Deadbeat port authority must pay Toronto

Troublesome federal agency has failed to pay over $50 million in taxes to city despite being a major cause of grief amongst Harbourfront residents and visitors

By Brian Iler –

In a decision released on Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada has once again rapped the Federal Government for its agencies’ practice of refusing to pay their fair share of property taxes.

This decision has direct impact on Toronto’s Port Authority, which has refused to pay in excess of $49M in taxes that the City states are owing, to the end of 2010.

The new decision involved the Citadel in Halifax. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services had offered to pay taxes on only a nominal value of the land on which the Citadel sits, of $10, citing use restrictions resulting from a national historic site designation.

However, since the 2010 decision of the same Court in Montréal (City) v. Montreal Port Authority, the property value that “would be attributable by an assessment authority” is to be attributed, to achieve the overall purpose of the Act: to deal equitably and fairly with Canadian municipalities in relation to payments in lieu of property taxation.

This decision affirms that principle.

The Toronto Port Authority’s long standing refusal to pay its fair share of taxes for the Island Airport was supposed to be resolved by last November: the TPA signed a “Master Agreement” with the City to that effect last year – the report adopted by City Council on that matter in July, 2011, at page 19, required this provision to be incorporated into that agreement

The City and the TPA will use best efforts to resolve and reach an agreement on PILTs [property taxes] prior to November 1, 2011.

As with the Halifax Citadel, the position of the Toronto Port Authority has been that the appropriate value of the 215 acre Island Airport for property tax purposes is nominal.

With this decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, that position can no longer be maintained.

This is very good news for the City of Toronto.

This is Lisa Raitt’s legacy – she was the Toronto Port Authority CEO when the decision was made to not pay property taxes to the city, and instead to do everything possible to avoid paying them, anticipating that the City would not put up a fight.

To the city’s credit, it did put up a fight, steadily and doggedly pursuing the Toronto Port Authority through the labyrinthian appeal process within the Federal government, and joining in this appeal by the City of Halifax as a intervenor.

The Toronto Port Authority should now be scrambling to pay those tax arrears.

CommunityAIR calls upon the Toronto Port Authority to stop being a tax deadbeat, and pay up.