Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 01, 2006

Why The Raceway Arena Had To Fail

The fight over the location of a new bridge is a lot more complicated than you may think.

Let's assume that someone was so foolish as to actually plan to build a DRIC bridge where they seem to want to build it now. That is further downriver, to the edges of Detroit and Windsor.

Now if you were the Mayor of Detroit, would you be happy about it? Michigan law authorizes up to three licensed commercial casinos in the City of Detroit. And Detroit's three Casinos are all in downtown Detroit.

I would think that the Detroit Mayor would be upset at the thought of a competitive Casino being built away from the downtown taking away business from those in the City. No wonder he is against the DRIC bridge. Why would he want a new bridge in a location that can hurt his City financially.

Not possible you say. No way that a new Casino would be built Downriver. Well, didn't Governor Granholm give in out of the blue to the Downriver communities by killing the DRIC bridge there. Why wouldn't she allow a new Casino in their neighbourhood if they pressed her especially since this is her last term and she may have grander political ambitions?

Wouldn't you think the Mayor of Windsor should think the same way as Kwame. Keep the bridge where it is so that Americans will go to Casino Windsor easily. But wait, doesn't Eddie want a bridge further out? Of course he does, for a variety of reasons.

Now no new Casino would be built in Windsor so that is NOT an issue as it is in Detroit, but if Project Ice Track had been built at the Raceway, it would be a major entertainment and gambling destination and a threat to the Casino. The new bridge would ensure that people could get to the Raceway a lot more easily and quickly than going downtown to the Casino. That would hurt the Casino business and their $400M expansion project.

As Gord Henderson said,
  • "But what if that same city then turned around and invested $15-million of public money in a privately operated arena/entertainment complex at Windsor Raceway, just a few kilometres to the west and in a prime location to attract U.S. patrons? Would that violate the spirit of any no-compete commitment, verbal or otherwise, that the city might have given the province?...

    What if they [OLG and casino management] believe there's a finite entertainment market here (in a city that can't even support the Capitol Theatre without big injections of bingo money) and fear that a raceway operation could siphon off business and make their $400-million dollar investment, which was condemned by the Tories at Queen's Park as outrageous political favouritism, look like a remarkably dumb decision?"
In order to keep the bridge where Eddie wants it and to keep the Casino happy, Project Ice Track could never be built. It never had a chance.

The East end arena is a "sports" arena not an entertainment destination. With only 48 nights a year booked, 40 of them being Spitfires games, it's no threat to the Casino.

Will the Tecumseh arena complex be built and become a competitor to Casino Windsor after all? Have the best laid plans gone astray? The Toldos and Rosatis were NOT supposed to act as they did. They were supposed to have followed the Beztak example, folded their tents and disappeared into the night when Project Ice Track was killed.

Someone at the Raceway obviously got the wrong script!

Welcome Back Gridlock Sam

I a member of a very select Club in Windsor, a very, very private one.

In fact, I think there are only two members in it. I should know the number of members it has but I don't. That is how private it is. I thought it had at least 10 more members but it does not seem that we have that many.

The Club is made up of the insiders who really know what is going on in the border file. Obviously the Mayor is a member but the Club rules respect privacy so we don't talk to each other.

I thought the Councillors were members too but clearly they are not. How do I know this.... simple.

It appears that only I and the Mayor knew that Gridlock Sam made a presentation a few days ago to the US Coast Guard. The Councillors must not have known about it or we would not have read that silly story in the Star about the death of the Schwartz Plan. They would not want to embarrass Sam otherwise would they. They are too polite for that.

Anyway, Sam got his Certificate back so Windsor can THINK BIG again and he can work for us and not worry about breaching the law!

I think I should contact the Membership Department and suggest adding the Councillors as members. Except I don't have the Department's unlisted phone number.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Windsor's Economic Non-Development

Rumour has it that the search for a new CEO for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission is not going well. In fact, it has stalled.

It has taken us several years to get one going, a Board appointed, a Chair selected and a search started for someone to lead it. Why bother you may ask since the Mayor, seemingly single-handedly, according to the press clippings, is able to get us all of those high-paying, high tech (minimum pay, call centre) jobs after all that will create a new economy here.

I have heard from two well-placed sources that the search for the new head of the Commission is not going very well due to "meddling." I have a better idea....Why go through the search process...Just appoint Remo Mancini as the head. After all, he has written a number of Star Guest Columns recently, has appeared on Cogeco and given his work experience (sorry, I am forbidden to mention his previous employer's name), he should be a natural for it. He would make it work. Imagine him and Sandra butting heads on what's good for Windsor!

We do need some credibility with this Board if it is to succeed. Remember what the Chamber of Commerce said back in MARCH of this year, over 8 months ago:


    The Chamber recommends a number of measures that would expedite the transition stated in the current Economic Development initiative. These include:
    • Regional scope for the new Economic Development organization.
    • Business-led and driven Board of Directors.
    • Appropriate and proportional funding for Economic Development.
    • Transfer all responsibilities of the current Advisory Group and Transitional Board to the new Board of Directors as soon as possible.

    The Chamber urges the City of Windsor, our municipal governments and the regional government of Essex to work as full partners on a regional team basis in order to achieve the goals of the current initiative. 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.

    The Chamber thanks the current Economic Development Advisory Group that assisted in creating a regional approach and guiding the process to this point. To provide the final stage of the initiative with a clear beginning and a clear mandate, political leaders should transfer all responsibility and the necessary tools to a single leadership group, the new Board of Directors."

Then in JULY, 4 months ago, the Chamber said,


    The Windsor & District Chamber of Commerce applauds the announcement of the appointment of a new Board of Directors for the Regional Economic Development Board.

    The Chamber now looks forward to the immediate appointment of a new Executive Director by this new board.

    “The Chamber looks forward to working with a regional, business-focused economic development team, unified in purpose and action. We know what businesses need and want. We believe we can assist this organization in bringing new development to this area. With these new appointments, the real decision-making will now begin to promote regional economic prosperity"

In other words, the Chamber was slamming the Board concept as it originally was set up calling for more business involvement. There was muted endorsement in July but even then the point was made that "We know what businesses need and want." It was made based on the fact that at least there were some business people on the Board and that there was an expectation that a CEO would be appointed soon therafter.

Ask the Board now what they think. I am sure that they will be as frustrated as anyone with the lack of action.

Thanks to a reader for pointing this article out to me. If I were advising the new head, here's what I would send him to show him how this really ought to work with all of the talented people in this town. If Detroit can do it, so can we and we should have a looooooooooooooong time ago!

  • "CEOs offer fix-it plan
    November 27, 2006, by Daniel Howes, Detroit News

    Metro Detroit's most influential group of corporate CEOs, determined to make a difference in tough times, today will unveil a regional economic development plan that would theoretically deploy its know-how for creating jobs and seizing opportunity.

    Detroit Renaissance, in a strategy paper dubbed "Road to Renaissance" and obtained by The Detroit News, says it aims to "craft a collaborative regional strategy that links and leverages resources and leadership critical to building the economy across boundaries."

    What could be yet another study by a civic group trying to drive change in a region chronically resistant to it instead signals an innovative effort to get things moving in spite of traditional barriers. And it comes as six prominent civic groups, including Detroit Renaissance, each move to combine their expertise into a grand strategic blueprint under the name "One D: Transforming Regional Detroit."

