Gene Desfor, a member of NoJetsTO, wrote this letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, arguing that the expansion of the runways to allow jets at the Island Airport should be reviewed by and Ontario Environmental Assessment. He has not received a reply. Editor
Honorable Glen Murray,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
I write to you because I am concerned about the Toronto Port Authority’s plan for expansion of the Billy Bishop Toronto Centre Airport. If implemented, this plan will have a major influence on the development of Toronto in the 21st century, and not only on its waterfront. Having an international transportation hub in the middle of the city will destroy the delicate balance that the City, the Province and the Government of Canada have been working hard to achieve. In its deliberations about this issue, the City of Toronto has required the Toronto Port Authority to complete and environmental assessment as a precondition for Phase II of the negotiations to open up the 1983 Tripartite Agreement.
The TPA claims that no statutory requirement exists for it to complete an environmental assessment. I would like to know whether the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has investigated whether the TPA’s proposal to lengthen the runways and introduce jet aircraft falls within the purview of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.
I believe that it does for the following reasons. The Ontario EA Act applies to major municipal infrastructure projects—that is clear. So the question becomes whether the proposed changes to the BBTCA constitutes a municipal infrastructure project. I think it is. The City of Toronto owns land on BBTCA so that operations at the airport are not solely under federal jurisdiction—making BBTCA an exceptional case. According to the 1983 Tripartite Agreement, the City’s legal authority to regulate operations at the airport has been recognized. The TPA and the Government of Canada recognize the legal authority of the City to regulate some airport operations (e.g., the length of the runways and no jet aircraft—both of which are very significant aspects of airport operations). Changing airport operations regulated under the Tripartite Agreement must be approved by the City, the TPA and the Government of Canada–that is why the City can insist that certain information be available prior to opening up the Tripartite Agreement for renegotiations. Because the City has legal authority to regulate some operations at the airport, a proposal to change those operations makes that proposal, at least in part, a municipal one falling within the purview of the Ontario EA Act.
Thanking you in advance for considering my question,
Gene Desfor, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar, York University