Where's Mick Jagger
The Mayor brags about a licensing deal for Roots clothing. It only took about 2 years to achieve and even then we missed a huge sales event for the clothing, the Super Bowl. We worry about greenspace for trails that will take years to complete. And instead of Citistat which got the Mayor elected and which was supposed to save us millions, we get SimpliCITY.
(Speaking of logos and slogans, didn’t we spend thousands of dollars a few years ago for one, have citizens vote for their favourite and then we threw it out?)
We worry about such foolishness while the City is falling apart around us. We are losing thousands of auto and related jobs, our prime industry, and what is replacing them? We keep talking about the back-ups at the border, which chases away tourists and businesses, even though we have not had any since the Bridge Co. opened their new booths. We glorify the Keg as our salvation downtown while the office vacancy rate is around 30-50% and we see many empty storefronts. Our unemployment rate is the highest in Canada (while the Mayor speaks out of both sides of his mouth by blaming it on “immigrants” living here and then praising them for moving here) and our house price increases are the lowest.
Our tourism industry was going to help us diversify our economy. We were going to make Windsor a destination with our “billion-dollar” Casino with its new convention centre/arena the focus and the “slots” at the Raceway. We have the restaurants and ambience of Erie Street and the shops on Ottawa. We have historical sites all around us, the terminus of the Underground Railroad and the Sandwich area being just two that have received high profile recently. We have the ability to create new tourist interests such as winery tours with all of the new wineries opening up around us. Thousands of jobs were being created in the hospitality industry.
Then we were hit: 9/11, SARS, the increase in the dollar, scare of passport requirements. Then the big one: The Smoke Free Ontario Act (“Bill 164”) comes into effect on May 31, 2006 effectively banning smoking in all publicly accessible indoor areas, including all restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities such as casinos and racetracks.”
We will hear Monday night about this at Council. A 100 plus page report was prepared by outside consultants. Their conclusion: “without some form of mitigation, Windsor’s tourism industry will suffer further significant declines, as a result of the unequal playing field that would be a consequence of the Smoke Free Ontario Act.”
YOU MUST ABSOLUTELY GO TO THE CITY WEBSITE AND DOWNLOAD AND READ THE REPORT
Let me give you some of the lowlights for us:
- The high-water mark for tourists was in 1999, when 9 million tourists visited the City, Windsor… Since 1999, annual visitation has dropped by approximately 4 million visitors.
- Overnight visits have dropped by about 21% since their peak in 1999, and same day visits are down by 55% since their peak.
- Casino Windsor and the Slots at Windsor Raceway would experience an attendance decline of between 10% and 30% from their 2005 volumes. This would result in reduced tourist spending in Windsor and Essex County ranging from $70 to $225 million.
- Bingo revenues are expected to decline by an estimated 10% to 20% as a result of the smoking ban, further impacting the 650 organizations that depend on bingo for revenue.
- A reduction in Windsor and Essex County’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ranging from $60 to $195 million.
- The loss of between 800 and 2,700 local jobs, with a corresponding decline in labour income of $31 and $101 million.
- Gaming, bars/restaurants, nightclubs and similar entertainment facilities would be negatively impacted as would the accommodations sector
- The retail and transportation would be impacted due to the reduced volume of tourists.
- A reduction in total government revenues ranging from $32 to $103 million.
- Additional impacts would be experienced outside of the region, elsewhere in Ontario, as a result of this decline in visitation.
While this is very bleak, the Report does set out a number of ways to mitigate the adverse consequences:
- Frankly, we can capitalize on being “Sin City.” Three permanent casinos in Detroit, combined with Casino Windsor, the Slots at Windsor Raceway and eight bingo centres in Windsor can make our Region a major central North American gaming destination if we work together rather than merely compete.
- Exemptions under the Act for businesses that will suffer [Strange though, the Report says "We have, however, been specifically directed by the City of Windsor not to consider exemptions to the Smoke Free Ontario Act, but to explore other possible mitigation measures."]
- Compensation for businesses that can demonstrate a significant loss of business.
- Compensation to cover the cost of marketing and public relations campaigns required to attract new markets to the City’s facilities.
- Investment into tourism products that will broaden the tourism base, like a Science Centre as an example.
