Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Of The Same

Nothing, nada, zero, zilch.

A Tale Of Four Headlines

Try and reconcile these four stories.

Do you think that there is any hope in sight even after the Municipal elections? A lawsuit against the Feds over the DRIC road that will tie up the border for years will accomplish wonders for us won't it?

After listening to some of the Councillors speaking at the Labour Council meeting, I don't think they get it yet! They refuse to acknowledge what the border reality is as they keep on spouting their re-election border slogans.

You can be sure that after the municipal election is over, the Feds will finally step in. Right now, they do not want to be an election issue to allow Eddie to rant and rave against them. They will allow him to play the martyr role afterwards.

The Feds will be forced to do so. Detroit and Michigan will demand it. Eddie has been identified as the border block at the Joint Councils meeting and in Lansing. Ironically, he did it to himself. They cannot afford to have Windsor destroy their economies!

City growth improves modestly

Border difficulties dragging down Windsor's main economic engines

Friday, September 15, 2006

A strong Canadian dollar and lingering border difficulties affecting the manufacturing and tourism sectors have limited Windsor's economic growth forecast to 2.1 per cent, according to a report released by the Conference Board of Canada.

It's an improvement over one year ago when the growth forecast was only 1.1 per cent but a decrease from six months ago when the board pegged Windsor's growth at 2.7 per cent.

Ford cuts 10,000 more salaried jobs

Two plants closed; one in Canada
Friday, September 15, 2006

DETROIT - Accelerating its restructuring, Ford Motor Co. is closing two more plants - one of them in Canada - cutting 10,000 more salaried jobs and expanding its buyout offer to all U.S. employees.

Nine factories will be idled and cease production through 2008 - including seven already announced. The two additional plants are the Essex, Ont., engine plant and the Maumee, Ohio, stamping plant.

Honda Canada to invest $154 million to build new engine plant in Ontario
May 16, 2006

TORONTO (CP) - Honda Canada Inc. plans to invest $154 million to build a new engine plant near its complex in Alliston, Ont., the company announced late Tuesday.

The announcement comes as its parent firm, Honda Motor Co. (NYSE:HMC), announced further expansion plans, saying it would build a new plant in Japan and another in the United States.

Border woes, not dollar, a concern, Honda says
Windsor crossing needs improvement company says at unveiling of new assembly plant

Chris Vander Doelen, The Windsor Star Thursday, May 18, 2006

WINDSOR, Ont. - The high-flying Canadian dollar wasn't a factor in Honda deciding to build a $140-million assembly plant in Ontario, its third there, but the border situation in Windsor was a worry, the company said yesterday.

Honda ended months of speculation yesterday by announcing a $1.5-billion worldwide push: It will build its first engine plant in Canada, spend $400 million U.S. to add a new vehicle assembly plant somewhere in the U.S., and expand production in Japan...

The Canadian dollar has been cited by the Canadian Auto Workers Union, some manufacturers and many auto parts producers as a hindrance to competitiveness, now that it hovers around 90 cents U.S. But it was not much of a factor in Honda's decision to invest further in Canada, the company said in a conference call.

"The dollar is not that large of a decision, bearing on a company of our magnitude," said Jim Miller, vice-president of corporate communications for Honda Canada Inc. By swapping huge numbers of vehicles and engines "back and forth" across the Canada and U.S. border, currency swings are mostly neutralized, he said.

However, the problems at Canada's border crossings were a factor when Honda sat down to choose sites for its new plants, Mr. Miller said.

"There needs to be some work done in Windsor," Mr. Miller said from Toronto."

Spending Taxpayer Gold For Infrastructure

You want to talk Megaproject overspending eh! You want to talk about costs going out of control. You want to talk about the Olympics being used as the justification for municipal infrastructure. You want to talk about a tunnel from Highway 401 to and including a new bridge in Windsor and how the Senior Levels can be suckered into paying for it.

Then read about the horrific financial mess in Vancouver. Almost getting as bad as the Big "Owe" Stadium in Montreal. Whew, wait until we get the promise of a tunnel to a new border crossing. That will make those other projects seem like small fish in cost comparison by the time it is done. We will have our own world record, our goal medal performance, our own Bigger Dig!

  • Auditor-general Pegs Games Cost At $2 Billion
    Miro Cernetig, Vancouver Sun, Thursday, September 14, 2006

    VICTORIA -- The 2010 Olympic Games will cost taxpayers about $2 billion, not the approximately $600 million long-stated by the British Columbia government, according to a B.C. auditor-general's report that will be released this morning.

    The Vancouver Sun has learned Auditor-General Arn van Iersel believes the Olympics' real cost to taxpayers is triple the provincial government's commonly stated figure.

    Following accepted bookkeeping practices, he will report that other big-ticket items related to the Olympics must be included in the total cost, such as:

    - The $600-million Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler upgrade.

    - The costs of a station on the rapid rail transit line at the Olympic Village in Vancouver.

    - The $110 million trust fund for the future operating costs of running Olympic facilities for the years well beyond 2010 and the costs of essential government services to make the Games happen.

    Premier Gordon Campbell and his government have taken a narrower approach to Olympic costs. They have long argued that infrastructure projects and other costs that are not directly related to putting on the Games should not be added to the price tag for the 2010 Olympics.

    Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen will be holding a news conference today to explain the government's case, and deal with the auditor-general's independent assessment.

    The government is expected to argue the auditor-general is incorrect in including public services that are not directly related to the Olympics, even though the government itself had used the arrival of the Games to justify such major projects.

    It was expected that building the Olympics' venues would be $470 million. That number was increased to $580 million as construction costs soared.

    But when the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee announced earlier this year that its venues were $110 million over budget, Hansen insisted that costs would not go beyond a $139 million contingency fund.

    Both Ottawa and the province agreed to spend $55 million each to make up for the extra construction costs. That leaves the province with a contingency fund of $84 million.

    Today's report does not mean that the costs have soared beyond that new figure of $580 million.

    But the New Democratic Party is saying that taxpayers should beware.

    It says the government will be forced to recognize the total cost of holding the Olympic Games is more than three times what it has been saying. The NDP is also calling for continuing independent reports on the the Games' total costs, warning that it could rise much higher.

    "The government has been hiding the costs of the Olympics," said NDP leader Carole James.

    "They haven't been up front with the public. We need to make sure the Games are successful. But you don't make them successful by hiding the true cost of the Olympics, by pulling the wool over the eyes of the taxpayers."

    Today's report from the auditor-general, which will be followed by other government overviews of the Olympics' costs later in the day, essentially takes issue with the Liberal government's argument that such infrastructure projects as the Canada Line and the Sea to Sky Highway are public works that are not entirely Olympics-related.

    That will create another political debate: Olympics organizers, and the provincial government, argue that many of the public works and stadiums that will remain after the Games, creating economic benefits, are best handled in the government's main budget.

    But the auditor-general has essentially repudiated that argument, suggesting the most transparent way of presenting the costs is to group all projects that directly or indirectly flow from the Olympics and deal with them in the same budgetary envelope.

