Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Buzz Off Concessions

Again, we are able to provide you with a document that the mass media does not have the space to reproduce. The CAW statement and resolution make an interesting read.

What is also interesting to read is Buzz Hargrove's statement in the Star.
  • "Hargrove also said "we will not blindly follow this policy but we will not stand idly by and watch the wages, benefits and pensions of our members in this important sector rolled back by auto parts companies."
Does he really mean it or not? Was this big hoopla just to please the rank and file with a wink-wink, nod-nod to management?

I wonder what would happen if the CAW allowed their members to have a free vote on this issue. One friend of mine who is a CAW member told me that he would have cut his pay by a few dollars per hour to save jobs at his auto plant.

Remember my BLOG on September 28 "AUTO JOBS SAVED!" that dealt with the VW plant in Germany and how that plant was saved for workers by wage concessions. Could that ever happen here?

Emergency No-Concessions Statement & Resolution
CAW Auto Parts Conference

St. Thomas, Ont.
November 11, 2005

The North American auto industry is heading into a major crisis. Autoworkers did not cause this crisis. We are more productive than ever. We perform higher-quality work than ever. And our compensation (wages, pensions, and benefits) has grown more slowly than our productivity; so our share of the value-added produced in the industry has declined over time.

The true causes of the crisis are clear. Globalization is a one-way street for North American autoworkers. Offshore imports take up almost one of every four vehicles sold in North America. But North American plants (whether Big Three or transplants) can sell virtually nothing to offshore markets. The resulting one-way flow of imports – over 4 million vehicles last year – is destroying thousands of jobs in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and destroying the market share and financial foundation of North American-based automakers.

The North American market share of domestic producers has declined by almost 20 percentage points since 1996. Every lost percentage point equals one more assembly plant that must be closed – along with all the parts plants that used to supply that plant. As long as that market shrinkage continues, the fundamental economic consequences are inevitable: lost jobs, plant closures, huge financial losses, and eventually bankruptcies. Workers didn’t create this problem, and workers can’t hope to solve it through their bargaining.

As usual, however, major corporate and media figures are blaming workers and their unions for this crisis. They don’t let the economic facts get in their way. They sense a moment of opportunity to attack workers and their unions, and turn back the generations of gradual economic progress that explain why an auto job is still a “good” job. The demand for back-breaking concessions at Delphi is just the beginning. If Delphi attains those concessions (either through bargaining or court order), it will lead to an incredible wave of attacks on unionized auto parts plants on both sides of the border – and that conflict will inevitably spill over into Big Three facilities, as well.

U.S. judges are also joining this anti-union crusade. Auto industry employers in the U.S. have become much more aggressive in using bankruptcy law provisions to dismantle collective agreements and attack unions. Several firms have strategically used Chapter 11 protections, supported by anti-union judges, to unilaterally escape their obligations to their workers – including the irresponsible dumping of pension obligations onto a U.S. guarantee system that has been overwhelmed by this deliberate bankruptcy “planning” (which is quite different from “true” bankruptcies). Even in Canada, where our bankruptcy laws do not grant as much power to employers, union members at several firms have been hurt by bankruptcy proceedings. Delphi’s aggressive attack will only make things worse. Part of labour’s response to the Delphi situation must be to fight for fairer bankruptcy laws that preserve the integrity of collective agreements.

The CAW has worked diligently and responsibly to build a vibrant, successful auto industry in Canada. Our plants are second to none in quality and productivity. We’ve participated actively in initiatives (like the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, CAPC) to address problems and update our auto policies. In our bargaining (in both assembly and parts) we emphasize technology, productivity, and innovation – the keys to our long-run economic success – and our wages and benefits are reasonable given our productivity.

The auto industry is Canada’s most important high-technology industry, our biggest exporter, and the ultimate source of hundreds of thousands of jobs. Auto industry stakeholders have agreed through CAPC to ambitious long-run goals for building this industry (including an official target to expand Canadian parts production – not watch it wither away due to globalization). And all the experts (including the new Canadian Automotive Human Resources sector council) agree that we can build a sustainable industry only by investing in the people who make this industry work – not by attacking them and taking away their hard-earned compensation.

We will move mountains to protect and promote the auto industry. But we will not cut our wages, pensions, and benefits. That will never save our industry: at absolute most, it slightly defers the inevitable. And it would discredit the labour movement that has worked for generations to give working people a fair share of the wealth they produce.

