Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 30, 2007

Free Press Bridge Editorial

Very insightful Editorial by the Detroit Free Press today. It picks up on on the themes that I have been Blogging about for a very long time and places them in a context of hard financial times for Michigan.

Given Ontario's Provincial budget, can't the same case be made here too!

Suspend a wasteful race
March 30, 2007

The future of the vital bridge between Detroit and Windsor might be decided, for better or worse, by who gets a shovel in the riverbank first. The private Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the four-lane Ambassador Bridge and plans to build a six-lane span next to it, has the edge with plans to start construction next year and finish in 2010 or 2011.

If the bridge company succeeds, the separate plan of a binational commission to put up another bridge farther south, near Zug Island on the American side, becomes irrelevant. Construction on that crossing probably would not even start until 2009 and finish in 2013. As a practical matter, if the Ambassador, owned by billionaire transportation mogul Matty Moroun, builds first, it would eliminate the need for another nearby bridge.

Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., said his company has spent $450 million on property acquisition, engineering and demolition, and would spend another $450 million to build the parallel span.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has already spent $11.2 million -- and could spend $20 million more -- on the Detroit River International Crossing study that will recommend a site for another bridge by next year. The study includes drilling 14 holes near Zug Island and Historic Ft. Wayne to examine the bedrock.

Given Michigan's financial crisis, it's time to suspend the DRIC study until the coalition knows whether or not the Ambassador Bridge can build its twin span. The answer to that question will depend largely on Canada, as it should. The crossing, after all, involves two nations.

Delaying study can't hurt

On the U.S. side, there are some advantages to twinning the Ambassador, including the use of existing bridge plazas and interstate connections. But the DRIC study rejected the Ambassador plan because of traffic and environmental impacts on Windsor's residential and business districts. The government bodies making up DRIC are considering sites near Zug Island that cross into an industrial area with few residents.

Among other things, the bridge company needs approval from the U.S. Coast Guard and clearance from Transport Canada, a federal agency that will conduct an environmental assessment. The Ambassador expects to get answers on both issues this year.

Meantime, there's little to lose in delaying the DRIC study. Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge has actually dropped since 1999, and the bridge now operates at about 50% of its capacity. In 2006, the Ambassador carried 9.4 million vehicles, including 3.5 million trucks and buses.

The Ambassador probably won't reach capacity until 2025. The immediate need is not to build more lanes but to improve the flow of goods and traffic with better customs service, operations and roads. To ease congestion, the bridge company has added inspection and customs booths. MDOT's $200-million Gateway project, directly connecting the bridge plaza to the interstate system, also will improve traffic flow on and off the bridge. That MDOT project has a diminished payoff if a new bridge is built downriver from the Gateway. The Ambassador carries most of the $100 billion in trade crossing the border at Detroit each year.

DRIC has continued its study while acknowledging that the Ambassador Bridge, as a private company, has the right to move forward.

Canada's concerns

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently approved two permits for the new Ambassador, one for a storm sewer upgrade and another for the bridge crossing. The company also seeks state approval for $1 billion in tax-exempt bonds.

Plenty of hurdles remain. Canada is uneasy about putting another major international crossing in the hands of a private, for-profit company. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments will likely have to include the project in its long-range transportation plan, so that SEMCOG can determine whether the project conforms to federal air quality standards, said SEMCOG's transportation chief Carmine Palombo. The bridge company would also have to get local building permits from Detroit and Windsor.

Ideally, siting an important international crossing should not be determined by who digs first.
That said, building and operating the bridge with private money in these tough times has some appeal. In any case, a parallel span at the Ambassador site would end the need for another crossing. Michigan officials should waste no more time and money planning for another bridge until they know whether or not the new Ambassador will take care of it for them.


I cannot believe the statement made. Finally, the truth is coming out. As you will see, I was not that far off the mark in speculating what the DRIC process was really about.

To be direct, if I am right, taxpayers on both sides of the border should be outraged at the incredible waste of taxpayer dollars. Heads should roll.

In Canada, the Auditor General should act immediately and investigate what has happened. It is a national disgrace. "The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) audits federal government operations and provides Parliament with independent information, advice and assurance to help hold the government to account for its stewardship of public funds." Now I suspect I know why Minister Cannon is afraid to come to Windsor

Read this Question and Answer that came out of the Official Minutes of the DRIC Public Meeting held in Detroit on March 21, 2007

  • Q. – Betty Hegedus said she is a lifetime resident. An El Central newspaper article says a sixlane, cable-stayed bridge will be added next to the Ambassador Bridge. So, if they do their project, does that mean there will be three bridges?

    R. – We do not know whether that second span of the Ambassador Bridge will happen. Nonetheless, it is believed (by Joe Corradino) that the market won’t support three bridges.

DUHHHH do they still think the Ambassador Bridge is fooling! I guess they must or else they would have to fold their tents and disappear into the night. In other words, the only reason they are around is for "insurance" purposes and to justify spending more money they have to say that the Bridge Co. may not do what they say they are going to do!

Mr. Corradino just proved everything I have been saying on finances is correct.


The consequence of this would be massive subsidies required to be paid by the four Governments in order to keep the bridges operating or the economies of our countries would be in a mess.


Which investor would finance a P3 bridge now unless the Governments put the Ambassador Bridge out of business or buys their business!

As I said before...isn't this what DRIC is all about! "Create the possibility of a new crossing with the Americans" to force the owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out cheaply!

It also proves that the DRIC traffic numbers are worthless if the market cannot support another bridge. That was the basis of moving forward. No wonder new reasons kept popping up for building a new bridge. All of them phony too.

Seriously, with the melt-down in the Michigan economy, with no money for the new Bridge in the Provincial budget and a ridiculously low sum in the Federal one, does anyone really think that Governments really want to build or can build a new bridge here now.

Isn't the issue now who is going to swallow their pride and be the one to ask the Bridge Co. to build that bridge. Sandra and Dwight need jobs, jobs, jobs that would be created by the project for their re-election. Harper hopes he might pick up a seat or two here. Granholm needs the Federal matching grants and something to get the economy going.

Get out of the way as they all run to the Bridge Co. office to be first in line!


When you see the truth in black and white it hurts. Remember the comments in Port Huron when the local politicians and residents saw reality after MDOT promises:

  • ---Port Huron officials were misled
  • ---Promises of mitigation appear hollow
  • ---Mitigation does not include financial assistance
  • ---There is no substantive assistance
  • ---We cannot spend transportation money to buy new housing or rehab existing

The people in Delray who attended the DRIC Public meeting in Detroit on March 21 must have felt as if their dreams were shattered right in their faces. It was all words and artists' impressions after all.

John Nagy, head of the Delray Community Council was quoted in a Detroit paper as saying:

  • "But lately Nagy, a retired machine operator who's lived in the neighborhood his entire 51 years, has become excited by a proposed project he hopes will spur nascent redevelopment efforts...

    You'd think Nagy and other community leaders would be dead set against funneling thousands of semis spewing diesel fumes through their neighborhood every day. But the promise of development dollars has helped win them over...

    MDOT officials have met frequently with residents, promising to sweeten the pot if and when a bridge is built. At 23 public meetings conducted so far in southwest Detroit, agency director Kirk T. Steudle and study director Mohammed Alghurabi have sat with residents in community centers and high school gyms, answering questions and seeking input. They promised the agency would help bring housing and commercial redevelopment to the neighborhood, showing pictures of varying styles of residential buildings, cultural attractions and business projects, asking residents which would be most welcome.

    At first, Nagy says, he had no intention of agreeing to an international crossing running through his neighborhood. But after hearing MDOT's promises, his opinion changed.

    "I think, overall, the bridge is a win-win situation," he says. "It's going to do away with a lot of blight and contaminated properties."

Hmmm I wonder if John has seen the Ambassador Bridge animation video on (search "ambassador bridge") that shows that their enhancement project does not put a bridge in Delray.

More importantly, how does he react to this knee-capping by DRIC and MDOT:

  • "Joe Corradino introduced the topic of Delray land use concepts. He noted that the work is based on a series of workshops with the community, from December 2005 through August 2006 that defined Planning Priorities. That work addressed Delray land uses with and without a new bridge. He explained that MDOT is a transportation agency, not a land use planning agency, but, realizing that transportation changes would affect land use, helped formulate the concepts shown in the meeting room.

