Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 04, 2005

What Are The Answers

Lots of stuff going on behind-the-scenes on the border file I heard with everyone jockeying for position. A few questions for you to consider over the week-end:

  1. Have the DRIC finalists been determined already by the Bi-national engineers and discussed with their political masters
  2. Will Dwight and Sandra try to "outgranholm" Michigan Governor Granholm now by giving their opinion that DRTP and the Twinned Bridge projects should be removed from the list of finalists?
  3. Why didn't the Windsor Star report on the Detroit Mayoral candidate Hendrix's support of DRTP and his fundraiser held in Grand Rapids by DRTP's Byington
  4. Why didn't the Windsor Star report on the visit of Mayor Francis with Mayor Kilpatrick in Detroit earler in the week?
  5. Why hasn't the Windsor Star reported on the Mayor's ambitions respecting the Tunnel
  6. Has the Federal Government walked away from the Walker Road underpass project and if so, who will take the fall for it happening
  7. Has the deal between the Province and City respecting all of those people involved in the Phase 1 projects been agreed to yet
  8. Why hasn't the Star phoned up Sam Schwartz and asked him what he is doing for the City now on the border and if a reporter has, then why haven't they reported it?
  9. Will the City or the Bridge Co. be the new owner of the Tunnel as it starts its 76th year in operation
  10. If the Schwartz Report is just the "starting point" then how much money and time has been wasted over the past year by the City, proponents, Governments and citizens analyzing something that is meaningless
  11. Can the funds wasted be claimed back from the City?
  12. If the Schwartz Report is just the "starting point," then how can anyone including the Senior Levels and Windsorites take the City seriously after all of the effort put in.
  13. For what did Councillor Gignac want to rally for now---the dead Schwartz Plan, some undisclosed new Plan or buying the Tunnel
  14. Is it true that Councillors Postma and Jones planned the rally for spring because they knew that it will take the Mayor that long to develop another Plan in secret that won't work
  15. Is it true that there is no City Plan that can be produced if someone asks for it
  16. If you ask a certain Windsor Councillor something he/she does not like, will you be asked to provide "copies of your phone bills (home, office and cell) over the last six months so we can discern who you have been communicating with and how frequently."
  17. How many times has the Border Czar visited Windsor since his appointment?

City Hall To Shut Down Until The New Year

Remember what Candidate Francis promised "We need a starting point, a place to know where we are so that we can judge how well we do when we look at results. We will conduct in depth audits of all of our departments to assess where we are and to identify inefficiencies and implement sound management principles across the corporation."

The recent Sub-head in the Star's front page story made a mockery of that election promise "Mayor: 'No accountability"

The story continued "We're a half a billion dollar corporation ... and there was no process put into place what we were paying out for overtime to begin with," Francis said. "There was no accountability whatsoever...There were employees who had 30 years plus in this corporation, who had banked all their overtime, and there was no way to track or validate if that was the case."

Non-union employees are being instructed to use any banked overtime by Dec. 31. After that, they will lose any time owing. "Use it or lose it," Francis said"

Accordingly, the 430 non-unionized staff members involved are now booking off and returning on January 1 since they all have that much banked time available forcing City Hall to close down for the next two months.

Relax, I am kidding. But it is great to see how tough the Mayor and Council are on non-unionized staff. Too bad they were afraid to take on the unionized workers. Why the City even entered into a 4 year agreement with their unionized workers, adding an extra year to keep labour peace.

This "new way of doing business" at City Hall will cost taxpayers an extra $1.9 million. Interestingly, the financial gurus at City Hall could not estimate "The amount the city will recoup through pay cuts..."

Whatever happened to the promised "in depth audits?" And whatever happened to Citistat? Didn't it save Baltimore $10 million in cumulative savings over a few years in reduced overtime? Why hasn't it been brought into Windsor to save us money?

By the way, I wonder how Dr. Alfie Morgan would rate a CEO who admited that he was involved in a company for 4 years as one of its senior officials and 2 years as its CEO and had no idea about lack of accountability. What would he say if that official knew about the problem "in the last couple of years when [his company] got whacked with eye-popping bills for accrued overtime..." If it takes him years to act on something so simple and obvious, then how would Dr. Morgan expect him to act on something really complicated such as , ummmmmm, the border issue!

Wasn't it fortunate that this just happened before Operating Budget deliberations started. Oh well, just another problem for which Councillor Budget has to find the money to fix without increasing taxes. And if he cannot do it ........there go his chances to run for Mayor against Eddie, even if he was never going to do it.

