The PortsToronto EA and a Ray of Hope

“It’s quiet, too quiet”, is an old movie trope to denote an imminent threat or danger. It certainly has nothing to do with the noisy Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA)! The trope may be old but it still applies today when it comes to PortsToronto’s quest to expand BBTCA through its sham EA.

The State of the EA

May 20, 2015 was the deadline for feedback on the scope of Ports Toronto’s Environmental Assessment (EA) on the expansion of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA).

AECOM, the PortsToronto EA consultant whose business is airport building, is conducting the sham EA and had set the date to hear back from the public on suggestions that it may or may not consider for the final study.

As the facilitator, Swerhun Facilitation, says on its website,

“PortsToronto will consider the further suggested refinements received and will then finalize the EA Study Design/Scope. Once it has been finalized, Part Two of the EA will commence, focusing on assessing potential impacts and proposing potential mitigation measures. Public, stakeholder, agency and First Nation and Métis engagement will continue during Part Two of the EA process.”

The proponent, PortsToronto, and its consultant AECOM have committed to engaging the public on Part Two of the EA. However, to date, no direction and no date have come down on when they will be.

A Ray of Hope?

At first glance, a ray of hope about the integrity of the exercise has come from none other than PortsToronto itself in an offer to Waterfront Toronto, the tri-government agency whose work on waterfront revitalization the PortsToronto’s airport expansion plans threaten to unbalance.

The PortsToronto initiative first announced on April 28, allowed for a third-party review of its EA work. Indeed, Waterfront Toronto Board Minutes from May 4 record a request from PortsToronto to conduct a third-party review on the EA.

  • PortsToronto will pay the costs for the completed review.
  • The study will review the scope of the assessment and the assessment itself.
  • The findings will be used verify that the EA was conducted following best practices


  • The findings will be used to make recommendations to improve it.

A Ray of Hope Denied

When PortsToronto first announced the third-party review, airport expansion opponents took heart. A white knight would ride in an keep the expansionists honest.

Not so reported NOW Magazine. It pointed out that the way AECOM and PortsToronto are conducting the EA, they have eliminated the do-nothing option.  In other words, the EA will leave no choice but to expand the airport.  It’s just a matter of how.

Certainly, the wording of the request in Waterfront Toronto’s minutes leaves no doubt.

PortsToronto makes clear that Waterfront Toronto is to oversee a study that either approves the way PortsToronto will expand the airport or suggests how the firm can do it better.

A Ray of Hope Restored

On June 17, Waterfront Toronto announced that it had selected Arcadis Canada to conduct the review.

The announcement implies two reasons for hope that the sham EA will turn out to be something more.

First, Arcadis doesn’t count airport building among its services. In fact, the engineering firm has nothing in its background to indicate it carries out EAs in order to expand airports.

Second, the terms of reference as described in the announcement augments those in the minutes. For one thing, it includes whether or not City Council direction of April 1, 2014 was adequately addressed. Presumably that includes the direction that required PortsToronto to agree to caps before proceeding as it has.

PortsToronto EA

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