Toronto Port Authority to sue over waterfront property

by Canadian Shipper

The Toronto Port Authority has announced plans to sue over 250 hectares of land transferred to the city in the 1990s. This is another potential roadblock to Toronto’s plans for waterfront development, reports The Toronto Star .But port authority president John Morand said the suit won’t be filed for 30 days, which would be time enough to negotiate greater compensation. “We’re not seeking here to sink the ship. What we’re really trying to do is protect our rights and move forward and resolve (the issue) with the city,” he told reporters.The TPA, a federal agency, had to file its notice of action yesterday or risk losing its right to take legal action later. “We have to protect our legal rights (but) we believe this can be resolved. We’re strong supporters of the waterfront redevelopment plan in the same way we were strong supporters of the Olympics,” Morand said. “The claim was filed because two years of detailed negotiations between the city and the (authority) have not resolved this issue,” said Port authority chair Henry Pankratz in a statement.At issue is about 250 hectares along the waterfront, most of it in the port lands, which was transferred to the city’s development agency from 1991 to 1997. At the time the lands were transferred to the Toronto Economic Development Corp. they were earning close to $ eight million for the old Toronto Harbour Commission. The city signed a subsidy agreement to give the commission $2.774 million annually. The harbour commission – which had a majority of city representatives on its board – became a federal port authority in 1999. Morand said the city’s subsidy isn’t sufficient to ensure the port’s future. “What they (the city) have been doing is giving us $2.774 million. In a good year, that’s about what we need and in a bad year, we need more. Around the world, ports have generated revenue from their leaseholders. To run a port appropriately, you need revenues from both the water side and the land side,” said Morand. The notice of action comes a week after all three levels of government formally signed an agreement to set up the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp. with financier Robert Fung as chair. Toronto and port authority officials signed a year-long “stand-still” agreement in July, 2000 to avoid having the dispute jeopardize the city’s Olympic bid. That agreement expired July 31 and the city was hoping for a similar 90-day agreement to finally resolve the issue. But Morand said the city refused a key condition by the port authority that no transfers of land take place within that 90 days. Toronto City Councillor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who is chair of the waterfront reference group, called for the federal government – and specifically federal Transport Minister David Collenette , to rein in the port authority. “I kind of hope that Mr. Collenette, who’s the minister responsible for the GTA . . . will basically speak to the port authority to tell them to sort it out,” he said. Collenette’s spokesperson, Anthony Polci, told The Toronto Star that members of the port authority believe the transfer of land from the former harbour commission to the city was a “flawed transaction.” But Polci added: “We think there will be an amicable settlement. We have every reason to believe there will be.”

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