“Port Authority Wins”?

John Barber’s column in the Globe today betrays a sense of defeat about the Island Airport issue. You can find it in the Print edition of the paper or the paying portion of the website, but here are a few quotes in case your access is limited.

He says that lovers of a green waterfront

conceded the defeat of their fond, ultimately naive hopes within hours of hearing — late Friday afternoon — that Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon had appointed five new members to the largely vacant TPA board of directors. That was the definitive signal. Suddenly, the official review of the agency by former Ottawa bureaucrat Roger Tassé, which raised such hope for a fresh start on the waterfront when the Harper government announced it last May, became meaningless.

He calls the delay of the Tassé review further evidence that the battle is lost, and claims that the appointment of new board members to the TPA shows that the government has “declared loudly it has no intention of undertaking fundamental reform to a wayward agency powered by political patronage.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday edition of the Star had a great write-up about the complex issue. Read it for free while you can here.


  1. I was initially surprised by his column, but Barber’s long-running contempt for the TPA (and Lisa Raitt) would suggest he’s not giving up or that the battle is lost. Sure, it’s a depressing and very cynical comment on the effectiveness of community activism, but I’d like to think his column’s intent is to rile people up, get them angry over this slap in the face from the feds, and give a kick in the pants to Miller, who was elected on this issue!

  2. Remember, Miller didn’t have a popular vote win last time, 43%. Tory strategists are doing the calculus right now, their ideal scenario is to get a right leaning mayor in place, at which point they can make it look like, all of a sudden, Toronto is getting what it needs and that will deliver them the federal ridings they covet in The Yorks/Etobicoke/Scarborough, all the time they can really put the screws to the pinkos in the old city. My assumption given the actions of the last week, is that they’ve crunched the numbers and think they can pull it off.

    The alternative is to stay out of the municipal race and deal with Miller, I’ll bet they see that as a no win scenario.

    Their achillies heel in plan A is Pitfield, if they had a real candidate they might actually do it, but barring that they need to do anything possible to make Miller look incompetent, look for Tasse’s report, delivered smack into the short strokes of the campaign three weeks before voting day, to be very critical of the city, and Liberal politicans and soft on the TPA beaurocrats.

  3. I think Lisa Raitt and that Porter Airlines guy should be in jail. The TPA and the Island Airport have got to be one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the Canadian taxpayer.

  4. Oh come on, sure there are legitimate concerns that the governance structure of the TPA is insufficiently accountable to the democratic instituions that are technically it’s owners, and that even if that wasn’t an issue the balance is slanted too much to the federal government but seriously is there any evidence to suggest that what they’ve done has been actually criminal?

  5. I’d just like to suggest (once more) the possibility that in supporting the Toronto Port Authority and Toronto City Centre Airport, the federal government did the right thing, as in the morally correct and decent thing to do. The wealthy, well connected and articulate residents of the central waterfront who have made the greatest number of complaints about Toronto City Centre Airport manifestly benefit from the use of aviation in this city. Instead, Mayor Miller, Olivia Chow, and many community leaders on the waterfront have enthusiastically endorsed Toronto’s Expo bid, which TEDCO estimates will add an additional aircraft movement every two minutes, sixteen hours a day, for four months. Given this enthusiasm for the benefits of aviation, how exactly can the waterfront dwellers demand absolute immunity to its costs? And why should we give it to them?

    While he seldom fails to claim a mandate from Torontonians to close Toronto City Centre Airport, Mayor Miller has never, to my knowledge, admitted that he has no mandate to dump the resulting pollution and noise on Malton, because the people who live there, in a neighbourhood which starts literally across the road from the Pearson perimeter fence, don’t have a vote in Toronto elections. We assign responsibility for air transport to the federal government at least partly because aviation provides benefits, and imposes burdens, shared over a wide area of the country.

  6. I’d say that using public funds to rehab an airport designed solely to benefit one exclusive airline should be criminal. Why are our taxes going to support Porter Air? Why can’t Air Canada also use the airport? Surely the TPA supports fair and open competition… not.

