In his latest move, Porter Airlines chief executive officer Robert Deluce has softened his stance about the need for a swift decision on the carrier’s proposal to fly jets from Toronto’s island airport.
Instead, Deluce now says that the city staff recommendation to delay any vote on the jet proposal and runway extension until early 2015, after the October municipal election, can still work.
“That timeline is now the way forward for Porter’s plans,” Deluce said during a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Friday. “We are presently in the process of assessing any implications, and will adjust accordingly.”
Last April, when Porter first announced it had placed a conditional order for 12 Bombardier CSeries jets, Deluce insisted there was some urgency to win approval to lift the jet ban and extended the runway.
Just last week, Deluce reiterated that position, telling the Star’s editorial board, that Porter needed certainty, given it is scheduled to make non-refundable payments to Bombardier in April.
But the city’s executive committee refused to grant Porter a conditional approval, which Mayor Rob Ford had proposed, choosing instead to heed the advice of city bureaucrats who say there are too many unanswered questions.
City council will be asked next Tuesday to endorse the staff recommendation that city officials first negotiate an agreement with the Toronto Port Authority, which operates the airport, and Transport Canada, on a number of issues including runway design, an environment assessment for the extension, and an airport master plan.
“That framework that (executive committee has) laid out is one that we now support,” Deluce said. “If we can look forward potentially to a similar level of support from council, that we got from executive committee I think that will set us on a nice course.”
Even though the island airport expansion is already a hot topic on the mayoral campaign trail, Deluce said in the end the decision will be up to city council, not just the mayor.
“It still takes the support of the majority of the 45 people who actually vote,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is mayor at the end of the day, they still only have one vote. And that’s been proven in spades even in this past year.”
It remains unclear whether a framework agreement can be easily reached between the three parties. The port authority has hinted that it objects to the city’s demand that no additional commercial slots be granted, leaving it at the current 202 daily takeoffs and landings.
“Over the past few weeks, certain conditions and restrictions have been put forward by staff that, if accepted by council, would significantly disadvantage passengers and undermine the airport’s viability,” McQueen said in a statement last week.
Air Canada, which has been asking for more slots at the island airport, though none are currently available, says it has no objections to caps on slots or passengers, but that the slots be allocated more equitably, given Porter has 85 per cent of the slots.
“Freezing the current slot restrictions without redistributing them is unacceptable as that will merely enshrine one player’s virtual monopoly, bar competition and deprive travellers of choice,” said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.