Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Beautiful Tribute

Spike Bell is one of Windsor's finest photographers. I met him many years ago when my wife and I first moved to Windsor. He was one of a number of artists who displayed their work at several functions that we sponsored for artists around the City.

The WPD asked him to photograph the funeral of PC Atkinson especially at Heavenly Rest cemetery. He sent me several of the photos from the funeral procession along College Ave. The one photo that "got him" is the one with John Atkinson's little girl Nicole age 7 touching her dad's casket for the last time.

"This picture," Spike said, "is a beautiful tribute to a fine officer and a good family man."

I thank him for allowing me to post it here!

Another Day Passes

The countdown is on. When will Eddie let us in on the big secret as to how much the Estrin/Schwartz fees are?

Lansing Fallout

Good thing you read my BLOG for information about the Lansing hearings. Nothing in the Star about it today.

The hearings are over for the time being. To be honest, I am not sure what will come out of the hearings or how it will be done since I do not understand the US committee process.

I do know that one of the co-Chairmen stated that he wants to suspend the DRIC process and a number of his colleagues are concerned about what is going on. (Several others obviously, are supportive of the process). But there were no votes, no decisions so I am not certain what happens next.

I also know that the City of Windsor is being viewed as the party responsible for a good part of the border problem. It is nothing more than a continuation of what first was revealed publicly to Americans at the Joint Councils meeting months ago when Eddie talked about the $300 million for roads sitting around with nothing being built. In Michigan, where money for roads is scarce, that is shocking!

What came though though loud and clear to me at least is that MDOT is a proponent for being the owner of the new crossing! At the same time, it has the responsibility for determining the fate of other proponents like DRTP and the Ambassador Bridge Co. both in the DRIC process and in any private EA process. It is like having your competitor being your judge and jury.

Wasn't there supposed to be a committee set up respecting the Governance issue? If so, I guess that they must have made their decision already without asking anything of anyone and without telling anyone what their decision is.

What I found very troubling is hearing experienced Legislators coming out after four hearings saying that they are more confused than when this all started and that they had more questions that needed answering. Why is that? Why couldn't MDOT give simple explanations to simple financial questions as an example. I am sure that this is not the first project ever started to which matching funds are granted. Surely by now, they would have some real good estimates as to costs and how the money would be obtained for building the project. I did not hear that. Rather I heard that it will be paid off by tolls as if they were a private company and that they would work hard to act as if they were a private company to reduce State spending. Frankly, I would have been very annoyed if I were a Legislator.

It was a "he said, she said" atmosphere with MDOT commenting on certain aspects of what other proponents said in previous sessions with no "testing" of their response.

I got so tired of people saying that they were so pleased with how open and transparent the process was and how nice MDOT were in coming out to visit. What else can they do? They know what their legal obligation is so they are merely carrying it out. The proper question to ask is whether what they are doing publicly is real or just to placate the masses! Just remember the assurances given with the boat trip and what happened almost immediately thereafter when the Governor made her decision out of the blue. Remember the "closed door session" where real decisions were being made and were never revealed respecting the Presidential Permit and the "concurrence" that was asked for and not given.

Some rather strong language was used. The idea of spending $3 billion of Government monwey when a private investor would spend $600 million of its money was called "typical Government madness," especially when traffic volumes were declining. There was a desire to spend less on "extravagant planning." The best sentence I heard was "Capacity without infrastructure does not alleviate congestion." There certainly were questions about traffic projections and the seeming desire to rush. The question about Redundancy I thought was effectively answered when one Legislator referred to the Pentagon that was attacked on 9/11. He said that the US did not build a second one but increased security

Windsor was again targetted for not spending the $300 million on the road to the border and Canada was targetted for perhaps acting unreasonably and making Detroit suffer if "condemnation" ie expropriation was to take place again. Again, there was a complaint that no numbers were provided on the number of homes to be taken.