I am not going to get into the debate about whether smoking should or should not be allowed. That is not my purpose in writing this BLOG. Rather here is just another case of the Mayor and Council failing us. Check the timeline:
- When is the smoking ban coming into place? May 31, 2006
When is the Report to be presented to Council? May 8, 2006
When was the Consultant's Report presented to the Mayor's Office? April 3, 2006
When was the Consultant hired to do the Report? August, 2005
When was the Smoke-Free Ontario Act passed? June 13, 2005
When did Council know that the Province might be introducing a No Smoking Act? At least by March 1, 2004.
The no smoking issue must be important or we would not have retained a consultant at a cost of $30,000.
Without needing to state the obvious as can be seen from the timeline, IF smoking is an important issue for Windsor then why did it take so long for us to get a report that will allow us to make a case to the Government for support for our local businesses? The Report states:
- "It is important to recognize that the losses identified are primarily due to Windsor’s situation as a border community, of which the tourism industry is very heavily dependent on cross border visitation from a major US metropolitan area. Furthermore, the existence of directly competitive gaming facilities in Detroit have a significant influence on Windsor’s tourism industry. While some Ontario municipalities, such as Sault Ste. Marie and Ottawa, exist in close proximity to casinos in neighbouring jurisdictions, none relies on cross border traffic to the extent of Casino Windsor, the Slots at Windsor Raceway and local bingo facilities. Furthermore, no other jurisdiction in Ontario, including Niagara Falls, is as dependent on US visitation as Windsor. As a result, Windsor is unique in terms of its potential exposure to economic damage from the legislation."
We get to see the Report only a few weeks before the Act comes into effect. (Mind you, the Star saw it earlier, allowing the Star to write a news story on April 22 and an Editorial on April 25 about the Act and the Report. Who leaked it to them? And why?)
The pace of this matter again seems rather leisurely given the consequences to our City! Like the 2 year Roots deal that missed Super Bowl. Doesn't anyone give a damn at City Hall? This information should have been presented a long time ago, not just a few weeks before the Act is put into force!
What actions did the Mayor and Council take to get the Government to change its mind between March 1, 2004 and today? I know that we had "hearings" in Windsor about the impact of the ban on our businesses after the Government refused to hold hearings here. And it appears that "The Windsor Hearing Report" was submitted to the Ontario Government on September 21, 2005. " Honestly, what impact would that Report have being organized by mychoice.ca "an internet based lobby and information site funded by the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturer’s Council."
The Recommendation of the Report to Windsor Council is to "share" the results of this study with provincial Cabinet Ministers (Sandra and Dwight perhaps?) and to "advocate" for measures to mitigate the negative economic impact the Act will have on us because of our unique border position.
Does anyone really think the Province will take our concerns seriously if we have waited so long? We could not even get hearings to take place in Windsor so that we could present our concerns to the Government.
Remember the Snub! Does this Mayor and Council think that anyone will listen to us! Don't they remember the famous question of Councillor Valentinis--why doesn't anyone listen to Windsor?
By the way, that question makes a mockery of Eddie's campaign Kick-Off speech language:
- "As Mayor, Council and I will line the halls of Queens Park and Parliament Hill. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with our MPs and MPPs and remind them all everyday that they can not afford to ignore our city, our region, our importance...And we will impress upon decision makers that we are far too important to be shunned. Our concerns are legitimate and will be addressed."
But can it be that the City really wants to have a No Smoking ban in effect and believes instead that a few dollars from the Province will tide us over until the industry "rebounds?" Is that why there has been little action? Remember the consultants were told NOT to consider exemptions in their study. If so, the Mayor and Council should tell us that.
Want some proof? In an advertisement in the April-May edition of the City Times newspaper started by Councillor Lewenza, there is the smiling face of the Mayor telling us that "Being smoke free makes Windsor a healthier place...We put people first in Windsor...that we're a progressive city...we support healthier environments for our workers, for our visitors, for ourselves."
I wish I understood what was going on.
It is again up to the Blogmesiter to save this City. I had a really wild idea which the Report authors did not consider. We need to hold a Rolling Stones benefit concert like the one in Toronto after the SARS epidemic to put Windsor back on the map after all of the disasters we have lived through. Do you think it is ridiculous? Remember who headlined the Half-time show at Super Bowl XL in Detroit!
And who do you think was seen with Paris Hilton, John Travolta and Hugh Hefner dining at a very famous restaurant in downtown Windsor? If that does not get the gossip columnists talking about Sin City again, nothing will!