Playing Nice

By Monday, January 13, 2014 0 No tags Permalink 0


What’s up with the port authority?

First, the port authority finally gives the City a copy of the airport’s Master Plan that the City asked for at least several times.

Now, in a press release dated January 9 the port authority declared that it has seen the light and now wants to come to terms with the City over Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILTs).

The compromise, payment based on the number of passengers, is a far cry from the City’s previous position based on the law which requires PILTs to be paid on the same basis as every other taxpayer pays – on the value of the land and buildings. The port authority’s problem was that that amount, given the incredibly valuable land the airport uses, would put Porter out of business since the port authority passes costs on to Porter and other airport users.

So the port authority came up with its ‘me too’ argument and said treat us like Pearson and let us pay on a per passenger basis rather than what the law requires. For whatever reason, the City seems to have acquiesced to the per passenger subsidy and is prepared to give the port authority a de facto massive subsidy by not holding it to the same taxation basis as all other Toronto taxpayers.

Prior to council’s October decision, on July 15, 2013 Geoff Wilson, port authority 2nd in command behind Chairman Mark McQueen, wrote City Manager Joseph Pennachetti about a City proposal for an additional $5 million in airport-related payments as part of the City’s ongoing attempt to get the port authority to pay its fare share. Geoff called the proposal stillborn.

The port authority’s position, Geoff declared, was that the maximum the port authority was prepared to pay was the same per passenger as does Pearson.

Not to be outdone by his subordinate, Chairman Mark wrote the City’s Chair, Government Management Committee, on October 4, 2013 about the same pesky PILT problem.

Citing an Ipsos-Reid survey fraught with leading questions that produced figures the port authority glommed on to as evidence of support to justify the port authority’s position, Chairman Mark lamented the fact that he was taking the formal approach of writing when his preference was to deal with Government Management Committee chairman behind a closed door.

Chairman Mark’s letter expressed considerable consternation that island airport transit passengers should be subject to a PILT charge. “The City of Toronto wants to tax non-residents who may not even step foot off a BBTCA aircraft on their way to their ultimate destination” (sic), Chairman Mark wrote. But that was on October 4.

The port authority’s January 9 presser quotes subordinate Geoff, “Several of the major airports in Ontario also pay PILTs on a per passenger basis, and TPA has long sought the same fair treatment for BBTCA passengers.”

Huh? Which is it? Either BBTCA passengers shouldn’t be subject to PILTS (Mark) or BBTCA passengers should be subject to PILTS the same as passengers at other airports (Geoff).

When Mark and Geoff talk, do they talk to each other?

Nevertheless, a more interesting point that Mark brought up in his letter to the Government Management Committee chairman is the 50 more years gambit. He wrote,

“Perhaps that is the resolution to City Staff’s new PILT proposal: amend the expiry of the existing restrictive Tripartite Agreement to 2083 from the current 2033 date in conjunction with approving the higher July 2013 City Staff PILT proposal6. This can be done at the October 8/9 meeting of council, in a vacuum, and would have no bearing on Council’s ongoing consideration of the change-of-use proposal tabled before you by Porter Airlines.”

What an instructive piece of writing! Chairman Mark finds the Tripartite Agreement (the only leverage the City has against the port authority’s free rein with the airport) restrictive; yet, he has the generosity of spirit to suggest to the Government Management Committee chairman how to handle the port authority’s request for a 50-year extension through council.

Work in a vacuum suggests Mark. Perhaps he thinks that councillors are thick enough that they won’t put a 50-year extension and Porter’s jet proposal together and think that enough is enough.

Since the City has a confidentiality blanket over the October 8/9 meeting, we don’t know if the Government Management Committee chairman succumbed to Mark’s charms long enough to present the port authority 50-year extension request.


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