The big question that was never answered satisfactorily as far as I was concerend by MDOT was why should Michigan spend $1.5 billion when they already invested heavily in the Ambassador Gateway project that was designed to accommodate a Twinned Bridge.

Did MDOT survive to live for another day? I think yes. Are their days numbered? I think yes as well. When a co-Chairman says that spending $1.3 Billion for a new crossing is not the best use of state and federal money when the funds could be used for Michigan roads, MDOT should be concerned.

Did the hearings accomplish anything. Clearly, the whole border issue gained a lot more publicity than it otherwise would. It raised flags about a process that seems to be wasting huge amounts when it is not needed and there are private investors around and matching grants available.

I think that Windsor was the big loser. Our roads became the front and centre impediment with us not willing it seemed to spend the $300 million on our roads thereby forcing Detroit to be negatively impacted. Such a negative impression of Windsor will hurt us in the long run respecting regional co-operation.

I suspect that action will be taken-----whether it goes as far as to end DRIC I do not know. When so many Legislators are concerned and so much money is at stake in a State that is having difficulty, not acting after four hearings would be politically too dangerous in an election year!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Name The Date

The countdown is on. When will Eddie let us in on the big secret as to how much the Estrin/Schwartz fees are?

Off to Lansing Again

I'll be in Lansing today for the continuation of the Michigan Legislators' hearing on DRIC and the border.

If last week is a good indication, there should be some very interesting statements made by the Legislators as the hearings draw to a close.

No Super Bowl Numbers Yet

An interesting story in the Free Press about the impact of Super Bowl is posted below.

Haven't you wondered why there has not been more beating of the drums from City Hall about our Super Bowl success story?

I told you that cross-border vehicle traffic was down sharply over that week-end when the Mayor/Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission was having trouble getting the numbers, completely contrary to the glowing estimates of what was expected to happen. [What is it in this City, we cannot get numbers for anything promptly!]

Over a month ago, the Mayor said "A preliminary study of the impact of Super Bowl XL on the local economy suggests Detroit's big game was a cash bonanza for Windsor and Essex County. While cautioning the final figures won't be known for about three weeks to a month..." Nothing has come out yet with real numbers, not even in the State of the City speech where one would have expected real facts and figures if there was a strong story to tell. [Hmmmm do I have to put up a calendar for this promise too? By the time I am done this BLOGsite might just be calendars!]

There is no doubt that Super Bowl was good for Windsor. Our downtown was busy (although the taxi strike made it harder for other spots to capitalize on the week-end) . Hotels probably sold more rooms than normal. Our "Sin City" name published all over North America won't really hurt and will probably help get us convention business.

However, the silence from City Hall suggests to me that it was not all that Eddie had hoped for!

Super Bowl's impact in Michigan scores low

Super Bowl items sell at the Super Bowl Shop in the Renaissance Center. The NFL thanked Detroit for "getting it absolutely perfect." (WILLIAM ARCHIE/Detroit Free Press)
Three months after Super Bowl XL lit up Detroit for a few high-voltage days and nights, tax-revenue figures indicate the event, while fun, had little overall economic impact on the state's economy.

New figures released by the Michigan Department of Treasury show that the state's sales tax receipts for February and March -- the two months when most Super Bowl-related sales would have been reported -- were up just 2% over the year before.

That 2% statewide gain -- representing about $20 million more in sales tax revenue on a base of almost $1 billion -- could be too negligible to draw any conclusions about its source, because it came from throughout the state.

Meanwhile, statewide use-tax revenues levied on hotels were up less than 0.5% for February and March.

A Detroit-area convention facility tax, which essentially is a hotel tax for the tri-county area, showed a 70% jump in February. But even that increase represented less than $1 million in net new tax revenue.

Terry Stanton, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, said detecting Super Bowl impacts in the tax figures would be difficult. Tax receipts can be volatile from month to month and subject to timing issues regarding filing dates and times.

The National Football League and local tourism and economic development officials have reported a nearly $300-million local economic impact from hosting the game. That would include several types of spending, including hotels, meals and souvenir purchases.

But Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Inc., said Monday the latest tax revenue figures show that the huge media coverage surrounding Feb. 5's Super Bowl obscured what is really a modest economic event.

"My take all along with that, even if you take the upper range of estimates, $300 million is less than 1% of the state's gross state product," Johnson said. "And it probably wasn't that big.

"It's a big event in terms of media coverage, a wonderful event where Detroit showed itself to wonderful advantage, but something that in economic terms is a very small part of economic activity here in Michigan."

Johnson and other economists acknowledge that the Super Bowl probably added more to Detroit's economy than would happen in a typical Sun Belt host city, such as Miami or Phoenix, where tourism is strong most of the year.

"But even so, it was still a relatively small event in terms of the overall economy," Johnson said.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wishing And Hoping

The countdown is on. When will we know how much the Estrin/Schwartz fees are?

Brother, Can You Spare A Billion

It should be interesting to hear what the Michigan Legislators have to say about the hearings when they make their statements.

In the end, it appears to me that what it comes down to is one thing: FINANCES!

The obvious question to ask is why is a crossing, other than a Twinned Bridge, even being considered when the Americans for a decade have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building the Ambassador Gateway project. That project was designed to accommodate the Twinned Bridge.

Can you imagine the scandal if the Ambassador Bridge was "public" and some bureaucrat or politician suggested building another bridge a mile down the road and spending millions studying the concept even after the President's designate refused to give his concurrence to build that bridge and not revealing that refusal for 6 months? It would never happen.

Can you imagine the scandal if the Ambassador Bridge was "public" and some bureaucrat or politician suggested building another bridge a mile down the road and spending a total of $3 billion or more on both sides of the river for the project even after the President's designate refused to give his concurrence to build that bridge? It would never happen.

Can you imagine the scandal if the Ambassador Bridge was "public" and some bureaucrat or politician suggested building another bridge a mile down the road and spending a total of $1 billion or more for the project (with Michigan's share being at least $200 million) when the State could receive up to $2 billion in Federal matching funds if the Bridge Co. undertook the building of a bridge using private money? It would never happen.

However, since the Ambassador Bridge is "private," it is happening!

Some months ago I did a BLOG questioning the financial viability of a new crossing in the first place using DRTP numbers as a test case. [BLOG January 20, 2006 New Border Bridge Financing 101.] And speaking of DRTP, how can they be serious with their "enhancement"---their tunnelled DRTP--- unless the Canadian Government will finance it all. I thought that Marge Byington suggested a number of $2 billion for the cost of the enhanced DRTP at a previous Lansing hearing. They need a $150 million handout with a 2-lane above ground truck expressway. What do they need with a 6-lane tunnelled corridor: total life support!

I bring this issue up because at the last hearing, Citigroup, the Bridge Co.'s financial advisor, provided their views as to financing via a letter that was introduced as part of the Bridge Co. package.

Because of the costs that the DRIC project would have to pay out for plazas, land acquisition and freeway connection charges, Citigroup estimated that the DRIC project would cost about 3 times more than that of the Twinned Bridge.

If the new bridge competed with the Ambassador Bridge, Citigroup assumed the new one could capture 40% of the car traffic and 50% of the truck traffic for the sake of their analysis (although those numbers are suspect if there was true competition as shown below).

Citigroup thought that the new bridge would have trouble accessing the capital market without a government guarantee. Investors would wonder if the new bridge could be financially successful against the Bridge Co. which had flexibility to reduce tolls to retain traffic and still be profitable.

Citigroup projected a funding shortfall for the DRIC bridge of $965 million with billions in subsidies to make their plan financially feasible.

To cover costs without a government subsidy, the DRIC bridge tolls for cars and trucks would be about 60% higher than the tolls of the Bridge Co. Obviously, the Bridge Co. could take away a significant volume of traffic by lowering tolls and still be profitable.

In its conclusion Citigroup "call into question the economic feasibility of the DRIC Plan absent large government subsidies."

