Members of community groups that oppose the expansion of the Billy Bishop Airport, like CommunityAIR and NoJetsTO, have been trying for months to get the PortsToronto, better known as the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), to provide funding to citizens to examine and critique all elements of the so called Environmental Assessment that the Port Authority is conducting.
Considerable work went into this proposal. A coalition of 80 groups was put together and a board was set up to manage the process.
All of this led to considerable frustration. The Port Authority refused to give an answer to the participant funding request. Meetings were held that went nowhere. Letters and e-mails went back and forth trying to get a decision. Meanwhile time was passing. Important decisions on the EA were being made and although the TPA did host public meetings, what was lacking was the inability of citizens to retain expert advice that could advise us on the problems and pitfalls of the EA.
Today we finally learned the Port Authority’s decision. Our request for participant funding has been rejected. That is the bad news, and there will be many people who will be disappointed, even angered, at the outcome. But the good news is that Waterfront Toronto will conduct what is being called an “Independent Third-Party Peer Review” of the EA.
We are not sure what that means. Perhaps it is good news. Certainly Waterfront Toronto has impressed us with its planning expertise and ability to get things done. The organization has considerable prestige in Toronto circles and they are independent of the Port Authority. When the Porter jet proposal was first proposed in 2013 the Waterfront Toronto Board objected to it on the basis that it would “upset the balance” on the Waterfront.
But there are dangers. Mayor John Tory, limited by a conflict of interest, is firmly in the expansion camp and his appointment of like-minded Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong to the Waterfront Toronto Board could mean pressure on the Board to see matters in a light that includes airport expansion.
Only time will tell how this will all play out, but those of us who oppose the Porter jet expansion should see this as something of a victory. Certainly if the request for participant funding, controlled by citizens, had not been made the Port Authority would have gone ahead with virtually no oversight or opportunity for citizens to critique their work and this Waterfront Toronto review would not be happening.
This is the press release issued by Ports Toronto that explains the Third-Party Peer Review.
Waterfront Toronto to Conduct Independent Third-Party Peer Review of Environmental Assessment Relating to Porter Airlines’ Proposal for Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
April 28, 2015. Toronto – PortsToronto today confirmed that it will fund an independent Third-Party Peer Review of the Environmental Assessment (EA) currently underway to determine the environmental, social and economic impacts of the Porter Airlines’ proposal to fly jet aircraft at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and the related lengthening of the runway to accommodate such aircraft. This is the result of an effort that has been underway by PortsToronto since December 2014 to review options that address requests for participant/intervenor funding and respond to comments from the public regarding federal and provincial oversight of the EA.
Both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) have confirmed that the Porter Airlines’ proposal and related EA are not subject to the requirements of either the federal or provincial acts. As such, there is no regulatory requirement for PortsToronto to provide participant/intervenor funding.
However, PortsToronto recognizes the importance of having the EA conducted with credibility and transparency and acknowledges that providing a mechanism that will allow for review and evaluation of the EA’s process is of great value. As such, PortsToronto has engaged Waterfront Toronto to lead the facilitation and management of an independent Third-Party Peer Review which will be entirely funded by PortsToronto, an organization that is financially self-sustaining and receives no public funding.
The independent Third-Party Peer Review will focus on an evaluation of the EA process to ensure issues raised by the public are addressed appropriately in the context of EA best practices. Special areas of interest include, but are not limited to, a review of transportation safety and the socio-economic implications of the proposal. A working group led by Waterfront Toronto will be established to guide the peer review. Members of this working group will include the City of Toronto, Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), PortsToronto and two members of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued by Waterfront Toronto at the end of this month, to identify an independent, expert consultant team that can review and comment on the process of the EA.
“The procurement of an independent Third-Party Peer Review is being supported by PortsToronto as a step to enhance the existing transparency of the overall Environmental Assessment process, based on comments received from the public, stakeholders and agencies,” said Gene Cabral, Executive Vice President, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and PortsToronto. “It is important that the work being done to inform Toronto City Council, stakeholders, the public, and PortsToronto is credible and relevant. Waterfront Toronto is the public advocate and steward of waterfront revitalization and a respected voice seeking balance on the waterfront. The Third-Party Peer Review that this organization will undertake will no doubt be an objective, informed and highly credible endeavour.”
The Request for Proposal will be available for review at www.waterfrontoronto.ca/procurement/current_procurement_opportunities or via www.merx.com in the coming days.