Eddie And The Senators
Yesterday our distinguished Mayor and legal counsel and hired gun, David Estrin, appeared in front of the Senate Committee discussing Bill C-3 in Ottawa.
That David Estrin is sure using up quickly that $400K Council voted in secret to pay him and his consultants, what with him being in Cleveland the day before in front of the US Coast Guard blasting away at the Ambassador Bridge Co. and then in Ottawa. And it was a good thing that Mr. Estrin informed the Senators during the hearing that he was a lawyer with 30-plus years environmental law experience or they might have thought he was merely one of the Mayor's staff members. They know now that Windsor only travels first class.
Obviously, I was not there so am at a disadvantage but I did hear the Webcast of the Senate hearing "live." My reaction: the Senators resented that he appeared in front of them, although they were extremely polite, but did not go to the Commons hearing to speak there first. I think he was viewed as a glib politician who did not answer questions and was "over-reaching" in what he wanted to the detriment of Canada. He was viewed as someone who got what he deserved by the amendments of Bill C-3 in the Commons but who wanted, like Oliver, MORE PLEASE!
Whoever "coached" him on his performance miscalculated. He was there as the "lawyer/Mayor" speaking legalese to the Committee. He did not act as the people's Mayor looking out for the good of his community while balancing the needs of the economy of Canada. He appeared in front of them frankly as a small-town, municipal Mayor trying to tell the Transport Minister what to do with Eddie effectively asking for a "veto" right. The Senators would have none of it.
Eddie had two main points:
- The Minister should be compelled to have consultations with the City and if there is no agreement, some kind of arbitration system would be set up (unfortunately I do not have the language of his amendments)
- He wanted limits on what "approaches and facilities related to the bridge or tunnel" meant or the Feds could have unlimited power to take over provincial and municipal roads (such as Huron Church presumably) to the detriment of the local community. It would lead to the "gutting of the provincial and municipal authority as it relates to local roads in our cities, towns and provinces."
Eddie was also concerned that the language "International bridges and tunnels are declared to be works for the general advantage of Canada" was also too broad.
The Senators noted that amendments were made in the House over the initial language and did not seem inclined to want to give the Mayor more. They focused, as they should, on the national aspect of the project and not just Windsor's local interests.
Although I did not see it, I could just imagine Eddie squirming when they asked him about his position as Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission and when they asked him about Tunnel traffic volumes. He knew that they had focused on the "competitive" aspect of his relationship with the Bridge Co. He did not provide an answer as to volumes since the 40%+ decline would have undercut his position!
Obviously, the Chair of the Committee knew that Eddie likes to "threaten" lawsuits. She asked directly "If Bill C-3 is adopted as is, will the City of Windsor consider making a court challenge on constitutional grounds?" Eddie's answer was: "We want to work with the government and will continue to do so, but issues of local concern will be raised in the proper forum." The Chair again asked "You mentioned "the proper forum." What is the proper forum? Is it a court challenge?" Eddie backed off and said "I hope it would not have to go that far, but if constitutional issues must be praised, we will exhaust those options."
Why was Eddie so afraid to say YES! He lost his credibility every time when he gave the "political" answer.
One other point. One of the Senators asked "Has the city of Windsor been involved with this federal study group?" ie DRIC. It is a shame that Eddie did not say that the City has apparently NOT been involved with the Municipal Advisory Group so the Senator could have asked why not!
To sum up what the senators thought is this great line: "Gentlemen, [Francis and Estrin] we heard you were coming here today and we were anxiously awaiting your testimony. Thank you for a colourful presentation."
As for our Mayor, I would hope he would learn from what he said at the session:
- "My job as mayor is to take care of my own boundaries and my own city and to take care of municipal issues."
Based on this, perhaps he could keep Estrin within Canada next time around and save us a few thousand dollars! The US Coast Guard does not need him to tell them how to do their job!
Here is just one example from the Senate hearing of why our "Perry Mason" Mayor needs to learn how to answer questions when being examined, especially by experienced questioners who have no interest in games playing. Can you imagine if he was being cross-examined by someone who did not want to play nicely. It seems that Eddie may have difficulties when he is NOT in charge with the power of the Procedural By-law behind him.
...Senator Mercer: You are a good politician. There is no Question Period at the municipal level, but you have just avoided the question...
Senator Mercer: However, you are the mayor of the city of Windsor.
Mr. Francis: I am.
Senator Mercer: You are chair of the tunnel commission, is that correct?
Mr. Francis: I am chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, yes.
Senator Mercer: Does that come with the title of mayor? Is the mayor always the chair of this commission or is this something separate?
Mr. Francis: No, the mayor has historically taken on roles and responsibilities on a number of committees. In addition to the Windsor Tunnel Commission, I am also chair of the energy company. It is part of our job. Our jobs never end. We work on committees.
Senator Mercer: I have bridges in my province that go from one city to another, not from one country to another.
Mr. Francis: It was established when the tunnel was created and vested in the city of Windsor that a committee and a commission would be struck. The commission is an agency.
Senator Mercer: City council then chooses who the chair is, do they?
Mr. Francis: The commission does, yes.
Senator Mercer: The commission, but who appoints the commission?
Mr. Francis: The city council.
Senator Mercer: I told you he is a good politician.
Eddie's full transcript will eventually be available on the Senate's website for your reading pleasure.