So much for the capital cost. How about the operating expenses? Of course, no one has, so far as I can recall, talked about how much such a new crossing would cost in day-to-day expenses ie would it be more costly to staff 2 locations for car and truck Customs inspections rather than using the single International Center proposed at the Ambassador Gateway? Figure it out---with the need to fill a booth for 3 shifts per day and the need for support staff inside the office for each Customs officer in a booth, the costs are NOT cheap!

But this topic is for some other time!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How Long Must We Wait For Estrin/Schwartz Fees Disclosure

On March 8, 2006, we learned that

  • "The city will disclose what it has spent on Toronto lawyer David Estrin and his consultants to fight its border battles solicitor George Wilkki said Tuesday...

    Onorio Colucci, acting city treasurer, said billings related to Estrin and his associates are spread through the mayor's office and the city's legal department, requiring some effort to assemble.

    "We have asked staff to put that together and will have that shortly," he said...

    Mayor Eddie Francis said he has no problem releasing amounts related to Estrin's expenses."

Contrary to expectations, the bills must be HUGE!!! Over 2 months have passed and still no disclosure that I have seen. The adding machines in the City Finance Dept. must be working overtime to total all of the fees spread throughout the TWO locations.

Until those figures are released, I shall mark off each day on the calendar that I have set up on this BLOGsite. Actually, we probably should start a contest with the winner being the one who guesses the actual day.

My guess is May 23 ie after the Rail lands by-law hearing is over (but probably before the month-end invoice from David for the hearing fees for him, his associate and the expert witness) and after the informal roundtable meeting with various associations and the Governments on the border. There is a need to bury the bad news with lots of good news right before our big Birthday bash on the 24th!

More Bad News for Windsor From DesRosiers

A note sent from Dennis Desrosiers that I thought you might find of interest.

I am sure you read what he said in the Star today "the Linamar announcement Friday was not good news for the Windsor automotive region..."This further reinforces the move away from the traditional north-south axis from Windsor to Oshawa to the new automotive corridor starting in Sarnia and ending in Fort Erie...There will come a day when Windsor becomes a rump, unfortunately."

Honda To Build 6th North American Auto Plant For Y50bn

And the trend continues. I see on the wire last night that Honda is about to announce their 6'th assembly plant for North America. Watching CNN last night they had it going to Alabama which I don't know is right or wrong but if it was targeted to Canada we would probably have known it by now so I suspect Canada will not get this one. In some respects it doesn't matter since most of the jobs are on the parts side of the equation and there is huge upside opportunity for Canada to pick up more jobs on the components side than the assembly side. It would have been nice to get the assembly plant but all is not lost. Just watch the headlines over the next couple of years and there will be many more parts jobs (3 to 1) than assembly jobs and Canada will get its fair share. Well don't watch the "headlines" since most media don't understand that most of the action is on the parts side of the equation and relegate these growth stories to the inside pages. Add them all up though and there are more parts jobs created in Canada by the new domestics than assembly jobs. Assembly employment has remained relatively stable or down a little at about 45,000 in Canada, parts employment has grown from about 70,000 jobs to about 100,000 jobs in the same timeframe.

This will bring Honda's capacity in North America to about 1.8 million units and with all the other 'new domestics', total 'new domestic' capacity to almost 7 million light vehicles (see table). The trend continues, all the growth is on the 'new domestic' side of the equation and all the fall back is with GM, Ford and DCX (also see table attached). The algorithm is quite simple. The 'new domestics' have added three million units of capacity into North America since the year 2000 and GM, Ford and DCX have lost about 3 million units of capacity. All the new capacity is non-union, all the lost capacity is unionized. Only about 55 percent of the vehicles purchased last year were unionized (CAW/UAW) and by the end of the decade this will drop to well below 50 percent and possibly below 40 percent. Remember GM and Ford announced closing of 2 million units of unionized capacity in October and January.

