Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, June 23, 2006

Senior Levels Snubbed Again

The Feds and Province issued two Press Releases, one on Thursday and one on Friday respecting the border issue

When I read the headline in the first Press Release---CANADA AND ONTARIO IMPROVING HIGHWAY 401 IN ESSEX COUNTY--- my heart beat a bit faster. Was this it? Had the Feds and Province made a decision as to the route to the border?

Before I get to that, let me deal with what happened yesterday in Parliament. Bill C-3 received third reading in the House of Commons and so it goes to the Senate for review. However not before Brian Masse, the major MP on the border scored a massive victory, or so he will tell the world. He was able to get amendments on 2 sections of the act dealing with consultations:
  • "The Minister may, if in the opinion of the Minister it is necessary having regard to all the circumstances, consult with the other levels of government that have authority in the place where the international bridge or tunnel is, or is to be, situated and with any person who, in the opinion of the Minister, has a direct interest in the matter."
That, a gloating Mr. Masse will brag, is what he accomplished for Windsor. Of course, there is absolutely no requirement for the Minister to do anything since the language is about as weak statutorily as possible, but if the Minister does, NOW the Minister will be hard-pressed not to bring in private interests where he did not have to do so before!

In passing here is an interesting thought! Perhaps Brian finally realizes after hearing Stamper and Moroun at the Ottawa hearing that the Bridge Co. is not been treated fairly after all. The Bridge Co. is, if you did not know it, one of Brian's biggest constituents. Perhaps he is learning that he has to represent all of them. He met the son of the owner of the Bridge Co. at the hearing who also happens to be on the Board of the University of Windsor. I wonder if Brian sent a note of thanks to the Moroun family for their generosity in donating millions to another of Brian's constituents, the University.

I wonder if the lightbulb finally went on in Brian's head that by forming an alliance with the Bridge Co. rather than always fighting them, his constituency could be improved. You know, one constituent helping another constituent. Perhaps if Brain could talk to the West End activists and Ward 2 Councillors Jones and Postma, Windsor could start moving forward in a partnership with the Bridge Co. to achieve something positive.

I tell you about what happened in Parliament because of what I am going to tell you demonstrates how futile Masse's actions were. Brian tried to help his friend Eddie out and we shall see how grateful Eddie was for all of his efforts. Brian may want to rethink who his friends really are.

Unfortunately, when I read it, the first press release only dealt with:
  1. The start of phase three improvements to Highway 401 in Essex County by improving a 10 kilometre stretch of Highway 401 between Highway 77 and Essex Road 27.
  2. Improving the Windsor South Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility.

Then the kicker as stated by the Federal Minister that completely dashed my hopes:

  • “This project will improve traffic flow and provide safety improvements to this important stretch of Highway 401 leading to Canada’s busiest border crossing,” said Minister Cannon. “The Government of Canada and its partners look forward to the completion of this great project.”

No decision on the road to the border, the key problem for this border crossing, after all.

The backgrounder to the Press Release was interesting. It stated:

"Construction is set to begin in the summer of 2006 with substantial completion by 2007 on:

  1. Advance utility relocation for the Walker Road road-rail grade separation; and
  2. Intersection improvements on Huron Church Road at Industrial Drive to facilitate access to the U.S. Customs truck pre-processing facility.

Several more projects will complete environmental assessment and detail design in early 2007:

  • Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Plaza master plan improvements"

These backgrounder projects were all part of the "Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy." You remember that was a deal that the Mayor signed on behalf of the City of Windsor on March 11, 2004. He said at the time:

  • "Our new approach is far superior,” said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. “It’s much more collaborative and it focuses much more on addressing community and regional needs – including less congested streets. More importantly, it recognizes the dual role of Windsor as both a community in its own right and as the largest Canada-U.S. gateway.”

We were buddy-buddy with the Senior Levels at that time and Eddie could not wait to share press release space with his friends in high places.

Then a second Press Release was issued today. It talked in detail about the Intersection improvements on Huron Church Road at Industrial Drive:

  • "The governments of Canada and Ontario, in partnership with the City of Windsor, today announced $357,000 in road improvements on Huron Church Road at Industrial Drive, as part of the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy to improve traffic flow at Canada’s busiest border crossing.

    Coco Paving Inc. of Windsor, the successful low bidder on the contract, starts construction this week and is anticipated to complete the project by mid-August 2006."

Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Ontario Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield both gave their comments in announcing the project.

So what did Eddie have to say in this Press Release:


In layman's language, he said "NOTHING, NADA, ZERO, ZILCH"

I am certain that he was asked to contribute something. After all, the project is in Windsor and it is only good manners and protocol to allow the Mayor a paragraph as was done previously. Obviously, he chose not to say anything.