The future shape of Canada’s auto industry will be determined by how we collectively respond to the coming crisis. The CAW will do everything it can to attract new auto investment and preserve good-quality auto jobs in this country. But we will not impoverish our members, or future generations of autoworkers, by fruitlessly trying to “buy” our own jobs. That would be self-defeating. A sustainable auto industry must be built on solid foundations: quality, productivity, innovation, respect for contracts, and fair trade.

Therefore, delegates to the CAW’s special Auto Parts Conference hereby endorse the following emergency resolution:


1. The CAW and its local unions will not accept concessions in wages, pensions, or benefits in its auto assembly or auto parts contracts.

2. The CAW and its local unions will not open its collective agreements before expiration because employers want to bargain concessions.

3. The CAW and its local unions will remain open and flexible to work with employers and governments to enhance the viability of Canadian auto plants by investing in new technologies or products, enhancing productivity, maximizing utilization, and improving work practices.

4. The CAW will mobilize all of the resources of the national union to support local unions who are resisting employer demands for concessions, and will oppose concessions using every non-violent option available to us (up to and including demonstrations, occupations, plant shut-downs, and refusing to handle “hot” auto parts).

5. The CAW will step up its fight for a fair auto trade policy to open opportunities for North American auto exports, and control the one-way flow of imports that is the ultimate source of our industry’s crisis.

6. The CAW will continue to fight for fair laws to ensure that collective agreements in Canada cannot be unilaterally rewritten under bankruptcy protection proceedings, and to ensure that pensions and other post-retirement benefits are secured by a combination of private and public commitments.

CAW’s Action Plan to Fight Auto Parts Concessions

1. Resist concessions at all costs: We will demonstrate with actions, when words are not enough, that auto parts companies cannot solve their problems on the backs of their workers through concessions in wages, pensions, and benefits. If this requires demonstrations, plant occupations, strikes, or any other non-violent action by CAW members and their community allies, then the CAW will be ready. Parts makers who attempt to solve their problems by forcibly extracting concessions from their workers, will find their ability to effectively do business in Canada severely constrained.

2. Early warning system: If a CAW-represented plant or employer faces big financial challenges, CAW local and national representatives will meet quickly with company officials to examine the financial and operational facts of the situation and develop an action plan. Financial losses, even severe ones, will never justify concessions. But the CAW will seriously undertake to examine the challenges of distressed companies and consider sustainable workplace changes (such as technology, innovation, productivity measures, and work practices) that could contribute to a genuine solution.

3. Draw government into the solution: In some cases, troubled facilities or companies may qualify for assistance from various government investment or support programs (especially when substantial new investments in technology, skills, or innovation could lay the foundation for a more stable future). The CAW will work closely with government officials where appropriate to stabilize and revitalize troubled facilities.

4. An injury to one is an injury to all: In cases when an automotive supplier transfers production from CAW members who are resisting concessions to non-union or foreign plants, CAW members at auto assembly plants will refuse to handle those re-sourced components.

5. Fighting for fair trade: Anything we do to strengthen our auto plants will be only a temporary “band-aid,” so long as North American governments continue to roll out the red carpet for auto imports – with no requirement that they take back North American-made products in return. Our fight against concessions goes arm-in-arm with our fight to open foreign markets to our products, our fight to stop the Canada-Korea free trade deal, and our fight to require all automakers to create jobs in Canada as a condition of their access to our market.

6. Saving our pensions: Plant closures or bankruptcies may jeopardize the future pension or post-retirement health benefits of CAW members. The CAW will enlist its Union in Politics Committees and other allies to campaign forcefully to protect the pensions and retirement benefits of CAW members affected by the fight against concessions, and to step up the fight for stronger policies to protect pensions.

7. Expanding union protection: In non-union plants, workers have little opportunity to fight unilateral concessions – the employer simply dictates them. And by attempting to leap-frog below even non-union wage levels (at $9 per hour wages, the Delphi cuts would push non-union companies to impose wage concessions), Delphi is telling all autoworkers in North America – not just union members – that their wages are too high. If unorganized auto parts workers have any hopes of resisting that race to the bottom, they have to join the union, and the CAW will step up its efforts to help them do so.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Laughing Themselves Silly

Two people must be in a very good mood today after reading the Windsor Star major front page stories. It just cannnot get any better than this for them both.

The first one has to be the head of the Economic Development office in London, Ontario (or really the head of any such office in SW Ontario or SE Michigan) competing against Windsor for new jobs and plant locations.

