Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I do not just write BLOGS to pass the day. Part of what I do is work with innovative developers in the Internet world structuring relationships for them. Here is something I have found that interests me these days

Did you ever wonder how you can lower your telephone bills? You want the features you have, low cost long distance and a better price than Ma Bell offers. Technology and the Internet have provided the new alternative.

Voice over Internet Protocol ,VoIP, is the practice of utilizing the Internet packet based networks instead of standard PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) to send voice data. This technology for transmitting ordinary telephone calls utilizing the internet, is also referred to as IP Telephony. The major advantage of VoIP is that it avoids the tolls, costs, and fees otherwise charged by ordinary telephone service providers and telephone companies. The savings are now passed to the end users.

VoIP are the four most desirable letters in today’s telecommunication world. The concept and technology was developed years ago, but due to the limited access of broadband and the poor voice quality, the VoIP concept was dwindled down. Revived about 2 years ago, where high speed broadband is more accessible and at an affordable cost with improvement to the voice quality, VoIP once again is making the big "buzz" in the telecommunication market. All the telecommunication companies are in it and everyone who heard of VoIP wants to get into it. This technology will soon replace all the telephone line in every home. The size of the market is endless.

There are three simple requirements you must have in order to utilize VoIP:

  1. Broadband. The minimum required bandwidth for voice packet is 30-60kbs so broadband is the preferable connection. Note: if a user is using DSL to gain broadband access, the user will not be able to replace the traditional phone line because they need to have the traditional phone line available to gain access to the broadband (although this practice may be changing so that users can get DSL lines alone). Only the users with cable broadband can completely replace their traditional phone line at this time.
  2. Service provider. User must sign up with a service provider to allow you to gain access to their server. Without a service provider, you will not be able to make calls.
  3. Hardware. You must have the right hardware to support the service. The hardware is usually provided by the service providers.

The VoIP market is still at its infancy. Many have heard of the technology and many already understand how it works and how to take advantage of it. Although the technology has been around for numbers of years, there is still a huge number of people who are still unaware of its advantages.

For the residential and business customer, the big advantage is cost. is a supplier of VoIP service in Ontario as an example. Its "i-Line" service is its alternative to the standard telephone line. Simply plug the i-LINE VoIP gateway into a High Speed Internet connection and calls can be made.

As an example, its I-Line residential Ontario service at $22.95 per month includes Local Calls, unlimited Ontario Long distance calls, local phone number, 9-1-1 service, Caller ID, Call blocking, 3 Way, Call Waiting, Voice Mail, Call Forward and so on. It also offers Long Distance caller plans based on minutes or flat-rate and even includes a long distance service internationally to selected countries at a flat-rate cost of $59.95 per month or low per minute costs.

Similar plans are offered to Businesses as well at costs well below those offered by the local phone company.

Voice over Internet Protocol calling services can save users substantial sums of money. The market is expected to grow substantially over the next few years. The technology is getting better and better each and every day and many of the costs are lowering as well. As the availability of broadband increases and more people become exposed to VOIP the major Telcos will face considerable challenges as their legacy networks are forced to compete with the new-comers!

For additional information, contact Michael Arditti at Wyndham Hall Consulting at (519) 972-3989 or

Friday, December 16, 2005

A Council Divided

It is pretty clear now that the Mayor has totally lost control of Council.

His complete lack of leadership ability is showing and it will only get worse in the third and last year of this Council since it is re-election time. The personal animosities and the lack of respect amongst Councillors are now spilling out of the in camera sessions into public view. The disunity of Council can no longer be hidden no matter how much the Mayor would like to do so. Unlike last year, the Mayor can no longer hold the border over their heads to make them pretend that everyone loves each other!

The Mayor has stormed out of Council in camera sessions several times recently as if that was going to intimidate anyone. That's hardly something an experienced leader would do or ever let happen. I was told also that he attempted to restrict the use by Councillors of their Blackberry devices at Council meetings, his latest temper tantrum, but was ridiculed and ignored.

Gord Henderson's column the other day hinted at the disunity but yesterday's column has brought it all out into the open. But there is more to his column than meets the eye. Let me explain:

1) I had a beer yesterday with a friend of mine. He was furious at the thoughtless remark, as he called it, by Councillor Halberstadt, who, when talking about services, said "Do you want to offer a Cadillac service or do you want it to be more of a Chevy?" My friend took the remark in the context of Huron Lodge and wondered why our senior citizens had to receive only "Chevy" services given their sacrifices over the years. (I did not have the nerve to tell him when he was in this mood about the catered dinners at the in camera sessions every Monday night for Councillors paid for by the taxpayers. I assume the tab for that for a year would buy a lot of Tylenol tablets.)

2) Poor Councillor Postma. Such an easy target as one who represents a Ward where a lot of people need assistance. She took the brunt of the attack. But she was just the stand-in for Councillor Lewenza Jr. who should have been criticized the most as the "leftists' leader" but wasn't!

