PortsToronto (PosTO) is trying its hardest to convince the world that it’s a kinder, gentler authority that wants to play nice to get what it needs – an expanded runway. Is it going to work?
The Game Plan
First the loophole.
In an example worthy of George Orwell, 1984 and Newspeak, PortsToronto gave its reason for going ahead with its Environmental Assessment (EA) in its ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ section of its website rather than its (Non)Accountability section.
Although city council requires caps on airport activity prior to engaging PosTO in negotiations on expansion, PosTO took the view that it should go ahead and prepare its game plan, perhaps so it can come to the table with enough techno-babble to convince the most recalcitrant councillors. Interestingly, PosTO didn’t mention if it was willing to abide by caps after it completes its game plan.
Next, the set-up.
On April 29, 2014 PortsToronto announced it was going ahead with its EA and it had engaged Swerhun Facilitation. PosTO emphasized transparency as a key objective in conducting its EA. Swerhun was just the organization to deliver on that objective.
Swerhun has over 170 projects under its belt and has worked with the City of Toronto. TTC and Metrolinx past and present. Justifiably, it has street creds with engaged citizens.
Then the stumble.
On August 20, 2014 PortsToronto announced its plans to go ahead with the EA. PosTO selected AECOM to head the ‘EA Team”. PosTO emphasized AECOM’s Toronto infrastructure projects experience, citing the mouth of the Don revitalization EA for AECOM’s green creds.
What PosTO didn’t include was AECOM’s own assessment of a more appropriate aspect of its work.
“AECOM is a global provider of technical services to airport owners, investors and aviation clients. Our aviation specialists have the skills our clients need to establish credibility with agencies and public interest groups in the development of airport programs.”
These guys are in the business of building airports!
Then came the Toronto Port Authority’s rebranding or Putting Lipstick on a Pig with its ‘expressed desire to have the organization work collaboratively, transparently and in partnership’.
Now we have what looks like an extensive PR campaign under the guise of an environmental assessment. The January 24 drop-in EA meeting with its rotating presentations featured no fewer than ten, count ‘em ten, handouts and exhibits, enough to give the appearance of genuine effort and not a sales job.
Indeed, a closer look at the devil’s details shows at least one example of smoke and mirrors that opens the EA to question.
Same Old Same Old
One participant at the January 24 workshop had this to say about the experience.
“On Saturday I attended the workshop on ‘Air quality and noise.’ It was led by Mike LePage of RWDI, the company that will be studying these areas for the EA process.
The presentation was quite technical but what he said was that they would be reviewing the literature and the data that has been collected. Then, using modeling, they would determine the levels of air quality and noise once jets are introduced.
In question period after his presentation he said that no new data would be collected on air quality or noise. They would rely on old data. I guess that will be from the TPA or the city.”
If a slide from the RWDI presentation on air quality and noise is any indication, no new data seems to be the case.
The caption under the graphic on the left states “Emissions are based on previous measurements contained in software databases, or measured by us.” It’s that last phrase ‘or measured by us’ that has worrying implications.
On November 13, 2009 Ken Lundy of PortsToronto wrote to Dr. McKeown of Toronto Public Health about an air quality study to be undertaken by Jacobs Consultancy with the results and recommendations available spring 2010.
On January 28, 2010, PosTO wrote,
“Jacobs Consultancy has been hired to study air quality at the BBTCA and advise on establishing a comprehensive air-quality monitoring program to determine baseline metrics along with measures to mitigate harmful air pollution emissions. Furthermore, the TPA pledges to work with the Toronto Board of Health on this study.”
Strangely, that study seems to have never seen the public light of day.
However, the 2010 RWDI study did and like the RWDI 2003 study it saw no problem with air quality around the airport neighbourhood. This is despite a 20,842 increase in aircraft movements between the 2003 study 2003 and the 2010 one.
We Won’t Get Fooled Again
So there we have it. The same old PosTO consultants repackaging the same old data and coming up with the same conclusions and they expect us to buy it.
If this is indeed how PortsToronto plans on conducting its EA, recycling old information, using Swerun as its proxy and relying on technical data to snowball councillors and a gullible public, it won’t work.