Hello Devonshire Mall Loiterers

Mayor Eddie Francis has to be a closet Liberal! He must have the blood of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien running through his veins.

How did Eddie come up with this great idea about a Town Hall meeting for kids. "The town hall idea came to Francis on a recent Friday night movie outing with his wife" said the Star. Now isn't that just like Pierre's walk in the snow when it just came to him to retire or Jean's walk when it came to him not to.

I wonder if this is how it really happened. But it's a nice urban legend to create. There are some people in town who are offended I was told that they did not receive some credit that they think they deserved for what happened at the mall. It's an early lesson to them about politics.

If you want to read what one "youth" had to say, you might want to read "Youth tackles municipal government" in City Times, the newspaper Councillor Lewenza started, in the August edition, It was written a few months before the Town Hall meeting.

Interesting subjects discussed at the meeting too: community centres for youth after hours, stopping of being harassed by mall security, complaints about bus service and coal-fired power plants. I am told that there was not one question about the border or Schwartz. I wonder why.

Let me help His Worship out with the brilliant idea of a teen Youth council to talk about issues.

How about this concept: a Council for both Youth and Seniors (I am becoming one so why not something for me too). Let's set up a Mayor's Youth Cabinet and a Mayor's Seniors Cabinet. The Youth would be recruited through the two school boards, elementary and secondary, through the College and through the University, in addition to some at large appointments. The Seniors would have been recruited through senior's organizations and through at large recruitment.

Those "cabinets" would be set up to deal with the issues that impact those age-groups and to act as soundboards.

Now I don't want to take the credit for someone else's idea. It would not be right. Wasn't this something like what Bill Marra talked about at a UWSA Council Meeting before the last election, a meeting that he and Eddie attended. Bill also talked about holding Town Hall meetings throughout the year at that meeting too.

Apparently Eddie asked the kids at the mall when he first talked to them, "I don't look that old, do I?"

After the border fiasco, the Schwartz rejection, Cansult, the arena location fight, losing $68 million on MFP, the Mady garage mess, the tunnel ventilation building cost, the failure to lease Canderel, the bus terminal, the loss of auto jobs, the problems in the downtown, secret meetings, my own personal injury lawsuit against the City....He sure does!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Border Ramblings

Are you as confused as I am about what is going on with the Border? If someone was ever honest about what was going on, and publicly to boot, then perhaps my head would not hurt as much as it does.

By the way, that's a picture of a Rambling Rose. It seemed appropriate since the border issue is all over the map!

Did you know that Eddie has been meeting with Detroit’s Mayor as late as Monday. Now there is no need for Councillor Gignac’s meeting with Detroit Council. Eddie has out-flanked her.

I wonder what they were talking about.

Was Eddie speaking to the Detroit Mayor both as Mayor of Windsor and as Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission? Were they talking about Eddie’s idea of buying Detroit’s interest in the Tunnel, or a joint leasing deal to DCTC for mega-millions or some third party? Was he trying to convince Kwame to end his deal with the Bridge Co., and work with him? Or were they only talking about Windsor’s snowplowing help during Super Bowl.

Of course, life is more difficult for Eddie since he does not have the authority of Agenda item #5 to act under. But as Chair of the Commission, he can do a deal with the Detroit Mayor and then bring it to Windsor Council for rubber-stamping. The precedent was set when Eddie was on the Commission as a Councillor with the Mady parking garage. ["In April 2001, then-councillor Francis made the motion at a tunnel commission meeting to approve the partnership agreement between Mady and the city. The tunnel commission, which is an agency of the city, approved the deal before it went to city council for approval."] It seems on that deal that no one knew what the terms were to “protect” Windsor’s interests in that deal. Even the Mayor admitted that it was a bad deal.

When the deal is done, expect the Francis road-tour to take place so he can “build relationships” as he tells others how to do this kind of financial transaction. That scares me a lot since if the deal goes sour, does the City have a liability? I wondered about that in the MFP deal as an example.

Of course, if the deal blew up, as the receivership of the garage shows can happen, and the City lost millions, what would he say? Oooooopppps, he would not be around then to have to do that as Mayor since he would have gone on to bigger and better things, right! That would be something for Mayor Gignac to deal with and to blame on the previous Administration. She need only repeat the script that Eddie has used already for that and hire Cliff Sutts.

