Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 27, 2006


Since this is Sin City North and our Mayor is the poster boy for Budweiser, I thought I might have a bit of fun with the Miller Brewery’s slogan. After all, isn’t Eddie Francis viewed as the big Clydesdale politically in Windsor?

I had breakfast with a reader of my Blog a few weeks ago, a significant business person whose name I had read in the paper but whom I did not know. After the usual pleasantries, he just came out and asked whether I was going to run for Mayor! It was not the first time that the question had been asked of me recently.

Now Blogmeisters generally don’t run for office but the question intrigued me. What it meant to me first is that a lot of people must be unhappy with the present Administration. Why else ask me the question in the first place? Was he an Eddie spy trying to feel me out about my intentions? Hardly, from what I knew about him.

Second, there may not be anyone who is prepared to run against the seemingly overpowering Francis electoral machine especially if the Windsor Star continues to back him (Who knows, maybe that is changing with the Eddie Boy Scout editorial cartoon). Sure I have visibility in town (as a political insider in one of the major parties told me) because of my border battles over the last few years. The view could easily be that I am using the publicity to gain a political advantage as has been done in the past. But this publicity is hardly enough to justify me running for Mayor without a lot of work over the next few months to get better known.

I have made the comment, based on my personal observations and some gossip about polling that I heard has been done, that a credible candidate could beat Eddie easily. All of a sudden, Eddie has a "record" that he has to defend. It’s easy to attack someone as a candidate but a lot harder to demonstrate that what you have done is worthy of re-election as an incumbent. As can be seen as a result of the Fairley Face-to-Face interview, there is not a lot for Eddie to gloat about and John was being diplomatic.

There are at least four groups that I have heard of looking for a candidate to run against Eddie. And it is NOT just business people who are looking for an alternative. I still believe, notwithstanding the denials, that at least three City Councillors are thinking whether they should take the chance or stick around for three more years and wait for Eddie to go. As Council publicly implodes this year (as happened in Hurst’s last year of office), one of them may be emboldened to run if no other credible candidate appears. Just watch at Council meetings if any of them start setting out separate positions from their colleagues and don’t just follow the Mayor’s pleas for unanimity to get a good indication.

Now the “E” machine is probably not all that unhappy about this turn of events. There are two tactics that can be used….scare away opponents in advance and then, as a fall-back, encourage a number of people to run.

We’ve seen the first happen already. The mere mention that a person might dare run against Eddie requires that not only does he/she not run but has to praise Eddie to the limit as Councillor Brister did in a Henderson column. If someone has the audacity to say something negative as was said as an example about the poor MFP settlement, the comment is made that the person “appears to be getting a head start on his 2009 mayoral campaign.”

As for the second approach, remember the worry that both Francis and Marra would run against Hurst last time around and thereby split the anti-Hurst vote allowing him to sneak back in. That’s not a bad strategy to follow now either if the first does not work. With four groups chasing around for candidates, who knows how many will be found. The Bacon Man last time ruined Eddie’s “rhythm” during the Mayoral candidates debate since he was an extra party who took up time since he had to be heard. This time around, the Mayor may be quite happy sitting out the dance.

As I have said before, unless Eddie changes drastically, and I do not think he can, Windsor needs a new mayor. We cannot keep going on like this with a total lack of leadership at the top from our only full-time politician. As everyone knows, there is only one choice. Bill Marra is that person.

Why should he take the risk? Why not wait for three more years and be safe? Why not live up to the rumours that he is going to run in Ward 4 as Councillor. He would have no trouble knocking off Ken Lewenza Jr. He has a young family. He has made a huge success of his New Beginnings project, allowing it to expand rapidly. He is Chair of Hotel Dieu Hospital Board, guiding it through some very difficult times. He is starting up a new business as well.

It is not for me to be presumptuous and to suggest to Bill what he ought to do but I do know he wanted to be mayor last time around. He ran a great campaign (but for several mistakes that cost him the election, the negative radio ad being the most obvious one). Understand that he went from virtually zero in electoral support to getting almost 43% of the total vote. It was NOT a landslide win for the “E” Machine who lost momentum after the first week that Eddie announced he was running! I always wondered what would have happened if the campaign lasted a few more weeks

The biggest credit that Bill had was the gentlemanly way that he conceded defeat when he could have been very bitter, winning a lot of friends in the process. When he was on Council Close-up on Cogeco giving political commentary on the week’s Council events, he was still the gentleman with his soft criticism even when they made mistakes.

You know that I was a big worker for Eddie when he ran for mayor. I got the nerve one day to call Bill up quite some time after the election and asked him out for a coffee. The first thing I did when we met was extend my hand and offer him an apology for not voting for him!

So may I suggest to the people in the various groups looking for a candidate that they do not really have very far to look. I do believe that Bill Marra is credible, he is respected and he has grown for the better. I have met Bill several times since our first meeting and the time away from City Hall has matured him and has made a big change in him.