Of course Councillor Budget could look at the Huron Lodge numbers and say let's cut....but he only looked at the numbers to July in order to justify the cuts for 2006 ie BEFORE the flu season even started and when the increased costs would be incurred. When one does a budget, one does have to make some guestimates about what may happen in the future. But not when Councillor Budget is there to show how tough he is!

Of course if the Mayor had introduced Citistat already we would have had some discipline in place and something to which the managers could steward but....

Just so that no one thinks he is hard on senior citizens only, Councillor Dave is tough on kids too. I am told he would not allow Councillor Zuk to use her Ward money to help build a school playground for kids at Northwood public school. He refused his consent.

3) Now why wasn't Ken criticized. He was mentioned but barely.

If you'll remember, David Cassivi, his Ward mate, was "trashed" by the Star recently. It's be nice to Kennie time. Come on Bill Marra...get the message and run in Ward 4. You can run for mayor next time around. It will be you and Kennie....heck we'll have a nice party for David for his years of service so he'll get over it.

4) When will Councillor Brister stop running to Gord Henderson for protection and back-up? Can't he handle Councillor Postma on his own at Council meetings? Caroline at least has the guts to say what she does in public before the cameras. Councillor Brister just "fumes" in private.

If Caroline speaks to a reporter, it is done for "political purposes" but not if Dave whines with Gord to get out his side of the story.

5) "The bitter division" at Operating Committee, "Good v. Evil" "spenders and savers." How could it get this far? We saw a bit of it last year at Budget time but now it seems as if there is an all-out war with "ferocious resistance" put up by those who opposed budget slashing.

Of course, next year is an election year and it would be nice to keep increases low and then jack them up after re-election but that could not possibly be in anyone's mind.

Why hasn't the Mayor prevented this division over the period of an entire year? Where is he now, too busy advertising Super Bowl events and dreaming of being a Border Czar?

6) $27 million in cuts? What are they? I saw about $3 million in Ms Danese's Star story. Where's the other $24 million that the Budgeteers cut that they missed last year and how much has their "excruciating budget exercise" missed this year?

7) One other thought I just had.

Whatever happened to the People Based Budget process that seemed to work so well last year? Whatever happened to the "web site and an interactive online survey that not only provided citizens with relevant budget information but enabled them to give their opinions and rank their priorities."

Remember what the Mayor said in his State of the City speech:
  • "And the People-Based Budget will not be a one-year wonder!

    It will be back next year, when it will feed into our zero-based budget. Having public input into our zero-based budget process will truly yield more effective – and efficient – city government."

Where was it? Did you, dear reader, attend a Ward meeting where your input was requested as was done last year? I don't remember seeing one.

The only mention made in the Budget Process Timeline of the "public" was in the consultation session in June and the deliberations on January 23 when it is too late, the same time when Council is to approve the Final Budget. Remarkable uninvolvement of the pesky Public who might not have liked what the Budgeteers were doing. I already reported on my unsuccessful attempt to appear before the Operating Budget Committee to discuss OMERS and to try to save the City money.

It's enough already. It just makes me sick. Our only salvation: this Mayor and this Council only have a three year term and it is almost over!

Playing With OUR Money

Question---What do the Mayor of Windsor (and Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission) and OMERS have in common

Answer---[See Below]

Remember when the Bridge Co. first introduced their proposal for the 200 booths? What was the Mayor's reaction: "The commission feels (the bridge plan) doesn't make any sense."

Actually it made a lot of sense from the Windsor and border perspective but it shot down the Mayor's/WTC Chair's ambitious plans of being Mr. Border. Who would finance his grand vision if the Tunnel, his source of money, might lose business or go broke? Do you remember the infamous Agenda Item #5?

Better to discredit the proposal and get mad publicly at Kwame for daring to do a deal with the Bridge Co., even if it was right before an election in Detroit. If Kwame had lost, would Hendrix, the DRTP supporter, if he were elected as mayor have done a deal with the Bridge Co.? Would Eddie have received credit from Hendrix for helping him to beat Kwame? We'll never know (subject to the recount).

And why was the Mayor crying about the need for a new bridge to be built now when the 4 Customs booths eliminated the short-term problem as even he admitted? I saw a couple of news stories recently and here is what he had to say even after the backups ended

  • Peterborough Examiner 03-16-2005 Delay is no longer an option on a costly new bridge to break chronic congestion at Canada's busiest border crossing, says Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who lobbied U.S. officials on the massive project yesterday.

    "We need to invest today, we can't wait," said Francis. "Unless we start investing for the long term, manufacturing comes to a screaming halt and companies no longer locate in Canada. These are jobs across the country.

    "It should have started a long time ago..."

    "We're barely hanging on," said Francis, "and that's not good enough for industry."

    The Guelph Mercury Daily Mercury (Guelph, Ont.) 04-23-2005 "On Thursday, Ottawa and Queen's Park announced a $129-million scheme to improve the roads leading to the Ambassador Bridge and other points that connect Windsor to Detroit.