Speaking of betrayal, I was told to be “polite” by one of my colleagues before the last Community Consultation Group meeting held by the Bi-National Partnership. This is the “citizens’” group that the bureaucrats have used to demonstrate that they are serious about public involvement. This was right after the Michigan Governor hijacked the border issue by disclosing that the bureaucrats had already decided on the “short-listed” crossings and had eliminated the ones her constituents opposed. Only days before, the Engineers had sponsored a boat trip for our Group and our US counter-parts to show us all 15 crossings as if nothing had yet been decided.

Well I was polite at the meeting, for me anyway. And to give them credit, some others were not so nice. We were given assurances that the Engineers were again going to be studying hard and that no decisions had yet been made on the finalists.

Imagine then how much I laughed when I read the Globe and Mail story the other day that said “A short list of contenders to build a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could be released as early as this week.” Not only that, it named the corridors!

Next meeting I may get really angry. They did not have any strawberry tarts there last time. If I am going to be co-opted, I may as well get a TBQ dessert out of it.

I don’t get it at all. First he signs a binding deal with the Bridge Company and then he pulls it off the table.

Was it a phony deal just designed to get him some votes?

Did he think he would lose at Council and so pulled it off the table?

Was it a tactic to get Hendrix to come out publicly and say that he was in support of the DRTP? [Where is Councillor Gignac demanding a meeting with him to convince him that DRTP is a bad choice?]

Are he and Eddie doing an even bigger deal now that will be announced days before the election to guarantee him re-election and Eddie his entrepreneurial dream?

Do the polls tell Kwame that he has a good chance at being re-elected? Therefore, he pulled the Bridge deal and the Union wage concession negotiations to avoid any negative controversy so that he will not lose any crucial votes. Is his plan then to bring both matters back and shove them down the throats of the Detroit Councillors in the new term? After all he did get great coverage when the Bridge deal was first announced!

Who knows!

To “grandstand” means “to perform ostentatiously so as to impress an audience.”

Why am I giving you this definition? After the Council meeting the other night, I was called by a colleague of Councillor Gignac and was asked if I saw her grandstanding on the border at Council. Regretfully, I had to reply in the negative since I had forgotten that Council Night in Windsor had been moved for Hallowe’en. Perhaps I will look at the replay on Cogeco if I have nothing else better to do. The Councillor told me that I was right: Jo-anne Gignac may run for Mayor after all.

But she had better be careful. This issue could bite her.

First Councillor Gignac flipflopped on the Ambassador Bridge proposal that she had approved in secret, then she flipflopped by asking for a meeting with Detroit Council when she had agreed not to do so in camera. Her ignorance on CBC TV of the Bridge’s new proposal shocked me from someone who seems to do her homework. I still have not heard her demand a Special Council meeting on the border for citizens to speak or to ratify the secret endorsement of the Schwartz report. Did she request that a bus be chartered so Council could meet with Freman Hendrix to chastise him for supporting DRTP and to educate him?

However, her position is interesting since it means that there is a crack in the so-called Council unity on Schwartz. She must feel that the Mayor is not invincible on his billion-dollar failed short-term dream. She is taking a run at him on his most vulnerable spot, the border. She is also scooping the issue from her Council colleague, Mr. STOPDRTP to ensure that he cannot run if she chooses to do so. She doesn’t have to worry about that. He is invisible on the border, too busy playing Financial VP of the City.

Clearly, Councillor Gignac is testing to see whether she can gain some momentum for herself by staking out a position now on the border. Being out there in public supporting the public on small issues is a great tactical move but a dumb political move since everyone can see through it.

She has angered some of her colleagues, especially the Ward 2 Councillors colleagues, by playing to the crowds. The Mayor I am sure is amused and relieved as she self-destructs so that he can cross another off of his list of possible opponents.

Anyway, as the Star demonstrated by ignoring her totally, she has a long way to go if she wants to get their good buddy out of office. And it probably did not help her that CKLW interviewed Councillor Postma instead either.

Remember when I said that I thought that Councillors Postma and Jones were our hopes for new leadership on the border issue and that they had to take some tough actions.

According to the Star, the two Councillors are trying to set up a massive rally on the border to oppose certain corridors. Great idea I thought…just like the Downriver legislators in the US who pressured the Michigan Governor to take their communities off of the list of possible border crossings.

Then I read the rally was to take place in the spring. HUH, the spring….you mean 5 or 6 months from now.

If they want to do a rally do it now, not when the tulips come out again.

Joyce where are you? It’s your turn now.

Isn’t it interesting that he seems to have disappeared. Is he on the City payroll still or rather retained by Counsel to keep his materials “confidential?”

