Toronto City Council Misses Opportunity on PILT Vote

Toronto, Ontario (April 3, 2013) – A majority of Toronto City Councillors today approved a new Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) plan of $0.94 per Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport ("BBTCA") passenger.  Subsequently, a second vote was held and the initial vote was overturned when four City Councillors changed their original votes from positive to negative on the motion before Council.  
It is regrettable that City Councillors were prevented from receiving a confidential, "in camera" briefing from City Staff that would have provided the background regarding the Staff recommendation in favour of the PILT motion before Council today.  The proposed PILT agreement was recommended to Council by both the City Solicitor and the Treasurer via a report on February 12, 20131 and was subsequently approved by the City's Government Management Committee on February 25, 2013.
The proposed agreement would have meant that the Toronto Port Authority ("TPA"), owner and operator of BBTCA, would pay PILT contributions to the City for the airport at the same per passenger rate – $0.94 per – that is currently paid by Pearson Airport.  In 2009, an independent Federal PILT Dispute Advisory Panel recommended that the Billy Bishop airport be "taxed" in the same way as Pearson Airport: on a per passenger basis. The $0.94 per BBTCA passenger fee tabled at Council today well exceeds the $0.80 per passenger fee that was recommended to the City and TPA by this independent PILTs Panel in 2009.  
"The TPA has always said that it is prepared to pay its fair share of PILTs, which is why it has already paid more than $13 million of PILTs to the City in recent years" said Pamela McDonald, spokesperson of the Toronto Port Authority. "Today's series of votes was a missed opportunity.  The TPA had hoped that Council would accept its own Staff's recommendation of a $0.94 PILT per passenger since it's the same rate paid by Pearson airport.  If, over the next 90 days, Council declines to accept the advice of its own Solicitor and Treasurer on the BBTCA PILT, the TPA will consider asking that a new Federal Dispute Advisory Panel be struck to advise the parties on the quantum of PILTs that are appropriate for the BBTCA to pay.  We have no fear of the wisdom of an independent panel of PILT experts."
The TPA has already paid the City of Toronto one hundred per cent of the amount of PILTs for all of its properties, including the BBTCA, as recommended by the 2009 Federal DAP panel for the 1999 - 2012 period.


The proposed per-passenger PILT approach is widely used at other airports in Ontario:  Pearson, London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay.  
For years, MPAC, the municipal property assessor, has assessed the BBTCA as Industrial land.   MPAC included in its analysis the notion that the airport property could be a high rise condo development site, despite the fact that the land is zoned as parkland in the City's Official Plan, and has been an airport since 1939.  The BBTCA is currently governed by the Tripartite Agreement (executed by each of the City of Toronto, the Department of Transport and the TPA).  The Tripartite Agreement outlines that the property is to be used as an airport, and only an airport, from 1983 - 2033.  As such, no condominiums, power generating stations or manufacturing plants could be built on the site.  This has not stopped MPAC from trying to charge the airport taxes at the industrial development rate, which is the source of the so-called "$26 million tax arrears bill" reported in the media.
No one in Toronto, whether they are a fan or foe of the airport, thinks the BBTCA property should be an automotive plant, power plant or high rise condo development.  Why then should it be taxed that way by MPAC?  
According to a 2012 survey conducted by Ipsos Reid (a representative, randomly-selected sample of 700 adults living in Toronto, included 300 who live downtown, South of Queen Street.):
  • Eight in ten (83 per cent) of those surveyed ‘agree' that Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA) ‘is great for the economy of Toronto' – including 85 per cent of those living downtown south of Queen.
  • 84 per cent believe the airport is a great gateway, with the majority (87 per cent) saying it is a valuable asset for the city.
  • Eight in ten (81 per cent) Toronto residents ‘agree' that ‘Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is an important part of Toronto's future economic growth'
  • Eighty seven per cent ‘agree' that BBTCA is ‘a valuable asset for the city'
  • Nearly half of all downtown residents (50 per cent north of Queen; 45 per cent south of Queen) have used BBTCA
  • Nine in ten (89 per cent) Torontonians ‘agree' that ‘the Toronto Port Authority provides important economic benefits to the City of Toronto'
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is proud to have become a valued contributor to our city. According to a recent Economic Impact study, the airport will contribute $1.9 billion in annual economic output and 5,700 jobs to the Greater Toronto Area economy. 
About the Toronto Port Authority 
The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, the Port of Toronto (Terminals 51 and 52), and Toronto's Outer Harbour Marina. In addition to moving more than two million passengers through the airport in 2012, the Port Authority provides transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port, and owns and operates Toronto's largest freshwater marina. The Toronto Port Authority was incorporated on June 8, 1999 as a government business under the Canada Marine Act as the successor to the Toronto Harbour Commissioners. 
For more information on how BBTCA is contributing to Toronto, visit
Media Contact: Pamela McDonald, Director, Communications and Public Affairs (416) 863-2028 or (647) 405-8185 (mobile),