    But as Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis rightly pointed out, the governments should be providing money for a new international bridge as well as road, rail and tunnel construction."
Anyway, I have said all of this before. The attachment shown above that was presented to Detroit Council troubles me greatly. Instead of dealing with Windsor's problems, especially the Budget, the Mayor wants to own and operate a Tunnel now. Did he forget what Mayor Daley of Chicago said "running a toll road is not a core function of city government." I don't remember seeing anything in Eddie's platform about being a Border proponent either.

Mayor/Chair Francis wants us to bear all of the financial risks in owning and operating the Tunnel and he wants a new Bridge too. Aren't we lucky he did not consummate a deal yet? Imagine if the Tunnel had to compete with its limited number of booths and small plaza against the Bridge Co.'s 200 booths and new huge plaza. Imagine a new crossing taking away business when traffic is greatly reduced at the existing crossings. How could they all make money?

I do not know about you but I do not have a great feeling of comfort when the City does big deals...Remember the City and the Tunnel Commission when Eddie was there did a deal with the Mady Parking Garage and the result was a garage in receivership and a $3 million loss. Didn't OMERS write-down hundreds of millions of dollars in assets? I am glad the Star today picked up my BLOG about the City's subleasing of Canderel!

This is starting to scare me!

Answer---You fill in the blank!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Budget Cuts

I have always wondered about budget cuts. How can senior managers demand major cuts in a department's budget one year and then expect even more the next?

Why isn't the department manager fired in fact if he/she is able to identify more cuts? Didn't the person understand the first time around the need for frugality? Didn't the organization suffer because of the person's failure to perform?

The comment of mine was prompted by the headline yesterday in the Star: "Council ponders tax freeze---Smallest of expenditures scrutinized as budget cutters look for $27M in savings."

But wait a minute....where were the Budgeteers last year? They went through the line-by-line analysis with Councillor Budget in charge. I thought they did their job but now it looks like they missed $27 million in savings!

Councillor Halberstadt had the nerve to say as an excuse I guess "budgets -- in all departments -- have been "padded" over the years and managers will now have to "manage prudently.... We're trying to eliminate the padding and some managers don't like it." Who cares what they like or don't like. Has there been padding to the extent of that many millions? If so, why are those managers still working for the City? Why didn't the Budgeteers find that padding last year?

Councillor Postma claimed that "major cuts were made last year "and this year there's not much fluff left."

Is there padding or isn't there? So where's the $27 million coming from? I guess the $1,000 reduction of Tylenol tablets from the budget of Huron Lodge might have to go to the Operating Budget Committee members instead for all of the headaches they have.

Councillor Lewenza made the proper comment in the story: "The public should know full well the ramifications of this budget," Lewenza said. "There's never any discussion or debate on the value or the merits of the programs."

The Councillor should know full well about that. He was on this same kick last year about the same topic ie just slashing budgets without looking at programs themselves, demanding priorities be made and decisions taken about cutting or even increasing budgets on a logical basis.

But when push came to shove, on Budget Night last year Councillor Ken backed off the major speech he was to give on the subject. More sound and fury by the Councillor this year or will he have the nerve to lead the attack?

Your Tax Dollars At Work

What a fabulous offer to lease if you want to take over some of the City's space in the Canderel building

I can just see tenants in existing buildings downtown trying to break their leases to get space on the river in this Triple A building. And they get to eat at the Keg too

Wow, $10 dollars per square foot for the best building in town...a give-away I am told by a poor private enterprise developer who has to compete with your tax dollars at work. PLUS to help set things up, $20 per square foot for buildout costs. I also heard from a real estate agent that this lease rate is negotiable too but he did not know by how much. I wonder if all of Council agreed to these rates IN CAMERA.

Perhaps Chrysler might expand their operations and take over the space if they do not move to Toronto first. I wonder if Wipro would be interested since they have space there too if anyone even knows they exist. Wipro is, after all, only one of the largest IT companies in the world and moved to Canderel to be close to their US client in Detroit! [Economic Development Windsor never met them for the longest time I believe. I was asked to help try and set up a meeting between them as a matter of fact!] When I first met their GM when they came to Windsor, they were thinking of expanding here in the future too to provide back-up for overseas clients.

I guess it just means that every landlord who has vacant space downtown will have to drop their rents to compete with this magnificent deal. Shhhhheeeeeeesh, if the rents go lower, we may even see the office vacancy rates drop as landlords are forced to almost give away rental space to meet the taxpayers' competition!

Increased occupancy downtown.....Another victory for City Hall! We have to fill up that Keg Restaurant somehow don't we

This fabulous deal forces private rates down. It is an obvious side-effect of what the City is doing but does not seem to be concerned about. Better to get it "off the books" than to care about taxpayers. Sounds like the Mady Garage fiasco doesn't it where his company had to compete with the cheap parking rates of the City-owned garages and went into receivership (and the City lost millions as well since it was a partner in the garage) .