I guess since Councillor Valentinis has said that his report was only a “starting point” there is no need to keep paying him. Has the City, in effect, “disowned” him and has no real Plan now? Or rather, have they no real Plan that they are prepared to share with the people who elected them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

University Report Card

I wondered why there was a flurry of University of Windsor activity in the Star a few days ago, including a Ross Paul Guest Column. Oh I knew that it was almost Maclean's time again. But I did not know that the Globe and Mail had a ranking program as well.

Anyway, there is probably going to be a huge celebration at the University today. In the Globe ranking of medium-sized schools for "educational experience" Windsor did NOT come in last. It tied for second-last beating out the University of Calgary.

Can you imagine what will happen if the school goes up a notch in the Maclean's poll also. Dennis DesRosiers will have to come back here and give another speech and might even get an honourary degree!

Brian And Joe---What's Your Excuse Now?

Are you as tired as I am hearing Brian Masse whining rather than accomplishing something positive on the border issue?

I see that Joe Comartin has been nominated again to run for the NDP in the next Federal election. He may not have any real opposition now that Dwight is Minister of Finance and Eddie would have a tough time if he had to list what he accomplished as a politico.

But why shouldn't they both be easy to beat?

It's always nice being a member of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. You can whine and moan and criticize knowing that you have no responsibility for accomplishing anything. You are always right, never wrong and have the answer for everthing that ails the country. If only the Government would listen, the world would be right!

Brian and Joe, you had better warn your leader that he is departing from the script! Check out the Globe and Mail story below. If he doesn't smarten up, there may actually be an election and then where will you be? You can no longer hide behind the excuse that you are just a minority party. Your Party propped up the Government once, "the historic NDP Better Balanced Budget" and you do hold the balance of power after all.

Oh sure your party is concerned about the Windsor border since it is so vital to the economy of Canada. But I did not see that issue on the list of important matters that your Leader set out as priorities. That might be your Achilles heel.

It will be interesting to hear your excuses then as the "Government" party as to why you did nothing on the border.

Don't take support for granted, NDP warns Grits

Globe and Mail Monday, October 17, 2005

"NDP Leader Jack Layton laid out his conditions for supporting the Liberal minority government yesterday, warning Prime Minister Paul Martin that his party will not be taken for granted.

We won't keep a Parliament going just to hear Mr. Martin speak," the NDP Leader told his MPs and candidates who were attending a weekend conference in Ottawa.

Mr. Layton said he wants action on health care, post-secondary education, pensions, pollution and jobs. No one issue is more important than the other, he said, although his party will be focusing on preventing what he says is further privatization of the health-care system.

"If these Liberals want to get to work on issues like those I've mentioned, we'll be there to get things done," he told his supporters. "If not . . . Mr. Martin should understand he better not count on the NDP's support in the weeks to come."

The 19 NDP MPs in the House of Commons hold the balance of power, and so failure to respond to Mr. Layton's conditions could provoke the fall of the Martin government as early as next month. If that happens, a federal election will be held around Christmas."

Environmental Justice And The Border

One of STOPDRTP's proudest moments when I was General Counsel came when, after a secret meeting of the previous Council, Council apparently agreed to allow DRTP North to be built. To give comfort to home-owners in DRTP South, that part of the DRTP corridor was to be turned into a park or bicycle path. Clearly, this was an attempt to split the richer southern part and poorer northern part of the City. STOPDRTP turned that idea down cold, calling it a betrayal of Council's public position of only a month earlier opposing DRTP in its entirety. I recalled that event when I received the following email from a person I met at the recent Bi-national CCG meeting. I thought it important to set out especially since she opposes the Ojibway Bridge.

The person lives in Delray, Michigan which is described as "one of the most polluted places in the state of Michigan...Its current residents are predominantly low-income people, about half are people of color, and many residents have either owned their houses for many years or have inherited their homes from parents and other relatives. There are many seniors living below poverty on fixed incomes. Most of them could not move out if they wanted to, due to financial constraints and low property values in the neighborhood. "

It brings into play an aspect of this struggle that we in Canada are not that familiar with: "environmental justice." (Environmental Protection Agency (1997) defined environmental justice as "fair treatment for people of all races, cultures, and incomes, regarding the development of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.) This email brings the point home better than I could ever describe it and presents a different aspect in determining a border solution!
  • "I live in a area in Detroit called Delray, west Delray to be exact. They split our area into east and west Delray so they can put their bridge here somewhere. We are on the "short list' of sites left for the possible new border crossing (a bridge).

