The Cansfield Interview
Yet it was surprising...a taping of the Minister's Editorial Board meeting was put on the Windsor Star website for all to hear. (Interestingly, not the secret one with the Mayor a few days before where he said that secrecy was over and that the Privacy Commissioner rules).
You should download it if you still can and listen to it. It will be very instructive to you. Here are the main points from my perspective listening to it:
- she will meet the Michigan Governor in January
- Windsor is a top priority for the McGuinty Government
- Technical info will be given out to the people this week in order to start the next round of discussion after people have digested the information
- She confirmed signing an MoU with Michigan
- "No decisions will be made next week" (one of her staff members said this)
- The study is about finding a location for a bridge. It IS a bridge across the river [again, a comment by her staff member]
- It will be in mid 2007 when a decision for a preferred bridge location will be made and Ontario will say how to get from 401 to there
- The province assumed all of the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex moving projects from the City of Windsor and are acting as agent for the City since Windsor did not have capacity internally to do it. They took over project management since theProvince has the expertise to offer
- She met with the Port Authority re the H2O highway project
- Her relationship with Transport Canada Minister Cannon is good
- The Schwartz Report fitted in with the Province’s planning since all was accepted other than the Horseshoe Road and going through Ojibway ("Information input into their study") ie 2 KM difference at Todd Lane
- People on Huron Church don’t want to mingle with heavy trucks.
- The Government's stated objective was to separate long-haul traffic from local traffic
- They want to have Huron Church as a viable business section again and to maintain economic viability ie have it as a commercial route for tourists, attractions, dinner
- The avoidance of large vehicles on that route is a huge and legitimate issue
- People have had difficult times along that stretch of highway
- Preferred route is a freeway with NO driveways off of it
- She likes Sandwich; it's a phenomenal community, the best kept secret
- Sandwich's history is important to the region and they have to take it into account when a bridge is to be built
- Near her farm is part of the Underground Railroad so she has a has a connectiveness with Sandwich
- Windsor, Niagara, Queenston is 70% of trade of Canada's trade while Vancouver's is 10% and so they have vested interest to make Windsor work
- She is neutral on the Ambassador Bridge proposal but their position all along is that there will be a third crossing with public oversight
- Bridge is 75-80 years old and there may be a business case for them as to why a twin is being looked …she said our case is quite clear, we are having a third crossing..we are neutral on what the Ambassador Bridge is doing
- Decision was made with Fed Govt, US Fed and Michigan that it will be a bridge that has public oversight..financing may take other routes
- Each have responsibilities and obligations
- Brighton Bridge area looks ok for a new bridge
- Prospect and Sterling Fuels areas being examined especially about solution mining
- They are drilling 12 holes at a cost of $10M ie doing an "MRI" for the area
- Same on US side
- Foundation experts will look at those areas for next several months
- Need a long span bridge at Brighton…1200 metres rather than 900 metres at the other locations
- Challenges of a tunnel---natural ground condition and constructability, soil conditions, high water table, operational issues if emergencies, getting out of a tunnel for fire and safety issue, access from freeway to neighbourhood, ventilation and fumes have to come out to be dispersed, how fumes are dissipated
- Governance ongoing ie how to operate is under discussion now…will be public oversight and ultimately the Feds decide
- Will the Detroit Windsor Tunnel be part of this—some challenges around the Tunnel over cost (she did not seem to know much about it notwithstanding Keregin’s role) She would think that Feds would be very interested in Tunnel depending on what City is planning to do.
- Manning Road to EC Row issue…we are at EA stage right now. County of Essex can determine what vehicles can use it. It's not being sold as diverting international traffic to EC Row but to service local businesses by providing better access
- Trucks will use the easiest route to the border ie why go onto EC Row and mix with city traffic if can use 6-lane freeway directly to the bridge crossing
- Solution being offered is greater capacity unencumbered by 17 lights and so people will go to the least encumbered route.
What does this all mean?