    Joe Corradino asked those in attendance use the comment forms to write down their ideas about what they like or do not like in the alternative land use concepts shown. He suggested that of about 200 single-family occupied dwelling units that could be would be affected by the plaza, MDOT can help relocate the residents (and the businesses) to the areas in Delray selected for redevelopment, if they choose to stay. This can be a catalyst for other redevelopment. There are things like this that MDOT can do. This can complement activities by others. But, as time goes on, a partnership will have to be built with the City of Detroit and others to accomplish the redevelopment ideas shown."

In other words, DRIC just said that MDOT washed their hands in helping out in the redevelopment of Delray and passed the buck to Detroit. Go ask Kwame and someone else to do it. It's not their table. DRIC was merely helping in formulating concepts.

I'd suggest that John might want to re-read my BLOG March 01, 2007, "What Sandwich and Delray Can Learn From Port Huron." So should the West end activists and politicos!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Healthy BLOG Diet

  • Time to reduce the size of BLOG portions.

    Instead of full-course BLOGS, here are some smaller ones for you to digest easily.


    Are we living in a dream world? Isn't it time that someone woke up to reality?

Oh sure, Michigan is going to duplicate the Ambassador Gateway project by spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and give up billions in federal matching funds all due to the Bridge Co. "private" project at a time when the Free Press says:

  • "Granholm to staff: Prepare for partial state government shutdown
    March 28, 2007


    LANSING — Gov. Jennifer Granholm is planning for a possible partial shutdown of state government sometime in May because of the state’s worsening finances.

    With a $940-million deficit, the state faces a cash flow shortage of some $400 million by May 1."

Now I have a great idea to help out Michigan in their budget woes. If MDOT thinks that P3s are such great ideas, why don't they take their "public" bridges, say the Blue Water Bridge as a starter, and make them a P3. Find an investor and fill up the State Treasury.

My Company has some very good financing contacts and my commission rate is very attractive...


If Governor Granholm did not have enough problems...You remember during the Canadian Parliamentary hearings the undertone of how can Transport Canada deal fairly with the Bridge Co. when both are competing to build a crossing in Windsor/Detroit.

That "conflict of interest" subject burst out over the last few days in Michigan with the issue of Private Activity Bonds:

Windsor Star:

  • "The transportation mogul is competing with a government-backed process seeking to build its own separate downriver crossing in an industrial corridor linking Sandwich and Delray... The fund is overseen by a nine-member, governor-appointed board of directors...A final decision on allocations under the PABs program ultimately must come from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation."
Detroit Free Press
  • "While MDOT does not make the final decision on the bond approval, it will make a recommendation to the fund's board.

    MDOT is competing with the bridge company to build a second border crossing to Canada. The department, through the Detroit International River Crossing, a joint effort by Canadian and Michigan transportation officials, has narrowed its choices for a second bridge to two sites in Detroit that are both farther south of the current bridge.

    Stamper said it is a conflict for MDOT to have a say in approving the company's bonds because of its efforts to build a second span."
Detroit News
  • "The race to build another bridge from southwest Detroit to Windsor has taken an odd twist.

    Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has applied for $1 billion in U.S. bonds to help pay for a twin span -- and the agency that will help decide his fate is his chief competitor.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation will recommend whether Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co. will get the tax-exempt bonds, MDOT spokesman Bill Shreck said Tuesday.

    MDOT is pursuing its own plan to build a bridge, working in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and provincial and federal authorities from Canada."

I guess the Star Editor had one too many apple martinis earlier in the evening and forgot how to spell the name of the owner of the Bridge Co. in the story headline although it was spelled properly in the story:
  • "Bridge in $1B bond bid
    Maroun launches application in race to build twin span
    Dave Battagello, March 27, 2007

    Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has launched an application to U.S. federal authorities for $1 billion in Private Activity Bonds (PABs) for his twin span proposal."

Can you imagine what the result would have been if David Birch of Cognetics Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., research firm, had used "deer" instead of "gazelles" as the animal for Economic Development groups to nurture.

Would the Superior Park deer still have a home in that case?


Remember what Councillor Postma said about city taxes and a new arena:

  • "Voters are not going to see a difference on their tax bill as a result of this project."

Remarkably and notwithstanding that the tax rate may go up 3.6%, the Treasurer is able to say

  • "The $65 million arena won’t have an impact on taxes...As debt is retired, money that would have been used for payments on the debt is put into the fund to pay for major projects. The arena will be paid off by 2010 using this strategy."

Hmmm, what if we had no major projects, say like no $65M and counting arena. Could that money have been used to offset increasing taxes? What about the $5M in financing costs until the arena is paid off as an example, is that chopped liver?

Nawwwwwwww monuments to ego are more important. Why allow taxpayers to have that money. It's only a few dollars per family using Councillor Lewenza's logic! All the better to spend it. Your pocketbook will never notice the difference.


Is it true that shortly it will be announced that SERCO, the company managing the airport, is no longer the manager.

Is there a multi-million deficit at the airport? Have you heard anything about this during the Budget discussions? Dont worry, we won't hear much of that!

Here is what is going to happen:

  • "Francis wouldn't tip his hand on plans for Windsor Airport, which has been bleeding red ink under a contract with a private operator, but said the airport, and especially the airport lands, will be a top priority. "I don't think we've used it as a primary driver in economic development but we will," he vowed. Don't be surprised if neighbouring London Airport, which is booming under the inspired leadership of a non-profit transportation authority, becomes a role model. And the airport transportation hub proposed by New York traffic guru Sam Schwartz? Francis said a Transport Canada study is continuing and it's far from a dead issue. "

SON OF SAM, SON OF SAM, SON OF SAM! All as a "THINK BIG" career booster for the next Provincial election.


Councillor Jones is a very smart politician. He was quoted in the Star about getting a few civil service jobs for Windsor:

  • "Coun. Ron Jones seized on the decentralization theme last week in an interview with The Star's Grace Macaluso. He wants the city to push the province, through our cabinet ministers, for a fair share of civil service jobs and will raise the issue at council Monday.

    "We are in a desperate situation here in Windsor. We are in crisis. And that's even more reason why the provincial government should be looking at this," Jones told me Wednesday. "Stand up for us. And see this for the opportunity it is." That's his advice for Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello. He said the two ministers "have the influence and the ability" to deliver provincial jobs for Windsor."

He knows how Windsor can get thousands of new jobs almost right away. Let's see when the Ward 2 Councillor proposes that! Dare he become the Fourth Blind Mouse and then bring Councillors Postma and Lewenza with him to form a Council majority?


A reader sent me a note to make sure that I did not miss the story about poor George Sofos who has said that "he has spent almost $200,000 renovating the former children’s entertainment venue" to make it a banquet hall.

Bill Jean of the City had this to say:

  • "When that interim control bylaw expired, it was adopted citywide.

    “It was not intended specifically to include Mr. Sofos, but it does,” Jean said. At the moment, Mr. Sofos can offer music, he can offer dancing but he can’t offer both.” Jean said Sofos can apply for a zoning exemption or a rezoning of his property."

Oh, in case you are wondering where the subject headline came from, it is from the song "Billie Jean" from Michael Jackson. It just seemed to fit so well!

The Real News About Senator Kenny's Report

I hope you are hungry and thirsty because I have a lot for you to read today again. You can take your morning break and read the words of the Kenny report on "Border Crossings" that I have copied and posted below.

You may even be shocked by testimony I quote from the last go around of the Senate Committee hearings which may help explain the fun and games we are suffering through in Windsor from inaction. It may also explain why the Bridge Co. is being persecuted.

Now I will bet that you are surprised by what I said compared with the Star coverage. Sure the report talked about Customs officers spending less time "looking for extra bottles of duty-free whiskey and more time trying to identify people who might be a genuine threat to Canada."

However, Windsorites are more concerned about what the Senate committee said about the border crossing issue after his last set of headlines. If you read the Star's giant headline, the big issue discussed was "Keep bridges apart, report urges." And then a blurb about "a federally funded awareness campaign be launched in the U.S." and "introduction of reverse customs -- where vehicles are inspected before crossing."

There is the Star doing it again...except this time in reverse. Remember how they made a huge story out of one line in a 6-page MTO internal newsletter about a tunnel. Well now, they take pages of Kenny's Report on reverse customs and make it into half a sentence story!

Clearly, as the Kenny Committee still does not seem to understand, and as the Star surely does, if there is reverse customs in place, the argument for a separate, redundant bridge collapses! Then there would be no excuse for not building the Ambassador Bridge's enhancement project.
  • "The danger of this system [trucks and people cross a bridge or tunnel before they are inspected] is that an uninspected vehicle could stop in the middle of a tunnel or bridge and explode a bomb, disabling a crossing vital to the well-being of Canadians.