In my opinion, it is time for the leaders in the Community who are concerned about the future of Windsor to talk to Bill and to offer him their support. It is time for them to convince Bill that he must run now and not in 2009 as some are egging him on to do. They must convince him that he should take the chance of losing and perhaps ending his political career forever. It is not time for Bill to play it “safe.” He must be convinced that he has no choice but to run.

Windsor cannot afford three more years of Eddie Francis as Mayor. It is time to draft Bill and have him run. It truly is Marra’s Time!

Famous Words

I thought I would post a few interesting comments by different people about different things over different time-periods.

I told you that Kwame "owns" Michigan for the time being at least!

January 25, 2006. Part of Governor Granholm's State of the State speech:

"Granholm acknowledged Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the audience, saying: "The entire state needs and wants Detroit to be successful. We all have to work together to see it happen. So to those who practice the politics of division, who would drive a wedge between the city and the state, let me say this: The only thing that should come between Detroit and Michigan is a comma. Period."

Who else told us to "Think Big"

02/03/2004. Ex-Michigan Governeor and ex-Us Ambassador to Canada James Blanchard:

"Well I haven’t sat down and spent enough time to think about what is it our goals should be with U.S.-Canada Relations these days... Whatever it is, it ought to be fixed. We ought to think big. And this is probably a good time because the United States is in the process of renewing its relationships with every country and Canada is a logical place. Not a logical place--it’s a start ... Think big.

The Americans will make the border decisions

July 30, 1988 Then Councillor and ex-Mayor John Millson.

"Detroit is going to do what it wants to do and we have to accept that...As much as Canadians might want to fool ourselves into thinking we have some control over the United States, we don't."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Ferry-Tale

Question: What do Brian Masse and Mike Hurst have in common?

Answer: they both claim that "Ottawa discriminates against the Windsor-Detroit Truck Ferry company in forcing it to pay for customs inspection."

Don't you find it surprising that there is so much attention heaped on an operator that I believe carries about 50-80 trucks a day across the river? (I saw that number in a Sam Schwartz presentation)? Of course the claim is made that the ferry operations could be expanded to 1,000 trucks per day but who would ever really use it (other than for hazardous materials.)? With the truck back-up gone on Huron Church would you as a truck driver waste the time to use the ferry rather than drive right over the bridge and through Customs? Of course not.

Save the crocodile tears. The support of the ferry is not to help a small business operator. Rather it is to boost the competitive position of DRTP or a new crossing. In a Letter to The Editor to the Windsor Star, Mike Hurst seemed to suggest that the amount involved was "$6 to $8 per truck." Clearly that would mean that DRTP and the new bridge, if it is ever built, would have to add that cost into what they would charge truckers.
By supporting the Ferry, DRTP and the new bridge would demand the same advantage wouldn't they? Now that is clever thinking!

Oh well, let the taxpayers pay for it rather than the new operators or the truckers that will actually use the new facility. Why should taxpayers actually recover costs as the legislation now requires. What's $150 million for DRTP here, or $6-8 per truck there when we are amongst friends.

Audit Of Windsor Tunnel Commission Needed

They just got a $60-70,000 job to do an operational audit on the Library. That's just peanuts for what I am going to suggest. Here is some more work for the partners at KPMG.

You have a simple request for information from a Government Department or agency. Don't you just hate it when some bureaucrat tries to ignore you, or not give you the information, or gives you the run around, or, when you persevere, to shuffle you off to someone else in the hopes that you will go away.

I wanted some information about the Duty Free Shop at the Tunnel and thought I would call the Windsor Tunnel Commission for help. The first challenge was to find a phone number. After failing to find one online or in the phone book, I called 3-1-1. I received a number from them but the wrong one: The Detroit Windsor Tunnel, not the Tunnel Commission. I guess they did not know the difference. After calling back, I was given a name and fax number. The exchange of faxes and emails is disclosed below.

Now the real reason I am posting this is the gentleman whose name I was given is the City Auditor. How he fits into the WTC I have no idea. I was at Council when the discussion revolved around doing an "operational audit" at the Library. Mr. Dunbar was there and he supported the need for an audit.

Well, Mr. Dunbar, I think, had better run to the City's Audit Committee and demand an audit of WTC. I cannot believe that their filing system is so bad that he could not find out any documentation about the rent reduction although it is in their Minutes. The part that he did not know is that I already had some information (see below) and I just wanted to find if there was any more.

Let me see, I think I will fax my third request to the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission now. That's the Mayor if you did not know and I will let you know if I get an answer.
  • By Fax

    Date: January 5, 2006
    To: Windsor Tunnel Commission
    ATTN: Mike Dunbar

    I recall reading that the Windsor Tunnel Commission and/or City Council agreed to reduce the rent of the Tunnel Duty Free Shop but I cannot find the reference now.

    Would you please provide me with the minutes of the WTC or City Council that authorized this reduction. I thought the rent reduction had taken place for several years so would you be good enough to provide the minutes for each reduction.

  • Second Notice was sent January 18 along with a Vociemail message

  • ---- Original Message -----
    From: "Dunbar, Mike"
    Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 3:11 PM
    Subject: Duty Free Shop Rent

    Mr. Arditti

    Regarding your letter of 5, January, 2006, please be advised that I am unable to find any documentation or confirmation that the Duty Free Shop rent was reduced by Council and/or the Windsor Tunnel Commission.


