Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 23, 2007

What The Federal Budget Really Meant For The Windsor Border

Same old, same old. We have heard this so many times about Windsor that we can probably recite it in our sleep. The Federal Budget documents say it again:
  • “The Windsor-Detroit Corridor is our most important artery of trade, accounting for 28 per cent of Canada-U.S. merchandise trade. Many regions in Canada depend on the efficient movement of goods and people through this corridor. This includes not only Ontario, but also Quebec (in 2004, an estimated $5.7 billion of Quebec’s merchandise exports to the U.S. transited through this corridor). Both long-term planning studies and stakeholders have confirmed the need for a new crossing. Canada’s New Government recognizes that ensuring sufficient border capacity between Windsor and Detroit is an issue of national importance.”
Well frankly, if we were really that important, then why hasn’t something been done. Simple, there is no problem here. Do you remember this back in August of 2005:
  • “I will be telling my colleagues in Ottawa that the border problems we've had in the past have been solved and I'm delighted to hear it," Jim Peterson [Liberal International Trade Minister] told reporters immediately after the closed-door discussion with about 40 representatives of agriculture, manufacturing, Ford, Chrysler, the Ambassador Bridge, the tool and mould industry and greenhouse growers.

    He said he learned that the delays at the border have been dealt with. "This," Peterson said, "is music to my ears."
Why isn’t there a problem: the Bridge Co. fixed it! That allowed the Bureaucrats the time to play. And play they have been, anything for a justification for what they really want to do. When traffic could not be used as an issue since volumes were dropping, redundancy became the vogue. Then came security and Senator Kenny. Now the latest buzz word on both sides of the border is “Congestion:”
  • “The Windsor-Detroit Corridor is Canada’s most important entry to the U.S. market. Congestion at the Windsor-Detroit border crossing can have a significant negative impact on Canada’s economy, particularly the auto sector. It has been demonstrated that a new crossing is required to meet long-term needs. The challenges of building such new infrastructure are significant.”
Let’s step back from the border and look at what is going on in Ottawa and Queen’s Park and in other parts of the world. There is the latest trend called using P3s to meet the infrastructure deficiency. In Ontario, it is called “Alternative Financing and Procurement which leverages the strengths of both the private and public sectors.”

The view, according to Infrastructure Minister Caplan in Ontario, is that
  • “Research done by the U.K. Treasury revealed that 88 per cent of projects pursued using alternative financing methods came in on time and on budget or early. And when there were cost overruns, they weren’t borne by the public sector.

    Compare that with traditional means of procuring infrastructure, which delivered 70 per cent of projects late and over budget, according to the U.K. government.”
Why is this so good for Government? Simple. A lot of it is “off-balance sheet” accounting so it makes the Government look better fiscally.

Moreover, it uses pension fund money from outfits like OMERS, Teachers, Canada Pension Plan and so on. These organizations have close connections to the Government already so it makes for a nice relationship. In addition, these pension funds were investing out of Canada and that did not look good:
  • “Greater use of P3s will also provide opportunities for Canadian pension funds and other investors to participate in infrastructure projects here in Canada rather than being forced to look abroad, as is often the case now.”
But the real beauty of all of this is that if the infrastructure deal loses money, then it is not a Government issue but that of the P3 partner. If there is a write-off, the Government does not look stupid. The P3 partner does.

Well you might say, doesn’t that put the pensioner at risk…of course not. If it is like OMERS, and they had a $600 million write-down a few years ago, they just tell the municipalities and their employees that their contributions are increased to cover the shortfall!

So back to the Ambassador Bridge. I was shocked that the Ambassador Bridge was “removed” by DRIC from their study. The Americans said it was the best choice for their side (After all the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to accommodate the Twinned Bridge) and in the initial reports, it ranked as highly as the central crossing. It lost out ultimately not because of what the Bridge Co. proposed but because of what Canadian DRIC said would be required on the Canadian side ie the large plaza in Sandwich and trucks down Huron Church. The Americans just went along with that decision conveniently.

I have done enough on the financial side of building a new bridge to know that it makes no sense whatsoever. No private investor in a P3 would ever be involved in it without a huge Government guarantee since it would go broke early on if there was fair competition.

If one looked at Sarnia/Port Huron and the Blue Water Bridge, they went through a similar study as DRIC and looked at locating their new bridge in various locations. In the end, they decided that a new bridge beside the existing made the most sense, especially operationally when each Customs booth costs a huge amount per year to staff and run.

So how does one explain what is going on. Again, it is the Bridge Co. that is front and centre. The answer is easy. No one believed that the Bridge Co. was actually going to build another bridge! All of their comments in the past were discounted. Each announcement of what they proposed to do was not believed. The statements were viewed as nothing more than the so-called Monopolist protecting its position.

Accordingly, it was felt by the powers-that-be that the Bridge could be bought and all that the Bridge Co. was doing was trying to get the price higher. The Governments wanted the site but they could not show it or the price would go even higher. What could be done: accordingly, in ex-Minister Rock’s words, create the possibility of a new crossing. That is what DRIC was for!

There is a difference between private enterprise money and Government money. Private enterprise money comes out of the owner’s pocket. Government money comes out of your pocket and mine. A Bureaucrat really has no “ownership” interest in the funds. The Danish professor’s book on Mega-projects gives proof to this as well as the statement above by Minister Caplan.

What was not understood by the Bureaucrats was that the Bridge Co. was NOT going to build a bridge until it made economic sense for them to do so. They do not have the luxury of unlimited taxpayer money. Their decision was that the time is now, not 5 or 10 years ago. Again, I do not believe that anyone believed that they were actually going to do it.

I have heard Dan Stamper say that DRIC was just an insurance policy that would have a possible bridge location determined if the Bridge Co. did not move forward. It should have ended when the Bridge Co. moved on their EA hearings. However, I believe that there was still NO expectation that the Bridge Co. would ever build a bridge. Now that they are really taking action, the Governments are not sure what to do.

As an aside, look at what DRIC is proposing. Sure they are wasting millions on this dumb boring of holes looking for salt mines. But if you examine the road they are proposing it can just as easily go to a new crossing by turning left near the river as it can by turning right and going to a twinned Ambassador Bridge.

Mich-can was never a serious proponent. They were dismissed as being merely bridge-builders. DRTP never had a chance based on the previous MDOT study that was hidden until I found it, although its corridor might have been used at one time to link to the Ambassador Bridge. In my opinion, the choice has always been a Twinned Ambassador bridge.

There was an issue though---how do they get rid of Matty Moroun as owner.

I won’t speak for the Americans but there clearly is an agenda on our side to have a “public” bridge. The Ambassador Bridge is an anomaly since most other crossings are viewed as “public.” Some in Ottawa even now cannot forgive that Moroun beat them on FIRA after a dozen years of litigation. They wanted to get rid of him then and failed. So they want to get rid of him now. As for Ontario, it’s just greed. They wanted ownership of and the revenue from the crossing

If the view was that he really would sell out, the question was NOT that he would sell but how do you get him to accept a low amount of money.

The RFP for the marshalling yard gave it away to me. It was nothing more than a means to pressure Moroun to sell out. The intention was to say that this yard would direct traffic away from his bridge to a new one and would control tolls. Therefore, sell out. That along with Bill C-3 which was designed to give the Government legislative control over the Bridge along with a number of other irritants along the way were designed to harass Moroun to force him to sell.

The Bridge is worth money. If the Government could demonstrate that they could decrease its value then why wouldn’t Moroun sell out as a reasonable and practical business person, especially when he said in the Star that he would do so if the business deal was right.

It all made sense to bureaucrats who never worked in the private sector and built a business model based on theory not reality. Well reality bites as they say. They totally misjudged Moroun.