    Reverse inspections, a process under which people and goods would be subject to examination prior to departure from their country of origin, would lessen this vulnerability."
If the bad guys are stopped before they go over in the first place, then the Star headline disappears doesn't it? The security concerns have been minimized. And so does another reason for a public bridge.

There were some other interesting things said and not said in the Report:
  • the emphasis on the Ambassador Bridge but no mention of the "unique security risk" at the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel

  • No recognition that, until recently, it seemed not in the City of Windsor's interest to have reverse customs at the Tunnel for business reasons because of space issues (In my opinion, reverse customs is the real reason for the Tunnel Plaza Improvements which now seem in limbo)

  • There is talk about the need for "Backup crossings [to] provide an alternative in the event of a key crossing going down." How absurd unless there is a demand for redundancy everywhere. There is a fundamental avoidance of discussing how terrorists have gone after multi-targets in other attacks since it makes a mockery of their fundamental thesis.

  • "Alain Jolicoeur, the President of the Canada Border Service Agency told the Committee that reverse inspections are the preferred option for conducting inspections at border crossings."

  • The best line of all "politicians don’t listen to rational arguments."

Finally, I want you to read these two lines to confirm again in your mind that what I have been saying is true. The DRIC exercise and the other irritants are designed to harass the Bridge Co. so they sell out:

  1. Kenny Report: "the federal government has both the mandate and obligation... to remedy the situation as quickly as possible by creating an additional separate crossing.

  2. Ex- Minister Rock "Create the possibility of a third crossing."

If one wants to build a new crossing one does not merely create possibilities but builds a structure. Moreover, if the need is so great that there is a "Public Order Emergency”, then why are Windsorites hearing platitudes even now and not seeing real action.

The answer came in testimony of Ontario's Bruce McCuaig before Kenny in December, 2004 transcripts. The Senior Levels can spend years harassing the Bridge Co. because there is no urgent need at Windsor to do anything since the Bridge Co. has fixed the short-term problems for a decade or more. The Senior Levels can play around with short-term fixes as they beat up on a private owner to force him to sell out:

  • "So I would not look at just the new crossing itself as an issue that needs to be addressed, albeit it is a significant one. Rather, there are a variety of things that need to be done in this interim period. More specifically, there are border process and plaza improvements that we can do in the shorter term and medium term to help bridge us, if I could use that word, to the time at which new capacity comes on stream in terms of a new border crossing.

    Technically, the throughput capacity of the Ambassador Bridge does not reach capacity according to the work that has been done to date for 10 years to 15 years. That is not to say that we have an optimal situation. I do not think anyone would suggest that we have an optimal situation, but the physically capacity is there, if we can move the traffic through the plazas and through the roads for the next 10 years physically on that bridge."

My suggestion to Senator Kenny and his Committee colleagues: have the Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon and Deputy Minister Louis Ranger attend as a witnesses and grill them along with the Ontario Minister Cansfield to get at the truth! You might also be advised to have the Bridge Co. executives as witnesses as well so that you will get real information about a bridge!

Enjoy the read!

Problem 13:

Backing Up Infrastructure at Key Border Crossings

Some border crossings are obviously more important to Canada and the United States than others. These important land crossings carry the heaviest volumes of people, goods and traffic - including well over 6 million trucks, 5 million containers, 61 million cars, and 3 million buses per year.82 Disruptions in service would result in significant damage to the economic health of both countries ­ especially to Canada.

Bridges and tunnels connecting Canada to the United States are strategic assets, vital to the national security and economic well-being of our two nations. The most important of these are the bridge and tunnel connecting Windsor to Detroit. Backup crossings are needed to reduce the reliance on potential failure points. They would provide an alternative in the event of a key crossing going down.


The Committee recommended that only those proposals for new crossing infrastructure at Windsor-Detroit which provide separate and secure infrastructure redundancy be considered. (Recommended in June 2005)


According to Transport Canada's July 7, 2006 response:

"The Canada-United States-Ontario-Michigan border transportation partnership (the Partnership) through the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study is identifying a location for a new river crossing, plazas for border inspections and connecting roads leading from Highway 401 in Canada to the Interstate Highway system in the United States. The study process was developed in order to satisfy the requirements of environmental laws in both countries.

On November 14, 2005 the Bi-National Partnership for the development of a new crossing at the Windsor-Detroit Gateway announced that the Bi-National environmental assessment (EA) study teams would now concentrate future study of a new border crossing and inspection plazas to the industrial area of West Windsor. With the announcement, some of the crossing alternatives identified by the Partnership EA study team in June 2005, were eliminated (which among other criteria) did not provide separate and secure infrastructure. These proposals included the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership's two-lane truckway proposal determined to be inadequate to serve the region's long-term capacity needs and the Ambassador Bridge Twinning Proposal determined to not be practical based on the community impacts of the proposed plaza and access road in Canada.

On March 30, 2006 TC received an updated submission for the Ambassador Bridge Company for the Ambassador Enhancement Project. Under its obligations to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, TC will examine and respond to the proposal. TC remains committed to the Bi- National process and fulfilling its legislative and regulatory responsibilities.


The government's main consideration is clearly to increase capacity. Providing a nearby backup in the case of a bridge or tunnel being incapacitated by man-made or natural disaster does not appear to be a major consideration.

It is a major consideration for the Committee, so we were heartened to see that the proposed options of increasing capacity by widening the Windsor-Detroit tunnel or twinning the Ambassador Bridge were rejected. Good.

The Committee has been critical of the 2013 deadline; we felt that something so critical to the economies of both Canada and the United States could have been expedited.

However, the process was not expedited, so there is little point in flogging a dead horse. The Government should at least pull out all the stops to ensure that the 2013 deadline is met. A new bridge will bring sighs of relief and loud applause from the always-boisterous chambers of the Senate.

Problem 14:
Reverse Inspection Could Save Damage to Crossings

The key land border crossings between Canada and the United States, those bridges and tunnels that carry the majority of people and goods back and forth, are unnecessarily vulnerable. That is partially because trucks and people cross them every day before they are inspected.

The danger of this system is that an uninspected vehicle could stop in the middle of a tunnel or bridge and explode a bomb, disabling a crossing vital to the well-being of Canadians.

Reverse inspections, a process under which people and goods would be subject to examination prior to departure from their country of origin, would lessen this vulnerability.

Land pre-clearance and reverse inspections are not identical. When the term land pre-clearance is used, only one country might be operating on foreign soil. Reverse inspections implies a reciprocity; both countries are pre-clearing at all given crossings. Reverse inspection is two-way pre-clearance.


The Committee recommended that the government move, with U.S. cooperation, to expand pre-clearance into continent-wide reverse inspection at all bridge and tunnel crossings.(Recommended in June 2005)

The Committee recommended that the federal government develop and publicize an implementation plan for pre- clearance, with clearly understood timeframes. (Recommended in June 2005)


Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC) replied on August 30,
2006 as follows:

"On December 17, 2004, Canada and the U.S. announced that they would be piloting land pre-clearance at two locations. One pilot will be located at Peace Bridge, where U.S. border inspection operations will be moved from Buffalo, New York to Fort Erie, Ontario; Canadian
inspection operations will be moved to the U.S. side of the border at the Thousand Islands Bridge.

Pre-clearance involves relocating the border operations of one country to another. It has been applied successfully in the air context for decades with U.S. border officers pre-clearing passengers (but not air cargo) destined to the U.S. at certain Canadian airports.

The formal negotiations on a Canada-U.S. Agreement on pre-clearance were put on hold with the dissolution of Parliament. Canadian negotiators have received a renewed mandate and negotiations have now resumed with a view to being successfully concluded by this fall.

Canadian and U.S. officials are working to finalize a land pre-clearance agreement at the earliest date and legislation will likely be required.

Reverse inspection involves the application of land pre-clearance twice, with the result being that, at the same crossing, U.S. border operations would be located in Canada and Canadian border operations are located in the U.S.

Canada has maintained that it is willing to consider reverse inspection at certain crossings where this makes sense. However, it would not be recommended for the Peace Bridge, the Thousand Islands Bridge or the Ambassador Bridge unless the current geographical constraints at
these crossings are addressed.

Reverse inspection would require the same instruments as for simple land pre-clearance, i.e., a government-to-government agreement and legislative changes."


