The Toronto Port Authority’s Environmental Assessment (EA) – Consultation
The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) may have its own definition of consultation. The TPA’s version may not include seeking advice.
The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) recently announced that December 9 is set for the public meeting about its EA “to: provide information and discussion on the purpose of the environmental assessment; review the areas to be studied and the process by which this study will be completed; offer an overview of how the public can participate throughout the process; and provide an opportunity for the public to ask questions and submit comment.”
What does the Toronto Port Authority mean by consult?
If history repeats itself, and it has been known to, it means that the Toronto Port Authority will tell participants what the port authority wants to do (lengthen the island airport main runway). The TPA will tell participants those aspects of the environment it has chosen to study. To be sure, the TPA will consult with participants and stakeholders but maybe not in the way they hope for.
By most definitions found in on-line dictionaries, ‘consult’ means:
· to seek advice or information from; ask guidance from;
· to refer to for information;
· to have regard for (a person’s interest, convenience, etc.) in making plans.
It is quite likely the last definition that most people think of, or at least hope for, when in a democracy they are faced with an organization with statutory powers making decisions that affect their lives.
Toronto Port Authority Consultation in Action
To be sure, the Toronto Port Authority has consulted with many interested parties while undertaking previous EAs for projects that above all would benefit the TPA and its colleagues. Take the 2003 EA for the fixed link for example.
As pointed out previously the TPA required the fixed link for safety reasons. At least that’s what the EA report claimed. The EA concluded that the fixed link should go ahead, presumably for safety reasons, over the objections of numerous interested parties and waterfront stakeholders.
However, when the federal government later stopped the project and the question of the airport’s safety was raised, the Toronto Port Authority by virtue of its expanded activity, new passenger handling facilities and two new ferries, assured the public that the airport was perfectly safe. Clearly, other more important interests were consulted more seriously.
The Toronto Port Authority and Feedback
It is hard to believe that the TPA in carrying out the EA gave due consideration to the advice of and information from those who did not support the project. One only need look at the participants’ comments and the port authority’s responses to gauge results of the TPA’s sincerity and consultative style.
The Comments from Lake Ontario Waterkeeper beginning on Page 40 and those of CommunityAIR beginning on Page 42 of Appendix I are worth noting for the port authority’s responses which are in large part “Response to be provided”.
Eleven years later, both parties are still waiting for Responses to be provided.
Wait No More
If the Toronto Port Authority is serious about the environmental assessment for the airport expansion plans on which it purports to take no position, the TPA must do more than go through the motions. They will no doubt be hard pressed to do so after the million or so dollars they spent on studies up until the April 1, 2014 council meeting and the $3 million they have budgeted for this next round. A total of $4 million out of the TPA’s coffers does not speak of neutrality.
To consult includes ‘to have regard for (a person’s interest, convenience, etc.) in making plans.’ The issue that matters, the future of our waterfront, demands that all sides, not just the ones who stand to gain short-term on expansion, have their interests heard and not just given lip service. We deserve no less than to be fully consulted. We don’t deserve to wait for answers that may already have been formulated to serve an agenda.