Evidence of meeting #122 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was airport.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sheri Benson  Saskatoon West, NDP
Pam Damoff  Oakville North—Burlington, Lib.
Matt Jeneroux  Edmonton Riverbend, CPC
Michael Keenan  Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
Sheilagh Murphy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Jeff Knoll  Town and Regional Councillor, Town of Oakville and Regional Municipality of Halton, Halton Region
Hillary Marshall  Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Sandra Best  Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group
Renee Jacoby  Founding Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group
Robyn Connelly  Director, Community Relations, Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Arif Virani  Parkdale—High Park, Lib.
Robert Oliphant  Don Valley West, Lib.

10:20 a.m.

Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group

Sandra Best

I honestly do not know, sorry.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Okay, thank you.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

I'll make it quick.

Thank you all for being here.

Our role as MPs is to facilitate when there is a problem. Listening to TANG, I understood that there has been no consultation, so I think all these MPs are here because their constituents have been complaining. When they complain, we send them to your information sessions, etc. The concern I've heard from DMRI has been that whenever they come up with solutions, they've been disregarded. I think it is important for GTAA to actually listen to the concerns.

Sandra Best, I heard you say that the Helios recommendation is what you would like to go with.

My question to GTAA is this. What is the problem in meeting the Helios recommendation? That was commissioned by the minister and by you guys, and it's a consultative process. It took a lot of people to come to the table, to listen to you guys and to listen to the constituents, and yet you have not come up with a solution. What is preventing you from bringing that solution? I am very comfortable if you could say you're balancing the needs of the constituents with safety and with environment issues, but you need to talk to people. You need to listen to them. You need to give them the credence they are due. I think TANG also commissioned a pilot project and you have the report.

Could you give me some answers that we can take back to our constituents?

10:20 a.m.

Robyn Connelly Director, Community Relations, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Sure.

Airport operations are very complex, and making changes to our operations takes time. Our friends at TANG, as well as Councillor Knoll, mentioned that changes are slowly happening. I think that is a reflection of the complexity of the issue.

You asked a question about a series of different studies. There was one study, a Nav Canada independent airspace review, that was undertaken by Helios. That was released in September 2017. Nav Canada responded with an action plan about how they would enact the recommendations of that report. They are doing that on an ongoing basis and do updates about that at each of our CENAC public meetings. That does happen regularly.

As part of our own practice, we also commissioned Helios to do a noise management best practices benchmarking study for us, which we undertook, and which forms the cornerstone of the noise management action plan we are currently pursuing. We are very much taking the recommendations that came out of that study and exploring how to implement them. It's also important to know that we also conducted consultations around what it would look like and what our guiding principles need to be for consideration. We did that through a randomly selected residents' reference panel, which TANG also mentioned, but we also did that through a series of workshops throughout the summer of 2017 to gather that feedback and guidance.

Finally, you asked about the report from David Inch. His recommendations, as part of the report that went to Nav Canada, fundamentally form the six ideas that Hillary referenced in her remarks. Those six ideas are currently being implemented. It is frustrating that things are happening at a slow pace, but good projects are going forward.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Virani, go ahead.

10:20 a.m.

Arif Virani Parkdale—High Park, Lib.

Thank you.

I'm going to build on what Yasmin and Pam were saying, but I'll also ask a question directly from my constituents.

Ms. Best, thank you for being here and for illustrating the fact that concerns about airport noise are not germane only to those people who live near an airport; they're germane to people who live under a flight path. That flight path has increased dramatically over the last six years or so. Thank you for your advocacy.

I want to give you a chance to comment on a few things, because I'm sharing my time with Mr. Hardie.

The first point is about the accountability piece. We're hearing about CENAC. We have concerns about CENAC, and it's about the fact that, from your perspective, it's ineffective, as I understood from your submissions. You're not seeing meaningful change. Can you elaborate on that a little, in particular on what we've just heard about industry partnership as we move forward with CENAC? What does that mean to you?

Also, from what was just mentioned about the randomly selected citizens' reference panel, I understand there were concerns about it that were expressed by TANG at the time.

10:25 a.m.

Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group

Sandra Best

Yes, it's a big subject and there isn't enough time today to cover all the issues around CENAC, but I will talk about the reference panel that's been mentioned.

