The NoJets Battle for the Bluffs
Guest Editorial by Marjorie Nichol
Diane Torlone’s home sits atop the Scarborough Bluffs, facing over the lake. You might think hers is one of the most tranquil residences in the GTA. But these days, it has become ground zero in the fight to prevent low-flying jets from threatening her neighbourhood.
Next month, Toronto City Council will vote on a proposal put forward by Porter Airlines. Porter would like to see the existing agreement rewritten to allow them to fly jet aircraft out of Billy Bishop Airport for the first time. The plan calls for an expanded downtown airport, a longer runway, and up to thirty new jet flights a day. It is not known how many of those will fly over the Scarborough Bluffs.
Torlone’s struggle began about two years ago—long before Porter announced their new plans. “They started flying planes right over my house, and that’s when I got involved in trying to stop them,” she explains. Torlone finds Porter CEO Robert DeLuce’s insistence on calling the new aircraft whisperjets infuriating. “They are just trying to brainwash us into thinking that jets don’t make noise”.
After Porter’s plans to expand the Island Airport were announced, Torlone has joined with NoJetsTo, a group of citizens from all over Toronto, and heads up the Scarborough campaign. Every day, more Scarborough residents are joining her.
One of those people is Suzette Lockett. She became angry when she saw Porter CEO Robert DeLuce on television claiming that the proposed “whisperjets” would be “just as quiet” as the existing aircraft. “Just as quiet?” she exclaims, “their planes are far too noisy already!” Too often , they are so noisy that she has to stop her conversation and wait for them to pass.
Yoga instructor Karuna Mama has lived in Scarborough for twenty-six years. She is in awe of the natural beauty of the Bluffs, a beauty that she believes is threatened. “At first I believed such a thing could never happen. The whole idea is so disrespectful of the people who live along the waterfront and ignores potential concerns relating to the quality of our water and our air. This is certainly of no value to human health.”
The activists agree that the campaign is gaining steam. But they stress that it’s very important that Scarborough residents let their councillors know how they feel. Just go to www.toronto.ca and follow the links to city council. If you type in your address, it will tell you who your councillor is, and how to reach him or her.
They also stress that this is not about opposition to the airport itself. As Diane Torlone puts it, “I’m not against an island airport, I’m against increased air traffic in a neighbourhood that already has a very busy airspace. This is just bad urban planning, and it will be bad for the city. Besides, the last two times I flew Porter, the cappuccino machines were broken.”