I do not get it at all. Why did he snub the Senior Levels for a second time? Did he do this on his own or did he call another emergency in camera session of the Councillors to get their concurrence? Given the Council Resolution in Tecumseh, why weren't Windsorites involved in the decision-making?

Is there a sound reason to snub or is it merely Eddie's petulance showing? What possible benefit is there to take an action such that Councillor Valentinis will again have to ask why no one listens to Windsor and why we are not getting our fair share of money from the Senior Levels? Are the Mayor and Councillors that dumb and have not learned their lesson yet?

This type of action is not how an experienced businessman, lawyer or Mayor should act. It is immature and foolish and has cost us and will cost us dearly.

As for Mr. Masse, there is nothing like working hard to get an amendment passed, as weak as it is, and then seeing the so-called beneficiary of it make you look like a fool. Eddie got what he wanted and then to thank Brian for his efforts, snubbed the people again whom Brian wanted to consult with him. As I said, what Brian did was futile. Maybe now he will understand why some of us feel the way we do!

Can Windsor afford four more years of Eddie Francis? You are going to have to decide that soon aren't you?

Will Sam Schwartz Leave Town Next?

Marko Paranosic, the Windsor guy who ran Sam's office in Windsor and was an integral part of his team here, has given Sam Schwartz notice and will be taking a position as Senior Project Manager with Stantec Consulting in their head office in Kitchener Ontario.

What this means for the border and the Mayor and Council----we will discuss next week.

Clearly though it means that Windsor is in serious trouble and that we have just invited the Senior Levels to run this file!

The Border From The US Side

I am glad that my interpretation of what is happening in Michigan seems to be similar with what at least one Detroit journal believes is going on after the Michigan Legislature amendments to kill the DRIC funding.

That news PLUS the Presidential Permit position PLUS the Department of State lack of concurrence with the DRIC cental crossing choices PLUS the OMB hearing results that slows down DRTP to a crawl make the Bridge Co's position very strong.

And, notwithstanding the West End activists and politicians, if we on our side do not want to intrude in Sandwich, there is only one place to go now that every other choice has been eliminated! That leaves one problem that our local politicians do not dare deal with. But you know what that is: the road to the border!

Lawmakers threaten border-study funds
Move would put focus back on Ambassador Bridge twinning
By Michelle Martinez, June 19, 2006

State lawmaker concerns over public spending on the next border crossing have pushed a Detroit International Bridge Co. proposal to build a second bridge next to the Ambassador Bridge back into the forefront.

Budget amendments to stop state funding of a binational study on the next border crossing have been approved as part of larger budget bills and await finalization in House-Senate conference committees. The amendments were introduced by State Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, and state Rep. Philip LaJoy, R-Canton Township.

Heidi Watson, deputy press secretary for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the governor believes the study should be funded, but continues to work with the Legislature on the language.

“Safe and efficient movement across the border is our overriding concern,” Watson said.

About $21.3 million already has been directed to the study, including about $4.26 million from the state. If passed, the amendments would save the state as much as $2.4 million more from the study’s next round of financing.

The study — conducted by the Michigan Department of Transportation and other state, federal and provincial agencies in the U.S. and Canada — was formed to come up with the agencies’ anointed plan for a new crossing by next year. The group discarded “twinning” the bridge, owned by Manuel Moroun, and a plan to convert an aging rail tunnel to truck use late last year to focus on a Delray site for a crossing that could cost taxpayers as much as $1.3 billion.

Gilbert and LaJoy say that tossing the privately funded plan to twin the span would waste $184 million the state is already spending on the Gateway project, which connects the Ambassador Bridge to I-75 and I-96, and hundreds of millions more to build a new bridge.

Funding of the project should be held until privately funded options are put back on the table, Gilbert said.

Bill Shrek, MDOT director of communications, said that the study has yet to determine how the new crossing would be funded and that any money spent by public or private interests would be made back in tolls.

But the legislators say they want more oversight of the process and looking at privately funded options will be a top priority.

That could be a good thing, said John Taylor, an associate professor of marketing and logistics at Grand Valley State University.

The time and dollars spent on the study are “troubling,” he said. Legislative oversight might determine whether a new crossing is even needed. But the push towards private dollars “probably benefits the Ambassador Bridge,” he said. “They own the land.”

The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership still would need to acquire permits and land and negotiate a customs agreement to start work on its $600 million tunnel.

That group is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Borealis Transportation Infrastructure Trust, the investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

The two budget amendments passed the state House and Senate in late May. They are now in conference committee.

Detroit International has the land and approvals to break ground on its $400 million twin span next spring, said Dan Stamper, Detroit International president.