Can you believe it, Customs union workers at the bridge and tunnel backing up traffic for miles and for hours. Then the CAW is bringing in leaders from across Ontario to debate an emergency no-concessions resolution and a seven-point action plan to fight concessions at parts companies.

Ahhh, the remarks of the CAW Union heads are enough to make anyone smile when jobs are the prize for your Community: "We have to preserve the sanctity of the collective agreement," said Renaud." "We're not going backwards," said Lewenza."

The other person who is chuckling has to be the head of the Bridge Co. He can legitimately say today "It's the Customs, stupid!" In other words, we have positive proof that they were right when they said that all we need are booths open to prevent backups at the border.

The Star reported that only four lanes, less than half the usual nine, were open at the Tunnel during the afternoon rush hour, and only 12 lanes, compared to the usual 17 to 19, were open at the Bridge. Once the booths were opened and staffed properly, the backups eventually disappeared.

Hmmmmm I wonder what 200 booths would do. Perhaps with traffic declining or not increasing so dramatically as has been projected, we may not need a new border crossing for years to come.

Canada Customs A Floppola

Poor Mark Boscariol! Expecting some boffo reviews of his new Windsor International Film Festival, instead he got bad news. On the night of his Gala, because of a labour dispute at the border, traffic entering Canada was tied up for miles at the border and it took as long as an hour or more to clear Customs. How many Americans chose not to come over and buy tickets and how many who bought them will now demand a refund.

I saw coverage of the dispute on WDIV, WWJ and the Free Press and across Michigan. Here's what WWJ said:
  • "A labor dispute in Canada caused major traffic problems in Detroit and Port Huron Thursday.

    Canadian customs officers refused to work, saying their jobs aren't safe. They want guns to protect themselves and to prevent potentially dangerous people from getting into Canada. Marie-Claire Coupal of the Customs and Excise Union says they can't defend themselves against people who may be armed and dangerous, or stop them from entering Canada. Coupal says officers typically let them through, then call Windsor Police.

    Danny Yen of the Canada Border Services Agency says they commissioned an independent study a few years ago which showed that officers do not need to be armed.

    But because the officers exercised their legal rights to refuse work, their managers had to run the booths at the Ambassador Bridge, the Blue Water Bridge, and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Yen says that left the border crossings understaffed, and that caused delays which spilled onto major roads and freeways in Detroit and Port Huron."

I sympathize with the Customs IS a dangerous job at the border. However, as the OTA pointed out:
  • "Customs inspectors at the Peace Bridge have walked off the job five times since May citing personal security concerns and exercising their right to refuse work under the Canada Labour Code. Apparently, some of the inspectors want to be armed like their US counterparts. Each time the union workers have walked off the job, Human Resource and Skills Development Canada ruled that there was no threat to personal safety and forced the customs inspectors back to work."

Obviously there is an unresolved dispute between the workers and management but who suffers, the public. The trucking industry claims losses of a million dollars an hour. Our tourist trade and businesses suffer as the perception will again arise in the minds of Americans that it is foolhardy to cross the border into Canada. Does anyone think that Detroiters are going to put up with their Interstates being tied up and its Downtown jammed with cars and trucks waiting to be cleared into Canada.

I have no idea who is right or wrong in the dispute but one of the parties is mistaken. That party's actions are jeopardizing the economic health of this country. It must be stopped now.

I disagree with the OTA's solution: "trucking companies to charge their customers for delays their trucks are experiencing getting back into Canada." Rather OTA, given the strong industry group that it is, should, on behalf of its members, sue both the Union and the Government for the losses incurred. If the bargaining process cannot resolve the dispute, then let the courts do it.

And if OTA will not, Mark should consider doing so!

Budget woes

I would not want to be on the Capital or Operating Budget Committees this year.

I was interested in Councillor Halberstadt's remark in the Star:

"Coun. Alan Halberstadt said the $7.2-million cash settlement the city recently received to drop the MFP lawsuit "could be going to all these former lifeguards -- the whole bundle..."You talk about why we can't control our budget and we get something like that hurled at us," Halberstadt said. "It's unbelievable."

