Could more exotic destinations be in store for Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport?

Today, candidate for leadership of the Federal Conservative Party and MP Pierre Poilievre announced his plan to bring jets to the (super convenient) downtown airport.

If elected, Poilievre plans to “remove the gatekeepers and increase competition” by committing to approving a future proposal for Billy Bishop Airport to expand its runway so jets can fly in and out of the airport.

The move would enable air travel to further destinations, like Vancouver, California, and the Caribbean. Currently, only Turboprop aircraft are permitted to land at the airport, so it’s only conducive to shorter flights to places like Montreal, Boston, The Maritimes, and New York City. 

While the idea may not sit well with some -- including some local residents and environmentalists -- it may sound particularly enticing to anyone who has attempted to venture through the chaos that continues to ensue at Pearson International Airport. The airport has been plagued with never-ending lineups, sky-high reports of lost luggage, flight delays, and cancelled flights. 

“Travel at Pearson is a mess right now,” said Poilievre in a press release. “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 idea to expand runways and bring jets to Billy Bishop isn’t a new one. In 2015, Trudeau’s government opposed a proposal from Porter Airlines -- an airline that operates out of Billy Bishop -- to amend the 1983 Tripartite Agreement that prohibits runway expansions and jets unless all parties agree. Porter wanted to expand the runway by about 200 metres. Toronto island residents and waterfront condo owners opposed expansion and the Liberals ultimately agreed. 

Now, Poilievre says he would direct his transport minister to remove the gatekeepers and “open the skies to competition,” encouraging Porter Airlines to put the airport expansion proposal back on the table. Poilievre’s government would advise the City of Toronto and PortsToronto that it would approve a proposal to extend the runway providing the project is self-financed so that taxpayers would not have to pick up the costs, according to the press release. It will also move to reopen the Tripartite Agreement with PortsToronto and the City of Toronto, with the intention of allowing jets to operate out of the airport.

“This project would increase competition, shorten commute times, reduce gridlock, create 2000 paycheques, and inject $55 million in tax revenue,” said Poilievre. “It’s a win, win, win, win, win. So of course, Trudeau sided with the gatekeepers who fought tooth and nail to stop it. Let’s expand Billy Bishop Airport and open competition in a country where the sky's the limit.”

With jets, Poilievre says Billy Bishop could expand to over 4.8 million passengers per year -- the equivalent of the Ottawa airport. “If the gatekeepers got out of the way, and the expansion was back on the table, it would create 2000 new jobs, and all the new routes would take pressure off overstressed Pearson airport,” reads the release.