The Border--Where It's At
We have had diversions like Bill C-3, DRTP, the Schwartz Report, Cansult, leasing the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, quality of life and building a 14 KM tunnel from Highway 401 to the border. Now the latest attraction is P3s and supposedly allowing a "private" role at the border as the mass media headlines scream out. I guess the Government wanted to float the trial balloon to see how many private investors bite at the opportunity to lose a fortune financing a new Government owned bridge in Windsor.
What I have found interesting is that it is the City of Windsor that is freaking out but not the Bridge Co. or DRIC [although DRIC has major funding issues now]. I have not sensed any panic from either of those two parties. They just keep doing what they are doing in spite of everything going on around them.
What prompted these thoughts is that I have heard that Lawyer David Estrin has been seen in town over the past little while. I was trying to figure out what he was doing. Clearly it has to do with both the Bridge Co. and with DRIC since both are moving forward and are close to achieving their objectives. It may even have to do with an EA to follow through with what Council wanted to do in their Resolution at the Tecumseh meeting. It really does not matter what he does.
From the Bridge Co.'s perspective, in spite of the naysayers, for the past decade, they have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in preparation for their enhancement project. The Ambassador Gateway project is nearing completion on the US side and they are the only party that does NOT require a Presidential permit. On the Canadian side they are working their way through the EA process. They could have their enhancement project finished within several years!
As for DRIC, they are moving methodically forward, doing whatever it is that they are doing, to come up with their solution. They are a useful tool for politicians on this side of the border who want to "respect the process" ie put off as long as possible a decision since no matter what it is, they will be criticized. So let DRIC take the hit now and soften everyone up.
So the two parties are moving forward and who is in the middle between them like between the jaws of a vise, waiting to be crushed---Eddie Francis and Council.
They have completely followed the wrong strategic course from Day #1. They failed to recognize the realities of the border situation. Instead, with arrogance, they misused the good-will the City achieved by citizen action before this Council was elected. Instead of negotiating a proper positon with the Bridge Co. and Senior Levels as they could have done as adults, they played as if they were petulant children who threw tantrums when they did not get their way. Of course, their action was motivated by grand visions of controlling the border but that is another story.
So David Estrin is back presumably to achieve Council's objectives. Who knows, to prove me wrong Eddie may even start a lawsuit against the Feds.
Except it is different now. If there is delay, and it can be attributed to the City, it starts costing both major protagonists time and real money. That will not be tolerated. Moreover, neither party is concerned about a Mayor of some small town. To be blunt, he may be able to push around major players in Windsor beause he is the Mayor and he controls Administration but he does not control them nor are they intimidated by him! Frankly, they tolerate him
Here's the reality that needs to be considered.
From the Bridge Co.'s perspective, they are known to be litigious. They took on the Government of Canada over FIRA rules for a dozen years and won. They took on GSA over the new US Customs booths and won. Does Eddie want to take them on? He becomes the prime witness on behalf of the City and he will not be able to pass the buck to the Councillors while on the stand! Some of the wild-mouthed statements of Councillors may come back to haunt them now too.
As for Canada, they have the constitutional authority now to do what they want respecting the crossing and access roads. Bill C-3 merely helps them. Can you imagine what would happen to the Mayor and Council here if Transport Minister Cannon pulls the Fed's BIF money to help fix up old bridges in Quebec. After all, $300 million is a lot of money just sitting doing nothing when it's his job to get Conservatives elected in Quebec.
Eddie and Council are playing a dangerous game. If the money goes, then several on Council will be attacked by the construction industry and the unions for losing all of that infrastructure money at a time when Windsor desperately needs jobs! Good thing the election is over.
And you know who will get the blame and why. It is so predictable since the City and Province have formed an unholy alliance against the Feds. What a way for the Feds to get back at both at one time!
I am not sure what the answer is to be blunt. No one needs Windsor now as the past few years have shown. We have no friends or allies, no pretending that we have a position since Schwartz has left and no vision. We merely disrupt and threaten and perhaps write detailed responses "asking."
What failure we have experienced. Perhaps a strong new Council is our only salvation---but I doubt that will happen either unless the three newbies give Council some backbone. How sad for us!