He wants to keep the Bridge and in his family’s ownership. He believes that he has done his best to make it the model border operation in North America and has acted in the best interest of the Detroit-Windsor region. And he has. It makes money for him too, probably a fair bit.

Frankly, why would he sell out now?

The way infrastructure dollars are chasing projects, the bridge is more valuable every day. I reckon that its worth is substantial if one uses the calculator suggested by a recent Merrill Lynch analysis and I think that calculation understates the Bridge’s value. A cheque that would have to be issued would contain many zeroes before he would consider selling and even then I am not certain he would.

So where are we now? The bureaucrats know that they misjudged but they still want Moroun out. Would they talk to him to see if a business deal can be done? Not bloody likely. Then they admit defeat don’t they and the price goes up higher in their minds.

To provide an analogy, we are in the midst of a poker game. The bureaucrats got suckered in by their own brilliance. By trying to out-manoeuvre Moroun, they out-thought themselves. They bet too much. The pot is too big for them to walk away. They have too much invested. They think that they can still bluff him out. They are the Government aren’t they!

The Budget is just the latest attempt at intimidation as were the comments by the Transportation Minister when she was in town. It’s all planned to get him to consider that his ownership is limited and that he had better walk away and take what is offered and feel lucky. Pretend to be moving forward on a P3 bridge. Keep the cards hidden. Up the ante. The bureaucrats cannot fold now. Too many careers are on the line

Are they absurd? He fought the Canadian Government over FIRA and won. He fought the American Government over the 4 booths that ended the truck back-up problem and won. Why would he surrender now? He is holding the Royal Flush in his hand.

In a sense, I wish that I was younger and a practising lawyer again. I could dream up all kinds of legal arguments to make on a file like this. It is a “retirement file” for a litigator, one that will allow him/her to have a retirement in a style to which I would have liked to have been made accustomed.

Here is a quote from what Senator Dawson said during the Senate hearings on Bill C-3 that is very apt:
  • “Above and beyond the interests of the Ambassador Bridge, this government and governments will be going forward with PPPs in the future. We are hoping that more public-private partnerships will exist to share the responsibilities between the public and the private enterprise, whether it is Highway 50 or Highway 30 in Quebec or other bridges to be built. If we are not going to have respect for private projects that exist and that have been going well for 60 or 70 years, how can we expect private investors to risk, whether it is the "competing" project or the "existing" projects?”
The bureaucrats had better wake up while there is still time to claim “victory” as the CAW does every time there is a negotiation. Soon, once EA hearings are completed, the Bridge Co. won’t need to talk to them.

There is a partnership in existence and there has been one for 80 years at Windsor/Detroit. Recognize that it is not the P3 model that is so trendy today and which may not make sense for the Government anyway [See Chris Schnurr's BLOG about P3s and the Ambassador Bridge and the study referred to there paid for by the Feds too!]. At least this partnership works since the Ambassador Bridge is the #1 crossing and the best operation.

If Government really wants to try a P3 with a bridge, the Blue Water is available. It's "public" so they can control what happens there easily. Try that out first for the experiment!

Almost 7200 And Counting

What you haven't seen THE Ambassador Bridge animation yet. You better hurry. Don't be left out. Go to: and type in "ambassador bridge" in the search box. You can also see my video comment there.

Why The Transport Minister Refuses To Come To Windsor

Try and answer this question because I cannot.

If I were an executive of the Bridge Co., I would wonder why the Transport Minister has not seen fit to visit the facilities or even to talk to the owners to pretend at least that there is an interest in understanding their position or in working with the Bridge Co. as expressed in the hearings at the House of Commons and Senate. Ontario Minister Cansfield at least has had a session with them I believe so her butt is covered.

But that has never happened with Canada. Why not?

We know that the Ambassador Bridge is the most important trade corridor between Canada and the US as we are told by every politician for the last millenium but no Minister Cannon.

We know that the Ambassador Bridge is the best operator but no Minister Cannon.

We know that the Ambassador Bridge is the "private" partner in the public/private partnership that has taken place at the Bridge for almost 80 years but no Minister Cannon.

I would like to see the Minister's schedule over the past year or so to see with whom he has met. Perhaps a Federal FOI or equivalent might be fun. Before I do that, I'll just ask and see what the answer is.

Didn't the Feds get what they wanted in Bill C-3? Oversight. One could argue that the Minister did not want to speak to a party that could be subject to the Act until after it was passed. A silly position for a Minister but at least defensible.

Now that the Act has been passed, what is the excuse?

Well, dear reader, the truth is now out. The Government of Canada never intended to deal with the Bridge Co. and does NOT want to talk with the Bridge Co. They want to litigate. They are daring the Bridge Co. to sue so they can try to put them out of business. It is one of the surest sign of bad faith that I have ever seen.

Frankly, it should result in the resignation of the Minister. Too bad if it comes before an election and too bad that he is a key Government Minister for Quebec.

Here is the signal. One of the main witneses for Tranport Canada during the hearings on Bill C-3 was Brian Hicks. His title was " Director, Bridge Policy & Programs"

Well Brian got a new job: Director, Bridges Legislation and Litigation

Hmmmm let me think what that means. All of the bridges in Canada are effectively "public" so why would they sue. The private Fort Frances bridge is going to be sold so why would they sue. Hey that leaves one bridge left---the "private" Ambassador Bridge! And note also that Brian has no involvement with Tunnel litigation.

I tried to find out when his title changed. That would be interesting too. Did he get his reward AFTER Bill C-3 was passed? Imagine if he appeared with his new title before the Parliamentary committees!

Matthew Moroun wasted his breath it seems. The Government did not take up his offer:
  • "We are asking this committee, and especially Transport Canada, to please put down your sword, set this legislation aside, and instead engage in meaningful dialogue, not just at a very formal hearing to discuss the legalese of this legislation, but rather to discuss and brainstorm and cooperate with one another toward an even more successful Ambassador Bridge for the advantage of the operation, the government, and the public."

And so much for what Transport Canada said to the legislators! Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has no alternative but to leave the Cabinet immediately.

PS...the following was sent to me by Transport Canada

  • "Mr. Arditti: I would like to clarify one of your comments in your blog of March 23, 2007. You are correct, the current job title for Mr. Brian Hicks is "Director, Bridges Legislation and Litigation". The change in Mr. Hicks' title better reflects his responsibilities as the Transport Canada official responsible for the implementation of the rules and regulations for the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, and his involvement with the ongoing litigation by aboriginal groups in Cornwall. The change in title in no way suggests that Mr. Hicks, nor Transport Canada is preparing for potential litigation as regards to any of our projects in Windsor."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gord's Crystal Ball

Honestly, no one can compete with him when it comes to predicting the future

I happened to be going through some old newspapers recently and look what I read:
  • Gord Henderson Column, January 8, 2005

    The city, according to my crystal ball, is in line for a double dose of good news in 2005: the imminent announcement of a major Casino Windsor investment and the unveiling this month of a border infrastructure plan that city hall insiders think will knock the socks off most residents....

    Details are fuzzy, but it appears the province will soon deliver on long-awaited plans to develop the former market site west of the casino. I'm told the plan, which includes a convention centre with entertainment facilities designed to host major international acts, will demonstrate that Windsor's provincial cabinet ministers, Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello, can lug home a Dave Cooke-sized hunk of Queen's Park bacon.

    With a new convention/entertainment centre in the works, Windsor could jettison plans for a multi-use facility on the Western Super Anchor site and make that property available for uses that could include a trendy urban village being promoted by a U.S. developer. The city, which has budgeted $15 million for an arena, could then build an arena for the Spitfires at a location that would have ample parking. It would also enable the city to push ahead with plans to unload its Cleary International Centre albatross."