    "Road to Renaissance," scheduled to be detailed in a news conference today, is intended to be one answer from the region's top CEOs. Culminating months of interviews with 600 business and civic leaders representing 500 organizations throughout the region, the plan aims to focus the energies and resources of Detroit Renaissance's CEO board members on what they know best.

    "This is business," Cynthia Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc. and a member of the Detroit Renaissance board, told me. "If we can't do this, how can we run our business? This is what we know. Step out and drive change in an area you really know what you're doing."

    Working with New Economy Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm, Renaissance concluded that the region's "challenges to competitiveness" included a "geopolitical divide" between its urban core and surrounding communities and problematic race relations that impact "all aspects" of the region's fabric.

    It said a 50-year history in the automotive supply chain hampered entrepreneurialism; that the "factory town" entitlement mentality fostered low expectations for career growth and low motivation for educational achievement; that "legacy leadership" in the corporate community -- in effect, the same ol' folks from the same ol' companies -- stifled development of new leaders and would-be philanthropists.

    "We're not going to change all of that old stuff -- it's too ingrained in the psyche of the people," said John Rakolta Jr., chairman of Walbridge Aldinger Co. "We're in our own state of depression, but it's not like it's something we can't fix. We need to have some successes to show people that there are possibilities out there."

    Eager to avoid controversial political causes like the governance model for Detroit's schools or the failed cultural arts tax, Renaissance is focusing its influence and limited resources on economic development. The group and its consultants identified six strategic priorities that stand a legitimate chance of being "achievable" given the region's history and persistent tensions, its technical and business expertise and its economic and natural assets.

    The plan, likely to be met with the customary cynicism that greets most initiatives that don't hew to southeast Michigan's culture of division and negativity, doesn't hinge on participation of political leadership, at least initially. And that's probably a good thing.

    Detroit Renaissance recruited "implementation team" leaders from think tanks, construction, real estate, higher education, media, technology, job training and civic groups -- not the same old players -- to lead teams of about 20 members each. The expectation after the teams begin work next month: Deliver results and, if not, be held accountable.

    "We all fundamentally believe that what gets measured gets done," said Domino's Pizza Inc. CEO David Brandon, who helped quarterback the project for the Renaissance board. "What the process is intended to do is set out goals and hold ourselves accountable.

    "What I like is there's a new generation of leadership saying, 'We're not going anywhere.' It's a more diversified group of voices that are coming at this than the old institutional voices that used to run Detroit."

    Yes, it is. It's also hard to overstate how important that shift to a new generation is for southeast Michigan's business leadership, dominated for too long by automakers whose interests didn't necessarily coincide with the region. Like, for example, right now.

    To leverage the region's automotive heritage and technical competence while at the same time diversify away from it, "Road to Renaissance" proposes to:

    First, use southeast Michigan's automotive expertise and transportation infrastructure to become a global center for mobility. That would include lobbying for government funding to support research in alternative fuels, clean energy and developing an automotive public policy agenda.

    Second, become a global logistics hub by integrating the region's industrial design capability, advanced manufacturing and distribution expertise. Also, support the "Aerotropolis" effort that would link Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run airports into a cargo-and-people hub that could someday rival Chicago's.

    Third, organize and showcase the region's creative community, from its museums, the College for Creative Studies and Cranbrook Academy of Art to its reputation, past and present, as home to innovators in the global music scene, from Motown and rock to techno and hip-hop. Also, back the city of Detroit's push to establish a "creative district" to attract business and development.

    Fourth, expand "entrepreneurial capacity" by making gap financing more available to would-be entrepreneurs, a chronic problem in a business community dominated by traditional Old Economy companies and those who service them.

    Fifth, leverage the know-how of such new board members as University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon to create programs to encourage and retain talent schooled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Also, develop regional internship programs to match qualified students with business and apprenticeship programs for non-college youth.

    Finally, the business group would launch a series of marketing programs that would highlight the region's assets -- its cultural organizations; world-class universities and airport, sports and entertainment venues; waterfront; and proximity to an international border.

    The campaigns would be aimed nationally, overseas and even here in Detroit because Metro Detroiters, the group found, rated their community last among major metro regions nationwide as "a great place to live and work. Participants in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston and Indianapolis rank themselves at the top of the list," the study says. "Greater Detroit participants ranked themselves last."

    Indeed, a core message of the Renaissance effort is that Metro Detroit is mired in a kind of pessimistic self-loathing that simply doesn't reflect what Detroit Renaissance President Doug Rothwell calls the region's "asset base."

    "Everyone else thinks we're bad, and we think we're worse," he told me, referring to the regional perception survey. "What we don't do is recognize any of the good stuff going on in this region. We can't win as a community if we don't have confidence in ourselves to win."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Tale Of Two Trips

If anyone wants to know why Canada needs the Senate, read the transcript of the Bill C-3 session today.

Perhaps we have finally had a Governmental authority recognize the mess that the border file is. Perhaps we have found a body that understands the real issues and is prepared to deal with them. Perhaps, if we are fortunate, the Senate will prevent the waste of billions of Canadian taxpayer dollars by the Government on a Megaproject that has never made sense! "Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, said the Senate was to be a place of "sober second thought" so that legislation would receive proper, careful consideration before finally becoming law." Perhaps we do need still such a Chamber where we have experienced people who are capable of making decisions without the fear of being tossed out in an election.

I had talked about the Senators' reaction to our Mayor's presentation to them a week ago. To be blunt about it, I did not think what he said went over very well.

The testimony of the Bridge Co. was received in a markedly different fashion but before I get into that, I should point out that Eddie was hurt badly based on what he said in front of the Senators. Whoever made the tactical mistake not to have Eddie there testifying when Dan Stamper was in Ottawa made a gigantic blunder. Here is how it played out in the transcript:

  1. Mr. Stamper: The second graph shows the actual traffic volumes at the Windsor border crossing since 1999. I am disappointed that the mayor of Windsor would not himself answer your questions about the tunnel's decrease in traffic of over 40 per cent.

  2. The Chairman: Are you truly surprised to see the federal government, under Bill C-3, confirm and even reinforce its authority in respect of international bridges and tunnels?

    Mr. Stamper: No. We agree that the international bridges, tunnels, railroads are all for the good of Canada and should be governed by the federal government, not by the province and not by the municipalities. We all saw last week with the mayor's presentation that having municipalities with veto power is not good at all for Canada in these kinds of issues.

  3. "Senator Tkachuk: We had the mayor of Windsor attend here last week and we had all these pictures of traffic backup well into the city. It looked like a disaster actually. We do have issues and problems of traffic and backups obviously. Were those old pictures?

    Mr. Stamper: Those were old pictures with snow on the ground, and we have not had snow in Windsor yet. Those pictures are at least two years old. We did not have that kind of problem in Windsor after we built additional booths for U.S. custom and opened them at the end of 2004. That perception that the mayor tried to create is old reality. It is not current reality of what happens at the border."

Let me deal with what happened. Again, I was NOT there but did hear the Webcast "live."

