Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 15, 2006

There Are Impostors Amongst Us



It is so alien to me. I never expected it to be this way. It could never happen in real life. The thought of it is just so out of this world.


It should be obvious to those of you who have read my BLOGs that a few people might be angry at some of the things that I have written. Those people think I am being negative when, in fact, what I am really doing is trying to correct the errors of their way.

It is now clear to me that some of these few people are more deeply offended than I could ever imagine. "They" figured out that to silence me "they" have to make me look foolish. I want to tell you the extent to which "they" have gone to do so.


I believe that "these people" arranged to have my computer hacked. I go through a routine every morning checking out sources to be able to comment as quickly as possible on the big events of the day. I spend a good deal of time online seeing what is newsworthy for this area. As the last step, I read the Windsor Star online by going to their website for late-breaking local events http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/index.html

What was I greeted with at 6 AM today was:
  1. A photo of the Mayor with his mouth open (Was he about to put his foot in it again I chuckled to myself)

  2. A big bold headline: "Council goals set in secret"

  3. And the start of a story "Mayor defers to city's top bureaucrat -- 'Apparently I have no authority' The public was barred from a city council meeting Thursday to discuss the top issues facing Windsor ...

I knew immediately that I had been compromised by "them." I have had a number of email virus attacks over the past few days. In some way, I must have downloaded a virus or trojan to my PC that took over my computer and when I typed in the Star's address, it directed me to a phony Windsor Star website. "They" wanted me to write a BLOG based on misinformation that "they" had created that would make me look silly.

I outfoxed "them"... so I thought. I was NOT going to write a scathing BLOG but would wait for the newspaper to be delivered to me before I wrote my piece. I thought I knew the game "they" were playing and I was going to beat "them" at it.

To my shock, when I received my hardcopy Star, it had the same headline and story! I could not believe that "they" would spend all of that money and create a phony newspaper as well to try to fool me. It just blew my mind.

I knew that "they" did all of this and that it was designed to keep me quiet and have you, dear reader, not come to my BLOGsite any more. "They" wanted me to wrote a BLOG on something that did not happen and could never happen again in Windsor. Why didn't we see so many Star editorials on the subject recently. I foolishly thought that the amnesia pandemic had ended.

How could "they" think that I was so dumb. How could "they" underestimate me so much.

Why only a few weeks ago it seemed that Eddie was going to be more open. At a secret session with the Windsor Star Editorial Board, Eddie said that

  • "the city should end the practice of including confidentiality clauses in deals struck with the private sector. "With regards to moving forward, I think one of the easiest ways to deal with this is to put a provision into the agreements that we will follow the Freedom of Information Act rules and whatever the FOI rules, that will be the test..."It's easier for me to have the information out there to prevent speculation and rumours, and that doesn't help us in any way."

And we just had an election with 3 new, tough Councillors added. Bill Marra is no rookie on Council; he's been around. Percy Hatfield has more years on Council covering it for CBC than almost all of the other Councillors combined. As for Drew Dilkens, he is familiar with business, government and the academic world. They would NEVER allow this secrecy to happen during their watch. I found it curious that the Star story did not quote any one of the Councillors at all.

Our legal technocrat mayor would never let a mere CAO push him around. Moreover, he knows exactly what a Council "meeting" means after that big scandal during the border debate when 5 Councillors met before a Council meeting.

Something strange though is going on. This was not the Eddie Francis I helped get elected several years ago. Something was different. Perhaps after the election, the Councillors changed too, not the same any more. Then in a blinding light I got it. I figured out what had happened. The word "authority" gave it away. Consider this:

  1. On Friday, December 20, 2002, Mayor Mike Hurst said "And I'm just the mayor of a small town. I have no authority. I have no clout." On Friday, December 15, 2006 Mayor Francis was quoted as saying ""Apparently I have no authority."

  2. John Skorobohacz worked under Mike Hurst and then was brought back to work under Eddie Francis

  3. Mike Hurst was on Council when the Cleary first opened. Mayor Francis is getting rid of the Cleary (maybe)

  4. The Jebb Group never had a chance with Mike for an arena. The Jebb Group never had a chance with Eddie for an arena

  5. Rails for Trails.....started by Eddie, promoted heavily by Mike.

  6. Financial fiascos with Mike with Canderel and MFP; financial fiacos with Eddie with the Canderel and the arena

  7. No border solution with Mike, none with Eddie

  8. and on and on and on.

I know why the border route is so important now after I saw by chance some international trucks full of "pods" the other day. I know why "they" want to discredit me. I was getting too close to learning the truth.

My family doctor, Dr. Miles Bennell, knew. He told me when he returned to his Windsor practice "to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors." He found out the answer. He warned me but I did not believe him. Now I do.

As the good doctor said:

  • "In my practice, I've seen how people have allowed their humanity to drain away. Only it happened slowly instead of all at once. They didn't seem to mind...All of us - a little bit - we harden our hearts, grow callous. Only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize."

They are everywhere, taking us over one by one. YOU have been warned now too!

A Letter Of Appeal


I blogged a few days ago that I had to spend a good part of a weekend preparing a letter for the Privacy Commission to define the issues for an adjudication over what the City has not disclosed to me and the amount of money they want in order for them to do so.

The letter I sent out is copied below.

I assume that the new Councillors and some of the members of the old Council at their strategic session will vote in favour of openness on border issues. If that is the case, then the appeal need not go on further and I should be able to get the information I require.

But I won't get it because if I did, then I could tell you what is really going on at the Tunnel. Silly me, I thought you and I had a right to know something about a City asset.

It should be interesting though to see what happens. Will this Council demand openness or will it be more of the same? By the end of the week, we should have a good idea of what Messrs Dilkens, Marra and Hatfield are made.
  • Registrar
    Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario
    1400-2 Bloor Street East
    Toronto, Ontario
    M4W 1A8

    RE: City of Windsor FOI 33-2006---Freedom of Information

    I want to set out what I consider the issues to be in this matter:

    1) The City is not acting in good faith in my submission. The so-called interim decision is a “non-decision” designed to waste more time and to discourage me from proceeding further. I have already had to wait from the date of request on June 28, 2006, to get this far. On its face, the so-called interim decision is clearly designed to prevent relevant information being produced by providing little relevant information about the records and which records of the total of 57,729 are to be claimed to be exempt.

    2) Information is being deliberately hidden by lumping it into masses of documents

    3) I asked for clarification and to attempt to narrow the original request number of records in each of the seven parts of my request. The answers given were non-responsive notwithstanding that 2 specific requests were made.

    4) I also asked which Departments were contacted. It was clear that one of the addressees, the Windsor Tunnel Commission, was never contacted at all. The Commission is obviously a key party and an addressee of the request but was never contacted.

    5) In the words of the decision quoted by the Head, “the "enormity" of the fee “...ensures that the files remain inaccessible." I simply cannot afford to spend the amount of the fees when [I do ] not have any indication as to what the documents will contain. Clearly a fee of over $100,000 would cause me a financial hardship.

    6) The fee suggested is outrageous in the circumstances and is designed to prevent relevant records being disclosed

    7) The request for a 10 month extension of time and the justification for doing so is ridiculous and is designed to prevent relevant records being disclosed in a timely manner.

    8) Clearly the City’s filing system is deficient and I should not be required to pay out outrageous sums of money because of that fact

    9) It is not credible that the number of records, 57,729, is the true number for questions that are relatively narrow in scope. It appears as if the Head asked for every Tunnel document to be disclosed rather than relevant ones. This same issue arose between me and the City in Order #ORDER MO-1839 where I alleged that hundreds of unresponsive documents were provided. [Note in that case, but unlike in this case, a description of all of the records retrieved and their source was provided so that an informed decision could be made]

    10) The City has not conducted a reasonable search for records responsive to the request since it is absolutely inconceivable that the Mayor would only have 30 records that are responsive to my questions when he is the main negotiator and Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission. The number of relevant documents is highly suspect as well.

    In my submission, it would be fair and equitable for the fee to be waived or reduced significantly for the following reasons:

    1) The results would be of value to the Community since the Tunnel is, in the words of the Mayor “a strategic asset” that could be worth a considerable amount of money if ti is being managed and operated properly. It appears, from the small amount of information disclosed publicly to date as if the Tunnel may have not been managed properly given the huge drop in traffic and revenues, the massive cost over-runs and the security problems. Clearly there is a need to shed light on what is happening and obviously the response by the City shows that it is not prepared to do so. I would expect to disclose relevant information to the public thereby saving other citizens costs of application under the Act.

    2) The fee amount is outrageous and excessive---spending 1060 hours to retrieve records does not appear to be reasonable on its face considering that the records requested are limited in scope. It appears that I am also being double-charged for searching and preparation time. NO proper breakdown has been provided whatsoever to justify those costs. As has been stated in a decision under the Act “In my view, a requester must be provided with sufficient information to make an informed decision regarding payment of fees, and it is the responsibility of the head to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the fees estimate is based on a reasonable understanding of the costs involved in providing access. Anything less, in my view, would compromise and undermine the underlying principles of the Act.” Respecting copying, we would only want copies of relevant documents.

