ONTARIO FIGHTS PRIVATIZATION EFFORT AT TWO PEARSON AIRPORT TERMINALS

ONTARIO FIGHTS PRIVATIZATION EFFORT AT TWO PEARSON AIRPORT TERMINALS

The Ontario provincial government and the city of Toronto are mounting an 11th-hour offensive to prevent a private operator from formally taking over Terminals 1 and 2 today at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

At the center of the controversy is Matthews Group Inc., one of the companies involved in the lease and US$500 million redevelopment of Canada's largest airport.The group's reported weak financial condition and its connections with the ruling federal Progressive Conservative Party have recently come under intense scrutiny.

Opposition Liberal leader Jean Chretien this week said the deal to privatize the airport should be "put in the fridge" until after the Oct. 25 federal election.

Gilles Pouliot, Ontario minister of transport, asked his federal counterpart Jean Corbeil to review a deal that Mr. Pouliot said runs counter to national, provincial and public interests.

A nonprofit Toronto group that had applied for status to run the airport complained it was not even considered, even though every other airport privatization in Canada has involved such local airport authorities.

The Ontario government had earlier sought, without success, to put together a regional airport authority of local business and municipal governments. This is the pattern that has developed in the past few years at other Canadian

airports such as those in Montreal and Vancouver.

Under the federal government's plan for Pearson, one private group will control the terminal buildings and another will control the runways.Gordon Sinclair, chairman of the Air Transport Association of Canada, said this does not make sense.

''There has to be an overall decision-maker on the scene who can exercise the necessary discipline to see that there is coordination among all the parties," he said.