But Detroit International’s plan still won’t go unchallenged. The company is fending off a federal Canadian bill aimed at giving the government more oversight over international crossings and strong community opposition in Windsor to its plans.

Canada’s Bill C-3 wasn’t gunning for the Ambassador Bridge, but would give the Canadian government authority to veto construction or alteration of international bridges, and regulate their maintenance, safety, security and operation, said Mark Butler, a communications officer with Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

Stamper said that Detroit International had been “comforted” by Transport Canada testimony that the bill wouldn’t interfere with its plans to twin its span, but was wary about the “micro-managing” of the bridge that it would allow.

The bill is awaiting final approval in Canadian House of Commons before being moved on to the Canadian Senate for passage. It could be enacted by the governor general by this fall, Butler said.

Transport Canada also isn’t ready to give up on the binational study, Butler said. Should Michigan’s funds dry up, Canada still supports the process.

It’s not clear whether the U.S. Federal Highway Administration feels the same. That agency said it was “not appropriate” to speculate on whether it would continue on with the study until the state takes “definitive action.”

Meanwhile, work on the study continues, Shrek said. The group will start drilling core samples Downriver in a matter of weeks.

“We can’t as a state agency react to laws until they’re passed,” he said. “But as some point (passage of the amendments) would stop the process.”

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Windsor Star Stories

Interesting newspaper today. I am glad to see that they are following up on BLOGS that you have read first here dear reader.

You saw the one the other day about Brian Masse and Bill C-3 I am sure. Well the article was so infuriating that I sent a Letter to the Editor to the newspaper complaining about it. It will be interesting to see if they publish it. Vigilant fairness demands they do but if they do not, I'll post it here for you to read.

There was a nice story on the Library and John Campbell School. Now you know why Eddie and Michael Duben made the presentation that I described. Were they successful? Apparently not. "The Windsor Public Library board voted to reject a proposal that would put a branch in a new John Campbell school. The city had been asking the board to consider such a move."

Now if we can only find out how much money was wasted on the Library audit and learn the results, then that matter can be closed.

Finally, we got the Super Bowl numbers. But where was the Mayor bragging about them? You remember he boasted that we would get between $80-100 million.

My guess was not too bad was it? Of course, the Star merely swallowed what Mr. Orr said. He forgot to tell them that we are normally 50-60% occupied on a weekend as he said before. That would bring Super Bowl numbers down to $8-10 million. Still a nice number in my opinion but if we look at what the Mayor projected, it was a dismal failure being about 10% of what he said we would get.

In fact, the numbers are even more suspect now. The story stated that "the Detroit Host Committee, in conjunction with figures supplied by the NFL, showed the average guest spent $339 per day during their visit and the typical visitor stayed for 2.8 days, resulting in $9,265,209 in direct spending for accommodation alone in the Windsor area." That was multiplied by 2.2 "to arrive $20.3 million."

We know that is wrong since Orr said before that February room rates averaged $167 a night in February (probably the weekend of Super Bowl was a bit higher). So doing the math again, it works out for accommodations per guest to $167 X 2.8 days divided by 3.2 vistors per room or roughly $150 per visitor for rooms.

Actual spending would now be $150 X 27,331 visitors X 2.2 or just over $9 million. We have to cut that in half because we only look at "additional spending" and so we arrive at barely $5 million.

Sure we got the exposure as Sin City (and the Chief of Police has to find about $180,000 savings in his budget to pay for the policing costs or else he goes over budget as he said on John Fairley's Cogeco show) but was it all worth it in the end? You decide that one!

Watch how the Star tomorrow handles a border file story that may come out today. Now THAT should be interesting to see. And let's see if they allow a reporter the time to work on the Enwin story, one that is just crying out to be heard.

The Overpass Is Falling Down, Falling Down

And you want the Government to be the owner of a new bridge in this area and to run and maintain it!

Yes, dear reader, as you read here the other day (and now in the Star) we seem to have problems at the one-year old Overpass on Huron Church Road.

The crowning achievement of this Administration, the project that defines how much they have achieved on the border file was the construction of the overpass for schoolkids.

And it has problems. Already.

In passing, I do believe that the City's medical re-imbursement program needs updating. "Mike Palanacki, the city's director of operations...said the bridge is being well-used by students at Assumption. "We have been monitoring that."

You would think that the person who was doing the monitoring and saw that the overpass was being used by the "70 per cent [of] The students concerned about their safety" would have been able to see "peeling paint on the steel columns of the overpass and weeds that are growing in the landscaped sections of the structure." Maybe the 70% figure is supect as well given how the City seems to look at numbers.