    Mike Dunbar, City Auditor

  • -----Original Message-----
    From: OJIBWAY NOW! []
    Sent: January 18, 2006 3:29 PM
    To: Dunbar, Mike
    Subject: Re: Duty Free Shop Rent
    Importance: High

    I was told by 3-1-1 that you were the contact for the WTC. I do not know if that is correct or not. If not, please forward this on to the proper person.

    I am rather disappointed in your reply to be direct. I already have some information:

    The Minutes show:
    "That the extension of the Duty Free Shop's Casino Discount Program tourism initiative for July, 2004, which effects a reduced rental rate of 6.5% to net program sales before discount BE APPROVED; and That this approval BE TRANSMITTED to City Council for ratification."

    "Moved by Councillor Jones, seconded by Councillor Wilson, M183-2004 That Report No. 4 of the Windsor Tunnel Commission of its meeting held September 23, 2004 BE ADOPTED as presented. Carried."

    I cannot believe you could not find this information at the least. As Auditor of the City, it may be that the Audit Committee should be aware of the poor record keeping so that it can ask for WTC's records to be audited by an external auditor as well as that of the Library Board!

    I would again ask for the information requested!

    Ed Arditti BA, LL.B, LL.M

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Dunbar, Mike"
    To: "'OJIBWAY NOW!'"
    Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 3:46 PM
    Subject: RE: Duty Free Shop Rent

    Mr. Arditti

    Thank you for the clarification.

    I believe you would find it more advantageous to request that type of information from the City Clerk.


    Mike Dunbar
    City Auditor

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: "OJIBWAY NOW!"
    To: "Dunbar, Mike"
    Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 3:55 PM
    Subject: Re: Duty Free Shop Rent

    I would have thought that WTC should have this information at its fingertips since it is their business. ie it looks like what I require is set out in WTC minutes. Not all of WTC's minutes are set out in Council minutes as you know.

    Ed Arditti BA, LL.B, LL.M

It is hilarious. The representative from WTC telling me to go to the Clerk's Department to get information that he should have readily available. And about rental rates too.

The problem for me as a taxpayer is that the WTC rep is also the City Auditor. While he does not seem to have any concern with what appears to me to be poor record keeping at WTC, I do. Perhaps it is time for the in depth audits of all City departments to identify inefficiencies and implement sound management principles that Eddie promised us when he became Mayor to "clear the air" as was suggested with the Library Board!

If it is a good idea for one City organization, then why not for another or all of them.

Hmmmm aren't these the people that gave us the Park 'N Go deal that is now in receivership and that may cost the City up to $3 million? Wasn't Eddie's concern on Face-To-Face whether proper steps were in place to protect the City's interests? Wasn't the issue internal City controls? Do we still have the potential now for another MFP? We need the air cleared right away.

If the City will not act, then the Audit Committee must. It is time to find out what is going on at the WTC!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Border Patrol

I do patrol the media looking for interesting stories that may help us out on border issues. There were several nuggets today.

Expect more walk-outs at the border crossings in light of the story about the two murder suspects who “were pursued by American police in a high-speed chase along Interstate 5 in Washington state before the men ran the U.S. border crossing in an attempt to get into Canada…. An unspecified number of Canadian border agents, who are unarmed, left their posts during the incident because they were concerned about their safety.”

Jeff Watson learned his lesson and is, moreover, watching his language. I heard that before the election Jeff was told to keep quiet about his DRTP support and follow the “respect the Bi-national” party line. So in today’s paper we read Watson saying. "Our commitment is to the binational (Detroit River International Crossing) process," Watson said. "They will soon be reaching a decision on a crossing.”

But Jeff is obviously a lot smarter than people give him credit. I loved the last line of what he said “You can literally see the light at the end of the bridge.” For that play of words alone, he deserves a cabinet position.

However, if Jeff wants to stay ahead of the pack, and assuming he does have a border role, he should watch what is happening on the other side. Both municipally and in Lansing, there is a movement to pull the plug on DRIC. DRIC’s actions have infuriated communities and its costs are huge. Given that it is an election year in the US, Watson should be part of the movement on this side to stay in tandem with the Americans and should start the process to drop DRIC as well.

Moreover, the best thing that Watson could do is to demand that the BIF funding or the Conservative’s promise of a $2-billion Highways and Border Infrastructure Fund be used immediately to build the road to the Ambassador Bridge both to keep traffic moving and off of Huron Church Road and for the creation of jobs in this region. Now that is good politics!

Alan McKinnon of the Ojibway environmental group should be pleased this morning as well and the Mayor and Council may want to re-think their silly opposition to Schwartz’s Route #4 (ie the DRIC road which was the WALTS/City/Bridgeco road to the border). “Watson said he will fight any attempt to create a border truck route through Ojibway Park lands. "It would be something tragic for a precious jewel in our midst."