Whew, was that ever accurate about the arena and the Cleary and I am not so sure that he was that far off the mark about the Son of Sam Plan that Eddie is hatching up with Ontario Minister Cansfield.

If that is so, then we should take seriously the comment in Gord's column today too:

  • "My gut feeling, given the uncompromising stand taken by Francis and council, is that they have a Capitol game plan. If so, it probably includes lining up a partner for their facility that could be St. Clair College, the University of Windsor, one of the school boards or even the casino. Nobody has mentioned this recently. But the city will regain control of a strategic asset, the former Salvation Army building that was obtained in a land swap and leased to the Capitol as a workshop and rehearsal hall."

Gee, I wonder if this will come true too.

Meet Dennis DesRosiers

I bet that Eddie Francis will wish that this meeting is cancelled too! Hurry to get a spot since I gather that space is very limited. I would not be surprised to hear Dennis say a word or two about Windsor and its automotive future.

Let's see now, Eddie with his big name talent could only sell 2/3 of his Capitol theatre capacity and Dennis will be over-subscribed.

PS. I just found out: "Please be advised we have a full house - standing room only." (I am not so bad at fortune telling either it seems)


Dennis DesRosiers
“Where O Where Has the Auto Industry Gone?”

7 AM – 9 AM
March 27, 2007
Katzman Lounge, Vanier Hall
University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario

Founded in 1985, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. (DAC) is the only consulting and market research company in Canada that specializes in the automotive sector. Since founding of his independent consulting Dennis DesRosiers has become one of Canada’s leading automotive industry analysts and one of the foremost theorists in the North American automotive industry.

A constant in Mr. DesRosiers’ career has been his ongoing efforts to help young people, such as university students, to develop to their fullest potential, particularly as it relates to their ability to make effective future contributions to Canada’s expanding automotive industry.

Mr. DesRosiers holds an Honours B.A. in Economics, University of Windsor, President’s Roll of Scholars, 1969-1973, is a graduate of The Japanese Business Study Program, October 1984 and a Certified Association Executive, Institute of Association Executives, 1983.

Event Details:
Speaker: Dennis DesRosiers
Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Time: 7 AM – 9 AM
Keynote 7:30
Cost: Complimentary

RSVP: Barbara Barone on/before March 23/07
Barbara Barone
Internal/External Relations Officer
Odette School of Business
519/971-3678 tel; 519/973-7073 fax


If you keep sending them, I will keep posting them

1) Photo above is from Andrew at What is more interesting is his comment on the website:
  • "Surprisingly NO city councilors were present. Not even Ron Jones or Caroline Postma, the ward two councilors where the Capitol resides could bother to show up.

    The lack of Council or any elected officials to show up to the rally, really spoke volumes about how this council prioritizes Downtown and the Arts Community."

2) And even worse Ed ... the last two times Dennis DesRosiers spoke in Windsor there were over 500 in attendance. Yikes, how can a guy like DesRosiers attract huge audiences and Eddie only get a small audience.

3) Ed, perhaps Eddie is taking his cues from George Bush and has launched a program of Dumbing Down of Windsor. You cannot get any dumber than to sponsor wrestling.

It won't work. We're not THAT dumb. Thank goodness for people like you to remind us to think.

4) Gee Ed, a city councillor said our 48 or 58 or 68 million dollar arena-playpen for out of town teenage hockey players won't cause taxes to rise.

But helping the Capitol stave off bankruptcy will, I guess.

5) I would have thought that with the financing taken care of and "Eddie" and Windsor the #1 creditor in running they would be making a groundbreaking announcement as far as the job creation at the Capitol and saving a heritage building, like the ones being saved in Sandwich by the bridge. Sorry. He was busy giving away the Cleary.

The local MP's in charge of this area are extremely quiet these days.
Guess they were busy reading about the money being injected to help the greater GTA economy.

The union wants the bonus money going to workers, to be put into development investment instead for job creation. Quite honorable but useless.
The same car companies that have forced suppliers to give back year after year, take literally years to pay and then stretch payments again have caused another closure. (No names be mentioned)

If they would have paid to schedule instead of giving bonuses to union workers could they still be open instead of "stiffing" the employees?

I wonder if those telemarketing people are taking resumes. My daughter has tried with no success. Think Eddie can give her a referal?

6) I told you U-haul was the fastest growing business in the area

7) Statistics Canada, just released the New Home Selling Price Index and it shows Windsor as the only major city with a decline, year over year (-1.7%). The Windsor new home selling price index stands at 104.2 (1997=100). Check out the full text and charts. It clearly shows how pitiful Windsor has performed.

8) A reader sent me a Letter to the Editor of the Star that was sent to the Star but never published. I thought you might enjoy it. I sure did!

I have to tell you though, the idea of an "online" alternative media outlet is getting stronger and stronger in my mind. I have already talked to a fellow who has suggested some newspaper templates that we can build on. If you have an interest as an editor, writer, advertiser, techie or "deep pocket" financier, let me know. It might be a lot of fun.

Do you think the mass media is concerned about lonely Bloggers...Don't you see the push about the "Digital" Windsor Star. Imagine how much their profit would be if they did NOT need newsprint any more.

Preposterous you say. "For the times they are a-changin'". And I include both the London Times and the New York Times in that phrase!

How about robots replacing auto workers, word processing software replacing secretaries, ATMs replacing bank tellers, online bill-paying and statements. Why not a digital newspaper online that has the "look and feel" of a daily newspaper but without the massive costs of production and distribution.

Here is that letter after a bit of an aside:

  • "As a regular reader of local blogs, including Mr. Arditti's, I was not surprised that you missed the real story in your article "Blogger linked to bridge firm".
    The headline should have been "Blogger consistently scoops Windsor Star on border and City Hall stories".

    Many believe the motivation for this attempt at discrediting Mr. Arditti was a result of his going public last week with potential problems and delays for the City's new arena. In fact, there are several stories that have not only been broken by local blogs, but some important stories reported on blogs never see the light of day in the Windsor Star.

    For example, in city councillor Alan Halberstadt's blog last December, he reported on the defection of Sam Schwartz's local engineer and office manager Marko Paranosic. Marko was the de facto designer of the "Schwartz bypass", and the fact that he chose to quit, leave his home town and speak publically of his bitterness toward the political interference of the Mayor's office on the border file was somehow missed by the Star. He referred to the power point presentations he gave on the proposed bypass as "a dog and pony show", and even councillor Halberstadt had to admit that the "stupidity" of the bypass plan made it "vulnerable to its critics". Even though this story involves millions of wasted municipal taxpayer dollars and the credibility of the mayor, council and Windsor Star editorial writers, it was somehow deemed of no interest to Star readers.

    That your attempt to discredit Mr. Arditti features a quote from Councillor Dave Brister approaches comedy. Brister, as quoted recently in your paper, would have us believe that only 2 or 3 out of 200 thousand people care about transparency at City Hall.

    That statement in itself is an affront to any real journalist, and clearly shows that Brister would just as soon have the electorate keep their head in the sand shovelled by the Windsor Star when it comes to how council and the mayor operate.

    We should thank Mr. Arditti and all local bloggers who shine a light where the mayor and council prefer darkness."

9) Hi Ed: I just completed reading your last two writings and had a look at youtube to view Matty's proposed six lane bridge. It sure looks good to me. What's the big deal in Old Sandwich Town? I don't see anything that would be worse than what aleady exisists and it would not cost us a red cent.

