Is Dwight Duncan Giving A Budget Gift To Hometown Windsor
Remember Dwight's so-called Gong Show announcement. I wrote about it before:
- "Provincial Liberal Ministers Duncan and Caplan announced out of the blue that the Province had committed $500 million of new money to Windsor for the border (although they were unable to provide specifics on the spending and it was not even available until 2010). The next day, they had to apologize for revealing it! The "Gong Show" as Gord Henderson called it.
Well this time it may be all different and for real, or maybe not. Here is an excerpt from a recent Toronto Star article that may be applicable to Windsor's situation too:
$1.5B to push subway into GTA; Finance minister to announce York University extension to Spadina line in March 23 provincial budget
Robert Benzie Toronto Star, 03-07-2006
- Funding for the much-anticipated York University subway line is expected in the March 23 provincial budget, the Toronto Star has learned.
Sources say Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will use his first budget to announce the $1.5 billion, 6.2-kilometre extension of the Toronto Transit Commission's Spadina line from Downsview station to York's campus.
Sources say the project would be a huge political boon for the Liberals as they gear up for next year's election...
Nor is it known how soon construction could begin.
Liberal insiders say corporate tax revenues are so much higher than projected that the government will have more than enough money for a high-profile investment in the TTC.
"Put it this way, (the province) is having a hard time showing a deficit this (fiscal) year," said one source, noting Duncan prefers to eliminate the budget deficit in dramatic fashion next year - just in time for the Oct. 4, 2007 provincial election.
As disclosed by the Star on Saturday, Ontario has an estimated $1 billion corporate-tax windfall in the treasury. By law, that money has to be spent - or earmarked for spending - by the end of the fiscal year on March 31 or else it must go toward deficit reduction.
That's why Duncan announced Friday he would table the budget on March 23 - almost two months earlier than usual...
The subway extension is not the only transit project that could be addressed in the upcoming budget...
Meanwhile, there was further evidence at Queen's Park yesterday that the provincial treasury is brimming.
Lots of interesting events happening around town and elsewhere that may tie into this budget talk. Let me see if I can make some sense out of them all for you and do some speculating for Windsor.
With all of the new-found cash in the Provincial Treasury, there are people just itching to spend it. What could be more important (other than the Toronto subway, the area code 905 votes and Paul Martin's resignation as Liberal Leader) than the Windsor border that is so vital for the Ontario and Canadian economy.
Dwight Duncan is one of our local MPPs and a pretty powerful guy at Queen's Park in Cabinet as Finance Minister. He needs to keep the home folks happy if he is to remain a power and to move up in the political world to say, Prime Minister of Canada. He also needs to keep reminding the Mayor that he really is the head honcho in Windsor in case Eddie may decide foolishly to take him on politically.
My sources tell me that there were some important Provincial border people in Windsor recently and that some of them might have met the Mayor to have a coffee and cookies. [I am not sure if the Mayor has told his Councillors about the Coffee Klatsch since it might be even too hush-hush for them].
I bet if infrastructure was discussed for Toronto in the Budget, then there might have been some infrastructure talk about the Windsor border during that meeting. That would be consistent with what I said previously about Senior Level bureaucrats going around town asking what Eddie wanted on the border (and perhaps what Dwight needed to know too for his Budget speech).
The other interesting thing I heard was that it was just a Windsor-Province meeting which seems strange since aren't the Feds involved in the border file too? You remember of course, that Eddie went after PM Martin and tried to snuggle up with the Premier over Schwartz so maybe the Feds were isolated. I wonder if Eddie has even called up yet the Conservative MP, Jeff Watson, to congratulate him on his win. If not, then no wonder the Feds were not invited to the party or if invited, did not go.
More interesting news. The Toronto Star reported on Saturday that
- "Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty... assured Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan in a closed-door meeting yesterday that Ottawa would be at the table when it comes to infrastructure improvements in the province.
"We did talk about infrastructure because it's important — particularly for southern Ontario, but it's important for the whole country — and we are going to have further discussions about that," the federal finance minister told reporters after a 40-minute meeting at Duncan's office at Queen's Park."
Interestingly this discussion might be relevant for Windsor even though "specific projects" were not discussed during the talks since I have also been informed that the Provincial Liberals are desperate to own the new bridge in Windsor.
I also heard that the City is going to have a big session or Special Council meeting on the border so the public can speak. Remarkably, the date I was given for this meeting was soon after the March 23 Budget speech.
Now why would a secretive Mayor and Council all of a sudden want to have a public City border meeting and right after the Budget after the visit from bigwig border officials. Moreover, it's just days before DRIC makes a new announcement on March 27 or 28 about the border and sets some specific options. Sounds to me like a time schedule is being arranged to maximize publicity for something and/or to put pressure on someone.
Given the timeline, it gives the Windsor Star time to do their thing for Dwight and Eddie on the morning of the 24th to work up the locals into thinking there might be a border solution in our lifetime. (I wonder if Henderson will do an extra column on the Friday too to heap praise on both Spanky and Eddie). It also allows the Star to demand that the Feds do their duty and put up cash. The Star can fume in an Editorial ("fume" seems to be a favourite Star border word) that both Senior Levels must respect the wishes of the citizens of Windsor, as expressed by the Mayor, when the DRIC proposals are announced.
Now probably Eddie does not know yet exactly what Dwight will give him but will he be told the specifics by a senior Liberal who will visit Eddie in Windsor again soon I was informed, most likely during the week of the 13th. Obviously, that person has to make sure that Eddie is onside and to ensure that Dwight gets all the praise he deserves so people will forget his earlier faux pas.
I wonder if the meeting will be on the 15th. I hope not. Remember, "Beware the Ides of March!"
[UPDATE: I am told that the Mayor is away, so the visit will not take place until he returns or unless there is a telephone call]l
And guess what, if things work out according to schedule, Eddie will be able to use the Budget announcement at the public border meeting to say how well he has done for us and to try to foreclose any criticism. Hey, he has to get re-elected doesn't he?
And as for Dwight, the bookies in Vegas will increase his chances of being elected Liberal Leader and the next PM of Canada...Another Windsor boy succeeds!
Finally, to top it off, there will be the DRIC border announcement a few days later. It has to say nothing since there is over a year of studying left to do. The Province cannot have DRIC ending so soon because promises will then have to be fulfilled and we are not yet close enough to a Provincial election. Construction promises are yet to come.
I wonder how close to the truth my speculating is. I have to tell you that I think we will get a big announcement, perhaps about tunnelling or more money for the road to the Bridge. Will it be real or more like the Gong Show, the Sequel.
Why am I so cynical? Note the comment re the subway construction above: "Nor is it known how soon construction could begin." I trust that you recall that previously, Dwight had said there was no money for the border until after 2010.