Thursday, September 28, 2006

Federal Appointments to the Toronto Port Authority, Part 3

Well, this post is not technically about the federal government appointments to the Toronto Port Authority (I previously talked about them here and here). But, it is related.

Why does the federal government, Liberal and Conservative alike, refuse to acknowledge the will of the City of Toronto in regards to the Toronto Island Airport [Globe & Mail, Ottawa handed out $20-million to Island airline boss]:

Yesterday, Transport Canada gave Porter Airlines final approval for its plan to launch commercial air service at the Toronto island airport. But the same federal ministry was far more generous two years ago, when it gave Porter founder Robert Deluce $20-million in order to start up his new airline.

What?

The size of the payout to Mr. Deluce, revealed in a confidential document obtained by The Globe and Mail, clears up a central mystery of the murky events that followed Toronto City Council's decision in December, 2003, to rescind its approval of a proposed bridge to the airport. In particular, it explains how a bridge originally estimated to cost slightly more than $20-million to build ended up costing taxpayers $35-million to stop.

A confidential memorandum justifying the extraordinary settlement, marked "protect in full," details multiple payouts to three private companies and the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) following cancellation of the bridge. Using generous estimates of sunk costs, lost profits and alleged legal liabilities, it justifies the largesse primarily as a means to prop up the money-losing TPA until such time as it begins to receive revenue from Mr. Deluce's new airline.

While Ottawa publicly agreed to cancel the bridge in accordance with municipal demands, the memo shows that it worked behind the scenes to supply the TPA and Mr. Deluce with the means to finance airport expansion at the same time. The former federal government justified the $35-million payout as a settlement of legal claims, but the memo, dated Nov. 11, 2004, makes clear that the purpose of the settlement was to return the TPA to financial health -- with a well-funded new airline as a paying customer.

In short, the federal government wants the Toronto Airport to succeed without any sort of input, support, or concern for the opinion of the city - it's irregardless of who the government is and what they arguably stand for. It started in December 2003 with the the Liberal payout and it ended in September of 2006, with the Conservative appointments to the Toronto Port Authority.

During the last federal election, only NDP candidate Olivia Chow spoke of the need for the federal government to keep its hands off the Toronto Islands and to stop the airport, because of the will of the City of Toronto. You can disagree with that position if you want, but it still represents the will of the city.

Can someone explain to me why ignoring the city is a good thing? More than that - why does the federal government believe it needs to support and fund the Toronto Island Airport this way, instead of in the open?

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6 comments:

Toronto Crawler said...

Oh please... Toronto City Council does not represent the will of the entire city, just David Miller's NDP brethen. He barely won the last election, and I don't actually know anyone here in Toronto other than some left-wing kooks on Toronto Island (who complain about everything) opposed to the Island Airport. And I live in downtown Toronto.

The federal government is protecting everyone outside of them who realize that the Island Airport is potentially an economic benefit to all of Toronto's citizens. Jane Pitfield also realizes this, and that is why I will be voting for her as mayor

Jim said...

Crawler,

If you're going to claim that the Toronto City Council does not represent the will of the city, then you cannot argue that if Jane Pitfield gets elected, she will.

Secondly, if the airport is an economic benefit to the city, why does the federal government not confront David Miller openly about supporting it?

Anonymous said...

The radical leftists who run Toronto should not be consulted on matters better handled by adults.

John Spragge said...

I don't like using this quote, but in this case, it seems to fit:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it. (A Few Good Men)

The people who run Toronto City Centre Airport and Pearson (not to mention Porter Airlines) have a tremendous degree of skill. They acquired this skill through years of work, experience, and study, involving, in many cases, not a little personal courage. Their skill, their work, gives us the freedom to climb on a plane and go anywhere in the world without fear. That freedom helps produce the prosperity we take for granted.

Now we want to hold them "accountable" to posturing politicians, web loggers who treat the facts as a cure for insomnia, and shrill NIMBY groups. We don't have an alternative to air travel, and the above mentioned NIMBYs and politicians will neither lift a finger nor spend a penny to develop one.

Well, I have a newsflash. If you or your nearest and dearest, or your boss, or your customers made a safe flight recently, they did so because of unsung people doing a job that would literally kill most politicians, lobbyists, and people who write web logs. Just maybe, those people have earned a little respect. Maybe we shouldn't expect them to jump and reconfigure the airspace and facilities they manage for us to the specifications of the latest and loudest "community group".

Jim said...

John,

I am not questioning the ability of the Toronto Island Airport, nor Mr. Deluce's capacity to operate a safe and efficient Toronto Airport.

In fact, I have no opinion either way - I said so at the beginning of the post here.

My problem is with the way the airport is being supported by the federal government. We get told one thing, and another thing happens and federal officials shrug their shoulders. Then, the Conservative federal appointments to the TPA are more supporters of the Island Airport. Why the secrecy, why stack the deck in such an obvious matter?

Why does the federal government, Liberal and Conservative alike, not cut straight to the chase and openly support the expansion of the Island Airport?

Federal officials should be more open about their support for an Island Airport. Not shady.

John Spragge said...

I sympathize with your desire for a more open and responsive process here. I would certainly like to see a planning commission charged with designing a comprehensive transportation policy (including airports and air transportation) for the entire GTA. That would beat the current system, which currently amounts to NIMBY-driven policy.

However, Mayor Miller has never joined a debate over the future of Toronto City Centre Airport. He campaigned against the bridge, not the airport, and when challenged on this point in the 2003 election, he claimed he had no intention of asking to shut the airport. Mayor Miller has never put a motion before council asking for the closure of the airport, or even asking to have commercial traffic suspended. Olivia Chow has never run for citywide office; she has absolutely no mandate to speak for the city as a whole.

Any claim that a real and definitive city-wide debate has taken place over the future of the airport, or that any politician has a city-wide mandate to demand its closure simply lacks validity. Just because some people claim that a majority of Toronto voters want the airport closed, that doesn't make it true.

In the end, if you don't like the way this debate has played out, you can do something about it. Educate yourself, and get into a discussion of the facts about the alternatives for Toronto. Learn something about reliever airports, the requirements of medical aviation, NEF contours, noise levels, the demographics of Malton, Rexdale, and the waterfront (you can learn a lot just by taking a drive around the area and seeing it for yourself). Then challenge those people who call the facts a cure for insomnia. Because if we in the city tolerate politicians who sell an inconsistent and incoherent series of demands as "the will of Toronto", then we'll get an unclear response from the federal government.