    3) Clearly, this is a matter of public concern involving both public health and safety. One of the issues respecting the border crossing is the effect of truck fumes and pollutants on the population. That the Tunnel spews unscrubbed air into the downtown of Windsor is shocking since it appears that no provision was made to clean the air in the Tunnel ventilation building improvements. Moreover, the City has just passed a new Environmental Master Plan. Information is needed forthwith regarding the “unique” security risk of the Tunnel and what steps, if any, have been taken to correct the problem.

    4) Dissemination of the records will benefit public health or safety since citizens will be more aware of what discussions the City has had and what the impact would be of any such discussions. Citizen involvement has been sadly lacking to date on the border file---only ONE public meeting where citizens could appear as delegations with the rest of the City actions being taken in secret, in camera sessions by the Mayor and Council. The more information available to citizens, the better the decision-making will be. The dissemination would contribute meaningfully to the development of understanding of important public health and safety issues. I would expect to disclose relevant information to the public.

    5) In addition, the Tunnel has been called a “unique” security risk and US Customs has said that the Tunnel does not meet its requirements. As you know, it is such a risk because “There’s this inherent security concern with the proximity of that tunnel to the downtowns of both Detroit and Windsor.”

    6) The waiver or reduction of the fee would not shift an unreasonable burden of the cost of access from me to the City since I would be the one going through the documents in detail and would pick out the relevant ones. There would not be a significant interference with the operations of the institution. It would appear that at most, that several hours of work per department would be required to pull the relevant files.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours very truly,

Answering The Unthinkable


Here's a comment I received from a reader on MY "Unthinkable" BLOGs and a reminder of what Dennis DesRosiers said a year ago in a speech that caused some controversy down here.



"When the city does decide it needs to address the situation with EC Row where will the funding come from 10 years from now? The MTO and Transport Canada obviously - but they are unlikely to help after being snubbed and sued by the City of Windsor. Tofflemire was threatening to close portions of EC Row 5 years ago... imagine 10 years from now.

How long will the city deny a Lauzon Parkway extension and connection to the 401 and in the process limit potential development of the Annexed Lands or potential creation of an intermodal facility? This is a question that Mayor Francis needs to answer right now and honestly, so industry knows what future it has locally for expansion.

Has any study been done to estimate the number of potential jobs expected from a fully built out Annexed Lands? If the number is significant, why has the city not moved more quickly to service those lands which includes road infrastructure? The study has been done. Mayor Francis said it himself at the Windsor Chamber of Commerce luncheon in June where he said if a developer came along they would move on servicing the area. Contrast that statement with the mayor of Woodstock, who assembled the land needed for a Toyota plant BEFORE Toyota even came calling. As usual, reactive Eddie, not proactive.

Does the city have a current plan for dealing with the additional expressway traffic that will likely result from the planned improvements to Manning Road and County Road 22 east of Manning? No. Unless you consider a lawsuit a plan.

What is the city's current liability given the existing safety design deficiencies on EC Row, including lack of lighting east of Central, rusted guardrails, narrow shoulders and a Dougall/Howard ramp set-up that is too close to each other for safe operations? This is an unspoken horror in the corridors of city hall. Good thing we don't live in a litigious society. Can the city afford to have the deficiencies documented?

Could EC Row be reconstructed as a below-grade freeway, with dedicated/physically separated truck lanes, having the local roads (Howard, Walker, Dougall, Dominion) going over the freeway instead of under, and thereby improve city aesthetics, not to mention reduce existing noise levels? Yes, clearly.

Would it not make more sense to argue for a 1 km tunnel for dedicated expressway lanes between Dougall and Huron Church rather than a 10+ km tunnel from the 401 to EC Row along Talbot/Huron Church? Clearly.

Could an expansion be done for the most part within the existing right of way? Wouldn't the level of impacts (properties purchased) be significantly less than any DRIC alternative? Yes. Impacts could be almost neglible with proper design.

Could construction be done while maintaining international traffic on the existing corridor? Yes.

Could the potential closure of the Dougall and Dominion interchanges lend itself to plans for the Zalev lands north of the expressway? Yes. Closure of those ramps will have to be mitigated with an improved connection between Howard and Dougall. Why not an expanded Grand Marais Boulevard north of the expressway connecting Howard and Dougall and providing access to a remediated Zalev site, a prime location for commercial development.

Could there be tie-ins with the Rail Rationalization study, such as creating a platform for a east-west regional Light Rail Transit corridor adjacent to the expressway? No-brainer, yes. Use the CASO corridor as a north-south LRT line. You don't have to build such a thing right away, but, in 20 years when population levels are high enough to warrant it, you have the ROW and the corridors set aside for the project. Don't end up like Ottawa or Kitchener-Waterloo, contemplating blowing away hundreds of homes for their LRT projects.

Would the cost of addressing all of the above be around the same cost as the current DRIC below-grade estimates? Even if slightly higher, wouldn't the MTO be willing to spend the money to save from having to come rescue Windsor 10 years from now on the EC Row funding issue? Yes - for $1.5 billion you can build all of this, take a $500 million liability off the city's books and everyone is happy (except the grandstanders at city hall)."

==========================================================
Dennis DesRosiers Speech "Help Me Understand Windsor" a year ago:

"Why, for example, is the City spending millions on Toronto lawyers fighting senior Governments? The Federal and Provincial Governments want to spend hundreds of millions on infrastructure in Windsor yet we snub them and we fight them – Why not work with them? Help me understand this...

Help me understand why investors would come to Windsor where a sign states: ‘no trucks on our expressway’. This is one of most anti-auto things Windsor could possibly do; make no mistake -- it is hurting investment opportunities in this City. Help me understand this. How can you tell Ford that they can use your roads for the Essex engine plant but not those related to Oakville. GM can do the same for their transmission plant but not those related to Oshawa. DCX can do the same for the Pacifica plant but not their plant in Bramalea. How stupid can your politicians be? Help me understand how the MTDM sector can grow with these types of ridiculous by-laws

Help me understand how Windsor can have one of the highest local tax loads in all of Ontario, tax loads that are driving businesses out of Windsor, indeed driving many in Windsor like all of you in this room out of business, tax loads to pay for Toronto lawyers, New York consultants and proposed flights to Japan to get automotive investors to come and build non-existent plants when the auto sector can’t drive their trucks on our expressway -- EC Row. Help me understand this...

Help me understand why City Council has wasted millions of dollars on the Schwartz 8 km ring road to nowhere while your automotive sector has been crumbling around them. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. Your City council has added years to a viable solution to the border and the automotive sector is the biggest loser. Help me understand why they have done this...

Seventh, get rid of the foolish and selfish ‘no trucks’ bylaw – just for a moment pretend you want automotive investments. The automotive industry across Ontario needs access to EC Row and yes that means trucks on EC Row, get over it – in fact trucks are already using it. They will not invest in Windsor until this happens. This is the first and easiest step.

Eight, build out EC-Row to its full potential and extend Lauzon Parkway. EC Row was designed for 8 lanes. Why do this? Simple, to open up land that can be developed to help attract investment and jobs which the city desperately needs. You have the second highest unemployment rate in Ontario. Why would you eliminate the only land available for investment is a mystery to me.

The Town of Tecumseh wants EC Row expanded. Lakeshore wants it expanded. Industry wants it expanded. Our senior Governments want it expanded and will pay for much if not all of it. Windsor cannot afford the $100m in capital costs. So, why the city wants to protect the grass between the lanes on EC Row but wants to bulldoze the Ojibway nature preserve for a expressway to nowhere remains yet another mystery."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How To Save The Tunnel


It's incredible.

November volumes at the Tunnel are down another 60,000. Since July when Eddie increased the tolls, if the numbers hold, about 10% of Tunnel volume will have been lost by year-end. We won't need to spend the $30M on Tunnel Plaza Improvement since there will not be any traffic going there if this keeps up.

It is obvious that the Tunnel is in big trouble. Its revenues are down and so is its volume of traffic. Remember back earlier in the year at the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit when the Mayor boasted about the $6.6M dividend Windsor receives..... Bet he cannot brag about it now!

Back in February 2005, Eddie said "given the amount of work that department faces, I think it's time to assign a specific individual or individuals to better manage the affairs of our greatest revenue-producing asset." I wonder if that was done? If not, is this another failure in management that has proven to be harmful to the Tunnel?

I do not think anyone has been hired yet. So who is minding the shop there as taxpayer dividends and value are going down the toilet: The Mayor/Chair of the WTC, the Board, anyone? When is the new person supposed to be hired, you know the one who is to "breathe" the Tunnel (I hope though for his/her sake, not too deeply since the exhaust from the Tunnel is not scrubbed!) It has only been about 2 years..almost as long it seems as hiring a CEO for the Development Commission. Perhaps Remo Mancini can do both jobs!