And as for the realtionship between Eddie and Watson…I wish I could attend the first meeting if Jeff is given a border role. How about if we all write to Stephen Harper demanding that he get that job.

I see that the Americans have announced that a travel card would be an alternative to the passport idea that could hurt business in Canada. Will that be a better idea since people would have to apply for it and it still means that spur of the moment trips would not happen.

It's happened before in the US. Actions taken without thinking about the consequences to business and tourism on both sides of the border. As was said "its implications were not fully understood or debated."

I found this back in 1998 dealing with Section 110 of the ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION REFORM AND IMMIGRANT RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 1996. Section 110 provided that, by September 30, 1998, the Attorney General must develop an automated entry-exit control system that will enable the Attorney General to track the arrival and departure of `every alien' entering and leaving the United States.

Just one excerpt:

On October 14, 1997, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Senator Spencer Abraham, convened a field hearing in Detroit, MI, at which testimony was heard concerning the traffic congestion and delays that would result from the implementation of section 110 as written. ...

Witnesses testifying at the hearing universally voiced concerns that implementing section 110 at the land borders could cause severe traffic delays that would effectively close the land borders. Testimony highlighted that Michigan would particularly be affected because of the relatively large number of high-volume border crossings located in the State. Mayor Archer explained that, of all crossings on the Northern border handling U.S.-bound vehicle traffic from Canada, Detroit's Ambassador Bridge is the busiest U.S.-Canadian crossing, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is the second busiest, and Port Huron's Blue Water Bridge is the fifth.

Implementation of section 110 at the land borders would, he explained, turn `downtown Detroit [into] a virtual parking lot.' Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., testified that the Ambassador Bridge handles approximately 30,000 vehicle crossings per day. Mr. Stamper calculated that `assum[ing] the most efficient and remarkable entry and exit procedures in the world [that] will take only 30 seconds' per vehicle, and making the equally optimistic assumption that only half of the vehicles have to go through the procedures, that would amount to an extra `3,750 minutes of additional processing time each day.' As he pointed out, `there are only 1,440 minutes in a day.' Mr. Stamper concluded that, if section 110 is put into place at the land borders, `we are talking about closing the border...'

It looks like the border may be hopping for Super Bowl week if the Star is correct. "Steelers fans are coming to Windsor by the bus loads -- and they mean to party in Sin City." I expect both the bridge and Tunnel are going to be busy with the Tunnel having the most visible role (though not necessarily the most traffic) since it is City-owned. The Tunnel Bus should do a landslide business too.

I trust that Mr. NFL or whoever in Windsor is organizing matters on Super Bowl day will ensure that traffic goes smoothly through the crossings. Can you imagine the negative publicity if a busload or two of Super Bowl fans miss the first quarter of the game because of Customs hold-ups or traffic congestion.

And of course, what better time for Canadian Customs workers to go on strike for "safety concerns."

It Is Not The Time For Eddie To Be conservative

I have a different take on what happened in the federal election and how it impacts us in Windsor. Please note that I used the small "c" for "conservative" in the title line not meaning the Party

I do feel sympathy for the Mayor. Poor Eddie. He must feel like Hamlet now at the end of Act 1, Scene 5. “This time is out of joint, O cursed spite, that I was ever born to set it right.”

His plans and timetable are all out of whack now and a Conservative win does not help. Or does it? Can Eddie charm the new Government into helping Windsor—and him—out?

He has all of the responsibilities on his shoulders to get a border solution for Windsor and the Conservatives get elected. Could it be really worse than under the Liberals? Yes it can be. Windsor and the border will not be very high on their list of priorities. It sure wasn’t when Harper came to town!

The Conservatives will first have to make sure that their Western base is well looked after considering they feel ignored by the central Government. "The West has wanted in; The West is in now," the prime minister-designate said in his victory speech

Ironically, they will also have to cater to Quebec. The Bloc will maintain them in power as long as they get something. As their leader Gilles Duceppe said, "[he] wanted to remind Harper that the Bloc holds the balance of power."

Surprise, surprise, the Conservatives actually elected ten of their own MPs from Quebec. So they will get visions of being a true national power and will have to spend more money in La Belle Province for the next election.

The Conservatives did poorly in the large urban areas so to do better, they will have to focus more on the large urban cities and their real Big City Mayors. They need votes and seats there to make a breakthrough if they want a majority if the future. Mayor David Miller of Toronto said "I think by Torontonians and people in Vancouver and Montreal voting for their cities, it sends a strong message that cities needs need to be addressed if you're going to succeed electorally in the city."

Where does this leave Windsor and the border---invisible. We, of course, elected NDPers Brian Masse and Joe Comartin who did little for us before when the NDP held the balance of power. Now that the NDP is irrelevant again, then they can do nothing for us. Anyway, the Star informed us “NDP Leader Jack Layton met with The Star's editorial board during the campaign, he refused to guarantee that support for a new crossing would be the linchpin of any deal to prop up a minority government.”