Any manufacturing entity that touches GM, Ford and DCX has had a negative adjustment to make and any entity that plays to the 'new domestic' side of the industry is growing and in most case growing rapidly. This has meant serious restructuring issues for Windsor, Oshawa and any other jurisdiction that touches the declining side of the equation and boom times for dozens of other locations and especially those successful with the 'new domestics' like Cambridge, Alliston, Ingersol and Woodstock. Almost all the 100 plus suppliers that have followed the assemblers into Canada have also located into central Ontario providing significant opportunity for many smaller communities. And Windsor keeps its head in the sand denying that their union mentality is a problem!

Happy Trails To You, Kathi Lee

We have unemployment problems in this City with the highest rate of unemployment in Canada, economic development needs, housing prices increasing at the lowest rate in Canada and budgetary problems. Then there is the border, the Tunnel Plaza, and the work on Walker Road. Someone must really have a sway with a lot of "wiggle" room to even think of building a $55 million arena.

And what does our major paper show as headlines to our Mayor's State of the City speech: "Parks to replace rails" (Tuesday), "City turns to Roots for swag" (Wednesday) and Henderson's column "Liability to asset" (Thurday).

Within these stories, we see why we have problems getting anything done quickly in this City. It started with Roots, in the summer of 2004. In November, "Francis will seek council approval Monday to pursue a licensing and merchandising agreement between the city and Roots that would see Roots products with City of Windsor logos...Francis contacted Roots in August and since then, the company has produced a couple of prototypes and examples of Windsor-styled logos for a range of its products from sweatshirts to t-shirts and hats."

It started in August 2004 for heaven's sake. Is there no sense of urgency whatsoever in this city? [See BLOG April 12, 2006, "An Icy Relationship" that shows you there isn't] Well we missed the Super Bowl on that deal too, just like with the Bus Terminal.

Imagine how much money could have been pulled in over that week-end with Windsor items on sale!

However, "the process accelerated over the last six months," said Bill Baker, policy adviser to Francis." Of course it did! It's re-election time. We had to get that checkmark on the Report Card filled in. But isn't this typical of the record of Eddie---it takes forever to get anything done, eventhe simplest of things. I guess being poster boy for Budweiser made him see the value of getting into a big clothing deal next. He's our own Kathi Lee now!

And then our new greenways... again so typical of our Mayor. Plans and Grandiose visions dancing in our heads. Breathtaking numbers. "55 kilometres of rail lines ...into a system of trails...It will run through all five wards, connecting neighbourhoods to one another, creating green space and recreational paths, converting brownfields and scrap yards -- all the way to the riverfront." I wonder if Mike Hurst, the DRTP CEO has called Eddie yet seeking to sell his corridor for a few hundred million dollars.

Then the reality----another election gimmick: "Technical studies are complete or nearing completion and it's time to consult the community and begin making plans...Francis, who has set a two-term limit on himself, said he obviously won't be in office to see this vision of a vastly more inviting Windsor completed "but we've got to get it started."

So to Roy Rogers & Dale Evans and Mayor Francis:

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Windsor, here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together
And you have re-elected me as Windsor's Mayor!

Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
And vote again for me as Windsor's Mayor
Happy trails to you 'till we meet again.

Monday, May 15, 2006

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CALL 968-2161 to test out the VoIP system for yourself

US President, DRIC And The Windsor Star

I am disappointed in the Windsor Star.

The Lansing hearings were on Thursday and here it is Monday and only now is the Star publishing a story on the speech of the Bridge Co.'s President at the hearings. As a story about the speech, at least I can say that it was factual. I must admit though that after all of this time, I was hoping for more. I had hoped the Star was going to investigate some of the behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings I identified in my BLOGs.