Geographic Contraints:
An Excuse to Do Nothing

What both countries need is a simple land swap at all bridges and tunnels connecting Canada and the United States, so that Canada owns snippets of the U.S. and the United States owns little snippets of Canada. This is not a new idea ­ foreign embassies, for instance, are foreign territory located inside our borders.

The amount of land swapped should be roughly equal at each crossing. Secured highways would have to be constructed when the swapped land is not adjacent to the crossing.

Reverse inspection makes sense, but it is being held up because neither the Government of Canada or the Government of the United States is keen having armed persons from another country searching people on their own territory. Land swaps would put these search points under the jurisdiction of the neighbouring country.


B6. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada begin negotiations with the United States to effect land swaps/transfers of sovereignty to permit customs and immigration pre-clearance before a vehicle or an individual gains access to an international bridge or in an international tunnel.

Problem 15:
No Plans for Reverse Inspection at New Windsor- Detroit Crossing

Problem 13 refers to the government's plan to build a new bridge in the Windsor-Detroit area. If there is one location at which reverse inspection should be introduced, it should be this one.

First, the structure will be new ­ it is far easier to incorporate reverse-inspection facilities at a new crossing than it is to re-fit an old crossing. Secondly, the Ontario-Michigan crossings are the most vital to the economic health of Canada.

Canadian and U.S. inspectors should switch sides of the border so they have an opportunity to protect their countries before potential wrongdoers arrive, and before any cargo that might do damage to a land border crossing enters that crossing. Best to apprehend a truck whose occupants want to blow up a bridge before that truck gets on the bridge.


The Committee recommended that any new crossing constructed at Windsor-Detroit include facilities for reverse inspection.
(Recommended in June 2005)


According to Transport Canada's July 7, 2006 response:

"The Canada-United States-Ontario-Michigan border transportation partnership (the Partnership) is willing to consider reverse inspections if the appropriate greement(s) can be reached between the Governments of Canada and the United States and if it can be implemented within the time frame of DRIC project. On this basis the Partnership is developing a business case for customs/inspection facilities that will allow for full plaza sites in both Canada and the United States."


Alain Jolicoeur, the President of the Canada Border Service Agency told the Committee that reverse inspections are the preferred option for conducting inspections at border crossings.

This should be a no-brainer. The government should attach a priority to getting the agreement done and implemented within the time frame of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project. Furthermore, the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge are too critical to the economies of Canada and the United States to allow terrorists any advantage if they are targeted. For that reason both of these crossings should be retrofitted for reverse inspections.


B7. The Committee recommends that any new border crossing between Canada and the United States feature reverse inspection facilities, so that each country can check out vehicles entering its territory before those vehicles enter the crossing.

B8. The Committee recommends that both the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge be retrofitted with reverse inspection facilities, so that each country can inspect vehicles
entering its territory before those vehicles enter the crossing.

B9. The Committee recommends that there be a corresponding transfer of sovereignty at the inspection plaza and a controlled access roadway leading to the new bridge.

Problem 16:
Windsor-Detroit Border Crossing a "Public Order Emergency"

The importance of the Windsor-Detroit crossings to Canada as a whole is so great, and the impact of a permanent disruption to these crossings so severe, that the Committee believes that the current situation constitutes a "public order emergency" to the security of Canada. That being the case, the federal government has both the mandate and obligation, in the interests of national security, to remedy the situation as quickly as possible by creating an additional separate crossing. It should do so by introducing legislation granting the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness the authority to expedite construction of key border


The Committee recommended that the federal government, in the interests of national security, introduce legislation that would grant the Governor-in-Council ­ upon the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness the authority to expedite border infrastructure construction.96 (Recommended in June 2005)


In its July 7, 2006 response to the Committee, Transport Canada wrote:

"The DRIC environmental assessment (EA) project complies with the existing legislative requirements in both countries-- the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (OEAA) and the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA). New federal legislation would not expedite the EA process. This project would still be required to comply with the OEAA and NEPA, which requires an extensive EA comparing a number of alternatives. In Canada, the planning process provided by the OEAA provides a solid
framework to analyze and consult on the range of options that are available for choosing the location for a new border crossing. (sic)

The DRIC planning and environmental assessment study is being done in three years. This is record time for an EA of this size and complexity. The timeframe is necessary to ensure a systematic and thorough evaluation of reasonable and prudent alternatives including consultation with all affected stakeholders and proper documentation to help ensure speedy environmental approval as required by the legislation in both countries.

In March 2006, the Partnership announced the specific options for the new bridge, customs plazas and connecting access roads. Overall the environmental assessment is on chedule and progressing well.

The aggressive study schedule for the EA process is on-track for submission of final reports planned for by the end of 2007, so that the Partnership may proceed to design and construction. The Partnership continues to seek opportunities to accelerate this schedule if it can be done
so without jeopardizing the ability to gain environmental approvals.

In addition, the International Bridges and Tunnels Act (Bill C-3) will create one standard for all bridges and tunnels crossings. Included in this Act is a provision where the Governor in Council, based on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, would have the authority to make
regulations respecting the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels. More specifically, it would ask of person who own or operate international bridges or tunnels:

· develop and implement security plans;
· specify what must be included in the security plan,
· require any information related to security and


Introduce legislation which grants the Governor-in-Council the authority to expedite border infrastructure construction.

Our request was reasonable. Nothing was done. Build the bridge as soon as possible. [See Problem 13 ­ "there is little point in flogging a dead horse."]

Problem 17:
Need for Greater Public Awareness of Benefits of
Safer Canada-U.S. Border Crossings

The crossings at Windsor-Detroit represent a critical continental linkage. Like the natural gas pipelines connecting western Canada to the energy markets of the Pacific United States, or the electricity transmission towers connecting northern Quebec to the northeastern United States, the linkages at Windsor-Detroit are vital to the economic prosperity of central Canada and the mid-western United States.

It is in Canada's interest ­ and America's overall interests as well to clearly understand the consequences of foot-dragging on reinforcing Canada-U.S. border crossings at Windsor-Detroit.


The Committee recommended that the federal government move in 2005 to fund an awareness campaign that will outline to Canadians and Americans the security and economic benefits that would result from reinforcing Canada-U.S. border crossings quickly and the potential cost of not doing so. (Recommended in June 2005)


Responding to the Committee in July 2006, the Privy Council Office (PCO) replied:

"The Canadian government makes significant efforts to ensure that our border processes are capable of screening out threats to Canadians, while at the same time permitting the streamlined movement of low risk people and goods to support trade growth and continued investment in Canada. This includes raising awareness both domestically and with our U.S. partners.

The Canada-U.S. Advocacy and Mission Liaison Division of Foreign Affairs Canada as well as the Advocacy Secretariat established in the Canadian Embassy in Washington are dedicated to promoting Government of Canada interests and policies in the United States. An important part of these duties is raising awareness of the importance of the border to the security and economy of both countries.

Activities occur at all levels:

· A group of senior Canadian officials (Commissioner of the RCMP: Director of CSIS; President of CBSA; Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) attended Capitol Hill meetings on June 15, 2006. These officials met with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to provide specific information on Canada's security contributions as follow up to the alleged terrorist-related activities' arrests in Toronto and Kingston.

· Canada's Embassy in Washington hosted a reception for Congressional Friends of Canada caucus, a newly-formed bi-partisan group of elected representatives on June 21, 2006.

· Canadian officials collaborate with the Business for Economic Security, Trade, and Tourism (BESTT) coalition, a grassroots group made up of firms on both sides of the border that are concerned about the potential impact of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). The Embassy helped to facilitate BESTT's lobbying visit to Washington, DC, in February 2006, where border security and the free movement of legitimate trade and travel were discussed.

· Canadian missions responsible for Canada-U.S. border regions (Anchorage, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Detroit, Buffalo, and Boston) will be conducting a series of cross-border community events over the summer of 2006 to strengthen relationships with border stakeholders and share key messages on border security.

· Opinion-editorials are regularly prepared for U.S. newspapers designed to rebut claims that Canadian border security is weak, particularly in response to the myth that the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States through Canada.

· The Canadian Ambassador and Consuls-General regularly speak at chambers of commerce meetings, community forums, and academic conferences about Canada's commitment to security and facilitation at our borders.

Domestically, the Canada Border Services Agency has implemented a website ( to inform the Canadian public on the WHTI initiatives and the documentation requirements to enter the United States today and on December 31, 2006 and on December 31,


The Committee supports any attempt of the Government to promote Canada's interests with regards to border security. However, politicians don't listen to rational arguments ­ they listen to constitutents who will be annoyed with them if something doesn't get done.