Imagine, if you will, that you've been working on these noise issues for seven years. There are many constituents right across the GTA who have spent time and effort to work on this. We work day and night. For some of us, it became a full-time job. When we start to see some kind of political action, we thank our representatives for it, because, frankly, that's what it took. Before political action, there was no movement.

We find out, however, that recommendations from the Helios report, the GTAA part of it, are going to be referred to a new panel that's going to be set up with 36 members who are going to be randomly selected across Toronto. They're going to be given four days of training and orientation. Now, they are fine people, I'm sure, with the very best of intentions, but they don't have any background information. We are asked to go and present to them for half an hour or an hour, and I think three or four other groups are asked to go as well.

Well, you sit back and you think to yourself that if they really wanted a reference panel that was going to have good recommendations and a real understanding of the issues they were tasked with commenting on, they would go to groups that have been involved in this for many years, groups that have educated themselves on the separate language, what you might call “aviation language”, and on issues of concern in airports worldwide. They would at least put members from those committees on the panel, and then they might do some random selection of other people...but four days? One of those days, I believe, involved orienting them with the airport, visiting the towers. This is not real consultation.

When the word “consultation” is thrown around, what we've found over the years is that it's not real consultation. It's consultation with predetermined answers. We've all been there. We've all been to organizations that do this. They know what they want. They consult about that particular subject matter, and then they staff the tables—as I understand they actually did—with industry experts. What are these good-hearted people going to come up with in terms of recommendations?

They send out a survey across Toronto. Again, I spoke with the group hired to facilitate and they told me directly—I have this on record—that the GTAA designed this survey themselves and this consultative group was only there to carry out and facilitate. Those questions were all moving towards predetermined answers. This was theoretically a massive consultation and a group of people who were used to come up with recommendations on runway utilization, for instance. Well, runway utilization is a complicated thing. It's not as simple as it might sound. Where are the crossover points? How will this affect other people? When you talk about “predictable noise respite”, what does that look like? That's how we ended up with alternating east and west runways on alternate weekends, and deluging people, who were already deluged, with additional traffic on those weekends.

Therefore, when we talk about consultation, we have to be clear that it's meaningful consultation, and meaningful consultation, in our estimation, has been excessively hard to come by, other than the Helios report.

10:25 a.m.

Parkdale—High Park, Lib.

Arif Virani

I have two more questions. With respect to the Helios recommendations, there are recommendations about night flights and there are recommendations about the retrofit. Can you talk about what you would like to see in terms of the night flights, the pace of the changes, and the retrofits to the planes? Ms. Marshall mentioned the speed of the retrofitting of the planes.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Give us a brief answer, if you possibly can, to Mr. Virani's question.

10:25 a.m.

Founding Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group

Renee Jacoby

Our last official retrofit number was five retrofitted planes in June. I think that was up to seven at the September CENAC meeting. Michael Belanger would be in a better position to know how big the fleet is, but I think it's around 40 planes to be retrofitted, the A320s. That's supposed to be completed by 2019. They say they'll get it done, either replace or retrofit.

I think we'd all feel more comfortable having more immediate information and better updates, and an inquiry into why it seems to be taking so long, or perhaps even a schedule as to when those planes are going to be retrofitted. I understand that this is supposed to be done during their regular maintenance. Could we see that? Could we see how many are going to be retrofitted? We'd feel more comfortable with that, rather than being disappointed, with only five done after one year.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

We will go on to Mrs. Block for five minutes.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thanks very much, Madam Chair.

I want to welcome all of our witnesses here this morning. I should have done that in my first intervention.

I'm going to direct my questions to you, Ms. Marshall and Ms. Connelly.

Perhaps you've touched on this, but I just want to confirm. Other witnesses who have testified before this committee as part of our study have suggested imposing a total ban on night flights, as has been done at Frankfurt Airport, or imposing a steep surcharge for night flights.

What impact would such a policy have on your airport, and how would a ban or surcharge on night flights affect your ability to compete with other large international airports nearby, such as Buffalo?

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Hillary Marshall

I guess I'd start by saying that there are many types of traffic that comes in during the night. There are about 50 to 53 flights that come in at present during the nighttime hours. A small number of them are cargo flights. About 1% of the night movements would be related to cargo. There are some sun destinations, some Asian and international destinations, as well as domestic routes.

Within each of those movements, there are travellers and cargo vital to the local economy, and we need to understand the consequences of potentially removing those flights or limiting them in some way.