  7. As I told Barber….

    Worry not.For the TPA and Porter the toughest test is yet to come: the marketplace. Here’s a hint, do you want to land at a stormy O’Hare in a small plane or an Airbus?

    He still feels in his reply that Air Canada is Porters biggest threat.

    I think it is the lack of demand. sd

  8. There’s more on the Star today. I obvuiously don’t live there, but even if I did, I am certain I would be IN FAVOUR of what Porter is trying to. The island airport is a great thing for Toronto. Montreal used to have a STOL port too and I wish we still did. Pearson is too big, + too far. The island airport is but one part of a massive lake area and there should be room for this, as well.

    And in reply to the previous post, I would MUCH rather land at the island in a cozy prop plane, with a fanastic view of the city, than way out at Pearson in some lumbering airbus.

  9. Air Canada has done all they can to make it clear that they have no intention of making a good faith effort to use Toronto City Centre Airport; they prefer to leverage their dominant position at Pearson, and use Jazz and other “feeder” routes to drive traffic to sell long-haul tickets. To that end, they have blatantly manipulated the political process in Toronto, as when Air Canada Jazz publically requested the right to use jets at Toronto City Centre Airport (the jets Jazz uses will not even fit on the TCCA runways). Supporters and opponents of Toronto City Centre Airport alike appear to assume, based on Air Canada’s sorry record, that if they can get away with it, they will use predatory pricing, forcing their other customers to subsidise unrealistically low prices on the routes where they compete with Porter (or any other airline they compete with at City Centre) to drive them out of business. The Toronto Port Authority, tasked with making Toronto City Centre Airport economically viable, naturally wants to encourage tenants that will make a serious effort to build their business at the airport, and not just try to crush any potential competitor.

    It seems to me that the TPA has done pretty much nothing more than attempt, in good faith, to carry out the mandate given them by the government; to foster economically viable use of a public asset. In this connection, I consider the charges of “corruption” against the Port Authority at best disingenuous. Based on the record, I believe the vast majority of the critics of the Toronto Port Authority wish to cleanse the waterfront of all industrial workers, while moving the noise and pollution associated with air travel (air travel that the residents of the downtown benefit from) to the much less wealthy and well connected people of Rexdale and Malton. Instead of honestly debating these matters, too many opponents of Toronto City Centre Airport have resorted to making charges of corruption against the Toronto Port Authority.

    A good-faith allegation of corruption against the Toronto Port Authority might call for the government to close that Port Authority and transfer Toronto City Centre Airport to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. However, no amount of corruption at the port authority could justify the policy of “centralising” air traffic at Pearson; that policy remains utterly unfair to the people who live in the neighbourhoods near Pearson. People who consider the waterfront neighbourhoods entitled to benefit fully from the Toronto’s status as a transport hub while passing off the environmental burdens onto others should defend that proposition, if they believe it. Allegations of corruption in the Toronto Port Authority argue for the transfer of its aviation assets to the GTAA, not for the closure of the airport.

  10. John, one of your arguments is so silly that I can’t help but comment. You’ve stated before that it is unfair to residents near Pearson to increase the noise and pollution as a result of additional flights to Pearson from closing the Island Airport. I would humbly submit that given the traffic volume of flights at Pearson that adding in 10 small plane flights a day will not be noticed by anyone out there.

    And you continually portray the Harbourfront residents as rich and well connected, causing the poor citizens near the airport to suffer. Most of the area around Bathurst consists of co-ops and assisted housing, while there are some very nice nieghbourhoods in the flight path at Pearson.

    You ought to drop these two points, they are not convincing for your argument.

  11. Second point first, since I can rigorously document it: according to the most recent (2001) census, the mean income levels for the waterfront area (Waterfront north to Queen, west to exhibition, and east to the port lands) came to twice the income levels of Malton, and well above the income levels of the Rexdale neighbourhood directly south of the airport.

