Approving coal exports, industrializing farmland… there are lots of reasons to be frustrated with how Port Authorities makes decisions that impact our communities. Our Ports need to be more transparent in their decision making, and more accountable to the public. They should do a better job of engaging local governments and incorporating regional concerns and environmental considerations into their project approval processes.
We expected the Trudeau government to take steps to fix these problems, but now we’ve learned that Ottawa is considering privatizing our ports. That’s a move that would make these problems worse, not better! Ottawa’s move raises a whole set of worrying questions about accountability, transparency and regulation of community and environmental impacts. Private profit and public interest are not one and the same.
We need to make sure the Trudeau government fully consults the public before it makes any moves on Port Authority reform. Can you take a few minutes to send a comment to key decision makers to call for full public consultation? Use the the form to send your comments to Marc Garneau, the Federal Transport Minister (in charge of Ports). We’ll make sure your comments are copied to the PM, local MPs and local governments.
Here are some key concerns to raise:
- Foremost, any changes to Port Authority governance should involve open consultation with local and regional governments, First Nations, organizations advocating for Port reform, and the concerned public;
- Port Authority governance should better reflect regional concerns. Port Authority boards of directors should have increased representation of First Nation, environmental and health expert, and local and regional government interests;
- Port Authorities are mandated with regulating port operations and approving industrial development proposals while also promoting and increasing economic activity. The federal government must ensure proper oversight of Port Authorities so that there are no conflicts — or perceived conflicts — between these mandates;
- As Ottawa follows through on its commitment to reform the environmental assessment process, it should carefully consider if it is in the public interest for Port Authorities to be evaluating the environmental impact of proposed projects on federal Port lands while also working to promote trade and economic development;
- All lands under Port Authority control should remain public lands;
- Transparency and accountability in Port operations should be improved. Port Authorities should be made subject to the federal Lobbying Act and should remain subject to the Access to Information Act.
- Privatizing port lands will not improve transparency, accountability or the protection of broad public interest in the use of those federal public lands.
Want more detail? Read VTACC Director Kathryn Harrison’s excellent analysis of Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s position on port reform, here. Public comments to Ottawa on this issue are displayed here.