If you look at some of the big international hubs, Frankfurt would be one extreme, but there are many other international airports that have restricted hours, as we do—restricted movements within those hours.

We think that while we can look at the formula, at who is being served by those flights and what the economic opportunity and impact are, the greater Toronto area and the country will continue to need night flights to serve our economy. Whether those flights are coming into Toronto Pearson or another airport in the greater Toronto area, there is still going to be an impact. We're potentially just talking about moving an issue from one airport to another.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you very much for that.

There has been much discussion here this morning around public consultation and meaningful consultation. I understand that you recently developed a new noise management action plan. Based on your experience developing this strategy, what would you say are the most significant steps that airports can take to mitigate the impact of aircraft noise for surrounding communities? Can you tell us what role public consultations have played in creating your noise management program at the GTAA?

10:30 a.m.

Director, Community Relations, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Robyn Connelly

Sure. There are couple of questions there, I think.

One is how we consulted to develop our noise management action plan, and then a piece of the best practices study and the noise management action plan is to improve how we work with the surrounding community.

To produce the noise management action plan, as we mentioned, the foundational document that guided us was the Helios best practices study. As Hillary mentioned, it looked at 26 airports worldwide and came forward with a series of recommendations. From that came a series of 10 commitments, which are like vision statements, and under those vision statements are a series of actions we need to take. Some things are about doing what we already do, but doing it better, and some are to stop doing things that aren't making any impact. Of course, we will also be introducing nine new programs as part of this over the next five years.

Part of the best practices research did look at what other airports do—how they conduct their noise committees and their consultations. We certainly came up short. That was a very fair recommendation. Challenges with our committee were the representation and the process through which committee members are appointed.

One of the biggest pieces of feedback, as part of that research, was that our noise committee didn't have a meaningful action plan or work program. Now that we do have this noise management action plan, which is much more ambitious than the ones we've had in the past, we certainly do have a really solid work plan going forward.

We will be making recommendations to make sure that we have the proper elected officials and residents support and infrastructure in place to advise and guide us on how we move forward on these programs—revolutionary things like Canada's first voluntary insulation program, for example. There are big initiatives ahead.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

We'll go to Mr. Graham and Mr. Oliphant.

You're sharing some time.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Yes, if you can warn me when I have about two minutes left so that he can get his question in, that would be helpful.

To start, I have a very quick question for Ms. Marshall.

You mentioned in your opening comments that you're aiming to make Pearson the best airport in the world. At the moment, it is the most expensive airport in the world outside of Japan. I wonder on what measure you would consider it the best airport.

November 27th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Hillary Marshall

Actually, in regard to Toronto Pearson, I don't know what information you're going on at this point—

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It's expensive to land there. It has the highest landing fees.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Hillary Marshall

We've done more recent studies, where we've brought our landing fees down over the last seven years by about 30% and have held them steady.

We fall in the mid-range on airport improvement fees among Canadian airports, so we're certainly heading in the right direction. We have long-term agreements with our carriers to control the costs.

In terms of being a financially sustainable airport, we're working very hard to continue to head along that track.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

By what measure are you hoping to become the best airport in the world? It's a very subjective thing to call yourself.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Hillary Marshall

There would probably be a number of factors on which we'd like to call ourselves the best airport in the world.

For example, in terms of passenger service, just this year we were recognized as the best large airport in North America for passenger service, as voted on by passengers. On behalf of the 300-plus employers and the 50,000 workers at Toronto Pearson, who all come together every day to get planes moving and serve passengers, I know that has been an important point of recognition.

We're making sure that we are environmentally sustainable, that we manage our stormwater, and that we introduce sustainability programs, as well as managing our operations safely.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

My time is quite short. This is a very quick question, also following up on a previous comment.

You mentioned that Pearson is part of a network of 11 airports that work together, but we've also heard testimony here that Pearson has effectively poached cargo traffic from Hamilton. Therefore, is it competition or co-operation?

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Hillary Marshall

I'd say it's co-operation. We haven't poached cargo traffic from Hamilton. I'm not sure what that refers to.

However, we do have a market that many carriers want to be as close to as possible. Understandably, they make a choice. We can't force the carriers to go and operate at any airport. That's not under the terms of our ground lease. We're not allowed to do that.