Photo by Tom Podolec from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
Relationships between different levels of government are often vexed. Turf wars over policy jurisdiction, wrangling over funding schemes, jockeying for credit, and redistributing blame—these are all par for the course, inevitable features of the political landscape that, while annoying, need not seriously undermine the players’ ability to eventually get things done. There are times, however, when the brinkmanship goes too far.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Transport Minister John Baird, in their infinite wisdom, announced earlier this month that what we really needed was an unexplained expansion of the Toronto Port Authority. The TPA is an agency that many residents dislike, that has been repeatedly condemned by numerous city councillors and by the mayor, and whose board is already fully staffed, thank you very much. More or less by fiat, the Tories have determined that the existing roster of seven members is insufficient to the task of overseeing our marina, island airport, and other port activities and have helpfully decided to offer some relief—wanted or not. This assistance is coming in the form of two additional board members who are to be appointed by the federal government. The TPA was given less than twenty-four hours to respond to the announcement, rendering an aggressive move by the feds even more abrasive.
While the decision was not couched in these terms, it is believed that the Conservatives are motivated by the city’s recent appointment of David Gurin to the TPA’s board. The TPA’s board consists of five federal appointees, one provincial appointee, and one municipal selection. The board has been deadlocked on several issues for the last few months, and Gurin is predicted to break the stalemates by providing a decisive fourth vote on many matters. More specifically, he is expected to vote against the Tories’ preferences, thereby apparently inspiring them to increase the board’s size and outnumber their opponents. Among the items the board will soon be tackling: appointing a new CEO to replace Lisa Raitt, recently elected as a Tory MP, and conducting an internal audit.
In response to Baird’s announcement, Mayor Miller and Councillor Adam Vaughan (whose Trinity-Spadina ward includes Harbourfront and the waterfront running east to the foot of York Street) have taken the unusual step of sending letters to Michaëlle Jean in protest. As with other recent matters having to do with the proper exercise of power, we await both Ms. Jean’s and the federal government’s reactions with great interest.
Bottom photo by Trachsi from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.