Do you honestly believe that the President of the private enterprise Ambassador Bridge would sit idly by as revenues decreased and traffic went down by 10 % in 6 months? And some of you still want a Public Authority and a public bridge? Wow!!

This has a compound effect. If traffic numbers are down then the Tunnel Duty Free Shop has a probability of a lot fewer customers coming to buy there. Again the City hurts because its revenues from the Duty Free go down too.

Perhaps if the Chair of the WTC would reveal the audit report on the Tunnel---without a MFOIA request to stall things---you, dear reader, might be able to help out with some brilliant ideas.

Anyway, we know that is not going to be done so let's be a bit creative. Or rather, let us "borrow" the ideas of others since they have figured out what to do. Our best and closest example is the Bridge Co. How have they been able to keep their traffic numbers up and how have they been able to sell a lot of merchandise through their Bridge Duty Free shop:

SELL DUTY FREE GASOLINE!

Do you remember a Letter to the Editor in the Star: "The Ambassador Bridge will certainly see an increase in business now. After all, gas is cheaper at the duty free to the extent that the savings pays for your toll and then they throw in a food voucher worth a couple of bucks and a 50-cent discount coupon."

Have you ever wanted to buy gas at their duty free gas bars and had to wait until an empty pump opened up? Or waited in line to pay your money for the gas in the Shop and just bought some cigarettes or a bottle of alcohol while you were waiting?

Oh please, do you remember when the Bridge Co. tried to do this on the Canadian side and were shot down in flames? Undercutting local merchants was the big cry against them. Why they even went to Court and lost against Revenue Canada.

But it is a different world now at the Tunnel and they are desperate for cash. I am sure that Administration can prepare a Report saying a Duty Free Gas Bar will not take away local business. The argument would be "There is not enough of a savings for motorists to take the Tunnel, pay the toll, buy their gas at the Tunnel and smuggle the gasoline back through customs...It'll cost you more in time [and]... Duty-free gasoline does not compete with domestic retailers." [Those arguments are courtesy of the Bridge Co. too so Administration can use them !]

Hey I've got another one--to avoid long lines at Customs and to make it easy for people to cross in order to boost numbers, the Tunnel should co-operate in the Bridge Co's 200 booth proposal. That's a lot smarter and cheaper than subsidizing NEXUS passes as the Mayor talked about.

But the Tunnel better be quick. "The Ambassador Bridge does not have gas pumps in Windsor, but it installed diesel fuel underground tanks and built the concrete pads and canopy for diesel pumps back in 1997 when it lobbied the federal government for tax exemption on the sale of gasoline." So they are ready and able to start right away!

And if the Tunnel refuses to co-operate on the booths, then Bridge users alone will be able to use the 100 booths in either direction to cross quickly while Tunnel users line up and read on the Mayor's proposed signage how long it will take them to cross over. We don't want Tunnel users stressed do we.

Why Canada Needs The Senate (Part II)



I am going to let you read the Senate debates for yourself so that you can make up your own mind about what I believe is great news for Windsor. Finally!


Look especially at what the Government has committed to do as demanded by the Senators!



Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 60
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


International Bridges and Tunnels Bill
Report of Committee Adopted
On the Order:

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate earlier this day.

Hon. Lise Bacon moved the adoption of the report.

She said: Honourable senators, the amendments adopted by the committee are technical and they do not change the substance of the bill. In the English version, subsection 7(1.1) and 24(1.1) have been amended. The terminology used in these provisions was not consistent with the terminology found elsewhere in the bill.

In subsection 7(1.1) and 24(1.1) in the bill, as amended by the House of Commons, there is a reference to levels of governments that have authority. The problem is that the terminology used elsewhere in the bill is not consistent with the term "authority," and the term "jurisdiction" is used instead.

In order to ensure that no element of uncertainty is introduced in the meaning of the provisions by the presence of the two distinct terms, the proposed amendments are necessary.

[Translation]

The French version also has a legal problem having to do with the terminology. The municipalities are not covered in the current wording of subsections 7(1.1) and 24(1.1) of the bill. There is a reference to levels of government that have authority. It is well established in Canadian terminology, in the French language, that there are only two levels of government in Canada: the federal government and the provincial governments. Furthermore, we cannot talk about the federal minister consulting with the other levels of government because notwithstanding the federal government, there is only one other level of government. It is therefore impossible to use the plural in this sentence.

Finally, in section 15(2), in French, the expression "l'administration municipale" is replaced with "la municipalité". This is a correction to the translation.

[English]

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, my speech says I am pleased to rise, but I am not overly excited about rising to debate this bill, as it presently exists. However, I am happy to talk on Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act.

I would like to make it clear at the outset that I am not opposed to the premise or the content of this bill. However, I am dismayed by the quickness with which we are passing it through the Senate.

My colleagues will suggest we have already studied this bill in detail both here and in the other place. While that may be true, that does not necessarily mean that it is a reason to push the bill through the process.

Let us review what has happened thus far. Several amendments were made in the other place to improve upon some aspects of the bill, which included, for example, the concerns of municipalities. While in the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, we heard from stakeholders, including the Minister of Transport.

In the other place, and here in the Senate and in committee, much concern was expressed over the Windsor-Detroit corridor, as well as the other crossings in Canada. The Windsor crossing was mentioned several times, not only by the bridge operators but also by the Mayor of Windsor himself. This is not surprising as this is the most important passage of trade goods between Canada and the United States.

Traffic concerns were discussed and, most importantly, security matters in this era of heightened diligence post-9/11. That being said, you may wonder why I seem to be impeding the passage of this important piece of legislation. I do not think I am.

Honourable senators, as far as I am aware, the existing legislation has served us well. Special acts of Parliament are approved currently to build a bridge or tunnel. During the process, regulations are and have to be followed, including but not limited to addressing security concerns and monitoring environmental impacts on the region.

My overall concern with this bill is the processes that are currently being completed. If we pass this new legislation, what is to happen to those processes? Significant amounts of money and time have already been invested by government and by the private sector.

As an aside, honourable senators, I find it interesting that I, a very left-leaning Liberal, will be giving a speech defending private enterprise in Windsor, Ontario, while the government members, who are the free enterprise party, are pushing this and want to get this through the Senate very quickly. I look at myself in the mirror as I debate this motion and wonder what has gone wrong.

With respect to the people who are proposing new things in Windsor, in particular, do they have to endure the process again, the very processes that were already followed to the letter and in concurrence with existing statutes?

Our own briefings in committee on this topic stated that there are currently a number of proposals under consideration for the construction or alteration of new and existing facilities. We heard from one, the Ambassador Bridge. Why did we not hear from the others?

Honourable senators, let me be clear; I am not opposed to anyone, any private company or our own government to follow the rule of the law. My concern is that we are doubling our efforts and impeding the process already in place. As well, are we standing in the way of free enterprise and private sector investment? Are we also increasing government spending at this point in time when we do not need to, when private enterprise is willing to do it for us?

The purpose of this bill, to my understanding, is to streamline the process. However, we cannot forget that many are already following the very processes the bill proposes to outline.

Honourable senators, I am also concerned that funding for the Windsor corridor and for many of the crossings in Canada previously announced may be in trouble. We have seen decreases in numbers of crossings at various places, including the tunnel from Windsor to Detroit. By the way, the committee that oversees that tunnel is chaired by guess who? The Mayor of Windsor. I would suggest perhaps the Mayor of Windsor may have a conflict as he debates how other people see this.

In September of 2002, $300 million was approved over five years as part of an overall federal-provincial plan for border crossings, signed by Premier Eves of Ontario and by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on behalf of the Government of Canada. This deal will end in 2007. Has the funding been spent? If not, is it in trouble of being withheld if we pass this bill?

Some of my colleagues suggest that has nothing to do with the bill; I respectfully disagree. While no bill before us will be perfect and no bill will resolve our problems, I am concerned this bill may impede certain aspects of regulatory authority already working well. That is why I proposed an amendment in committee to section 57 to clarify that the current process be allowed to continue and be approved, using the current process. Then the law emanating from Bill C-3 would apply to all proposals. That was to remove the part of the bill that was retroactive. Most of us do not feel comfortable passing retroactive laws. This seems reasonable and fair.

(2130)

However, this amendment was not approved by the committee and, therefore, I will not impose the same amendment on the chamber. Since it did not pass the committee, I suspect it would not pass the chamber. However, I ask that honourable senators review what has happened with this bill and think about what I have said when you vote at report stage and at third reading of this bill.

Honourable senators, this seems to be a very straightforward bill but, quite frankly, it is a bill designed to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to impede the process of a private company in the Windsor-Detroit corridor and to allow the Government of Canada in conjunction with the City of Windsor to get involved in the profitable business of border crossings at the busiest border crossing in our country.

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I want to thank the members of the committee, who were very diligent in studying this bill. We spent some seven meetings on it. It is a fairly simple bill and has been before us in one form or another twice before.


