On August 18th, 2006 Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submitted our comments to help Mr. Roger Tassé in his review of the Toronto Port Authority (TPA). Mr. Tassé was appointed by the conservative government in the spring to look into the TPA's accountability issues.
Waterkeeper has identified four issues that have caused problems in the Toronto Harbour. They are as follows:
The mandate of the Canada Marine Act is too narrow.
The requirement that the TPA be financially self-sustaining further limits its activities.
The agency status of the TPA renders it unaccountable to the public
Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Port Authority Regulations fail to create a clear process for public participation or oversight
These four problems have resulted in a lack of accountability of the TPA to the public. As a result, an incompatible relationship has emerged between the TPA and the city as a whole.
First, the mandate of the Canada Marine Act is too narrow. Ultimately, the structure of the Act promotes the creation of infrastructure for industrial and commercial harbour users over other harbour projects. This prevents the TPA from undertaking projects for, or even taking into consideration the needs of, any non-commercial use of the harbour, including the needs of the City or residents.
Ports, especially Toronto's port, are multi-stakeholder environments with municipal, recreational, tourism and many other interests at play. Using a mandate that only takes into consideration industrial and commercial use is constrictive to the potential of the port.
The requirement that the TPA be financially self-sustaining makes matters worse. By limiting financing to the fees charged to â€œusersâ€? of the harbour, the Canada Marine Act provides an incentive for the TPA to promote transportation activities for which it can charge fees over other activities.
In Toronto, this provision has acted as an incentive for the TPA to engage in projects that happen to fit within its mandate but that do not necessarily reflect economic and social needs in the area.
The TPA's status as an agency also exacerbates its lack of accountability and generally causes confusion. Provincial laws bind the Crown, Federal or Provincial, including its agents. But still, the belief that the TPA is above these laws by virtue of its status as an agent persists.
Further problems persist with Environmental Assessment processes, which are governed by separate regulations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. These regulations do not provide for a clear and comprehensive process. Based on its limited mandate, the TPA must give priority to the interests of transportation infrastructure. Thus, it can't use the EA process to improve its projects for recreational users.
So what can be done? In order to resolve the conflict over the Toronto Harbour, Waterkeeper offered some options to improve the Canada Marine Act. Some of these options include: expanding the definition of a â€œuserâ€? to include non-commercial users of public harbours as well as explicitly requiring the TPA to have to conform to municipal, provincial and federal laws.
Mr. Tassé's review was originally scheduled to be completed in early September. However, Transportation Minister, Lawrence Cannon, announced last week that the report would be delayed until October.
Waterkeeper's complete submission is available online.