Viewpoint: More bunkum from Joe Volpe

Liberal hack makes up statistics to support pork barrel port authority

Joe Volpe, Liberal MP and avid Toronto Port Authority supporter, omitted some important facts in parliament yesterday.
In a debate on amendments to the Canada Marine Act, he stated: “Despite all the criticisms, it ranks, according to Transport Canada and according to the volume of operating revenue, number eight in the country. It is not bad for a port that is not supposed to be doing anything. Only 10 other significant ports rank below it.”
Last week, Statistics Canada released data on shipping tonnage through Canadian ports for the year 2005. They told a very different story: Toronto’s port has slipped, relative to other Canadian ports, from 37th in 2004, to 38th, accounting for 0.28% of Canada’s total domestic shipping and 0.17% of total international shipping.
Almost none of this shipping required the Toronto Port Authority’s expensive port infrastructure. Instead, the sugar went to Redpath’s own dock, the cement to Essroc’s Toronto Cement Terminal, the gravel to Lafarge’s dock, etc.
These products are for local use – and can hardly be described as “of strategic significance to Canada’s trade”, as is required by the Canada Marine Act for designation as a Port Authority.
Although there are many shipping containers stacked in Toronto’s port, Lisa Raitt, the CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, admitted at its 2006 AGM that none had arrived by ship, and none left by ship.
Given this, what’s Joe Volpe talking about? He refers to statistics apparently issued by Transport Canada that show total income from port operations. What Mr. Volpe failed to explain, though, is that in Toronto, very little of that income comes from actual shipping:
• Every recreational boater on Toronto’s waterfront is required to purchase a “harbour licence” from the TPA and there are thousands of them.
• Every harbour cruise boat pays a substantial port user fee, based on their passenger capacity.
• The Port Authority even attempts to charge the city a fee for the island ferries – charges that the city has refused to pay. Accumulated fees unpaid by the city total $2,536,000 to the end of 2006.
Still, its last annual financial statements for the period ending December 31, 2006, indicated a net loss for the year of $4,610,000 (2005: $3,366,000), on income of only $9,913,000 (2005: $9,686,000). These losses were incurred from the operation of the port, and from the Toronto Port Authority’s airport operation.
Losses of this magnitude have been consistently incurred every year since the Toronto Port Authority was established – a gross violation of the mandatory requirement for a port authority: that it “is, and is likely to remain, financially self-sufficient.”