I do not understand it:
  • Where is Sam Schwartz telling us that the Overpass has problems and may fall down unless there is major reconstruction.
  • Where is Senator Kenny demanding that we build another one for redundancy purposes with wartime urgency since the health of our children are at risk.
  • Why aren't our are West End activists and politicians organizing a bus tour to show us this.
  • Why isn't the Mayor demanding that the Senior Levels build a tunnel now under Huron Church Road to improve the quality of life for the people around the area since they deserve the best
  • Why hasn't the Windsor Health Unit sent no smoking enforcement officers with bottles of bleach to the overpass to chase away kids who smoke there.
  • Why isn't the Star demanding air quality tests to measure the diesel fumes levels to which the kids may be exposed as they walk on the overpass
  • Where is Brain Masse talking up the virtues of a "public" overpass

Oh well, the City lost its chance. The Bridge Co. offered to build an overpass at no cost to the City several years ago. Instead, the University became the recipient of their generosity with the $2 million donation and improved duty-free contract.

University President Ross Paul said that the relationship between the University and the Bridge Co. was a "a great win-win partnership." Clearly these two organizations learned how to build bridges! Too bad the City has not learned its lesson.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More Competition For Border Traffic

I have to tell you that writing this BLOG sometimes gets me down. Today is one of those days when I got depressed.

I research what I write in my BLOGS and often find things by chance that I was not looking for but that may be of interest. What I will set out below is one of those instances.

What bothers me is that not only do we have to compete for border traffic against Sarnia/Port Huron, now it looks like Fort Erie wants to take a shot at us too.

Compare what is happening on the East-West corridor with Windsor. Read what the fellow in Fort Erie discusses about their game-plan for how they want to use the border for economic development and compare it with what we are doing.

Do you now understand why we need a complete house-cleaning at City Hall from the top down! Can you understand what this City would be like with a lame-duck Mayor and feuding Councillors for the next four years! Ugh...I cannot stand to even think about it!

Here is what Rino Mostacci, director of community and development services for the town of Fort Erie, said at the STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS of the Ontario Legislature on 30 January 2006:

  • "From an economic perspective, Fort Erie is important as one of North America's busiest international border crossings. We believe that in the future it will emerge as Ontario's preferred crossing from an international trade perspective. To this extent, border-related commerce is affected by the capacity at the Peace Bridge and accessibility to the QEW. Efficient access to the Fort Erie border crossing is absolutely vital to the Ontario economy. As a result, we are experiencing major interest in terms of industrial operations in various business enterprises to locate in Fort Erie to take advantage of the accessibility provided by the QEW and the Peace Bridge. This is directly in line and consistent with provincial policy.

    As you are probably aware, Places to Grow has identified a gateway economic zone that runs right through Fort Erie to the Peace Bridge. This is an excerpt from the schedule, Places to Grow. You can see Fort Erie at the southeastern limit of Niagara region, and the red line symbolizes the gateway zone, which essentially is parallel to the QEW through the area.

    Fort Erie strongly supports the provincial designation of the gateway economic zone through the town and wishes to facilitate implementation, particularly with respect to job creation and investment opportunities. Our vision is to create a premier industrial business park located in Fort Erie serving all of Niagara, southern Ontario and upstate New York.

    The proposed industrial park is designated in our planning documents. It's designated in the regional official plan. To give you an idea of scale, gross area is approximately 600 hectares. There are approximately 120 hectares that are classified as environmental lands, provincially significant wetlands, and about 120 hectares are undevelopable, as they are already used for highway purposes and landfill sites. The net industrial land available in the industrial park is approximately 360 hectares, and we envision approximately 120 development sites based on an average of about three hectares per site. So this is a major opportunity for industrial growth and job creation in this region.

    Our goals locally are to diversify the industrial base and promote a strong economy. We'd like to attract and retain jobs and investment, partner with major industry and land developers, and encourage business development in innovative sectors of the economy. To give you some background, DMI, which is a wind generation company, has recently located in Fort Erie, specifically to take advantage of the accessibility and the position relative to the border...

    Additional objectives are transportation and servicing infrastructure to support ultimate build-out of the industrial business park. We'd like to build on our competitive locational strength at the border by attracting upstate New York companies and to collaborate with all levels of government relative to the growth corridor, including the province and the federal government, as you have seen through the border infrastructure fund...

    Improvements resulting from the Canada-Ontario border infrastructure fund have enhanced accessibility and efficiencies at the border. The next step is to enhance the ability to locate in proximity to the border crossing and take advantage of locational efficiencies as well as to relieve congestion throughout the GTA.

    The Vice-Chair: Mr. Arthurs, for the government.

    Mr. Arthurs: There are a couple of things I'm still curious about. You've referenced that Fort Erie will emerge as Ontario's preferred crossing from an international trade perspective, and that's not just a sales pitch, I presume. There are good reasons for that, and I'd like to hear just a little bit more about that in the time we have.

