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Bridge to airport receives a quiet nod from Ottawa

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Bridge to airport receives a quiet nod from Ottawa

By ERIN POOLEY AND KATHERINE HARDING

UPDATED AT 11:19 AM EST &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003

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The Toronto Port Authority has quietly received federal government approval to borrow money to begin construction of the controversial bridge to the city's downtown island airport.

This latest development will likely inject fresh controversy into the proposed bridge, which has become one of the most contentious issues in the current mayoral race. David Miller, the race's front-runner, is campaigning on a promise to scrap the bridge.

The federal agency, which operates the money-losing airport, needed Treasury Board approval to increase its borrowing limits to $27-million from $2-million. As a result, the port authority has crossed one more hurdle that stood in the way of its planned construction start date some time later this month.

The port authority also received official federal approval for the bridge from Transport Minister David Collenette last Thursday, the authority's chief operating officer, Lisa Raitt, confirmed in an interview.

Substantial changes at the airport are subject to a tripartite agreement, made in 1983 at the request of the city, with the federal government and the former Toronto Harbour Commission (now the Toronto Port Authority).

Ms. Raitt said last week's developments weren't widely publicized because "they were technical, legal matters that had already been decided a long time ago."

Mr. Collenette was unavailable for comment last night, but spokeswoman Amy Butcher confirmed the recent decision.

"We've executed our documents. We announced our position to amend the minutes of settlement and the tripartite agreement and to accept the minutes of settlement," Ms. Butcher said.

In July, Mr. Collenette announced that Transport Canada was prepared to approve key documents relating to its responsibility surrounding the future of the Toronto Port Authority and the island airport, which lost $1-million last year.

Ms. Raitt said there are still a few more small agreements that need to be signed before the bridge can be built, including one with the Coast Guard, but she expects them to be completed within days.

Increasingly it's becoming more difficult for Mr. Miller to "undo the deal," she said.

"The only way to change that deal is to get the three parties to agree to change it or actually going out and with intent and breaking the deal."

Ms. Raitt said that if Mr. Miller did that he'd "pay for breaking the deal."

She added that potential lawsuits could cost the city millions and that they wouldn't just be launched by the port authority.

"Other people have been brought into the building of the fixed link," she said. "We have a constructor, we have a bank financing, we have people who are interested in flying into the island airport, so those people too, would have a gripe."

Mr. Miller recently told The Globe and Mail's editorial board that the city wouldn't be on the hook financially if council were to reverse its approval for a bridge to the island airport.

"I can't imagine if a mayor of Toronto is elected on a promise of stopping this project that the federal government is going to turn around and sue," he said. "The feds would be sensitive to the needs of voters of Toronto."


© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
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The Toronto Port Authority has quietly received federal government approval to borrow money to begin construction of the controversial bridge to the city's downtown island airport.

This latest development will likely inject fresh controversy into the proposed bridge, which has become one of the most contentious issues in the current mayoral race. David Miller, the race's front-runner, is campaigning on a promise to scrap the bridge.
 

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