• Residents’ Reference Panel

    Group shot of the Residents' Reference Panel

    Toronto Pearson International Airport has created a Residents' Reference Panel to help guide us through the next phase of our growth and ensure that we manage the impact of our operations responsibly.

    During their four meetings together, the 36 members of the Panel have learned from a range of experts and stakeholders. They used information collected from meetings with stakeholders, public workshops, an extensive noise-fairness survey of GTA residents, and information sessions to put forward recommendations for Toronto Pearson to take into consideration.

    In October 2017, the Panel submitted their final report on Airport Growth and Noise Fairness. The report details recommendations to ensure the airport grows in a responsible and sustainable way.

    Read the Panel’s final report and the results of the Survey on Airport Growth and Noise Fairness.  

    Toronto Pearson will review the details of their report in the coming weeks and determine how best to reflect the proposed principles, values and recommendations in a number of important projects, including: consultation on the Toronto Noise Mitigation Initiatives, the 2017-2037 Master Plan, and our updated 2017-2022 Noise Management Action Plan.

    The Panel’s Mandate

    The Reference Panel was tasked with advising the GTAA on the measures, standards and commitments it should adopt to meet the needs of area residents and support regional growth.

    Specifically, the Reference Panel developed:

    • A set of values which describe its vision of responsible growth
    • A list of issues which the GTAA should attempt to address within its growth plan
    • Criteria for evaluating options to mitigate and manage aircraft noise
    • Additional recommendations concerning transit options, noise management, environmental stewardship and public communications and engagement

    To fulfill its mandate, the Panel has:

    • Learned about aviation trends, airport operations and their impacts, international best practices
    • Considered contrasting perspectives and the wider regulatory environment in which the airport operates
    • Addressed the concerns of those most impacted by aircraft operations
    • Recommended actions that can support responsible growth of the airport and the region

    The Panel is an advisory body, not a decision-making authority. Please see the FAQs below for more details about the Panel’s role.

    The Panelists

    The 36 members of the Residents’ Reference Panel were selected at random, but in such a way that they broadly represent the demographics of the Greater Toronto Area – in terms of gender, age, home ownership, and other criteria. They were also selected to ensure strong representation by residents of neighbourhoods that are strongly impacted aircraft noise.

    Download our handout that shows how our Panel breaks down demographically, and where the panelists are from. You can also read more about the selection process in the FAQs below.

    Where the panelists are from

    The map below shows approximately where each of the 36 panelists is from, based on the first three digits of their postal code.

    Map of where the panelists are from

    Meeting 1: Saturday, May 27, 2017

    On May 27, the Toronto Pearson Residents’ Reference Panel convened for the first time.

    The panelists were welcomed by Robyn Connelly, Director of Community Relations for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). Panel Chair Peter MacLeod then explained in detail the Panel’s mandate and the tasks ahead, before inviting the members to introduce themselves, and to share why they decided to volunteer.

    The members of the Panel come from every corner of the city, and they truly represent the diversity of the GTA. Many panelists were motivated to participate by a sense of volunteerism, and a desire to give back to their communities. Several also noted that they live in neighbourhoods that are strongly impacted by airplane noise, and that they want to work to mitigate the impacts of growth on local communities. Others still are frequent users of Toronto Pearson, and hope to contribute to bettering the airport.

    After introductions, Peter began the day’s learning curriculum by providing context on the changing demographics and rapid growth of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Then, Scott Armstrong, Director of External Communications for the GTAA, told the story of Toronto Pearson: its history, the scale of its operations, and its many different stakeholders.

    Eileen Waechter, Director of Planning for the GTAA, provided a glimpse into the future, laying out Toronto Pearson’s vision of becoming the best airport in the world, and its goal of growing into a mega-hub, along the lines of JFK airport in New York, London Heathrow, and Dubai. She outlined how this might influence the city and the region, and on the network of smaller airports in Southern Ontario.

    After learning the essentials about Toronto Pearson and its growth plan, it was time to see the airport in action. Panelists took a tour of Terminal 3, providing a hands-on overview of how the airport operates, from check-in to baggage claim. Download the handout panelists brought with them on the tour.

    For the last hour of the day, the panelists began their deliberations, breaking into small groups to identify the values that they believe should guide airport growth. In their second meeting, on June 3, members of the Panel will revisit these values, decide together which are the most important, and clearly define each one.

    Download the full slide deck from the Panel’s first meeting.

    Meeting 2: Saturday, June 3, 2017

    At its second meeting, on June 3, the Toronto Pearson Residents’ Reference Panel learned from several experts about the noise environment around the airport, the science of noise, the impacts of the airport’s operations on local communities, and some of the noise mitigation practices that other airports use.

