To me the most obvious example of why care should be taken took place last summer. There was the infamous "boat tour" on a nice sunny day when the Bi-National people took citizens from both sides of the river on a tour of the various crossing points. At that time supposedly no decisions had yet been made. Yet almost a week later, the Michigan Governor was able to toss out the Downriver crossings and the one on Belle Isle based on the work of the Bi-national partnership. Boy they must have worked hard after that "boat trip" since a decision was not supposed to have been forthcoming until some time later.
The next Community Consultation Group meeting was not very pleasant as citizen members expresed their outage at what had taken place.
- Question: Can someone confirm that no final decision has been made on the remaining central alternatives and that there will be an opportunity to review reports on the South and East alternatives?
Answer: No final decision has been made with respect to the Central alternatives. The team’s analysis of all of the alternatives will be available for review.
- Comment: I’m concerned that the Governor of Michigan made the announcement about the narrowing of alternatives with only the interests of South and East area residents in mind — that it was more of a political than a technical decision.
Response: The announcement was based on the technical work of the project teams and has the support of the Partnership.
- Question: Did both the American and Canadian project teams notify their respective government officials at the same time about the decision to eliminate the South and East alternatives? Is the U.S. side of the Partnership controlling the decisions that are being made?
Answer: Prior to the announcement, the Partnership met and agreed that the South and East alternatives should not be carried forward for further consideration. The Partnership did not provide advice to the Ontario Government prior to the announcement. The Ministry of Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Transport Canada and the Federal Highway Administration are still working together as equal partners. The Partnership will continue to meet with the respective governments on an ongoing basis.
- Question: Can the Partnership provide an assurance that politicians on both sides of the border will be notified at precisely the same time about future Partnership decisions?
Answer: Given the challenges of scheduling and access, no such assurance can be given.
Yet the Lansing hearings, both at the session yesterday and previously, had Community leaders praising DRIC for their openness and transparency. They could not be more effusive in their praise of all of the meetings that had been held, that the DRIC people were always available for a meeting, mailed out information to residents and were "wonderful."
I was surprised that people who condemned the "private" Ambassador Bridge for destroying neighbourhoods somehow believed that a "public" bridge would revitalize their community. Mind you after seeing the boards prepard by the DRIC people showing a revitalized Delray, I probably would have wanted to believe in the dream too. I was surprised that people in Sandwich who could have their community destroyed by the option that the WindsorStar seemed to suggest was going to be built could be so quiet.
Truly, I wonder how they feel today after learning about the "closed-door session" of co-operating agencies to obtain the "concurrence" of the Department of State. The fact that it was not given and that the Department's response was not revealed at all is very troubling to me. I wonder what other relevant information has not been released!
Does "closed-door" equate to "openness?" Does seeking "concurrence" behind the scenes represent "transparency?" Is this the first time that the Department was approached and if so, why now? Are the people who praised DRIC asking why they were not told about that decision at all for 6 months? Does it seem strange that a solution proposed by DRIC and rejected is still on the table and that money is being spent to support it still?
We in Windsor have attacked our elected Mayor and Council for being so secretive on the border and making decisions behind closed-doors. It will be interesting to see what the DRIC supporters and their members have to say now about DRIC.