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Since September 26, I have been a volunteer with the Miller for Mayor campaign. Articles before that date represent my decision-making process and all articles on this site represent my views only. Join the campaign; we need your help.
The Cost of Stopping the Island Airport Expansion
02/11/2003

The special interests that hope to benefit from building a bridge and expanding the island airport are entering a third phase in their war to save their pet project.

The first phase -- the battle for public opinion -- was easily defeated. A solid majority of Torontonians oppose the idea.

The second phase was about convincing voters that the bridge is a fait accompli. For months and months the port authority has been trying to convince people that construction of the bridge was about to start. In fact, in the September 16 Waterfront Debate, John Nunziata told us that the project was going to begin in October. In other words, "We know you hate the idea of an expanded island airport but it's too late, sorry."

Now, the third phase is a push to tell us that stopping the island airport expansion will cost the City a lot of money. The city has supposedly signed deals that can't be stopped, and if we try, we're going to get our asses sued off. Again, in other words, "We know you hate the idea of an expanded island airport but it's too late, sorry."

However, let's take a step back and consider this claim. Candidates that want to expand the island airport, like Barbara Hall, like to talk about the "Tripartite Agreement" that governs the island airport's existence. Who are the three parties to this deal? They are the City of Toronto, the Government of Canada and the Toronto Port Authority. However, the Toronto Port Authority is actually an obsolete offspring of the federal government.

The truth is that David Collenette (or Jean Chretien, or Paul Martin) could make this problem go away at will. Collenette seems to recognize that this is an issue to be decided by voters. In Saturday's Globe and Mail:

Interestingly, the port authority itself -- and the very narrow band of vested interests that comprise the totality of its public support -- appears to have given up the legal threats it was making a few weeks ago, when it promised to sue the city for hundreds of millions of dollars if it revoked permission to build the bridge.

One reason is that it still lacks permission to build the bridge, and nobody can sue anybody for taking away something they don't have. A more likely reason is that one of the well-connected Liberals in the Miller campaign phoned Transport Minister David Collenette and asked him to call off the dogs, who had strayed far outside their pens. Mr. Collenette had already made clear that the bridge is now a political issue that will be decided in a political contest -- a referendum of sorts.

Now, I don't know if it will be easy to convince the Liberals to crush the TPA. (All the special interests involved have heavy Liberal connections, from TPA Chair Henry Pankratz to Bombardier, and from Barbara Hall to John Tory fundraiser Tony Dionisio.) However, that doesn't matter here. What does matter is that everyone understand that the question of the island airport expansion is a political one. The issue is in the hands of governments, and these governments are responsible to us, the voters.

When the special interests that hope to profit from the airport expansion try to tell you that you don't have a say, or that it's too late, tell them they're wrong. Don't fall for their scare tactics. This decision is entirely in the hands of elected officials, and they are responsible. Make them respect your wishes.

Finally, remember to ask yourself, what is the cost of not stopping the island airport expansion?

DISCLOSURE: After a serious decision-making process, I joined the Miller-for-mayor campaign more than a month ago. However, all comments on this website are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of David Miller or his campaign. My role in the campaign is grunt-level and I haven't even met the strategists.


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