The government says it is convinced of the need for a new Toronto airport. While it may have reports from its technical consultants, and even these have been conflicting from time to time, who has it consulted in the Toronto-centred region? At least 14 of the 22 successful metro Toronto candidates in the October 30 election went on record during the campaign as saying there was no proven need for a second airport. The Toronto city council executive committee, representing over 700,000 people, last Wednesday requested the abandonment of the expropriations prior to a public determination of need. The regional municipality of York, representing 166,000 people, and the township of Pickering, representing over 30,000 people, have made similar requests, as has the mayor of Scarborough. Most of the formal objectors at the expropriation hearings in November and December gave primary emphasis to the unanswered question of need.
Yet the government pushes blindly on with virtually no public consultation and confirms the Pickering expropriations.
The lengthy statement of the Minister of Transport or, at least, the first nine pages of that statement, can be boiled down to this. He is saying to the people of the Toronto-centred region: You need a second airport; we have decided. Yet in the last four pages it appears to have suddenly dawned upon the minister that he should be concerned about public participation. He is at long last prepared to honour the commitment of his predecessor and arrange for an independent group to hear representations from the public as well as from the provincial and municipal governments. This independent group is to determine the type and timing of the facilities required, and the people will be able to make inputs not only on the question of the airport but also as to the kind of urban region they want, and how this would affect air service and airports.
We welcome this opportunity for public participation. It is long overdue. But we find it impossible to believe that this government can in any way maintain an open mind on the question when it appears to have already made its decision. The expropriations which have been confirmed today are for an airport. They cannot be for any other purpose if they are to remain legally valid. The government knows this. How can the public participation proposed in these circumstances be anything but a charade? At best, this is political waffling to avoid the political impact of a decision already taken. The Minister of Transport says in his statement that this process will be the first of its kind and could be a model for the future. Expropriate now-determine need later. Heaven help us!