Toronto Sun Op-Ed: Taxpayer-Fuelled corporate welfare at waterfront

City Council Candidate J.P. Boutros Emphasizes Anti-Competitive, Bailout Nature of Porter Request Google_Images_Photo_Canadian_Dollars_2014-01-14TORONTO - Picture this: In 2006, an entrepreneur opened a shipping business in Toronto. The warehouse he rents is small but the location is great. Even better, he has a legal right to keep his competition out of the area. Unfortunately for him, things get challenging. He's not filling the trucks like his backers had hoped; they tell him he's got to make more money on their investment. He must get bigger trucks, which means a larger warehouse. Even though there's a great warehouse in Mississauga with all he needs, he doesn't want to move; the competition he's kept off his turf is already in there. He decides he needs serious money - $3 million - to stay and expand from where he's at. Guess what? He asks you and me - taxpayers - for that $3 million. Not as a loan, mind you. He wants us to expand the facility and improve his access for the fancy new trucks. Well, if I was a decision maker, I wouldn't give him that $3 million. I'd tell him that he made his business decisions knowing the rules of the warehouse. I'd tell him to rent part of that big Mississauga warehouse and compete. I'd keep our money off the table. Now, let's say it's not $3 million that he needs from you and me; it's more like $300 million. What I described above is basically what Robert Deluce is trying to do to taxpayers with his Porter Airlines. Porter's plans require a different runway, changes to the airport, and new traffic infrastructure which the federal government and the City of Toronto would have to agree to provide using taxpayer money, reportedly up to $300 million. All this would help improve Porter's business future, but no one else's. So, why am I against a "little guy" story like Porter's? Taxpayers - whether fiscal conservatives like me or not - should get mad. For me, this really isn't about jets, flight paths, the Island, or other stuff being talked about. Porter's plans are an anti-competitive scheme which is, essentially, corporate welfare. It's not taxpayers' responsibility to help one company make more money. Of note, we don't even know if Porter is a good business to invest our money into; it's a private corporation, with private books. At least with the GM and Chrysler bailouts, we saw the financials, as scary as they were. "You can trust me" isn't good enough. Ask yourself: if Porter's smart shareholders are satisfied with the business Porter has built and the way the company has been run, why do taxpayers need to give those shareholders a $300-million gift? More importantly, if Porter's shareholders are not satisfied, why should councillors even contemplate such a huge taxpayer investment? Oh, do you have Air Canada or Westjet points? Porter's plans won't help you use them because Porter currently controls most of Billy Bishop Airport's takeoff and landing slots. With taxpayer money, bigger jets mean those slots would become far more valuable, but we won't all benefit from free and open airline competition because those airport gates remain Porter's. Anti-competitive? A sole source deal? Corporate welfare? As presented, Porter's plans rely on a potential $300-million taxpayer investment benefitting just one company: Porter. I trust councillors will see through the lobbying and judge their intentions this way. Jean-Pierre Boutros was senior adviser to former TTC chair Karen Stintz. He is running to become councillor for Ward 16. His campaign website, e-mail is and on Twitter at@BoutrosTO. Source: Toronto Sun op-ed, published 2014-03-31