10) out of town for the march break - read thru the papers this morning - one article reported that Eddie made $154K in '06 and $141 in '05. That's a 10% increase. Where's the hue and cry? What about leadership by example as we head into this budget session... [NOTE: The mayor's salary was $140,703 in 2004]

DesRosiers On Vehicle Efficiency Incentive

Good thing that the Star made up with Dennis or Chris Vander Doelen would not have been able to quote him. Here is the full note that DesRosiers sent around the other day:

The entire premise of the Vehicle Efficiency Incentive (VEI) is wrong. VEI's cannot take Canada to the next level of fuel efficiency because it pushes OEMs to build vehicles that many Canadians do not want. The only approach is a gas tax like the one that has been so successful in Europe and other overseas markets.

These same domestic OEMs that everyone blasts for gas guzzlers sell high mileage fleets in Europe because CUSTOMERS want to buy efficient vehicles because they pay high gas taxes that pushes gas over $1.50/litre. At the hint of a gas tax, buyers will scramble for fuel efficient vehicles. This is exactly what is already happening in Canada. Remember that over 50 percent of Canadians last year bought a small fuel efficient entry level vehicle. Look at the attached chart, month in and month out, when gas prices went up over the last four years, entry level vehicle sales followed. When gas prices went down, entry level vehicle sales went down.

If you Increase gas prices then, driven by demand (not policy), OEMs will bring in more of the fuel efficient engines from Europe and Asia that were previously undesirable in Canada and the U.S.. E.g., GM could add the gas miser engines they leave in Europe to the new Saturn Astra and have a big, profitable success. There are dozens of diesel engines in Europe that could be successful in Canada!

Longer term, this demand will drive investment and innovation that fuels the economy and provides a context where OEMs can compete for return on investment. Higher gas prices will encourage the drivers of the other 19 million plus vehicles on the road on Canada to drive less and better maintain their existing vehicle rather than the VEI which encourages maybe 20 to 50,000 Canadians to be more responsible with their new vehicle purchase. 19 million driving less will do a lot more for the environment than getting a few thousand new vehicle intenders to be more responsible.

Why is increasing gas prices never brought up? Political fear is the only reason. Read that as Alberta. Don't you find it interesting that the one vehicle exempt from the VEI tax are pick ups. And guess what vehicles Albertans purchase? Yes they purchase pickups. Lawmakers see the discussion over higher gas taxes as political suicide -- they fear they will not get re-elected if they support a tax. Pure and simple.

The inertia behind policies like a feebate unfortunately is unstoppable. For instance, the National Roundtable on the Environment submitted a report to the Federal Government pointing out the flaws in a feebate system. This didn't stop the Government. The failure of the Ontario fuel efficiency tax and the BC luxury vehicle tax did not stop the Government.

OEMs have to understand that they cannot make this just go away. Their only play is to replace it with a stronger alternative that drives demand that they can plan their business around -- a progressive gas tax.

The devil is in the detail around 3 primary questions -- how much, how fast and what do you do with the tax revenue. There are plenty of places to use the money -- energy R&D is an obvious one. They can be implemented gradually to lesson the political fall out and who knows how high? It likely would take at least a nickel per litre and maybe even ten cents per litre but that could be figured out by some smart economists. But these issues could be figured out.

Fuel Efficiency taxes and pointing the national energy policy gun at OEMs heads, is a stupid, senseless, cowardly political debate. The identical debate is going on in the US right now over increasing CAFE standards. Our politicians are cowards. Lawmakers and citizens need to summon just a tiny fraction of their courage and step up to self responsibility and accountability and protect our environment through a progressive gas tax. And speaking of cowardly politicians, why are they hiding behind a name. It is a Feebate my friends not a VEI. The primary intent of this policy is to TAX vehicles and I struggle with the inefficiency of this concept when there are better tools available to the politicians.

At the same time I support the rebate side of the equation if it is restricted to advanced technology vehicles like Hybrids, clean diesel and certain E85 vehicles. The resistance to these vehicles is price. They cost more to buy because of the technology. Many believe they are worth the extra cost not because of the fuel you save but because they offer much better overall performance AND fuel efficiency. But most consumers can't get by the price issue. So nudge them over the price barrier. This makes some sense at least for a limited time period.

I also support any program that gets the old smokers off the road. The Car Heaven program is excellent and needs to be enhanced. But higher prices on new vehicles encourage consumers to keep older vehicles on the road and is in direct conflict with initiatives to get older vehicles off the road. This may seem a stretch but if there is a group of consumers who are bound bend and determined to drive a large SUV then shouldn't they be encourage to buy one of the newer more fuel efficient ones rather than keep their old one. Yes, a new large SUV is less fuel efficient that a mid sized vehicle. But a new large SUV is a lot more fuel efficient than any bought 5 or 10 years ago. So if you must be in a large SUV, as odd as it may appear, wouldn't you want consumers driving the newer ones rather than the older ones?

And I'm already being criticized for coming out against the feebate. But understand that I'm against it because it is bad policy not because I don't care about the environment. In my note yesterday I laid out a number of the unintended consequences of such a program so I will not repeat them again. But I support programs which lead to more environmentally friendly vehicles being purchased. I just don't support politically motivated programs that I believe will not work. Go after gas prices. Go after the old smokers not just through a carrot approach but implement a rigorous inspection program to get them off the road. Encourage the best technology to be developed. Help consumers reach the higher prices of these technologies. But don't put a tax in place that won't work and may have the exact opposite effect.

My rant for the day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More Short Ones

Just a few more stories that I found interesting to start off the Spring season:


I am sure you noticed about the Tunnel Bus that "Transit administrators proposed increasing the cost of the tunnel bus by 25 cents to $3 per trip to make the service break even, but the proposal was rejected."

Why break even right, continue to lose $25,000 per year. Windsor can afford to subsidize users. While "City officials stripped the Transit Windsor budget to its bare bones" it left losses in the cross-border service.

Here's a reason there may be a loss:

  • "Transit Windsor, DDOT and SMART have partnered to develop a single transfer system for bus passengers traveling between Detroit and Windsor. In the past, customers traveling between the two countries could not use transfers between the different systems...For DDOT and SMART customers, the transfer will allow a fifty-cent reduction on the Transit Windsor tunnel bus fare...

    The six-month pilot project is effective October 30, 2006 until April 20, 2007 and will be assessed during this period."

According to the Detroit Free Press "Roughly 225,000 passengers a year use the tunnel bus between Detroit and Windsor."

Frankly, I would not argue against what was done IF it brings tourists to Windsor. However, I think I may know the reason why the fares were not increased. Eddie learned that increasing tolls caused a huge loss at the Tunnel. So he feared an increase would cut ridership drastically so that perhaps not as many buses would use the Tunnel.

Transit Windsor pays money to the Windsor Tunnel Commission for each bus that uses the Tunnel. Transit tried to kill the service (or the payments) to reduce money during Budget time last year I was told. The WTC went ballistic since it would mean a reduction in revenues. Not such a good idea if the Tunnel needs to show HIGH income. It could also mean a reduction in what the WTC paid the City as a "dividend" which meant taxes would go higher. I was told last year that the tolls paid were close to $300K.

So the City, as required, subsidizes Transit Windsor who pays tolls to the WTC who paid a dividend to the City who subsidizes Transit Windsor who pays tolls.....!


I don't think the Mayor and Council members should be given free parking spaces outside of City Hall any longer. Surely, if the view is that we should not feed them, then let them take Transit Windsor to the Council meetings too.


Oh, I saw on the City Website that "Mayor Eddie Francis Releases National Transit Strategy Proposal." Mind you I was not sure to whom he released it since he was not a member of the committee.

This was interesting though, Eddie Francis said:

  • “The Canadian Urban Transit Association says transit systems across the country need $20.7 billion for infrastructure from now to 2010,” said Mayor Eddie Francis. “That’s about $4.2 billion a year to keep our systems running and expand them to accommodate more riders. Without predictable, long-term funding, municipalities cannot plan and finance long-term transit projects.”