    After a quick recap of the first meeting, Panel Chair Peter MacLeod introduced Max Conrady, a representative of Frankfurt Airport, who joined via Skype. Max shared the story of his airport’s development, describing some of the challenges it has faced over the years, the impacts it has had on surrounding communities, and some of mitigation measures Frankfurt has adopted.

    To bring the discussion of impacts and mitigation closer to home, the Panel then heard from Cynthia Woods, the Manager of the Noise Management Office at GTAA. Cynthia helped the Panel to understand Pearson’s flight paths and how they are managed, and the impacts on the communities beneath them. She also explained how the Toronto Pearson Noise Management Office engages with surrounding communities around noise, including the noise complaints process.

    Up next was Colin Novak, an acoustician from Akoustik Engineering Limited, who provided an explanation of the science of noise —frequency, tone, and sources— and talked about the different factors that influence the volume and type of noise that airplanes produce. He also detailed some of the factors that drive noise annoyance, which can be independent of the physical characteristics of noise. For example, airplane noise can be more annoying at night than during the day because of lower ambient noise levels, or in a park when there is an expectation of quiet.

    After lunch, the Panel heard from Nick Boud, Principal Consultant with HELIOS. He discussed what makes Toronto Pearson’s airspace unique and presented possible mitigation strategies that are being modelled.

    The day’s learning curriculum ended with speakers representing some of the local communities that have been most engaged around the issues of noise management and mitigation at the airport: Richard Boehnke and Donald Beggs from the Markland Wood Homeowners Association, Joe Silva from the Rockwood Homeowners Association, Jane Stygall from the Alderwood Airplane Noise group, and Richard Macklin from the Casa Loma Better Flight Paths working group. Each speaker shared their community’s experience with airplane noise, the history of their interactions with Toronto Pearson, and the changes they would propose to mitigate noise. The speakers engaged in a frank discussion with panelists where they expressed their frustration with the aircraft noise that their communities experience and the lack of action to address their noise concerns.

    The panelists then broke into small groups to identify the issues around noise that had been highlighted throughout the day by different speakers, some of the mitigation strategies the airport might take to address these issues, and the principles they believe should drive the GTAA’s general approach to dealing with the noise impacts of airport growth.

    Download the full slide deck from the Panel’s second meeting.

    Meeting 3: Saturday, September 9, 2017

    At its third meeting on September 9, the Toronto Pearson Residents’ Reference Panel heard from experts about other organizations that contribute to Toronto Pearson’s operations, the relationship between Toronto Pearson and its surrounding communities, and began work on recommendations they will include in their final report to the GTAA.

    Following a summer break, the Panel came together to review concepts covered at their first two meetings in May and June, and discussed feedback gathered at several public workshops hosted by the GTAA over the summer. View summaries and slides from each of these workshops.

    Panel Chair Peter MacLeod took time to describe the GTAA’s 6 ongoing engagement initiatives currently working to gather the insights and concerns of residents regarding airport growth. The information gathered through these 6 initiatives will inform the 2018-2023 GTAA Noise Management Action Plan and the 2018-2028 GTAA Master Plan. Peter then outlined what the autumn and winter will hold for the GTAA, and where the Panel’s final report fits in this engagement process.

    Following Peter’s recap and review, the Panel heard from Michelle Bishop, the Director of Government and Public Affairs of NAV Canada. Michelle provided a welcome description of NAV Canada’s mandate, their role in nationwide flight operations, and their working relationship with the GTAA.

    Michelle went into great detail about NAV Canada’s role at Toronto Pearson, general air traffic control principles, and the components that comprise an arrival flight path. Michelle then described the airspace structure for Toronto Pearson, and provided context around the flight path changes made in 2012. Michelle also described the ongoing Toronto Independent Airspace Review (commonly known as the “Helios Study”), and why that review was commissioned.

    Up next, the Panel heard from Councillor Stephen Holyday of Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre. Councillor Holyday provided the Panel with insight into representing impacted communities in their final report.

    After lunch, the panelists broken into small groups to discuss the issues they see impeding airport growth and noise mitigation. Panelists then wrote the first draft of their recommended actions they will suggest the GTAA take to grow responsibly. At their final meeting, the Panel will work together to polish these issues and recommendations to insert into their final report.

    Download the full slide deck from the Panel’s third meeting.

    Meeting 4: Saturday, September 16

    At the fourth and final meeting, on September 16, the Reference Panel re-viewed their principles, values, issues, and recommendations and worked intensively to complete and revise their text.

