Sunday, November 05, 2006

When Plan A fails, there's always Plan A

David Miller called for the Federal Tories to review the operation of the Island Airport. Lawrence Cannon duly appointed Roger Tassé but war drums in the NDP offices at City Hall and that of the MP for Trinity-Spadina began to pound when Cannon filled up the board seats at the Port Authority, setting the scene for the final report (pdf) which claimed all is rosy in the Port Authority and the Island Airport.

Now, I've made no secret of my support for a piece of infrastructure that if you needed to build it would cost billions, but is already there and serving the downtown business community who provide the tax base that hasn't yet fled to Vaughan, Markham, Brampton and Mississauga (where Pearson is). Even I don't quite buy the level of vindication Tassé hands to Lisa Raitt and her chums.

But the report is a sore poke in the eye to a Mayor who will be re-elected despite reverses on some of his main issues (waterfront and the Expo he failed to personally shepherd, shortfalls in expected transit money, Portlands Energy Centre). Now the CBC tells us he's gearing up for another round. Both he and Olivia Chow should find fights they can win, because the electorate likes protest but loves success more.

Air Canada's next move should be interesting, as the option to hope they can wait out the TPA's demands for a new operating agreement will diminish if Porter's Montreal route begins to persuade business users who don't find Ottawa enough of a draw to give up Aeroplan. The hardball approach being taken by the Authority is probably indicative of TPA's close relationship with Deluce's facilities operation at the airport, of Air Canada's political manoeuverings such as requesting permission to use jets before the last mayoral elections, and of this passage in the Tassé report:
The TPA has unsuccessfully made numerous requests of Air Canada to spend more marketing money, to increase advertising, to add routes, to invest in infrastructure and to generally increase its use of the airport.

Tassé recommends that TPA/TCCA improve their community relations which is well needed. A model could be the Consultative Committee to the formerly lossmaking but now profitable (sound familiar?) London City Airport and separate it from the abrasive Ms Raitt. There are dissimilarities, since London permits small jet passenger aircraft (110 seats or smaller) as well as the Q400 and smaller turboprops, but they are used to interacting with a community from an airport near what is now regarded as the world's leading financial centre.
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