Edmonton Councillor Karen Leibovici, a member of FCM’s Executive Committee said:

  • “The Canadian Urban Transit Association says transit systems across the country need $20.7 billion for infrastructure from now to 2010...” “That’s about $4.2 billion a year to keep our systems running and expand them to accommodate more riders. Without predictable, long-term funding, municipalities cannot plan and finance long-term transit projects.”

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said:

  • “The Canadian Urban Transit Association says transit systems across the country need $20.7 billion for infrastructure from now to 2010...” “That’s about $4.2 billion a year to keep our systems running and expand them to accommodate more riders. Without predictable, long-term funding, Montreal and other municipalities cannot plan and finance long-term infrastructure projects like transit systems. "

You see, Eddie does not need new PR flacks. He can just say what other Big City-types say.


I wonder how much he was supposed to get paid for his speech and appearance before Eddie cancelled the sesion at the Capitol. I wonder how much he received due to the cancellation

Actually, the CAO "authorized" to himself under his CAO Approval Notice the entering into the contract with Murray. That Notice did not set out the fee amount but left that to the CAO and Treasurer. No elected official fingerprints on it at all.

I did NOT see such an approval notice for the Diane Francis contract. Who signed that one?

The contract was not signed personally with Murray but rather with Navigator where he works. In case you wondered about Navigator:

  • "Estrin soon after hired New York traffic expert Sam Schwartz to come up with a bypass plan, followed later by his adding government lobbying and public relations firm Navigator Ltd. -- led by Liberal insider Warren Kinsella. Kinsella -- best known as a former adviser to Prime Minister Jean Chretien -- was officially listed as lobbyist for the city of Windsor between Dec. 20, 2004, and June 23, 2005 -- the same period when the Schwartz plan was laid out to Windsor residents and industry and government leaders. "

I noticed also that the CAO approved a US $15,000 amount to sponsor an industry dinner at the Car show in Detroit (out of the economic development fund). I wonder then why the Fire Dept was made to beg publicly for their $7,000 for the Firefest & Firefighter's Combat Challenge Regional Competition.


According to the Star "It’s [the Barn] a home the Windsor Spitfires could never get comfortable in this season...

  • “Guys in the league have played here (on other teams) and they know it’s a smaller rink and you have to move it quick because guys are right on top of you,” said Spitfires overage defenceman Scott Todd, who played his last home game. “They know you have to move the puck quick, but it took us the first 25 games to learn that.”

Imagine how long it would take the players to learn how to play in the new arena. The fans would never stand for the years of losses...

Here is another reason to scrap the East End Arena.


I expect that Sandra will get her knuckles rapped for making such a nasty comment about Jeff Watson, the Conservative MP:

  • "it would be great if there was a local Conservative MP "who can actually speak to the prime minister's office."

Didn't she get the memo about Harper and McGuinty being best buddies, until at least the end of the budget debate!


Now we are never going to learn why the CAO had to be given a $200K discretion on that Sutherland parking lot and we won't learn if the whole deal was to stop the Bridge Co.

I getting more and more disappointed in the Newbies. They have been co-opted so easily it seems


We get offended when Stephen Colbert attacks us. Oshawa holds a festiveal with Don Cherry as the draw


I am sure that you saw this:

  • "Administration recommends the elimination of the annual retirees' banquet where gifts and certificates are presented in acknowledgement of service to the city. Its elimination would save $30,000."

Hmmmm don't Administrators also enjoy the free Council dinners on Monday nights at a yearly tab of $35,000

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flaherty's Windsor Budget: Skating On Thin Ice

Here is what the Budget said about the border crossing situation in Windsor.

It appears that the Feds have decided in their budget on the governance of the new crossing although the Group that was supposed to deal with that matter has never made any public comments as far as I know. I wonder if the Americans know about this and are onside. Did Flaherty pull a Granholm now?

The reason for asking is the emphasis on "The Government of Canada will be responsible for the Canadian half of the new international bridge, including the Canadian plaza. You'd have thought they would have brought the Americans in already. What can Canada do with half a bridge if the Americans won't go along? Remember the letter from the Department of State re the Presidential Permit for a new bridge...REJECTED!

Who knows, perhaps it is all part of "creating the possibility of a new crossing" that he and ex-Minister Rock talked about recently and which was the Tenth Point of the Nine-Point Plan.

If $400M has been set aside by the Feds for the road to the border, that means that the Province will set aside that much too. That means NO TUNNEL unless more money will be available in subsequent budget years since a tunnel requires billions! And you, dear reader, thought that the border road was an engineering issue. It looks like the political decision has already been made as to what we get. So much for DRIC's words that no decisions have been made yet.

It is not clear if the BIF money is gone but it looks like whatever is left will be rolled up into this $400M since this fund is for the road to the border. Too bad Construction Association. I warned you about teh short-term BIF disappearing. You can thank our Mayor for that one. He must take full responsibility since it was his file to lose. And he did! It could be years before any work is done on roadbuilding.

I suspect that the folks at Borealis, Macquarie and even Alinda have to be happy with the Budget. The Feds are just begging them for their cash. I expect however, their money ultimately will not be used in Windsor although they are hoping.

Legally though, especially on the US side, I do not know how you acquire the property of one private party and give it to another. As for P3s and private investors, do you really think that is going to happen here without a massive lawsuit!

Are the Governments playing poker with the Bridge Co.? Is this all a bluff or is it real? If the Bridge Co. fought that long over FIRA that impacted their ownership of the Bridge, do you expect them to do less now? Oh well, another 10-15 years of writing BLOGs {sigh}.

Here is part of the Budget papers dealing with Windsor:

Infrastructure Advantage


Budget 2007 makes a historic investment of more than $16 billion over seven years in infrastructure...This historic investment will be dedicated to things that matter such as roads and highways, public transit, bridges, sewer and water systems, and green energy...

Initiatives in Budget 2007 to create an Infrastructure Advantage include:

---Allocating $6 billion in new funding to the new Building Canada Fund, investments in gateways and border crossings, and the national fund for public-private partnerships, which will leverage private capital to maximize the impact of the Government’s investments.

---Establishing a new federal office to identify and implement opportunities for public-private partnerships in infrastructure.

---Renewing the Government’s commitment to construct a new border crossing at Windsor-Detroit including:
  • Taking the necessary steps to acquire the appropriate lands once the precise locations for the bridge and plaza have been determined.

  • Exploring public-private partnerships to design, build, finance and operate the new bridge.

  • Covering 50 per cent of the eligible capital cost of building the access road from the new crossing to Highway 401.

  • Providing $10 million over three years to Transport Canada to support its efforts to implement this important project.

---Establish a federal P3 office.

---Further efforts to build a new Windsor-Detroit crossing, including a financing strategy to be outlined in Budget 2007...

---$2.1 billion for the national fund for gateways and border crossings. Part of this amount will be used to make a contribution towards the cost of a new access road that will link a new crossing at Windsor-Detroit with Highway 401 (see Windsor-Detroit below).

---$1.26 billion for the national fund for public-private partnerships.

Public-Private Partnerships

Canada aspires to be a leader in public-private partnerships. Substantial investment is required in our country’s infrastructure to achieve growth in our productivity and standard of living. Public-private partnerships can be beneficial in building infrastructure projects faster and at a lower cost to taxpayers. Private capital and expertise can make a significant contribution. For example, pension fund managers have said that they are seeking to invest in infrastructure opportunities in Canada. The private sector is also better placed to manage many of the risks associated with the construction, financing and operation of infrastructure projects. The United Kingdom and Australia are often held up as world leaders in promoting and engaging public-private partnerships. In the United Kingdom, experience suggests that public-private partnerships can provide greater cost certainty and result in a more timely delivery of infrastructure. Australia, a country of almost 20.8 million people, enjoys one of the most developed P3 markets worldwide, in 2005 worth an estimated $20 billion in prospective and ongoing projects. Canada has an opportunity to take advantage of this tool on behalf of Canadians.

