ambulance; that gives them a legitimate stake in Toronto’s aviation facilities. I see nothing “weird” about that. Secondly, you misunderstand the nature of democratic legitimacy. The Toronto Port Authority doesn’t generally stroke the handful of activists who show up at meetings to demand they immediately vandalize the facility they have a mandate to operate. The authority behind the Port Authority comes from the Parliament of Canada, a body which all Canadians have a right to a voice in electing. If all Canadians elected MPs who agree with, say Olivia Chow, the Port Authority and the airport wouldn’t exist, but they (we) don’t.

      • perhaps I was a little premature in labeling you a shill for Porter or a Conservative apologist. i just have an incredibly difficult time believing any self-respecting environmentalist or social justice advocate could support encouraging short-haul flying, let alone the funneling of millions of tax dollars to a private company to help it establish a de facto monopoly; or be so naive about the federal government’s commitment to environmental protection and urban investment (see the startling omissions on these two fronts in the recent throne speech).

        what I find funny about your response is that in rushing to point out the problems with my argument you fail to appreciate the fallacies inherent in your own reasoning, i.e. relying on the old “appeal to emotion” fallacy: think of the children! the poor Iqaluitian children! as CAIR has repeatedly documented on its website, MEDEVAC is not a sufficient reason to justify the island airport and may in fact be better located north of the city, closer to where most critical patients are picked up. and then you respond to my question about whether the TPA actually represents all the “stakeholders” affected by the island airport with this gem of faulty generalization: “The Toronto Port Authority doesn’t generally stroke the handful of activists who show up at meetings to demand they immediately vandalize the facility they have a mandate to operate.” Ah yes – all those concerned about how transparent the TPA actually is (like the good folks at this blog) or those who just want a say in how their neighbourhood is becoming radically altered are “activists” intent on “vandalizing” the airport? perhaps you are unaware that some of the properties most affected by the island airport expansion are subsidized housing. it’s wonderful that you want to be the voice of the underprivileged but you’ve picked a mighty strange windmill to tilt against.

  4. John Spragge says:

    If someone actually came up with a comprehensive and effective plan to replace short-haul air travel with rail, it would change the situation considerably. But we have no such plan in place now, little or no prospect of one, and the majority of airport opponents, including most members of community air, have made it clear that their objection to Porter stems from its location, not its destination. Short-haul flights will go on, polluting even more, from Pearson if Community AIR gets its way. And while the average short-haul flight pollutes more than the same journey by rail, it does not, on a per-passenger basis, pollute significantly more than the same journey by a car with an average load.

    As for the Federal Government’s current policies: I don’t have to like them to grasp the elementary point that whatever I think of the party currently in power, the Canadian Government has a democratic mandate to operate the transportation system in this country, including airports, and the Toronto City Council does not.

    Community AIR misunderstands the nature of medical flight in this country. They base their claims on assertions about the ORNGE medical rescue service that uses helicopters. Even on that subject, I find them unconvincing; I have yet to see them post an analysis by someone with a background in flying or air traffic control, or with an understanding of the airspace structure in the GTA. But kids (and adults) from Iqaluit do not fly in by helicopter; they come in by fixed wing air ambulance. Those aircraft need runways, and they need a reliable runway free of the heavy transport traffic that comes in and out of Pearson. That explains why virtually every major city in the world has one or more (often many more) reliever airports to handle medical traffic.

    I don’t support everything the Toronto Port Authority has done. I certainly think they have missed opportunities to improve the situation for people living closest to Toronto City Centre Airport, particularly through sound mitigation. And to some extent, I worry that in the rush to maximize the earning potential of the airport, both educational and medical aviation may suffer. But that doesn’t change the basic facts: Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport will accommodate, at most, 4% of passengers and 10% of the flights, they will do so in aircraft, and under conditions, that minimize the environmental impact.

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