Nope here is what is unbelievable, and I doubt the list is complete:
  1. $68 million loss from the MFP fiasco and nothing being done to recover a penny of it
  2. $3 million perhaps lost on the Mady parking garage and no one taking the blame for structuring this deal
  3. $1.9 million for "overtime" and no Citistat
  4. Millions more being paid out for OMERS contributions (if you tell me whom to contact at City Hall, I will do a presentation on how to try to save money there!)
  5. Millions in extra costs for the Tunnel ventilation building and the Mayor wants to buy Detroit's interest too.
  6. $150,000 for a few trees as Phase 1 of a streetscaping plan that wasn't to take place until years from now, "interim measures delivered at the urging of [Mayor] Francis."
  7. Mould problems at Huron Lodge at an unknown cost. So far "the city only has verbal assurances" that the contractor will pay. [another verbal assurance deal that the City might get burned on like the $100,000 at the Income and Security building?]
  8. Numerous businesses could challenge to City licensing fees due to a Court decision (about $200,000 has to be paid back to dancers or strip club owners)
  9. Unreported problem worth millions involving a major re-asessment, Income and Security Building extra costs due to another tenant problem, Enwin costs etc etc etc...

Do you see what I mean!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Reading The Windsor Star

I read a "Wikipedia" article about how news stories are written. The article said "Teachers often describe the organization or structure of a news story as an inverted pyramid. In essence, a journalist top-loads the essential and most interesting elements of his or her story. Supporting information then follows in order of diminishing importance. The most important structural element of a story is its lead ... which may in fact be all of a story that many people will read...At the very end comes the non-vital material."

I wondered how correct that article is. As an example, I am sure that you recall how we learned that Norma Coleman, the wife of John Coleman, the Star's Editorial Page Editor, became the Chief of Staff of Eddie Francis: the last paragraph of a story about a Jane Boyd lawsuit against the City. Moreover, in that story we learned that Norma had been appointed to that position two months before!

I thought again about this when reading the front page article about "Kwame's passion pays off." As a political junkie, I was interested in how he had run a campaign that won him an election after being down about 20 points at one time.

Lo and behold right at the end of the story is a section of the article dealing with what Kilpatrick might do with the Ambassador Bridge Co. proposal. I did not know how that fit in with what the story was about but there it was.

In that section we learn what you knew already from this BLOG---that Eddie visited the Detroit Mayor last week. We also learn that the Detroit Mayor thinks "It seems to be a very good deal for might be the best way to go...The bridge company, to date, is probably the best deal we've seen."

One other thing I learned is that Windsor's Mayor may still not understand the proposal. As I understand it, the Bridge Co. would NOT be the Tunnel owner as his comments suggest but it would be the "public" Detroit Port Authority. The Bridge Co. would merely be the operator, similar to how it works now on the Windsor side.

So the moral is that one must read sometimes right to the end of a Star story because that may be where the most vital material is.

---We don't always get border stories from the Star in a timely fashion either. Remember that most major newspapers reported days before the Star that the Bridge Co. had a 200 booth proposal for the border.

I am still waiting for the Star to report on the Byington DRTP press release which was revealed first from this BLOG. I had to read in Today's Trucking magazine about her comments concerning the re-elected Detroit Mayor for heaven's sake!

Wise Beyond His Years

Did Kwame's relatively young age help him in his stunning victory over Freman Hendrix and if so, should that give our Mayor some comfort?

I read this paragrpah in a Free Press story that I found interesting:
"The mayor's youth -- he became Detroit's youngest elected mayor at 31 -- also seemed to be a factor in his surge. Supporters and voters said his mistakes were the result of inexperience and were not worth turning Kilpatrick out."

Should Eddie also be heartened by the fact that the News said "Kilpatrick was scoring well with voters under 40, among whom he held a 2-1 lead."

Interestingly, similar factors may be at play in Windsor. I heard about some polling done that said that Eddie was viewed as having accomplished little but that in the breakdown between men and women, men were more prepared to give him a second chance.

Respecting the young vote, was the Devonshire Town Hall meeting nothing more than an attempt to portray himself as being in touch with the youth of the city. Remember the comment of his when talking to kids at the mall: "I don't look that old, do I?"

However, Eddie may have a problem. He may not be able to play the "inexperience" card. He said about himself in his campaign kickoff speech "I have what it takes. I have the experience, I am a lawyer, a recognized entrepreneur, a proven community leader who has consistently been your voice." Once one is "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" a twice-elected councillor and now mayor, it is difficult to ask forgiveness for inexpereince as Kwame may have done. What helped Eddie overcome the attacks on his age during the last election may now hurt him at re-election time.

