The Toronto Port Authority’s Environmental Assessment – Beginnings
On April 1, 2014, Toronto City Council decided unambiguously what the city required of the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) for the port authority’s island airport expansion plans. Council authorized Deputy City Manager John Livey to negotiate a phased framework “for managing growth” at the airport. Negotiations around a cap on the number of passengers annually and per peak hour, and flights per peak hour and per day were a requirement.
Council asked the port authority to agree to a cap of 2.4 million passengers to get the ball rolling with Phase One. This passenger limit was fewer than the 2.976 million that the TPA would agree to on an interim basis, as it stated in a February 27, 2014 letter. The port authority’s number is curious in that its most recent data showed that the passenger count in 2012 was and 2,294,422 million in 2013, an increase of 2,852 but a over a million annual passengers short of the city’s cap.
As determined by Council’s decision, Phase One required the TPA to conduct a runway extension environmental assessment (EA) as well as an Airport Master Plan and runway extensions detailed design once the port authority agreed to the caps.
On April 15, 2014, the Toronto Port Authority responded to Council’s decision. In his 31-page letter to John Livey, TPA president Geoff Wilson told the City that the TPA would go ahead with the EA and would not agree to cap airport activity, the very activity (traffic nightmares, threats to health, environmental degradation, to name a few) that created the need for the review in the first place. Geoff also included a copy of the port authority’s EA proposal.
Undaunted by the smoke and mirrors, Mr. Livey wrote Geoff on April 17. Mr. Livey thanked him for his reiteration of port authority key commitments, the very same ones that Council made clear were pre-requisites to negotiations. Also, Mr. Livey pointed out why Geoff’s interpretation of Council’s requirements as requests for further study was wrong. As well,Mr. Livey also reminded him of the port authority’s failure to express concerns about caps when it had the opportunity to do so at committee meetings before the April 1 vote.
This is especially curious as the February 27 letter, cited above, indicates that the Toronto Port Authority had plenty of time to prepare for committee meetings. Perhaps the TPA is loathe to recognize that the city has any right to interfere with the port authority’s business.
On April 29, 2014, the Toronto Port Authority announced to the world that it was proceeding with its EA without agreeing to caps. The TPA characterized Council’s pre-condition in a claim that defies credibility,
“The City of Toronto has required that the TPA implement an irrevocable and permanent annual passenger cap of 2.4 million whether or not new- technology jet aircraft are ever permitted at BBTCA.”
As Mr. Livey pointed out in his April 17 letter, the City was looking for a commitment from the TPA to play ball and to show a willingness to negotiate. Instead, the Toronto Port Authority announced it was going it alone.
Interestingly, in a letter to MP Andrew Cash, Toronto Port Authority chair Mark McQueen called the honourable member’s claim of the port authority as a ‘rogue agency’ as patently untrue.
By its very action, the TPA has thwarted the will of the Council in the city in which the TPA does business, has gone its own way and has failed to substantiate its definition of Council’s annual passenger cap requirements as irrevocable and permanent.
It appears that, like beauty, roguishness is in the eye of the beholder.
First in a series