On our trips to the United States, Committee members heard the same refrain from numerous politicians: we don't hear anything from our constituents about the issues you are pushing; we only hear about them from you. (They were polite enough not to add "and you don't count because you don't vote here," but we got the message).

If Canadian authorities are going to convince politicians to take steps to safeguard the economic relationship between Canada and the United States, they are going to have to go to U.S. citizens whose jobs depend on that relationship and convince them that measures must be taken to safeguard it.

People in striped pants talking to people in striped pants isn't good enough. Radio ads? TV ads? Comic books? Blogs? How about a Superbowl ad? We don't care. Just do what needs to be done. This relationship is crucial to the economic well-being of every Canadian. Spend some money promoting it ­ to the right people.


B10. The Committee recommends that a comprehensive, multi-year mass media program be commissioned by the Government of Canada to better educate Canadian and American residents along the border of the importance of a secure and commerce-friendly border to the economy of both our countries.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Deer, Deer, Deer--More From Readers

More letters from readers with a point of view. Keep on sending them so others can read what you have to say

1) We must demand that any solution to the Superior park deer migration be TUNNELLED.

As you have reported in the past, cattle, and by extension, all ungulates including deer, release vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere contributing heavily to global warming and poor air quality. If we lay down and accept the cheapest solution and allow animals to use "overpasses", we are putting the quality of life and respiratory health of our community at risk.

I understand that no technology currently exists to 'scrub" deer flatulence, but it may in the future, so we must demand that all wildlife "overpasses" be designed and built as tunnels, regardless of cost.

The picture on your blog should be a wake up call to all citizens! It is frightening to think of those gaseous deer emissions fouling the heart of our community. It is time we stand up for Windsor.
- A Concerned Resident

2) Tunnel through Ojibway:

Okay Ed, you had me going for awhile. As an Ojibway tree hugger I thought you were serious. But don't take too much credit. On April 1 years ago I believed a news story saying a roof would be put on Tiger Stadium.

An out of work auto engineer indeed! And your picture, likely from the Rockies was cute. What makes your put on so good is that, sadly, it contains more than a grain of truth.

3) ...out of work auto engineer? You mean there's more than one? Does he like to eat butter tarts?

4) I do not know if you attended to hear DesRosiers speak!! I enjoyed getting up at 5.00 am to arrive early before he kicked it off at 7.00am, funny as I arrived I was met by David Cassivi and his wife Susan what a nice surprise. Here he is a retired so to speak councillor came out to hear Dennis.

David Hall from the Windsor Star [came], "A" Channel, CBC Radio and TV he had the room full. a lot of students and people I did not not know

What happened to the members of City Council or a rep from the City, even the CAW's Gary Parent and Ken Lewenza failed to show, not even the Mayor or somebody from his office. It would have been nice to see even Dwight Duncan or Sandra Pupatello. Are they all afraid of the truth.

I found his speech very interesting and I learned a lot. he has no political ties he just tells it as it is. and Dennis is right unless we change our attitude and thinking in this City we lose. He said it all we have 8 players in the game now not just the Big 3. I was very impressed.

5) Just copied this from the CKLW site....

Expectations for hotel bookings in Windsor for this weekend's Wrestlemania are falling short. The Hilton Hotel on Riverside Drive says it has sold about 3 packages for the weekend when it was hoping to sell between 20 and 30. Hotel
Manager Saleem Jaka says it now is trying to sell the wrestlemania ticket at face value.

Here's some cannon fodder for your blog and the fact that our dynamic city fathers donated $65,000 to the cause yet decided to do nothing further with the Capitol Theatre.

The Tunnel Syndrome

I just have to stop reading the Star, and especially Editorials, like "Tunnel vision at Queen's Park," before breakfast. I get such indigestion after reading it that I cannot enjoy my morning coffee.

Clearly the air downtown environmentally is worse than I thought. The unscrubbed, dirty exhaust coming out of the Heritage Tunnel Ventilation Building at the City-owned Detroit/Windsor Tunnel is being spewed all over the downtown it seems causing forgetfulness at City Hall and now a bad case of Tunnelitis at the Star that no amount of common sense can cure.

The Star still wants Governments to waste $4 billion on a problem that is going away and which "Air quality studies performed by the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) team show some pollutants would increase if a tunnel is built and ventilation towers are used....[and] showed little impact on air quality in the Huron Church corridor from today's traffic volumes." In fact, the test results revealed at the recent CCG meeting show truck pollutant readings generally under the limits for concern.

Remember the story a few days ago about the internal Queen's Park memo, well the Star reported that
  • "Star reporters attended the open house when health and property impacts seemingly outweighed any other resident concerns. Gil Courish, who owns a home at the corner of Cabana Road and Huron Church, typified the sentiments that day..."

Actually, read below what Gil said at the time.

I incorrectly assumed from what the story said that there was a SWAT team of Star reporters who attended who virtually interviewed everyone there and got their opinions tabulated. I guess I overlooked the word "seemingly." Anyway we find out in the Editorial that it was only a single reporter and a columnist. Hmmmmm can you guess who they were.

The Saturday Editorial goes on to demand from the Ontario Government

  • "the names of the "many visitors" who voiced these concerns [opposed to a tunnel and aghast at the price] and a verbatim accounting of their comments.." After all they do admit "there can be no proof the claim is true. Neither, though, can it be categorically disproved."
Shouldn't the Star do the same.

You know what I did, silly me, I went back to the news story that the Star published at the time in December to see how many outraged people were quoted.

I assumed again that the story would be filled with anti-DRIC and anti-Government comments. You know how many pro-tunnel comments there were quoted: a hundred, fifty, a dozen? How about maybe ONE. Here's the quote:
  • "Gil Courish who owns a home at the corner of Cabana Road and Huron Church, attended the DRIC open house. He said he prefers construction of a tunnel to handle border traffic.

    "I deal with it every day," Courish said. "I understand the cost would be a lot greater, but you can't put a price on people's health.

    "It should be done for the betterment of everybody and not just the cheapest way out."

All he said was that he "preferred" it, hardly a blanket endorsement. The Star story after the DRIC session certainly did not reflect what the Star said in its Editorial that "health and property concerns dominated discussions." Perhaps another disease is creeping through the downtown: "wishingitweresoitis."

However the most hilarious comment in the Star Editorial was

  • "But the claim seems at odds with positions taken by municipal leaders, who are closer to local residents than bureaucrats in Toronto. Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis supports a tunnelled route to a new border crossing as does Essex County Warden Nelson Santos. This week, LaSalle council unanimously rejected at-grade feeder routes and endorsed tunnelling as the best option for the region."
Oh puhleeeeeeze. Then why did Windsor Council including our Mayor refuse to pass the simple Tunnel motion that Councillor Bill Marra put forward. Twice they had the chance to pass it but "postponed" it until who knows when. Remember the comments of local politicians at the time:
  • "Council wary of tunnel vision; [Hmmm same words as the Star Editorial]
    Dave Battagello 01-29-2007

    A bid by Coun. Bill Marra to have city council support his motion for a border tunnel solution for Windsor may be in for a rocky ride at tonight's council meeting.

    Several councillors expressed concerns Sunday about Marra's motion, feeling it lacked clarity, and over the possibility it could be twisted to suit the needs of two controversial private border proponents seeking to solve the city's international traffic woes.

    "There has to be more discussion on this so we are not sending out a mixed message," said Coun. Fulvio Valentinis.

    "We have always wanted the best solution for this community, but we need to be careful as to what we are doing with this tunnelling motion so it's not misinterpreted in any way."

    Marra wants a tunnelled route to Windsor's next border crossing, noting the environmental, road safety and neighbourhood benefits of keeping international trucks underground.

    His motion in front of council tonight calls for a resolution informing the binational decision-making Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study group that: "they must have a tunnelled solution for Windsor border traffic..."

    "I'm not prepared to support it," said Coun. Caroline Postma. "This new council still has not spent the time on the border like we should. I think we need to do that before a motion such as this goes forward...

    Coun. Alan Halberstadt said he wants more information in the motion...
    Does he mean total tunnelling from (Highway) 401 to the crossing or what does it mean?

    "I'm wondering if somehow it's a DRTP motion. Until that's explained to me I'm withholding my approval."

    The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership (DRTP) is another private border proponent seeking to build a tunnel through South Windsor for trucks and converting the city's rail tunnel for truck traffic.