Naming Rights

As someone born in Toronto and who has seen it grow from a small "provincial" burg to a world-class city, I always like taking ideas from there and applying it to my new home-town Windsor. The one I saw recently that caught my attention involved Nathan Phillips who single-handedly made Toronto into the great city it now is. I respected that man and suggested to our Mayor when he was first elected that he read the book about Phillips so that he too could learn how to become "The Mayor of All the People" as Phillips was affectionately called.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this Toronto Star article
  • Renaming city hall square mulled
    Could it generate cash by renaming city hall square? Audit calls for greater scrutiny of building costs


    The city has fallen so far behind in the maintenance of its buildings it may have to consider selling the naming rights to Nathan Phillips Square to pay for renovations, the chair of the audit committee says.

    Councillor Doug Holyday was reacting yesterday to a report from Auditor General Jeff Griffiths that says Toronto faces a city-wide maintenance backlog of $500 million, including $40 million at Nathan Phillips Square.

    And one way for the city to pay for renovations to Nathan Phillips Square is to sell naming rights, said Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre).

    "I think there could be a way found to still recognize Nathan Phillips but maybe pay a large part of this $40 million cost by utilizing somebody's name on that square. What if it was the Toronto Dominion Bank Square or the Royal Bank Square or the General Motors Square?"

So after thinking about it, I thought it was a great idea. After all, the cost of sponsorship of a "Windsor Star" on the Windsor and Region Walk of Fame requires a $5,000 payment.

So here are some ideas for names of Windsor sites that could have naming rights sold:

  1. Eddie Francis Overpass for the pedestrian overpass on Huron Church Road
  2. Rename the DRTP corridor to Hurst Bicycle Path
  3. Ojibway Prairie Complex renamed to Schwartz Complexity
  4. In future, the Western Super Anchor site could be called Chanosos
  5. Money Mart or Stop 'N' Cash could name the 2 city-leased floors in the Canderel building
  6. The Windsor-Essex Cogeneration Plant that supplies steam to Chrysler Canada's minivan assembly plant could be named the CAW Hot Air Plant

You get the idea....If you have any other suggestions, I would be happy to post them.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What Kwame's Win Means For Windsor

What a surprise when waking up this morning. We still have the same mayor in Detroit! A number of the Detroit TV stations who were predicting that Hendrix would win based on the early results had better check their polling experts' credentials.

Interestingly, Kwame received 53% of the vote...a number very close to that of our Mayor's electoral number. That may be the only thing that they have in common after the Detroit Mayor's win.

I have enough trouble understanding Windsor municipal politics without pretending to understand anything about Detroit's but a few comments can be made. The most important in my mind is what the relationship between the two Mayors will be. I wonder if Detroit's Mayor will be as cordial to Eddie when Eddie stuck his nose into Detroit's affairs by trying to kill the big deal that Kwame signed with the Bridge Co. just before the election. Windsor needs Detroit's help if we are going to have regional economic development. Has that been set back by our Mayor's actions?

There are a number of new Councillors on the Detoit Council. I must admit that I do not know where they stand on many issues. If Windsor Council truly wants to start a dialogue with their counter-parts across the river, then now is the time to do it.

We have to be grateful for one thing. If Freman Hendrix were Mayor, then DRTP was back into the game. Marge Byington gambled and gambled big. And it appears that she lost big too. She held a fundraiser for Hendrix just before the election and he came out supporting DRTP. Her attack on the Detroit Mayor in Today's Trucking magazine ought not to help the DRTP cause.

The Detroit Mayor's deal with the Bridge Co. may well mean that we see 200 booths being built for Customs that should help get the border working for many years to come and see the start of economic development for Detroit anyway. What it means for the Tunnel will be interesting as well. Will it mean joint Bridge/Tunnel Customs facilities, the Bridge Co's management of the Tunnel for the Port Authority and the end of Eddie's grand ambition to control the border.

Twin Oaks

Whew----it was better than a kick in the “you know where” for the Mayor, and the City. Finally some good news to break the string of bad headlines and give some hope: 250 "high tech" jobs from an unknown company that will make an announcement in several weeks. And then “more of these types of announcements within the next couple of months.”

