Community AIR: Huge public asset to be sold by Ports Toronto

Federal Liberals approve with no community input

Brian Iler for Community AIR—

Ports Toronto announced they have Federal Liberal approval for the sale of a massively valuable 1.8 acre parcel of land at 30 Bay / 60 Harbour St. in the heart of Downtown Toronto to Oxford Properties.

Although this parcel is a public asset, neither Ports Toronto nor the Federal Liberals undertook any public consultation before making this decision.

The proceeds of the sale will be paid to Ports Toronto, which has exhibited a studied disregard for the public benefit in its decision-making. Its Board of Directors is dominated by individuals associated with the Federal Conservative Party , and operates as an arms-length enterprise, with the majority of its directors appointed by the Federal Government.

According to its former chair, Mark McQueen, Ports Toronto originally intended to partner with Oxford Properties to maximize its earnings from that property, intending to use those proceeds to backstop obligations related to its $85M pedestrian tunnel to the Island Airport, developed as a P3 (public private partnership).

In 2010, once it became apparent that Ports Toronto would be proceeding with the pedestrian tunnel project at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport without any financial support or guarantee from the Conservative government’s infrastructure stimulus program, the 30 Bay St. development became necessary to mitigate the risk associated with the pending P3 availability payment (negating choice #1).

This is the second time the Port Authority has approached the Federal Liberals for a bailout.

According to Ports Toronto sources, ‎Treasury Board rejected a proposed partnership with Oxford Properties to co-develop the site last year. Now they’ve given away federal assets with no conditions or additional oversight to make sure the money is spent on public priorities, or even Ports Toronto priorities like shipping infrastructure repairs, instead of new subsidies to Porter Airlines .

Notwithstanding its public statements, Ports Toronto posts large operating losses each year .

This is yet another decision by Ports Toronto that takes public assets and gives a private interest, its major tenant, Porter Airlines, the benefit. Porter has a near-monopoly at the Island Airport and directly benefits from any expenditure on Airport infrastructure.

CommunityAIR was thrilled that the federal Liberals took the bold step, when they first took office, to refuse Porter’s proposal, with the avid support of Ports Toronto, to operate jets out of the Island Airport, as that proposal placed Porter’s private interests ahead of the public interest. Now, the federal Liberals, without any public consultation or any apparent consideration of the public interest, have given Ports Toronto, and Porter, what they want.

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