Stephen Harper-Toronto Port Authority scandal

Harper to blow $45-$55 million digging a tunnel to the Island airport to save elite passengers 5 minutes getting to their planes. Meanwhile TPA owes Toronto $45 million in unpaid taxes.
By Brian Iler –
In an appalling misuse of public resources, for no public benefit, the Toronto Port Authority, a Harper Government agency, announced construction is to start in February on a pedestrian tunnel to the Island airport.

“If they have access to that kind of money, we insist that the TPA pay the city the longstanding taxes it owes to the City. And then, perhaps, Mayor Ford will deign to keep our libraries open.”

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, and $45 million in 2010. Significantly, the TPA failed to reveal today what the current cost estimate is, or just how much in the way of public resources will be devoted to it.

According to Porter CEO Robert Deluce, this tunnel is a key component of yet more airport expansion:

“…But Mr. Deluce said the TPA isn’t constrained by the existing cap, and could increase the total number of commercial slots available to 300 within three years, if a pedestrian tunnel is built by 2012 or so. “It’s very much dependent on improvements to infrastructure,” he said after a presentation to Insight Information Co.’s airline investment conference in Toronto [ as reported in  the Nov. 16, 2010 Globe and Mail].”

The TPA has consistently refused to pay its fair share of property taxes to the City. – in excess of $45 million is claimed by the City, according to public sources. Last March 11, CommunityAIR asked Mayor Rob Ford to “apply your considerable talent for getting things done,” and  collect them. He failed to respond, and, to our knowledge, nothing has been done since then to collect. If the TPA has the kind of money it takes to build this tunnel, it should be paying its taxes.

Below is my letter to Mayor Rob Ford in my capacity as chair of CommunityAIR, and a note “How the Port Authorities Tax Arrears Add Up.”

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With our City’s current serious financial challenges, we write to encourage you to apply your considerable talent for getting things done, to collect the money owing to the City for property taxes by the Toronto Port Authority.

By our calculations (see below), the amount owing is approximately $43 million, a very significant sum. Arrears have been accumulating since the TPA’s creation in 1999.

To the City’s credit, over many years, it has steadily and doggedly pursued the TPA through the labyrinthine PILTs appeal process within the Federal government, joining in a successful appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada by the City of Montreal, and more recently, obtaining a victory the Federal Court of Canada (see below). The effect of these decisions is that the City is entitled to be paid property taxes by the TPA on the same basis as all other taxpayers.

It’s now time for you to let the TPA know that the gravy train it has been riding for so long is over – like every other property owner in our City, it must stop being a tax deadbeat and pay its fair share of taxes.

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How the Port Authority’s Tax Arrears Add Up

The 2008 TPA financial statements (found at reveal that property taxes claimed as owing by the TPA to the City for the years 1999 to 2008 were $39, 588,000 – an average of ~$4.5 million per year. To the end of 2010, then, that figure is ~$48 million.

Over the eleven years since the TPA was first imposed on the City, the TPA has paid the City a total of just $6,492,835, for all of its properties – prior to the November 2009 “macro” settlement between the TPA and the City, just $73,749 had been paid by TPA for the entire 1999-2009 period. See Report to City Council on the “macro” settlement at

That leaves ~$41.5 million outstanding to the end of 2010.

Just for the 215-acre Island Airport lands, based on current property tax rates  and MPAC’s valuation, the TPA should have been paying about $1.4 million per year to the City –- or $15,400,000 for the years since 1999.

At the same time, the City has an obligation, which, unlike the Port Authority, it is honouring, to pay a net of ~$2.6 million annual capital and operating payments to the TPA in 2010, 2011, & 2012 (see

The June 24, 2010 Federal Court of Canada Decision

The Federal Court of Canada decision is at

It described the previous adverse decision of the Federal Disputes Advisory Panel on the amount of taxes the TPA should pay as follows:

The problematic areas are significant and multiple. They cover areas of jurisdiction, of law and of procedural fairness. They include a failure to appreciate the significance of evidence and they contain conclusions as to specific properties which are unreasonable:

The Federal Court of Canada decision referred the matter back – again – to the Federal Disputes Advisory Panel.

To our knowledge, no new hearing before that Panel has been scheduled.