    "There has to be discussion on the wording," Valentinis said. The surrounding municipalities passed their (tunnel) motions on the basis of support of DRTP."

So what seemed like a slam-dunk for a tunnel motion by Windsor Council turned out not to be that after all. And I was very interested in the DRTP comment by Councillor Valentinis. That reminded me that one of the big supporters of the DRTP for a long time until STOPDRTP beat them was the Editorial Board of the Windsor Star!

No worries though. The people on Talbot Road and Huron Church have won. The road to the border is Lauzon/E C Row to the DRIC Road to the enhanced Ambassador Bridge with perhaps some cut and cover tunnelling for a mile or so to silence politically the 65% of the Sandwich residents who are renters and the 35% who are owners.

This will become clearer as Ontario Minister Cansfield and Mayor Francis continue to have lunch monthly at taxpayer expense in secret and give hints about a big development of a transportation hub at the airport lands.

And we all know, even if the bureaucrats, West side activists and politicos don't, that the Bridge Co. has won too since there can never be a P3 bridge or taxpayers will have a real reason to revolt once they find out the construction and ongoing costs. Not even the new president of OMERS who wasted millions on DRTP, Michael Nobrega, would be that foolish to spend more OMERS pensioners' money in that financial P3 fiasco.

Don't worry though, we'll get another THINK BIG Vision that a reporter can get exclusive leaks about, that the Editors won't have to fume over and that a Columnist can gush over so they will all be happy to justify E C Row so Eddie won't be embarrassed. Imagine if that Marra tunnel motion passed...Eddie would be stuck with an absurdity that even Gridlock Sam barely mentioned in his Report.

It's OK...DRTP will be dead by then so that South Windsor residents won't have to worry, EC Row will be uploaded to the Province so Windsor taxpayers won't have to pay for it or maintain it so we will be saving loads of taxpayer dollars, we'll have a new Highway 401 exit, an alternative road to the enhanced Ambassador Bridge and the politicians will have a nice election issue to run on in the October provincial election.

Then watch the Star Editors flip-flop on the tunnel as they did on DRTP. They will support Eddie's Master Vision and E C Row.

Better late than never I always say.

More On Marra's Tunnel Motion

I received a note from an inside mole that Councillor Marra's Tunnel motion is coming up again at next Monday's Council meeting.

Now you cannot find that out by going to the City's website. The Motion is NOT on the Agenda. It normally would be shown on the Order of Business but that does not come out until some time on Friday:
  • "The Order of Business for the April 2, 2007 City Council Meeting will be posted to this website on Friday March 30th."
If it is posted after noon, then I assume that citizens do not have the right to appear as a delegation as of right but only if Council allows it. Since no one would have found out about it but for this BLOG, it probably would have been passed on consent anyway with no fuss or muss fi that was the objective.

My first thought if true is why is it coming back and why at this time. Is it simply that about 2 months has passed? Here is what Bill said about his motion and why he deferred it:
  • "Coun. Bill Marra says he has agreed to defer a motion demanding a tunnelled border route after the province said it would explore a "comprehensive solution" to border traffic problems, with tunnelling as part of the discussion.

    The commitment came last week in a meeting between Mayor Eddie Francis and Ontario Transportation minister Donna Cansfield.

    "The (mayor's) meeting with the minister went well," Marra said Wednesday. "I agreed to defer the motion so that (tunnelling) can be part of the broader discussion with the province."

    "I am content on the condition it will be included in the context of a package rather than one line item. At the end of the process, if it isn't I will bring it forward and introduce (the motion) again."
So, what is the comprehensive solution in which tunnelling is part of the package? Councillor Marra cannot introduce the Motion again and hide that answer from us. OR is the process now over? Is the true position that the Province who gave no money for Windsor in its budget is unable to reach a consensus with the City. If that is the case, again Councillor Marra must tell us.

Let's see how it is played out on Monday. It will give us some indication of what is going on here. I just wonder who wanted it back for a vote...Bill or Eddie or someone else?

Councillor Halberstadt said this on his BLOG. Perhaps he is correct:
  • "Already there are signs of political manipulation that will delay the DRIC recommendations, originally expected this summer.

    The excuse for the delay is already in front of us. We are told that the results of a study on the health effects on children of diesel fuel emissions along the current Huron Church route will not be known until after the DRIC recommendations.

    Conspiracy theorists suggest that Duncan and Pupatello are hoping that the local community will insist that the study be completed and released prior to the final spending and engineering decisions on the access route.

Honestly, who knows anything any more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Compromising The Border Road

We have heard several times already that Councillor Bill Marra's Motion on the Tunnel has been postponed for the time being. The Star reported that:
  • "City council is holding off passing a resolution on a preferred option for the crossing, the plaza and tunneling the access route until Mayor Eddie Francis can hold further meetings with Ontario Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield."

However, the more important message was delivered by the Mayor previously that gave us a hint of what might be done:

  • "We want to engage the province to arrive on a solution the city can be proud of," Francis said.

    The mayor said simply presenting the provincial government with one option -- a tunnel -- was not the best course of action because a whole range of solutions are needed, including reducing the number of rail tracks in the city and creating a transportation hub at the airport. "

The key language was "a whole range of solutions." The Mayor, always with the Plan and a back-up Plan and back-up, back-up Plan has an alternative for everything.

Obviously, the likelihood of a tunnel being built here is becoming less and less. Accordingly, an alternative road is needed. While there is a multitude of choices, the H-faction on Council is very vociferous. They believe that

  • "It speaks volumes about our society's twisted priorities that maintaining a strip of tall grass prairie in a pristine state takes precedence over protecting the quality of life of generations of Windsor residents."

Taking the lead from the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget, and the hero of the losing Superior Park battle, this splinter group is suggesting:

  • "The goal has to be to keep it away from densely populated neighbourhoods... a tunnel under Talbot to Cabana, and then a new route through undeveloped lands to the west of Huron Church, in other words some variant of the Schwartz plan, would have the least impact on populated areas."

This group has apparently, on its own, hired an out of work automotive engineer who will work for in camera Council meeting food leftovers. He has come up with an ingenious design that should meet the needs of the H-faction and not offend the vast majority of the the Ojibway environmentalists.

My inside moles have again come through. Here is a first sketch of an above ground truck expressway through Ojibway and Spring Garden with a unique feature: a special lane for wildlife crossing as the deer migrate from Superior Park to their new home. Commerce will still move to the border quickly while respecting the sanctity of this important environmental area.

And in case you are wondering...this is BLOG all a joke. No one would ever think of doing this would they? Now really, no one would spend taxpayer money on an overpass that no one uses! Say like one on Huron Church Road.

A Load Of Hooey

Don't you find it truly strange that our Mayor has not said one negative word about the Provincial Budget that ignored Windsor?

In fact the Windsor Star probably saved Dwight Duncan's neck and career. I hope he shows his gratitude to them.

Now I want you to read the following 2 paragraphs quoting Dwight Duncan very, very carefully to see if you get it. This was published in the Online Star that relatively few read but not published in the newspaper version. Can you tell why:
  • "Our message is that our government has invested $1.4 billion in this community, including $200 million to begin all the border infrastructure projects, six laning of 401, you know we killed the DRTP, we killed the nine-point plan, we have a 40-member team working on the border here, we’ve funded three projects including a new tunnel plaza, including the pedestrian overpass, including the Walker Road overpass, the six-laning of 401, no government has done more for this community than our government,” said Duncan.

    To those who say we haven’t done enough on the border, we say ‘hooey’. No government has done more, and those people that say we haven’t are just providing misinformation to the community."
No I did not mean that Dwight may just have prejudiced the entire DRIC process so Mike Hurst can start a lawsuit.

Read it again, slowly this time because Dwight gave it all way, made something public that he should not have done so. A Freudian slip perhaps that was caught in time for the print edition. Do you see what is missing? Let me give you a hint:

"you know we killed the DRTP, we killed the nine-point plan...
we’ve funded three projects including a new tunnel plaza,"

What did the Liberals not fund--the road to the Ambassador Bridge with their $150 Million BIF money (and the matching Federal $150M) although that project fit the BIF criteria. Why not--because they never intended to make it easy for vehicles to go to the Ambassador Bridge at this time. They funded Eddie's Tunnel Plaza improvement project instead. This project seems to be in limbo with the cancelled public session which has not yet been rescheduled, Alinda's takeover and the fact that queuing is now permitted inside the Tunnel so backups should decrease.