We did not always agree on certain aspects of the bill and some of the issues were contentious. However, at the end of the day, the committee agreed that the bill only merited a few technical amendments, which were left over from amendments, as the chairman of the committee has mentioned, from the House of Commons. We also added observations to the bill, on which we all agreed. I think that will help the government as it moves to implement the legislation, which reflected some of the concerns that some members had about certain aspects of the bill.

I want to especially thank Senator Bacon, the chair of the committee, who sets a standard for this chamber in reasonableness and common sense. We worked together on the observations, and they were passed unanimously.

Having said that, I also want to add that the Minister of Transport has asked me to convey to the Senate that upon passage of Bill C-3 the government will undertake to move as quickly as possible to ease congestion at all of Canada's bridge and tunnel crossings with the United States, particularly at Windsor and Fort Erie.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I do not mean to impede the passage of this bill, but I am in a bit of a quandary, having heard Senator Mercer and the sponsor of this bill, Senator Tkachuk.

As honourable senators know, a key issue for productivity in this country is bridge crossings. Sixty-seven per cent of all goods by traffic flow through two border points: Windsor-Detroit and Buffalo-Niagara. These border points have not been expanded — I do not use the word "modernization" — in over 70 years. While our trade is racing ahead by leaps and bounds, these are still two choke points on the ground.

We have several situations, as Senator Mercer pointed out. The bridge is in private hands; the tunnel in Windsor is in city hands; and the other bridge is in other hands.

The report was interesting in that it is somewhat contradictory of the public interest. I am not clear because I did not sit on the committee and have not had a chance to read all the testimony. I am looking to the comments in the report, and it reads:

On the question of the federal government's potential involvement in future international crossing projects, your Committee heard suggestions that the provisions in the bill that allow the Minister of Transport to recommend to the Governor in Council whether or not to approve a project would lead to a substantial conflict of interest for the Minister. On this point, officials noted that Transport Canada currently does not own or operate a single international bridge or tunnel. The existing federal structures belong to Crown corporations, which are autonomous even if the Minister of Transport is responsible for them. To quote an official, "the Minister has absolutely no authority over the day-to-day activities of these organizations, including those dealing with safety and security." Therefore, given the autonomous ownership and operational arrangements established for existing federal structures, your Committee is confident that the Minister of Transport will not be in a position of conflict of interest in the future. However, the Minister of Transport should be particularly sensitive to any situation where the federal government is in a situation where there is the appearance of conflict, especially when the interests of a private enterprise are at stake.

I am respectful of all of that, but, again, it is a clash here between the private interest and the national interest. The national interest demands that there be expansion of these two bridges. I am delighted to receive Senator Tkachuk's statement from the minister. However, I ask him this: Would the sponsor of the bill give the Senate of Canada assurance that the Government of Canada is committed to a speedy expansion of border crossings at the Windsor-Detroit and Buffalo-Niagara regions, which would be in the great interest of Canada's productivity and economy?

Senator Tkachuk: Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there further debate?

Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and report adopted.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

On motion of Senator Eyton, bill, as amended, placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.

[Translation]



Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 61
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker



International Bridges and Tunnels Bill
Third Reading

Hon. J. Trevor Eyton moved third reading of Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise during third reading debate of Bill C-3, an act respecting international bridges and tunnels.

We heard something of the act yesterday when that well-known free enterpriser, Senator Mercer, as well as Senator Tkachuk commented on the bill. I will try not to repeat their remarks.

As you have heard, the Transport and Communications Committee met seven times to study this bill, starting November 8, 2006, when they heard testimony from Minister Cannon and Transport Canada officials. The committee also heard from core stakeholders: the Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association, an association that groups 11 of Ontario's busiest crossings; the City of Windsor; the Canadian Transit Company, owner and operator of the Ambassador Bridge; and the Teamsters Union. These are the same stakeholders that made representations to the House Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities. These stakeholders have in common, a direct interest with Windsor and Windsor border issues. Much of the discussion in committee, therefore, focused on Windsor, its current traffic problems, the need for additional border security, initiatives led by governments on both sides of the border and by private entrepreneurs to build the next border crossing, issues about how this new crossing will be financed and who will ultimately own it.

Honourable senators, committee members listened to the particular concerns expressed by each of these stakeholders. The committee heard the City of Windsor's desire to be consulted in connection with all decisions made by the federal government with respect to any international bridges and tunnels either new or existing in its territory. Committee members heard of the city's fear that Bill C-3 would allow the federal government to extend its jurisdiction over international bridges and tunnels to municipal roads leading to those structures. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge fear that the federal government will use Bill C-3 as a means to build a new crossing that will compete and ultimately run the existing bridge out of business. The Teamsters' concerns are for the safety, security and privacy of its workers currently employed by these structures. All of these concerns are legitimate.

The Windsor region supports much of Canada's and Ontario's trade with the United States, our largest trading partner. Canada's economy would definitely suffer without the international bridges and tunnels that facilitate that trade.

That being said, Bill C-3 does not only apply to the international bridges and tunnels in the Windsor area. It applies to all of Canada's international bridges and tunnels, totalling 24. Some are new and existing; some are privately and publicly owned. That is why we must keep the bigger picture in mind.

(1430)

The existing international bridges and tunnels were built in a different age. While they continue to serve us well, they require ongoing maintenance and will need to be updated, if not replaced.

The issue of aging infrastructure and how to pay for the renewal of this infrastructure is not only a concern to Canada, but also an issue that plagues all developed countries. A simplified approval process for new construction and alteration, as Bill C-3 suggests, will facilitate the infrastructure renewal.

On the same note, the requirement that the federal government approve new international bridges and tunnels is not new. Every international bridge and tunnel that exists today needed permission from the federal government to be built. That permission was traditionally granted in the form of a special act of Parliament. That fact is reflected in the approximately 50 special acts listed in the schedule to the bill.

Bill C-3 does not change the fact that government permission must still be obtained. It does modify the manner in which the permission is to be given, replacing the need to ask Parliament for a special act with an administrative approval process similar to the presidential permit process that has been in place in the United States since the 1970s.

In committee, we learned that the U.S. presidential permit process is also going through changes. Presidential permits now must be obtained for all substantial modification to these structures and changes in their ownership and operation. The policy underlying Bill C-3 will be more consistent with what our American friends are doing on their side of the border. The department officials further informed us that the process Bill C-3 proposes will also serve to coordinate the various approvals and permits that must be obtained for any new construction, as is the case in the U.S. This new approval process will provide a more streamlined and efficient way to obtain these approvals, an added bonus for regions where the structures are urgently needed.

One of the main differences between Bill C-3 and its predecessor bills, Bill C-26 and Bill C-44, which the Senate did not have the opportunity to review, is the requirement that all transactions and resulting changes to the ownership or operation of the structures are now subject to government approval. It only makes sense that if we are increasing federal oversight powers with respect to maintenance, operation, safety and security of international bridges or tunnels, the federal government should also approve who owns and operates these structures. Under many original special acts, government approval is already needed for sales and transfers. These structures, whether they are owned publicly or privately, serve a public purpose. That is why the federal government should be involved in this aspect, as well as to ensure that they are owned by persons who do not pose security risks, or that do not have the long-term operation of these structures in mind.

Bill C-3 also speaks to the fact that the original legislation does not address modern-day concerns such as safety and security. My committee colleagues will agree with me that no stakeholder expressed concerns with government intervention in this regard. The application of consistent safety and security standards and best practices, as well as the sharing of related information between the international bridges and tunnels and the federal government, will further help protect against safety risks and security threats.

Honourable senators, I will end by saying that any time the government is given powers to intervene in an otherwise unregulated sector, we expect some negative reaction, in particular from those who have been operating without the burden of regulation. It becomes important to review whether those powers are reasonable in the circumstances, and whether they achieve the stated goals so as to be in the best interests of Canadians. In my opinion, Bill C-3 achieves a decent balance taking those factors into account.

Honourable senators, thank you for devoting the time to consider this bill. I encourage senators to pass it.

Senator Oliver: Hear, hear!

Hon. Norman K. Atkins: Would the Honourable Senator Eyton, take a question?

Senator Prud'homme: Of course. Two gentlemen.

Senator Atkins: Does this bill provide the mechanism that will speed up new construction between Windsor and Detroit, or does it slow it down?

Senator Eyton: The bill itself does not provide for acceleration of any particular project, but the process itself should allow for speedier consideration and approval of projects. A number of them are at hand right now.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Would Senator Eyton not agree that the retroactivity clause in this bill takes the Ambassador Bridge proposal for a second bridge and makes it now go through this new process, as opposed to just completing the process that they were almost through until this bill was drafted?

Senator Eyton: There is a section in the bill that tries to avoid retroactivity. It excuses any bridge or tunnel that is now operating from the full application of the act.

It is also true that those projects coming on will need to go through the approval process. The committee, in studying the matter, commented on that point in the observations, and will encourage speedy consideration so that the new projects can proceed as quickly as possible.