    Those costs include $175 million for security costs, a figure many think may yet rise further. There is also the $110 million operating trust that will be needed to keep Olympics facilities operating in the years after 2010 as well as the share of government services that the Olympics will eat up in the years leading up to the event.

And the gold medal goes to...

There's A Meeting Here Tonight

I attended the Windsor Labour Council meeting for the Mayor and Council last night to try and hear what our Council had to say about the important issues of the day.

Too bad the Mayor expressed his regrets and did not come. But he never needed labour support anyway so why would he bother coming to be embarrassed by tough questions. Anyway, Councillor Junior spoke enough for both of them . [I liked too how he sat right in the middle of the table. He knows how to be well-situated for any photo-op]

Councillors Gignac and Brister did not express their regrets we were told and did not come (Hardly a surprise since the Star reported that "Windsor District Labour Council is looking at defeating certain incumbents at city hall...It's no secret," said the labour council's political education chairman Peter Pellerito before singling out Ward 1 Coun. Dave Brister and Ward 5 Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac.) Councillor Halberstadt was in another meeting but was supposed to come. I was told he came later since I left before the meeting ended.

I was surprised that Councillor Zuk was there since she is not running in the November 13 election. However, if the gossip is true that she may run for a Senior Level position, she had to be there [Someone should tell her though that supporting the sale of parkland, Superior Park in this case, as a surplus asset will make her a lot of enemies!]

It was a phony meeting just like the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit was a phony one: set up supposedly for one reason but really for another. It was not designed to educate but to pressure Councillors into accepting a Union position on issues like outsourcing, fair wages policy and retirement benefits. It seemed to me that certain people were asking planted questions and reading from a typed script.

Why was it done this way? Clearly the Labour Council has decided that the likelihood of an incumbent being defeated in this election is low. Why they even refused to allow candidates for office to ask questions of the Councillors but allowed the Councillors to make what were, in effect, campaign speeches and make campaign promises. Nothing like getting the Councillors to think that they are Union votes signed up in advance so they can be pressured later. I just hope for the Labour Council's sake that some candidates do not get elected instead of incumbents. They may not like how they were treated!

I'll tell you one thing though. The Governor's hubby deserved every penny of the thousands he was paid. Why this Council is so united that I thought they were going to break out and sing "Solidarity forever!" half way through the evening.

So ask the important questions for the next round of union negotiating publicly, get a public answeer in a union environment and then hold the Councillors to their position after the election. That was what tonight was all about.

Here are a few comments on what was said:

  • Gary Parent made an impassioned plea about changing the Procedural By-law so people could express their views at Council. How odd. He knew what the real answer was but did not say it!
  • Try as hard as they could, I was not convinced that Windsor "had a say" on border issues. If we did, what are they moaning and groaning and threatening lawsuits
  • Councillors have become a bunch of sloganeers not problem-solvers. Saying "No to trucks on City streets," "No to trucks on E C Row," "No to the Twinned Bridge," "No to DRTP" plays well to the crowd but that does not solve the border dilemma.
  • It's clear they have no solution. Councillor Zuk at least had the honesty to say she did not know the answer but for how many years was she involved in the much for the millions spent on Estrin/Schwartz. In fact Councillor Lewenza confirmed the waste of taxpayer money on Schwartz when he said that Schwartz provided alternatives and was not set in stone! Geeee. I always heard the Schwartz Report was Windsor's position.
  • There must be some animosity between Councillor Postma and Minister Pupatello as to who the real Diva is in the West End. Caroline took a real shot at Sandra for not "helping" since she claimed she would be prejudicing the process.
  • I got so tired of Councillors saying that they would work with community groups on various issues---Yea right. Just like the help we were asked to give during all of the open and transparent border sessions we have had over the past 3 years.
  • Fulvio was uncharacteristically harsh, calling the DRIC process a fraud since their agenda was Huron Church Road and E C Row right from the start.
  • He also complained about 2 years of grants that Windsor did not receive for infrastructure while Tecumseh did. For Windsor, that was like NOT getting about $100 million if one used what Tecumseh received and applied the ratios to Windsor. I wonder if that would still be the case if Windsor did not "snub!"
  • Councillor Lewenza confirmed my thoughts about the consequences of the widening of Manning Road----but why hasn't the Mayor issued a threat for a lawsuit about that?
  • I heard so much whinging about downloading, high taxes, the need to help out in trying times but no comment that wasting up to$100 million or more on an East Side arena makes no sense.

One final note, as I was leaving, a Windsor Star reporter came up to interview me. He may not have put me in the story notwithstanding all of my fabulous quotes, or maybe his Editors took me out. Oh well, the fickle finger of fame.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Poor Mike Hurst. It just hit me when I was driving around the other day and saw the mobile sign for his South Windsor meeting. All of a sudden I felt very sorry for him. Remember how it used to be for him and how it is now. The stark contrast between the before and after must be difficult for him to take.

He must have had a pretty big budget at one time. Full-page ads in the Star were the norm. I forgot how many of them they ran but the Star's Advertising Department must have been happy. Now the best they can do to announce Mike Rohrer's position is a small ad. Where are the full-page ads for their Green Solution meetings? Sure they had some mailings but not the big, glossy brochures as before.

Their website was a very attractive one and quite well done I thought. Have you looked at it recently? It's pretty out of date! The public meetings referred to are in 2004 with nothing after that it seems. On their NEWS page, February, 2006 is the only recent item and their sample ads are old ones with their archives of newsletters ending in August, 2004. Why it's as if they have not been doing anything worthwhile for years. Maybe they have not but perhaps it is because poor Mike does not have enough money to have DRTP's website updated.

Mike is a pretty outgoing guy generally from what I have seen of him. Yet perhaps he is concerned about speaking with community members except in a controlled environment like a presentation. It seems that the last person to talk to DRTP was "Chris W." way back on October 14, 2005 on their Feedback page. Personally, I believe that they may be embarrassed to have too much feedback with residents. That may be why they used a telemarketing type recorded announcement via the phone to get people out to their South Windsor meeting rather than using humans. Can you blame DRTP? Which person would want to be shouted at all day long by STOPDRTP supporters!

The billboards make what is happening to Mike so pathetic. Oh those billboards promoting the Jobs Tunnel. They were everywhere you looked at one time. They were ubiquitous. No matter where you turned, there was one of them staring back at you. If I recall correctly, they had a huge one just where vehicles approached the Ambassador Bridge---seemingly thumbing their nose at their major competitor.

Look at the top of the page again. A mobile sign. Is that the best they can do now? One mobile I saw was on Huron Church and another on Dougall near the old Funeral home site that DRTP bought. How appropriate though wouldn't you say--a DRTP cemetary plot with a DRTP Mobile headstone.

The ultimate indignity, the ultimate shame, is DRTP supporting Eddie's "Rails for Trails" as they try to build pressure for someone, anyone, to deal with their corridor. Can you imagine how hard Mike has to swallow his combative pride as he spits out what the Mayor wants to do. How ironic that the Councillor who was under him at Council, with whom he had a very difficult relationship and who really beat him for the Mayor's job (although Mike did not run) may determine Mike's future and that of his DRTP project!