Gord Henderson is trying hard to help Eddie by suggesting that he and Council kiss and make up with Jeff Watson who beat Susan Whelan by a surprisingly big majority . Gord slammed Watson in his columns when Watson issued press releases that the Mayor did not like (although Watson did prove to be correct). He understands that Jeff is the only Conservative around here although it is unlikely he will get a cabinet position. And the idea of hiring lobbyists…it did not help Eddie much with the Liberals did it? (Eddie had said as a candidate: “As mayor… Council and I will line the halls of Queens Park and Parliament Hill we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our MP’s and MPPs and remind them all everyday that they can not afford to ignore our city…… our region…… our importance.)

Now that we know (as do the Conservatives) that Eddie was approached to run for the Liberals federally and after turning down Ernie Eves in the last provincial elections to run as a PC, it will not help him for them to think he is a closet Liberal. After all, why should the Conservatives help a “Liberal” mayor. Eddie is going to have to do something dramatic if he wants Harper to even meet with him, border or no border.

Eddie needs a sacrifice. He should learn from Governor Granholm. Right after Kwame won the election in Detroit for Mayor, Dennis Archer who was her campaign chairman resigned. She needed Detroit to vote for her since she wanted to be re-elected as Governor and the last person she needed on her staff was a Hendrix supporter.

Eddie needs to act as ruthlessly as the Governor. He needs to take drastic action no matter what the consequences may appear to him to be locally. Eddie must do something right away to gain attention from Watson and his Conservative colleagues. They need a strong signal out of Windsor that Eddie wants to work with them.

Eddie knows what has to be done. The question is whether he has the nerve to do it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Infrastructure As An Economic Recovery Generator

Remember my BLOG a few days ago "Whatever happened to...." There was an interesting article I found in the Toronto Star back in 2001 that applies in Windsor today. We have the project--the road to the bridge---and the money---the $300 million BIF pot of gold---so why are we delaying? If the Mayor and Council will finally wake up, we may have a way to stimulate the local economy until they figure out a better solution for the region!

Why aren't the Windsor Construction Association and Chamber of Commerce, Presidents of companies and their workers and unions amongst others demanding action forthwith! What are they waiting for?
Perhaps our re-elected MPs for the area, Masse, Comartin and Watson, can overcome their party differences and, by working together, actually help create some new jobs here after the Ford shock!

Slump calls for investment in infrastructure;
David Crane. Toronto Star.

WHILE A NASTY recession, like that of the early 1990s, appears unlikely, there's no question we are in an economic slump.

Moreover, the illusion of a V-shaped recovery so popular with economists and analysts early this year they said there would be a brief fall in economic activity in the first half of the year followed by a healthy rebound in the second half has been shattered.

It now appears we are in for a longer period of weak performance as companies work their way through excess inventories and overcapacity...

There are problems of excess capacity in many other industries, including autos and steel.

The response of governments has been to lower interest rates and cut taxes, in the hope that consumers will rescue the economy. So far, this approach has little to show in the way of results.

So perhaps it's time to consider a very old-fashioned idea to boost the economy. Why not accelerate public spending in necessary infrastructure, from transit and roads to water systems, waste management and educational facilities as well as to social housing. Such spending is non-recurring and so does not impose an ongoing burden on public finances.

Unfortunately, while the federal and provincial governments have talked a lot about investing in infrastructure, the flow of funds has been far too slow.

...projects have yet to start moving forward. The same is true for...the provision of additional capacity at the Windsor-Detroit border crossing.

If we are to have a productive economy and attract investment, we have to have first-rate infrastructure. The combination of this real need and an economic slowdown means that this is exactly the right time to accelerate such spending thereby modernizing the economy for long-term growth while stimulating the economy for some immediate growth."

Someone Likes The Ambassador Bridge Co.

I have never seen anything like this before. You won't believe me. You'll think I made it up. You'll accuse me of an early April 1st joke. But it's true. I found this while doing some research.

A State Legislator, actually a bunch of them, in Michigan introduced the following Resolution in favour of the Ambassador Bridge Company. Can you imagine if something like this was introduced at Queen's Park by one or both of our two Cabinet Ministers to signify that we do not have back-ups on Huron Church and that the border is working. Nawwwwww I must be dreaming!

No. 53




House of Representatives

93rd Legislature

House Chamber, Lansing, Thursday, June 9, 2005.
House Resolution No. 90.
A resolution expressing appreciation and support for the Ambassador Bridge.

Whereas, The Ambassador Bridge has provided a safe and efficient border crossing service for people and goods since its dedication on November 11, 1929; and

Whereas, The total U.S. trade with Ontario is nearing $400 billion annually. This amount is larger than the total U.S. trade with Japan. Almost 30 percent of Ontario's trade total crosses the Ambassador Bridge; and

Whereas, The Ambassador Bridge has continually taken steps to enhance its service and to increase the volume of traffic that can move safely and efficiently between Canada and the U.S. with capacity increases in 2001 and 2004; and

Whereas, The Ambassador Bridge has, and will, continue to properly secure the border since 9/11; and

Whereas, In response to a December 2004 request from outgoing U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, and Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan, for a 25 percent increase in throughput capacity at each border crossing by June 2005, the Ambassador Bridge has presented plans for a 50 percent increase in capacity on the U.S. Plaza and a 45 percent increase on the Canadian Plaza; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the members of this legislative body express appreciation and support for the Ambassador Bridge. We applaud the Detroit International Bridge Company for its continual program of enhancement of service and throughput capacity of this vital border crossing; and be it further

Resolved, That a copy of this resolution be transmitted to the Detroit International Bridge Company as a token of our esteem.