Senator Mercer: Would Senator Eyton not agree that the witnesses we heard provided some interesting testimony? The mayor of the City of Windsor came to us as the Mayor of Windsor, but as we talked to him, we discovered that he is not just the Mayor of Windsor but is also the chairman of a tunnel and bridge corporation that is publicly owned. Therefore, there was a conflict, because there is competition between the privately and publicly owned bridges.

I wonder whether the honourable senator did not find that testimony sort of curious?

Senator Eyton: That concern was expressed, but I have always taken the view that conflict revealed and transparent avoids much of the problem.

There is a process here. Obviously, it is not just the one individual who will be making the decisions. There is a concerted public interest in ensuring that we have not only the existing structures in place and working, but also new ones in place to provide redundancy and real competition.

All of us are on the same side. The conflict that the honourable senator has identified can be handled.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Senator Eyton, this may save the Senate time so that I will not have to speak on third reading. I would like to refer to the Senate debates of yesterday. Our learned friend Senator Tkachuk said the following, and I am reading from Hansard at page 1522:

... I also want to add that the Minister of Transport has asked me to convey to the Senate that upon passage of Bill C-3 the government will undertake to move as quickly as possible to ease congestion at all of Canada's bridge and tunnel crossings with the United States, particularly at Windsor and Fort Erie.

Later on, I requested an undertaking of him.

(1440)

This appears on page 1523 of yesterday's Hansard. This is directed toward my honourable friend Senator Tkachuk:

Would the sponsor of the bill give the Senate of Canada assurance that the Government of Canada is committed to a speedy expansion of border crossings at the Windsor-Detroit and Buffalo-Niagara regions, which would be in the great interest of Canada's productivity and economy?

I ask the honourable senator if he is prepared to repeat those commitments on behalf of the government.

Senator Eyton: The question was posed to me, Senator Grafstein. Senator Tkachuk's answer yesterday was the one word, "Yes." I suppose I can repeat it by saying, "Yes." I also observe there are a number of projects going on now.

The honourable senator's concern is legitimate. I think the government had made the commitment given those projects need to proceed.

Senator Grafstein: In light of those commitments, I understand the complexity of the bill, but I want to reiterate one more time for the government that it is in our national interest to have those two major points expanded as quickly as possible. I understand the private interests. I understand the complex interests. I understand the quandary Senator Mercer has raised. However, in the national interest, it is in our interest to make sure those border points are expanded as quickly as possible.

In light of the government's commitment to do that, which I hope will bind subsequent governments as well, I am prepared to support this bill.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.

More Of The Unthinkable


I like it when readers write, especially if they have some background in a specialized area that I do not have. It allows me to continue to provide information to my readers that they won't find anywhere else in town!

Obviously this anonymous reader knows something about the road situation in Windsor so I thought I would set out what he/she says (No-name email accounts are wonderful that way!).

Is all of what is written below pie-in-the-sky dreaming? Hardly. I would expect that there are plans lying around right now to do exactly what is being proposed by my reader! A quick EA on the route and it's all done! Check out the drawing above provided by the writer as well...makes a lot of sense doesn't it!

Remember the Federal Government's Cansult Report that killed the Schwartz Plan. It proposed the following for E C Row:


1.5 E.C. Row Expressway
  • 1.5.1 The E.C. Row Expressway carries the largest traffic volumes in the City of Windsor and currently experiences near capacity conditions and is subject to recurring congestion.
    As such, improvements to this facility may have great potential to improve traffic
    operations in the City.
  • 1.5.2 The E.C. Row was planned and designed to allow for expansion to 6 lanes with a short
    section of a collector distributor system.
  • 1.5.3 Options exist to improve the E.C. Row/Huron Church Interchange to meet short/medium term traffic needs without adversely impacting traffic operations on either facility.
  • 1.5.4 Widening of E.C. Row could be coordinated with the expressway rehabilitation needs.
  • 1.5.5 Plans for improvements to Talbot Road could provide additional corridor capacity to
    allow E.C. Row widening within several years at a minimum level of disruption. However,
    improvements to Talbot Road do not eliminate the need to widen E.C. Row.
  • 1.5.6 Widening of E.C. Row to a 6 lane section is justified to relieve local traffic congestion,
    and could reasonably be assessed in an environmental assessment process prior to
    completion of the DRIC study.
  • 1.5.7 E.C. Row widening could be justified due to its benefits to the City of Windsor residents, regardless of the selected international border crossing.
  • 1.5.8 Widening of E.C. Row would result in increased traffic volumes resulting in increased
    noise levels on adjacent areas unless appropriate mitigation measures can be
    implemented. Impacts on vehicle emissions would require further investigation.
  • 1.5.9 Widening of E.C. Row would provide for redundancy in the access system to the border crossing.
  • 1.5.10 In summary, the E.C. Row Expressway is a candidate for inclusion in the “early action” program to relieve traffic congestion in Windsor.

This is an issue that one of the Newbies or Mayor wannabees might be interested in taking up if one is truly looking for an answer for a border road and how to help out Windsor as well. After all, Eddie is nothing but a lame duck Mayor now anyway who is managing his future career goals. It's time that Council looked after Windsor after three years of Francis failures on the most important issue of his job!

My Reader Writes:

EC Row facts to help you

The original 9-point plan involved simply paving an additional lane in each direction from Lauzon to Huron Church at a cost of approximately $150 million. This was the scenario on the table in 2005 and was rightly dismissed as a lame, irresponsible and potentially dangerous solution.

EC Row has been identified in the 2005 Essex Windsor Regional Transportation Master Plan as needing widening along the entire corridor within the next 10-15 years just to deal with regional traffic growth alone. The current Level of Service (LOS), a measure of how well a road is operating and moving traffic, for most sections of EC Row is currently D or lower (including many failing sections). LOS ratings run from A to F, with C being the minimum acceptable for long term planning.

Considering the current state of the expressway (pavement degradation, guardrails falling apart, lack of lighting east of Central, interchanges too close, lack of weaving space between ramps etc etc.) widening EC Row to meet EWRTMP recommendations to address regional need is going to actually now going to likely need the complete reconstruction of the expressway. Cost to rebuild EC Row with the current layout will probably run $500 million or more.

EC Row is required if any development at all is planned for the 6600 acres of Annexed Lands east of the WIndsor Airport. The Annexed Lands master plan includes provisions for an extended Lauzon Parkway connecting EC Row to the 401. Any planned intermodal facility that may be spawned from the Rail Rationalization study will also need Lauzon Parkway extended to the 401.

The Right of Way exists for a significant widening of EC Row from Dougall eastward. The only area where R.O.W. is constricted is between Dougall and Huron Church, which is also the closest that residential areas come to EC Row.

Any improvements to EC Row will likely result in closures of the Dougall interchange, and very possibly the Dominion interchange. The Howard, Dougall, Dominion and Huron Church interchanges are too close to each other for proper and safe operations.

The EC Row alignment does not run through any ANSI or parkland designated areas.

EC Row remarkably, more so than any other alignment, feeds all of the existing and proposed crossings (Ambassador Bridge, Ferry, Tunnel, DRIC Ojibway Bridge). It can be expected that regardless of improvements to the Huron Church/Talbot corridor, a significant amount of truck traffic will always use EC Row and most prominently, local truck traffic.

This all begs the questions;

When the city does decide it needs to address the situation with EC Row where will the funding come from 10 years from now?

How long will the city deny a Lauzon Parkway extension and connection to the 401 and in the process limit potential development of the Annexed Lands or potential creation of an intermodal facility?

Has any study been done to estimate the number of potential jobs expected from a fully built out Annexed Lands? If the number is significant, why has the city not moved more quickly to service those lands which includes road infrastructure?

Does the city have a current plan for dealing with the additional expressway traffic that will likely result from the planned improvements to Manning Road and County Road 22 east of Manning?

What is the city's current liability given the existing safety design deficiencies on EC Row, including lack of lighting east of Central, rusted guardrails, narrow shoulders and a Dougall/Howard ramp set-up that is too close to each other for safe operations?

Could EC Row be reconstructed as a below-grade freeway, with dedicated/physically separated truck lanes, having the local roads (Howard, Walker, Dougall, Dominion) going over the freeway instead of under, and thereby improve city aesthetics, not to mention reduce existing noise levels?

Would it not make more sense to argue for a 1km tunnel for dedicated expressway lanes between Dougall and Huron Church rather than a 10+ km tunnel from the 401 to EC Row along Talbot/Huron Church?

Could an expansion be done for the most part within the existing ROW? Wouldn't the level of impacts (properties purchased) be significantly less than any DRIC alternative?

Could construction be done while maintaining international traffic on the existing corridor?

Could the potential closure of the Dougall and Dominion interchanges lend itself to plans for the Zalev lands north of the expressway?

Could there be tie-ins with the Rail Rationalization study, such as creating a platform for a east-west regional Light Rail Transit corridor adjacent to the expressway?

Would the cost of addressing all of the above be around the same cost as the current DRIC below-grade estimates? Even if slightly higher, wouldn't the MTO be willing to spend the money to save from having to come rescue Windsor 10 years from now on the EC Row funding issue?