The national fund for public-private partnerships, which is a key part of the long-term plan for infrastructure, will encourage the development of the P3 market in Canada. In the case of large projects seeking funding from the Building Canada Fund and the national fund for gateways and border crossings, proponents will also be required to demonstrate that the option of undertaking the project as a public-private partnership has been fully considered.

Budget 2007 provides $25 million over the next five years for a new federal office that will help execute public-private partnership projects. The office’s mandate will have two main objectives:

----Identifying opportunities and executing public-private partnerships at the federal level.

----Overseeing the assessment of public-private partnership options for projects seeking funding from federal infrastructure initiatives.

The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will work in collaboration to set up and manage the office.


The Windsor-Detroit Corridor is our most important artery of trade, accounting for 28 per cent of Canada-U.S. merchandise trade. Many regions in Canada depend on the efficient movement of goods and people through this corridor. This includes not only Ontario, but also Quebec (in 2004, an estimated $5.7 billion of Quebec’s merchandise exports to the U.S. transited through this corridor). Both long-term planning studies and stakeholders have confirmed the need for a new crossing. Canada’s New Government recognizes that ensuring sufficient border capacity between Windsor and Detroit is an issue of national importance.

A binational planning process, already well advanced, will recommend a location for the new crossing by mid-2007. The International Bridges and Tunnels Act, which recently received Royal Assent, establishes a legislative framework to protect the national interest for safety, security, and the efficient movement of goods and people, and to promote competition. This law will apply to the new crossing for the Windsor-Detroit Corridor.

As promised in Advantage Canada, Budget 2007 sets out a financing strategy for a new crossing at Windsor-Detroit:

  • The Government of Canada will be responsible for the Canadian half of the new international bridge, including the Canadian plaza. Once the precise locations for the bridge and plaza have been determined, the Government will proceed swiftly with the necessary property acquisition. The Government will also create a new public entity that will own this key component of the new crossing. In concert with Michigan and its U.S. partners, Canada is exploring partnering with the private sector to design, build, finance and operate the bridge. The new public entity should help in realizing this public-private partnership.

  • Responsibility for the access road that will link the bridge with Highway 401 rests with the Province of Ontario. To help support this important component of the new crossing, Canada's New Government will make a contribution to cover 50 per cent of the eligible capital cost of building the access road. This contribution will come from the new national fund for gateways and border crossings. Budget 2007 sets aside $400 million from this new national fund for this important project.

Budget 2007 provides $10 million over three years to Transport Canada to help support its legal, financial and technical work to implement this important project.

At least some people are happy with all of this. The bureaucrats who are creating this mess are keeping their jobs!

The Bridge Animation Story---Another Star Rewrite

I will admit it.

I am surprised, no, shocked that the Star ran the story on the video. I was on the phone around 9:30 PM Sunday night talking to a friend and decided to surf to the Windsor Star online. I literally gasped when I saw the front page.

I could not believe that an off-hand comment that Dan Stamper made on Melanie Deveau's show about putting the animation video on was now the top story online and with a photo too!

And the icing on the cake for the Bridge Co. was that the first line of the story instructed people how to find their video:
  • "To view the bridge video to go and type in Ambassador Bridge in the search engine."

If that does not generate thousands of YouTube hits, then advertisers better seek another outlet for their ad dollars. Frankly, the story and the word-of-mouth already should produce a ton of views for the video (over 1500 on the week-end up until 11:15 PM). The Bridge Co. could not have bought better publicity! This will be true "viral marketing" showing the power of the Internet.

As expected, the West end activists and politicos are bad-mouthing the video. Of course, those who actually look at it will learn to ignore these nay-sayers who only see bad in everything the Bridge Co. does.

But it is the pettiness that bothers me: “It doesn’t look very professional at all. It doesn’t say much,” “It’s nothing more than a subterfuge on the part of the bridge company to confuse the people.” “People on the west side do not need to be afraid.” “a Utopian view.”

The reality is that the video makes it abolutely clear that Sandwich will not be destroyed and that Delray will not be destroyed when the enhancement project is built. The West end activists and politicos have just had their legs cut out from under them. And how will DRIC justify what they are going to do including disrupting all of the homes and businesses on both sides of the border.

If the obvious location had been picked, then millions of taxpayer dollars did not have to be wasted drilling bore holes.

I was amused as Councillor Jones tried to pass the buck to the Bridge Co. respecting road-building. It's not their job, Councillor. That's YOUR job! They build bridges and operate them, not roads.

Unfortunately for him, HE as a Councillor will have to make the decision as to the road to the bridge, not the Bridge Co. That is why he got elected. It is a decision that he and his colleagues have ducked for years. There is $300M sitting around that would create many high-paying infrastructure jobs that are badly needed here and Jones and Company dither and dither and dither. Disgusting!

It's easier to be against isn't it than to be for something. But if Councillor Jones and his colleagues actually made a decision then someone wil be angry at them so pass the buck to the Senior Levels and then say that it was "imposed" on Windsor. So many martyrs at our City Hall.

Oh Council has a solution, it's called the WALTS Road. That was their choice for a road to the Ambassador Bridge years ago but they do not have the guts to implement it. You see, the Ambassador Bridge's proposed road that they engineered was actually the WALTS ROAD. I guess that the Mayor and Council do not want people to know that since they would have to disown what they supported and approved:

  • WALTS REPORT---"Option 2 Expand Existing Bridge Capacity

    In this option, widening or twinning the four lane Ambassador Bridge to 6 or 8 lanes would be associated with operational enhancements at or associated with the Bridge Plaza (customs, inspection, tolls, etc). The Canadian Transit Company has proposed that this twinning would link with the Plaza via Indian Road, where the Company has acquired almost all property along the east side.

    WALTS forecasting data and analysis shows that this option would also require further, concurrent improvements on the connecting link to Highway 401. This could be accomplished in at least two ways. The first would be to improve Huron Church Road capacity at least from the Bridge to EC Row Expressway. At this point, improved access could be provided to Highway 401 either via the existing Huron Church Road/Highway 3 connecting link, or via a new easterly link from the EC Row Expressway south to Highway 401 via an improved route such as Lauzon Parkway/County Road 17 and the 10th Concession Road

    A second connecting link option would be from the Bridge Plaza to Ojibway Parkway or EC Row Expressway via a route parallel to College Avenue and the ETR Railway line. Both of these, and other connecting link options warrant further study. Whichever solution is followed, significant roadway capacity and operational improvements would be required along the chosen route, depending on further route selection and functional planning.

    Finally, in considering the Bridge twinning proposal, traffic forecasting and analyses conducted by WALTS and MTO both show a significant need for capacity improvements on Huron Church Road between the Bridge and Expressway to accommodate a doubling or tripling of bridge traffic. In this case, providing up to 8 lanes on portions of the Road may be required, with associated major land acquisition needs along one or both sides of Huron Church Road to accommodate the widened right-of-way. A final traffic operations concern along the Road involves the need to accommodate growing intersecting traffic from the suburban southwestern LaSalle growth areas across Huron Church Road. This crossing need would be most critical at Tecumseh Road West and Todd Lane/Cabana Road."

The significance of the video is that it has changed the debate. Now there is a real alternative that can be built. The disinformation can be stopped finally. The Mayor and Council won't be able to shirk their responsibility any longer in figuring out the best way to get to the Ambassador Bridge.

If the City does not start acting responsibly, after the Provincial and perhaps Federal elections, a solution will be imposed on Windsor by the Senior Levels. Perhaps it is time that the Three Blind Mice force the Mayor and Council to talk to the Bridge Co. Interestingly, those three are being proven to be the only ones who can see clearly.

