Proposed Federal Amendments to the Canadian Marine Act Could Rob Toronto of Infrastructure Funds

With Toronto’s budget on the verge of being balanced, a new threat looms as legislation is set to pass in Ottawa that would give the Toronto Port Authority access to our city’s hard won federal infrastructure funds. The TPA, a federal agency, with no local accountability was criticized by the recent Tassé report as being unresponsive to the needs of the community.
Now, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has struck a deal with the Federal Liberals to make amendments to the already controversial Canada Marine Act that governs the TPA. The amendment covered under Bill C-23 will give even greater power to arms-length Port Authorities across Canada and allow them to become eligible for public funding that is currently held and controlled by municipal government’s infrastructure funds.
“One of the proposed amendments to the Canada Marine Act will fundamentally change the requirement that Port Authorities are to be self-sustaining. In the case of the Toronto Port Authority, we have an example of a Port Authority that has consistently run substantial operating losses every year – in the millions. We fear that this amendment opens the door to the TPA covering those losses through applications for funds that are essential to other municipal needs such as running community centres or removing snow and garbage” says Bill Freeman of CommunityAIR, a non-profit group representing many Toronto waterfront communities.
Freeman will present a fact sheet to the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities which tallies over $110 million in subsidies paid to the TPA, and lists examples of how the federal agency mishandled public funds on ventures like the $9 million spent on the ill-fated Rochester Ferry Terminal.
Joining Freeman, in Ottawa is Brian Iler, past commodore of the Alexandra Yacht Club and Toronto City Councillor, Adam Vaughn, whose ward contains the TPA run Toronto island airport. They will voice their opposition before the committee on Tuesday, February 5 at 11 a.m. Now in its final stages, they hope the Bill will be blocked from passing through the House later this month.

With the recent announcement of another Conservative party loyalist to the Toronto Port Authority’s board there are fears that Bill C-23 will further erode the TPA’s accountability to the Toronto public. Craig Rix, whose appointment to the TPA was made by Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon last week, was an aide to Finance minister Jim Flaherty when he was a member of the Mike Harris government in Ontario. The Canada Marine Act requires that four different classes of port users be represented in the makeup of the TPA’s board, yet none of its current members appear to meet this particular requirement.

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