    First of all let me say that I really enjoy reading your blog. It makes me laugh sometimes at the way you word things and it also gives me a feeling of hope at other times.

    I belong to our community group, the Delray Community Council and on the LAC, local advisory council which is like your CCG in Canada. All the community groups get together to bring up issues and try to discuss them at a reasonable tone. But I can not. I always stand up for myself and now I'm standing up for our community.

    Our entire neighborhood will be leveled for this crossing. 320 homes, several businesses, a long standing history over 100 years, and about 12 places of worship. One of those churches, Holy Cross, is on the registry of historic places and is in excellent condition. We have pictures of it on our web site We just got this site a few weeks ago.

    Anyway I believe that if the Ambassador bridge goes through with their expansion process, another crossing won't be needed at least not for a very long time.

    By all of the reading, meetings, and information I have found, I feel they only want this bridge for status, power, control, and money reasons. Not even for money reasons because I believe they will lose money not make it. Then what; another 800 pound gorrilla to take care of! And we will be the ones losing our homes and churches for a project that will probably fail. The irony is that our tax dollars will help them to throw us out and pay for this thing! We can never get all that back.

    We had a LAC meeting on Wed. Oct. 26th and they were talking about how the final 2 or 3 sites will be announced in late Nov., the 28th to be exact. Our group is pretty sure that we are one of them.

    Also we are told we will get market value for our homes. The problem with that is the market value here is low because the city has let this area go to hell. We do the best we can to keep it up and even host clean-up days and do the work ourselves. Market value here is around 10 to 30 thousand dollars.

    How can I start over somewhere else for that! It won't even cover moving expences. I have a large home with 9 rooms, a finished basement, a large yard and a 3 car brick garage. I checked out other areas in Michigan and other states in the U.S. and this property anywhere else runs 350 to 550 thousand. It's over 100 years old with 12 foot curved ceilings, claw foot bathtubs, glass beveled french doors inside and the old ironing board in the wall trick in the kitchen. They can never replace this house with something similar at 30 thousand.

    But we are at the mercy of these a-holes who don't care that they are feeding us to the dogs. My family has been in this neighborhood, on this very street, for over 100 years. That they can't replace either.

    This area is mostly low to middle income and our seniors are living on their social security. Their homes are paid for so all they pay is gas, lights, phone and grocery bills. They have no living relatives and say they would rather die than live in a state runned facility.

    Well I have bent your ear enough. Sometimes you just need to vent. Please keep up the good work and if you hear any good news, please let me know. I don't know if you go to these bridge meetings or not but if your interested I can send you dates and times about where ours are taking place. It's going to get REALLY INTERESTING from here on out. Thanks for your blog site."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gretzky As The Opiate For The Masses

There is no doubt about it. Gord's column the other day must mean the Arena deal at the Raceway must be almost dead. [Fortunately to keep the arena dream alive, there is a rumour circulating about another downtown arena involving the Spits. I contacted the suggested developer and he wondered who started it using his name.]

Whew, the scandal with the Spitfires will be a great excuse for the Councillors walking away from the deal and not having to make enemies by giving their real reasons to kill it(and then replacing it with the urban village dream just in time for the next election)

Oh well, the Mayor can tell Tony Toldo that he tried so that Tony will not still be angry at Eddie when he was Councillor for voting against giving money to Hospice.

Frankly it will be personally embarrassing for the Mayor if the Arena deal dies. Remember what he said during the election campaign: "Eddie Francis portrayed himself Tuesday as the only mayoral candidate who can bring a new multi-use facility to Windsor. "I am standing here today to correct the inaction of the past" No checkmark on the Report Card now.

I hardly think that the Spitfire story will kill the deal. By my count, at least 5 Councillors were against it at the time that Beztak was run out of town during Council's Spanish Inquisition. And the Casino project is moving ahead nicely now.

But killing it now would not be good for some people so we need to keep the dream alive for a couple of more months. Out comes the Gretzky story again. I am sure you remember this line from Gord Henderson's column over three years agao "'It's a crying shame. Windsor could have had a big piece of that," groaned city businessman Dave Batten as he contemplated Wayne Gretzky's elevation from retired hockey superstar to national hero." This was after the Olympics when Canada won the gold medal in hockey.

The column continued ""It's too sad for words. Gretzky is going to play a big role in everybody's lives from now on and we could have been part of that," said Batten, a partner in the Jebb arena proposal that was nixed by the city a year ago on the grounds that the numbers didn't crunch."