The tone of the session was much different this time around. The presentations by the Bridge Co. reps were very open and direct. The questioning by the Senators was tough and probing on key points, not mere pleasantries. Answers were given not to avoid answering but to enlighten experienced business people and legislators who have been around for a some time. When the Senator, who introduced Bill C-3 in the Senate initially says "Your presentation was certainly candid. Obviously, you have some legitimate concerns and we are here to try to understand them" then that is a lot better than being called a "politician." One would have to be pleased when the Chair states at the end "Thank you very much. We learned a lot today."

My impression was that the Senators "got it" and understood that there were significant issues that had to be dealt with concerning ownership and operation of the border crossing. As one Senator said "This has become a much more complex and acrimonious process from when I first read the bill." Another stated "At the beginning, when this bill came in we were led to believe, and I am not saying there was any bad faith, it was going to be a bill that would pass easily..." A third said "I wish to echo the sentiments...This seemed to be slam dunk before...If is has been bureaucrats that have been pushing this envelope, with various ministers from different government, I do not know how they got this far."

Matthew Moroun put it directly and to the point:

  • "What we are worried about with Bill C-3 – because it is only for us, it cannot be for the public bridges that are already controlled by Transport Canada – is that it gives the Minister of Transport the authority to say Ambassador Bridge, we are going to put a ceiling on your business. We are going to cap your growth and decide that we are not going to allow you to build a new span across the river. Your future is over.

    Instead, we are going to authorize a new span across the river less than a mile away that we control as Transport Canada, your brand new competitor – nice to meet you. Then we are going to set up marshalling yards; or, by decree, now that we have our new Bill C-3, tell all the commercial vehicles that they have to go to the new bridge and not your bridge anymore. After all, we have the authority to do that now under Bill C-3. We have the ability to cut off your growth, ruin your future and start a new competitor bridge right next door because we are the players on the field and the referee at the same time."

The key concern of the Bridge Co. was clearly set out and framed in a way that brought together the everlasting DRIC process, the concept of public/private partnerships that Government Ministers have been pushing lately and Bill C-3 in this manner:

  • "Bill C-3 in combination with the work of the Detroit River International Crossing Project – DRIC -- is an effort by bureaucrats to ensure that a public-private border crossing is to be constructed and to be made profitable at our expense and that of the taxpayers of Canada."

Several graphs were shown that showed the huge gaps between actual volumes at a crossing and consultant projected volumes leading to a comment: "A private investor would be infuriated by this disparity between projected and actual traffic."

That comment arose in the context of a supposed Blue Water Bridge investor if it was a P3 bridge.

Imagine how Macquarie must feel since it "advised the Global Infrastructure Fund (GIF) on the acquisition of Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation (DCTC)...Macquarie originated the opportunity for GIF and arranged $US53.5 million of senior debt finance." The Tunnel's volume is down over 40% since 1999!

Isn't this a Megaproject running amuk: overestimating growth, underestimating cost. Or as a Senator said "This is not abnormal, though. This happens with every bill that comes before us. "That is all it is going to cost." I remember the $80 million for the gun registry. It will be $2 billion now."

Don't you find it interesting when looking at the DRIC Report vs. Actual, that the DRIC projected line upward showing traffic growth is very similar to that of the Blue Water bridge consultant! Can you imagine a pension fund placing $3 billion of its pensioners' and contributors' funds into the project and then seeing the traffic numbers tumble. Who would get in trouble when the fund lost money when actual is far below forecast with no hope of improvement?

Hopefully, analysts will do a proper job on numbers, not just crunching DRIC numbers before making an investment decision. Do you really think that anyone would invest? Now do you understand what Bill C-3 is all about? It is absolutely required to allow the P3 bridge to take business away from the existing crossings even though they are struggling financially themselves now. As an example, the $6.6M Tunnel dividend to Windsor will effectively be gone next year as traffic volume plummets by another 9-10%.

A significant issue arose over the Presidential Permit process. Bill C-3 seemed to be moving away from the harmonization with the US position rather than matching it as was desired by Transport Canada.

  • "A Presidential permit process in the U.S. specifically states that this act shall not be construed to adversely affect the rights of those operating bridges previously authorized by Congress to repair, replace or enlarge existing bridges."

It was not all a success for the Bridge Co. however. As one Senator said "Some of your suggestions essentially call for an exemption of the Ambassador Bridge. We have done a good job, we had the old legislation, leave us alone. However, I do not think that is in the cards."

However, this Senator went on, and supported by others, also said

  • "The question is: What can we do with the act so that your concerns are fairly and properly treated? In particular, to ensure you are not penalized because you have invested a considerable amount of money trying to improve the bridge and now, in the middle of that process, a new process is being suggested under the act itself.

    I am trying to obtain a de minimis suggestion from you as to how we can amend the bill in a way that would be fair and seemly of the Ambassador Bridge but still preserve the right of the federal government to manage the elements that exist."
That is the challenge the Bridge Co. has and what they said that they would do:
  • "We would be glad to look at each individual's section or clause of the bill...

    If you would like us to look at the whole bill and propose amendments just to the sections we think do not apply to us, we would be glad to do that and work with Transport Canada to accomplish that..."

By far, the most humourous lines of the session, but the most telling, were the following:

  • "Senator Mercer: I am a little conflicted here because the bill is introduced by a Conservative government who is pro-business. I am a left-wing Liberal, and I seem to find myself on the side of defending the private enterprise here, which is okay. I find it an interesting juxtaposition."

Finally, the Minister of Finance should recognize that he may have serious credibility problems respecting P3s in Canada that need to be addressed as a result of the Ambassador Bridge matter:

  • "Therefore I want to be sure we understand that I hope we do not think we will be fast tracking this.

    Above and beyond the interests of the Ambassador Bridge, this government and governments will be going forward with PPPs in the future. We are hoping that more public-private partnerships will exist to share the responsibilities between the public and the private enterprise, whether it is Highway 50 or Highway 30 in Quebec or other bridges to be built. If we are not going to have respect for private projects that exist and that have been going well for 60 or 70 years, how can we expect private investors to risk, whether it is the "competing" project or the "existing" projects?"

In case you wondered why I am showing the photo of the Ambassador Bridge of yesterday, note the number of lanes then as compared with today. If the bridge could not be adapted, then, with wider vehicle dimensions today, the Bridge could not function. Is that any different than today?

In the end, the Bridge Co. fared much better in front of the Senators than did our Mayor. I hope he listened to the WEBCAST as well since he was not in attendance to watch in order to learn how to answer questions. Will that reflect into acceptable Legislative changes, only time will tell.

Eddie might also learn how to deal with delegations. The Bridge Co. reps were scheduled to speak for 10 minutes; they were allowed to speak, uninterrupted, for 30 minutes. The question period lasted over an hour. In other word, one is not a slave to a Procedural By-law but must have the common sense to allow a delegation to continue as needed. Perhaps Eddie one day may develop the confidence to do that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dan Stamper Senate Hearing Speech

Here is the complete transcript of the speech given by the Bridge Co. President to the Senate hearing on Bill C-3. Two of the Senators commented that Dan Stamper certainly spoke "candidly" and with "candour."

The most interesting part of the Senators' comments was that they thought the Bill was a "slam dunk" when they first read it. Now they understood a lot more about the issue of the Ambassador Bridge and the importance of the whole discussion on other projects that the Government wants to enter into. It is not going to be "fast-tracked" as the Government expected.

As well, certain graphs were shown by the Bridge Co. dealing with traffic projections that showed huge gaps between consultant projected and actual numbers.