    Mr. Mostacci: There are two questions there. I'll address the first one, in terms of the Peace Bridge. We strongly believe that the improvements being made at the Peace Bridge will result in that border crossing at Fort Erie becoming Ontario's number one border crossing, primarily because of the congestion issues being experienced in the Windsor crossings.

    You will see over time, once the Canadian plaza improvements are put in place and once the expansion to the US plaza has been completed, relative to the additional inspection booths, that we will have almost free-flow commercial traffic at the Peace Bridge. When you're moving goods, time is money. The logistics firms are telling us that a one- to two-hour delay at the Windsor crossings is not acceptable and that the Peace Bridge is a superior crossing in terms of expeditiously moving from the GTA, as well as the cost advantages in terms of the processing fees at the Peace Bridge.

    The Peace Bridge is moving forward, as you know, with the binational, integrated environmental assessment for the new bridge. The jury has selected a new bridge prototype, and it's working its way through the US environmental approval process. We hope to see a new bridge under construction within three years.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

...But First Get It Right

I swear, the more I hear about this tuition deal for City employees at St. Clair as part of the Cleary package, the more suspicious I become. You'd almost think it was designed to focus our attention away from the main part of the deal.

Here is a note that the President of St. Clair sent around the College. Note the interesting language used. It scares me:

  • "This email is sent on behalf of Dr. Strasser, President:/

    There appears to be numerous incorrect statements in various reports on the Cleary negotiations. Let us deal with this particular one – that of a discount on tuition. A part of the final agreement may include a discount for City employees *_(not including children)_ *for *_unfilled_* seats in *_Continuing Education courses_*. This will allow City employees to upgrade skills at a lesser cost to the City."
I'd like to know what the other "incorrect statements" are wouldn't you? In fact, I'd like to know what the deal really is rather than having it filtered through the Windsor Star. I had hoped that Councillor Gignac would have taken up my invitation to give us her position on the deal since she voted against it but so far she has not done so.

The use of the word "may" as well does not mean that this part of the deal will be done either.

As for Eddie's figures re the savings---well he said that we would make $100 million here re Super Bowl too and did we?

Now I thought Mr. Henderson was rather rude in his column today when he said: "we should all take a pill and chill" over this tuition matter. Frankly, if the Star had published the correct information at the beginning, there would not have been the uproar.

Isn't there a saying in the news world "Get it first, but first get it right!"

Hyping Suckers

Is it just me or do you, dear reader, feel that Windsorites are being played for fools? Take the Cleary deal...all of this so-called negotiating and high drama--it's on, it's off, it's on again--for what? I am sure that you believe that a secretive Mayor is going to talk about a deal in public at a Tim Hortons so everyone can listen in.

Another urban legend created, just like "The town hall idea [for a Youth Council] came to Francis on a recent Friday night movie outing with his wife."

How about the Cleary is a "white elephant" and we have to get rid of it and pay someone to take it off of our hands. Then we learn that the Cleary "draws one of the lowest municipal subsidies per square foot in the province and has one of the highest usage ratios per square footage in Ontario while the Chrysler Theatre is the most cost-efficient municipally-owned theatre in Ontario."

Here's a good one....Windsor and our border crossing are important to the economy of Ontario. The road to the border is a known problem. So when "Ontario's Liberal government has a five-year, $3.4-billion plan to upgrade roads, highways and bridges in southern Ontario" Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield does not announce that the Government is going to build that road.

And then there is Super Bowl. Slowly but surely we are finding out the true facts.

Here is what has been claimed to justify the spending of the US$250,000 to be part of the TEAM:

  • 02-03-2006 Francis figures the Super Bowl will bring in between $80 to $100 million to Windsor and help the city attract a CFL expansion team.

  • 02-04-2006 Mayor Eddie Francis said the city is projecting Super Bowl XL will pump at least $80 million into the city's economy.

    "Francis noted that all hotels are at capacity throughout Windsor and beyond with 4,400 rooms booked and added that the NFL estimates each Super Bowl visitor spends about $3,000 over the course of the weekend and are "conservative" estimates..

    "It's not just all about hotels, cross-border traffic and visitors," said Francis. "All of the contracts and the work that had to be done. There's a lot of money there."

  • 02-07-2006 "In the short term, officials estimate between 20,000 and 30,000 tourists visited Windsor last week, spending millions of dollars."

  • 03-27-2006 " "A preliminary study suggests Detroit's big game was a cash bonanza for Windsor and Essex County.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said that economic impact studies indicate the average football fan spent $966 US during their visits for goods and services beyond the costs of travel and accommodation.