Instead of promoting the virtues of Windsor as he once did as Mayor, Mike now has to make a presentation to sell the unsaleable, salvage the unsalvageable, and market the unmarketable.

As for his efforts to get people out for the 7 PM meeting, his former buddies at the Labour Council are having a big public meeting with the Mayor and Council on the same day starting at 6:30 PM. Don't Mayors and former Mayors, and their staff, ever check a calendar before setting up a meeting to see if there are any conflicts?

It's nice for him that people attended his South Windsor DRTP presentation last night. He probably needed a morale boost by this time.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

No Reaction Yet

Waiting for the IPC office to do something is frustrating but I guess their caseload is heavy

Sin City Back In The Sports Limelight

I know that it has taken me awhile to talk about this but with the Super Bowl and the Olympics, I thought it was appropriate.

Wouldn't you just know it. Right before we start the debate about an arena (Whatever happened to the 25,000 seat CFL stadium we were looking at), another sports extravaganza is to hit our City and put us on the map.

Sin City will become the Canadian HQ for the WWE's Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit and we better get on board now!

Has our Mayor run to Council yet and asked Council to spend the money to be a sponsor of Wrestlemania as he did with Super Bowl? Is Roger Penske involved in this to make it even more urgent to do so? I did see Eddie do the "process" thing again. "The reaction has been very, very positive," Francis said. "Now what we're going to do is spend the next two to three weeks to sit down with the WWE and see if we can formulate the same type of work plan that we used for past events."

I wonder who will make the first suggestion that we should expect to generate "X" millions in revenue. Do you think it will be $100 million, the amount suggested by Eddie at first for Super Bowl rather than the much smaller amount we actually made? I suspect that both the Tunnel and Bridge will not expect the throngs to come and staff up since they were so disappointed by the sharp reduction in traffic over the Super Bowl weekend

Here is the hype so far as reported in the Press and WWE website:
  • “The biggest event in sports entertainment history... “It’s the biggest sports event in the universe.”
  • More than 78,000 fans are expected to pack Ford Field in Detroit on April 1
  • The event is also good news for the southwestern Ontario city of Windsor, located just across the river from Detroit. The Canadian city enjoyed the financial benefits when the National Football League's Super Bowl XL was held at Ford Field last February, and Windsor is certain to get another nice boost next spring.
  • WWE Canada estimates that at Wrestlemania 18 in Toronto in 2002, 81 per cent of fans in attendance at SkyDome were from out of town...It's going to have an incredible economic impact on the city of Windsor, which is just two minutes away," DeMarco said. "All the hotels will be filled, the restaurants will be busy - it's going to be a really positive thing."
  • Get ready for thousands of WWE fans coming to Windsor from all over the world for WrestleMania 23 in Detroit
  • WWE is a marketing gold mine generating millions in revenues from television, merchandise, books, videos, video games, tickets and music.
  • We have the power of our television shows to drive things in Windsor and we are looking to do that," said DeMarco, noting at least 20,000 Canadians are expected to be part of the crowd of more than 78,000 at Ford Field.

Interestingly, the event takes place on April 1. Is that an omen?

As for me, I wish Chyna was still around.

Olympics: Rail Lines and Border Crossings

I have feelings too.

I am very disappointed in some of you. Imagine, a few of you doubting my BLOG's assertion that the joint Windsor/Detroit proposal to host the Olympics, whether one is actually made or not, would be Eddie's justification for a new bridge after he put his Tunnel deal to bed. Why it would not surprise me, the more that I think about it, that the Olympics will be used to help Eddie solve the unique security issue at the Tunnel too. I stated:

  • "Here is how the Olympics will be used for the bridge pitch...

    We need the bridge NOW to be built by 2013. How else can we realistically make a proposal to the Olympic Committee if the border does not work. We need the hotels and facilities on both sides of the border as was shown during Super Bowl and we need a proper and redundant bridge and infrastructure because of the security concerns."

Oh I heard your snickers, your laughter, your guffaws. You thought I had lost it, that I was really stretching the point this time. Well check out this CTV story, especially about openness and transparency and the huge 23% cost increase, respecting the Vancouver Olympics and dare tell me I am wrong now. Apology accepted.

  • "CTV News has learned the B.C. auditor general's report on Vancouver's Olympic budget will question costs associated with a $2-billion transit line.

    "They chose secrecy over transparency and arrogance over openness," New Democrat MLA Harry Bains told CTV Vancouver on Thursday.

    "I think it's unfortunate, because that does no good to the public trust, and the confidence we dearly need to make these Games a successful story for future generations."

    The total budget for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games has been set at $2 billion.

    Construction costs were originally set at $470 million, but that number has since increased to $580 million because of the city's strong economy. Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged $55 million to help cover the rising costs -- an amount matched by the B.C. government.

    Meanwhile, crews are rushing to finish the new Canada Line, a 19.5 km rail line with 16 stations that will link the Vancouver airport to Richmond and downtown Vancouver. It must be finished in 2009, in advance of the Games.

    The auditor general's Olympic budget report will include some costs associated with the rapid transit line, but the exact amount is unknown.

    In 2003, Premier Gordon Campbell said the transit line was never meant to be part of the Games.

    "It was never part of the Olympic bid, it was never part of Olympic thrust, but I think it would be a great way of welcoming the world," he said in July 2003.

    The Canada Line is not the only expense the auditor general is expected to include in his report on the Olympic budget.
    Other costs include:

    Bains said he hopes the report will give taxpayers a better indication of what they will be paying for the Games.

    "I hope that the auditor general report will catch all of the Olympic-related costs, and add all that up and tell the public what the total cost is," said Bains."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

No Commish Response Yet

What a surprise!

Is The NFL Boundless Playground Limited

It must come with the territory. Doesn't it seem that everything I write about that is done by the City doesn't work out as expected or as hoped for. The plans are great but something always goes wrong.

Perhaps it's because the people, some anonymous, who contact me to give me a "head's up" want me to talk more about what has failed than what has gone right. Perhaps they have seen the City "THINK BIG" but "ACT SMALL" and to fail to realize the potential while wasting too much money. Perhaps there is little that has actually worked out. I have to conclude that many are as disappointed as I, comparing Windsor with what it is to what it could be.

The NFL Boundless Playground is a small but interesting example of what I mean. Good intentions but did the Execution match up?

Here's part of the Press Release:

"A new football-themed playground, commemorating the City of Windsor’s unique role in helping to stage and host Super Bowl XL will be located north of Riverside Drive, west of Caron Avenue Pumping Station in the riverfront lands.

Parks and Recreation has been working on this design in cooperation with parents of youth with disabilities for the last six months. The 550 square metre play area and gardens will cost approximately $250,000 and be ready for use in the fall of 2006.

