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Northeastern development threatened by proposed ban of turbo-props in Toronto.

Northeastern development threatened by proposed ban of turbo-props in Toronto

Officials say northeastern Ontario could be cut off from the global marketplace if an environmental assessment panel studying the traffic congestion at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport follows through with a recommendation to ban turbo-prop flights from the facility.

Recently, major airlines such as Air Canada have recommended the planes be restricted to the Hamilton, Buttonville and Toronto Island airports. The move would deal a blow to the local economies of northeastern Ontario.

"It will have a catastrophic effect," said North Bay Mayor Stan Lawlor. "Companies come here with international ties and the move would put us off major routes and out of the world community."

Lawlor, Timmins Mayor Dennis Welin and Nipissing MPP Robert Wood appeared before the panel. Lawlor was representing the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce and the Action Group of Mayors in northeastern Ontario.

Federal Environment Minister Lucien Bouchard established the panel late last year to examine the implications of Transport Canada's plans to meet the Toronto airport's increasing demands.

The proposed restriction is just one of many options open to the agency.

"It's not the only proposal, but it is one that's been floated, and we wanted to make our concerns known," said Welin.

Lawlor said communities in the northwestern portion of the province would not be affected by the restriction, since most Toronto-bound flights connect with jet service in Thunder Bay.

Dave Thomas, development officer with the Sudbury Regional Development Corporation (SRDC), said delays in connecting flights of even 15 minutes "hinders the promotion of the community" to potential investors.

Welin, who argues that any difficulty in making flight connections in Toronto would translate into economic hardship for Northern Ontario, added he believes the air service here already leaves something to be desired.

"We're not happy with the turbo-props, but we realize that it's the only game in town," he said. "We're going to keep pressing for the return of jet service.

"Right now, we're second-class citizens. If they ban turbo-props, it will reduce us to third-class."

The proposed restriction comes just months after Air Canada withdrew its jet service to North Bay, Sudbury and Timmins. Air Ontario, NorOntair, Voyageur Airways and Canadian Partner offer service between Toronto and a number of other communities in the eastern half of the province.

"Maybe we don't generate enough business for them (the airport), but they're not helping us generate it with the service they provide," said Diana Bratina, an official with the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC).

Thomas pointed out that the increased frequency of flights resulting from the change from jets to turbo-props is one of the contributing factors to the congestion at the Toronto airport.

James Rudack, president of the SSMEDC, said the recent proposal, if approved, would isolate the north.

"We're going back to the Dark Ages," he said. "They've (the federal government) cut off our ears with the rail service and we're stuck with lousy roads to Toronto which are death traps."

The SRDC made a separate presentation to the panel which dealt with the current state of airport service.

"We wanted to make it clear that the traffic congestion is having an impact on businesses in the community of Sudbury," Thomas said. "With the cutbacks in rail service and the condition of roads between Sudbury and Toronto, the only logical way to get from Sudbury to Toronto is by air."

While not appearing before the panel, Sault Ste. Marie officials registered their concerns in a letter to the panel expressing what they believe will be the negative impact of any ban.

PHOTO : The Dash-8 is a major carrier in Northeastern Ontario.
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Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1990
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