Gretzky can still be part of Windsor's life...for a few more months anyway. My wife had a better idea. Make his restaurant part of the new Casino expansion. And then we can use the $15 million to move the University downtown to become a true focus for our new "urban village."

Toronto Stadium To Get Senior Level Funding

I don't get it. Why does the Toronto get money from the Senior Levels and Windsor does not? Why does the County get grants and Windsor does not? Do you think it might be because Windsor's Mayor and Council snubbed them and they are still teaching us a lesson? Is it their equivalent of sitting a bad child in the SuperNanny's "naughty chair."

I wonder if I should call Beztak to go to Toronto after reading the Toronto Star story, excerpts of which I am publishing below. What a deal!

Larry Tanenbaum is Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and was involved in the past with Borealis of DRTP fame. He was paid $15.7 million when OMERS bought out Borealis. MLSE and Borealis Infrastructure are involved with Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto also. I always expected Borealis to offer to build an arena here in order to convince Windsorites that DTP was a good idea. Maybe they still will if the Raceway deal falls apart.

City spends $9.8M for soccer stadium
Council okays spending $9.8M
Critics call it bad deal for city


After a 4 1/2-hour, heated debate on whether the city should be subsidizing a private sports enterprise, Toronto councillors voted to spend nearly $10 million toward a soccer stadium.

In a 25 to 13 vote, councillors gave the go-ahead for $9.8 million of public money to help build a soccer stadium at Exhibition Place in a deal with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

"This is so wrong. This is so bad," shouted Councillor Mike Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt). "It's a backroom deal."

Some councillors criticized the plan for the 20,000-seat stadium, saying it is earmarking taxpayer dollars for a project that never went out for proper tender. They warned the city could be on the hook for any future losses.

But the cash-poor city doesn't have the funds to pay for the venture, so it will have to borrow $9.8 million. That means the deal will cost the city $16 million after interest is calculated over 20 years. City officials estimate that at the end of the 20-year agreement it will be ahead $200,000 and it will own the stadium. The city is also offering up the land, valued at $10 million, without charging any annual rent or receiving any property tax.

Under the proposal, the federal government is expected to chip in $27 million and the provincial government $8 million. While there is no agreement in writing, chief financial officer Joe Pennachetti said the city has reassurances that they are on board. And if they fail to deliver, then the city can back out.

MLSE will pay $18 million and will be on the hook for any construction cost overruns. As for operating losses, MLSE will foot the first $250,000 and any other losses will be shared with the city on a 50-50 basis. Any profits will be shared equally.

In light of the recent inquiry into the MFP affair, Del Grande warned the city was making another mistake, embarking on a deal that did not undergo proper scrutiny. A request for proposal was never issued, and other private sector partners were never sought.

Several councillors warned of the SkyDome experience, where it cost more than $600 million to build, mostly at taxpayer expense, and the stadium was sold last year to Rogers Communications for $25 million.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Three Years To Achieve Nothing

Even the Globe and Mail cannot get it right yet. The Bridge Co. does NOT want the Twinned Bridge today---it has a new proposal on the table.

No matter. The Globe and Mail story I found is hilarious if true. Exactly where we were three years ago! [Press Release----November 26, 2002 JOINT COMMITTEE DELIVERS WINDSOR GATEWAY ACTION PLAN] What a complete and total farce! The JMC never dies.

Short list for new Windsor-Detroit link on tap

Competitors target Ambassador Bridge twinning proposal


Monday, October 31, 2005

A short list of contenders to build a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could be released as early as this week, placing pressure on the U.S. billionaire who owns the Ambassador Bridge to defend his turf.
Detroit International Bridge Co., controlled by entrepreneur Manuel (Matty) Moroun, has a plan to twin its privately run Ambassador Bridge, but that proposal is expected to face stiff competition, possibly from three challengers.

The Border Transportation Partnership, a bi-national study group formed by governments in Canada and the United States, narrowed its short list to seven from 15 proposals last month.

Industry sources familiar with the Detroit-Windsor corridor say the list could soon be shortened to contain four "concepts" for expanding border capacity to ease trucking congestion at North America's busiest commercial crossing.

The four front-runners are seen to be: the Ambassador Bridge's twinning plan; a proposal by Mich-Can International Bridge Co. to construct a new bridge; the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership's plan to convert an existing train tunnel into trucking use; and a bridge concept modelled after a Windsor-commissioned study by traffic consultant Sam Schwartz.

Evaluation of the contenders is scheduled to continue this week, and a public announcement has been tentatively set for Nov. 28.
However, the short list could be completed internally as early as this Friday and potentially ready for public release within days, a government source said.