A good part of Matthew Moroun's answers to questions were related to the economics of the P3 bridge and how Bill C-3 was needed to make that concept work. He tied it into what he called a "conflict theory" with Government.

I will try and get the full transcript of the hearings and make comments on it as soon as it is received!

Senate Committee Hearings

Ambassador Bridge Testimony offered November, 2006
Dan Stamper, President

Thank you for this opportunity to speak today on the proposed Bill C-3. With me are Matthew Moroun, one of our principals and Vice Chair of our company, and Thomas “Skip” McMahon, Executive Director of External Affairs.

First, let me say, we are disappointed with the intent and the spirit of Bill C-3 as it relates to our Company. There are 24 bridges, 22 publicly owned, one which is in the process of being sold and one private bridge, the Ambassador Bridge.

Our effort today is to clarify and offer meaningful facts and direction for improving and strengthening the relationship between Canada and the Ambassador Bridge.

We believed the governance of the Ambassador Bridge by Canada was resolved after more than a decade of litigation between the parties with an agreement reached in 1992. Having gone above and beyond the terms of our 1992 agreement, we are troubled and question the true intent of Bill C-3. Recent comments by the Ministers of Transport and Finance regarding Public/Private Partnerships make clear that Bill C-3, in combination with the work of the Detroit River International Crossing Project (DRIC), is an effort by bureaucrats to ensure that a Public/Private Border crossing is to be constructed, and to be made profitable, at our expense and that of the taxpayers of Canada.

I want to show you quickly 3 graphs. The first graph shows projected and actual volumes at the Blue Water Bridge, one of our main competitors for truck traffic. Please note the projected volumes that formed the basis of building a new twinned bridge there and new highway infrastructure on both sides of the border at a cost of billions of dollars to taxpayers. Also note the growing gap between actual and projected volumes. Actual volume has remained relatively stable despite the opening of a Casino in Sarnia. A private investor would be infuriated by this disparity between projected and actual traffic.

The second graph shows the actual traffic volumes at the Windsor border crossings since 1999. I am disappointed that the Mayor of Windsor would not answer your questions himself about the Tunnel’s decrease in traffic of over 40%.

Third and finally, I want to show you what the DRIC consultants project as volumes at the Ambassador Bridge compared with the actual and our projections. I should tell you that the DRIC consultants have already reduced their overly optimistic numbers downward several times. Note especially the huge gap developing over time between the DRIC projections and ours. Where is the justification for expending billions of dollars for another crossing?

Our Company is not engaged in some academic exercise in number crunching at our crossing. We have a responsibility and obligation to ensure that our crossing works to meet the needs of our customers and the region we serve. We are the ones who built this business to become the #1 border crossing in North America. We understand the border better than anyone.

The key elements of Bill C-3 are designed to give the bureaucrats the opportunity to take business away from our border crossing and send it to a government sponsored new bridge. In our opinion the creation of a marshalling yard and a new bridge with Bill C-3 will severely affect the financial condition or bankrupt the existing crossings in Southwest Ontario. Accordingly, it should not come as a surprise to anyone when we say that we will protect our business.

Let me talk about the DRIC process for a minute.

The facts are as follows:
A. We settled outstanding litigation with Canada and invested tens of millions of dollars in improving government facilities in 1992.
B. The Canadian Transit Company publicly began its effort to enhance its facilities in 1993 and has continued to acquire the necessary property and engage consultants and engineers to prepare all necessary documents and approvals to allow the construction of additional lanes over the water.
C. The ideal for DRIC was hatched in 2001 and has been rushed in an effort to catch up with and replace the Ambassador Bridge’s commitment for additional lanes.
D. The same bureaucrats in charge of the DRIC process are the people responsible for approvals of the Ambassador Bridge project. This creates a group of bureaucrats as a competitor of the Ambassador Bridge, at the government owned Sarnia / Port Huron bridge, and creates a direct conflict since they are judge, jury and executioner when it comes to the Ambassador Bridge projects.
E. Let me point out that it was the DRIC team, not us, that said “However, the Canadian evaluation notes a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would be an expansion of the existing crossing, not a new crossing of the river with new connections to the freeway systems in Ontario and Michigan.” DRIC has acknowledged that we were never bound by the DRIC process and are free to pursue our own crossing.

Are we overstating our position? I do not think so but let me pose this fact situation to you so that you will understand our point of view.

Recently, the DRIC issued a Request for Quotation. Its purpose was to allow the creation of a truck marshalling yard which would allow bureaucrats to redirect traffic to the border crossing of their choice. This initiative is necessary for the DRIC and Bill C-3 to accomplish their goals of supporting a new government sponsored bridge by redistributing traffic and tolls from existing border crossings. DRIC, Bill C-3, the marshalling yard and the expenditure of billions of dollars are not needed if the government would support the current border crossings and operators.

Our position is not difficult to understand. We are willing to compete and have been very successful in doing so. We have strong objection to bureaucratic control of a border-crossing market-place where customers may be driven away by uneconomic tolls and where our business is taken away from us by administrative action. We wish to carry on business the way we have done so for almost 80 years, in a successful alliance with the Government of Canada.

As an example of safety and security, immediately after 9/11 the Ambassador Bridge engaged, managed and are paying for 24 hour a day armed security at the Ambassador Bridge. Most of the latest security technology innovations are put into service first at the Ambassador Bridge. There is no reason why those sections of Bill C-3 could not be implemented quickly for the benefit of all and we suggest that this be done. After all, that should be the real driving motivation behind the statute.

Let me speak briefly about the ownership side of Bill C-3 that causes us the great concern.

The Government of Canada unilaterally is attempting to wipe away the strong, long-term relationship we have had with the governments of Canada and the United States with the stroke of a pen. Moreover, the Bill as drafted seems to allow the Government to act retroactively as well. (Section 57) The historic combination of U.S. and Canadian legislation that have been the controlling statutes for the operation of the Ambassador Bridge must not be unilaterally altered by Canada.

Let me now deal with some of the more onerous terms of the Bill that impact our business.

What business person would not object to legislation that allows a “public” competitor “unfettered discretion” to decide how it can compete and on what terms. The Government on the one hand competes against us for border traffic at Sarnia and possibly in Windsor and on the other hand sits as judge and jury as to the enhancement of our business (or worse: an executioner) in Windsor through the DRIC process and now the Environmental Process for our Enhancement Project.

As you are aware, there are numerous pieces of legislation governing the Ambassador Bridge not only in Canada but in the U.S. as well. This legislation in both countries has been created and together they govern the Ambassador Bridge as an international border crossing.

Any unilateral change may disrupt the meaning and application of these international agreements. If changes are needed, we are ready to work closely with the Government to develop meaningful legislation that continues to protect the public and creates an environment that not only allows for but motivates the border crossing owner / operators, whether public or private, to invest in and manage safe, secure and efficient border crossings for the good of Canada and the United States. We are NOT a new company starting out but a legitimate border operator who has done its best for the good of this Country and its American neighbor for over 75 years.

I do regret having to state that notwithstanding many attempts by us to meet with the Minister, he has refused to meet with us. May I respectfully ask that this Committee request that the Minister get together with us. Frankly, I would have hoped that many of the issues I am discussing today could have been resolved already in a more expeditious manner had there been such senior level conversations.