    Gordon Orr said the stock of 4,000 rooms available were virtually all taken during the weekend of the game: 8,541 total room occupancy bookings with most of those bookings covered between two and four guests.... Orr added that hotel rates increased by 60 per cent during the month, from about $105 a night in February 2005 to an average of $167 during the month of Super Bowl.

    We're usually at 50 to 60 per cent occupancy, nowhere near that capacity. So it was huge.""

  • 06-15-2006 Earlier this year, the Super Bowl alone was responsible for 8,541 room nights and a $20 million economic benefit to the region, said Orr

See how things get hyped and then reality sets in a long time later. Why we were going to make $100M or $80M but now it looks like $20M (more about that later). We had 4,400 rooms at first but must have lost 400 of them. We were supposed to have 20-30,000 tourists but might have had 8-16,000. The conservative spending of $3,000 per visitor went down to US$966 not including accommodation.

Let's try and figure out what Windsor actually made on the Super Bowl weekend using Gord Orr's numbers since he should know. Let's make some assumptions:

  • 4,000 rooms with 3 people per room or 12,000 tourists staying 2 nights
  • US$966 per person
  • $167 per night for a room for 8,541 rooms

Room charges = $1,500,000

Spending per person= US$11,592,000 or about CDN. $13,200,000

But normally we are 60% full but let's say 50% so that the total of $14,700,000 is now down to $7,350,000. Throw in a few million for "contract work" and maybe we hit $10 million.

Is $10 million a good number? You bet it is! But it is not $100Million

Is 12,000 tourists a good number? You bet it is. But it is not 20-30,000

Is US$966 a good number? You bet it is. But it is not $3,000

Is the Cleary deal good for downtown Windsor? You bet it is. But a few hundred students will not fill up the 30-50% of the office space that is vacant downtown.

I wish that this kind of story telling would stop. People of Windsor are smart enough to be able to deal with the true facts. We do need any more exaggeration.

Brian Masse In Action

I hit the big-time yesterday. Somehow my BLOG was picked up by the Bourque Newswatch and my hits over a normal Monday went up by about 500% with people from across Canada looking in! Let's see if they pick up on today's BLOG, a day in the life of my MP, Brian Masse.

After you read this BLOG, dear reader, let me know if the subject line should be changed to three words or remain at four.

Back in the end of May, I thought I heard that the City of Windsor was going to make a submission to the Commons Transport Committee dealing with Bill C-3. I asked for a copy from the Committee and was told that the "Clerk of the Transport Committee had "not received any document from the City of Windsor, and if I did, It is considered a brief to the Committee. you can contact the City of Windsor and request a copy from them."

So I did and was told on May 30 "The City has not yet made a submission re Bill C-3. Councillor Halberstadt asked that one be prepared last night."

I never got a copy of a submission so I was surprised to read in the transcript of the hearings that my NDP MP, Brian Masse, was introducing amendments on behalf of the City. I found out that the City had made a submission on June 1. Just to prove one was entered, I copied part of Page 1 of the seven page document above.

Interestingly, when I asked someone at City Hall about it, he told me that the Mayor had said to Councillors that none had been made. Strange don't you think.

So I wanted to see what MP Border,,, errrrr Masse, entered in as amendments and what happened to them. (Some may be City amendments, some is not clear from the transcript of the hearings in every case) After all, it is a Minority Parliament, he knows everything there is to know about borders and ought to know the rules of Parliament backwards and forwards by now. Moreover, the "City" amendments "were originally submitted... from the City of Windsor and their legal experts." I went through two days of transcripts on the Clause by Clause reveiew of the Act and here is what I discovered:

  • Amending Section 4 re "municipal by-laws and provincial laws "amendment does appear to be contrary to the principle of the bill...I am now advised that it is inadmissible."

  • Amending Section 7 re information to be supplied by an applicant to the Minister, "Again, I'm advised by counsel that it is inadmissible, as subparagraph (ix) is contrary to the principle of the bill."

  • Amending Section 8 re approvals "We have an amendment introduced by the NDP. Again, I'm advised by counsel that it is inadmissible due to its being contrary to the principle of the bill."

  • (Procedural Clerk): With respect to amendment NDP-3, it would require the consent of the municipality. That goes contrary to the principle of the bill, which is basically to provide for the Governor in Council to have the authority to issue relevant permissions. A veto given to the municipality goes against that. Because the bill has been approved by the House at second reading, the committee is required to respect that principle.

  • Amending Section 12 re Expropriation "I'm dropping the amendment since it's consequential. It just reaffirms the process I couldn't change"

  • Adding a new clause "There is a new clause, 12.1, amendment NDP-5. Unfortunately, it is inadmissible due to requiring royal recommendation. It violates royal recommendation."