The sensory rich, barrier free playground is a legacy of Super Bowl XL and funded by contributions from National Football League (NFL) and residents. This unique play area provides opportunities for all children to become fully involved in recreation. Youth in wheelchairs will be able to access all areas. The gardens surrounding the unit will emphasize texture, color and smell to stimulate and challenge the senses.

The Boundless Playground will be a focal point for families in the continued development of the riverfront parklands.

The park development includes additional parking, upgraded landscaping and washrooms. The location was chosen because of its proximity to trails, accessible parking and washrooms."

At Council what we saw passed was:

"Proposal #72-06 for the NFL Boundless Playground proposed by Fuller Construction (representing Playpower Canada also known as Little Tikes) BE ACCEPTED to supply all labour, materials, playground equipment as specified in RFP for a total proposal price of $189,022.36 (excluding G.S.T.) to be funded from contributions from NFL Canada and;

That any additional cost associated with the project including site furnishings, plantings, walkways, earthworks, signage etc. BE ACCEPTED as part of the overall total project budget estimated in the amount of $60,977.64 (excluding G.S.T.) to ensure the successful completion of the Boundless Playground. These funds are currently available in Capital Project 7039006 (Playgrounds)."

I must admit that I thought all the money was coming from the NFL. It was not until I started researching the story that I learned that taxpayers were contributing too. The project was to cost about $250,000.

It really was not all NFL money that was used. Oh they contributed some I assume but a lot of the money came from such activities as "half the proceeds from sales of the stuffed animal, "Windsor's Super Bowl moose... Since there will be only 4,000 "limited edition" moose available, the promotion could generate $40,000 for the playground." Also proceeds from "special events, like the Reebok Fan Zone at the Cleary, football clinics for youth, the INXS concert, NFL photo exhibits at the art gallery and the international party and reception at the old armouries... will go toward the riverfront Super Bowl legacy project." Also 300 Super Bowl XL banners were auctioned off. But about $61,000 was paid for by City taxpayers.

In passing, have we ever yet received a full accounting of what was spent by the City on Super Bowl? I'll let the Star do that story and they can file a MFOIA request to get the information.

I went down to the riverfront to see the playground on Sunday and took some photos. [Click them to make them bigger]. I was surprised to see the playground there and not at Atkinson Park a few blocks west which is also on the river. I could see the playground being tied into the swimming pools and skate-board park there to make it a complete play and destination facility for families. I am surprised that Councillor Jones who is a big supporter of Atkinson and Councillor Postma who always mentions her family on matters like this did not fight to get the playground in the Ward 2 park. But that's another quibble.

The real issue is whether the Boundless Playground succeeded. On one level it did not....try and find the NFL logo. It is put on the green "flooring" that I saw in one spot anyway but the one on the equipment is virtually impossible to read. NFL Canada may not be too happy unless there is more signage in the plans.

Next, "The barrier-free Boundless Playground will provide opportunities for all children, including those with disabilities, to play side-by-side. Boundless Playgrounds are specifically constructed to enable all children – including those with physical, developmental, cognitive and sensory disabilities – to experience stimulating and challenging play."

Take a look at the photographs. The playground is great for kids who have no disabilities. Take a look at the equipment and ask yourself how a child in a wheel-chair would use it. Did you notice the steps? Sure there is a wheel-chair ramp but stairs too to use the equipment. And that red ladder-looking equipment? Go to the park and see for yourself the amount of equipment that a physically-challenged child could actually use.

And there seem to be some potential hazards for small kids that are running around. Those little orange mushroom looking objects that I assume are seats just seem perfectly positioned for a child to fall over and to be hurt. [Bottom left corner of Picture #1]

The photos are not that good in showing the steep grade but no child in a wheelchair or a senior in a walker could go down the entrance road easily. Try going up the road with that grade. It cannot be done by the child without assistance in my opinion! It means then that without a car, the area is not practically accessible. In effect, the location they chose to put this equipment in may be an obstacle in itself.

The effort that the caregivers or parents make and the work it takes to get the children there may mean it just does not get used as much as it should have been. Wheel chairs, electric and manual, walkers, crutches and canes are the methods of mobility of the disabled. I think there may be problems

I don't claim to know much about construction costs but was the playground "elevated" when it was constructed or were earth and fill added? It is elevated now and not at the same level as the walkway along the river below. Perhaps it was designed this way so that it could be seen from Detroit, with a strong pair of binoculars. If it was not elevated, what was the cost to make it so?

Take a look at the large area to be landscaped. How big is the new parking lot that is being built? How much turf will be installed and other shrubs and flowers. How about the annual operating costs that are borne by taxpayers? I'd like to see the bills that show only a $61,000 cost. Are there any "in kind" contributions that should be valued out in calculating costs?

If Councillors Jones and Postma wanted the Boundless Playground to go to Atkinson Park, they had some powerful arguments in its favour:
  • Location--right on Riverside Drive on the river with good visablity from the traffic passing by
  • Costs--there would not have been much excavating to do so more money could have gone for buying equipment.
  • One-stop family location--swimming pools, skate-boarding and a nice, brand-spanking new playground all at the same spot. Seems a no-brainer since so many people use the Park now and it seems easily accessible with its new parking lot.
  • Cross-functional--the Friends of Atkinson could have used the barrier-free playground to help develop programs for physically-challenged children as they have been trying to do

Anyway, what is done is done. There is no point whinging any more about it. I hope it will be used by families as expected. It's just that with some more thought--and with less in-fighting and politics-- it could have accomplished so much more for so much less.

Cannon Shot Sinks Province

Whenever you have different levels of Government involved, especially on both sides of the river, there is going to be tension. There are politicians involved and everyone wants the best publicity for themselves and wants their agenda to prove triumphant.

Let's take the border. We have four governments involved (not including the municipalities): Canadian Federal, Ontario, US Federal and Michigan. What's interesting to me is that on this file the State and Provincial objectives may not necessarily be what the Federal Governments want but in both cases, it is the Federal Governments that have the money.

What is also interesting to me is how this project is being run by bureaucrats whose objectives may also not be known to their political masters. The worst thing that happened to them were the public hearings in Lansing respecting DRIC and in Ottawa respecting Bill C-3.

As a result of the Michigan hearings, the DRIC funding was cut by the Legislature and not vetoed by the Governor. As a result of the Bill C-3 hearings, the Bridge Co. was able to get their story out to counter the slanders and mis- and dis-information.

