Repeat after the Toronto Port Authority.

This is not the 2003 bridge debate.

“It’s like comparing mountain climbing and scuba diving,” says board chairman Mark McQueen.

In what way?

“Bridges and tunnels,” McQueen says with an air of nonchalant finality.

After a moment’s pause, he elaborates. Unlike a bridge, no taxpayer can call a tunnel an eyesore. Unlike a bridge, no sailor can call a tunnel an obstacle.

And in 2003, when David Miller was running for mayor on a promise to kill a proposed bridge to the island airport, Porter Airlines existed only in the dreams of chief executive Robert Deluce. Now, as the port authority awaits word on its bid for federal stimulus funding for a proposed tunnel, Porter is a popular entity that flies about 500,000 passengers a year.

“I don’t think it’s similar at all,” Deluce concurs.

There is at least one more major difference between the tunnel debate and the bridge debate.

In 2003, Deluce and the Port Authority argued the bridge was essential to the success of the airport.

Yesterday, conversely, Deluce and McQueen praised the performance of the current ferry system, saying a tunnel would merely be a preferable alternative.