However, there were 5 key points that were not discussed by the Star story that Dan Stamper talked about that are relevant:
  1. The Ambassador Bridge Gateway infrastructure in which Michigan and the US Government have invested hundreds of millions of dollars accommodated a twinned bridge next to the Ambassador Bridge for the last decade.
  2. Unlike any other proponent, the Bridge Co. does NOT require a Presidential permit for its Twinned Bridge
  3. The President through his designate, the Department of State, refused to grant his concurrence to DRIC's request to support "the conclusion that the centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing"
  4. The failure to obtain such concurrence has been hidden by DRIC for over 6 months.
  5. Windsor roads to the border is the main problem left to solve

I was quite surprised when the Twinned Bridge project was not one of the DRIC finalists in November after all of the good things said about it previously and given the background of the Ambassador Gateway project. It seemed to make the most sense. Now perhaps we can understand why.

It had to be kicked out since it was the only one the President thought would be acceptable.

I am sure the feeling was that if it was no longer around, what option would he have other than the DRIC option? The Bridge Co.'s recent announcement about moving forward on their enhanced project I am sure shocked a number of the DRIC particiapnts. It probably threw a huge monkey wrench into their plans.

It also makes more sense now that the rejection was blamed on the Canadian side. In this way, the US side would not be at risk when asked how they can justify the spending of the money at the Ambassador Gateway project and then moving about a mile downriver, destroying Sandwich and Delray in the process, for a multi-billion dollar extravaganza. They would say it was Canada's choice and, therefore, Canada's fault! Now we understand why a route that the Ambassador Bridge never proposed and a plaza that they never wanted was used as the basis for rejection on the Canadian side.

Finally, the argument put forward that the Bridge Co. proposal should never even have been part of the DRIC process made little sense as well since it has been part of it for so long. It was needed if all else failed. It was meant to be a carrot to stop the Bridtge Co. from objecting. They were encouraged to move separately and privately out of the glare of publicity. The argument was designed to lull them into a false sense of security and to allow the DRIC members, wearing their other hats, to kill off the Bridge Co. project in separate EA hearings.

Everything was being done to make the Bridge Co. proposal disappear from view so the DRIC option would be the only one left. It was the only way to circumvent the Department of State! That is why the November letter was hidden.

I am amused as well by the difference between the public and private sectors. Those who support the building of a new crossing to be owned by the Government should read the remarks in Parliament by the various MPs. They will read about a litany of woes about infrastrucutre deficiencies respecting public bridges. They will read about concerns about financing them and paying for proper maintenance.

Contrast that with the Bridge Co. which has already spent, according to the Star, a half a billion dollars of its own money for its project and who will spend another $400 million of its money to pay for the enhancement to the crossing.

Who has put their money where their mouth is respecting the future of this region: the Bridge Co. who has actually invested cash or the Governments who promise and never deliver.

Perhaps now people will understand why the Bridge Co. feels as it does. The introduction of Bill C-44 and its re-introduction by the Conservative Government as Bill C-3 is an insult. Read the remarks of certain MPs carefully. The object of those Bills as far as I am concerned was to buy out the Bridge Co. assets by forcing a deal on them by threatening to put them out of business or ultimately to expropriate their assets after reducing their value by driving away their business. It's as simple as that.

I had hoped that the Star with all of its clout would have done some investigation to get at the truth. After all, isn't there a contest every year for newspaper awards that the Star tells us they win? Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the Star is doing its job and we will read the big expose right before the next Lansing hearings this Thursday.

Smoke Gets In Their Eyes

I wonder what Dwight was thinking about in this photo

I trust you read the Report prepared for the City on the consequences of the No Smoking law on our Community. It seemed to be a well-researched and well-written Report to me. Notwithstanding that the Report came out just a few weeks before the ban is put into place, it made a very convincing case that this City's businesses need help and badly.

It looks though that it may another case of too little, too late. Obviously, if our Mayor and Council had only acted more quickly, we might have had some good news already for our businesses but they did not.

Back in November, 2003, according to the Star, a "fretting" Eddie Francis said
  • "A provincewide smoking ban will hurt the economies of Windsor and other border cities dependent on U.S. tourists...