Now here's some more Windsor Star re-writing of stories. Comparing the Sunday night Online edition and what the Star published in the newspaper. Isn't this the second time that Dale Molnar has been re-written? Last time it was the Assumption meeting.

Dale better learn that he better NOT put anything good in his Star stories about the Bridge Co. or else he will be sent back to do CBC TV news again.

Have some fun...see how many changes were made and whether the impact of the story changed as well. Is there an ONA prize for editing?


  • Video shows new Ambassador span
    Dale Molnar, Windsor Star, March 18, 2007

    To view the bridge video to go and type in Ambassador Bridge in the search engine.

    Sandwich Towne residents say are unimpressed by a new computer-generated video that shows what a proposed second span of the Ambassador Bridge will look like.

    The Detroit International Bridge Company posted the artist concept video on the website YouTube Friday to show Windsorites what the bridge has in mind for a second span just west of the current bridge.

    “It doesn’t look very professional at all. It doesn’t say much,” said truck watch coalition co-ordinator Mary Ann Cuderman.

    The “fly over” video sweeps over and hovers above the existing plaza on the U.S. side highlighting the areas for the plaza and proposed plaza expansion to the west as well as the Michigan Department of Transportation interchange at I-75.

    It flies over the new six-lane suspension bridge with traffic flowing in the both directions.

    The 67-second video shows the bridge with towers nearly twice the height of the Ambassador Bridge.

    On the Canadian side, the video hovers over the current plaza plus the additional plaza to the west for six truck inspection lanes.

    It highlights the streets around the bridge but identifies College Avenue as College Drive.

    Ward 2 Coun. Ron Jones says the video leaves a lot out, such as a new access road along the Essex Terminal Railway tracks, the 32-hectare plaza the new bridge would have to have to accomodate secondary truck inspection and the VACIS X-ray machine.

    “I don’t think the people in the west side are going to buy into it,” said Jones.

    “It’s nothing more than a subterfuge on the part of the bridge company to confuse the people. If they don’t realize they have to have a plaza then why are they trying to buy up land on Indian (Road) on Bloomfield (Road) on Edison (Street)?” said Jones.

    “People on the west side do not need to be afraid. They don’t have to go and sell their homes,” said Jones.

    “They’re not going to be expropriated. The bridge company does not have expropriation powers.”

    He said some residents have been approached by a real estate company which has told them if they don’t sell now they won’t be able to get as much for their homes later.

    Jones and Cuderman said the bridge is trying to buy up homes along Bloomfield Road for an access road that would lead to the E.C. Row Expressway.

    The bridge has presented plans in the past which include the access road.
    Sandwich resident Terry Kennedy thinks the smoothly flowing traffic depicted in the video is “a Utopian view.”

    “We think it’s going to be a parking lot in the sky than anything else. This is a bad work of fantasy for anybody viewing it,”said Kennedy.
    The video does not show traffic flowing on the current bridge.

    One of the anonymous comments entered on the YouTube website was, “Congratulations Mr. Moroun. We can hardly wait.”

    A spokesperson for the bridge could not be reached for comment.


  • Bridge video 'subterfuge' Dale Molnar, Windsor Star Monday, March 19, 2007

    Town of Sandwich residents appear unimpressed by a new computer-generated video that shows what a proposed second span of the Ambassador Bridge will look like.

    The Detroit International Bridge Company recently posted the artist's concept video on the website YouTube to show local residents what the bridge has in mind for a second span just west of the current bridge. "It doesn't look very professional at all. It doesn't say much," said truck watch coalition co-ordinator Mary Ann Cuderman.

    The fly-over video sweeps over and hovers above the existing plaza on the U.S. side highlighting the areas for the plaza and proposed plaza expansion to the west as well as the Michigan Department of Transportation interchange at I-75.

    It flies over the six-lane suspension bridge with traffic flowing in the both directions. The 67-second video shows bridge towers nearly twice the height of the Ambassador Bridge. On the Canadian side, the video hovers over the current plaza plus the additional plaza to the west for six truck inspection lanes.


    Ward 2 Coun. Ron Jones said the video leaves a lot out, such as a new access road along the Essex Terminal Railway tracks, the 32-hectare plaza the new bridge would have to have to accommodate secondary truck inspection and the VACIS X-ray machine.

    "I don't think the people in the west side are going to buy into it," said Jones. "It's nothing more than a subterfuge on the part of the bridge company to confuse the people. If they don't realize they have to have a plaza then why are they trying to buy up land on Indian (Road) on Bloomfield (Road) on Edison (Street)?"

    "People on the west side do not need to be afraid. They don't have to go and sell their homes. They're not going to be expropriated. The bridge company does not have expropriation powers."

    Jones and Cuderman said the bridge is trying to buy up homes along Bloomfield Road for an access road that would lead to E.C. Row Expressway.

    Sandwich resident Terry Kennedy thinks the smoothly flowing traffic depicted in the video is "a Utopian view."

    "We think it's going to be a parking lot in the sky more than anything else. This is a bad work of fantasy for anybody viewing it."

    A spokesman for the bridge could not be reached for comment."

4848 Served And Counting

The internet is truly a marvelous tool. You can join the party too by going to and going to the search box in the top right corner and inserting "ambassador bridge"

4848 is the number of YouTube views to watch the Ambassador Bridge Co. animation as of 9 PM on Monday night.. [As of 6:30 AM this morning, the number rose to 5585]

And to those who have asked, no it was not eligible for the "YouTube Video Awards to recognize the best-user created videos." Neither was my 14 second video commentary although it has had about 500 hits so far. [and BLAHHHH to the guy who said he did not like my shirt!]

I hear that some of the West end activists and politicos may nominate it for "most adorable video ever" next year.

Why one of them was so taken by it, that he/she wrote back to me a one word e-mail after receiving mine the other day telling about it and how it would not destroy the West End.

The email said "Please." [which I took to mean I give up]

So I wrote back saying "Yes it is pleasing!"

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Newsletter The Star Would Not Let You See

Watch for the crack investigative Star journalist team that broke the story on the ugly comments that were supposedly told to Senior Govenment officials in their "internal" MTO newsletter to do a story on what scraps of food were found in garbage cans after the Council feast tonight. I can see the headline---"Council leftovers could have fed welfare families"

I wonder if the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget will grandstand and come up with a compromise solution whereby Councillors can still eat well but pay a nominal amount, say as was done with his former employer who had such a program I was told.

Speaking of the MTO newsletter, why didn't the Star publish it if it was so damning to MTO. Remember the headline" "'Propaganda' miffs tunnel supporters"

Why it was a big deal at the Assumption border meeting too where the Star claimed that MTO's Dave Wake supposedly "apologized" and was made a big issue at the Pupatello Editorial Board interview with the Star.

Oh well, dear reader, if the Star won't publish something so crucial, the BLOGmeister will for your information:. Try and find the damaging line. It is one line in a 6 page newsletter as Dave Wake said. (I am not publishing all 6 pages, just 2 of them)

Please do not laugh too hard. The Star is trying for a Pulitzer Prize on this investigative effort. No wonder they did not publish it!

I think the Star should stick to the garbage cans. They will have more success there.

Is Matty Moroun "Cool" Now or go to Type "ambassador bridge" in the search box in the top right corner.

The poor reporters and editorial writers. No longer will they automatically be able to use the word "reclusive" when talking about the owner of the Bridge Co. They will have to come up with a new adjective now!

I thought it was a stroke of genius when I heard Dan Stamper say on Melanie Deveau's radio interview show on CKLW that the Bridge Co. fly-over animation video was going to be posted on YouTube and not buried on some stuffy EA hearing site.