I had a few thoughts when reading the story

1) I hope that the Mayor does not give himself a checkmark on his Report Card for Economic Development for this. It does not look as if he or the City’s Economic Development group had much of a role to play. This seems to be strictly a Chrysler deal in bringing a supplier close to its plant as it is doing in Toledo.
  • “Tom LaSorda, the Chrysler Group's chief operating officer says the new $2.1 billion manufacturing project in Toledo will utilize outside suppliers to handle key elements of the assembly process. Three suppliers will build and manage key manufacturing process facilities for body, paint and chassis operations that are totally within the plant "footprint" of the new plant that Chrysler plans to have in operation by 2006.”
Clearly the CAW should be congratulated for its foresight in inking the deal with Chrysler during the negotiations

2) “Senator” David Cassivi better start getting concerned about the next election. The Mayor’s cultivation of the Lewenza’s, Senior and Junior, paid off in many respects: support of Schwartz, Casino contract (eventually), jobs and no running by Junior for mayor this time around. As more plant job announcements get made and when Henderson starts praising the Lewenzas, then you know that David is in big trouble.

The main concern for David, however, is that if Bill Marra decides to run for Council in Ward 4, as rumours suggest, then it would be a real fight amongst the three of them. If the arena deal goes sour will voters take it out on him?

3) Governor Granholm was the biggest champion of the East End of Windsor on the border issue, not the Mayor whose base of support was Ward 5 nor Councillor Gignac. If she had not killed the east end bridge, can you imagine the pressure today to build that bridge now given the development of the Twin Oaks site….straight down Lauzon and across the river. And if that bridge were built, then guess what….DRTP is back.

4) The Ambassador Bridge Co. was right again. They have been arguing that if truck border traffic is not increasing at the optimistic rates of the Engineers’ projections, or even decreasing, then we might not need another crossing for many years. The Chrysler/supplier plant above may mean that parts do not cross the border as much as before thereby reducing truck volumes.

5) I don’t know how this works but I see that the City exercised an option to buy the land and then resold it. From whom was the land purchased and at what price? How much was paid for the option? What was the sale price? I was just curious to know if the City made or lost money or broke even on the deal.

6) I wonder if Windsor still has dreams of amalgamating with some of the county towns. Did something happen that I missed recently? Ken Junior said the CAW got written assurances that all new parts suppliers would be within 200 km of Windsor..."We insisted...any plants that are going to do business with Chrysler Corporation are going to exist in the city of Windsor." Wow, Windsor has grown.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

DRTP Press Release

Fascinating press release issued today by DRTP out of Detroit. Does this mean that they already know that they have been eliminated by the Bi-National and are setting up the basis for a lawsuit? Does the press release, polling, and full-page Star ad fit into a strategy? We'll soon find out I am sure

DRTP Questions Transparency of Detroit River International Crossing Study

DETROIT, Nov. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- The Detroit River International Crossing ("DRIC") process seems to have become unhinged, according to executives of the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership. "It has become increasingly evident in recent weeks that political interests are dominating the DRIC study at the expense of objective, technical considerations," said Marge Byington, government affairs director for the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership team.

In one of its latest reports, the DRIC concludes a five- to ten-year window exists before the growth in border-crossing demand between Windsor and Detroit will cause major delays. "Our concern is that premature elimination of any alternative by the DRIC based on insufficient analysis will result in wrong decisions being made for this critical international crossing. Planners need to make sure all possible crossing options get sufficient analysis to make sure the best solution is selected. Any missteps at this point in the DRIC process will have negative effects on the economies and communities of Southeastern Michigan and Southwestern Ontario.

"While we concur with the binational study group that a ten-year window is a short time to plan, design and build a new or expanded crossing," Byington stated, "our partnership is seriously concerned that politicization of this phase of the technical review managed by the DRIC could significantly erode critical path timelines as legal battles arise from a flawed process. Equally troubling is the prospect of selecting a solution that cannot survive the scrutiny of a third-party review or the bright light of Environmental Impact Studies on both sides of the border. This misstep would harm the economies, health and vibrancy of our communities.

"We have participated in good faith for more than three years in various stages to engineer and describe how the partnership's existing rail corridor can be converted into an intermodal transportation gateway," continued Byington, "and now we are deeply disappointed to learn that political jockeying may carry more weight than engineering reports, feasibility studies, community input and common sense. What is even more troubling is the loss of transparency of the DRIC process." As has been shown many times in recent years on both sides of the border, the DRTP executive pointed out, environmentally related assessment and development processes and findings must be transparent and justifiable.

By George, He's Got It

Has the light finally turned on for Councillor Brister, chair of the Council Operating Budget Committee? Does he finally understand after 2 years?

