NEWS
11/12/2015 16:47 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

Billy Bishop airport expansion not necessarily dead, Garneau suggests

The push to fly passenger jets out of Toronto's Billy Bishop City Centre Airport might not be grounded just yet, according to Canada's new minister of transport. 

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday, Marc Garneau appeared to contradict earlier Liberal statements — both before and after last month's federal election —  that the proposal to expand the airport was dead.

"What I'm doing at the moment is examining all of the factors that are involved in this.  It's a complex issue," Garneau said after a cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon.

Garneau's comments came as a surprise to Trinity-Spadina Coun. Mike Layton, who called the transport minister's remarks "distressing."

"We had received one message from the Toronto[federal Liberal]caucus leading up to the election and now we're getting a different message from the minister."

Speculation has arisen that Garneau, who is from Quebec, might be willing to consider allowing passenger jets to fly out of the Toronto Islands in a bid to secure additional contracts for debt-ridden aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, which is based in Montreal.

Porter Airlines, which is based at Billy Bishop, wants to fly Bombardier CS-100 jets out of that airport.

The Quebec government has already committed to give Bombardier $1 billion and is lobbying the federal government to give the company financial assistance, as well.

Layton disputed the notion that Toronto isn't also committed to the manufacturing giant, arguing that the city worked hard to ensure its new subway trains and streetcars were produced by Bombardier.

That decision contributed to Torontonians' quality of life, he argued, while the island airport's expansion does not.

Earlier this year, nine Toronto Liberal candidates, including Adam Vaughan, articulated the party's position against re-opening a tripartite agreement between Ottawa, Toronto's port authority and the City of Toronto on what kinds of aircraft can fly out of the airport.

"No Jets. No Expansion. Period," Vaughan wrote in a September letter to a citizens' group aimed at stopping the airport's growth.

On Nov. 2, a source close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the party has no intention of re-opening the agreement, putting to bed Porter Airlines CEO Robert DeLuce's campaign to fly passenger jets from the islands.

Porter Airlines has lobbied Toronto city council since 2013 to extend the runway at Billy Bishop for the Bombardier  jets, a move that would enable the airline to fly to more destinations.

Toronto city staff are studying the proposal and are expected to report back to city council in the new year.

Garneau was asked whether Toronto-area MPs have a veto on the extension of the runway.

"I'm certainly aware of the letter from Mr. Vaughan and I take it seriously," Garneau said Thursday.