Is Twinning The "In-thing"



Well, we can see that oil is more important to Canada's economy than traffic across our border.

I do like what Minister Cannon said since it would apply so well here if only Transport Canada would only get its act together and build the 15-16 KM road to the bridge. Here's the latest monetary donation that we did not get:

Feds share load of Alberta highway twinning

By: Steven Macleod, (trucknews.com)
FORT McMURRAY, Alta. -- The federal government is pledging $150 million towards a $320 million project that will twin a 250-km portion of pavement along Hwy. 63.

The highway is the main thoroughfare between Alberta's capital city and Fort McMurray. With the oilsands boom, increased traffic along the road has made Hwy. 63 one of Alberta's more dangerous routes.

The remaining $170 million will be produced by the Alberta government. Upon the announcement, Federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said he hoped the twinning would also help attract new businesses, expand existing ones, retain the region's youth and encourage immigration

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Saying The Unthinkable In Windsor


Seriously, does it make sense to spend so much money and to disrupt so many lives just to take away business from the Ambassador Bridge Co.?

Oh, am I personalizing it too much? You better believe it!

Let me see, building a crossing a mile or so down the road from the existing bridge, taking over 150 acres of land on the US side for a plaza when hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent already on the Ambassador Gateway project, destroying Delray, perhaps taking 80 acres of prime industrial property in Windsor and sandwiching Sandwich between two bridges. Hundreds of families and businesses on both sides of the border will be disrupted and required to move. Chaos for years. Billions being thrown about...oh it's ok though...it's only P3 money. I can think of better uses for the money frankly

Have we lost all sense of proportion?

NIMBYism, destruction of neighbourhoods, citizen groups fighting citizen groups. Where is our Mayor and Council...spending millions on lawyers fighting our unknown enemies with a failed Schwartz Plan that was finished within the first week of its release. They are still trying to figure out if it is dead or not after all of this time.

The biggest and most divisive issue though on our side that it seems we can never solve is the road to the border. Where should it go? The road to the bridge has always been the corridor that DRIC favours and WALTS did years ago so the City can hardly object. There was the DRTP alternative. The Governments seemed to favour E C Row during the JMC and Nine-Point Plan days. Then came tunnelling as our solution, not sure where exactly. It seems like a loser now with the costs so high and the environmental impact worse than expected.

What is our Mayor's plan for a border solution---
  • "There is no reason why the new border solution cannot enhance our city, improve our environment, and make Windsor an even greater city!

    And that is what I – and this new Council – intend for it to do!"
Well now we know. Nothing, but react.

So why don't I start something, be controversial. Let me write the words you never thought I would say....

Let's use E C Row as our main road to the border crossing.

Before the Mayor gets apoplectic and my STOPDRTP friends get furious at me, let's remember why we were opposed to the use of that road for international trucks:
  1. It was the path to DRTP north (Lauzon/E C Row became the connector to Highway 401) and the precursor for building DRTP south

  2. We need the road capacity for local usage, not for Montreal-to-Tijuana trucks

  3. We cannot have cars and trucks mixing on it; it would be too dangerous.

Now if can solve those 3 problems, should there be any objections? We can have a rebuilt expressway using the money that would have been used for the DRIC road. The Province and Feds would upload it so that we don't have to waste local tax money to support international traffic. They would have to maintain it, all of it, not just the truck part at their expense, not ours.

As for DRTP, I am not concerned about it any longer. It's finished. As for capacity, I understand that the existing road allowance should generally be enough for 10 lanes. Where it is not some homes may have to be expropriated but far fewer than other road alternatives. It would be expanded to 3 lanes in each direction for cars so we have our capacity increased with 2 in each direction for trucks in separate and dedicated lanes.

I know someone who is quite familiar with Windsor and our roads. I asked the person to write a note for me to see if the use of E C Row made sense. Here is what the expert wrote:

  • The Case for E.C. Row

    Early on in the process to find an appropriate road to the border, the Expressway was discounted as a possible choice.

    Why? People had a vision of E.C. Row Expressway with all the border trucks in absolute gridlock.

    Was this a valid vision? Not completely, but it is probably because we were transposing the Huron Church traffic onto our present day E.C. Row Expressway in our minds.

    So in its place, consultants including Sam Schwartz have chosen to use the “Existing” border route, Huron Church to handle the brunt of the traffic. The problem with the existing border route is that homes, properties, businesses have lived along side it for a long time. Development has built up the areas adjacent to the Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor in such a way that in order to make this into a proper border route, lots of land must be expropriated.

    Using Existing corridors is nothing new, DRTP wanted to use an existing corridor when it was making its case chose to use the Rail Corridor from the 401 to the Detroit River. DRIC is using the Highway 3 / Huron Church corridor as their preferred choice. And initially, the City’s choice was E.C. Row Expressway. However that plan was dropped in favour of the Highway 3 / Huron Church existing corridor.

    Unfortunately, many people’s vision of E.C. Row Expressway with all the border traffic transposed on it is a bit flawed. Most assume that the initial plan would have seen a connection built between E.C. Row and the 401 and no other improvements, thus filtering all traffic from the 401 through the City to the border. WRONG.

    People must understand that E.C. Row was designed to accommodate up to 8 lanes of traffic within the existing right of way, meaning that for the most part, very little property would be required to accommodate a widened expressway. If it were to be redesigned, most people would agree that it would be a major redesign and might not look at all like the expressway we see today. So if the Expressway were to be the border route, wouldn’t it be expected that it would upgraded to the same degree as what they are proposing to do to Highway 3 / Huron Church?

    Secondly, if you look at the properties adjacent to E.C. Row, most are industrial or commercial in nature, save and except for areas between Huron Church Road and Dominion; and between Devonshire Mall and Walker Road. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to put this traffic in an area that has the least amount of residential impact?

    The Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor has much more residential property in close proximity to it than E.C. Row. There is of course some industrial and some commercial, but predominantly the DRIC corridor is adjacent to residential neighbourhoods.

    So why choose the Highway 3 / Huron Church Corridor over E.C. Row?

    So far the arguments have been to take trucks off City Streets to decrease the impact on the City of Windsor by the border route.

    The question becomes does the DRIC plan actually take trucks off City Streets? Does the DRIC plan have the least affect on the City of Windsor? Does it improve the quality of life?

    Lets look at the more specific aspects of each corridor.

    Trucks on City Streets:

    Does the DRIC plan address truck traffic in the City of Windsor? No, what most people do not understand the amount of truck traffic that is generated within Windsor itself, how much truck traffic comes in and out of Windsor each day? So if we expand the Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor, will it pull trucks off City Streets. The answer to that is NO. Trucks that you see today on Walker, Provincial, Dougall, Howard will still continue to be there because those trucks are traveling to areas adjacent to E.C. Row Expressway. This border plan does nothing to address removing trucks from City Streets because it fails to recognize the amount of truck traffic needing to get to the Expressway right now.

    If E.C. Row was the chosen border route, then trucks could be provided with a Choice: If you are going internationally, choose these lanes, if you are going local, choose these lanes. These lanes of course would have to be physically separated. What would this achieve? Trucks heading for Windsor to and from the 401 would be able to by-pass the neighbourhoods next to Walker, Provincial, Dougall and Howard and connect with the E.C. Row or the 401 directly to get to their destination.

    Property:

    Clearly the DRIC’s Huron Church / Highway 3 corridor will require a great deal of property. According to recent reports, 210 homes and 45 businesses will have to be purchased to widen the corridor sufficiently to accommodate the 401 extension to the border.

    The E.C. Row of course was already designed to handle up to 8 lanes of traffic. Now, this may not necessarily mean that there wouldn’t be any land expropriation, but would it be better to expropriate a few properties or would it be better to destroy 210 homes and 45 businesses?

    City Traffic:

    Many people have transposed the backlog of border trucks directly on to E.C. Row Expressway without any changes to its design to accommodate it. If international truck traffic were to be given the choice to use E.C. Row, would you not expect the same level of work and design that is currently being reviewed for the DRIC? Why not transpose the Cut and Cover tunnel on the E.C. Row Expressway? The issue is that no in depth study has been undertaken to review the potential of using our existing expressway to accommodate the border traffic. There have been no detailed designs, no traffic analysis to determine what would be needed to bring E.C. Row’s design up to that which could handle this traffic.

    Overall, would city traffic be improved with an E.C. Row border route? Well, we can get rid of the trucks off city streets if we used E.C. Row. The province could pay to upgrade E.C. Row in such a way as to improve it for the greater good of all residents in the City.

    Pollution:

    One of the other major concerns related to the border is of course air pollution. While adding trucks to E.C. Row expressway will increase pollution in the direct vicinity of the Expressway, what about the net benefit to the areas of South Windsor that will now be free of trucks in their neighbourhoods? The fact is that the E.C. Row corridor is already riddled with industry: Zalev’s, Ford Plant, Chrysler Plan (nearby) and many others already create enough pollution anyway. So concentrating truck traffic in one central area, rather than spreading it around in the West End with the DRIC route, and along Walker, Dougall, Provincial and Howard is supposed to be better somehow? The logic isn’t there.

