Last night I attended the Toronto Port Authority's public meeting that I mentioned a couple days ago. In principle, the event was supposed to be part of the environmental assessment for improved ferry service to the island airport, but it was really something quite different.
First of all, the environmental assessment is a bit of a farce. It deals with whether or not people and the environment are going to be disturbed by the minor construction related to the new ferry, but doesn't pay any attention to the fact the service is meant to facilitate a 20-fold increase in traffic at the airport.
There wasn't much weight to the environmental assessment aspect. There was written material to be responded to, and that's all. There was virtually no presence for the Toronto Port Authority, either. They knew this was just a routine meeting of no consequence, conducted for compliance with the law. They also knew that they have no public support and that their meeting would be hijacked by the opposition.
Shortly after 7, the well-organized opposition took over. There were speeches from Bill Freeman, chair of CommunityAIR, NDP councillor Olivia Chow, and others. It seemed that everyone in the room was there for an anti-airport rally and a show for the media. (I think it would have made for good television, if CTV or CITY used the footage they collected.)
One of the protesters was shouting that we need to have Justice Gomery come down and investigate what the Port Authority is doing with the money it keeps getting from the federal government. Of course we know that a lot of it goes to operational losses, but there is still the question of where the $35-million for legal settlements actually went. Some are calling it PortScam.
Also present at the meeting was Sam Goldstein, Conservative candidate for Trinity-Spadina. He spoke to Oliver Moore of the Globe and Mail, but unfortunately didn't get into the paper. I couldn't eavesdrop well enough to catch what he was saying, but he's obviously in the community's camp as well.
So, Trinity-Spadina residents who oppose airport expansion have two choices in the coming election. Olivia Chow is obviously the leader in the race to toss out Liberal Tony Ianno. But airport opponents who don't feel like voting NDP can vote for Goldstein.