Surprisingly then, what did the Liberals not kill---the Ambassador Bridge Twinned Bridge enhancement project. Why not--because that is the crossing location that the Senior Levels want for the "public" bridge and will try to get. Not as a private deal but as a "public" crossing.

They never wanted a downriver crossing. Their crossing was to be in the location of the Ambassador Bridge with the corridor being a Lauzon/E C Row connector to Highway 401. The new upgraded road will be provided instead of a tunnel since it is an expressway route already and needed for Eddie's transportation hub at the airport. The public will be relieved as Council cheerleaders brainwash us over and over again! It would be just like the decision made at the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia that the City's Dev Tyagi knows all about. Search all over the place and then construct, after all of the fuss, in the obvious location beside the existing bridge.

Remember Federal Minister, Alan Rock, reached an Agreement with Jim Flaherty [Cabinet Minsiter in Ontario then and now Finance Minister] that each would contribute "X" number of dollars. They agreed to create the possibility of a new, third crossing with the Americans. This was the Tenth Point of the Nine Point Plan.

Over the past few days I have speculated:
  • Because of the Alinda deal, the City of Windsor, the Feds and Macquarie were working together along with Borealis to stop the Bridge Co.
  • The money boys hope perhaps to be the P3 financing choice for the new twinned bridge and even for the road to the bridge as well
  • The Transport Minister won't come to Windsor since 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. [I am sure you read the comment by TC saying I was incorrect about Brian Hicks and his "litigation" title]
  • The Federal Budget is just the latest attempt at intimidation planned to get Matty Moroun to consider that his ownership of the Bridge is limited and that he had better walk away and take what is offered as a buy-out and and feel lucky
Now, with their Budget, the Province joined the party even though they had been working closely with Eddie for quite some time, primarily over the Tunnel issue. How can I say that if the Province had nothing to say about Windsor in its budget?

DUHHHH it's about 7 months before the Provincial election. The Liberals are not going to commit money, even $400M to match the Conservatives. That would mean no tunnel since the amount is a mere fraction of the money needed for a tunnel from Highway 401 to the border. That could cost votes for Sandra especially and Dwight. They would NOT talk about contributing any money since if they did, they would have to support a road location. That could cost votes for Sandra especially and Dwight. Better to be general and say nothing as Dwight did but promise the moon and the stars:
  • "Duncan said the border was a highlight in the 2005 provincial budget, and more will be unveiled in the future. "I'm looking forward to the day, and it's soon, when we will have still more to say about the border in Windsor."
We'll get some goodies like the THINK BIG dream of a transportation hub at the airport which will require a new road and a new crossing----the Son of Sam. It is all part of the game being played on us. And it will work, just like rushing into an East End Arena worked at the municipal level no matter what the cost.

It has been an interesting struggle, all designed to beat the Ambassador Bridge Co. When you start going back in history, certain events jump out at you as you put them into context of what is happening today:
  • The City's WALTS road became the Ring road which became the DRIC road. We are not arguing the corridor now but whether it should have a tunnel or not
  • Isn't it interesting that the justification for the new border crossing from the start of the Bi-national consultant review was traffic increases but now that traffic has declined, other reasons have been put forward as the excuse
  • Why were we never told of the Tenth Point of the Nine-Point Plan
  • Whatever happened to the BIF $300M short-term money that was to be used to improve roads to the existing crossings, the Bridge and Detroit/Windsor Tunnel but only has been used for the Tunnel
  • Why did Eddie only talk about the Tunnel and several other insignifcant matters as his "first step" and not the road to the bridge
  • Why did Phase 1 not deal with the road to the bridge but did deal with the City-owned Tunnel and E C Row when the issue was truck backups on Huron Church
  • Why was there never a Phase 2
  • Do you remember when "The City of Windsor will probably have to resort to expropriation to complete the acquisition of properties in the Brighton Beach area which will bring the cost of assembling a much-needed parcel of industrial land to about $11 million, the city's solicitor said" in May, 2004 and now this land is to be used for a truck plaza not industrial purposes
  • Was it a co-incidence that "Windsor owns 85 to 90 per cent of the land needed for a new truck route, Mayor Eddie Francis said Tuesday in predicting the Schwartz border traffic plan would require few expropriation battles... Francis said that while the administration has not done an exhaustive study of the lands required for the new truck route, he estimated less than 15 per cent of the property and adjacent right- of-way remains in private hands.
  • Does it make sense now why Sam had 2 parts to his presentation of the Schwartz Report. The first part was the throw-away, short-term Horse-shoe Road that got everyone excited and then the long-term solution which it is clear that the Ontario Minister and Eddie are working on today to achieve quietly behind the scenes. Or at least to pretend to do so
  • How did the Bridge Co. rank so highly in preliminary studies and then lose out through the use of a route and corridor never proposed by them

I will tell you that if I am right, then we have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and years on a DRIC study that was never needed. The justification for it in the minds of the Bureaucrats and certain politicians is that it really was money "saved." The DRIC process would have scared Matty Moroun, it would be argued, and resulted in him selling his interest in the bridge at a lower amount than the Bridge is otherwise worth.

I'll tell you what the $400M in the Federal Budget represents. It has nothing to do with a road to the new crossing.

In the first place, it was designed to call the Province's bluff. The Feds are in control since they have the cash. The Feds put up a big chunk of money and the Province backed off. The Province could not even mention the $500M Gong show money that Ontario Ministers Caplan and Duncan threw around a few years ago (Remember, it was not available until after 2010 anyway).

The three Governments have a common objective to beat the Bridge Co. but they are squabbling amongst themselves for power over this profitable crossing. Why else did Eddie go to the Senate to try and get a veto? Why else did Brian help him get changes to Bill C-3? Why else did the Province seek money from the Feds for their "Gateway" strategy. [The Globe reported that "The Ontario government has developed a North America Gateway strategy to widen parts of Highway 401 and ease traffic jams at the Windsor-Detroit crossing, projects that Ottawa is being asked to help fund to protect international trade."] The Feds had enough and asserted control!

More importantly, the $400M was really a "reserve" set aside as insurance companies do with claims that will have to be paid as the low-ball amount of money set aside for the day when negotiations between the Federal Government and the Bridge Co. begin. Remember that Forbes said the bridge was worth US $500M or more.

All levels of Government are egging the Bridge Co. to sue so that settlement negotiations can start down the road, say after Discoveries in a few years as legal costs mount and litigation frustration and fatigue set in. By that time, the Governments hope to have worn down the Bridge Co. with fights over Bill C-3, interim control by-laws, EA appeals and who knows what else.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it plays itself out. At least you, dear reader, understand the stakes now and how we have been fooled all along

Monday, March 26, 2007

Just Add A Dash Of This And A Dash Of That

Just a few more goodies to have during your afternoon coffee break. Mostly non-fattening too so you can read lots of them


How can one explain the Star's wonderful coverage of Dwight Duncan after the Federal budget.

Did you see the story with the odd headline "Bridge route project may begin in '08." Well maybe it could and maybe it could not. But did you see Sandra's name anywhere there? Did you see anything about why there is no money for a tunnel there? Dwight did point the finger at the Feds though on this:
  • "But when asked about the province's powers over the access road, Duncan countered the feds are a full partner in the DRIC process and he expects "will want to have a say" whether the route will be tunnelled as preferred by nearby residents."

But did you see the headline on the continuation of the story on Page 4:

"Good news, says Duncan"

When the bad news come out about there not being enough money for a tunnel, it will be Sandra front and centre as she was with the Editorial Board story ("MPP Sandra Pupatello refused to take a position Friday backing the City of Windsor’s call for a tunnel to handle border truck traffic") and it will be Sandra who takes the hit with Dwight nowhere to be seen.

And you don't think that Eddie is running against her in the Provincial election! Sheeesh


In between mouthfuls, as I told you he would, the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget proposed that Councillors should still have catered dinners but should pay for it through a deduction from salary as is done at many companies.

After his grandstanding, and was turned down by his colleagues, what did he do:
  • "the councillors and city staff enjoyed an au gratis lunch of sandwiches and veggies. Brister ate a sandwich and had a bottle of water before getting back to budget business...

    Brister said he didn’t pay for Wednesday’s lunch, but would welcome debating the issue with all of council and would support paying for his food in the future."

What a showboat! Why didn't he put his money where his mouth was and leave and go down to the basement cafeteria at City Hall and buy his lunch or brownbag it in the first place to show an example of frugality.