    Waterfront (City Centre): $103,172
    Malton (Pearson): $56,800
    Rexdale (Pearson): $75,301

    You don’t have to take my word for it, at least about the Toronto numbers; you’ll find the household incomes (as of 2001) for the Central waterfront here, and the numbers for Rexdale here.

    As for your claim about the change in air traffic levels “anyone out there” would notice, that assumes a double standard regarding “noticeable” changes in traffic levels. If the revitalisation of City Centre Airport does not produce enough traffic for anyone at Pearson to notice the difference, then it will not, logically, produce enough traffic to do enough damage to the waterfront neighbourhoods for anyone to “notice”, wither; unless you want to claim that the residents of the waterfront have a right to totally different standards from the people who live near Pearson.

    At this point, it helps to clear up a misconception: people discussing this issue often assume that dispatching a passenger from Pearson has the same environmental and social consequences as dispatching one passenger from City Centre. It does not, for three reasons. Because of the layout of Pearson, a single passenger leaving from Pearson produces much more ground-level pollution from aircraft taxiing, than the same passenger at City Centre. Then, when a passenger takes off from Pearson, the flight goes over land, flights taking off from Toronto City Centre Airport take of over water and turn out over the lake. 150,000 people live within the Noise Exposure Forecast-25 contour for Pearson International Airport. The corresponding contour for Toronto City Centre Airport barely touches land. The NEF-25 contour identifies the exposure level at which most people notice aircraft noise; see the NEF-25 contour map, taken from GIS work done by Shawn Morgan; used by permission.

    In operating his airline at City Centre Airport, Bob Deluce has to adhere to some stiff environmental restrictions, which require him to use more modern (and expensive) aircraft. In return, his passengers get the convenience of a downtown airport. Because of these environmental rules, every passenger that flies from Toronto City Centre Airport produces less noise and pollution than the same passenger would produce leaving from Pearson.

    Thanks for giving me an opportunity to make these matters clear.

  12. John, I’m still not convinced. What are the comparable statistics for Mississauga, over which planes fly? Why have you only chosen Toronto neighbourhoods? And what is the ultimate point anyways? Are you saying that those big bad rich people who live downtown should shut up and perhaps even encourage more flights at the island airport to keep Rexdalians happy? I’m not sure there’s a lot of logic to that. Given that Pearson is surrounded on all sides for some distance by industrial uses, I’m not sure it’s a relevant argument at any rate.

    Re: environmental considerations. Could you also not argue that if Porter Airlines didn’t exist, Air Canada and other airlines could simply accommodate those passengers on existing flights? Given the realities of the airline industry, and the fact that Porter airlines probably won’t be around in a few years, could they not save us all the bother and just not exist.

    It’s time for the city to get creative about roadwork on southern Bathurst. I believe a lot of stuff down there needs fixing.

  13. You appear to have missed my mention of the charming Mississauga neighbourhood of Malton, which includes in its population over 8000 children of colour (under 15) and which begins, mark this well, Mr. Krawczyk, directly across Derry Road from Pearson International airport. Directly, as in none of the mythical “industrial” buffer zone we hear so much misinformation about.

    As for your sneer at the possibility that the highly privileged downtown waterfront dwellers might actually agree to share the environmental burdens imposed by aviation, rather than just reap the rewards: well, actually, I do think they should do that. If actually sharing the environmental burdens that come from their prosperity demands too much of such a pampered and coddled crowd as this, perhaps the waterfront crowd could at least approach the matter with enough grace, decency, and dignity to acknowledgement the people of Rexdale and Malton do exist. Then we might follow that tiny nod to decency with and acknowledgement that the people of Rexdale and Malton pay the (environmental) price for the air transport from which we all benefit. And then, if that essay into humility has not proved too much, we might actually address the issue of compensation, of a significant transfer of resources from those who reap the benefits to those who pay the price. Call it environmental justice 101.

