NoJetsTO Grows in Scarborough with New Branch
Waterfront activists in Scarborough look forward to a busy 2015
By Tim Ehlich
Our newly elected city council was just sworn in, but grassroots activists are already in full swing to stop the proposed expansion of the Island Airport, a project that would see parts of Scarborough affected by jet flight paths.
The plan to transform the regional Toronto Island Airport into a large international jet airport is seen as one of the most contentious issues the new council will have to deal with—Mayor Tory has declared a conflict of interest. While the election mostly entrenched the status quo on city council with regard to the issue, friends of the waterfront have been busy behind the scenes.
Over the course of the year, NoJetsTO, the organization fighting the planned airport expansion, has gone from having a limited support base in the downtown core to becoming a massive and growing movement. In November, NOW Magazine readers honoured NoJetsTO as the city's "best activist campaign."
As NoJetsTO Chair Norm Di Pasquale points out, the plans to expand the Island Airport are raising concerns outside the downtown area. "The flight paths for the jets will affect neighbourhoods from Mimico to the Scarborough Bluffs. The expanded airport will increase gridlock on vital roads like Lake Shore, affecting commuters from across the city. It's no wonder thousands of Scarborough residents have signed the NoJetsTO petition."
The stakes are high: over the past decade, Toronto's waterfront has been steadily improving. Spearheaded by Waterfront Toronto, parks from Mimico in the west to the Port Union waterfront park in eastern Scarborough now make it possible for residents to reconnect with the shore of Lake Ontario.
Largely thanks to these new and improved public spaces, people across Toronto are starting once again to love their shoreline. According to the NoJetsTO chair, that's providing the best motivation to save it. "When we started, this movement was largely centred in the downtown area," Di Pasquale admits. "Most of us were concerned with preserving the quality of life downtown, and with saving the beautiful Toronto Islands. But since then we've been joined by thousands of residents from across the city—people who want to protect the places where they live and relax, whether it be the Scarborough Bluffs in the east or the Etobicoke waterfront in the west. If we all join together, we can win this fight."
There is still time for activists to make a difference. "With a staff report on the impacts of the airport expansion plans expected in late 2015, it's crucial that we use the coming months to build a stronger, bigger movement," Di Pasquale added. "That's why we are branching out and setting up a local NoJetsTO group in Scarborough. We invite all concerned residents to join."
The first meeting of the Scarborough chapter of NoJetsTO is planned to be held in late January. To sign up for the meeting or to get details of how you can help, write to info@NoJetsTO or go to www.nojetsto.ca/scarborough.