In Gord Henderson's Saturday column supporting a local museum for Windsor, there is Councillor Budget. You remember him, he was the Councillor who suggested selling the Art Gallery paintings that were not hanging on the walls to reduce their need for money from the City and voted against giving Artcite a $3,004 budget increase. He and Councillor Gignac voted against approving the production and staging of the 2005 International Buskers Festival.

So frankly, I expected the Councillor to denounce the whole idea of a even looking at a community museum since it might cost a few pennies.

Imagine my surprise when he finally looked at a situation from a City-wide perspective, as a Councillor should, and not merely as a knee-jerk reaction against, as a budget analyst would. He is quoted as saying "But the time might be ripe he said to examine the potential pocketbook benefits of a new museum through increased tourism and how best to showcase the exisitng collection in city facilities."

Now the cynical amongst you will say that this is Councillor Budget's clever way of saying "NO" but not getting Henderson mad at him since Gord obviously liked the idea. We'll see if the cynics are right or wrong over the next few weeks. The Canada South Science City is coming back to Council shortly as is Buskers. Both projects can easily be justified as providng "pocketbook" benefits can't they?

DRTP’s New Poll

Matt Marchand is circulating some poll results that demonstrate how much DRTP is loved. Imagine, they spent a whole bunch of money to show that residents don’t want more trucks on Huron Church Road! What a surprise that is.

These results plus Mayoral candidate Hendrix's DRTP support after the Grand Rapids fundraiser held by DRTP's Marge Byington must give them something to be happy about waiting for the DRIC beauty contest finalist results.

Interestingly, they did not give any results for the Ojibway crossing.

What interested me more however is that the contact name for this survey is John Laschinger. If it is the same fellow, he was appointed as John Tory's campaign manager. Laschinger was also the Campaign director behind Belinda Stronach when she was with the Federal Conservatives and remember she came out in favour of DRTP. He was also Toronto Mayor David Miller’s campaign manager.

PS. I just saw the full-page ad that DRTP purchased in the Star. I hope OMERS retirees and City taxpayers do not mind paying for it. I was amused by its wording since it was so predictable.

I wish the DRTP polling had compared DRTP with a solution that kept trucks out of the densely populated parts of Windsor. I wonder if DRTP's score would be so high. Well we all know the answer to that, don't we.

Monday, November 07, 2005

OMERS: Dwight Duncan’s Dilemma

Imagine the conflict that Dwight is in as Minister of Finance. On the one hand, he desperately needs the pension money that OMERS has socked away to help build infrastructure in Ontario. On the other hand he is the Minister responsible for the Financial Services Commission of Ontario that has been investigating OMERS for over a year now with no report yet in sight.

The Globe and Mail has just reported that the five new directors quit the OMERS Private Capital board, a group that was to receive about $3.6 billion of OMERS pension money for investment.

While that is scary enough, the comments from one of the people who left ought to turn Dwight’s hair white, and make Sid Ryan of CUPE apoplectic. Paul Morton, said he left "out of a sense of frustration with the incompetence of the OMERS board…Private equity is a promising asset class, but it's not a panacea. If you're not very good at it, you can get your head taken off." Morton is no slouch either being co-founder of what is now CanWest Global Communications Corp., and a former director of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. and Onex, Canada's pioneer private equity company.

It is time for the Minister to act decisively. Too much is at stake.

There are better ways to fund CUPE member retirements that meet the CUPE members retirement goals and taxpayer pocket-books. The OMERS Act Governance changes must be stopped immediately until someone figures out what is going on over there. Our Council is already complaining about the increased amounts we in Windsor must pay to OMERS. We will hear the same story from every Municipality in Ontario shortly.

Mister Minister, it is time for a full-scale Judicial Inquiry into the affairs of OMERS

Raceway Wants Arena Cash

Well so do I! I am tired of everyone else asking for money from Government for their pet project. I want some too for mine. I deserve it.

I did not understand John Millson's comment that the Senior Levels and Essex County municipalitites should help pay for a new Windsor arena. Why is Millson delivering a speech about this and not Dave Batten as an example (or Wayne Gretzky if you really wanted to get people to pay since he is still part of the group we are told). When this all started Millson said "Under a partnership with the Jebb group, the raceway would provide the land and Jebb would build an arena. "Jebb will carry the ball from here," Millson said. "All of the operations, all of the finance, that's really the Jebb group. We're merely the landowner."