    The facilitation team had used the draft recommendations from the Panel to create a ‘placemat’ document listing each of the many ideas the Panel had proposed. The Panel used this document to reduce duplication and zero in on the issues and recommendations they would choose to include in their final report.

    Again, working in small groups, the panelists worked diligently through the day as they wrestled with the wording of their recommendations and to find common ground that a strong majority of the panelists could support. They also took time to discuss one of the more controversial aspects of noise management — noise-sharing, or the practice of deliberately directing air traffic to avoid certain heavily impacted neighbourhoods in order to provide respite. What might have been a divisive discussion earlier in the process was very constructive as the panelists worked in small groups to map out the implications of this concept and whether there were specific criteria that would need to be a part of any noise-sharing proposal. Ultimately, in the absence of a detailed proposal, the panelists declined to endorse noise-sharing, but they did agree that before any noise-sharing system is developed, the GTAA should exhaust all other noise mitigation measures. Only then —and only if the respite afforded to underlying communities was meaningful and predictable— should a noise-sharing system be considered, and it should still be subject to detailed consultation with impacted communities.

    As they reached the end of their final session together, the panelists took turns reading out their draft report to three senior executives from the GTAA, including Hillary Marshall, Vice President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Craig Bradbrook, Vice President, Aviation Services, and Kim Stangeby, Chief Strategy Officer. Each executive then thanked the panelists for their dedication to the process and the thoroughness of their deliberations.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the Toronto Pearson Residents’ Reference Panel?

    A Residents’ Reference Panel is a forum of randomly selected volunteers who work together to represent the interests and perspectives of their communities as they provide guidance to not-for-profits, governments, and public agencies.

    The Toronto Pearson Residents’ Reference Panel will provide recommendations that will inform decisions about how Toronto Pearson grows in the future, and especially decisions that can impact local communities.

    Importantly, the Panel is not a decision-making authority, and it will complement – not replace – future public consultation on any major decisions that Toronto Pearson makes in the future, including operational or procedural changes. The Panel is also time-limited, meeting twice in the spring of 2017, and twice in the fall, before producing its final report.

    Why is this Residents’ Reference Panel taking place?

    As global demand for air travel continues to increase, Toronto Pearson is poised to become one of the world’s next top-tier international airports, serving upwards of 80 million passengers in the next 20 years. This will create new jobs for area residents and facilitate investment, trade, and tourism.

    With this potential waiting to be unlocked, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) – the organisation that operates Toronto Pearson – understands that open and honest communication about airport growth and the challenges it poses is essential to being a good neighbour. The Residents’ Reference Panel will learn about the options that exist to address these challenges and ensure Toronto Pearson grows sustainably into the future.

    How do I become a member of the Residents’ Reference Panel?

    The 36 members of the Toronto Pearson Residents’ Reference Panel were selected on May 19. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to volunteer to be a member of the Panel. However, you can still join in the conversation by participating in a series of initiatives we’re launching this summer to talk about growth and the impact of our operations.

    How were the members of the Residents’ Reference Panel selected?

    In April, 20,000 invitation letters were mailed to addresses across the GTA, selected at random by Canada Post. One member from each household that received this letter was invited to register as a volunteer for the Reference Panel. They could register by mailing in a response card in a pre-paid envelope, by calling a toll-free hotline, or by filling out a form online.

    From amongst these volunteers, the members of the Residents’ Reference Panel were selected through a process called a Civic Lottery. This ensures that members are selected at random, but in such a way as to be broadly representative of the population ¬– in this case, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Panelists were also selected to ensure greater representation of communities that are strongly impacted by aircraft noise.

    Panelists were not interviewed or otherwise vetted in any way. Any volunteer selected at random through the Civic Lottery who matched the demographic criteria was invited to sit on the Panel.

    Download the Civic Lottery invitation letter and FAQs.

    Why are there no members of the Residents’ Reference Panel from my neighbourhood or community?

    The 36 members of the Residents’ Reference Panel were selected to represent a cross-section of the GTA, and a large proportion of them were selected from neighbourhoods that are strongly impacted by aircraft noise. However, because the Panel only consists of 36 members, it is not possible to have a representative of every GTA neighbourhood on the Panel.

    We mailed 20,000 Civic Lottery invitations to the roughly 7.2 million people in the GTA. From amongst those who received an invitation in the mail, a fraction was interested in participating and was available to attend the four Saturday Panel meetings. And from amongst those who volunteered, we selected 36.

    How can I stay up-to-date?

    Sign up to receive Checking In, our monthly email newsletter. We'll send you updates on the airport's operations and community events!

    How else can I get involved?

    You can get involved by participating in a series of initiatives we’re launching this summer to talk about growth and the impact of our operations. Learn more about how you can join the conversation.