Moreover, they received this concession from Ed Fast of the Conservative Party
  • "I don't believe it's the intention of this committee and this legislation to over-regulate you, although it appears that is your concern here."
Charles Hubbard, the former Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport acknowledged that
  • "I think that over the years, your operation has provided great value to Canadian industry. Without it, the city of Windsor probably wouldn't be what Windsor is today."
Even Brian Hicks, Director, Bridge Policy and Programs, Department of Transport gave a major concession by expressing a very narrow view of what Bill c-3 was all about
  • "we applaud people adding more capacity, but we want to make sure that it's done in a safe and secure manner...So any time somebody submitted an application to us, whether to add more lanes on the bridge or to alter the bridge or tunnel, we would be looking at the traffic flow, the safety and security matters."
In other words, the scope of Bill C-3 has drastically been decreased and that will have to be reflected properly in the Regulations. Everyone it seems is trying to calm down the situation and perhaps pick up on the words of Matthew Moroun at the hearing:
  • "We are asking this committee, and especially Transport Canada, to please put down your sword, set this legislation aside, and instead engage in meaningful dialogue, not just at a very formal hearing to discuss the legalese of this legislation, but rather to discuss and brainstorm and cooperate with one another toward an even more successful Ambassador Bridge for the advantage of the operation, the government, and the public."
If that war may be coming to a peaceful conclusion, the guns are blazing in another one. It involves the tension on the Canadian side where the Feds and Ontario are sparring. It is clear that Eddie and the Province have united and are trying to isolate the Feds. They demand, the Feds reject and the Feds are the bad guys.

But the real fight is over ownership of the crossing. I will explain why in another BLOG but MDOT, who made it clear in Lansing, and Ontario want to own the Bridge. You just have to read Ontario's position paper and it becomes perfectly clear. You read what Ontario's Transportation Minister said in "In Business."

After all it makes sense. Look at how much money the State and Province think they can make on tolls across the new bridge especially since the two Federal Governments would be picking up most of the capital costs. Why should the private Bridge Co. make these so-called vast profits when the bureaucrats want them to feather their empires? Just because the Bridge Co. built up the business and spent their money doing so are no reasons NOT to take it away from them. And at no cost too. After all, expropriations or buy-outs are so messy.

Well the Michigan Legislators slapped down MDOT and now Federal Transport Minister Cannon just shot down the Province. Here is part of a speech he gave recently. He makes it absolutely clear who is in charge constitutionally and it is not the Province. What he does not talk about concerning Bill C-3 is even more interesting: ownership.

It is clear that the pro-business Conservatives have finally woken up and figured out that a "socialist" bridge being promoted by certain parties is NOT going to be their legacy. There will be Federal oversight over health, safety and security matters but not "public" ownership on our side. That is my opinion on what he says!

    AUGUST 24, 2006

    Specifically, in April of this year, I tabled Bill C-3, the International Bridges and Tunnels Act. This Bill is currently before the Senate.

    The reasons for introducing this bill were clear.

    Responsibility for international bridges and tunnels falls within federal jurisdiction, but there is no clear legislative or regulatory authority to deal with these crossings.

    In the past, each new international bridge or tunnel required a Special Act of Parliament. Not only did this bog down the legislative agenda, it led to inconsistencies in governance, and in the way we manage our oversight responsibilities.

    Bill C-3 confirms federal jurisdiction, and permits us to establish guidelines for the approval of new bridges or tunnels. It gives us the power to set conditions for bridge maintenance and operation, including security –the importance of which I highlighted at the beginning of my remarks.

    In the post-September 11 world, the federal government is taking very seriously the safety and security of its international border crossings – specifically, bridge and tunnel infrastructure – and this new legislation will give us the necessary tools to carry out this responsibility.

    In other words: we are giving ourselves the powers and the levers to continue moving toward efficient, safe and secure border crossings.

    After all, close to 76 per cent of the Canada-U.S. trade in 2005 carried by trucks was concentrated at six border crossing points – Windsor, Fort Erie, Sarnia and Lansdowne in Ontario, Lacolle in Quebec and Pacific Highway in British Columbia.

    We need clear and effective authorities. That’s why we introduced this focused legislation – to get moving quickly on securing those authorities.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this government knows the important role that your work has in Canada and around the world. Our bridges and tunnels are extremely important to our economy, our mode of transportation and our lives in general.

    These bridges are not simply ways to get from one place to another and they should not be thought of as only being structures made of steel. Certainly, our bridges and tunnels bridge Canada’s geography, but they also connect us as a society."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sitting And Waiting

Bureaucracy In Action

Economic N0-Development Commission

Some of you may be very upset with the Star story today about the search for the new Executive Director of the Economic Development Commission. Don't be. How can we hire someone who would never be able to deliver a sales pitch to set up a new business here since, over the last three years, this City has become the laughing stock of Canada!

After all, this whole process started a couple of years ago, has moved so slowly since then, and only resulted in a huge Board of Directors being appointed (and a few political favours handed out...sort of like our own municipal Senate).

Don't be too anxious. After all, the process "has begun with the placement of ads in a national newspaper and on two websites dedicated to economic development." Gee, I did not know that the Pennysaver was national now! Which ones are they or do we have to guess?

Now I know you might think that the matter might be viewed a bit more urgently with our unemployment rate being the second worst in the Province. After all "John Skorobohacz, chief administrative officer for the City of Windsor and a member of the new board, said "the process has begun and while there is no firm deadline, we would expect to see some applications over the next several weeks."

I should tell you that I suggested someone for such a job several years ago, a fellow I had met. He was actually interviewed here and did some consulting for Windsor since he set up an economic development group in his City that has successfully created jobs in a City even worse off than Windsor. Naturally, no decisions were made about him and he gave up hoping for something here.

What more should you expect from a City who has threatened a lawsuit that would close down the construction of a road to the border thereby losing thouands of infrastrucutre jobs and jeopardizing the economy of South West Ontario (Was that on the agenda for the Mayor's Southwest Economic Initiative Gains Momentum meeting where "Representatives from across Southwestern Ontario met here recently, working to support the economic interests of this region.")

What can you expect from an Economic Development Commission that says
  • "Because of the nature of the region’s strategy, traditional performance measures such as the number of new plants attracted, or the number of jobs retained, albeit significant, should not be the primary indicators of success. These could actually be counterproductive by driving the wrong behaviour."
Tell that nonsense to the thousands of autoworkers and employees of parts suppliers who have lost or are about to lose their jobs! Take a look at my March 14 BLOG and the Chamber of Commerce Press Release "URGENT NEED FOR REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT" [March 14, 2006 BLOG "But We Have The Keg"] and what I wrote subsequently:
  • "No wonder the Chamber wrote the press release it did the other week. "The Chamber calls for a recast organization that understands and knows the needs of the business community. The new Economic Development organization should have a business-led Board of Directors from the region that would be capable of making binding decisions for this organization."
Never fear though, all is not lost. As Chris Vander Doelen wrote in the Windsor Star
  • "The new parts plants being built in Windsor to supply the next-generation Chrysler minivan have been going up quietly, with the suppliers trying hard to keep a low profile.

    Suffice it to say, there are no "Coming Soon!" signs out front.

    The operators of the parts plants probably don't want to be inundated with job applications, with Windsor's high unemployment rate."
Gosh, isn't that what the Mayor has been saying for how long---new plants are opening but I cannot tell you anything because of confidentiality!

Haligonian Style Open & Transparent Mayor

My thanks to a reader.

Here is how the Mayor of Halifax lets the voters in his City know where he travels, for what reason and how much it costs.

Do you really believe that such a system would ever take place here so that we would find out how many times Eddie visited the Big Apple to meet Sam or to Ottawa and Toronto or other places to spread the word about Windsor and "build relationships."

