Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you at this standing committee today. My name is Jeff Knoll, and I appear as a long-standing member of the town of Oakville and regional councils, representing the people of ward 5. I also serve as the Halton appointee on the GTAA's Community Environment and Noise Advisory Committee, known as CENAC.
Through my work on that committee, I am highly engaged on the issue of aircraft noise and the resulting impacts on the residents of Halton. As you may know, Halton region comprises the city of Burlington and the towns of Halton Hills, Oakville and Milton. We are a growing community with a population of over 548,000 people, located a mere 15 kilometres to the west of Toronto Pearson Airport.
We acknowledge Pearson's role as an economic engine and the international gateway that links Canadians to the world stage. Each day, thousands of Halton residents travel to Pearson to go to work and to travel for business and pleasure.
However, as an elected municipal official whose constituency is deeply affected by aircraft noise, I am here before you to contend that we have not achieved the proper balance between the ongoing operations of Pearson, its future growth plans and the resulting impacts on Halton residents.
I further contend that aircraft noise is highly detrimental to the well-being of Halton residents. I hear this consistently from residents in my ward and throughout the region.
Recently, as I knocked on doors and spoke to my constituents during this fall's municipal election, we often had to pause our conversations as aircraft shrieked overhead. No other words were necessary at that point, because one of the key issues in my ward was flying right above us.
Some might say that these residents should have considered this when choosing to live in a community under a flight path. In the case of north Oakville, it was not on a flight path until merely six years ago. The changes to the downwind leg, the incessant low and slow overflights, and the resulting noise and nuisance were imposed on these established neighbourhoods as a result of Nav Canada's 2012 flight path changes—changes, I might add, that were made with no consultation and virtually no notice.
I should note that the noise complaints that elected officials are receiving are coming from all across the Halton community. Recently, I was invited to speak at an aircraft noise meeting in Milton. We watched incredulously as one aircraft after another flew over and shook the little community centre to make a final noisy descent into the airport, as if to punctuate the very purpose of the gathering.
Aircraft noise in Halton is disrupting the ability of our residents to go outside and use their backyards, to enjoy our parks and our hiking trails, to talk with their neighbours, to get a full night's sleep. In short, aircraft noise is compromising our residents' quality of life.
I must acknowledge that there have been some positive engagements on this issue over the past few years, including three major studies by the GTAA and Nav Canada. However, while appreciative of this engagement, residents are not satisfied with the pace of implementation of the proposed mitigating measures coming out of these studies. Residents want and need relief today, especially as the airport looks to become a super hub to serve a projected 85 million passengers in 2037, up from 47 million today.
My time today is very limited, so I will submit additional written comments and suggestions to your committee, but I want to raise one last issue before I conclude.
The GTAA is engaged with regional airports in southern Ontario with the objective of solidifying Pearson's role as the main international hub, with regional airports providing complementary passenger and cargo services. While a potentially positive goal, it does raise the question of whether the proper jurisdictional partners, accountability structure, and incentives are in place to ensure that the GTAA adequately brings aircraft noise into the equation along with Pearson's economic interests.
We need the engagement of all levels of government, potentially with Transport Canada playing the lead role, to help in the long-term planning and routing among airports in southern Ontario, a process that needs to focus on a triple bottom line of social responsibility, economic value and environmental impact.
Furthermore, I would like to suggest that it is time for the government to consider a second major airport in the GTA, potentially making use of the Pickering lands that were assembled for this very purpose over 50 years ago. Such an initiative would spread the aircraft and vehicular traffic, as well as the economic development benefits, to the eastern GTA.
Madam Chair, as elected officials we are constantly challenged to find the proper balance between sometimes inherently opposite interests. In the case of Toronto Pearson, Canada's largest airport and the surrounding communities, we're in a situation where we're not achieving the balance between the economic imperatives at Pearson and the impacts of aircraft noise on our community. If we can't achieve that balance, we're at a real risk of seeing the continued and permanent erosion of the quality of life in Halton and across Canada, a prospect that does not serve the interests of governments at any level.
Thank you for your time.