Of course, the City will continue to take a big loss every month even if the space is rented out since we have to pay the difference between the actual lease cost and the sublease rate but who will complain. I do not know the City lease rate but wasn't it around $20 or more per sqaure foot? Eddie will take the credit for the sublease of the space and the real estate agent will smile since I thought that Council agreed to pay double the commissions.

Give away the property at a low price and pay double the commissions too. Now that is smart business isn't it by our Donald Trump wannabees on Council.

Taxpayers are out money but we are making the best out of a bad deal right. Off the radar, no longer an election issue. No wonder we have to deprive Senior Citizens at Huron Lodge of $1,000 of Tylenol tablets and let them have dirty sheets! Another checkmark for the Mayor's Report Card!

As someone else might say with a contrarian view----if you have to offer that building at $10 per square foot, it just illustrates how SICK the Windsor economy really is!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Prime Minister (King Kong) Martin

An interesting exchange of comments between the PM and US Ambassador to Canada. Is this a nudge nudge, wink wink controversy to help get the Liberals elected or the real thing?

Is this difference of opinion reflected locally in the divergence of views between the Canadian and American DRIC teams over the Ambassador Bridge?

Ultimately, how will this play out on the border issue? Remember the former Ambassador to Canada promised to pay out a good chunk of money to help fix the border. One wonders if that money will still be on the table or have the Americans had enough.

One interesting aside to the border debates is that the Americans will have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Ambassador Gateway project by the time it is done to fix up the road system and plaza on their side of the border and we have spent $?? And WE have the nerve to demand!

And just so that the PM doesn't take this too far....Remember Senator Kenny's "Dirty Little Secret" on the border! They may not really want it fixed after all.
  • David Wilkins,the U.S. ambassador to Canada, fired a salvo at the prime minister, saying Martin is risking one of the world’s best relationships by playing politics. Martin has repeatedly criticized the U.S. over softwood lumber and environmental policies during the election campaign.

    “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I’d say there ... is such a thing as a global conscience and now is the time to listen to it,” he said during last week’s UN conference in Montreal.

    Those comments drew a stern warning from Wilkins to back off the election rhetoric.

    “It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly,” he warned. “But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn’t have a long-term impact on the relationship.”

    Martin dismissed the ambassador’s criticism.

    “I have not made the United States a target in this campaign,” Martin said in Surrey, B.C.

    “The fact is that we do expect our partners to honour their agreements, and I will defend Canada. Period.”

Is There A Santa Claus

You would think that the owner of the Bridge Co. must be very upset at this most joyous time of year. First, it looks like his deal with Detroit for the Tunnel has fallen apart, due partially from the efforts of our Mayor Francis and the threat of action by the Canadian Government. Next the Bi-national has dumped the Twinned Bridge as a contender for the new Windsor/Detroit crossing. Instead, I would think that there is a lot of merriment in their head office!

Do you remember the answer to the Letter to the Editor by Virginia in the New York Sun back in 1897. One section was very interesting to me and seemed appropriate now:

  • "Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds."

So let's see what the little minds think after this.

First with respect to the Tunnel.

My family and I were invited by some friends to to the 5 PM show at the Fox Theater on Sunday see the Rockettes and have a pre-show meal. Since I'd never been there before and had no idea about parking (and since we wanted to do a bit of shopping over in Detroit to amortize the cost of the toll over several functions), we left early, around 1:30 PM, and headed to downtown to go across via the Tunnel.

On Goyeau, just before Wyandotte, and on Wyandotte----a backup. Whether the Tunnel was closed for awhile so cars could clear it (I knew about that because of past delays there) or whether there were problems, I did not know and did not wait to find out. With some fancy driving, I made a few turns to get away from the Tunnel and headed towards the Bridge. I saw that Goyeau southbound to the Tunnel was blocked by a police car and another was just arriving to direct traffic.

Arriving at the Bridge, a few minutes later, everything was clear and I zoomed over and through US Customs. I should have listened to my wife and gone there first at that time of the day.

Imagine if I was a tourist who wanted to go home after spending the weekend in Windsor. Would I go to the Tunnel next time? Hardly. Can you imagine how easy the choice would be if I knew that the Bridge had 200 US customs booths, 100 on each side, and the Tunnel about a small fraction of that number. [9 Customs Inspection Booths and 3 dedicated truck inspection lanes on the Windsor plaza and "multiple" using the Tunnel's word on the Detroit plaza."]

Instead of co-operating with the Bridge Co. to boost tourism to the City and working together on a large joint plaza, the Tunnel can now compete. When the Tunnel goes bankrupt because of the lack of business, then the Mayor and Ottawa can share the blame. And then the Bridge Co. can buy the Tunnel for pennies on the dollar.

Secondly, not being a final contender

This may be the nicest present of all.