This is a rather dramatic change in circumstances wouldn't you think. From just being the landlord to pitching for the project. In my opinion, the Windsor Council Spanish Inquisitors should immediately call a into session their Special Star Chamber meeting and ask questions of the landlord such as the following:

  1. Can they get Wayne Gretzky's autograph
  2. Whose deal is this?
  3. What exactly is the Raceway's involvement in the project
  4. Will Wayne Gretzky move to Windsor
  5. How much more money is required after the City's $15 million contribution
  6. Is there any hope of getting this money from the Senior Levels after the Mayor and the Council snubbed them
  7. Is there any hope of getting money if five Essex County municipalities said Thursday they will not help Windsor pay for a new arena at the raceway
  8. Will Wayne Gretzky give up his coaching job to be involved in this
  9. If there are positive spinoffs and benefits and a $78 million direct economic benefit during construction, wouldn't it have been nice to use them to kick-start the urban village downtown?
  10. Does the Raceway have Beztak's phone number?

The key comment in the Star story as far as I was concerned was Millson's remark that the arena would generate the development of commercial property nearby. Wasn't that similar to Beztak's approach at Council when the Inquisitors drove them out of town on a rail. Why shouldn't this commercial development be located downtown to kickstart the urban village and the economic revival of the City?

Poor John Millson, poor Tony Toldo, poor people who hoped to cash in on the development in the burbs. All of that wasted effort. They have those Councillors who want the project downtown against them, they have the Budgeteers against them and they have those who believe that Beztak was treated shabbily against them. They should have guessed right at the start. If doing it for free would not impress the Inquisitors, then what they were proposing was a loser right at the drop of the puck!

As Sonny Eliot of WWJ would say. The score of the game will be 6-4 to kill the arena dream and, perhaps the careers of some people on Council.

Dead Last, Again

It is hardly a surprise. After its ranking in the Globe and Mail poll and the past rankings in the Macleans poll, did anyone really expect otherwise. Another Star story on Saturday was to set us up for what we knew was coming

As I wrote before, there is no way that the University of Windsor could do much better. Positioning is decided by the 23 performance measures chosen for determining ranking. Depending on the criteria and the weighting, that almost pre-determines the result.

A good example of that locally was the Report of the Joint Management Committee on the border three years ago. [Man, how do I get the border into everything I write about!] Their "Principles" meant that a certain result was inevitable---truck roads all over the city in the "short-term" so that no long-term route would be prejudiced.

As I said before in my October 13 Blog "Pipedream Or Usefully Provocative Idea," Who cares about the Macleans rankings? As a fellow I know who works at the University wrote to me:
  • "I've told people a similar argument when it comes to the rankings.

    One point you missed.... There are only 11 comprehensive universities in all of Canada and Windsor is lucky to have one of them!! People forget how lucky their kids are ie. they don't have to leave the city..."

We need to look more closely at what the University and City can do together, especially in this time of economic turmoil. Read again the speech of Dennis DesRosiers for some provocative ideas (BLOG, October 26) and Dr. Paul's Windsor Star Guest Column, parts of which I quoted (BLOG, October 13).

Frankly, we are lucky that we still have a university here. A few years ago, the Province was thinking of cutting back on the number of universities in the Province. And you know which one would have been first on the "hit list" for elimination.

Since that time, the University has done an excellent job in building up its reputation in areas such as automotive research, the environment, and social justice making it difficult for anyone to think of cutting it back. If we can get a medical school here or at least an expertise in training foreign trained doctors to Ontario standards, then the University would become essential to the Province, no matter what its ranking.

I supported before Dr. Paul's vision of the University and City working together. I repeat again his comments:
  • It is important to note that more and more municipalities are investing in their universities and colleges because they understand their critical importance, not only to the economic development of their regions but to the quality of life that they critically help to develop and support.

John Millson's plea for more money and the County's rejection of it are proof that the arena is dead. Let's take the City's $15 million that has already been set aside for an arena, demand financial assistance from the County Governments and Senior Levels, get the business leaders onside (Hell, Beztak was prepared to bet $50 million on an arena downtown as the focus for an urban village) and accomplish something brilliant for the Region by growing the University. I even know a developer or two or three that might be interested.

OK Councillor Jones. You are a member of the "Town and Gown" Association. Take the lead!

Windsor----the Cambridge, Oxford or Ann Arbor of Canada. Sounds good to me.

PS. To the University's PR it really a smart tactic to waste money on a full page "feel good" ad in the Star to try to counter the Front Page story! Western ran a small ad on the first page of the B1 section which will probably get more attention than Windsor's and at a much lower cost.