The resolution was referred to the Committee on Commerce.

Monday, January 23, 2006

DesRosiers on Ford and Buzz

Ford Motor Company had their big announcement today and as expected they are making significant cuts across their North American operations. Somewhere between 25 and 35,000 blue collar and white collar jobs to be cut through to 2012, most of these front end loaded into the next quarter and no later than 2008. The first hour of the press conference was telling everyone how great a company these 35K workers worked for and to tell you the honest truth, this hour was quite tedious. They talk of having a new 'candour' yet they obfuscate on virtually every issue. Indeed, we are still missing most of the details.

Here are some key points focusing primarily on Canada.

Three assembly plants to close, none in Canada. St. Louis, Atlanta and Wixom will close. St. Thomas as expected loses a shift which will affect at least 1,200 workers. Exact numbers to come. St. Thomas employs 2,500. The $200 million investment for St. Thomas promised last year in the labour talks will go ahead which gives this plant some short term hope. Two more assembly plants to close and will be announced by the end of the year and we do not know if St. Thomas is on this list. Probably not. But who knows.

One of the things I didn't like about this press conference besides the "spin" was the lack of details and credibility. This means that we in the analyst community and media community will be focusing for months on the "black cloud" hanging over Ford rather than the turnaround strategy. GM at least laid it all out and now most stories on GM focus on what they are doing right rather than what plant they will close next. Ford talked about changing the culture in the company to one of speaking candidly about their issues and then spend a whole hour doing the exact opposite. Nothing, absolutely nothing to hang our hats on... Lots of appetizers, no meat and potatoes and certainly no scrumptious desserts. Why didn't they do this
announcement last fall and get it behind them?

Additional information. The Windsor Essex engine plant will not close and will get a new engine. No details. This also gives this plant some short term hope as well. There are 650 workers on temporary layoff at this plant and these workers are unlikely to be recalled. This is my speculation not Ford's.

Was Canada hit hard or light. Hard to say. Certainly this is within our expectations and is relatively light compared to other plant situations in North America. But remember that Ford has decimated their Canadian operations over the last few years so additional cutbacks on top of already serious cutbacks for Canada is quite troubling and indicates that Ford has been quite hard on Canada over the last few years. In 1999, Ford produced 685,535 vehicles in Canada representing 15 percent of their North American operations. This past year they produced only 221,809 vehicles in Canada or 7.1 percent of their North American operations. The flexing of Oakville
will help Canada, cutting a shift in St. Thomas will take all this away. Can't say it was a good day for Ford Canada but it could have been a lot worse. It certainly was no "Ford Canada Light".

Still a lot of water to flow under this bridge. At the end of the day they have to turn this company around with great product. They can't cut themselves to success. OEMs get themselves into trouble with product, product and product and they get themselves out of trouble with product, product and product. I've talked with about a dozen analysts today after the Ford press conference. Not a lot of confidence with this group on this topic. Still a credibility gap. Over promise and under deliver.

Ford desperately needs to get out from under this black cloud so that the media and analyst community can start focusing on their product and on what they are doing right rather than what they are doing wrong. Adding to this credibility gap was their announcement today that they will no longer provide annual financial guidance to the market. They cut quarterly guidance a year or more ago. If they are so convinced they have the right strategy then why don't they have the confidence to give the financial community regular guidance on their progress.?

One last thing. Buzz is running around today saying this industry is in crisis. Well the Ford announcements confirm that the CAW is in crisis but Toyota and Honda alone will go a long way to replacing both the GM cuts and the Ford cuts. This may take more than Toyota and Honda but the Canadian auto sector is not in crisis, just certain companies and the unions of course. Buzz wants to "stop the Japanese". I ask, where would we be if Toyota, Honda and Suzuki had not invested in Canada. Michigan spent most of the last two decades bad mouthing the Japanese and they as a result didn't get any (except Mazda) investment from these companies. Go figure.

Canada has gotten five assembly plants and about a hundred parts plants from the Japanese and Europeans. Buzz's solution is to open the markets in Japan. Markets by the way that are already wide open without any restrictions. Indeed less than the Japanese face in North America. We still charge duties on vehicles from Japan for instance. Well Canadians and Americans won't buy his workers vehicles, isn't that a bigger problem? Buzz is out to lunch on this one. Hope the Liberal lose today so that he has no power base. Watch him run back to the NDP when his buddy Paul goes
down in flames. Over the last five to eight years and with the cuts at GM and Ford in Canada over the next two years he will have thrown about 20,000 of his workers overboard. In the same timeframe we have picked up between 40 and 50,000 non union workers. Someone explain to me again why he has such a presence in Canada's media and political circle?