    When you suggest that Air Canada could “accommodate” the passengers Porter Air would otherwise carry on existing flights: that misses the point. If Porter succeeds, Air Canada and other airlines will have to run fewer flights out of Pearson, reducing the overall environmental and social burden. Reducing the number of flights from Pearson would mean fewer planes on long taxiways leading to fewer ground-level emissions. It would mean fewer planes (the economics militates in favour of using jets at Pearson) taking off over schools, replaced by super-quiet turbo-props taking off and landing over open water. Unless the question of who benefits the most from a development trumps all other considerations, I think any sane person would opt for less pollution and less noise.

    As for your suggestion that the city intentionally disrupt traffic service to Toronto City Centre Airport: please remember that as well as a modest but useful player in regular air transportation, Toronto City Centre Airport plays a major role in the area’s medical transportation system. If the city really decided to behave so irresponsibly as to tear up Bathurst Street to harass the airport, a patient transfer or an organ shipment would soon get caught in the traffic snarl. The mayor would almost certainly find himself held to account the day after, by the courts, the media, or both.

  14. SPRAGGE > what you completely ignore is that Toronto’s downtown waterfront is not the same place as Rexdale. It is the economic hub of the city and major part of tourism. This applies to most other major cities.

    While I can appreciate your concern for Rexdale and Mississaua residents, expanding an airport near the downtown is a horrible idea, certainly considering Toronto’s recent “close call” with terrorist-minded youth.

    Lastly, all of our drinking water comes from Lake Ontario. Do you have an idea of the enviromental impact the airport has on land and water? Soil can be replaced, but water is our lifeblood and the contaminents from any airport on the waterfront is scary.

    lastly, your concerns seemed to be based on class. People are people and even the wealthy should not have to witness to insults and slurs. Their concerns are well-founded.

    Anyway, the airline industry is gonna flop soon with oil prices. Another good reason to close the airport,

  15. “Stick”: I acknowledge your right not to identify yourself in posting. However, since I have identified myself with my full name, perhaps you could do me the courtesy of giving me my prefix: Mr. Spragge, please. If you disagree with my ideas, kindly debate them.

    To answer your points in order:

    1) Whatever the function of the downtown waterfront vis a vis Rexdale, the inhabitants of both parts of the city have an equal right to justice, fair treatment, and dignity.

    2) Whatever the dangers of terrorism in Toronto, closing an airport which cannot handle any of the aircraft used by Al-Qaeda on 9/11 will make no difference.

    3) Pearson sits on a creek, which also empties into Lake Ontario. In any case, a properly managed airport will not contribute any significant level of contamination to the lake.

    4) None of my descriptions for the downtown waterfront community, “pampered”, “coddled”, “wealthy” or “privileged” qualifies as a slur. These people do enjoy many advantages, as you yourself acknowledge. And the leaders of this very well cared for community have represented it remarkably badly. Instead of acknowledging their privileges, and offering to give back, they have continually demanded more.

    5) Last, as I have (also) already pointed out, Toronto City Centre Airport includes a major centre of medical evacuation and medical shipments. The uncertain future of the tourist industry (which puts paid, incidentally, to your argument that we have to treat the waterfront indulgently because it functions as a centre of tourism), does not mean we will ever run out of fuel for medevac aircraft.

  16. I’m pretty surprised at Scott (“lack of demand”), Stick (“airline industry is gonna flop”), and apparently others who just blithely assume that somehow the airlines will go out of business anyway and that will solve the problem. There is a slight lack of evidence to support this wild hypothesis. They might want to take note that the airline industry has been around for a few years, and as long as people need to travel long distances, I suspect that this industry will still be around to meet the demand.

    As for Barber, I’m not so sure that his extreme pessimism is justified either. The PA board of directors was down to just one member, and good governance calls for vacancies to be filled within a reasonable time frame. That’s what the Federal Govt. did. It was, and still remains, a political question as to whether the airport expands, contracts, or stays the same, and I don’t see how that has changed.

  17. “There is a slight lack of evidence to support this wild hypothesis.”

    The evnidence is that no airline has lasted for any length of time out of the City airport in decades.

    And the airlines are taking big hits, and the price of oil is only going to go up (in the long term).

    Though these facts are not pulled from an official report, What other kind of evidence do you want?

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