I received a note from the Chair of the Economic Development Commission, Remo Mancini, after my second email to the Gazelle keeper asking about Board salaries. His response as emailed to me:
  • "You request is on my to-do list."

I hope it is to-done soon. I hope that people who want to invest in the region are dealt with in a quicker fashion than I am.


My recollection is that the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget said in his campign literature that he was a successful business person. I never knew exactly what business he was running. Now I know. He is in the landscaping business. I do not know exactly what he does in his business--cutting grass, installing turf, pruning bushes and shrubs, weeding etc,-- or the name of his company yet. Here is what the Star wrote about a budget meeting:

  • "In other budget business, councillors decided to spend $400,000 on trees this year.

    “We have an aging tree population,” said Bill Roesel, manager of forestry and horticulture. “They’re beyond their prime and we’re starting to lose a lot of those trees.”

    Parks and recreation expenditures were the big-ticket items discussed Thursday during council’s fourth day of operating budget committee deliberations.

    Roesel said the hike in the forestry budget will allow his department to rotate tree trimming services throughout different areas of the city and maintain them at a standard that are in line with acceptable forestry practices. According to those guidelines, trimming trees in front of households should be done every 10 years. Windsor is on a 19-year cycle as a result of 2006 budget reductions, raising issues of liability.

    “Under the current funding, we will no longer have the ability to assert that our tree maintenance is adequate which will make defending damage claims in court all the more difficult,” the budget report said.

    Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac voted against the additional expenditure, stating she could not justify the money when there are so many cuts to be made in other areas.

    But she did vote to include an additional $75,000 in the budget for watering trees. Councillors felt it would be short-sighted to spend money on new tree plantings and not enough on keeping them alive.

    “We have a huge capital investment in these trees,” Roesel said. “Trees aren’t cheap.”

    Coun. David Brister, who owns and operates a landscaping business, was in favour of spending the money. He said he receives a lot of calls from constituents who complain about falling limbs or dried up and dying trees.

    “We’re losing trees all over the city and I think this is one of the issues where residents are very keenly focused

How fortunate we all are that his expertise can be used during the debate over the Parks and Rec budget and that he can handle constituent calls about trees.


...Then they know they got to you!

It must have been very emotional for Jan Wilson. The Star reported that:

  • "At one point, Jan Wilson, the executive director of recreation who oversees staffing in arenas, recreation facilities and community centres, left the meeting in tears."

I am aware of the reason why Jan was so upset but I will NOT BLOG it because then the particular individual can be identified. However, once this specific incident gets out in public as the Budget process moves forward, and it will, it will make the $1,000 for Tylenol pills for seniors look like nothing!

Just wait though until the new arena has to be staffed. Jan helped sell that concept as did the City union involved. If they both think that the arena will be staffed by highly-paid unionized City workers then they have another think, and more tears, coming.

I found it very interesting that "The city’s operating budget committee spent several hours behind closed doors discussing job cuts in the parks and recreation department.." I wonder if that includes cutting union jobs when the old east end arenas and centres are closed for the East End arena.

Here is what was to happen in Penticton, BC when Global Spectrum took over their new arena:

  • 17. What would happen to existing City staff?
    • Four CUPE staff and three non-union City employees would be offered employment with
    Global Spectrum.
    • Staff who transfer will retain wage and benefits package and pensions are protected. Staff
    would receive further training and professional development through Global Spectrum.
    • Union staff would have the option of remaining employed by City in a different capacity, ifthey don’t want to work for Global Spectrum.
    • Non-union staff not wishing to transfer to the operator would receive a severance package.
Note: I am not suggesting that Global Spectrum is anti-union. For example, they have a national agreement with the Stagecraft Division of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts Union. It is a way that the City can reduce staff.

And I only use Global Spectrum since reps of that company attended at an arena meeting at Council. I was not sure why they were there but wondered if it had anything to do with this story back in 2001:

  • Spitfires hammer out deal with arena operator;
    Windsor Star 10-03-2001, Roseann Danese

    The Windsor Spitfires will have a new home -- if it's ever built.

    An agreement has been struck between the hockey club and Global Spectrum, the company hired by the city to operate the new downtown arena.

    But no one is saying how much it'll cost to move from Windsor Arena to the arena proposed for the western super anchor site south of the Art Gallery of Windsor.

    Vince Bassman, the Spitfires' governor, said Tuesday a deal was reached last week and it's now up to the organization's lawyers to finalize the document.

    "We negotiated a memorandum of agreement, an understanding of what we think the business deal is," Bassman said. "It's just a question of making sure the lawyers' interpretation of our deal is what we think it is."

    Bassman described the agreement as straightforward, but he wouldn't disclose numbers.

    "The more successful we are in selling tickets, the more successful the city will be" in generating revenues.

    "We can certainly live with the agreement," he said. "I think it's going to satisfy the city and their needs."

    Bassman said the Spitfires hope to be in the new arena for the start of the 2003 regular season.

    The city originally planned to open the new arena by May 2003, but that may no longer be possible. Last month, council refused to proceed with final designs until an agreement with the Spitfires was in hand. Councillors also asked the Toronto-based architectural firm of Norr Ltd. to trim some frills on the facility. The issue will be before council in a few weeks.

    Meanwhile, the Spitfires renewed a lease agreement at Windsor Arena. The hockey club will pay $52,000 a year in rent during the course of the deal, which expires in May 2003, according to Barry Halliwill, the city's commissioner of legal services. The club will also receive a percentage of advertising revenues. The rent is the same as in past years.

    Councillor Eddie Francis, who wanted an agreement with the Spitfires before he was willing to proceed with the new arena, said the deal between the hockey club and the arena operator will move the project forward.

    But Francis said he'll be looking for a long-term commitment from the Spitfires. "What you want in a perfect world is the lease with the major tenant to expire concurrently with the debt.... You want a minimum of 20 years from your major tenant."

Again, according to the Star:

  • "The city, at one time, hired a company called Global Spectrum in anticipation of building a downtown arena. But when council backed out of the plan, Global Spectrum's contract was cancelled."


Huge probability of punitive damgages claims.

I wrote about sidewalks before "February 28, 2007 "Windsor Sidewalks Not Streets Are Paved In Gold" and " May 02, 2006 "Slip And Fall On The Budgetary Crack."

Now litigation lawyers can use this comment for tree claims:

  • " According to those guidelines, trimming trees in front of households should be done every 10 years. Windsor is on a 19-year cycle as a result of 2006 budget reductions, raising issues of liability.

    Under the current funding, we will no longer have the ability to assert that our tree maintenance is adequate which will make defending damage claims in court all the more difficult,” the budget report said."

I thought the Mayor was a lawyer and would understand this liability on the City's part. Interestingly, is the City in violation of its insurance policy so that there is no insurance coverage whatsoever?


How to save half of the $35,000 cost for dinner. Hold half the number of meetings. Simple. The Star reported:

  • "The operating budget committee -- made up of councillors Halberstadt, Brister, Jo-Anne Gignac, Drew Dilkens and Caroline Postma -- has been meeting all week in an effort to find cost savings in the 2007 operating budget, which has been set at $418 million.

    A recommendation to return to bi-weekly council meetings was passed Wednesday, for a savings of about $46,500 a year.

    Councillors Halberstadt and Postma did not support the change, but the recommendation was passed by the other committee members.

    Gignac said fewer meetings would not translate into fewer working hours for councillors. "The reality is councillors work seven days a week," she said. "(The savings) may be a little bit, but it's moving us in the right direction."

    The issue will be debated and voted on by the full council when the final budget is set and deliberations are held.

    Halberstadt said he doesn't support changing council's meeting schedule because it sends the wrong message to constituents and the amount saved would not be significant.

    A previous city council experimented with bi-weekly meetings several years ago for a short period of time. That schedule was not popular, though, and Mayor Eddie Francis made it part of his 2003 election platform to revert to weekly meetings."

Actually, let's save the whole $35,000 for dinners and not hold Council meetings at all. Since everything significant is done in camera anyway out of the sight of Windsorites, it would be no great loss.

In case you wanted to know, here is exactly what Eddie said:

  • "Weekly Meetings

    Council’s workload can no longer be managed on a bi-weekly basis. It is important that the business of the people be addressed promptly, expeditiously and in public. We have to return to a schedule of weekly meetings, and these must be held in public unless there is a pressing need for confidentiality, as is sometimes the case. The Municipal Act establishes the rules for deciding when a meeting must be held in camera and these rules must be given a more strict interpretation. The current practice is to interpret the Act too broadly."