CKLW advertised it on their website and the Star story today will make it easy for people to find it. Over the weekend, it received almost 2,000 views (many from BLOG readers who got the address first again) and received an honour as:

  • #36 - Most Viewed (Today) - Autos & Vehicles -All
  • #19 - Most Viewed (Today) - Autos & Vehicles - English
  • #20 - Top Favorites (Today) - Autos & Vehicles - All
  • #14 - Top Favorites (Today) - Autos & Vehicles - English

I guess the theory was to let the world know exactly what it is that they propose to do and end the rumours, speculation and LIES! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth, a million?

I wonder what the West End activists and politicos will do now, never mind the DRIC team. It makes it harder to make the Bridge Co. the bogey man when it can be seen how little of Windsor and Detroit will be negatively impacted by what they propose to do. The strategy sessions will have to work overtime to convince people that what their eyes tell them is not reality.

Contrast their proposal with anything that DRIC wants to do in Sandwich and Delray. It should not be to difficult either to see which one will cost a lot less to construct as well.

So that is the obvious to discuss. Now the more interesting part of what is taking place.

Over the past year we have seen a change in the attitude of the Bridge Co. They learned that merely being the best border operator in North America is not good enough. It does not win you any thanks or gratitude. You need to get out there publicly and blow your own horn.

Moreover, using the word of the City of Windsor, they have learned that they have "enemies" who are trying desperately to destroy their business. They need to get out there aggressively and defend themselves from lies and disinforamtion.

We have seen the change and it was not so subtle either. The Bridge Co. was front and centre in the hearings in Lansing and in Ottawa before the House of Commons and Senate. The Gowlings lawsuit to me was a very significant event as far as I was concerned and quite a shocker. The recent Michigan approvals I believe are of major concern to their foes because it is now clear that they are moving forward on their enhancement project since many assumed that they were bluffing and were not going to do anything.

The YouTube animation is fascinating to me because it is a direct appeal to the public over the head of and to get around the traditional media like the Windsor Star. I thought it was great that Dan Stamper revealed it on the radio first to give Melanie the scoop!

I am shocked that the Star reported this. Well, it was Dale Molnar who did the story not the usual border reporter. They even gave the address for people to see the video and in the first line of the story too on the online edition. BUT NOT IN THE PUBLISHED EDITION. It was almost as if they wanted people to see what the Bridge Co. offers and that it is not as bad as feared. Then of course the editors got to it and took out the address since it would be too damaging to the position of the Star and the Mayor.

Heavens...the Star readers cannot be trusted with facts!

What I really find informative though is the comparison between the actions of the City and the actions of the Bridge Co. Which party is acting in the "right" manner?

I leave you with this. In the Senate hearings, our Mayor was called a "politician" when answering questions, a term not used in a complimentary fashion. The Bridge Co. people were thanked for speaking "candidly" about their position.

Our "open and transparent" Mayor and Council have not taken into their confidence the people who elected them on the border issue with all of their in camera meetings, acted in a stealth fashion against the Bridge Co. when introducing the Interim Control By-law, and will spend up to $500,000 over an Economic Development Initiative to create a few parking spaces for some call centre employees as part of what was described by Gord Henderson in a much different way than parking spaces (see other BLOG).

And what does the "reclusive" Bridge Co. owner do---posts a video on YouTube for everyone to watch. That man is really "boss" now!

Parking Lots As An Economic Development Initiative

We'll see tonight at Council what the newbie Councillors--Dilkens, Marra and Hatfield--- are made of. The Agenda deals with a municipal parking lot for the new Sutherland employees. Will they go along with this seemingly odd transaction. The other Councillors are stuck. They voted for it in camera in the past Council it seems.

Remember the story in the Star about the Keg parking. First the Star had to go to a Municipal Freedom of Information Application Act appeal to get the data. Then we learned that

  • "Municipal parking spots that would normally cost $1.25 an hour are being given away for five cents a day for customers of the Keg Restaurant who park in the city-owned garage attached to the DaimlerChrysler building."

To be honest, Mayor Francis was made to look like a fool in that story and the Editorial written by the Star. It was not one of his shining hours.

The poor Mayor. No wonder he needs a team of PR flacks. His justification:

  • "It was a deal breaker," Mayor Eddie Francis said, explaining why the city had to cut a deal.

Ludicrous. He should have said it was an EDI, an Economic Development Initiative as is being done with the municipal parking lot for the Sutherland call centre employees.

What, you did not know about the EDI. I did not recall hearing about it either. It turns out the City agreed to spend up to $500,000 to "support the development of a municipal parking lot" for them. You see, there was a desire that the employees' cars not intrude into the neighbourhood.

I asked the City's Brenda Andreatta to send me the Council Resolution that authorized the EDI and the background Administration Report that served as the justification for it. I was curious to know if the parking fee was free or 5 cents per day or a normal hourly rate.

After several exchanges, I was given the Resolution and have posted it above. As for the Report, regretfully, I cannot post it. You see it was a verbal one. Yuppers, the spending of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars was decided based on what someone said. As for the amount of the parking fee, I have no idea. I was going to ask a Councillor but the deal was concluded by the previous Council. I wonder if one of the newbies knows.

I must admit I would have been curious to know whether the vote was unanimous and especially if the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget supported it since he was such a penny-pincher. No such luck I am afraid.

I have to admit I am at fault. It was presented openly at the Council meeting on October 10, 2006 and I should have picked it up. That was a month before the big announcement was made about Sutherland opening up in Windsor. Here is what the Resolution at Council said:

  • "Consideration of Committee Reports
    Moved by Councillor Lewenza, seconded by Councillor Postma,
    That the Report of the special In-camera meeting held October 4, 2006 BE ADOPTED as presented. (M235-2006)

See it was all there for anyone to read and fully understand. That is how that past open and transparent Council operated under this Mayor.

Of course there is more to the story than that.

First, I told you that the CAO runs the City. The cost of the parking lot is said to be $305,000. (I do not know if a Tender was issued for his but someone else can check that out.) However, the Report on Monday wants to give the CAO the right to charge up to $500,000 against a reserve fund for this project. I don't get it, why another $200K? Is the City estimating that bad? If so, Heaven help us on the East End arena costs.

As an aside, if you take that $200K and add it to the amount that was supposed to have been given to the Capitol as a first payment, there was almost enough money to save the theatre. Better to pave a parking lot I guess.

But that is not the big story. The second point, and what this is all really about, has nothing to do with Sutherland but everything to do with the Ambassador Bridge. It is an other silly attempt by the Mayor and Council to harass them as they did with the Interim Control By-law and the Sandwich heritage designation. Someone better give our local politicians a copy of Bill C-3 and tell them to stop wasting our money.

How do I know that this is about the Bridge Co. Easy. Gord Henderson told me and you in a column on 11-04-2006:
  • "By the way, nobody's talking about this. But the announcement is a double whammy of welcome news for west-end residents.

    In addition to the jobs, it could checkmate any Ambassador Bridge company plans to twin its bridge, a development feared by many area residents.

    The building that will house those 1,000 jobs stands in the direct path of the bridge company's most logical route to a second span.

    A double whammy indeed."
Since this was "economic development," I wonder who from the Commission was involved in this deal.

NOTE TO COUNCILLOR JONES---As the protector of Sandwich, please make sure that a proper archeological investigation and supervision of the work is carried out on this parking lot site immediately and that the people doing the work are "moving a millimetre of dirt at a time with a trowel and not bulldozing with a large bucket." It seems to be undisturbed land unlike the houses on Indian Road so much more care is needed.

Oh and isn't the parking lot within the Interim Control By-law area too. Make sure that the law is observed by the City in your Ward please!