Mayoral candidate Karen Stintz has swiftly changed her position on the Porter Airlines proposal to fly jets in and out of the island airport.
Stintz was the first prominent city councillor to express opposition to the jets proposal. She wrote on Twitter in April: “I hope that Porter intended on using jets elsewhere because I cannot support jets at Billy Bishop airport, nor a lengthening of its runway.”
Stintz confirmed that stance in an interview with the Star on the weekend before she launched her campaign in February. But she now says she will support the expansion of the island airport on certain conditions — and she will no longer say that she is opposed to jets.
“It's not about jets,” she said repeatedly when pressed in an interview on Thursday.
Rather, she argued, the debate is simply about whether to expand the island airport.
“What I should have said was — in hindsight — 'If we're going to expand the airport, we need to do it in a thoughtful way.' And that's the tweet that I should have sent a year ago, and I didn't send that tweet,” she said.
“But my position now is that we weren't having the right discussion; now we are absolutely having the right discussion, and I can't tell you what might come out of that discussion and whether jets are part of that solution, but what I do know is that if we're going to expand the airport, we have to have a way to do it with conditions that are supporting the local economy, making sure that it's sensitive to the waterfront, and considering how it serves the business community.”
Council's executive committee will vote on the airport proposal at a special meeting on Tuesday, council possibly in April. Jets are a major component of the report they will be debating, and it was the jets proposal that sparked the debate in the first place.
Stintz has been criticized as inconsistent for her decision in 2013 to support a subway replacement for the Scarborough RT after supporting LRT in 2012. Her advisor Karl Baldauf argued that Stintz did not flip-flop on the airport.
“Tweet was issued as councillor. Now she is taking a position on behalf of city as a mayoral candidate,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ford supports the airport expansion and the jets proposal. Olivia Chow is opposed, David Soknacki conditionally supportive, John Tory “very skeptical.”
In a Thursday statement conveying her new position on the airport, Stintz said she was coming forward because she is “concerned by the position advanced by Olivia Chow, who a decade ago did not even support the existence of a downtown airport.”
Chow called in 2003 for the airport to be shut down, but Porter did not exist then. Chow now says she opposes jets and expansion, the same position Stintz held.