Masse And Public Authorities
Haven't you missed reading about the mess that is being made that is costing Windsor business and tourist traffic.
I have already done a BLOG on public authorities June 27, 2006 "More On Public Authorities." I wish Brian had learned from it. Let me quote what the former New York AG and now Governor said about them in NY where there were over 640 of them:
- "New York’s more than 640 public authorities and their subsidiaries are unaccountable to the government or the people of New York State.
New Yorkers pay for public authorities in the form of rates, tolls or fees, and our taxes offset authority-related tax exemptions and pay the debt service on authority-issued debt. Yet, New Yorkers are denied the traditional consumer avenues of protest. In most cases, New Yorkers have no choice but to use authority facilities, and they do not have direct control over how their tax dollars might be used in response to authority decisions. These corporations have no stockholder meetings or proxy votes...
As a consequence of the lack of accountability for the vast majority of the public authorities, a culture of arrogance pervades these entities. Efforts by the State Comptroller to audit authority finances or initiatives, as well as legislative questioning of authority decisions, are met with resistance..."
Not our Brian. According to the NDP Opposition member, public border authorities are wonderful.
- "[They] would monitor how the border functions and bring any issues forward to the owner.
“They deal with public policy and projecting what will happen in the future,” he explained.
“A border authority is about having the people on the ground to do what’s necessary...”
"The border communities of Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia, and Niagara Falls all have border authorities, Masse noted.
“A border authority is a vehicle to putting people first,” he said."
So Public authorities are our friends? Let's see if this is true in relation to Brian's favourite authority, the Peace Bridge Authority.
I will show you that the Ambassador Bridge Co. can learn a lot from what the Peace Bridge Authority is doing. Mind you, if they dared do it, Brian would have apoplexy. If it is "public" it is no problem for the Opposition NDP it seems!
CAN THE PBA IGNORE THE LAWS THAT APPLY TO YOU AND ME
There is litigation going on concerning the Peace Bridge over the Niagara River between Buffalo, N.Y. and Fort Erie, Ontario. The Peace Bridge Authority owns and operates the bridge. The Authority was created by legislative acts of New York, the Dominion of Canada, and the United States.
- The Plaintiffs are Buffalo residents, who live in close proximity to the bridge.
On May 28, 2004, the Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, Erie County, seeking to enjoin the Authority from taking any further action on an international Border Infrastructure Improvement Project (“the Project”) that the Authority is undertaking with the federal government of Canada. The Project includes expansion of plazas on both sides of the international border. The Plaintiffs contend that the Authority has failed to comply with various New York statutes, including the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
The gist of what the Peace Bridge Authority is arguing at this stage of the case is that "the Public Bridge Authority is an “international compact entity” and therefore not subject to the laws of the State of New York. If you follow the logic to its conclusion, the PBA is not subject to the laws of the State of New York, the Province of Ontario nor the United States or Canada but rather only subject to an international treaty between the parties.
Huh, what is that....The Public Authority is not bound by the laws that apply to you and me. They can ignore the passing of Bill C-3 I guess. It makes a mockery of what Brian Masse said he accomplished. And Brian wants us to set up something like this here.
Gee, not even the Ambassador Bridge has dared make this claim, so far. They should have their lawyers check their files and see if they can make the same argument. And if they do and are successful, they can thank Brian!
Oh sure, you think I am kidding you. You don't believe that a Public Authority would thumb its nose at the general laws that Governments pass. Well here is what their lawyer said in an affidavit:
- "The preceding discussions demonstrate that the Authority is one entity and that the Authority is an international organization between Canada and New York State. The statements, opinions, memoranda and other writings by Canadian government officials including members of departments of the Executive Committee, state exactly that...
Moreover, any purported intent of the New York legislature to consider Authority a New York agency has never been recognized or approved by the Government of Canada...
Even the judicial branch in Canada has commented on the Authority’s stand albeit in dicta. In 2001, the Superior Court of Justice in the Court of Ontario, by Judge Da noted: "The Peace Bridge Authority, under international joint ownership, owns and operates the Peace Bridge..."
both international partners to an international organization agreement must generally pass parallel legislation before it becomes effective on the international entity."
What the heck is an "international compact entity" you might ask. I had never heard that term before so did a search of Google on it. Well, the PBA is unique...it seems this term only applies to them, not any other entity anywhere in the world!