I attended a DRIC public meeting in Delray, Michigan last week. DRTP was eliminated as a Bi-National contender (although DRTP can continue with its own environmental studies). That was a stocking stuffer for the Bridge Co.

In going through the mass of data that the Americans provided to anyone who attended, listening to the Presentation made, and after reading the Canadian DRIC report, it is clear that the Twinned Bridge proposal has many things going for it:

  • "The crossing X12 alternative (twin Ambassador Bridge) was identified as one of the top overall performers on the U.S. side in terms of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness...the U.S. Project Team recommended [the Twinned Bridge alternative] be carried forward for consideration as practical alternatives while the Canadian Project Team did not... "
Why didn't the Canadian team like it then:
  • "In consideration of the high community impacts to the residential area impacted by the expansion of the Canadian bridge plaza and the expansion of Huron church Road to a freeway facility on the Canadian side"
  • "The expanded U.S. plaza of the Ambassador Bridge, with the improved connections to the interstate freeway system will be carried forward within the Area for Continued Analysis as a possible U.S. plaza site for a new crossing connecting to a new inspection plaza and connecting roadway on the Canadian side located downriver of the Ambassador Bridge."

The US side of the Ambassador Bridge was OK and could move forward but not the Canadian side. And why couldn't the Canadian side move forward...Without going into it in great detail now, the Canadian team rejected the Twinned Bridge based on something the Bridge Co. never proposed!

So I bet you can imagine the consternation at the Bridge Co.'s offices UNTIL THEY SAW THE US REPORT AND THE GIFT GIVEN TO THEM:

  • "However, the Canadian evaluation notes a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would be an expansion of the existing crossing, not a new crossing of the river with new connections to the freeway systems in Ontario and Michigan."

The Bridge Co. just saw a multi-hundred million dollar bonanza that would allow a new road to be built for their 200 booth proposal. And remember, the route selected by the Bi-national was a road favourable to the Bridge Co. on the Canadian side.

Since the Bridge Co.'s Twinned Bridge or 200 booth proposal is considered an expansion of the existing crossing, the Bi-national has no control over them. The Bridge Co. can now act on their own. Accordingly, the Bridge Co.'s route can receive the $300 million funding to build their WALTS/Ring/Schwartz/Windsor road including the "missing link" to the Bridge under the Border Infrastructure Fund legislation. After all, it is not a NEW proposal but expansion of an existing corridor to the border.

Let everyone else fight over the new crossing. The Bridge Co. in the new year should demand from the Senior Levels in Canada and receive assurances that the road to the bridge will be built in accordance with the Bi-national recommendation forthwith using the available BIF funds. The new route can always link to the new crossing since we now have a better idea where it may go. If someone is foolish enough to want to build a new bridge, then the Bridge Co. can buy it out for pennies on the dollar when it goes broke too like the Tunnel!

What a great gift the Canadian DRIC team gave them. It is a face-saver for the Canadian Governments too at all levels, including Municipal. Not only will the Bridge Co. get their road, and the BIF money, they get it now while DRIC stalls off their competition until 2013 at the earliest.

Yes, Virginia....for the Bridge Co., there is a DRIC Santa Claus!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Six Inches Between Our Ears

It is time we started using those six inches!

Here is an article written by Dennis DesRosiers that he forwarded to me. It is his view of the changing nature of the Canadian auto industry and the impact that it will have as a new East-west Corridor has grown up around us. Read it closely since it may be our future if we do not act promptly and wisely!

Oh sure, some will say, it is DesRosiers talking again his gloom and doom so let's dismiss him! What a mistake that would be.

Back in my University days, I remember the work of Harold Innes, Canada's leading economist, whose thesis was that Canada was built East-West and not North-South. Perhaps Dennis is demonstrating what was true with the fur trade and railways may now be true with the auto industry.

Read what he says and forget about the red herrings that his opponents like to use to discredit him: his friendship with Hurst and his views of E C Row!

Let's even assume that Dennis is dead wrong about what he writes. So what! His article is a call to arms to fix the border and to get on with Regional economic redevelopment by using our "strong intellectual base [we] have been building over the last decade."

Frankly, who can argue with that.

  • " I was in the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association's office a few weeks ago and noticed an Ontario map on the wall where they had put pins in place representing all of Canada's parts manufacturing facilities. From looking at this map it dawned on me that the Canadian automotive sector may not have a long term problem with the Windsor - Detroit border after all. The simple fact of the matter is that the automotive sector in Canada is now more aligned along an East - West corridor starting in Sarnia and ending in Fort Erie than a North - South corridor starting in Windsor and ending in eastern Ontario. If you go back to 1904 when Henry Ford came across the river to Walkerville and 1908 when McLaughlin started producing Buicks in Oshawa, the automotive sector developed on a North - South Axis in Ontario with a strong union presence at each end. The Windsor border was the link to Michigan, the centre of the US automotive sector, and with more than 75 percent of our components being shipped to the US and most of our vehicles exported as well, the border at Windsor was critical to an efficient automotive sector in Canada.