PM Says Private Bridges Are OK

Can anyone figure out what is going on?

Here is a reprint of a story I found in the Buffalo News (Thanks to Today's Trucking magazine pointing it out).

What is also interesting is what the Conservative candidates said in Windsor as well as quoted in the Star:
  • "As for infrastructure and the all-important issue to Windsor voters of finding a solution to the city’s border traffic woes, the three local Conservative candidates issued a weekend news release promising that the party would honour "all signed infrastructure agreements and renew the existing infrastructure funds when they expire."
So if Martin wins, a "public" bridge is not a slam-dunk given his praise of the Ambassador Bridge. Given the Conservatives' biases, a "public" bridge does not automatically follow either and the BIF monies are still around to build the road to the bridge, especially when the 200 booth proposal is acted on.

Canada's leader not opposed to private bridge
News Staff Reporter

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's comments that he is not opposed to private ownership of international bridges have buoyed the spirits of the group hoping to build a private bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie.

During a campaign stop in Niagara Falls, Ont., last week, Martin said he is not opposed to private ownership of international bridges, as long as the host communities have a role in the planning and review process.

Martin, who is from Windsor, Ont., noted the success of the Ambassador Bridge, the privately owned span that links Windsor and Detroit and is the most heavily-trafficked bridge on the U.S.-Canadian border.

"The precedent is there. It has been done before," Martin said in the interview. "The question is . . . what is the kind of border crossing that you want to have?"

The prime minister went on to explain that a private span still would have to pass muster with local officials and residents.

"I think that's a decision that has to made essentially by the local authorities, along with the province," he said.

Martin, who is running for re-election to Canada's top post, said he would make border infrastructure improvements a "very high priority" in his next term.

Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge and is behind plans for the Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge, said he appreciated Martin's comments.

"From the beginning we have been convinced that our proposal deserves an equal review to the plans being put forward by the public (Peace Bridge) Authority. Prime Minister Martin's comments show the federal government's interest in keeping the door open to that full evaluation," Stamper said.

In December, the private bridge effort appeared to have hit a major snag when Transport Canada issued an opinion that the Peace Bridge Authority controls a 6.2-mile corridor of the Niagara River that blocks any other entity from putting up a span or building a tunnel.

Stamper's group is proposing to build a $250 million bridge, crossing the river between Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood and the Bridgeburg section of Fort Erie, just over a mile downriver from the Peace Bridge.

"I think the prime minister just trumped his transport minister," said James B. Kane, regional director for Ambassador Niagara. "We believe Paul Martin's comments will get us the attention we deserve from all the Canadian regulatory agencies."

"We'll ultimately need a presidential permit on the U.S. side to go forward and it certainly helps to have the highest ranking official in Canada say he doesn't see private ownership as a barrier in expanding access to the U.S.," he said.

Peace Bridge officials have a different view of the prime minister's remarks. Peace Bridge General Manager Ron Rienas called them "puzzling."

"I think there has been some kind of misunderstanding," Rienas said. "It's puzzling to us that the prime minister would say this, given how far along we are with the process. Possibly he was addressing the situation in Detroit-Windsor, where they are debating construction of an additional bridge."

The Peace Bridge executive suggested that Martin, who is in the middle of a re-election campaign, "got his bridges mixed up."

Niagara Falls Review reporter John Robbins said Martin responded specifically to questions regarding the Buffalo-Fort Erie crossing.

"In the preamble to my question, I summarized the local bridge situation. I specifically asked if there was any reason why a private bridge can't be built here. He absolutely knew which bridge we were talking about," Robbins said.


And you thought that DRIC buried DRTP! Well start worrying again especially if the Conservatives win given Jeff Watson's comments about DRTP previously and those of Belinda Stronach before she jumped ship!

Ppppsssshaw you say, Council and the Mayor will not permit it. Why didn't we hear Eddie on Face-to-Face the other day slamming the idea of international trucks on E C Row. He won't talk to Dennis DesRosiers because of it. No trucks on E C Row is his mantra.

Well if that is what we are supposed to think, then why did we have the two strange stories in the Saturday Star. Are citizens of Windsor about to be "betrayed" again if we are not vigilant?

The first dealt with a plan by Air America Logistics "to make Windsor Airport an international transportation hub for freight arriving by air, ground and rail." Councillor Halberstadt, the only Councillor to endorse the Mayor publicly in the last election said:

  • ...the idea of creating a transportation centre at Windsor Airport is worthy of consideration.

    "If you had a customs zone there, you could do it all there and you wouldn't have to have" long truck lineups along Huron Church Road waiting to clear customs on the other side of the Ambassador Bridge, Halberstadt said.

    He said one of the obvious routes for international-bound trucks cleared at the airport would be along E.C. Row Expressway to the bridge."

The second story talked about Via Rail looking for possible sites for a new rail station in Windsor. The story said:

  • "The government funds will twin a CP Railway line from two to four tracks...

    Relocation of the Via station in Walkerville is part of the plan. A site near the airport and the old CP Rail depot near Wellington Avenue close to the entrance of the Detroit River rail tunnel are among options being discussed....