Mr. Brian Hicks (Director, Bridge Policy and Programs, Department of Transport) stated
“the Americans have a presidential permit process, and the U.S. federal government steps in when a bridge is going to be constructed or if there are major alterations on the bridge.”

A Presidential Permit process in the U.S. specifically states that this Act shall not be construed to adversely affect the rights of those operating bridges previously authorized by Congress to repair, replace or enlarge existing bridges.

In our view, the actions of Canada under this Bill are out of step with those of the United States. That should be troubling to you because the Transport Canada has said that one of its objectives is to make the process in Canada similar to that of the process in the Unites States.

The Ambassador Bridge twin span was the highest performing alternative and least expensive span to construct on the US side according to the DRIC Study. The Ambassador Bridge already owns the necessary property for our second span, preventing costly condemnation in another neighbourhood. The Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project under both Michigan Governors Engler and Granholm anticipated a twin span at this location for more than a decade. The Ambassador Bridge as an existing crossing already has clearance from the US Dept. of State, whereas any other DRIC crossing would require a new Presidential Permit.

With respect to our Enhancement Project, we have already spent about a half a billion dollars for our project. This is our money, not that of any Government, used for engineering and design work and in purchasing the properties necessary for the construction for our Enhancement Project. We anticipate spending at least another half billion dollars of our money to build the Twinned Span. If that does not demonstrate positively our commitment to the region and to the efficient flow of people and goods then nothing will.

The enhancement would include a new six lane cable stayed bridge located in the same corridor near the existing Ambassador Bridge, consistent with the approved and ongoing Gateway Project. This bridge would tie directly into the existing plazas in both Canada and the United States without modification to their currently approved and permitted configuration. Once the new structure is completed, the existing Ambassador Bridge will be taken out of service for some period of time to effect repairs that are deemed necessary. Once any necessary repairs are completed, the existing structure will be used to provide redundancy and backup support when necessary to ensure the free flow of traffic between Windsor and Detroit at all times. In other words, we will NOT be destroying the communities of Sandwich in Ontario or Delray in Michigan or both as the DRIC plan would do. Moreover, our actions are similar to the twinning of the Blue Water bridge in Sarnia.

We would like to invite any and all members of the Senate to visit the Ambassador Bridge for a tour, either as a group or as individuals. We would be pleased to host such a tour of the entire facility so they are able to see first hand that it is a total international piece of infrastructure, not just two halves being operated separately.

In conclusion,

We respectively ask for the following amendments:

That Bill C-3, at Clause 2, be amended
(a) by replacing line 18 with the following:
“international bridge or tunnel” means a publicly owned bridge”……

That Bill C-3, at Clause 4, identifies the schedule that forms part of Bill C-3, and that said schedule should be amended by
(a) deleting item 34, “An Act to incorporate The Canadian Transit Company, S.C. 1921, c.57.”

That Bill C-3, at Clause 57, be amended
(a) by replacing line 23 with the following:
“of the Government of Canada, specifically this Act shall not be construed to adversely affect the rights of those operating bridges previously authorized by Parliament, to repair, replace or enlarge existing bridges. ”

We recognize that there are necessary approvals to complete this project and they are currently underway beginning with the Environmental Assessment.

We fully acknowledge that we are not legislative drafters however we hope that your legislative drafters could assist by reviewing and properly revising the amendments required to fulfill this intent.

Recognizing that we are one of two privately owned commercial international bridges, we face similar but also many different challenges from the other 22 publicly owned International Bridges. Bill C-3 as it is currently drafted in our opinion does not reflect this.

My ultimate message is that the Ambassador Bridge Company wants to work co-operatively with the Government and those others involved for the good of both citizens and the economy. Do not allow C-3 to unilaterally destroy the collective historic legislation between the United States and Canada that has produced the most efficient border crossing in North America.

We are pleased to entertain any questions you may have.

History Repeating Itself

My head aches from everything going on at the border. Who can understand it any more? There is so much stuff coming out that a mere mortal cannot keep up any more, never mind a Blogmeister.

The Mayor spoke to the Senators the other day as if the Senators cared what he had to say. Then they will hear the Bridge Co. today and they will care. EA hearings in the US, EA hearings in Canada. More DRIC hearings.

Then there are the possible lawsuits by the Mayor. Aren't his options exhausted by now? Or at least tired from being trotted out so much?

We heard Transport Minister Cannon saying P3s if necessary but not necessarily P3s. What the heck does this mean:
  • "I can tell you today, the Government of Canada for its part intends to explore the opportunity to partner with the private sector to design, build, finance, and operate the new crossing."

According to Mark Butler of Transport Canada quoted in Todays Trucking magazine, it means little although the mass media thinks it means something:

  • "The minister will be addressing P3s in his speech, because of the audience, and will talk about ways in which the Government of Canada has already expressed interest in P3s. But there will absolutely be no announcement regarding the Windsor-Detroit gateway and a P3," he says.

    "Certainly P3s is one of various solutions we're looking at for financing of the new crossing, but no decisions have been made."

Wham....That'll teach Cansfield and Salmons!

Now the Minister of Finance with his Advantage Canada

  • "We will also look for ways to get more out of infrastructure investments by taking advantage of the innovative financing provided through public-private partnerships.

    And let me say, Mr. Chairman, that we believe there is a lot of room for improvement in how we manage infrastructure projects.

    Take, for example, the Windsor-Detroit Corridor. Windsor-Detroit is the crossing point for 28 per cent of all trade in goods between Canada and the United States.

    It is just not acceptable that, after all these years, governments have not finished the job to make this crossing more efficient and secure.

    Surely we can do better, and we will. A financing strategy for this vital crossing will be addressed in the next budget to get the job done expeditiously.."

And the Province

  • "The Ontario government has developed a North America Gateway strategy to widen parts of Highway 401 and ease traffic jams at the Windsor-Detroit crossing, projects that Ottawa is being asked to help fund to protect international trade."

I had to go up Huron Church the other night and as I was being passed by one speeding transport truck after another (so much for traffic jams) I think I figured out the difference between what private enterprise and the Government want to do at the border.

In my opinion, the Bridge Co. wants to spend as little money as possible but ensure that trucks clear the border as quickly as possible. Government on the other hand wants to spend as much money as possible to build parking lots and could not care if trucks clear the border quickly or not.

Private enterprise has the skills of being a border operator risking its own money and knows the answers. Government has the skills of being a wanna-be border operator gambling our money and thinks it knows the answers.

Think I am kidding. Remember that the Bridge Co. wants to spend money to build 200 booths for speedy Customs clearance and an enhancement project for a replacement bridge at its existing location. Total cost: around $5-600M of their money. With that combination, every vehicle should be moved across the border more quickly and at a minimum cost.

On the other hand, let's consider Governments:

The Ontario Government wants to look at a truck marshalling yard that may never be used somewhere between here and Chatham to "stage" trucks at a cost of $25M+. Not one truck would be moved across the border more quickly after spending all of that money

The Senior Levels and Windsor want to spend $30M for the Tunnel Plaza Improvements to get vehicles off of city streets but not one vehicle would be moved across the border more quickly after spending all of that money

The Schwartz plan as part of its billion dollar vision was to build the multi-million dollar Horseshoe Road which would prevent congestion in times of problems but not one truck would be moved across the border more quickly after spending all of that money.