About $125-billion, or one-quarter of the $500-billion a year in merchandise trade between Canada and the United States, flows annually across the Ambassador Bridge. The timetable calls for the study group to recommend a preferred site across the Detroit River -- either a bridge or tunnel -- by the fall of 2007.

Ambassador Bridge managers didn't return calls for comment, but they have previously said that they're prepared to forge ahead with twinning their 75-year-old suspension bridge, regardless of which concept is ultimately selected as the winner from the short list.

There is fear in some industry and political circles that the Ambassador Bridge will maintain its stranglehold on international truck traffic, notably moving auto parts, said Dan Friesen, a University of Windsor business professor.

Mich-Can managing director Ross Clarke said his team's plan has private-sector supporters, such as engineering firm Fluor Corp.

"Matty Moroun controls the main artery for trade between Canada and the U.S.," Mr. Clarke said. "It's time to inject some competition on the border."

The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership, which dubs itself the "jobs tunnel," is backed by Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Borealis Transportation Infrastructure Trust, which is controlled by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Board. The tunnel proponent's leader is former Windsor mayor Michael Hurst.

"We shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket, having that crossing virtually monopolized by one player -- Mr. Moroun's Ambassador Bridge," Mr. Hurst said. "A single individual ought not to have effective control of so much trade going between Canada and the United States."

Brian Masse, the New Democratic Party MP whose Windsor West riding includes the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge's entrance, said it's important for a new link to have separate ownership from Mr. Moroun's holdings.

Mr. Masse favours full government ownership of the new link, no matter which location is chosen. "Public ownership of the crossing will be crucial for security," he said.

But Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who is also Public Safety Minister, said she's committed to letting the bi-national group carry out its study. The group's governance statement declares that it is open to the idea of some form of public-private partnership, "subject to appropriate public oversight in both countries."

Members of the study group include Ontario's Ministry of Transportation, Transport Canada, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"The development of additional border capacity is a national priority in both countries," Ms. McLellan said in a letter last week to Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis.

Is Detroit's Gain Windsor's Loss

DCTC is a private company that runs both sides of the Tunnel. It has an agreement with the City of Detroit that lasts for another 15 years and one with the City of Windsor that is due to expire in 2 years but DCTC is negotiating with Windsor to extend it.

I assume that Detroit Council must owe a big debt of gratitude to the Bridge Co. for their recent proposal to give them more money over the remaining term of the DCTC agreement---$20 million more. In fact, the DCTC people have apparently told the Detroit Council that they are now prepared to renegotiate their lease. I assume that that will mean that Detroit will receive at least the money to match what the Bridge Co. has offered! Too bad they did not get that money in the past.

According to Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams , DCTC pays Detroit about $600,000 per year. So Detroit should receive slightly more than an extra $1.3 million per year which it would not have received but for the big, bad Bridge Co.

But hold on there....where is that money going to come from? Since DCTC's books are private, who knows? One possible source though is the City of Windsor. How is that possible you say----Remember that DCTC wants to extend their lease with Windsor. How much does Windsor receive? According to Councillor Dave Brister, Windsor receives $6 million in revenues from the Tunnel or 10 times more than the City of Detroit! [I do not know if that includes Duty-free revenue as well]

Presumably therefore, Windsor's amount has to be decreased by some amount or else how will DCTC be able to maintain profitability? If Tunnel revenues are decreased, then don't Windsor taxpayers have to make up the difference?

I thought there was a process that took place in Detroit and both DCTC and the Bridge Co. made their "best" offer. Is it proper now to allow DCTC re-open their bid if they lost?

As for Windsor, have we received the best terms if DCTC can offer Detroit so much more? Why should Windsor renegotiate in secret and with just one Company? Why isn't the process open and PUBLIC to all major players so that we can get the highest amount?

In fact, has the renegotiation already taken place? Who knows since everything here is done secretly at City Council. Remember that the rumour was that Mayor Eddie wanted to buy the Tunnel from Detroit. Windsor would not have the money to do that but a financing group would. And with whom is DCTC associated? Macquarie Bank, a major infrastructure player. Or has a deal been done with DRTP's owner and friend of the Ontario Finance Ministry, OMERS/Borealis?

Now the Mayor is suggesting, probably as a bargaining ploy with DCTC, that perhaps the City might run the Tunnel itself. Remember that was an option on the survey questionnaire I posted previously. Instead of selling the Tunnel now we are going to be running it....Oh my.

