Thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee.
I'm Sandra Best. I'm chair of the Toronto Aviation Noise Group, TANG, established in 2012 in response to Nav Canada's airspace redesign implemented at Toronto Pearson in February of that year.
I am joined today by my colleague, founding co-chair Renee Jacoby.
We are a facts-based, multi-community residents group committed to finding fair, safe and equitable solutions.
I live in High Park, Toronto, and my colleague lives in midtown Toronto, so you're probably asking yourselves why we are addressing your committee.
Well, we are here to dispel the myth that aviation noise is limited to the communities in the vicinity of airports. Imagine, if you will, that you wake up one morning in your relatively quiet neighbourhood, as far as 20 kilometres from the airport, to the torturous sound of low-altitude airplanes deploying their flaps and screeching their brakes directly overhead—it's not “annoyance”.
You call the airport and learn from the noise management office that you now live under what we at TANG affectionately term a “super highway in the sky”, and you can't register a noise complaint because you live outside the radius for reporting. Even with improvements made to date, residents are fatigued, and many have simply given up on using the process.
Imagine the shock you feel when you find out that there was little or no consultation and your elected representatives knew nothing about it: from no aircraft one day to more than 88,000 flights per year in 2017 on our runway alone, which does not include either arrivals crossing en route to other runways or departures. The data in our briefing materials speak for themselves: high flight volumes, high noise monitor readings and disproportionate runway utilization.
You are further shocked when you become aware of the deregulation in 1996 of our air navigation services to Nav Canada, a private company. There was no legislated protocol to challenge the decision made in 2012, and being asked to attend ineffective meetings of the Community Engagement and Noise Advisory Committee, or CENAC, to solve problems at the local level yielded no meaningful change.
What has been achieved to date?
There was the voluntary communications and consultation protocol in June 2015, which we believe must be amended and legislated.
There was the Helios report, the independent Toronto air space review. We commend Nav Canada for commissioning it, as it has built bridges with stakeholders and created dialogue and discussion. We support much of the work carried out by Helios, and we collaborated with them throughout the process. However, we were disappointed that the GTAA, in an attempt to appear more consultative, formed a widely panned reference review panel and deferred better runway utilization to them, among other things.
Also recommended was the restructuring of CENAC, and we understand that the GTAA is about to unveil their new look next month. We haven't been privy to the deliberations involved, but we are cautiously optimistic about the results.
When TANG first engaged with both the GTAA and Nav Canada, public relations were atrocious. Concerns were summarily dismissed and information difficult to obtain. It was very clear that airlines were the customers and that citizens living under aviation routes were an afterthought. We have seen positive changes within Nav Canada in the last two years and more willingness to work with community groups. In particular, we commend Blake Cushnie for his commitment to the process.
However, these changes did not come about voluntarily but as a result of years of hard work and lobbying by members of the general public. Therefore, we continue to believe that consistent, active and objective government oversight of Nav Canada is critical.
There is still much to be done. Pearson projections estimate total movements in excess of 600,000 by 2037, which means that arrivals on our runway alone would increase to a staggering 120,000 per year. Clearly, this is untenable.
Our recommendations are in your briefing materials. We ask that you take these into consideration. In particular, we ask for acceleration of the retrofit of the Airbus A320s and the adoption of the Helios recommendations with regard to night flights.
We believe that Toronto is one of the great livable cities of the world, and we support its economic development. However, as Canadians, we pride ourselves on our belief in justice and fairness, and it is neither just nor fair to ask some communities to bear the burden of concentrated aviation noise while absolving others. Solutions simply must be found.
We invite your questions, and we look forward to the results and recommendations of the study and the minister's response.
Thank you again for this opportunity. It's deeply appreciated.