    One thing that cannot be avoided: idling trucks create air pollution. Will trucks idling on the expressway create air pollution: Yes. Will idling trucks on the new DRIC corridor create air pollution: Yes. So which is the lessor of two evils? AND how can either route be designed to mitigate those problems?

    Either way the border plan shapes up, we are going to have trucks somewhere in this City. But at the end of the day are we getting the best deal out of this? Or are we getting what we are being told is the best deal, while the real deal is right under our noses.

    Economic Development:

    The E.C. Row Expressway was built for our manufacturing industry. Which of course is why we see the large amount of industrial areas next to it. Having an improved connection to and from the 401 and to and from E.C. Row Expressway can only help our local industry as it copes with its border image problems. Why not give our industry a boost by giving it a transportation network that it can really use? The DRIC border plan does nothing to help encourage industrial growth in our City. Industry wants to be on the 401, or a major highway that connects to the 401.

    Why does the Oldcastle area industrial exist? Because its next to the 401 and it has a good connection to the border.

    Why is the Town of Lakeshore looking at building an industrial park next to the 401? Because they recognize that industry wants a nearby connection to a major highway like the 401.

    The fact of the matter is that the lack of an upgraded highway facility with a direct connection to the 401 is hurting our ability to attract industry. And we will continue to lose out to places like Woodstock and Ingersol who have encouraged access and truck traffic connections in their city if we do not think about this border problem long and hard. The DRIC plan will do nothing to help residents of the City of Windsor. Only a plan that includes E.C. Row truly achieve what the city wants:

    Economic Development
    Trucks off our local streets
    Better Quality of Life.

There was an issue respecting the width of the roadway....you will note that the person talked about 8 lanes while I discussed 10. So I asked "Don't we need 10 lanes? 6 for cars and 4 for trucks?" Here's the answer to that:

  • That's a big question.

    What I know is that in the near future without border traffic, E.C. Row needs to be 6 lanes, three in each direction. If we want to accommodate what's on the 401, then we may or may not need to have 2 or 4 lanes. The other thing to consider is the fact that trucks and cars from elsewhere will still use the existing corridor. So for instance, vehicles from Leamington, LaSalle, Oldcastle and all the industry and trucks from out there will still probably use the existing Highway 3 Huron Church corridor. Whereas with the DRIC plan, everything has to be combined into one.

    With the expressway, I am sure that in most areas 10 lanes could be accommodated within the right of way, but like we discussed before, there would probably be a need to widen a few areas out such as from Walker or so to Huron Church. But in those cases, a little bit of land next to the service roads on both the North and South side would probably work. The interchanges would have to expand at Howard (Take some land from the mall and from some industry on the North Side), at Dougall ( again surplus land to the north, west and to maybe the U-haul place, Dominion (Some homes might have to be taken, but its less than 241 of them) and at Huron Church (some commercial land, vacant land and industrial land). Everywhere else: ie East of Central all the way to Lauzon Parkway, the right of way is for the most part large enough, and where it isn't, there is hardly any development, its industrial or its a service road.

    The thing is that in almost all cases, the areas that would have the greatest need for additional land would not be in areas of sensitive land uses (except for the Dominion area, that probably can't be avoided.) For the most part though, there wouldn't need to be the huge swaths of land that are going to be taken for the DRIC plan.

Imagine if we actually used E C Row...John Tofflemire would be laughing broadly! You can do that when you are right and outside of Windsor.

Dwight Duncan For PM




I still think Dwight will go for it.

A Conservative insider claims that someone is doing polling in town asking people for whom they would vote in a 3-way race amongst Comartin, Duncan and Halberstadt for the Conservatives. Yes THAT, Halberstadt, the Councillor.

My Conservative friend thinks that would be a great 3-way race. After the Liberals and NDP beat themselves up, then Halberstadt would sneak up the middle a la Stephen Dion and the new Alberta Premier, Ed Stelmach.

Why would Alan consider it---heck the pay and pension are better. Alan is up to something as I wrote the other day. It could be Mayor or something better.

Now I have had 2 of Dwight's close political friends tell me 2 conflicting stories. One said I could quote him about running federally while the other said Dwight won't run federally and wants to be leader of the Provincial Party one day.

Sure and a third Liberal insider told me some time ago that Dwight didn't learn to speak French to keep running in Ontario!

Dwight did have his forces primed up during the municipal campaign after all as a trial run for something else perhaps or perhaps just for the fall Provincial election. I heard they ran 3 Ward fights. In one, although lots of non-Liberals were involved, some of the brain-trust were Dwight's friends and Liberals too.

Who was the big winner at the Liberal leadership convention. None other than Dwight. But he backed the wrong candidate you say.

Dwight was a key guy in Ignatieff's campaign, especially being co-Chair in Ontario, the Liberal strong-hold. Sure Dwight's guy came in second but he was an academic who had only been around for a short time politically. Dwight did a magnificent job. He met every important Liberal in Canada doing this too.

What the Toronto Star said was not too complimentary to Dion just before the leadership vote:

  • "Stéphane Dion, like Ignatieff, is an intellectual, admired for his robust defence of Canadian unity and the Clarity Act against secession. He is a principled man. As a former environment minister, he is the "greenest" of the front-runners, vowing to make Canada a force in the emerging global sustainable economy. But Dion is hamstrung chiefly by a perceived lack of charisma, by a reputation for rigidity, by his English which can falter under pressure and by a sense that after 16 years under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, the party is due for a leader from outside Quebec."

So when Dion gets slaughtered in the next federal election and leaves the leadership, guess who will be right there.... Dwight Duncan who did NOT run and hide like some of his big name Liberal competitors! Dwight's name and profile will be up there. He will know how to run a national leadership campaign. What a comeback!

Who Won The Bill C-3 War


The corks must have been flying from the bottles of "Baby Duck" at Transport Canada headquarters in Ottawa after the Senate hearings. Except for some insignificant amendments, the Bill got through unscathed! Now what?

It should not have been a big surprise. The Liberals introduced Bill C-44 which was changed slightly when the Conservatives took power and was transformed into Bill C-3. The Conservatives had to support it since it was one of the first bills to be introduced by the Harper Government and the Liberals would be hard pressed not to support a Bill that was virtually the same as theirs. That's pretty much how it played out EXCEPT...

The exception is that a number of the members in the House on both sides and certainly more in the Senate understood what the Bill was really trying to do and by their questioning forced Transport Canada to make major concessions to the position of the Ambassador Bridge Co. That Company was the target as became perfectly clear. Those concessions will not only be useful at the Regulations stage but can also be used in any Court challenges when the Courts look for the interpretation of a section of the Act.

After the hearings last week I must admit that I expected several amendments to clean up some of the confusing the language in the Bill but they did not happen. Didn't Senator Eyton who introduced the Bill in the Senate ask for a "de minimis suggestion?" There must have been some interesting arm-twisting going on behind the scenes given the positions of certain people last week and then this week to prevent any wording changes. Some new players also entered the scene this week as well to play a surprisingly dominating role in the hearing. It was an interesting political exercise to watch.

My view--the Legislators were prepared to accept the word of Transport Canada as to what their intentions under the Act were. I guess that I am just more cynical than they are after having lived the border fiasco for 4 years. It turned out though to be the perfect Canadian compromise. Everyone got what they wanted in the end.

Transport Canada will take what happened as a win. The Bridge Co. will ignore the Act since their view will be that it is inapplicable to them as they move forward under their EA process or that if it applies, the concessions given and the Observations made give them a great deal of comfort.

In the end, all it means is that Tranport Canada and the Bridge Co. have to negotiate. Nothing has really changed from before. It now means that Minister Cannon has no excuse NOT to meet and can come out of hiding after being invisible on this file. The time is now to do a deal or we will have years of litigation.

Why do I say that one has to look at more than just the Act. Here is what the Senate Report and Observations state:


OBSERVATIONS
to the Sixth Report of the
Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications


Recognizing that international bridges and tunnels are of national interest, members of your Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications support the intent of Bill C-3, the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, which is to reinforce the federal government’s constitutional jurisdiction and to ensure the smooth flow of people and goods over and through them. Furthermore, your Committee agrees that it is necessary to apply consistent rules and policies to these international crossings, large or small, regardless of who owns or operates them; especially those to ensure the safety and security of the structures. However, despite its decision to support the bill, your Committee would like to address some of the particularly resonant concerns of stakeholders regarding certain provisions of the bill and to state that it hopes that this bill will not impede international crossing projects for which agreements have already been concluded.

Your Committee heard that the provision in this bill that would allow the Minister of Transport to make regulations respecting the types of vehicles that may use an international bridge or tunnel may negatively affect the financial position of existing crossings. In response to questions about this concern, federal officials unequivocally stated that the Minister of Transport would divert traffic only to avoid congestion. To quote one official, “redirecting traffic would only be used where there is a need to allow free movement of goods and people.” Your Committee supports the Minister of Transport’s use of this provision to alleviate traffic problems if and when required, but not to interfere otherwise.

