Boondoggle tunnel wins Tory approval

Multi-million dollar tunnel to the Island airport will soak all Canadian taxpayers as Harper government supports the dreams of his Bay Street buddies

By Brian Iler –

The Toronto Port Authority’s (TPA) long-delayed tunnel is now legal – the Harper government has amended the law that prohibited its construction.

This is not a surprise – the Harper government has never shown any regard for the people of Toronto. It listens only to its friends on Bay Street, who own Porter Airlines, and populate the TPA’s board. The expansion of that airport is destroying our waterfront’s recreational potential.

The Harper government based its decision on an alleged business case and illusory economic benefits. When directly asked by CommunityAIR to show its business case, it had none. Neither did the TPA. This is an entirely political decision.

·         Skyrocketing costs: The tunnel that was originally projected to cost as little as $20 million (Star June 3, 2009) went up to $38 million in August 2009, $45 million in 2010. How much more will it be – if it is built?

·         The public will pay: The TPA will have to guarantee any private investment in the tunnel and, because it is a federal government agency, that means the federal government – the taxpayers of Canada are giving the guarantee. The airline industry is notoriously troubled, and Porter has yet to release evidence that it can achieve profitability – the last evidence available disclosed $44,505,000 in accumulated losses. That puts public assets at risk.

·         The TPA’s revenue is better applied to meet real needs.  Our governments are straining to find the money to pay for the services we need. Is the TPA’s devotion of millions of dollars of public money for this frivolous tunnel the best use of scarce public dollars?

·         Funding the tunnel will encourage short haul flights that burn vast amounts of fossil fuel. Trains are vastly more fuel-efficient and climate friendly, particularly for the short distances the Island airport specializes in. While the Harper government seemed to recognize that by investing some $750 million in VIA’s Windsor-Quebec City corridor infrastructure, that very substantial investment is effectively undermined by investments in aid of short-haul aviation, such as this tunnel project.

Iler is chairman of CommunityAIR