  • New Section 15 (2) re Minister consulting with other levels of government "if in his opinion such is necessary having regard to all the circumstances" Carried

  • Amendment NDP-8. "Once again, I am taking the advice of counsel and suggesting that it is inadmissible. It's beyond the scope in imposing a tax.

  • Amending Section 16 re hazardous materials. Withdrawn and to be dealt with in discussion respecting Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

  • Amending Section 18 re Authorized officer may make emergency direction "I'll drop my amendment. I apologize"

  • Amending Section 32 re change in mode of transportation use "withdraw my amendment"

I have my opinion for the number of words for the subject-line based on the results achieved. Do you?

Goings On At City Hall

Here are a few short but sweet stories about recent City Hall matters:


I wonder why the Mayor made a very long presentation at the Windsor Library Board meeting the other day.

I hear that he and Michael Duben, General Manager of Client Services, spoke for far longer than the 5 minutes that the Board normally allows presenters. Perhaps the Mayor might understand that and give some leeway when a delegation exceeds their time under the Procedure By-law.

I hope someone tells us what was discussed. Perhaps it had something to do with the Board of Education.

And speaking of the Library, is the audit report out yet? How much money did we actually spend on that and what are the results?


You remember, the conference that the Mayor set up for Mayors across North America, U.S. – Canada Mayors Summit, that he had to postpone because of a variety of excuses such as not having the sense to understand it was a US holiday when it was scheduled. 230 Canadian and American mayors were to have met to discuss the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

It's been rescheduled now for July 20 I have been told. I am not sure if anyone has agreed to come yet.

And if you want to read a hilarious press release explaining why it was "postponed" go to

Honestly, it makes failure look like genius!


One of the great achievements of this Mayor and Council on the border file was the construction of the overpass on Huron Church Road for schoolkids that supposedly few use. [sarcasm intended]

The pedestrian bridge cost taxpayers $4.28 million (although I understand that the Bridge Co. offered to build an overpass for the City several years ago at no cost to the City). I thought the contractor received several hundred thousand dollars extra too to have it built by the end of September last year.

I understand that the City was to pay the anuual maintenance costs. Budgets must be tight since Councillor Halberstadt said at Council on Monday that there was garbage around the overpass and it was not well maintained. He also asked if there were some other problesm with it because he saw some peeling.

Who wanted a "Champs Elysees" anyway on Huron Church!


Did you see the story in the Star about the budget meeting. Perhaps we should all attend.

  • "City council schedules public meeting on budget

    City council will hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss how the 2007 budget process will unfold.

    The meeting is open to the public and will be held in council chambers at 5 p.m.

    City treasurer Onorio Colucci said the discussion will centre on process rather than numbers."

We should be concerned since Councillor Lewenza has said about next year's budget "there's very little wiggle room in the [2006] budget and taxpayers should not expect to see the frugality of the last two budgets repeated next year. "This is probably the last go- around," he said, adding that there will be either higher tax hikes next year or a reduction in services."

Don't worry, we aren't having a People-based Budget process next year again. We had it once and it won "silver medal at Ottawa's GTEC exhibition of public sector information technology innovation." As Councillor Lewnza said "Looking back on the people based budget, I witnessed minimal value in allowing the exercise aside from allowing citizens to express themselves and for allotting city councillors the privilege to mingle with their constituents."

And don't worry, we still do not have Eddie's crown jewel of the last mayoral campaign, Citistat, around to tell us how Departments are doing so that we can save millions. We still have to wait for reports to tell us what Departments are having problems.

We do need a process that:
  • explains how multi-year bank loans are called "bridge financing"
  • requires the Mayor when he talks about "projected" debt to include the $42 million debenture for the Lou Romano plant
  • requires the Mayor when he talks about "projected" debt to discuss the placeholder of $22 million for debentures for Windsor Utilities Commission
  • sets out that our "projected" debt in 2007 will be $56 million more than the amount the Mayor quoted as our amount today and in 2010 $30 million more
  • requires when discussing debt to include the Employee Future Benefit Liability that in year end 2004 was over $200 million


I wonder why Gord Henderson had to write almost a whole column on the Cleary deal respecting the tuition savings. A "corrections" article in its usual spot is what the Star does if a mistake is made in an article.

Oh I know why, there was a suggestion that Eddie may have made a "bad deal." Whew, cannot have that can we? Plus there was the need to show the City got a good deal for taxpayers.

Now that this little irritant is out of the way, as I suggested in my BLOG the other day [BLOG June 16, 2006 The Marketing Of The Cleary Deal], we can all praise the genius of the deal.