Don't you see the pattern: the Governments all want to keep vehicles off of City streets but have not figured out that their job is to get them off city streets AND across the border more quickly!

The new bridge---the number of booths is relatively few (my recollection is approximately the same as at the existing bridge) with little room for plaza expansion and now Customs on both sides will have to staff booths all over the place rather than organizing them in a fashion that allows for proper utilization...So will they be building a $3 billion parking lot across the water now.

The Bridge Co. needs to improve its media presence. They keep on saying all of the right things but no one believes them. They keep on solving border problems as they arise but no one gives them credit for it. When they take a position, it is viewed as nothing more than trying to preserve its position rather than as a statement from the best border operator between Canada and the US.

The classic example is the opening of 4 Customs booths at a cost of $2M by the Bridge Co. which solved the back-up problem on Huron Church overnight! Who thanked them? We still see media photos of back-ups, hear talk about congestion and are told that it takes forever to cross the border. They didn't need the Horsehsoe Road or the staging areas. They did not need to spend hundreds of millions. They did not need studies. They fought the US Government. We just needed someone who understood border operations to tell us what needed fixing.

I did a bit of research and found some articles that you might find of interest. It tells it all from a historical perspective. None of this is new. It's the same old stuff. Remember the winter of 2002-3 as an example and compare it with today:

  • fighting DRTP, now fighting DRTP's Green Solution
  • opposed to the twinned Ambassador Bridge, now opposed to the enhanced bridge
  • opposed to the Ring road, now opposed to the DRIC road
  • fighting the JMC, now fighting the DRIC
  • reacting since no City position on the border, now reacting since no City position on the border
  • retaining Estrin, now retaining Estrin
  • no friends to help other than the citizens, now no friends
  • enemies are the Senior Levels, now the enemies are the Senior Levels and the Bridge Co.
  • threatening a lawsuit, now exhausting options

Here are a few articles from the media. If I ran them today, could you tell the difference:

May 24, 1991

  • Expanding facilities at the American foot of the Ambassador Bridge is just as good as building a second bridge, government and bridge officials said Thursday.

    It's not congestion on the bridge that has tied up traffic for hours at a time, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young said at a news conference. It's lineups at the entrances and exits on both sides that cause the headaches.

    SO THE CONSTRUCTION of three new trucking lanes leading off the bridge to a new U.S. Customs inspection area, plus the construction currently under way of a new off-site truck inspection site on the Canadian side, should triple, perhaps quadruple, the traffic capacity on the privately owned bridge.

Oct 24, 1991

  • The traffic flows fine through Windsor's two economic arteries to the U.S. The problem, say the presidents of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Canada Tunnel, comes when vehicles reach the Canada and U.S. customs booths, which act like blood clots stopping the flow.

    "I've got 10 inspection booths" on the American side for U.S. Immigration and Naturalization officers, said Detroit-Canada Tunnel Corp. president Don Vuchetich. "And they've never used more than six."

    He said reports that the tunnel will reach its capacity in three years aren't true. The tunnel currently averages 800 vehicles an hour in both directions and it has the capacity to handle 2,400, if customs facilities on both the U.S. and Canadian sides didn't cause border gridlock.

    Bridge president Dan Stamper said 830 vehicles cross his bridge per hour, but it could handle 5,000 if customs operations could keep the cars and trucks moving. Improvements to the customs operation and plaza on the U.S. side that were started Tuesday could make tieups going into Detroit a thing of the past, he said.

Feb 11, 1993

  • Stamper said the Ambassador Bridge will have no trouble absorbing the extra traffic anticipated from casino gambling.

    "Our view is we have a lot of roadbed capacity . . . we can take a lot more traffic." Engineering studies show the bridge can handle 5,000 vehicles per hour - a flow well above current levels.

    "Windsor and Detroit ought to be taking advantage of being the largest-volume crossing between Canada and the United States," he said.

March 7, 2000

  • The federal and provincial governments should get ready to start spending as much as $200 million to rebuild the eight-km stretch of municipal road leading to one of the world's busiest border crossings.

    The warning to federal Revenue Minister Martin Cauchon and Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray came Monday from Ambassador Bridge president Dan Stamper, who had private meetings with the cabinet ministers as they toured Windsor-Detroit border facilities.

    In an interview, Stamper said the bridge company is finalizing plans to spend as much as $200 million US of its own on a second span across the Detroit River within the next 10 to 12 years. Work will also start shortly on a new truck ramp on the Canadian side of the bridge that will allow customs inspection booths to be upped from 20 to 30, along with quicker access to roads for both cars and trucks entering Canada, he said.

    But that expansion won't contain congestion from an incredible growth of commercial traffic using the bridge without significant improvements in the major connecting link -- Huron Church Road -- said Stamper.

April 25, 2000

  • While bridge officials are confident things are going well on the American side, our side has them concerned because of a lack of a plan. The Toronto study should be ready in three weeks.

    Although it could be 15 years before a new bridge is built, the flawed Canadian infrastructure needs to be dealt with now to address traffic problems as well as the future needs of a second bridge, he said.

    "We need to be prepared," Stamper said. "Without a doubt it's the Canadian side that needs roadwork."
I need a Tylenol. I wonder if Huron Lodge has a few extra.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Media Accreditation

I take very seriously what I write on this BLOGsite. I try very hard to ensure that what I say is accurate. Even when I "speculate," I do so using the best information that I have available at the time.

There have been a number of stories written about the power of the BLOG and how blogging is transforming the way we get news. A number of the Windsor Star journalists are now blogging. Many of the municipal candidates set up Blogsites as have politicians at the Senior Levels.

Is there pressure on better believe it. As I have written before, I have the greatest of respect for journalists, newspaper and electronic, who have deadlines to meet and who have to tell a story not only so that it interests a reader or listener but informs the person as well. I do not pretend to compete with these professionals. All I do is the best that I can, writing about what interests me and hoping that it interests my readers too. And I have to get it out by 7 AM so that you can read something with your morning coffee to boot!

I tell you all of this again because I am going to be more demanding about my role as a Blogger and to that which I am now entitled. The article from the New York Times (see below) will provide great legitimacy for Bloggers. I am using the Times article and not that from another newspaper because it is the Times writing it for the world to read now.

Congratulations go to the man who risked jail to fight the establishment on this issue, Charles LeBlanc, whose BLOGsite is his lawyer, Harold Doherty [I have written both of them asking for a copy of the decision] and CBC for taking the video showing what happened and allowing it to be used by the Judge as the basis of making his decision.

As for me, I will be asking both the Feds and Province for media accreditation and City Hall as well. I can hardly wait until Janet Jackson or Pamela Anderson come to town. I have a few questions to ask them too!
  • A Blogger Who’s a Court-Approved Journalist

    Published: November 27, 2006

    Many bloggers describe themselves as journalists. Last week Charles LeBlanc, a rooming house resident who lives on social assistance in Fredericton, New Brunswick, received a court decision establishing his journalistic credentials.

    The confirmation came last Friday when a judge dismissed charges against Mr. LeBlanc of obstructing a police officer.

    For the last two years, Mr. LeBlanc has been expressing his views on poverty and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through a blog ( The idea, he said, came from benefactors who also provided him a small digital camera and a computer.