Hey, how about creating a new index, a politicial success measurement tool: cost per relationship built. That might be a good way to determine if an elected official was doing his/her job.

In Windsor, after this Mayor and Council's three-year term, we'd probably have an undefined number as the answer! For you mathematicians out there, you know how I get that answer don't you! For you others, email me and I will explain.

I Double-dare Ya

Wow that Mayor of ours is one tough dude. I double-dared him to sue the Feds in my BLOG yesterday as you may recall and the guy one-upped me. Here is the short article from the Star today in case you blinked and missed it:
  • "Explain border plan: Mayor
    Published: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    The binational study group responsible for Windsor's third border crossing should explain their plans directly to the residents who will be affected by them, says the city's mayor.

    At a city council meeting on Monday, Mayor Eddie Francis said a letter he plans to send to the Detroit River International Crossing project will include a request for direct correspondence to all those who live in the proposed expansion area of the Huron Church Road corridor.

    "We're suggesting that the people should be contacted now," Francis said. "That's a wide swath with severe impacts.... At the very minimum, I think all the residents in that area should be contacted directly by DRIC."

    Francis said DRIC are already in the process of an environmental assessment of their final plan. He has previously said the city would resort to legal action if the group pushes ahead with the highway option."

Whew, we heard about the Letter he is "planning" to send. After all of this time, you might have thought he actually would have had the Letter written by now. But he is probably drafting a "very detailed" response.

And he wants DRIC not just to respond but to respond "directly." Now that is tough talk. An "indirect" response is not good enough for Windsorites! And how is this to be done---by "correspondence." Thousands and thousands of standard form letters would be mailed out I assume. Not third class mail addressed "To Resident" or by flyer hand delivered presumably but by first class mail with the residents' names on them I guess. Wow will DRIC ever have to work hard licking those envelopes and putting stamps on to meet the Mayor's requirements.

The one thing I am disappointed in is that the Mayor will not "demand" the direct correspondence but will merely "request" it. It's not the time to show mercy Mayor. Finish them off. Show us that killer instinct of yours.

Now before anyone gets too angry at the Federal level, it's only a "suggestion." Seriously, if this toughness is what Windsor is depending on for its future.......

A Charitable Handout And A Choice

Given the distinguished readership of this BLOGsite, I was asked to post the Mission Statement of the "Save Our Community Services" group. It is a group set up to "educate the public, because we believe it is critical that the community understand the horrific impact caused by the sudden decline in bingo revenue to our 650 organizations and the thousands we serve."

I will comment afterwards on what they are trying to do and will provide an alternative approach suggested by Chris Schnurr a candidate for Council in Ward 2 who has some experience in this matter because of what he has done in the past.


    To organize and mobilize our charities, demanding the provincial, federal or municipal government provide:
    1. Immediate emergency transitional funding for the continuance of our community services here in Windsor/Essex County
    2. A plan to safeguard the provision of community services to those most at risk in our community".
Bob McGuire, co-executive director of Windsor Family Forum, one of the leaders involved was quoted in the Star:
  • "He said the province has a larger-than-expected surplus in revenues and can afford to write a cheque that will lessen the impact of the sudden decline in bingo revenue for 650 organizations and the thousands of people they serve.

    "They've got extra money and they're the ones who killed this industry that generated money for our charities," McGuire said, referring to the provincewide smoking ban."
His remark was logical, compelling and quite appropriate for a border City like Windsor where charities receive so much money from Bingo. He wants short-term cash assistance while the charitites work out a solution. However, I doubt that the Group will be taken seriously at all by Government.

There is no hope whatsoever of the Group receiving any money from our Budgeteers on Council. Oh the Councillors will posture for the cameras, shed the crocodile tears and say how horrible it is for our citizens but the City's finances have to come first. Charity does not begin at Council for these people.

As for the Province, if our local Ministers, Sandra and Dwight, do not have the clout to help out businessess in financial trouble because of the miseries we are seeing in Windsor, they will not help out charities no matter how logical the argument. It's not time yet anyway. As Dwight Duncan said in relation to the No Smoking laws and financial hardship:
  • "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."
So all you will get from the Province is to hang in there folks.

If a handout is not the answer, then what is?

I was very impressed by a note I received from Chris Schnurr who has decided that he wants to represent Ward 2 on Council. In speaking with him, a lot of what he wants to do differs from the incumbents by a considerable degree. Ward 2 residents will now have a choice of approaches so it may be a more interesting race in Ward 2 than I thought at first. Here is what he has to say:
  • Supporting our Charities

    Having worked in the non-profit sector for the last 8 years, I fully appreciate the challenges facing local charities. While at the AIDS Committee of Sarnia, from 1998-2001, we faced a similar crisis that required innovative strategies to overcome these challenges. I welcome the creation of “Save our Community Services” as an important first step to address the challenges facing local non-profits.

    However, we have to accept that approaching local taxpayers to support charities is not the only option. The City of Windsor and the Province of Ontario, after close study, may not be in a financial position to address this situation adequately. City of Windsor taxpayers already pay some of the highest taxes in the province, and as we have seen over the last few years we can expect to see reductions in service after this new council is elected.

    Current city council has not given us the complete picture regarding our financial situation. Overall debt is expected to increase substantially to well over $210 million in 2007. Councillors have openly admitted this may result in increased taxes in 2007 – conveniently after they have passed their pre-election 2006 budget.

    If our city’s economy continues its downturn, city council will face both a growing need for the services of our charity organizations and taxpayers unable to afford any increase in taxes.

    As a group of charities, we need to seek innovative long-term solutions, to the dependence on gambling revenue – which is unpredictable and subject to changing market conditions.

    1. Seek to determine overlap in services, combine resources where applicable, and foster inter-charity co-operation administratively;
    2. Lobby for the creation of a long-term investment fund, supported by local industry, labour and individuals;
    3. Establish a non-profit support network for fundraising to collectively raise funds for common causes;
    4. Co-operatively create centers for non-profits and negotiate with leasing companies in our downtown to fill empty office space. Business owners may be willing to negotiate affordable rates for groups of struggling charities; and/or
    5. Lobby the United Way to relax qualification criteria for member agencies.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Note To The Commish

I thought I would send the Ontario Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, a note to let her know about my MFOIA file and my Blogsite too:
  • "I thought you might be interested in following the saga of my Municipal Freedom of Information Request.

    I write a BLOG on municipal politics in Windsor, Ontario and decided to Blog my experience with the City and now with your Office on the appeal process.

    My site is My first Blog started on June 30 and continues to date."
I doubt if I will get a reply, other than the usual "Thank you for your email" but if I do I will post it.

Our Litigious Mayor

Mayor threatens lawsuit!

Eddie's The Man! You tell 'em Eddie. Way to go!

He's our Mayor/lawyer after all. He's our legal technocrat. He passed the Bar Ad exams. That oughtta scare someone.

I betcha that Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty are shakin' in their boots right about now wondering when the Sheriff is going to be a comin' around to their place to deliver that Statement of Claim!