Your Committee also heard that the confidentiality of proprietary information that the Minister of Transport may request from international bridge and tunnel owners and operators may not be adequately protected under this bill. During their second appearance before your Committee, however, federal officials assured Senators that the existing federal legislative framework is adequate for protecting the confidentiality of bridge and tunnel owners’ information. To quote one official, “the Privacy Act contains provisions that very effectively protect the confidential information provided to the government.” The official also noted that the purpose of section 51 of the Canada Transportation Act, which stakeholders gave as an example of the type of explicit protection sought, is actually to permit the Minister of Transport to divulge proprietary information, not to protect it. Furthermore, when departmental legal advisors contemplated the particular stakeholder needs under this bill and whether additional protection was needed, they concluded that existing provisions in other Acts were adequate. However, your Committee still questions why the reinforced protection used in the Canada Transportation Act was not included in this bill.

On the question of the federal government’s potential involvement in future international crossing projects, your Committee heard suggestions that the provisions in the bill that allow the Minister of Transport to recommend to the Governor in Council whether or not to approve a project would lead to a substantial conflict of interest for the Minister. On this point, officials noted that Transport Canada currently does not own or operate a single international bridge or tunnel. The existing federal structures belong to Crown corporations, which are autonomous even if the Minister of Transport is responsible for them. To quote an official, “the Minister has absolutely no authority over the day-to-day activities of these organizations, including those dealing with safety and security.” Therefore, given the autonomous ownership and operational arrangements established for existing federal structures, your Committee is confident that the Minister of Transport will not be in a position of conflict of interest in the future. However, the Minister of Transport should be particularly sensitive to any situation where the federal government is in a situation where there is an appearance of conflict, especially when the interests of a private enterprise are at stake.

Finally, your Committee very seriously considered a stakeholder’s allegation that municipalities would not be guaranteed to be heard regarding international crossing projects affecting their community. When questioned on this point, officials explained to your Committee that municipal consultation is obligatory during the environmental assessment process, which would certainly be triggered by a proposal to build a new international crossing, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Therefore, to impose an additional obligation on the Minister of Transport to consult municipalities in this bill would frustrate the bill’s intent to streamline processes. While a comprehensive framework for municipal consultation exists in other legislation, it should be noted that the bill was also amended in the other place to make reference to municipal consultation. Your Committee agrees that more emphasis was needed on the importance of consulting with municipalities and addressing their concerns, given that bridge and tunnel projects can have a tremendous impact on the urban planning of local communities.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How The Minister Can Control A Bridge Authority


You have to feel so sorry for Transport Canada. They just seem to have no power to control what so many Bridge operators in Canada do. Accordingly they need Bill C-3 passed.

During the Senate hearings, we heard as examples:
  • This is what we want to stress to you today, that Bill C-3 seeks to impose a set of rules that will apply to all international bridges and tunnels equally, regardless of how they are owned or operated, by providing the federal government with the means to fully exercise its constitutional jurisdiction with respect to these structures.
  • As you can see, there are many different ownership structures, and contrary to what you might have been led to believe, Transport Canada does not own or operate a single international bridge or tunnel.
  • le gouvernement fédéral n'exerce aucun pouvoir, aucun contrôle, aucune compétence sur ces ouvrages, autres que ceux qui lui sont conférés par la loi originale établissant ces ouvrages.
  • Par conséquent, même s'il possède la compétence constitutionnelle sur ces ouvrages internationaux, en l'absence de législation qui s'applique également à tous les ponts et tunnels internationaux, le gouvernement n'a pas les moyens nécessaires pour exercer sa compétence. Cela constitue la raison d'être du projet de loi.

No one doubts that the Federal Government needs more control over health, safety and security issues respecting international crossings. But the power to appoint people as a member of the Board of Directors gives the Minister great authority over a Board. Just as it does when the majority shareholder of a company elects a member of the Board of Directors

Perhaps the Senators may be offended when two days after listening to Transport Canada complain about their powerlessness, the Tranport Minister makes an appointment to a Board of a Bridge Authority.

Odds And Sods





A few short comments about some issues of interest


FIVE CENT A DAY PARKING

I'd really like to get upset over this but I can't. There is a need to build up the downtown after all and sometimes one does have to make a business deal, even a lossleader, to get things started but did the parking garage deal have to be for 11 years it appears with no real escalator on rental.

The people who should be upset are East End property owners and taxpayers who were trying to get the Keg's business but whose City Government scooped it from them. As the City did with Project Ice Track when they signed up the Spitfires for the East End arena.

If I were a restauranteur in another part of the City where patrons had to pay for parking, even if it is only $2, I would be upset that the City is subsidizing a competitor. I might even get angry if I owned a restaurant downtown where my customer had to pay to park in one City-owned structure but not at another.

The Mayor could have justified the deal but because of the secrecy around it and the need to file a MFOIA application, people will look at it in the most negative fashion. As an example, without the Keg, how could Eddie have said he did anything downtown to get re-elected.

BUILDING UP THE CV

According to Councillor Halberstadt,
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis has been apppointed by the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) to sit on an eight-member political team to help conduct, over 18 months, a review of the fiscal and service delivery of provincial health and social services."

Nothing like building up one's resume in order to get a Senior Cabinet position if John Tory wins.

WHAT'S WITH GRIDLOCK SAM

Could someone who works downtown go and visit his office to see if it is still there please and let me know.

Latest gossip is that the office is closed. I am told that equipment is being sold off or shipped back to NY. The phone number will forward people to NY.

So does that mean that the Schwartz Plan is officially dead and buried even if Sam still has his Certificate?

FRUSTRATED AND BOILING MAD

Wow, our Mayor is certainly going through an emotional turmoil these days. He better lighten up or his health is at risk. First he is mad re the DRIC report and now he is frustrated since the University of Windsor is not playing, according to him, "a greater role in helping the region's struggling economy compete on a global scale."

Hmmmmmm taking shots at the Unviersity given the less that amicable past relationship between the two is sure not going to help things. So much for Eddie being conciliatory. When one works with the Mayor, as the new Councillors will find out, it is his way or else. Thus it is up to the University to recognize "that we have to work together, from marketing (the region) to economic development. And it's got to be something that's formalized so that the university and the board of governors accept that....It requires the board to feel the same way we do in terms of the relationship"

Well not everyone at the University liked what the Mayor had to say. Here is one "rant" that was sent around:

  • "I see the Mayor of Windsor is taking shots at the University about its role in promoting an intellectual community in Windsor. The nerve of this guy. First he reneges on $ 5 million in promised financing that would have helped the University move in this direction and then he criticizes the school for not doing enough. We have more involvement in promoting intellectual jobs in the W-EC area than the local Government. Does he not understand the extent that the University has developed this aspect of its mandate in automotive alone yet alone other disciplines ... ARDC, ITEC, Auto21, CARE, numerous chairs, automotive specific engineering programs and curriculum, commercialization of research, hundred of graduate students working in a R & D capacity with local industry and hundreds of graduated engineering students working in the industry. The most improved criteria in Macleans this year was the development of more research initiatives and the attraction of millions of dollar of research grants to the University.

    I agree 110 percent that a lot more can be done. But to criticize our current initiatives as inadequate when his own City Council is one of the core reason we have not gone as far as we could, is hypocrisy at its worse. The Mayor should apologize to the approximately 3,000 high-end engineering and technicians that are working in W-EC. This number was only 500 when Mike Hurst started W-EC on this path about a decade ago.. If he wants more R & D in W-EC he should get City Council to pony up about $10 million in financial assistance for the construction of our new Automotive Research and Development Engineering Building instead of throwing Windsor's taxpayers money down the drain on a new arena publicly funded to compete with the private sector."

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE

Here is a story I read

"Seventy-five years ago this October, the first section of the George Washington Bridge was opened to traffic.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is planning to commemorate the anniversary on Oct. 25 with historical and cultural events, as well as the long-awaited relighting of the bridge's towers. Port Authority Executive Director Kenneth J. Ringler said, "At age 75, while some are slowing down, the George Washington Bridge has a bright future ahead. In its first year of operation, it carried 5.5 million vehicles; today, it carries nearly 109 million annually. This bridge is a vital part of our region's transportation network, and an important part of our local economy."

BRIDGES FIT FOR THEIR COMMUNITIES--CONTEXT-SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS

Here is a story I read that gives an example of this:

"Ambassador Bridge enhancement, Detroit

Nearly 5,000 trucks enter the United States from Canada each day via the privately owned Ambassador Bridge. For the first time, federal legislation will allow access ramps to connect the bridge to the local highway system. The Michigan DOT's program calls for the design of eight, new vehicular bridges and a pedestrian bridge.

A context-sensitive approach has shaped what will be the new Bagley Pedestrian Bridge, reconnecting the Mexican Town area's east and west sides. When completed in 2008, the single-pylon, cable-stayed bridge will blend with area landmarks, including a 300-year-old church."