    He declined to name the people, however, partly because at least one of them is employed by his favorite target: the many companies in New Brunswick controlled by the Irving family, which owns, according to a report on media ownership released by Canada’s Senate earlier this year, all the English-language daily newspapers in New Brunswick.

    In June, Mr. LeBlanc went to Saint John, New Brunswick, to report on a protest against a meeting of chamber of commerce and board of trade members from Atlantic Canada and New England. Protestors stormed the meeting. Mr. LeBlanc was among those arrested.

    Officers from the Saint John police testified they are regular readers of Mr. LeBlanc’s blog as part of their effort to gather intelligence on protests. William J. McCarroll, the provincial court judge who heard Mr. LeBlanc’s case, wrote in his decision that “Mr. LeBlanc is a ‘blogger.’ I’m sure that many, if not the majority of Saint Johners, are not familiar with this word.”

    After reviewing videotape from a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation crew at the scene, sometimes in slow motion, the judge found that it contradicted testimony of the arresting officer, Sergeant John Parks.

    “Members of the so called mainstream media were taking photographs and filming in the same area without interference from the police,” the judge wrote in a 20-page decision. “I believe it’s fair to say that the defendant was doing nothing wrong at the time he was approached by Sergeant Parks and placed under arrest. He was simply plying his trade, gathering photographs and information for his blog alongside other reporters.”

    The judge also said that the police had no right to delete about 200 photos stored on Mr. LeBlanc’s camera.

    Mr. LeBlanc said he had considered improving his skills by studying journalism at a local university. That is, until its journalism department accepted a donation of 1 million Canadian dollars from the Irvings. “Do you think I could study in a classroom listening to an Irving employee?” he asked.

Who Is In Control AT MTO

I received an email the other day from a reader informing me about a recent Request for Quotation posted on the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website.

It was issued by the Windsor Borders Initiatives Implementation Group. You know them, the BIIG people set up by the Premier back in September 2005. I assume that the posting group are part of the 41 people assisting Minister Cansfield in Windsor.

I wonder though who is in charge, who knows what is going on. After reading this BLOG , someone may suggest that dropping
a few of these people might be a good idea. They obviously have too much time on their hands to dream up ridiculous ideas.

Steve Salmons where are you??? Stop worrying about private enterprise so much and keep these people under control. They are going to spend us into another financial mess. They may also wreck the border for us in Windsor by giving US Customs an excuse not to clear trucks quickly any more for heaven's sake. MTO may give them an out---a truck marshalling yard where trucks can idle forever!

Their idea is relieves the pressure on US Customs to staff the customs booths fully and clear trucks promptly. They would know, if the MTO idea was adopted, that if they chose not to staff the booths, Windsor would not suffer (although our industry would). The trucks would be kept out of town, away from Windsor as drivers lost money and industry fumed.

Here is how the project is described:
  • "The purpose of this project is to undertake the necessary traffic modelling and planning/preliminary design study to determine the potential size of the truck marshalling yard. The area of the study will include the Highway 401 corridor generally between Windsor and Chatham.

    The project will establish the footprint of a truck marshalling yard to serve the Windsor-Detroit Gateway through modelling, using existing and anticipated truck volumes and a number of different delay scenarios in the Windsor Gateway. The anticipated location of any future marshalling yard is the Highway 401 corridor, up to 65 kilometres east of Windsor.

    This project "Truck Marshalling Yard" is one of the major steps jointly announcement by Canada and Ontario on April 21, 2005 to improve the movements of goods and people at the Windsor-Detroit Gateway, under the "Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy". The joint commitment involved the needs and feasibility study for the establishment of a truck marshalling facility on Highway 401 in the Windsor-Essex Region."

I thought this was odd since I had thought the truck marshalling concept had died a long time ago. It was not needed any longer. Obviously I was wrong. In bureaucracy-world, when only taxpayer money is at stake, nothing ever ends even if it is no longer needed. It's true, there it was in April 2005 except now there did not appear to be an EOI. They were trying to figure out the size now:

  • "Expression of interest followed by a request for proposals can begin for a truck marshalling facility on Highway 401 in the Windsor-Essex Region;

    Will identify need and potential uses for a marshalling yard; legislative changes to be considered to support its operation and potential site locations

    Stakeholder consultations will include truckers and private sector proponents of similar facilities in Windsor area."

So let me get this straight---Over a year and a half after the idea was proposed, someone out of the blue decided to move on this project. Perhaps it took that long to change the name from "staging" area to "marshalling" area! I do not remember hearing a big demand for it either recently. This is after the backups on Huron Church Road have virtually been eliminated when the Bridge Co. opened up a few more truck booths.

This is the "staging area" idea that was talked about so much 4 years ago when there were backups here. As described by the BIIG folks, it is to be used primarily to manage queues during periods of short-term delays and secondarily as a marshalling yard during periods of long-term delay.

The BIIG folk are also going to issue an RFI--request for information--to solicit private sector advice informaation regarding the development of a truck marshalling yard.

Someone must have been talking recently to Ann Arquette of "Border Gateways it seems. It sounds like a variation of what she has proposed. Here is how Today's Trucking describes her and her idea:

  • "Most “official” folks say there’s no simple way to more efficiently funnel some 6,000 trucks a day across the Ambassador Bridge...

    If you believe a solution to this mess is years away, I beg to differ. So does a feisty young woman, a former Canada Customs and Revenue Agency officer named Ann Arquette. Her company, Border Gateways, has a plan to reduce delays that could be up and running within 10 months. Arquette wants to create a staging area—“a virtual gateway,” she calls it—off the 401 about 20 kilometres east of Windsor, where all trucks would stop and prepare to clear customs.

    At Arquette’s facility, trucks would be staged and released in an ordered way so as to eliminate the present chaos on Windsor streets. Security along the 20-km trip to the actual border would be managed by video cameras and radio-frequency devices that would sound an alarm if a truck went off-route.

    Arquette’s facility also would be designed to accommodate drivers. Instead of having to use one of the 15 portable johns the province of Ontario has spread out along that last bit of Hwy. 401, drivers could have proper washrooms and showers. In fact, it would make sense to combine Arquette’s staging area with a proper truck stop, a point not lost on her. Arquette has options on 150 acres of land and she’s got her site designed. Financing is in place and the area’s best contractor is ready to pave 50 acres or more. Her small team is good to go.

    All she needs is a nod from the provincial and federal governments, but so far they’re not listening. Nor, it seems, is the trucking industry. Only the folks at the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection seem to be responding. The Yanks actually think her idea might work at the U.S./Mexico border crossing in El Paso, Texas."
You see, the Americans are interested since it serves THEIR purpose, not OURS! And if Ann has all of this in place, why hasn't she done it yet? Simple---there is no need and it can never pay its way as I shall demonstrate.

Let me ask this simply---ARE THE BIIG PEOPLE NUTS?

For heaven's sake the Province is in a financial pinch--just ask the Premier--and they want to do this. It will be on a site at least 20-40 acres in size and will cost tens of millions to develop and may never be used! How many times would it have been in use during the last year or so? ZERO TIMES!

Who is going to set it up, pay for it and maintain it? How are they going to get their money back for this if every truck passes them by since there are no back-ups? Who would use it? If truckers were forced to go there and pay a fee, our border crossing becomes less competitive with that of Sarnia which would not have such a fee.