No one but no one pushes Windsor around. No one bullies us! Those Feds think they are going to build the DRIC road---lawsuit. Well a threat anyway.

I read that Windsor Star article as you did. I betcha that they heard ya loud and clear in Ottawa, Eddie:
  • "At the end of the day, if that's what it takes, that's what we'll do," Francis said."
Man, I wonder which day that is however! Isn't Christmas coming? In the meantime Eddie is going to rock 'em.
  • "The city will write a letter to the provincial and federal governments, asking their positions."
Whew, I betcha that letter will be a real scorcher! Wow, we'll "ask" them, not "demand" mind you. That oughtta get their attention. I know we'll write one but I sure hope we send it

Eddie sure knows how to write letters, not just letters, but very detailed letters that take a lot of time to write too. You remember the letter Eddie was to draft about the Fed's study of the Schwartz Report. The Star reported on July 19, 2005 that "Francis interrupted his vacation Monday to respond to government concerns that he has yet to respond to a July 4 written request by Transport Minister Jean Lapierre" Francis told Council "he would prepare a response following his return from vacation. "I'm in the process of drafting that response," Francis said. "It's a very detailed response because there are some factual inaccuracies in (Lapierre's) letter." He was sure in a hurry to respond wasn't he?

That letter didn't scare the Feds much...their consultant blew the Schwartz Report right outta the water.

Those guys better take Eddie serious though. He is not foolin' around neither. Let me give you a few examples of the tough talk in this here City and the actions that followed.

Remember back in April, 2005 the "snub" meeting when the Mayor and Council did not attend, why the Star reported that "Francis was convinced government leaders were poised to use the expressway in some fashion as a border truck route -- as called for by provincial and federal bureaucrats -- and was telling media the city was poised to take legal action to thwart the plan." Everyone was good at "poising" at that time it seemed. Eddie thought the Senior Levels were poising so he poised too. Neither of them actually acted but poising was just as effective.

Why Jane Boyd wanted money for wrongful dismissal---defend the lawsuit. Sure, sure "City council quietly settled a lawsuit April 24... The vote to settle was a tie broken by Mayor Eddie Francis, who routinely briefs reporters on council's in-camera dealings, but who never mentioned the Boyd settlement to media." That was just a slip cause our Mayor had so much on his mind, staying up 18 hours a day and all that. I betcha he would have been itchin' to go through Examination for Discovery or a public trial as the main witness for the City except for that darned settlement.

A nine-month delay in the completion of the $42-million Huron Lodge nursing home---wham, bam, hire a lawyer. Ok so Councillor "Gignac would not say whether the lawyer was hired to take legal action or whether he will simply advise the city on its options."

Studio 4's "sexy" sign---take them to court. Ok Ok, "The city has dropped what Coun. Caroline Postma said Thursday was a losing case against a west end strip club's outdoor sign."

Bridge Co. wants to operate the Detroit side of the tunnel---Hire Clifford Sutts. Let him fire off a letter to the DCTC to remind them that DCTC "is not authorized to represent the tunnel commission or city of Windsor without prior consultation." Wow, And Eddie was going to "discuss the legality of any proposed lease buyout with Sutts and later said "said Windsor is investigating the potential violation of antitrust laws." I bet that really shook up the Bridge Co. There's that darn letter again but to a party who was NOT doing the deal. Whew, I betcha that the Bridge Co. folks wondered what all that discussin' and investigatin' was all about too. Have you ever investigated a potential?

You read it---"Federal authorities say they support a hired consulant's "early action" plan recommendation to expand E.C. Row Expressway to six lanes from four and improve Huron Church Road north of the expressway leading to the bridge." Why "legal challenges could be launched by the city or residents groups to stop the plan." Then again, they could NOT be too!

Heck, when Eddie was first elected he talked about breaking the Canderel lease, you know the one where the City was paying $70,000 per month for two vacant floors in the Chrysler Canada building. "...the true intent of the agreement has been broken," said Mayor Eddie Francis. "In my view, the intent of the agreement was breached..." And you know what happened to that. Nothing other than the City had to enter into very cheap subleases to minimize the payouts several years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars later.

Go on Eddie, start the lawsuit. And in the Federal Court of Canada too so you will be in their playground too. Don't ya worry none. We'll be there to watch your back. We'll apply under Rule 109 to intervene:
  • 109. (1) The Court may, on motion, grant leave to any person to intervene in a proceeding.

    (2) Notice of a motion under subsection (1) shall

    (b) describe how the proposed intervener wishes to participate in the proceeding and how that participation will assist the determination of a factual or legal issue related to the proceeding.

    (3) In granting a motion under subsection (1), the Court shall give directions regarding

    (b) the role of the intervener, including costs, rights of appeal and any other matters relating to the procedure to be followed by the intervener.

Why we'll ask to be allowed to undertake Discovery of ya too, in case your lawyer forgets to ask key questions. And as for production of documents, why those thousands and thousands of pages that you could not release to me under my MFOIA application, I'll get them in the process too. I am sure that I will find things that are very relevant and helpful.

Heck, you'll make a great witness at trial. Don't worry. Those Perry Mason-type Feds' lawyers won't damage your Teflon finish. And if there are any nasty surprises, they won't stick to you. Why everyone knows that if something goes wrong, it's all Council's fault. The Council made you do it! I may ask one or two questions also just to help get the facts out. After all I passed the Bar Exams many, many years ago so I know how to play litigation lawyer too.

So come on, start the lawsuit Eddie. Don't threaten so much. Stephen and Dalton dare ya. And as for me, I double-dare ya

More On There And Here

If any candidate thinks that he/she can beat an incumbent, especially if it seems that there may NOT be a mayoral race with no one attacking how this City has failed to move forward in the last three years, then he/she better get out there and do something.

Here's a bit of ammunition to use:

Windsor CMA Housing Starts Fall

WINDSOR, September 11, 2006 – According to data released today by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), total housing starts in the Windsor Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) fell to 63 units, down from the 124 units started in August 2005. Total starts for the first eight months of this year were 20 per cent lower than last year.

This is the lowest level of starts for the month of August since 1984,” said Margot Stevenson, Market Analyst for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “Low consumer confidence in the Windsor area and a surplus of available resale housing has contributed to lower demand for new homes in Windsor,” added Stevenson.

Single starts in the Windsor area totaled 63 units last month, down 46 per cent from August 2005. There were no multiple starts in August.

Single-family Home Construction Strong in August in London

LONDON, September 11, 2006 – August new home starts in the London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) continue to show strong year over year gains, according to preliminary figures released today by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). There were 207 single-detached home starts, up 20 per cent from the same month a year earlier. Total new home starts rose 24 per cent to 245 homes compared to 198 homes last August. Year-to-date total home starts outperformed the new home construction activities in the same period last year by close to 40 per cent with multiple-family home starts doubling.

“August is the sixth month this year that we have seen housing starts strongly surpass the level of the same month a year ago.” said Penny Wu, CMHC’s London Market Analyst. “The resilient new home starts point to a record we have not seen since 1990.”