    But times have changed and this may no longer be the case. First and foremost, the Michigan automotive sector has crashed. At one point they produced about 3.5 million vehicles, now they produce about 2.5 million vehicles and this will decline with the restructurings at GM, Ford and DCX. The US south now produces more vehicles than Michigan and their position is strengthening. Mexico is a viable manufacturing option and of course Ontario now produces more vehicles than Michigan. A substantial volume of Canadian automotive components no longer have to pass through the Windsor - Detroit border. There are a number of other border crossing options and possibly more efficient border options than sending goods through Windsor.

    Second, both Windsor and Oshawa's automotive sector have also deteriorated substantially. Together they have lost between 15,000 and
    20,000 automotive and closely related jobs over the last decade and another 5,000 to 10,000 will be lost with the DCX, Ford and GM restructurings. But understand that contrary to the CAW view of the world, the automotive sector in Canada is not in crisis. About 50,000 non-union assembly and parts jobs have come to Canada primarily from overseas players. Almost all of these jobs have aligned themselves along the East - West corridor starting in Sarnia and ending in Fort Erie. Indeed, London is the fastest growing jurisdiction for automotive parts companies from overseas. Most of the assembly plants and other parts plants are in mid-west Ontario with a strong assembly presence in Alliston with Honda, Cambridge and Woodstock with Toyota and Ingersol with Suzuki/GM/CAMI. There are strong prospects for assembly and parts investments in communities like Stratford, Brantford, Sarnia and the Niagara peninsula, all of which have been looked at seriously by the overseas players. For instance, Stratford and Brantford were seriously considered for the new Toyota plant that choose Woodstock. Most of these jurisdictions have a strong non-union bias. Ford in Oakville and DCX in Bramalea are also in the East - West corridor. St. Thomas is not that far out of the this corridor. Toronto and points North of Toronto all the way up to Barrie and Orillia have easy access to this corridor. Oshawa and Eastern Ontario also have easy access to the East - West corridor but also can access the US market through border crossings in the East. Development follows infrastructure, it’s that simple.

    And a lot has happened to strengthen the East - West corridor infrastructure. The Bluewater bridge in Sarnia was recently twinned and a new state of the art train tunnel that can handle Double Decker rail cars was built in Sarnia in the early 1990’s. The 403 highway between the 401 and Sarnia currently is being totally upgraded. There are now five and about to be six border crossings in the Niagara region with the twinning of one of their bridges. I understand that this is in the design stage and will be built over the next few years. Highway 403 is being linked to the QEW and Highway 406 might be extended to Fort Erie, hopefully in the near future. This will strengthen the connection between the 401 and the Niagara region. Within a decade the new mid-peninsula highway linking the 401 to New York through the Niagara Peninsula will be built. This project is in environmental review at this time and it looks like it will be built, possibly in less time than anticipated. If an OEM comes in ands builds an assembly plant at either or both ends of this East - West corridor then the Axis will be solidified and the Canadian automotive industry will have almost totally re-aligned itself away from its traditional unionized North - South corridor to a new primarily non-union East - West corridor. This new East - West corridor will have very strong border infrastructure at each end and a very well developed highway system linking all players in-between. This new East - West corridor is already a magnet for investments from the overseas players moving to North America.

    This is what our politicians at the Federal, Provincial and Local level in Windsor have not understood. They have vehimently opposed various border solutions, they have pandered to anti-border infrastructure groups and handed the border file over to lawyers for the last number of years. This behaviour is baffling given the fact that the auto sector is the most important industry in Windsor and indeed all of Canada. The auto sector does not have the luxury of waiting for this behaviour to resolve itself, the sector has to get on with its business. Thus the automotive sector has found a way around Windsor, more automotive trade now happens in this East - West corridor than through Windsor - Detroit. This re-alignment also has meant that Windsor is no longer in the investment plans of most companies in the automotive sector. To be sure, some of the current players in Windsor have invested like DCX and their new paint facility and some suppliers tied to DCX and Ford but for the most part almost all Greenfield investments (read: the future) have located in the new East - West corridor. This was very predictable. What would anyone think that the over 100 overseas supplier companies would do, sit and wait for the border in Windsor to be fixed. Business is interested in solutions right now, not at some undefined point in the future. They could not take this risk so they got on with business and went elsewhere to solve their logistics needs. And those solutions were and are East - West not North - South. This will likely be the new normal and unfortunately it was largely avoidable.

    Indeed I can build a very strong case that the communities along this East - West corridor and those with easy access to it will benefit tremendously from the strengthening of the infrastructure along this corridor. There are dozens of overseas suppliers that are likely to choose Canada for their North American location. Canada is one of the most successful countries anywhere in the world in attracting global OEMs to build vehicles and suppliers are following these assembly investments into Canada.

    And unfortunately, Windsor is being further isolated and left out of the loop for these investments opportunites which represent the future of the automotive sector in Canada. The border situation is a negative, Windsor's strong union roots is a negative, the lack of land available for development in Windsor is a negative and their high taxes are negative. Windsor is experiencing a slow painful death. I could even build a case that it would be in the best interest of GM, Ford and DCX to allocate new investments that may come to Canada in the future along this East - West corridor as well. Their existing assets in Windsor would be supported in the short term but ultimately will face serious challenges for survival as well. Indeed, DCX's recent musing about re-locating their head office into Central Ontario is a precursor of what might actually happen. They could build and operate a head office on their Brampton site much more cost effectively than their current Windsor head office. No land cost, no rent and a wealth of human resources to draw from roughly ten times what is available to them in Windsor. They would also be closer to their markets, the financial hub of Canada, most media and third party suppliers or services like advertising etc. They are at a serious disadvantage not being in the Toronto area with their head office and this would solve that problem. I hope they don't leave Windsor and I am not sure that they will but just the fact that they are musing about it, is symbolic of the problems in what used to be Canada's Motor City.

    The die is now cast for Windsor's automotive manufacturing sector. The East - West corridor is rapidly developing. The North - South corridor is rapidly deteriorating. Windsor continues to head towards losing most of its manufacturing related to the automotive sector. They are unlikely to stop the erosion of their manufacturing base but they do have a way out of this mess they have created for themselves. Supporting one of the options proposed by the Bi-national Committee to fix the border would slow their demise, for instance.

    But Windsor's real future more likely resides in developing the strong intellectual base they have been building over the last decade. Yves Landry, once said that "The future of the automotive sector in Ontario is the six inches between our ears". And he backed this view by successfully lobbying DCX to build a state of the art research facility in Windsor called ARDC. If you look at the Windsor automotive sector over the past decade almost all the success has been attracting intellectual capital into the area. Over a billion in capital dedicated to research, design, development and testing of vehicles and parts has come to Windsor. Auto21 is located at the University of Windsor, there are a number of research chairs at the U of Windsor, Ford has a research centre in Windsor, about a dozen suppliers have research centres in Windsor and International Truck recently choose Windsor as the location for two research centres. The prospects for more intellectual investments are great if the right moves are made by all levels of Government. Windsor can be salvaged.

    My rant for the week.


    DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc
    Dennis DesRosiers

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hey Bud--This Vote's For You

Nice picture of Eddie Francis holding a football in the four page Advertising Feature in the Star today which I assume was sponsored by the beer company, Anheuser-Busch. Looks like Joey Harrington gave him some tips on holding a football.

Why, it would not surprise me to see the Mayor as the driver of the Budweiser Clydesdales Hitch Team too when it is in Windsor (By the way, Bud's ad agency needs a proof-reader who knows how to spell the name of the horse breed!)

Now some of you probably think that it is OK for the Mayor of Windsor to appear in a private beer company advertising piece since it is the Super Bowl after all. I don't! This practice should be nipped in the bud! (sorry, bad pun) If not, next we may see the Council Budgeteeers hawking tax saving software around tax time or the leftists flogging Library Cards.

I am sure seeing the Mayor in the Special will not promote drinking at all. I liked the page in the 4 page newspaper and in the booklet especially with the contest if one purchases the 24-bottle "Sport Pack." If you hear a sound when opening a case, you win a prize!

Mind you, one beer Company said "we are striving to capture an increasing share of each new generation of legal-drinking-age beer drinkers in order to gain their brand loyalty for the long-term." They need that too as younger drinkers are moving away from beer to spirits. Just ask Hiram Walker. Having the young Mayor of Windsor on the front page of your Ad Special doesn't hurt.

But if you think that Eddie is doing this just for the Super Bowl how wrong you are. Check out the demographics as shown in the picture on Page 2---young, male (and a lot of women drink beer too). Remember the Town Hall meeting at the mall directed to the younger citizens of Windsor....There was a purpose for that too.

Nope, Eddie learned from Kwame to whom he needs to reach to help get him re-elected next time around. It worked for the Mayor of Detroit and he got four more years!


Can you believe it? BLOGPOWER!

A Henderson column in answer to what I and a few Internet Bloggers have written about the Mayor.

What this tells me is that the media will have to change. It is recognition that the public is looking for sources of information other than the traditional media. We are demanding not only instant news (check out Google News that browses 4,500 news sources and updates continuously) but more interpretation of what is going on and from various points of view. Just as importantly, it also means that Bloggers who can publish at any time and who may have independent sources will have more and more people looking at their Blogsites.

Remember during the Gomery inquiry, when the Court banned publication of testimony, Bloggers in the US revealed what was said to let Canadians know what was going on. That could not have happened only a few years ago. The same for the tsunami…videos of the disaster were being shown on Blogsites world-wide. I was able to post the entire Dennis DesRosiers speech that has provoked such controversy since the amount of space that I have available is virtually unlimited and costs me nothing compared with newsprint. Why there is even BNN, the Blogger News Network.

And it will be different for politicians too. It will no longer be enough to cosy up to one’s favourite media outlet or reporter. There are just too many Bloggers around for that. Blogs are easy to start and can grow quickly by word of mouth. Blogs are not subject to the rules of the Press Council or the CRTC. In fact, politicians will have to become Bloggers themselves. Howard Dean may not have become President but he revolutionized politics in the Internet age.

What has interested me about what I do is the number of people who have written me, from University students to names that would be instantly recognizable given their reputation in town. Most have enjoyed what I write, they say, since it provides an alternative to the local media. They do not necessarily agree with what I write but say that it provides a different perspective. In addition, I have been provided with information to use that probably would not have been revealed otherwise.

Let me deal with the column since it is a remarkable one. I am NOT here to attack Gord Henderson. I enjoy his writings and I would compare him with Pierre Berton when he was a columnist with the Star and Scott Young at the Globe when I lived in Toronto years ago. I truly wait for his writings 3 times a week and I find him to be a very perceptive individual.

With Eddie Francis, however, he wears blinkers. Eddie’s independent mind is praised as a virtue yet there is no recognition that this is a most secretive regime that makes a mockery of the concept of open and transparent government. Gord (and Eddie) has not understood that those who backed him and worked hard to get him elected him are his biggest detractors. It is not because they cannot get access to him but because they believed in him and he let them down. Eddie is the person who was going to work hard for Windsor that we did not get.

I was told that polling shows that his approval rating is low. The Mayor in Toronto was near 70% I read recently and that was viewed as a disaster. Eddie only received 53% of the vote against a candidate who had the baggage of the Hurst regime tied around his neck and whose handlers made some terrible electoral miscalculations. Had the campaign gone on for another couple of weeks, Bill Marra might be the Mayor today since Eddie’s campaign lacked momentum after the first week. Imagine what will happen this time unless some drastic action is taken if a credible candidate runs….Eddie will suffer his first big setback. We will see what will happen with candidates running when the little boy finally cries out that the Mayor is wearing no clothes.

There are a few interesting gems in the column----a badly divided Council, the Walker overpass delayed for a year, no agreement with the Province on Phase 1 of the Border deal yet. Whose fault is that?

I don’t want to go through the column point by point but there are some comments that need a different perspective:

1) MFP: an experienced lawyer/mayor, not someone just called to the Bar, would have sought a legal opinion. He would have made it public by now if there was no chance of success about possible ways to recover damages from those that may have put the City’s position in jeopardy in this file. OR, he would have started a lawsuit if there was. Instead taxpayers have to pay out an extra $68 million. No wonder we have fiscal problems.

2) The Border: not one word about the City not being at the table any longer, about the waste of almost a year and millions of dollars arguing about a short-term solution that he knew was dead in the water 6 months before it was revealed and which was never the City’s real position but merely a “starting point” and an “option.” Oh, by the way, what is the City’s Real Plan? When will Eddie share that wisdom with us

3) 3-1-1 is here but whatever happened to the election jewel, Citistat, which was supposed to come first. Its lack of implementation conservatively has cost us $30-40 million in savings. No wonder we have fiscal problems

4) Anticipation: Go check Carly Simon’s lyrics about anticipation. Look at the choice of words used rather than real actions being taken. It is “about the things to come”-----“anticipates a solution,” “It’s been delayed a year concedes Francis,” “a deal which will enable,” “in the 2006 pipeline,” “hopefully.” What has actually been achieved over the past two years that makes us confident that something positive will happen in year three of this Mayor?

5) Inherited disasters: It has been 2 years already. Blaming Hurst and OMERS for everything bad is wearing thin. Speaking of OMERS, well you read my BLOG about that.

If the column had just been Gord’s report card on Council or the Mayor, I would not have bothered writing. It is the Blogger reference that fascinated me. The column is recognition of the power of the Blogger. It is now apparent that the Mayor and Mr. Henderson’s employer have something new to think about.

Bloggers are ubiquitous! And that is a good thing.

The Buzz About Buzz

Buzz Hargrove is the ultimate negotiator for one of the biggest and most powerful unions in Canada. Don't you think the man knows what he is doing.

Paul Martin is the head of the most powerful political dynasty in Canada with the shrewdest political operatives behind him. Don't you think the man knows what he is doing.

For Paul, it is no-lose. The Grits were not ashamed to add Conservatives to their ranks to keep in power. Why would they worry about adding NDPers. If Buzz wants to send him voters to help elect a majority government (or even keep him in power with another minority one as many expect) and scare people away from supporting the Harper Conservatives, why would he say no.

Ahhh but for Buzz, it is sheer genious.

If there is a Liberal majority, who takes the credit----Buzz.

If there is a Liberal minority with the NDP being the swing party, who takes the credit----Buzz

If the NDP do well since the members are mad at him telling them what to do, who takes the credit----Buzz

In all cases, Buzz and the CAW win. Give the man some credit after all!