The Ontario Trucking Association talked about this idea several years ago. Their objections voiced in the Star:
  • In the very near future, unless you're a pre-registered shipper using a pre-registered trucking company, delivering pre-registered goods with a completed manifest and pre-registered with U.S. Customs, they're not going to let you anywhere near the border," said Doug Switzer of the Ontario Trucking Association. "A pre- processing centre would not have a place in that world
  • We also question the mandatory requirement to pass through the system, how that would work on a practical basis and who will pay the ongoing operational costs of the centre.
If the Government wants a staging area so badly , then pave over the 20 acres of land that the Bridge Co. already has set up at the newly designed off ramp of Highway 4 and the 401. It is already a pre-processing Customs area. It is six kilometers west of 401/402 intersection and can serve Windsor, Sarnia and Fort Erie, not just Windsor!

In passing, the maximum distance of the facility from Windsor has been arbitrarily set at up to 65 kilometres east of Windsor to eliminate the Bridge Co. facility! The way it works now, if the document is filled out at that centre, by the time the truck gets to Windsor, the paperwork is done so there is no waiting for a driver. How long will the wait be with a centre so close to Windsor?

Don't those guys in Toronto and elsewhere in their ivory towers understand that the object of the exercise is to CLEAR vehicles quickly not stage them. That's where Gridlock Sam also went wrong too on his Horseshoe Road. Oooops I forgot, they are bureaucrats. They've never run a border operation except on paper and in theory. That 's why they need to get the "advice" from the private sector to teach them about reality!

It's like the $30 million that the Senior levels want to waste on the Tunnel Plaza Improvements when traffic is tanking and there are cheaper ways to solve the problem. Come on Steve, time to review that project as well as this one!

No matter, taxpayers have money to burn! Let's spend it on this, the Tunnel and DRIC. Who wants a road to the border anyway.

And by the way, is the land that Ann mentioned, the 150 acres, still available or is the land now to be used by Project Ice Track for their arena?

Gridlock Sam Schwartz

Speaking about secrecy at City Hall, I am waiting for the Star Editors to slam the Mayor and Council now over what they passed in mid-October at their secret, in camera session.

Did anyone in the public know that our Council authorized the spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars for an attack on the Bridge Co. in Cleveland and elsewhere? Oh I am sorry, that is solicitor-client privilege. We cannot reveal our tactics since our "enemies" might be able to counter it (In this case, the Bridge Co. reps were in attendance so they knew about Estrin.)

Almost as good an excuse as a "confidentiality clause" to hide relevant information from citizens.

Such immaturity is not called for. Now you may understand, dear reader, why I could not vote to re-elect Eddie Francis for mayor and why I said a long time ago that he will never make it as a great politician notwithstanding his potential: he does not trust his own electorate with the truth.

I feel so sorry for the Councillors at City Hall. They seem to have no idea whatsoever what is going on in the border file. They are being made to look like fools in public.

Councillor Halberstadt writes a BLOG about Schwartz and now the Star picks up the story. "Schwartz is dead" Halberstadt states. Newbie Councillor-to-be Dilkens states "he never fully supported the Schwartz plan...I already thought Schwartz was dead in my mind." His Wardmate Councillor STOPDRTP made Sam's Report the basis of his campaign. Councillor Lewenza says "The Schwartz report was meant only to provide a blueprint for the city's concerns." Councillor Jones says "the truck bypass can still be salvaged...I don't feel Schwartz is dead," he said. "Some areas just need to be tweaked a bit."

Congratulations to Alan and Drew. They are the winners. They stated the obvious. The Schwartz Plan was dead in late summer 2004 after the Senior Levels rejected the Plan since it totally undercut the Bi-national process that had to be "respected." Did Eddie tell us that at the time? Nope...he carried on as if nothing happened trying to salvage his mess.

The great unveiling of the Schwartz Report to the public, the THINKING BIG...that was Eddie's effort to hide that he failed and to divert attention from his real plans which were at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. The Schwartz Report was the City's position that Eddie tried for months to sell. Finally Councillor Valentinis had to admit that it was merely the City's "starting point," thereby signalling that the City had no idea what it wanted to do other than start scare tactics and yell quality of life and tunnels in order to be re-elected.

Sam confirmed that in the Star today:
  • "Schwartz said Thursday his report remains valid. He expressed disappointment it has become bogged down by the controversy over one aspect -- the bypass.

    "We never said it had to be just this one route," he said. "We always said it had to be vetted by the community -- exploration of all the alternatives. But people just got bogged down on one element.

    "The goal was to get trucks off city streets. If it turns out there are better alternatives, then adopt those elements."

Even Sam does not get it yet. He was used. The Report got bogged down in the by-pass because Eddie wanted it to get bogged down that way. Why else would a Mayor elected to find a long-term solution for Windsor concede that decision-making to the Bi-national 2 days after Sam revealed his Report. Why else was he rallying citizens for a short-term solution? In my mind I always thought Eddie planned for Schwartz to fail!

The Schwartz Report was a political document, not an engineering statement, designed to please everyone in town other than DRTP and the Ambassador Bridge. And who would shed a tear for them. Even Eddie must have been shocked by the negative reaction. Within days, the Schwartz Report was rejected by those who truly understood the border issues. Eddie had miscalculated badly.

Enough about the distant past. Let's leap forward. I posted way back on August 31 "Is It Au Revoir to Gridlock Sam"

  • "My understanding is that Sam Schwartz of Canada, Ltd. required a Certificate of Authorization to engage in the business of offering and providing professional engineering services to the public. As I have posted before, Marko Paranosic left Sam's office and joined Stantec in Kitchener. I have been advised that:

    "When the only engineer of a CofA chooses to leave his/her current employment, or if a member is “Lapsed/Resigned/Retired or even Deceased”; as per the Professional Engineering Act and Regulations the CofA has to be suspended, and the CofA holder is given certain amount of time to pursue finding a suitable replacement for the departing P. Eng., which is the case of Sam Schwartz of Canada ltd. as of the yesterday [August 30]."

Now unless Sam has been obtained a new Certificate, he cannot offer and provide professional engineering services to the public in Ontario which includes Windsor!

So is Sam done, right, finished, his assignment over? You would almost think so from Alan's Blog and the Star story. The Councillors should know the real situation shouldn't they. The Mayor would tell them what he was doing wouldn't he? Estrin would not hide important matters from them when he sought their concurrence to his strategy would he? The Star would report everything factually wouldn't it?

Now you did not read something important in the Star report about Cleveland. Remember I asked about a week ago:

  • "Is Gridlock Sam coming back to help David Estrin? There was his name mentioned: "the airport transportation hub proposed by New York traffic guru Sam Schwartz?" Pretend he is coming back for one reason and then have him do something else."

Well I was right....There was Sam in Cleveland making a presentation to the US Coast Guard! He was part of the effort by the City to stop the Bridge Co. from moving forward. Why didn't the Star report that information?

Either the Councillors knew about it so that they were active participants in the Star story as part of a plot designed to deceive us OR they did not know about it and they were deceived and made to look like fools.

What is the truth? I wonder who at City Hall can recall the answer! If I were a Councillor, I'd like to make someone remember and quickly!

Do you think the Star will check out this story or does ending secrecy not apply to the border file if it is the Bridge Co. involved?