The Toronto Port Authority's (TPA) latest scheme to increase ferry service to the Island Airport couldn't have come at a better time for area Councillor Olivia Chow.
With any luck, Chow, who announced her intentions to give up her municipal seat to run federally for the NDP in Trinity-Spadina, hopes to turn the simmering controversy to her advantage. With all the Liberal hijinks surrounding the TPA and its on-again, off-again airport expansion plans, Chow, who wants the port authority turned over to the city, stands to gain some votes.
"The TPA is wasting huge amounts of money, " Chow tells NOW. "They haven't paid $30 million in property taxes. The airport should be shut down and turned into a park."
The TPA ferry plans could boost traffic at the Island Airport to 600,000 passengers a year by 2011 from the current 30,000 a year.
To add insult, the authority is planning to help pay for the $15-million project with the $35 million it received from the feds to cover legal fees associated with the failed Island Airport bridge plan.
Members of Community AIR roundly booed the proposal, which includes the building of two terminals for ferry passengers - one at the Island Airport and another at the foot of Bathurst - at an open house Tuesday, November 22.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," says Bill Freeman, a spokesperson for Community AIR, who says the plan is another attempt by the TPA to justify airport expansion. "They're already talking about 20 times more passengers. If that's not expansion, I don't know what is."
Ken Lundy, the authority's chief of operations, disputes the claim. The airport, he says, is under certain noise and passenger limitations that preclude the kind of expansion people are fearing. So why do the plans keep coming up?
Area Liberal MP Tony Ianno, whom Chow will try to unseat in Trinity-Spadina, blames the city.
"I've been working on behalf of my constituents to ensure the quality of life at Harbourfront," he says. Of course, that will be up to voters to decide.