Toronto's Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly says "you're either for a modernized airport or you're against it" – and predicted that a move by councillors to pre-empt possible negotiations by taking jets out of the equation entirely will fail.
Mr. Kelly spoke with reporters Friday ahead of an executive committee meeting next week at which the proposed Billy Bishop Airport expansion will be debated. At issue is a staff report released this week that recommends opening the door to negotiations on a runway expansion and commercial jets, so long as the Toronto Port Authority agrees to a number of conditions – including limits on the number of passengers and aircraft.
"Bottom line – and there's always a danger in bottom-lining things – is you're either for a modernized airport or you're against it," said Mr. Kelly, who has long been a supporter of the airport expansion. "You're either for the benefits that it offers the residents of Toronto and the benefits of the waterfront community, or you're not. They're both combined."
The staff report recommends a phased approach for negotiations, and would require the TPA to meet all of the city's conditions before a final decision is made by council. The phased approach would mean that the final vote would not happen before 2015 – in front of a new council. Mr. Kelly is pushing to move council's decision up – so long as the TPA agrees to the city's conditions – and have the matter settled before the next election.
A number of councillors are already planning a motion for next month to vote to continue the ban on jets, arguing that the conditions set about in the staff report could still be used as a framework for negotiating with the airport even without an expansion.
But Mr. Kelly said he's "doubtful" of that approach, arguing that taking jets out of the equation removes the airport's incentive to negotiate. "The two are intertwined very tightly," he said. "If you want money to be spent, plans to be made, then there has to be a quid pro quo. No quid, no quo."