    Francis, who attended the provincial throne speech at Queen's Park, said a ban threatens the livelihoods of Casino Windsor and bar and restaurant employees...

    There's got to be a recognition that our situation is different because we're not competing with other Ontario cities where there's going to be a level playing field," Francis said.

    "We're competing with Michigan. Since 1999 we've had a drop of three million visitors," he said."

However, Ontario's Minister of Finance, the Member for Windsor-St. Clair, the one and only Dwight Duncan dismisses the Report out of hand! "I don't share their pessimism."

Ahhhh, our Member knows best though. He thinks the Casino is like a Tim Horton's. Notwithstanding what the experts say since the vast majority of Casino, Raceway and bingo patrons are American (unlike Tim Horton's where they are local) and what the experience is in other jurisdictions, to the Minister, it is merely "all this talk of gloom and doom."

However, is Dwight betting his career on his opinion? "It will be an initially short-term decline, but things will pick up. In six months, we'll see who's right and who's wrong...we will monitor this very carefully."

(Don't hold your breath though on Windsor getting anything even after six months. A seemingly unsympathetic Duncan was quoted in the Hamilton Spectator on April 19, 2006 as saying, "businesses have had plenty of time to adjust to the government's anti-smoking policies.")

If Dwight is right, then he wins and we all eat crow! Trouble is....if he is wrong, chances are that he will lose his seat. However, if he is wrong, business people in Windsor may lose their shirts! In six months before action is taken, they may be too deep in debt to remain open or may have had to lay-off staff. By then, until a campaign is developed and launched, it will cost even more to try and lure people back to Windsor when they have become accustomed to new places to "lose" their money.

Dwight and Sandra are in a tough position. They are Cabinet members and must support the Government's position. However, they are also local MPPs elected by the people of Windsor. Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson will spend $3.1-million to educate people about the ban. I would have thought their obilgation was to fight for citizens here and achieve similar financial results for the businesses here who will be hurt by the government action.

In November, 2003, Sandra Pupatello said
  • "Pupatello said she recognizes how serious the issue is for Windsor, but stopped short of saying the city could be exempted from a ban.

    "There is no one going to be more concerned about it than I, because there aren't too many communities who are in that unique position," Pupatello said.

    "Even if you look at casinos between Niagara and Windsor, Windsor has far more influx from the Americans than Niagara."
In December, 2003, Dwight Duncan said
  • "there is "great concern" that whatever smoke-free legislation the government brings in will be the "right thing" for the province.

    He said he and his fellow ministers are also aware of the unique problems facing border city casinos.

    "We will be sensitive to everyone's situation and will make sure that there is full input from casinos, as well as other's concerns," said Duncan. "We will do nothing without a full discussion on the whole range of options open to the government."

In December, 2004, Minister Pupatelo said:
  • "I've made it more than clear about the difficulty that Windsor will face as a border community. My colleagues understand that and hear it repeatedly from both Dwight Duncan, a fellow Windsor MPP) and I."

    Pupatello said she has asked the government to hold meetings on a "mitigation strategy" in Windsor in the new year -- though she won't say what type of mitigation she's considering.

    "It does call for some mitigation which Dwight and I have been working on for some time," she said. "I've requested that meeting be held in Windsor so they can hear first-hand that we have a bingo market that is bigger than most and a casino market that is bigger than most and unusual competition that most communities don't face, with three casinos across the border.

    "So that merits some consideration and merits a mitigation strategy."
Back in 2003, the Cobourg Daily Star reported that the Liberal anti-smoking strategy "would see the government raise $700 million annually by hiking cigarette taxes by $10 per carton...but $50-million would be set aside in a "community transition fund" to pay Ontario farmers to get out of the tobacco-growing business."

Why couldn't some of that money be used in Windsor given our unique situation?

But frankly what can one expect from Sandra and Dwight on this issue? In 2005, they were not even able to set up a meeting for Windsorites to meet with the provincial committee examining the legislation clause-by-clause!