Port Authority appoints new board members

Toronto waterfront, 1918

Yesterday, Spacing reported that the release of federal government report (the Tasse Report) assessing the need for the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) was delayed until October 15th. Today this came out of the Canadian NewsWire:

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, today announced the following appointments to the Toronto Port Authority’s board of directors: Mr. Christopher M. Henley and Mr. Douglas Reid for terms of three years; Ms. Krista L. Scaldwell and Mr. Colin D. Watson for terms of two years; and Mr. Cameron J. Turner for a term of one year.

“I am pleased that these individuals have agreed to serve on the board of the Toronto Port Authority,” said Minister Cannon. “Together, their experience in business management, finance, academia and positions of community leadership will serve the board well in the future.”

We can look at this announcement two ways:

1. The federal government is filling the empty board seats as it’s legally obliged to do. As of yesterday, there was only one remaining board member.

2. The federal government is giving Toronto the procedural middle finger.

To read Minister Cannon say the “leadership will serve the board well in the future,” fills me with fright. If the future of the TPA is only going to last until October 15th, then these appointments are just nice resumé padders for Tory cronies. But if the TPA lives to see another day, what is going to happen to our waterfront? (you can read profiles of new board members by clicking here)

What I have never heard discussed to date is what would the Conservatives do with the TPA if they kept it? My imagination led me to this: Harper has tried to demonstrate that his party is serious about national security issues so it’s plausible that they would like to see a federal agency on Toronto’s waterfront for security/terrorist reasons. Did we not hear him talk in the last election about having the army in cities to respond to disasters? Maybe the TPA has a different future than we have yet to imagine.

We’ve always assumed that the Conservatives will placate Toronto on the TPA issue in order to try and pick up a few seats in the next federal election (not to mention their provincial brethern up for election in October 2007). But none of the ridings that touch the waterfront are ever going to vote for the Tories — they have been the sole domains of the NDP and the Liberals for ages. But outside the downtown region, in the inner ‘burbs, there are a number of swing ridings for the Tories to prey upon. It’s possible the these people couldn’t give a damn about downtown waterfront development, but they might like the sound of beefed up security for any of the ships coming into Toronto’s port.

These are just assumptions, of course. I realize we Torontonians see the TPA as bridge builders, literally, and nothing more than an obstacle to a revitalized waterfront. But the Feds come at this from a totally different perspective with a myriad of other concerns. Since one of the new board members spent the last 10 years as the CEO of two areospace companies, it gives the impression that the airport may not be going anywhere.

My security babblings aside, what we once thought was a done deal, may be a whole other mess. I’m interested in hearing other people’s ideas on these appointments.

photo from Toronto Archives: fonds 1244, item 0929.

2 comments

  1. Seek truth from facts. – Deng Xiaoping

    The Conservatives inherited a Toronto Waterfront mess. The mess was created through federal meddling under the Liberals when the Toronto Caucus, under Dennis Mills’ urging forced, a port authority on Toronto against the city’s wishes. The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) has since proven a financial, social and political disaster.

    In spite of his belief that local governments should make decisions that affect them locally, the Conservatives have also inherited a well-established federal government pork barrel and a large piece of prime downtown land.

    Harper has four choices. One, he can do nothing and let events unfold as they will. Two, he can acquiesce to the local government’s demands and, at a minimum, make sure airport expansion does not take place. Third, he can push full steam ahead to make the island airport a busy going permanent concern. Fourth, he can do things his way.

    His new appointments mean the TPA Board of Directors can provide due diligence and oversight should they choose and make decisions based on sound business principles. Or, they can toe the company line and hope that the one best chance to make the TPA profitable (expanded airport business) will work.
    · The background of some of the new board recruits certainly points in the direction of the latter. Professor Douglas Reid specializes in the airline industry, has commented on the sector for the National Post, MacLean’s and the CBC and has spoken to the benefits of increased competition before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation.
    · Colin Watson is currently a director of a number of companies including Vector Aerospace Corporation. He was President and Chief Executive Officer of Vector Aerospace Corporation, an aviation services firm, from November 2003 to January 2005. Vector Annual Reports lists Robert Deluce as a director in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Robert Deluce is Porter Airlines, the TPA’s last best business hope.
    · Cameron Turner is currently a member of the Toronto Board of Trade. The Toronto Board of Trade was a supporter of the TCCA’s bridge building and expansion efforts.

    In addition, the TPA, Porter Airlines and Borealis Capital have among them nine lobbyists hired to work the federal government including:
    · Tim Anderson, a researcher in Stephen Harper’s office when he was Leader of the Opposition;
    · Bill Hearn, partner with McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP;
    · Michael Nobrega, President of Borealis.
    This kind of money buys face time. And the TCCA has another cash infusion from Transport Canada’s Airport Capital Assistance Program for infrastructure and safety improvements that would ready the airport for Porter Airlines new, very large planes.

    On the other hand, there are signs that there could be change for the better. The new directors bring a wealth of business expertise to an organization that has yet to show any acumen in this area. Think $7 million fast ferry terminal that sits empty while the Eastern Gap walls collapse. Transport Minister Cannon will need to act on Mr. Tasse’s findings or face charges of whitewash and cover-up when even the TPA’s supporters would concede there’s a problem when a government agency sues its citizen critics. Then there’s the problem of what to do with the pesky Air Canada lawsuit.

    For a not-so-wildcard, there’s political mileage to be made from exposing alleged Liberal misdeeds over the $35 million payout for a $20 million bridge. Certainly with a Conservative friendly board and Mr. Tasse’s findings, enough information to embarrass the Liberals will surface, either when the House sits next, during the Liberal leadership convention or at the next election.

    What will Mr. Harper do? My money is on choice four – ‘My Way’. The five new board members represent a compromise of sorts. He could have left the single board member and the TPA’s CEO to run the show until Minister Cannon acted on the Tasse Report. Instead, he now has his people watching the shop and limiting further damage.

    He will not give Toronto ultimate control over the port. Why should he? What has Toronto done for him? What can Toronto do for him? Why would he want to set a precedent in giving away federal land in spite of Transport Canada’s Port Divestiture Program?

    He will let Porter Airlines start flying this fall and see what kind of outrage its operation generates among local activists. He will also make sure Air Canada gets to kick the TCCA can. After all, he is for free enterprise and Porter currently holds a near monopoly situation at the TCCA.

    It will be a calculated risk however. With a popular mayor up for re-election and a nosy, polluted airport on the waterfront that he’s promised to green up, Mr. Miller could benefit from an anti-conservative backlash vote.

  2. Given the record of the most voiciferous supporters of waterfront development, why should the so-called “inner suburbs” support it? For most of the inner and outer suburbs, closing Toronto City Centre Airport means locating the noise and pollution of air travel outward, to Pearson or to the (proposed) Pickering Airport. If the elite advocates of waterfront development had shown some awareness and humility, and addressed the needs and interests of the people to whom they want to send this noise and pollution, we would have had a much better decision-making process. Instead, people calling for closing Toronto City Centre Airport have repeatedly denied even the existance of those people affected by relocated pollution.

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