I wonder what questions the St. Clair Board will ask about the deal of their President before they approve it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

So You Think We're Getting A Tunnel Eh

That book by Danish Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, “Megaprojects and Risk: An anatomy of Ambition" is coming true repeatedly. It may become required reading! A close to home example is the LaSalle arena. Then there is the proposed East end arena (publicized price--- $55 million, supposed price with add-ons like land and fees--- $75-80 million, actual price--- Priceless).

Now the Mayor of Windsor likes talking about "quality of life" issues and how we deserve the best in Windsor. That's a lot easier to talk about rather than actually doing something but that is another story.

I was really interested in the Star Editorial the other day too---"Air Quality: City needs corridor study." I was racking my brains trying to remember during my STOPDRTP days, when the Star supported the building of that truck expressway through the heart of Windsor along the DRTP corridor, how many times the Star advocated that there should be "air testing" along that route. It's so nice to see that they are concerned over this issue.

While they are at it, perhaps the Star could ask the Mayor/ Windsor Tunnel Commission Chair to do an air quality study downtown too around the Heritage-designated Tunnel ventilation building since that building has no scrubbers to clean the air coming out of the City-owned Tunnel. If it is bad, then I am sure that the City will authorize the WTC to spend more millions on that. Heck, they are going to increase tolls anyway.

Now the guys and gals with the dollars to spend on this are the Feds notwithstanding that Dwight Duncan threw around 500 million of Gong Show dollars that will be dragged out when he needs them for re-election purposes. Some of those bureaucrats may actually read the Ottawa Sun (for the news, not the Sunshine Girl pictures!) If they read it on May 31 ,they will have read a story about cost over-runs for the Ottawa light-rail transit line.

There are only so many dollars to go around after all. If DRTP admits, as an example, that a tunnel on its corridor will cost $2 billion, if the Tunnel group suggested a cost of $2.5 billion and the Cansult people suggested up to $300 per km, then the Mandarins will know that a tunnel in Windsor will go sky high by the time it is done.

Who will want his/her name on the cost projection for a Big Dig for Windsor? Heck, they have to commit money for a Toronto subway extension that will go substantially over-budget. There are more seats to be won in the 905 area code at election time than the 2 seats in Windsor so you know where that cash will go.

And if Health Canada now "reported that high traffic levels -- and the increased air pollution they bring -- correlated to few adverse health effects in children between grades one and eight" then so much for the need for a tunnel and Eddie's "quality of life" election platform.
  • Tab for light-rail line closes in on $900M

    THE FINAL cost of building the north-south light-rail transit line could be nearly $900 million.

    That's after factoring in about $124 million worth of LRT-related projects, on top of the $725 million approved by council -- plus unforeseen costs that could total "tens of millions."

    Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans said the list of projects and associated costs related to the construction of the line will bump up the real cost of the project considerably.

    They're projects Deans said city staff have confirmed are being added or accelerated to support the LRT project, but are not included in the original price tag.

    "The cost of putting the rail on the ground has triggered a whole other chain of events," said Deans. "Council are aware there are ancillary costs, but I wanted them itemized. I wanted them (staff) to make it clear."

    Deans said some projects are being "advanced of their need."

    Projects include almost $66 million worth of construction to build a bridge across the Rideau River to join the Riverside South community to Barrhaven.


    Another $22 million will be spent on improving two east and west transit transfer stations and an automated fare collection system. About $9 million will finance the rehabilitation of the sewer network below Albert and Slater streets.

    Deans said some projects would have proceeded according to plan. But in an e-mail to Deans, Barry Townsend, manager of the city's light-rail implementation division, says "others are generated by the LRT project."

    A City Hall source told the Sun city staff are negotiating with Siemens/PCL-Dufferin, the preferred partner, to build the rail line, but may have run into a problem over the cost of relocating utility lines belonging to Bell, Sprint and Rogers buried underneath Albert and Slater streets. That could bump up the original $725-million budget by millions of dollars.

    "This could cost tens of million of dollars," the source said.

    Rejean Chartrand, the city's director of economic development and strategic projects, confirmed that the lines are located directly beneath the proposed LRT route and that the city doesn't have a final cost on moving them, but "it is substantial."

    A cost-sharing arrangement under Ontario's Public Service Works on Highways Act states the city is responsible for 40% of the relocation costs, while the company is responsible for the balance.

    Earlier this week, Mayor Bob Chiarelli said the city and the preferred partner are facing challenges on the road to meeting the budget target. He pointed to the revised plan to take a single track into the heart of Barrhaven -- the original plan called for the line to stop short of the growing community.

    "We are wrestling with the numbers," said Chiarelli, adding he expects about a 2% variance in the budget when negotiations are complete. "We're in the ballpark."

    Construction of the north-south line is expected to break ground this fall and be completed in 2009."