From listening to her, one would have to say that the Minister is an honest and sincere person who really does listen to people and is trying to do her best. However, she has been totally captured by her bureaucrats and was extremely well-rehearsed for the session. She said all the right things to make people locally happy. BUT her in-depth knowledge of the border file may be suspect, even though we again heard how important Windsor is. She may not have been given all of the facts, the bad as well as the good, by her advisors and may be made to look foolish one day.
The clear example is the Tunnel of which she obviously knew little. Yet Michael F. Kergin was appointed by Premier Dalton McGuinty in September 2005 to act as the Premier’s Special Advisor on Border Issues and he has been very involved in the matter. Why have the bureaucrats hidden that from her? She sounded flustered because it had not been "scripted' in advance for her. What else have they hidden from her that might allow her to make an informed decision, not one that the bureaucrats are leading her to make.
Does she, as an example, know why the Blue Water Bridge was twinned where it was and not in a downriver location as DRIC is proposing here? Does she know that the planning for that location did not work and that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars need to be spent there for Plaza improvements? Does she know that billions have been spent on a twinned Bridge there and on highway expansion on both sides of the border? Does she know that the gap between actual and projected numbers for Sarnia traffic is growing every year, as is happening here? Does she know that the Ambassador Bridge takes traffic from there in spite of their higher tolls and the mess on Huron Church Road? If so, how does she answer these questions (which none of the Star editors posed, good manners I guess) If not, why not?
She took a few shots at the Feds. Clearly there is a competition going on between them or she would not have had to hold a press conference with MDOT's Director over nothing. She wants more Federal money for Ontario, so she talked about the 70% of trade in Ontario, interestingly, a lot of that going over the Ambassador Bridge. However, she had to concede that the Feds are in control.
We received confirmation again that DRTP is dead except that they have not been buried yet. All of Mike's ads and brochures and spending has not convinced anyone to do anyhting with his project. Oh sure, she talked about a tunnel but also challenges about building a tunnel were discussed at length. What will Mike rename the project now? Somethign related to brownfield renewal might be a good bet since that seems trendy with this Mayor.
She was smooooooth on Sandwich and its importance as she told that Community that they were going to be sandwich-ed between 2 bridges. When will the West End activists and politicians finally wake up and come to their senses. They are getting the worst of all worlds! She was just as smooooooth about Manning Road and how it will NOT put trucks on E C Row.
It is clear that the DRIC road is the one we are going to get, without major tunnelling although there may be some. We heard again about the challenges with a tunnel. And how to win friends---sure we adopted most of Schwartz Plan but not the part that made the environmentalists unhappy. SLAM/WHAM Eddie....Nice move politically eh!
It took until the 35th minute into the interview for her to mention briefly the Ambassador Bridge and I thought she was rather dismissive of it considering it is Canada's main border crossing. What was interesting was that she dropped the concept of public "ownership" and went back to the bureuacrats' script on public "oversight." Again interestingly, she talked about a third crossing in the context of the Ambassador Bridge (ie a totally new one) but who says it cannot be the enhanced Ambassador Bridge project as in Sarnia. I wonder if, at her subsequent meeting with the Bridge Co. reps, they showed her in detail their "business plan!" If they showed her the graphs that they showed the Senators it will be interesting to see how the Government can justify financing a P3 bridge with traffic going down so drastically. As well, a bridge one-third longer and at much greater cost just to beat the Ambassador Bridge, absurd!
She may be smarter than her bureaucrats think since she left herself an out re the Ambassador Bridge that you could drive a truck through. More public "oversight" over an enhanced Ambassador Bridge financed by the Bridge Co.---- I wonder if that is the Minister's plan that she may shove down the bureaucrat's throats at the right time!
What also interested me is that she may have played into her bureaucrats' hands unknowingly. They may have set her up for a fall since she seems rather independent-minded. That has happened before to a Cabinet Minister in the border file. Some of her roadway remarks could be proven to be unfortunate as time goes on and could lead to a major dispute which politically will be laid right at her doorstep. Not a good idea if she has poltical ambitions for the future.
What in the end may decide our border's future will be her meeting with the Michigan Governor in January!