I sent the following note to the Mayor and Council and of course received no reply:

  • "RE: Extension of DCTC Tunnel operating agreement

    Would you please advise if this Agreement has been extended either by the Windsor Tunnel Commission or the City of Windsor. If it has been extended, please advise me of the date to which it has been extended.

    Please advise as well when this matter will come before Council so that I may appear as a delegation.

    In the circumstances of what is talking place at the border, may I please have this information by the close of business on October 28, 2005."

Taxpayers have to pay out already big bucks to pay for the renovations that were unexpected at the Tunnel ventilation building and now the Mayor is considering playing entrepreneur at taxpayer expense. He should remember why he was elected in the first place. He also should remember what Mayor Daley said when he announced the Skyway deal, "running a toll road is not a core function of city government. Obviously, the Detroit mayor has also figured that out.

Here we go again, the Windsor Junior "A" City Council trying to play in the NHL when it comes to major financing deals. Haven't we learned from MFP and Canderel yet?

Like Two Peas In A Pod

Is Dwight Duncan the role model for Eddie Francis? Preposterous you say. Well think about it.

Back about two years ago, Gord Henderson wrote about him "Windsor-St. Clair Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan is the new poster child for conquering the kind of shame and humiliation that would make most of us want to crawl under the nearest rock and die. Fresh from his landslide election victory and awaiting his appointment to the Dalton McGuinty cabinet, Duncan is on the verge of completing a triumphant comeback from one of the most pathetic political meltdowns this province has witnessed. Remember Dec. 1, 1996? That's the night Duncan's Liberal leadership ambitions crashed and burned in Maple Leaf Gardens, leaving him a puddle of despair captured for posterity by candid documentary TV cameras and mics."

After being in probably the toughest job in the Cabinet, Minister of Energy, Dwight Duncan becomes Minister of Finance, a position he wanted but which the Premier would not give him until Sorbara resigned. And as a good friend of his told me, expect Dwight to build on this when Paul Martin retires or is forced out. Forget the talk about him moving to a high-paying private sector job right now. After all, he did not learn to speak French to watch French TV on Radio-Canada!

Dwight clearly overtook the strong lead that his Cabinet colleague had to become the power in Windsor. No matter how much fun I make of his $500M announcement, it is a fact that he made it and NOT Sandra. As someone told me, "Do you think Dwight would make such a comment without it being cleared by the Premier first?" Obviously, Sandra was not in the loop. Even Eddie is no match for him now as the Border Czar/Salmons appointments proved.

What has all of this got to do with Eddie? Everything.

Can Eddie be in worse shape, as Dwight was? If you have been reading this Blog, you will understand what I mean...nothing is going right for him. But yet he seems to land on his feet like a cat.

Dwight's appointment means that it is highly unlikely that Dwight would run federally now, opening up that alternative for Eddie. Perhaps Dwight will be shamed into giving Eddie some more money for his border extravaganza too.

Sandra running federally means that Bill M. might take a shot at her seat provincially and leave the Mayor's job for Eddie since who could run successfully against him. (Sorry Ernie!)

Sandra and Susan Whelan both winning might mean that Eddie would not become the "Herb Gray" of Windsor. The three of them would have to compete for that title.

The gossip around town however is that Eddie has turned off some of his biggest supporters and friends. That could mean that running for Mayor might be a problem for Eddie against a strong candidate since it requires money and organization to run city-wide. It is clear too that Eddie has burned some bridges with the Federal Liberals (sorry, I could not resist). Anyway, if he ever wanted to be Prime Minister, he would have too much competition.

So what is poor Eddie to do? as a Conservative federally. He could name his own ticket if he won for them down here. Remember the Tories tried hard to get him to run for them provincially. They would supply him with the money and organization that he would otherwise lack.

If the Tories won, unlikely as that is, then Eddie gets a Senior position in the Cabinet. If the Tories lose, then Harper is out, and Peter Mackay is damaged goods after Belinda and his on-again, off-again running for Nova Scotia Premier.

Who would have a real shot at the Conservative Leadership now....Eddie Francis.

If the Star was behind him and if Gord Henderson begged him to run to save Windsor on the border, with his courting of the NDP and Labour via Dave Cooke, Ken Lewenza Senior and Junior and Brian Masse (sorry Joe), with a weak Liberal candidate, how could he lose?

One final thought. Do they both have a fatal weakness that ultimately will prove to be their downfall? With Dwight is it money issues--his golf tournament and European trip as examples? With Eddie---is it his obsessivenes on secrecy?