So then, unless the US passes the equivalent of Bill C-3, then the PBA can ignore it. Wow, they are even more powerful than the private enterprise Ambassador Bridge and you know what powers Brian attributes to them.
You want more? Here is what the NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER says about them in relation to Freedom of Information requests:
- "As a bi-national public authority, the Authority is not legally required to comply with the State of New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) or the Dominion of Canada’s Access to Information Act (AIA). Instead, the Authority responds to the public’s request for information on a case-by-case basis. We recommended that the Authority develop written disclosure policies, and consider voluntarily incorporating AIA and FOIL into these policies."
Do you want to read something bizarre. The PBA is requesting a from engineering and construction firms to provide construction management and inspection services for a project of their. Here's the funny part:
- "This Request for Proposal, and any contract, which may subsequently arise from this Request for Proposal, shall be governed by the law of the United States of America, as applicable to an international compact entity."
Why is it funny...I don't think there are many of such laws! Perhaps someone can list the laws the US Government has ever passed that is applicable to an "international compact entity?"
A PUBLIC AUTHORITY PUTS PEOPLE FIRST
Not necessarily according to the STATE OF NEW YORK, OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER. I read this interesting remark in their Follow-up Report in 2006:
- "A previous attempt by the Authority for capacity expansion was halted by legal action... Besides the legal action, there was a public perception that the EIS process had been closed to public involvement."
They did improve though subsequently to be fair:
- "Our report identified that the Authority adequately and effectively received and responded to public communication regarding the planned expansion."
Still "As noted in its strategic plan, the Board recognizes the need to further improve the Authority’s public image and credibility."
A PUBLIC AUTHORITY IS REGULATED NOT LIKE PRIVATE COMPANIES
Well not quite. According to the NY Comptroller
- "Because of the Authority’s bi-national nature, certain regulatory requirements for New York State public authorities do not apply to the Authority. Specifically, the Authority is exempt from Article 9 of the Public Authorities Law, which includes reporting and governance requirements for New York State public authorities. Instead, the Authority is guided by its enabling legislation and By-Laws."
DOES A PUBLIC AUTHORITY MAKE A BUCK OR TWO OR MORE
I read a commentary by Bruce Jackson who writes something called Buffalo Report and who did a Q and A about the Peace Bridge back in 1999 when times were good for all crossings it seems. Here is what he wrote then of the Peace Bridge Authority's income making:
- Does the Peace Bridge make money?
Yes. Huge amounts of it.
In 1998, the PBA reported income of $25,040,401 ($5,996,828 passenger tolls, $13,952,982 commercial tolls, $4,866,212 rentals, and $224,379 other) and operating expenses of $14,009,836. It also reported other expenses and income-such as interest income ($1,346,187), interest expense ($2,513,422), writing off the former duty-free building ($988,674-a curious entry since they don't depreciate any other real property) for a total of $4,829,458.
That results in what their accountant terms an "excess of revenues over expenses" (what you and I would refer to as "profit") of $9,180,378. After paying all operating expenses and debt service, the Bridge made a 36.6% profit. If the Peace Bridge were a private corporation, this would be a staggering rate of return.
Equally important is the fund balance, which is what they've accumulated. When you want to know how rich someone is, you don't look at what came in or what went out, you look at the fund balance. Last year the Bridge had a fund balance of $64,668,291, up from $55,487,913 the year before...
- If the Authority paid real estate taxes, the way you and I do and the way any profit-making corporation does, it would have paid about $6 million last year instead of the $783,000 it divided equally between Buffalo and Fort Erie in lieu of taxes and the $200,000 it paid to the NFTA. Even if the Authority had paid real estate taxes and taxes on profits, it would still have registered a very respectable 12.7% profit. Any commercial operation would be delighted with that profit margin.
With what it is making on truck traffic, the Authority could dispense entirely with the income from automobiles and still turn a profit."
Or rather, pretend to do all of that by "creating the possibility of a third crossing" through something called DRIC in order to force the Bridge Co. to sell out at a reduced price. Then you don't need a new crossing do you but just a twinned bridge as in Sarnia. But then the absurdity of it all...........you lease out the operation of the new crossing to a private operator like Borealis or Macquarie or Alinda for 50-99 years!
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE GAME YET!!!