|Oct. 12, 2003|
Star finds 53% of residents reject airport bridge
70% support incineration to deal with garbage
CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
More than half of Toronto residents oppose building a bridge to the island airport, and surprisingly there is no split between downtown and suburban dwellers, a Toronto Star poll has found. Fifty-three per cent of respondents oppose the plan for a fixed link to replace the existing ferry, while 36 per cent support it. Thirteen per cent said they don't know or gave no response. What's more telling is the fact that 34 per cent are strongly opposed, double the number of those who are strongly in favour of the bridge, said Andrew Sullivan, vice-president of EKOS Research Associates, which conducted the poll. "Is it going to be a ballot box issue? That remains to be seen," he said. "It certainly seems to hold some resonance across the city. Opposition does not seem to be focused on people living close to the waterfront." In addition to the airport debate, voters are overwhelmingly supportive of halting Toronto's garbage from being trucked out of province. Instead, finding new waste disposal options, like incineration, is preferred. The EKOS poll found 70 per cent of respondents back incineration, while 19 per cent are opposed. Eleven per cent don't know or gave no response. "There is a strong sense of an environmental ethic and a sense of taking care of your problems at home, as opposed to shipping them away," Sullivan said. However, he added voters would want more information on any specific change in Toronto's garbage policy before making up their minds. Sullivan said the strong response to the airport bridge and incineration question shows these issues resonate with the public, but added there are other important topics not explored by the poll. The EKOS poll of 600 residents in the city of Toronto, eligible to vote, was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday. The data was weighted to ensure the sample's regional, gender and age composition reflects the city's population, based on 2001 census data. It is considered accurate to within 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. In the Nov. 10 race to be mayor, David Miller is the only candidate opposed to the island airport plan, and he has made it the centrepiece of his campaign, including airing a radio ad against airport expansion. In fact, he has promised to kill the deal if he is elected, saying the bridge runs counter to waterfront redevelopment plans. Others including Barbara Hall, John Tory, John Nunziata and Tom Jakobek support the bridge itself, however, to varying degrees. Hall, a former Toronto mayor, said she supports the bridge for safety reasons, but she would not approve of jets. Tory has taken a more cautious position, saying last week that his support is only "lukewarm." He has emphasized the airport must be financially viable, and he wants to see a business plan that supports that. Nunziata has warned that Miller's promise to cancel the bridge is not viable, given that a legal contract is in place. Jakobek backs the bridge for safety reasons and potential cost savings of not running a ferry. However, he opposes jets. City council voted in the summer to approve construction of the bridge. Local residents are vehemently opposed and have vowed to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop the bridge. Sullivan said Miller — who is in second place behind Hall among decided voters in a Star poll released yesterday — has probably benefited from his position on the airport bridge, by distinguishing himself from the others. Among decided voters, Hall has 34 per cent support, followed by Miller at 27 per cent and Tory at 21 per cent. Nunziata lags farther behind at 12 per cent, followed by Jakobek at 5 per cent. Because only one in two voters surveyed is decided, the margin of error on that question rises to plus or minus 6.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. "The question is can David Miller ride that for a month?" wondered Sullivan. "And the question for Barbara Hall is to what extent is (her position) going to bleed away support? Or is that a sort of blip?" The garbage question is similarly divisive for candidates. In January, Toronto began sending all its garbage to a landfill in Michigan after the Keele Valley dump closed. Trucking garbage down Highway 401 to Michigan became the only option, after city council rejected a plan in 2000 to send trash via train to an abandoned mine in Kirkland Lake, over fears that the garbage would seep into the water supply. However, the U.S. solution has faced numerous problems, including complaints from Michigan residents, heightened border security and even closing due to a mad cow disease scare. Tory is the only candidate to support building an incinerator within the city's borders to handle garbage. He argued that new state-of-the-art technology is safe and effective, and even offers electricity as by-product. Hall, Miller and Jakobek, are vehemently opposed to incineration. Hall has insisted incineration is wrong and called any trash burner a "cancer creator." They have insisted that the city needs to focus its efforts on reducing garbage and increasing recycling and composting efforts. Nunziata said it would be premature to choose one option, given city council has approved a plan to start looking at building three pilot sites to test new technologies.