    A cargo facility at the airport where air, rail and truck freight can be exchanged will also become a reality under the deal.

    Construction and servicing of the property off Lauzon Parkway where the CP tracks cut through the airport's northeast corner has an estimated cost of $30 million to $40 million, according to city officials.

    "There have been a lot of talks between Transport Canada, the mayor and myself on the (cargo facility) and rail consolidation," said MP Joe Fontana, the labour and housing minister from London...

    A solution has been agreed upon by the railways, city and feds, but final terms continue to be negotiated, the minister said.

    "It's an opportunity for win-win for everybody," Fontana said. "Windsor is an important gateway to North America. We need to make sure it functions well. It's never been a question of money, but a question of doing it right."

There you have it folks ... another deal done in secret by the proponent of open and transparent Government that will impact the entire City and no one knows a darn thing about it!

Am I concerned ...obviously. Wasn't the PM supposed to come down here and announce it? Wouldn't the Liberal candidates who are desperate for some good news have wanted something positive announced to help get them elected. Instead a hush, nothing other than this story that demands that a whole bunch of questions be asked but no answers will be given by this Mayor and Council.

Remember the Mayor and Council "betrayal" of Windsor in 2003. That was Councillor Brister's word when he was NOT on Council. You know, the betrayal where Councillor Halberstadt was "bushwhacked." Ex-Mayor Hurst and Council at the largest Special Council meeting in 20 years turned down DRTP in its entirety yet a month later, in secret, they apparently reversed themselves and seemed to suggest that DRTP North was acceptable.


Francis says no trucks on E C Row and Halberstadt suggests that is how they get to the Bridge...OR perhaps a precursor to DRTP North! What is going on here? Has something changed? Is this a trial balloon to see our reaction like the remarks of the Chrysler President last summer when he mentioned E C Row? Are trucks on E C Row now part of the deal that is being negotiated with the Feds?

I sent a note to the Councillors in Ward 2 since the their area is impacted. Here are some excerpts from it so that you will understand my concern.

"I heard that the public DRIC meeting last week in Detroit was "ugly" with accusations that DRIC were just "humouring" people ie they admitted that Citizen's views are not binding on them no matter how much the public may think and no matter what comes out at the public sessions and workshops!

I had this thought after reading the 2 stories in today's Star about VIA Rail and the Air America proposal. Ward 2 will take the blow no matter which border crossing goes in. One would think you should get a benefit too. Well the intermodal will go to the airport area and no VIA Rail terminal downtown. In other words, the Mayor's power base for the future in Ward 5 gets the developments and YOU get the hit! (You should know that by the arena machinations, the slooooooow speed on the urban village and downtown being allowed to die)

A big intermodal cargo area at the airport, a train station there and a link between Lauzon and Highway 401 paid for by the Feds....Where do the trucks go then?

Did Halberstadt unknowingly let the cat out of the bag by talking about trucks on E C Row. If they go there, then how do they get across the border----DRTP North? Do we get a secured roadway for Customs purposes in the middle of EC Row! Who knows, we might even get a redevelopment of Zalev's lands too as part of this as "brownfield" improvement for the golf-coursed size Customs terminal that DRTP wanted in the heart of the City.

The Liberal Minister said "It's an opportunity for win-win for everybody," Fontana said. "Windsor is an important gateway to North America. We need to make sure it functions well. It's never been a question of money, but a question of doing it right." No money for a border crossing but money no object here for rail consolidation! Do you understand it?

Poor CP Rail loses out on DRTP or do they "The government funds will twin a CP Railway line from two to four tracks and construct several road-rail grade separations to help increase the speed of both freight and passenger service." And if they get DRTP North, they are thrilled (The Via Rail story said the station could be built right at the Tunnel entrance. You would not do that if there was a truck highway there.)

This is just all too quiet for me. I would have thought that if this is such a huge deal the Liberals would have been touting it to get votes and to beat Brian Masse and Joe Comartin. Why is it so secret?

Final nail in my "conspiracy theory." The Air America Logistics proposal has been out for some time yet never reported. Why not until today. ... Now YOU are going to have to support trucks on EC Row too as Alan seems to be doing."

I have no idea what the truth is! There is an intermodal Plan in Detroit too called DIFT that may be tied together by MDOT with DRIC. The Detroit Councillors are upset about it. So should we about our equivalent. We need to know what is going on!

UPDATE: I wrote to Councillor Halberstadt about his comment and here is part of what he wrote back to me:

"Ed: I thought you might pick up on that. Rosanne interviewed me for about 10 minutes on this issue, and I took pains to explain to her that E.C. Row would be the obvious route should the Customs Zone be established now before any bypass in the west end. I also explained to her that sequencing was key in the City Council plan -- meaning the extension of Lauzon Parkway to the 401 would not take place until the western bypass is complete. At that point the multi-model at the airport, linked to the 401, could be created without the need to route international trucks down E.C. Row. Obviously, in the interest of space, Rosanne, or her copy editor, omitted that part of our conversation."