Journalism 101: The Windsor Star And The Border

I so much like reading the Windsor Star. At least on issues that I know about, I find their coverage and how they time stories and write Editorials fascinating. Frankly, if I knew a journalism teacher in a University, I would tell the Prof to require students to get a subscription to the paper as part of the course.

Take Saturday's Star as an example. We should have a debate some time whether the Star is performing a service to this Community as the major media outlet in town or a disservice. Are they providing the news or making it or manipulating it for their own purposes?

Remember what I remarked on, given what the Star's Editor said, in the context of stories about the Ambassador Bridge [BLOG April 19, 2006 "Between A Pepsi And A Lemon Juice"]:

  • "Now I think I get it. Now I think I know the reason for the two news stories about the hazardous goods crossing the Ambassador Bridge...

    [Windsor Star executive editor Marty] Beneteau credited the news team for helping to bring about positive change through its coverage of the Lori Dupont slaying at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital.

    "I think we can take partial credit into calling an inquest into the nurse's slaying," Beneteau said. "We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change. I think we got a lot of results this year and this now validates the results we got."

    So shall we insert "Ambassador Bridge" in place of "Lori Dupont" to explain the coverage? Is the Star on another mission to change things, like building a public bridge perhaps?"

To start the debate, let's take a look at Saturday's Star: 2 news stories and an Editorial:

  1. Manning widening set
  2. Security expert warns of complacency
  3. The border: Kwame's tunnel vision


With the first story, as you know, the Press Release was issued days ago but no story was published until Saturday. It was pretty factual. A similar pattern was followed in the Masse-Comartin story where they conceded that the DRIC road would be picked as the route to the border, thereby breaking Eddie's united front. Days later, the story was published and then Eddie's threat of a lawsuit against the Feds.

Now what has fascinated me is that after this story there is no threat of a lawsuit against the Feds. This project is clearly part of the Fed's border strategy that favours the County and will put trucks on EC Row. You remember the famous "snub" of the Mayor and Council back in April 2005 when one of the plans that the Senior Levels had was "Upgrading Manning Road from Highway 401 to County Road 22, including the 401 interchange." Our tough Mayor was fuming we were told at the time "Francis was convinced government leaders were poised to use the expressway in some fashion as a border truck route -- as called for by provincial and federal bureaucrats -- and was telling media the city was poised to take legal action to thwart the plan."

So he threatened lawsuit before over Manning Road, one over the DRIC road but now no lawsuit over the actual start of the Manning announcement (granted it is NOT the full upgrade, yet). Why not?


He's back again, foaming at the mouth about the Ambassador Bridge and ignoring the Tunnel. I had better add him to my Bloglist so he will understand the realities down here.

Now I wondered why the Senator started fulminating again about the border and more particularly about the risks at the Ambassador Bridge. In my newspaper search, I did not see any other stories in other newspapers about the Bridge, only in the Star. It's old news after all.

Oh I understand the hook "9/11 and complacency" to justify the story. However, the Star really had to do some digging to get the quotes about the Bridge. The good Senator is on a round-the-world junket paid for by taxpayers "to learn about the dangers to our nation and what others are doing to defend against terrorism." The Star tracked him down in Europe. He made his comments "in an overseas phone conversation Thursday from the Canadian embassy in The Hague, Netherlands."

The Star went all out to get the negative Bridge comments didn't they from the Senator. That long-distance call must have cost a few dollars after all. Why the urgency--if it was for a 9/11 story, it would not have been reported on 9/9 and he would have been contacted in Canada, long before. There was a reason for the story.

There was a positive element to the story however. The Senator supported reverse customs: "He also cited the feds'...the refusal to introduce vehicle inspections before they get on the bridge or enter the's dumb you don't get inspected before you cross," he said. "You don't need a higher education to understand that."

So we have a desperate effort on the Star's part to create a news story when there was none to slam the Ambassador Bridge again and to advocate for reverse customs, something that Eddie must have at the Tunnel to solve its "unique" security concern before it is shut down.

What's it all about you ask. Now we come to the Editorial:


Here are the key lines in the Editorial about the Tunnel and the reason for all of this.

  • "However, Kilpatrick's willingness to give control of the U.S. side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel to Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has been a surprising exception...But Kilpatrick's judgment on the tunnel should continue to be questioned and challenged on both sides of the border."

But there is more than this with the Star's agenda: "public ownership" and later exproporiation of the Bridge Co.

  • "As we have argued, the critical importance of the border -- in terms of both our national security and economic security -- requires that the next crossing be fully financed and owned by the public. It's still too early to call for the end of a privately run border crossings, but leaving one private company with a virtual monopoly on border truck traffic isn't in the best interests of this community or our American neighbours."

It's just like the Joint Councils meeting earlier in the year. It is nothing other than a sales pitch to make Eddie the partner of Detroit in a Tunnel deal and to try to prevent the Bridge Co. from doing so. All of the Star's power and prestige used for a commerical deal for heaven's sake!

Someone must have heard that something is going on with the Tunnel on the other side or thinks it is so. Obviously, people have been reading about the mess that the Tunnel has become both financially and from a security aspect under this Mayor's watch on the Windsor Tunnel Commission both as a Councillor before and as Chair now.

Here is another fascinating part of the Editorial:

  • "On this side of the border, the city, Transport Canada and the former federal Liberal government have all raised concerns with Detroit over the possibility of one company gaining control of both the tunnel and bridge entrance into Canada."

That goes back to Deputy PM Anne McLellan. She was used to thwart the porposal of the Bridge Co. the first time around. She "sent a letter to Mayor Eddie Francis to emphasize there are no plans to move Canada Customs officers to Detroit -- as called for in the bridge proposal...There are also "serious concerns" about redundancy by creating one customs bridge-tunnel superplaza at North America's busiest border crossing, she said."


So if I were the Professor quizzing the class of journalism students about the Saturday Star, I would give an "A+" to the student who answered and raised the following points:

  • This is NOT journalism as it is traditionally known but a newspaper doing "things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change."
  • Whether this is "positive change" may well be debatable
  • The Manning Road story, like the Masse-Comartin story, was not reported right after the story occurred allowing a position to be developed
  • No threats of a lawsuit came out of the Mayor's office after the Manning Road story as it did after the DRIC story because this time the Mayor needs the Feds to do his dirty work as they did before to stop the Bridge Co. The Mayor has to pretend to like the Feds this time around, and he desperately needs them, so he cannot threaten them as he did before with a lawsuit.
  • The Star went out of its way to create a non-news story with Senator Kenny, where there was not one, around the Ambassador Bridge and reverse customs
  • The entire effort culminated in a Star Editorial to stop the Bridge Co. from doing a Tunnel deal, cause a rift between the Mayor and Council in Detroit, to support a public bridge and to try to make the Feds act as before to do the job the Mayor cannot do on his own and dares not (after receiving a letter from the Bridge Co's lawyer last time around, a story the Star did not publish).

Oh well, it is a one newspaper town after all. Remember what I said before: