Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Judge's Decision In The "Death Threat" Trial


I thought you might be interested in reading the Reasons For Judgment in the trial in which Nectarios Kouvlais was charged with uttering threat to cause death to Conservative MP Jeff Watson.

ONTARIO COURT OF JUSTICE

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN

v.

NECTARIOS KOUVALIS

*****************

R E A S O N S F O R J U D G M E N T

BEFORE THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE L. DEAN,
on JANUARY 24, 2007, at WINDSOR, Ontario.

******************

CHARGES: S. 264.1(1), C.C. – Utter threat to cause death

******************


WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2007

CLERK OF THE COURT: In the matter of Nectarios
Kouvalis

REASONS FOR JUDGEMENT

DEAN, O.C.J (Orally):
Mr. Kouvalis is charged with on or about the 13th day of July, 2005, at the Town of Kingsville he did utter a threat in person to Kadee Schnekenburger and Angela Jonsson to cause death to Jeff Watson. The court heard evidence two separate days. It is always important to remind members of the public who are not familiar or as familiar with the criminal process as they are perhaps with the civil process about the differences between a civil prcess and a criminal process.

The accused is presumed innocent, walks through the courtroom doors in a criminal matter with the presumption of innocence cloaked around him. Until the crown meets their burden, which is to prove the allegations against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, that presumption of innocence remains in tact.

It is not unusual for members of the public to hear about someone being charged, read about the allegations as the case proceeds and take that presumption away from the accused and presume that he is guilty as opposed to presuming he is innocent.

The court is always reminded on a daily basis and starts every trial with that presumption. It is a heavy onus on the crown to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. I rely on the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Lifchus and Starr which help or at least attempt to help explain to members of the public and also lawyers and judges alike what beyond a reasonable doubt means.

It does not mean absolute certainty. That is a burden that most likely could never be met. But it is closer to an absolute certainty than it is to a balance of probabilities which is the burden of proof in a civil case. If one were to picture the scales of justice which is often a symbol associated with justice it is the burden of “on the balance of probabilities” which is more reflective of a civil burden in that one side is tipped either way. That symbol more reflects a civil burden than a criminal burden. If it reflected a criminal burden one side would be touching the ground or almost touching the ground.

So we begin as a trier of fact with the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof on the crown in mind as we hear evidence we have those at the forefront of our mind when evaluating the evidence.

The section that Mr. Kouvalis is charged under is 264.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code and it reads as follows, “Everyone commits an offence who in any manner knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat to cause death or bodily harm to any person”.

The jurisprudence, the case law surrounding s. 264.1 makes it clear that there is no requirement that the intended victim, in this case Jeff Watson, that the intended victim of the threat be aware of the threat. That statement of law comes from the Supreme Court of Canada case R. v. Clemente, 1994 2 S.C.R. 758.

The facts of this case, just briefly, involved Mr. Kouvalis attending at a residence and going into the basement of that residence where Ms. Schnekenburger and Ms. Jonsson were working. They were being supervised in their work by Mr. Kouvalis and there was approximately a 30 minute conversation which took place down in this basement regarding political matters.

Mr. Kouvalis at the time was working for Mr. Fusci’s campaign or anticipated campaign and Ms. Schnekenburger and Ms. Jonsson were employed to assist in that as well. They had a conversation regarding an upcoming barbecue that was to take place That was at least one of the things discussed. It was during this conversation in the basement that Ms. Schnekenburger and Ms. Jonsson indicate that Mr. Kouvalis said that “If I could fucking kill Jeff Watson with my bare hands and get away with it I would”.

After Mr. Kouvalis left apparently one or both of these ladies attended the upstairs of the residence, spoke with Ms. Schnekenburger’s mother which ultimately led to speaking to other persons involved in the Schnekenburger family and Ms. Jonsson’s family, which ultimately leading to a discussion with Mr. Watson and his wife.

This all took place over a period of five days. On the fifth day a decision was made after all of these people met together in a residence to discuss the matter to call the police and that ultimately led to the charges against Mr. Kouvalis.

As stated in the Supreme Court of Canada decision of Clemente and also R. v. McCraw 1991, 66 C.C.C. (3d) 517, the aim of the section that Mr. Kouvalis is charged under is to protect the exercise of freedom of choice and action by preventing intimidation and fear. The actus reas of the offence is the uttering of the threats of death or bodily harm. The mens rea is that the words spoken, be spoken with the intent to intimidate or instill fear or put another way, to be taken seriously.

To be clear, the issue is not whether the statements intimidated or instilled fear or were taken seriously, but rather the issue is whether the accused Mr. Kouvalis uttered them with the intention to intimidate or instil fear.

When answering the question of whether the accused had the requisite intent I must regard the words uttered objectively and in the absence of any explanation by the accused, I must review them in light of the circumstances in which they were uttered, the context in which they were spoken and the person to whom they were directed.

Having applied that statement of law to the present case, I cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the words spoken were said to intimidate or strike fear or to be taken seriously within the purpose and aim of the section.

Many factors lead me to that conclusion, such as the young ladies’ actions, although their actions may have been guided by supposedly wiser and more experienced persons; persons who collectively ultimately decided to discuss the matter from a political perspective before deciding what to do about the statements of Mr. Kouvalis. That they took Mr. Kouvalis seriously within a criminal context of, or I should say and that they were intimidated, or struck with fear or about the political consequences for Mr. Watson, Mr. Kouvalis,Themselves, others or the conservative party as a whole.

Ms. Schnekenburger testified that the group, when they met before deciding to call the police, weighed the pros and cons of having Mr. Kouvalis arrested and then once the conclusion was reached by the group which included Mr. Watson, the young ladies sat down together at a computer and completed a recollection of what occurred between them and Mr. Kouvalis. They never told the officers of the statement they had prepared on the computer and the statement is no longer available at the time of the trial. Then three days prior to the trial the young ladies met at the Watson residence to discuss the case generally and parts of their evidence, more specifically the time lines. As I said, what am I to make of all of this.

The accused met with the ladies on that Wednesday as their boss. They discussed the work they were doing as well as the upcoming conservative barbecue and apparently while discussing that barbecue and who was or was not going to be there, that is when the words were uttered that brings this matter before the court.

I had to ask myself whether the statement that was made by Mr. Kouvalis was uttered with that criminal intent I spoke of earlier or was it simply a statement uttered by Mr. Kouvalis in the Heat or passion of the moment which is often part of politics. As Mr. Rohrer testified, “Politics seemed to intensify things”.

Ms. Schnekenburger herself testified she may have even said at a time or times that she was going to kill him, referring to Mr. Watson, as a result of different things that came up between the camps. The camps she was referring to was Mr. Watson’s and Mr. Fusci’s camps.

Context is extremely important in a case such as this. The usual context utter threat charges come before this court involve typically two parties who are about to engage in or are engaged in or have just finished engaging in, a physical altercation. Often the threat is made over the phone, after a breakup or over custody and access to children, or other similar emotional events.

My experience in life has also involved knowing of those words being said among co-workers, friends, teammates, about other co-workers, friends and teammates when in the heat of the moment and not really said with the criminal intent required by s. 264.1. They are said and all too often recklessly or carelessly by people who do not appreciate the quicksand they may find themselves in if others hearing the comments believe they mean them sincerely and therefore choose to get the police involved.

As I said, in this matter I have had to deal with the question of whether or not this matter was before the court because although the young ladies or Mr. Watson or others in the group are fearful of Mr. Kouvalis because of what he said, are they assessing what move to make and what evidence to give because they are concerned about political consequences for themselves or Mr. Kouvalis and/or the conservative party. I do not mean to imply that that is not a legitimate concern, certainly it is not unusual for people to consider before calling the police whether it is something they want to get involved in.

The facts I heard in this case and the length of time that it took for the matter to ultimately be brought to the attention of the police, and also being mindful of that head of the moment passion that may have existed, I am left with doubt in this matter and I return to the fundamental principles that I spoke of earlier; that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In this particular case with the facts that I heard, the crown has not met its burden.

Therefore the accused is acquitted.

Eddie Gets The John Conyers Tunnel



  • You want to know the real story behind the story don't you. That is why you are drinking your morning coffee at your computer. Just sit back and relax and read on. You will not believe it! Here is my speculation.

    "The bridge company has agreed to table its offer for the tunnel lease at Detroit's request, according to president Dan Stamper.

    "They told us they wanted a chance to look at other proposals," Stamper said. "Others have taken offers to them. We agreed to table our offer until they look at others and figure out what's best for Detroit. The timing is in the city's hands, not ours. If the city can get a better offer than ours -- God bless them."

That was said almost 16 months ago to the day. Well someone has blessed Kwame and in a big way. According to Detroit's Mayor, Windsor's payment will be enough to eliminate their deficit!

I am going to wear my Maple Leaf pin on my coat jacket as I walk around Detroit over the next few weeks so that I can be hugged by every Detroit resident for using Windsor taxpayer dollars to bail out their City . Now if that is not being charitable and neighbourly, then I do not know what is! I bet I will be very popular in Greektown and that people will be bending over themselves to pay for my drinks!

Front row seats for a Red Wings game---nothing but the best for their Canuck friends!

As for Windsor, I am not worried. Why Cliff Sutts was quoted as saying:

  • "the deal will not be completed until he is fully assured local taxpayers will not be hurt.

    “We will be extraordinarily cautious so costs of the acquisition will be self-supporting of the project itself. That there will be no need to go to the well of the city to support this transaction.”

Wow, that sounds like Councillor Postma who told us that the arena would not result in an increase in taxes! I am very impressed. Not only that, if the deal costs Windsor anything, we can sue Mr. Sutts and his law firm on his guarantee! That is extraordinarily gracious of the law firm. See, that is how Windsor law firms treat their clients Mr. Rock. No wonder you moved here.

I do not want to jinx anything but wasn't Mr. Sutts involved as the lawyer on one arena deal years ago that was not completed. I hope that does not happen this time because our American friends would be so upset.

Remember his language at the time. You might hear a variation of this soon enough:

  • "Cliff Sutts, the lawyer hired by the city to help negotiate a deal, said his recommendation will be to reject the $32-million development. It's too big, too expensive and Jebb's revenue projections are too optimistic, Sutts says."

You have to admit that I was pretty accurate in my BLOGs about what Eddie was doing on the Tunnel. I told you that it was all about the sale, lease or securitization of revenues didn’t I! So listen to me when I tell you that there are some major problems too.

Remember that Gord Henderson was in awe of Matty Moroun and his staff. Well they only bid $20M for a 100 year lease while Eddie is offering $75M upfront for a 75 year lease. Either Eddie has outsmarted them or they are really dumb. Since the Bridge Co. is the number one border operator between Canada and the US, I have to think they may know what the Tunnel is worth.

Remember I valued the tunnel at around $30M or so, but what do I know about high finance. I was no four year old financial visionary! I would have to think the value of the Tunnel is less now with the Tunnel business being run into the ground with massive traffic losses over the last 9 months and a huge reduction since 1999. And a very small dividend amount if any. Moreover, it is still a unique security risk that needs dollars to fix. It is old with the Tunnel ventilation building cost over-runs being proof of that. Imagine the maintenance costs for 75 years!

I am curious about Alinda. How will Eddie pay to get rid of their remaining contract until 2020. Is that another $70M needed from taxpayers since that amount was shown on the Macquarie books in mid-May, 2006?

As an aside, and just between us, do you really think that Eddie ran the business down to scare Kwame to force him to sell out cheaply? Do you think Eddie will now hire someone to "breathe the Tunnel” and increase volumes? Do you think it always was his plan to get numbers up and then sub-let the tunnel so that he can say that he wiped out Windsor’s debt too or helped pay for the arena? If so, will Eddie look like a genius and Kwame the fool?

I wonder how Eddie will get the Municipal Act changed to allow Windsor to deal with an out of province asset. Will he be able to get permission under Bill C-3 to operate the Tunnel? Will Homeland Security allow a foreigner to operate a key border point. (Sorry West enders and politicos, you just lost an anti-Bridge Co, argument!)

Hey, I know why the Treasurer did not answer me about reserves yesterday. I know now why our reserves will drop from $74.1M to $39M by year end. I know now why Eddie wanted reserves of $140M last December in his inaugural speech but only wants $112M now. That amount was the deposit for the deal wasn’t it! Now all Eddie needs is the balance!

Hmmmm how is he going to get that? Is he going to have to get a partner? Will it be it Borealis and Mike Hurst? Remember that, all of a sudden, Mike’s Letter to the Editor appeared in the Star to remind us that DRTP was still around and then a donation to Festival Epicure. They are nice guys now aren’t they?

What about Macquarie Bank? After all, David Estrin’s partner and head of the Gowling Infrastructure group is big on P3s and is tied into Macquarie too in DCTC of the Tunnel fame.

Perhaps Alinda also except who knows about them.

Perhaps it is both Borealis and Macquarie working together with Eddie as I suggested in one of my BLOGs recently

But if I was a betting man, my choice of partner for Eddie is the Senior Levels. The three levels of Government already committed $30 million to the Tunnel Plaza improvements, $10M each in the Phase 1 agreement that was signed. But was there ever going to be a project? Don’t you find it odd that the Public Information session on the Tunnel was cancelled in the last second and never rescheduled? All of a sudden, vehicles were allowed to queue in the Tunnel when they were not allowed to do so before. POOOOF, the problem of congestion and back-ups was gone but $30M was still around.

Now my math may not be the best but $30 M and the drop in reserves is very close to what has to be paid to Kwame. As for the small difference, why else did Eddie buy Donna Cansfield lunch recently. Howard Hampton is introducing Tunnel resolutions and Michael Prue can ask questions to shake up Sandra and Dwight. Should we thank Eddie’s pal, Brian, for that?

Oh me oh my. My Competition Act background is starting to bother me, especially in my taxpayer pocket-book if there is a case against Windsor.

The Tunnel is the competitor of the bridge isn’t it no matter what Eddie and George Wilkki now say. Remember the BLOGs I did about the inherent conflict of interest of the Mayor as mayor and as head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission. The Senate picked up on that quickly too.

Oh my, the Joint Councils session was nothing more than a sales pitch for Eddie to do a Tunnel deal with Detroit. Could any salesman get such a hearing or only a Mayor?

If the Feds and Province are involved, do we now have a conspiracy? After all when the Bridge Co. tried to do a Tunnel deal, didn’t the Feds threaten Detroit? Let’s see, Senior Level money for the Tunnel made available and being used. There is $300M BIF money around for a road to the Bridge but nothing used while in other jurisdictions money was spent on border roads.

Was there deliberate misinformation about the Bridge Co.’s position to enflame passions against them as they were booted out of the DRIC process and as their EA commences in Canada. Why Councillor Postma on John Fairley’s show yesterday told us as well that a third of Sandwich would be swallowed up by the Bridge plaza. Now that’s scary!

I have this big problem though. How can Eddie pay for this deal? If Alinda won’t go away, then we have 13 years where $75M has been paid but little revenue comes in since Alinda is the operator. Does this make sense? I’d like to see his financial calculations.

Here are the consequence of this brilliance. As Tunnel tolls increase dramatically to cover costs, as in Alabama, boycotts start and people use alternative routes ie the bridge. When Eddie increased Tunnel tolls, it drove traffic to the Bridge. Can you imagine how much higher the tolls must go to finance and pay $75M. Matty Moroun can just sit there with his existing tolls or just increase them slightly and make a nice extra income thanks to Eddie’s generosity.

Thanks to Eddie, I now have absolute proof that the Senior Levels never wanted a new DRIC bridge but wanted to force Matty Moroun to sell the Ambassador Bridge to them. Not even a four year old financial guru would spend $75M on a Tunnel that is barely surviving knowing that another crossing, a DRIC bridge, was going to open up soon and nearby in location to take away more business. The Tunnel would go broke first since it has little commercial traffic to sustain the loss of car traffic. Eddie must know there is no DRIC bridge. No wonder he had to change Councillor Marra’s motion on tunnelling!

You know this makes no sense to me at all. It is just too easy for Eddie and the Senior Levels. Where is the Bridge Co. butting in? There has to be something more. Kwame does not like Eddie since Eddie interfered in Kwame’s mayoral campaign in the last minute and might have cost him a win. I thought that the Bridge Co. is rumoured to be so close to the Mayor. Why would Kwame undercut his “friend” to benefit Eddie?

Wait a minute….isn’t the Bridge Co. offer still around? It was only tabled not withdrawn. They had a deal with Kwame so how can he walk away from it? Does the Bridge Co. have a right of first refusal to match or better Eddie’s offer? If so, then he can hardly complain if the Bridge Co. scoops him and the Senior Levels have been neutralized!

How about this one----part of the $75M goes to the Bridge Co. to allow them to walk away from the deal and not tie it up in the courts for the next dozen years alleging breach of contract or tortious interference. How much would they get? How about up to half of the difference between $75M and $20M! Kwame said he is only getting $58M out of $75M advanced!

But I have the real answer. Eddie was euchered. First Kwame was a hero yesterday eliminating the deficit with Windsor money so that problem is off of his back for a few months. If the deal does not go forward, whose fault is it? Not Kwame but Eddie and Cliff Sutts. Then the Bridge Co. can come back in as saviour and no one can complain.

I wonder how the $75M was reached? Did Kwame have Matty Moroun coaching him as to values and was Eddie suckered to increase the price by the threat of someone filling the Tunnel with cement as the Star suggested. What a bloody insult! Eddie should apologize for his remarks or Council should force him to do so. No Mayor should ever say what he did.

He also insults our intelligence by claiming:

  • “The City of Windsor has entered into an agreement worth US$75-million with the City of Detroit to take full control of the tunnel, in an attempt to block billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun from gaining control of Windsor's two border crossings.”

Can’t he ever stand up like a man and take responsibility for his actions! Is he that cowardly and lacking in confidence!

In the end, Kwame is laughing since he gets the money upfront so why should he care what happens to Tunnel business and he gets his debts paid off. Let Eddie stay up at night worrying!

Poor Mr. Moroun. He loses out. Yea right. He just sits around with his bridge taking business away from the Tunnel day after day, month after month seeing his profits increase.

One wonders how long it would be before the Tunnel goes broke with its vast indebtedness. Then guess who would be asked by Detroit and the new Mayor of Windsor to take over its operation or to buy it from the Trustee in Bankruptcy.

There is only one loser in this game and two winners. And the two winners must be having a good time right about now in Detroit celebrating getting even at unfortunately Windsor taxpayer expense.

And a happy Friday the 13th to you Eddie. Your luck may be all bad today after all.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Did Our Reserves Go Underground

Interesting story about Kwame's budget speech in the Detroit News now:

"The [Detroit] mayor also said he has a better plan to lease off the city's share in Detroit-Windsor Tunnel that will permanently eliminate the city deficit. He said he will reveal the details of the 75-year deal with Windsor as soon as it gets closer to completion."

OMG.... are the Mayor and Councillors now Tunnel/arena/bridge/airport/toll road/land entrepreneurs with our Taxpayer money?

Just curious though.....who has responsibility for fixing potholes and preventing sewer backups while our elected leaders are rubbing shoulders with the kings and queens of industry?

I sure hope these deals work out or we may be in real trouble. Where is the Minister of Municipal Affairs when you really need him!

More Short Stories

Here are a few more for you to think about

SANDWICH BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT AREA

I wonder if Councillors Postma and Jones are still on the Board of Management of the BIA. Isn't Mary Ann Cuderman the head of it?

The Bridge Co. probably sent out an invitation for the Sandwich BIA to meet with them since the BIA is obviously a relevant stakeholder. From the Free Press and Star articles recently, I would guess that the three individuals have no interest in doing so even though the enhancement project is such a "threat" to their Community.

I wonder if the other members of the BIA were given the opportunity to meet and hear the Bridge Co. presentation. Did they even know about the opportunity?

Wait a minute. Perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps they have already seen the Bridge Co. materials. Perhaps they know now there is no threat. Perhaps now they are in favour of the Enhancement Project so that there is no need to meet.

CHILDREN PLAYING GAMES WITH BLOCKS

Now we have a new measurement in Windsor. NOT feet or metres or miles or kilometres. It's:

BLOCKS

Who is our chief Blockhead who thought this one up?

What a remarkable co-incidence don't you think. Mary Ann Cuderman in the Free Press talks about the bridge being two blocks from her house/business rather than 2300 feet.

In today's Star, it is said

  • "City leaders fear the environmental impact of building a six-lane, more truck-friendly bridge within 25 blocks of Ouellette Avenue, as opposed to a dedicated industrial area near Brighton Beach."

The distance which does not sound as bad a few blocks is actually about about 1.65 miles.

Who needs to spend a quarter of a million on a new team of PR flacks at City Hall when we have this genius there already!

FIXING THE BORDER ROAD AND WITH NO TUNNELS

FOUR-LANE WIDENING FROM SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, TO U.S. BORDER TO PROVIDE BETTER LINKS BETWEEN TWO COUNTRIES


SURREY— Mr. Russ Hiebert, MP for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, on behalf of the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, today announced that work is underway to widen the Highway 15 corridor between Surrey and the United States border.

"By investing in projects like these, Canada's New Government is helping to support the economy by reducing bottlenecks. We are also facilitating the flow of goods across our borders and making the crossings safer than ever," said Mr. Hiebert. "Better links with Canada's main trading partner will also contribute to the economic well-being of the Lower Mainland and Canada."

This project will see the widening of Highway 15 in Surrey from 32nd Avenue to the Roger Pierlet Overhead, and from 68A Avenue to 92nd Avenue. Work includes grade construction, soil preparation, asphalt removal, paving and electrical installations.

"Improvements like these are important to all Canadians," said Minister Cannon. "Not only do they allow for the easier flow of traffic to and from the United States, they encourage strong economic ties between our countries."

The Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia are cost-sharing this latest project, with most of the work being funded through the Border Infrastructure Fund. Supplemental funding is provided through the federal-provincial Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program border crossing component.

Federal Budget 2007 makes an historic investment of more than $16 billion over seven years in infrastructure—bringing federal support under a new long-term Infrastructure Plan to a total of $33 billion, including the funding provided in Budget 2006. The Government of Canada will also make investments in national, growth-oriented projects like the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, to which we are now committing $1 billion in federal funding.

MY EMAIL TO THE TREASURER

----- Original Message -----
From: Ed Arditti
To: ocolucci@city.windsor.on.ca
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2007 7:29 PM
Subject: Reserve funds

I was quite shocked to read in the Star on April 11 that Windsor's reserves are greatly reduced.

"Among administration's concerns is their projection to have only $39 million in reserves at the end of this year, among the lowest of comparable municipalities across Ontario, said Onorio Colucci, the city's treasurer."

My recollection is that the Mayor in December in his inaugural address said "Today, Windsor has $74.1 million in reserves. We need $140 million."

Can you please let me know why the reserves will decline from $74.1M to $39M in one year.

Do you know how Windsor fared in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's Financial Indicator Review 2006 respecting reserves in comparison with other cities? Where would reserves of $39 M have placed Windsor in the 2005 Review? Do you have similar data from the last financial indicators published by BMA Management Consulting Inc. in 2005 and 2006 (In 2005, our Reserves as a % of Total Expenditures was third lowest)

Thank you for your assistance

A TIP FOR THE DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

A reader sent me this article. I think someone ought to call this gentleman as soon as possible don't you think!

KW is Ontario's 'economic Alberta'
Apr 12, 2007 Tony Wong, Toronto Star

The Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area is the top place in Ontario to invest in real estate, with the most potential for future price appreciation of any area in the province, according to an investment study released yesterday.

Canada's technology triangle is the "economic Alberta of Ontario" said analyst Don Campbell, head of the research and education firm Real Estate Investing Network.

The area, home to the University of Waterloo and companies such as Research In Motion Inc., maker of the popular BlackBerry wireless devices, is rated one of the most competitive regions to do business in North America, he said.

More than 60 per cent of Canada's population and 40 per cent of the U.S. population is within 800 kilometres of the area, where the average price of a two-storey, three-bedroom home in 2006 was $215,000.

"We are looking for places in Ontario that are poised to go forward, that haven't reached their potential yet, and that still have good upside for investing," said Campbell, a prominent real estate investor who is based in Vancouver.

In the study's second spot is the Barrie-Orillia area, followed by the Durham Region towns of Whitby, Pickering and Ajax. Markham comes in fourth, and Hamilton and Brantford are fifth.

The Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area beat out Barrie, last year's winner, because K-W and Cambridge are rapidly transforming from a manufacturing base to a more diversified jobs base, representing a buying opportunity, Campbell said.

"You have a wide range of potential renters, anywhere from students to retirees, and continued strong job growth in the Kitchener-Waterloo area."

Campbell, the author of Real Estate Investing in Canada, uses 13 key factors for each area to help him determine rankings.

More Blogmeister Letters

More and more keep coming in:

1)


2) I attended a recent presentation of capital works budgets for 2007-2008 to the Windsor Heavy Construction Association. This is an annual event to let contractors know what they can start planning for. Everyone presented their out look for the upcoming construction season; County of Essex, Town of Leamington, Amherstburg, Lasalle, Lakeshore, Tecumseh etc. Everyone - except the City of Windsor. No representation this year. Everyone is assuming that this means no work to speak of and that rumors of almost the entire capital works budget being sucked up by the arena are true.

3) Why is it that everyone thinks that Eddie is this fiscally prudent operator when council is still seriously contemplating a 3.2% tax rate increase.

When Eddie came to power, the City's 2004 $10M debt reduction amount came almost entirely from the increase in the Sewer Surcharge from 140% of the water rate to 180% of the water rate. The following years, there was significant increases in assessed property values which allowed the Councillors to keep the mill rate increases down.

Now that there are no assessment value increases (likely decreases in the coming years) and very little new construction in the City, all we hear is the excuses to support such an increase.

Windsor is dying and cannot afford any increase at all. If you want to balance a budget, you don't need to micro manage or make excuses through good PR, simply leave it to Administration to cut their departmental costs. It is amazing what they will quickly find.

4) Ed,

Your blog is so controversial that [foreign] government has blocked it from view!

5) Bloggers extraordinaire;

I just realized that a year has passed since the famed Tecumseh Council meeting. The meeting where Windsor City Council resolved to pursue its own EA amongst other things. The meeting where Eddie cross-examined Al MacKinnon. I nearly forgot about it. We rely on you to remind (embarass) us on these key dates in civic history.

6) Maybe a councillor is finally thinking.
A twin bridge would only go halfway because they (Windsor) will not allow it.

If the city thinks they can stop the bridge company, I for one would love to have a nickel for every pound of paper the lawsuit would generate.

This is not a Timmie's outlet or a Mac's they can use scare tactics against.

This involves billions. If by any chance the City can do anything, can you imagine the gridlock when the bridge closes to traffic?
In this day and age of negotiations and well versed business people, you would expect some sort of respect from a local government.

How many jobs have been lost in the last five years?
How many more in the next five?

Can you imagine how well Windsor would do IF we had entrepreneurial councilors?

Wait, maybe they are waiting for the bridge to go bankrupt and the City will take over just the same as it did the Capitol Theatre.

I'd like to see the official cost after that Capitol mess is done with, let alone the costs for fighting the bridge company.

Good thing Eddie had a successful pita business.
It shows. Well maybe not.

7)Dear Mr Arditti,

Top of the day to you.

I do enjoy your article and most of the time you are "spot on" but, I like to make few suggestions that could help our situation. We need to spin our comments in a positive way so that we can encourage our leadership to fix our current issues.

I think that most of the city media (administration and development commission) communication be placed in the comics section of the paper. They are constantly moving in different directions, its time to stop and regroup!

Yes the Windsor populous and surrounding areas should feel in complete isolation from the rest of Canada simply due to politically driven agendas and lack of leadership. Does impeachment exist in Canada? If yes why doesn't anyone act on it?

The problem is very simple, Windsor has the tools for a "Come Back", the leadership is too blind and inexperienced to find the power receptacle!

Finding the common denominator for this temporary misfortune is the key in finding a solution but, it will require strong leadership, focus and perhaps some tough decisions.

If it quacks like a duck, if it walks like a duck than its a duck! We must remember and remind our leadership that Windsor is an automotive town. Automobiles production projections for North America are still in the 17 to 18 million units for the foreseeable future.

Why re-invent the wheel and turn this economy into something else. Why not fix what's broken for the immediate future and in parallel think about what to do after the automobile?

So lets see, with experience, skills, eager population, vicinity to the largest world economy (friendly to Canada), loads of local academic resources and support it begs few questions:
A. Why has our home grown industry moved southwest, northeast and in other continents?
B. Why on new automotive investments this industrial hub is ignored?
C. What are our Municipal, Provincial and Federal leaders doing to help the only city in Canada with no growth prospective?

To find the common denominator to Windsor's misfortune will not and should not take studies after studies, its simple!

Lets begin to understand that Windsor is not a problem but, an opportunity of growth for Ontario and Canada.

What does the automotive growth areas in the southwest, northeast and other areas of the world offer that Windsor can not?

We don't need to go back in history, we don't need to think too hard or too long! Could the recent events in one of the exclusive golf club in this area give our leaders a hint!

Instead of waiting for the last person to turn the "lights off", our leadership must engage with other leaders in the community (academic, industry, entertainment, labor, etc.) and discuss the issue on hand and find a common solution!

Fighting each other will only reinforce potential investors to stay away from this area.

Casinos with its current expansion, new arenas, etc. are needed to sustain the entertaining industry and yes, will attract the local populace and our American friends to spend their cash but, will not be sufficient to sustain our economy long term...

We need to focus on producing innovative, quality and competitive goods to revive the Windsor economy. We need to stop "pointing the finger" on who screwed up!...

Why don't we encourage both sides to work together (old and new). The old ideas got us here (long successful economic run for Windsor), the new ideas will shape a strategy for the future, both forces can contribute the Windsor "Come Back" if they work together.

We can do it! Lets do it!

8) My name is Harvey Bondy. I used to do a TV Show on Cogeco Cable for 9 years called "Get Busy with Living"

From that, I created a new opportunity A website that is a Community focused. This is my new Website

Harvey Bondy
Events & Photos
Just click the link

www.harveybondy.com

Please check it out. It will be continually Updated. Just Events & Photos. Lots of photos so far & many more to come

If you have an event that you would like to advertise, easiest way to tell everyone is to put it on the web.

Border Misinformation


DRIC DRAWING




BRIDGE COMPANY ENHANCEMENT PROJECT DRAWINGS



Quite a difference in the drawings don't you think! One wipes out part of Sandwich while the other two stay within the bounds of the existing bridge plaza footprint. No wonder there is confusion out there and fear.

Here is the gist of the so-called Canadian opposition to the Ambassador Bridge's enhancement program as outlined in the Detroit Free Press:

  • "The bridge company also faces opposition from Windsor residents who want to protect their community's historic roots. They say they don't want the century-old buildings and graveyards that dot the neighborhood surrounding the Ambassador Bridge to fall victim to the whims of a private company...

    On a recent tour of Sandwich Town, Jones and Cuderman pointed out the neighborhood highlights they want to protect: a 156-year-old Baptist church that was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, complete with the tunnel still intact; Cuderman's 200-year-old home that doubles as her bakeshop, and a smattering of century-old churches, homes and graveyards."

Apparently Ms. Cuderman's 200-year-old home is two blocks from the bridge. Here is a picture of its exact location and some distances I measured to the bridge. Two blocks sounds a lot closer doesn't it.

Now I have a problem. It's a shame that all of the West end polticos and activists have not looked at the Bridge Co.'s plans in close detail. Ms. Cuderman's response to their animation was that it was not "professional." Councillor Jones must be afraid to do so as well.

After all, isn't he the Councillor in Ward 2 where the Ambassador Bridge is located. His Ward-mate has so far been invisible, not even speaking at Council on the Tunnel motion. He and Councillor Postma could have expressed an interest to the Mayor to attend a meeting to obtain the information first-hand so that they would know what they are talking about. But so far they have not done so!

It's so much easier to feed the fear of residents isn't it.

Or if you are DRIC, you can create a drawing showing how Sandwich would be wiped out by the so-called Bridge Co. plaza, a plaza which the company never promoted! And then use that as one of the reasons for kicking them out of the DRIC process.

Take a look at the DRIC photo above. Frankly, if I lived in Sandwich I would be very upset about what I saw.

Take a second look above at the Bridge Co. drawings which shows its reality and its proposal that was presented to Governmental authorities on both sides of the river. It is NOT misinformation or someone else's concept of what they wanted to do.

If you are not yet one of the approximately 10,000 people who have already viewed their animation, go to www.youtube.com and in the Search box insert "ambassador bridge"

Here is how the Ambassador Bridge handled the issue respecting the DRIC drawing. Have you seen their position reported widely anywhere? Here is the letter that the Bridge Co. sent out in November, 2005.











I also enclose the admission by the Ontario Government in an "undated" letter that I believe was sent out months later:



















Please explain to me what is being achieved by the spread of misinformation. I am having a lot of trouble seeing which "community's historic roots"are being impacted by the Bridge Co. plans. Ms. Cuderman's home is still safe and her business is untouched. If DRIC chooses the Sterling Fuels site within Sandwich, what would Ms. Cuderman then ask for? Would she then support the Bridge' Co.'s plans?

If there are legitimate complaints against what the Bridge Co. is doing, tell them so they can take immediate steps to mitigate any adverse impacts. That is the job of a Councillor, and of a Mayor. Not to refuse to look.

If it is nothing more than a personal vendetta against an individual, then the economies of North America and of Windsor-Detroit in particular cannot afford this childishness!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How A Kangaroo Can Save Canada's Economy


I can hardly believe it! It's only been a few days! Already Eddie's Iron control over Council is turning to rust. And from the most unusual of sources.

Granted that Councillor Alan Halberstadt wrote a BLOG justifying his vote at Council, but guess who was the first to breach Council's Motion to give the Mayor supreme control over the border file:

Councillor Ron Jones
.


There was his "serious look" photograph in today's Detroit Free Press online and his words of wisdom:

  • "It's going to look real funny with that bridge halfway across the river because it isn't going to happen here in Canada," said Windsor Councillor Ron Jones, one of several Canadian officials opposing the expansion. "The politics here are a bit different than the politics on that side of the border."

The Mayor and Council will be required to censure him for his breach and probably in public too. Otherwise his remarks will be used against the City to show prejudice and bad faith since apparently he and the rest of Council, according to the Mayor have not "expressed a desire to meet with [the Bridge Co.]" Why know anything is their motto I assume. How can they perform their function as a City Government by burying their heads in the sand!

If Eddie does nothing, and he must do something, then watch the Councillors abandon him. I wonder who will be the first to take up the Bridge Co. invitation to see what their project really is and how it does not impact Sandwich. Will the Three Blind Mice have the guts to take a chance or have they been neutered too?

The Free Press story is fascinating not for the histrionics but to understand that the game is just about over. Did Canada just get Granholm-ed again as the Governor did when she killed the Downriver crossing? You better believe it! It made complete sense for her to act as she did given Michigan's financial state. No, this time MDOT cannot explain it away as they tried when MDOT itself issued a letter saying they had "no opposition" to the enhancement project.

Here is the clincher:
  • "Gov. Jennifer Granholm also prefers a twin span of the bridge because taxpayers wouldn't have to foot the bill, her spokeswoman, Liz Boyd said, though the governor is committed to working with Canada on a binational solution to a new border crossing.

    "She would support the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge first," Boyd said. "But we're not in this alone."

We already know where Detroit's Mayor stands and it was confirmed in the story:

  • "they certainly have strong allies in Michigan, including Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who wrote the governor in January to say he opposed efforts to build any river crossing in the city except for a twin span of the Ambassador Bridge."
But for the Governor's veto in the overall Budget bill, the Michigan Legislature would have cut off all funding for the DRIC. In fact, DRIC itself ranked the Twinned bridge project highly on its side of the river!

As for the US Federal Government, it confirmed that the Bridge Co's project did not require a Presidential permmit. When DRIC sought "State Department concurrence in the conclusion that the centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing," they refused to give their concurrence.

The Americans are smart....They want the Twinned Bridge but frankly do not care if a new bridge is built or not. Canada is being suckered. The Americans will not allow a DRIC bridge to be built. And the reason for it is very clear. Most of us have forgottten about it if we knew about it in the first place. It is:

Senator Kenny's "Dirty Little Secret!"

He said in his first report:

  • "American leaders are very good at saying the right things in public...

    But when Committee members pressed a number of Michigan congressmen in Washington, D.C., they were candid in saying that, while they were being pressured by Canadians to reduce border uncertainty, they were not receiving any pressure from Americans.

    And Americans, of course, vote for them. Canadians don’t.

    Border uncertainty could well prove to be a cancer for the Canadian economy. The U.S. economy would also suffer from the shutdown of any major crossing But there is a dirty little secret behind some U.S. politicians’ lack of interest in rushing to make Canada-U.S. land border crossings more secure, and it is this:

    Border uncertainty serves the interest of certain businesses and some local politicians in Michigan by making Canada a less attractive place to invest capital.

    If industry perceives the border crossings at Windsor-Detroit to be unreliable, then in time Canada will see negative impacts such as less investment, and even disinvestment. As Gerald Fedchun, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, said, “We don't think that perception is there just yet, but others can use the uncertainty against us.”
And do not think this is not going on now as Michigan encourages Canadians to open up shop there as our politicians tell them that they have no programs to assist. Remember the note I posted recently about that subject.

So how do we get out of this mess since our politicians want to "respect the DRIC process" so much. It is very easy. And I will let our friends from down under explain how to do it:
  • "FROM THE MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT

    DATE: Friday, January 18, 2002


    MELBOURNE AIRPORT RAIL LINK NOT VIABLE NOW

    A comprehensive patronage study has found that a rail link to Melbourne Airport would not be commercially viable for at least ten years, Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said today.

    Mr Batchelor said the Government had therefore decided to reserve land for a rail link through the Albion Corridor, but would not proceed with construction of the rail link at this stage.


    “A financial analysis undertaken by the Rail Projects Group showed that building an airport rail link now would require government subsidies over a 10 year period of between $350 to $450 million (in today's dollars).” Mr Batchelor said.

    “This is a significant cost to Victorian taxpayers that could not be justified.”


    The patronage study prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton showed that currently seven percent of passengers travelling to and from Melbourne Airport use public transport (buses and coaches), or approximately 2 million people per year.

    Current annual airport patronage is approximately 27 million. This is expected to increase to some 37 million by 2009.

    The study predicted that by 2009 a new rail link would increase public transport usage to around nine percent of all passengers travelling to and from the airport at that time, with a rail link attracting only an extra 750,000 passengers public transport users a year.

    “This small diversion to public transport is insufficient to justify the high cost of a new rail link,” Mr Batchelor said.

    “Given the likely low patronage, a rail link is not commercially viable and it would be financially irresponsible for the Government to proceed with the project at this stage.

    “An airport rail link will one day be a valuable addition to Melbourne’s transport system - reserving the route now preserves that option and allows a link to be built when it is commercially viable.”


    The study took into account the downturn in air travel following the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the Ansett collapse.

    It studied options for trains terminating at Spencer Street or Flinders Street stations, travelling around the loop or continuing to the eastern suburbs.

    The study showed the rail link’s patronage would be comparable to that of the Sydney and Brisbane links, which are reported to be operating at well below forecast passenger numbers,.

    The RPG also examined alternative technologies and solutions, including a Maglev, which it found would require a higher Government subsidy than a heavy rail option.

    “Subject to a formal indication of support from the Commonwealth, the Government will now reserve the Albion East route in the relevant planning schemes for a future rail link, to be developed when passenger demand makes the project a more viable proposition,” Mr Batchelor said."

Once the next DRIC Report comes out shortly, put it on the shelf until it is needed. Protect the corridor for the long-term and let the Bridge Co. do their intermediate enhancement project. Build the City's WALTS road and just build in a fork in the road so it serves both the enhanced Ambassador Bridge and can serve a new DRIC bridge when needed. That solves the Windsor roads issue too (OK, I'll let Eddie have his Lauzon/E C Row link too for his airport pretend transportation hub!)

And if some genius thinks that private investors will pull this out for Transport Canada by financing the project, remember that the tolls at the new bridge would be about 4 times higher than that at the Ambassador Bridge if they captured business. No private investor, not even OMERS, would put in money in a project with no hope of being successful against the best border operator between Canada and the US.

Frankly, recent statements from US DRIC and MDOT give Transport Canada the perfect excuse. The Americans admitted that the traffic volumes are not there now. It would be fiscally irresponsible for any Government to spend money on a race. We should only build the new crossing when the traffic volumes actually require it!

Time for Transport Canada and Minister Cannon in particular to talk to the Bridge Co. now before he becomes irrelevant too.

More Little Ones


Here are some more smaller stories that you might find of interest.

WHO AUTHORIZED THIS SPENDING

I see that Eddie's big conference is back. You know the one that was cancelled supposedly because of lack of ticket sales ie the one for which people had no interest in spending $10. The one at the Capitol that was to have been held the night before it closed. The one in which there were pickets anyway.

Well it's back and this time it is FREE. Yes no charge, gratis. You won't have to spend a dime, never mind $10. Now free should boost the numbers shouldn't it:

  • "Looking Forward: Windsor's Future in a Changing World (Rescheduled)

    What is Windsor’s place in the global economy? What must we do to attract new business and industry? Are we growing the way we should grow? Mayor Eddie Francis will explore these and other important questions when he hosts a thought-provoking and inspiring evening with Diane Francis and Glen Murray...

    Together they will discuss our strengths and weaknesses and suggest how to secure a stronger presence in the national and global economies."

This time around a new paragraph was added to the news release to justify the City paying the costs.

  • "These distinguished guests were invited to Windsor as part of the City of Windsor’s Official Plan Review. In the second phase of the review, the City will work with the community to reflect on Windsor’s position and future in the global setting, with input from those who see our community from the outside. This engaging event will initiate our community’s exploration of these and other issues."

Yup, you and I, we are paying for it. Now I have no idea how much the cancellation cost nor do I have any idea how much this will cost the City but give me a break. Does the Mayor really think he can insult our intellgience in this fashion? I cannot stand this type of BS! Offical Plan Review...get real!

And what do our fiscally responsible Councillors have to say about it. Did they allow the expenditure of money in this one-shot Eddie ego-building PR session? Wait until the delegation stage of the Budget session! Some interesting questions will be asked I am sure. I also wonder how many picketers will be out in force at the session as well to express their views!

NEVER MIND THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, OUR COMPETITION IS WALLACEBURG

Wallaceburg to get about 400 jobs with call centre
Star News Services, April 07, 2007

CHATHAM - A North Carolina-based company is bringing a new contact-call centre to Wallaceburg.

The operation will eventually employ about 400 people.

The company, Help Desk Now, is expected to make job offers as early as today, with training possibly starting on Monday.

IF ONLY HE HAD BEEN THERE

Did you see the big Page 2 story with Eddie's photos and quotes about the Government's "green levy?"

The Star did mention that Eddie was "who is co-chairman of the group, but missed Wednesday’s meeting." I guess the Star finally had to report it since it appeared first in this BLOG for local consumption.

Can you imagine the size of the story if he had been there!

CALLING OFF NDP'S MICHAEL PRUE

How are they going to stop him now? You remember him don't you...he was the NDPer who went after Sandra Pupatello on Project Ice Track:

  • "Windsor-West MPP Sandra Pupatello was blasted Monday by her political rivals for not intervening in the relocation of the $55- million Project Ice Track from Windsor to Tecumseh.

    "A couple of weeks ago you were named minister of economic development: Your job is to bring jobs in, not letting them go away," NDP MPP Michael Prue told Pupatello during Question Period in Queen's Park. "
  • "Fisher told listeners it's good that government and opposition benches are separated by two sword lengths because that's all that kept the Windsor West MPP and economic development minister from laying a whupping on her relentless interrogator, NDP critic Michael Prue...

    But the Pupatello spectacle is irresistible. Prue was on her case much of last week and again Thursday, and judging by her ferocious reaction, his poison darts are beginning to penetrate her armour. "

Sure Project Ice Track may be done, but Prue is not:

  • "Windsor seems to be the hardest hit place in the province, and I am so disappointed in Sandra Pupatello and Dwight Duncan, and their lack of doing or saying anything," said Michael Prue, a Toronto New Democrat MPP, who highlighted the region's economic woes at Queen's Park earlier this week. Prue criticized Pupatello for leading trade missions to such countries as India and Japan, while manufacturing jobs in her hometown disappear. "She is over there trying to get the Japanese automakers to come and build more plants in Canada. I know that's what she's trying to do, but the government's success has singularly left Windsor out. These jobs are going to Woodstock and Alliston."

WORDS COME BACK TO HAUNT

Here is the reason why a DRIC bridge cannot be built! Can you believe the losses to taxpayers if the bridge had actually been built. The DRIC traffic projections based on what was said recently in Detroit would have cost us dearly.

  • "Spokesmen reject report, nix a Downriver tunnel

    Bobby Ampezzan, The News-Herald, May 29, 2005

    DETROIT — The Border Transportation Partnership on Wednesday debunked a recently published report that said another international crossing isn't necessary because binational traffic has actually decreased since 1999-2000.

    Partnership consultant Joe Corradino said Wednesday that the drop in border traffic is due to the "collision of a number of negative factors."

    However, truck traffic between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, recently has resumed pre-9/11 levels, Corradino said. And although both MDOT and the U.S. Department of Transportation chart a decline in border traffic since 2000, he said, the partnership anticipates a strong rebound in 2005.

Public meeting Meeting, 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."

CHANGING SLOW GROWTH TO FAST

Did you read the story:

  • "the Windsor census metropolitan area is expected to post the slowest rate of economic growth among Canadian CMAs for the second year in a row...

    And while construction is trying to hold its own, housing starts across the Windsor area are at their lowest in two decades and only construction of Casino Windsor and a new eastside arena will help the industry stabilize through the remainder of the year.

    There won’t be great growth in this sector but we do expect a rebound in the summer months as these two major projects proceed."

I would have thought that the Casino contractor already hired his staff and PCR has already tendered out the arena job to subtrades remember so how many jobs will these projects create?

Hey, I have a silly idea for the Windsor Construction Association. How about getting all of your members and all of their employees and all of their friends and families to write to Sandra and Dwight and to Jeff Watson and Stephen Harper and demand that the road to the Ambassador Bridge be built now along with expediting approvals for their enhancement project.

With a billion or more dollars to be invested, that could produce about 10-15,000 high paying infrastructure and spin-off jobs for the next few years!

Do you think that this would be a very good example of raising a gazelle in our economic garden? Perhaps the Economic Development Commission could say something positive as well within their first 120 days of action.

Our Development Strategy



I wrote this BLOG a long time ago, actually about a year ago, but never had the chance to post it. After listening to our Economic Development gurus the other night at Council, I thought I better post it so that you will understand the framework under which they are operating.

I see that more staff is being added to the Commission after the firing of some of the old staff. The problem though is that Mr. Fischer said that his group is still too small and, for any project that is large in size, we merely follow the Province and Feds who have the lead.

This summary is from the Main Report but if you want to read something more useful, read the "Regional Economic Development Strategy - Appendix B (Background Document)

"In today’s global economy, the region of Windsor and Essex County is facing a significant number of issues that are adversely affecting the competitiveness and viability of a number of organizations within the economic sector.

…new global competitors have become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing. This requires that North American economic organizations raise their level of performance in order to stay in business and be competitive. Additionally, they must become significantly more innovative and adaptive to changing economic pressures at a global level. Moreover, the companies that will achieve success are those that are the best collaborators. Increasingly more business will be done through collaboration within and between companies. No single firm will be able to successfully handle every aspect of its business on its own.

region’s automotive manufacturers, the parts, machine, tool, die and mould sector, tourism and gaming and agri-business are experiencing economic strain and are negatively affected by:

  • a rising Canadian dollar;
  • perception or fact of a difficult border crossing;
  • rising energy and commodity costs;
  • increasing global competition; and,
  • non-smoking legislation effective June 2006.

In identifying the foregoing issues and respective economic impact, the Strategic Advisory Group concluded that the traditional economy of the region is facing a crisis.

Given the circumstances, the perception that the existing economic development organization is not working is, to a large degree, a symptom of the region’s economic reality.

The Strategic Advisory Group also concluded that the transition through the crisis will be very disruptive to the region, but it is important to take a long-term perspective. There is no quick fix or ‘silver bullet’. What is required is clear thinking and visionary leadership. The objective should be to enhance the region’s market offering to the extent that it meets the wants and needs of consumers and investors.

This strategy is not an implementation plan, but rather a framework that will guide the development of action steps necessary to achieve results.

The strategic framework presented in this document arose out of extensive discussions with the Strategic Advisory Group and the Project Management Team, with the help and expert advice of Michael Gallis.

The framework consists of three (3) pillars:

  • 1. A focus on EXISTING business and industry in terms of retention, expansion and exploring new opportunities.
  • 2. ATTRACT new investment to the region by promoting and enhancing the product offering, eliminating barriers and targeting specific businesses and industries to attract.
  • 3. Support NEW START-UP business opportunities by:
    a. Identifying commercial business opportunities;
    b. Developing an incubation/support structure;
    c. Assisting with the commercialization of business opportunities;
    d. Creating an “environment of collaboration”;
    e. Developing a mechanism that allows business organizations to support
    and/or tap into research and innovation; in particular, working with the
    University of Windsor and St. Clair College.

As it stands, “Basic” companies are currently facing fierce competition from outside of North America, threatening our “Basic” and, in turn, “Non-Basic” businesses. Hence, the economic viability of the “Basic” industries locally, which include manufacturing, tourism/gaming and agri-business, is extremely important to the region.

A REGIONAL APPROACH
The global marketplace has become a highly integrated network of economic activity. Its geography is defined by economic market space where trading blocks and economic regions compete as opposed to being defined by political space. Competing successfully in this new “global” reality requires that we realign ourselves according to economic regions. By doing so, it amplifies our resources and capacity, essential in being a player in this new economic age, thereby increasing our probability of success.

In terms of the number of people living in Windsor and Essex County, the combined population has been estimated at just over 410,000. The 2004 estimated figure for Windsor is about 225,000, while the seven towns in the County of Essex average approximately 26,000 people. Not only are the individual municipalities relatively small, but even as a region we are small in comparison to some of the regions that compete against us globally. For example, the London-Woodstock economic region had a population slightly over 584,000 in 2001; only the sixth largest Economic Region in Ontario. The Kitchener-Waterloo Barrie area had over one million people. Some of the larger economic regions in Ontario including the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton-Niagara Peninsula had populations of about 4.9 million and 1.2 million, respectively. Hence, competing in the world marketplace as individual municipalities is out of sync

In fact, it would be wise for the region to consider further broadening its scope and aligning itself with a larger economic market unit.

Each municipality should be free to pursue local priorities and initiatives; however, these projects should complement the overall regional strategy. Through effective two-way communication, the regional organization and local municipalities must work collaboratively to establish mutual objectives with a clear division of labour, roles and accountabilities that avoid duplication, maximize, to the degree possible, information and intelligence sharing and facilitate the “listen to the investor approach”.

The success of Windsor and Essex County in developing and implementing an effective economic development strategy will be dependent upon the synergy that is created between the regional organization and local municipalities. Beginning with the basic understanding of the roles of the regional organization and local municipalities, the more precise delineation of roles will evolve as the relationship between the parties matures.

This regional strategy is definitely a departure from the traditional ways of doing business. But the old ways don’t work anymore in the “new world economy”. It is, therefore, imperative that we change our ways of thinking and work together. There needs to be buy-in from all groups or, in the absence of support, the economic success of this region will be severely limited and hampered. When all is said and done, there is no reason why this region cannot be teachers of this regional approach and a “best practice” of effective economic development.

The process of developing the Regional Economic Development Strategy for Windsor and Essex County has been predicated on the principle that structure must follow strategy. Following this premise, the structure of the new organization must support the three pillars and the related activities that form the essence of the strategic framework.

Because of the nature of the region’s strategy, traditional performance measures such as the number of new plants attracted, or the number of jobs retained, albeit significant, should not be the primary indicators of success. These could actually be counterproductive by driving the wrong behaviour. To truly change the direction of this region will require establishing new relationships, new connections and new networks. It will require a “leap of faith” in the ability of the governing body and management leadership of the organization to achieve long-term results.

We must understand that there is no silver bullet in this situation. Many of the significant components affecting our market offering (the Canadian dollar, rising energy costs, the perception or fact of a difficult border crossing, globalization of the manufacturing economy, the current overcapacity and under-performing situation of the Original Equipment Manufacturers, and the entrepreneurial makeup of the business community) are simply beyond the scope of influence of a regional economic development organization. We also understand that such an organization will not have endless resources with which to operate. We believe that the major role for an economic development organization will be that of connector and information provider.

It is difficult to ascertain the nature of the overall benefits that will be received by any local community. Clearly, attracting new business to the region and retaining existing business at its current or higher levels of prosperity is good for the whole region in that it attracts assessment and dollars that get circulated within the whole community. It is hard to predict where exactly new business will be located and what existing business will be retained and where. It is therefore complex to determine specific benefits on a local municipality basis.

This report concerning the recommended strategy for the regional economy of Windsor and Essex County presents a high level, strategic vision for success. It is not a detailed implementation plan with specific action items. The strategy bridges the gap between today and tomorrow.

As a strategy document, it provides a roadmap or a framework towards creating a regional economic environment."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Learning From Port Huron


I could NOT resist posting this article that I read in the Port Huron Times Herald. Just substitute in the story "Windsor" words for our situation here such as People Based Budget, Strategic Planning, DRIC meetings, Public Information sessions, open houses...well you understand.

This is one import from Port Huron, unlike the arena, that I am happy to bring into Windsor!

Port Huron officials only want so much input on city budget


With Port Huron City Manager Karl Tomion declaring the city is facing a potential bankruptcy, what is your City Council's answer to it all? That's right; let's hire another consultant.

Ever noticed, and it may be just a coincidence, that "consultant" begins with "con?" You city taxpayers should have noticed. You've paid for a bunch of them in recent years.

With the council's approval, the Colorado-based firm of Kezziah Watkins will be running around Port Huron holding roundtable meetings to solicit input from you as to how to solve the city's financial crisis. Well, doesn't it all sound familiar?

Didn't the Michigan Department of Transportation also hold numerous forums seeking your input, advice and feelings about the design and impact of the new Blue Water Bridge Plaza? MDOT even had you running around town with cameras taking pictures of sites that were special to you.

Then, MDOT just ignored all that advice and those opinions you so carefully rendered unto them. I know; I felt as if I got played, too!

These forums, roundtables or encounter groups, which we have experienced many times before in River City, are not about your insights, advice or feelings. No, they are about indoctrination. Their aim is to manipulate you into supporting what their organizers want to happen.

They're about bringing you along so that you will buy into whatever nonsense they are trying to sell you. This time, it's a massive 100% water rate increase.

As one senior citizen told me, just the increase alone will equal almost one month's Social Security check each year. "What am I going to do," she asked. I could hear the fear in her voice.

Port Huron's government has highly-educated, talented and experienced administrators, such as Tomion, Finance Director John Ogden, Engineer Bob Clegg and a host of other talented people who have been dealing with these issues. With their well-paid jobs on the line, you can believe that if they haven't thought of a plan to solve this crisis, you and I aren't going to dream up something new in a two-hour gab session.

"But they really want me to help," you say. "They really want my advice!"

We'll see, but be mindful of this: At last month's City Council meeting, it appeared that the role of the encounter groups will be very limited.

Tomion assured a nervous Council it would be able to limit your input and keep control by proclaiming a set of "givens," which appear to be budget items, money, projects, developments and departments, that will be off the table.

So, if the City Council can have "givens," why not you? After all, you will be picking up the check.

If everything isn't on the table - including all budgets, departments, projects and restricted funds, with nothing being protected - it will prove these roundtables are nothing more than public relations diversions.

The Port Huron City Council owes the citizens of Port Huron an apology for the feckless leadership that has created yet another crisis.

Cliff Schrader is a radio columnist on WGRT-FM 102.3. His Friday columns are part of a cooperative agreement between the radio station and the Times Herald. His opinions are his own and not those of the Times Herald or WGRT

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pointing The Finger Right At Eddie And MDOT


No wonder Eddie Francis is so terrified to have his Council look at the proposal of the Ambassador Bridge Co. and is trying desperately to prevent it. They might find that they like it since it does not destroy Sandwich and have no reason to oppose the project. His actions and that of Councillors who are following along are shameful and a disgrace.

I happened to be using my remote to see what was on TV the other night and by a fluke saw the last part of the Ambassador Bridge presentation on their Enhancement Project to County Council on Cogeco.

What was more interesting to me since I had seen the presentation at the press conference however, was the reaction of the County Mayors who spoke. I was expecting a "slamming," albeit a polite one, of the Bridge Co.'s proposal. Isn't that what local politicians are expected to do about anything this company does?

That was not what I heard. I heard some politicians who are prepared to listen to and examine a proposal responsibly and comment on what they preceived to be its strengths. I did not have my note paper nearby or else I would have tried to set out in detail what was said but I believe it fair to say that the Mayors were supportive of what the Ambassador Bridge wanted to do. I did NOT hear anyone opposed to their project at all. They understood how important it is to fix up the border to let outsiders know that the region is ready to do business and that the border is not an impediment.

I was very interested that Mayor McNamara understood that one of the key benefits of the project is JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, thousands of them, for people in the region.

The only negative--Huron Church Road and it is a political problem, not that of the Bridge Co. Skip McMahon of the Bridge Co. said that they had been working for nearly 30 years to try to get the road to the bridge completed from Highway 401. They were prepared to work with Government to do so now.

And that brings us right back to Eddie. Huron Church Road is his problem and that of Windsor Council. And everyone on both sides of the border knows it. Eddie foolishly allowed that to become public at the Joint Councils meeting and the thought was picked up in the Lansing hearings as well by Michigan Legislators.

They are afraid to take a realistic position and to make a decision because they know the answer already. Windsor Council made it years ago and I believe that it is still the official City position: the WALTS Road. And that has to remain hidden.

Eddie is the roadblock to a solution. For what reason, I do not know. Is he worried now that the private enterprise proponents may have joined forces against him when they both agreed to sponsor Festival Epicure? Was that the real reason for the Motion? On his radio show on Tuesday, he accused the private interests (plural) of polarizing and distracting the community in favour of their proposal (singular). Or at least that is what it sounded like to me since Eddie speaks so quickly

The Bridge Co. is made the "enemy." He has to send Estrin and Schwartz to Cleveland to oppose them in a Coast Guard hearing. He supports a tunnel when his own Tunnel Ventilation building has no scrubbers and when he knows it will never be built. He does nothing but stall and delay a solution and diverts attention from his actions by trying to focus our attention on others. He does NOT want to be forced to make the only decision possible on the route precisely because it means that the road to the border is finally built---right to the Ambassador Bridge!

But he made a tactical error for his own career and future.

By opposing the Bridge Co. and having Council pass the Motion "in public" making him Chief negotiator, Eddie has put the spotlight on himself. He has made himself front and centre. He can no longer hide behind "Council" or blame it on Council. Of course this Motion was NOT on the Order of Business or dozens of delegations would have appeared including myself to oppose it!


But you know what....he still tries to pass the buck:
  • "The bridge company on Monday unveiled plans for a series of public consultation meetings across Windsor and Essex County. As part of the process, a request was made to meet with city council and the mayor.
    "It will be up to council through a majority to decide whether they will act upon the request," said Mayor Eddie Francis."
Imagine the signal to outsiders. Snub one of the largest taxpayers in the City who has already invested $500M and wants to invest another $500M in the region. Why bother spending taxpayer money to make the airport lands "shovel-ready." Few will invest here with Eddie Francis as Mayor!

One other matter. To those who thought that the Americans did not expect to use the new Ambassador Gateway project for the enhancement project, here is something I found back that was written by MDOT in 1997.

Were they talking about a Public Private Partnership back then before the term became so fashionable? Absolutely! And who was their private partner to build the bridge---the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge

To be quite blunt about it, why is MDOT wasting taxpayer money in even thinking about using another corridor and looking at another partner! How could they do anything otherwise today. What a fine lawsuit this would make since, in reliance, the Bridge Co. has spent a half a billion over the decade since that time to be ready to proceed on their project.
  • MDOT CLEARS THE AIR REGARDING GATEWAY PROJECT
    Contact: Gary G. Naeyaert (517) 335-3084
    Agency: Transportation

    December 5, 1997
    Statewide Media Reports Misrepresent Facts in Story About Ambassador Bridge

    LANSING-Recent media reports about the Detroit International Bridge Company's Ambassador Bridge, the Gateway Project and access between Michigan's highway system and the bridge contain inaccuracies and do not reflect either current project plans or funding issues. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT ) is working diligently to ensure clear and concise understanding of the issue.

    On October 23, 1997, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the $100 million Gateway Project, providing approval to move the project to the design stage. Project objectives are threefold: to improve direct access between the Ambassador Bridge and Michigan's highway system, to accommodate future border crossing capacity needs and to accommodate access to a proposed private Travel Information Center/Retail Complex.

    "The opportunity for FHWA and M•DOT to partner with the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge for these access improvements is one step closer to reality with the FONSI agreement," said State Transportation Director Jim DeSana. "This project is an ambitious and creative partnership between the federal government, M•DOT and the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge. We need changes in federal transportation law, which we expect in the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), to allow for federal participation in the access improvements," he continued.

    Under current federal law, public funds may not to be used to connect highways to a privately-owned bridge, like the Ambassador Bridge. Michigan transportation officials are working with federal legislators to ensure the new version of ISTEA, when enacted, allows for the potential for funding access improvements of this type.

    Any improvements to the actual bridge, or a potential second span of the Ambassador Bridge, would be entirely the financial responsibility of the Detroit International Bridge Company and no public funds would be spent on the bridge itself.

    "We will not fund improvements to the actual Ambassador Bridge structure or any potential second span," stated DeSana. If the Detroit International Bridge Company decides they want to build a second span, that's their decision and financial responsibility," DeSana concluded.

    The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest international border crossing in North America, carrying more than 10 million vehicles. Direct access between Michigan's highway system and the bridge will facilitate international trade for the state of Michigan, the Midwest, including Chicago and St. Louis, and the entire U.S. via the interstate corridors of I-94, I-96, I-69 and I-75.

Jilted At The Altar


The time before an election can be very tense when a politician does all kinds of things to be re-elected, especially when there is a good chance of losing.

Why didn't we get "tunnelling" (which has now been abandoned) and a new East End arena before the municipal election!

Soon we have a provincial election, and Sandra and Dwight need their jobs, while we may have a Federal one too with the chance of a few local seats changing.

Let's deal with the Provincial election today since we know we are having one in October.

Was Eddie ever going to run provincially? He said he was NOT going to do so.

But did he nevertheless pull an Ernie on John, flirting, giving out signals he was interested to see whether it was worth it for him to consider doing so?

Was Eddie the "reluctant candidate" or was John Tory's visit used as tool to pressure the Liberals to ensure Eddie did NOT run against Sandra (or perhaps Joyce Zuk) and to give Eddie what he wants on the arena and border file.

Poor John Tory. Why would a Progressive Conservative leader ever come to Windsor of all places? He knows that no PC could ever win here. Did he come all the way down to Windsor thinking that he had won the hand of Eddie Francis as a candidate in Windsor West.

Instead, was John jilted at the altar as Eddie ran to the waiting arms of the Super Bowl/Grand Prix man, Roger Penske?

Is a job in private industry with big dollars and various perks and benefits even better than a political Cabinet position that might NOT happen? A political run for an upper-level position can happen a few years from now after one's bank account is filled. I heard that one of our local politicos was considering that exact same route. Did Eddie learn from him/her?

Didn't Eddie do something similar to Ernie Eves a few years ago when Ernie came down here to coax him to run for the Tories? Interestingly, there was a fund raiser in town that John came down to speak at but try and find anything about it in the media (other than the local media) or especially on his website.

Isn't that very similar to the meeting with Dwight Duncan and Infrastructure Minister David Caplan that took place a few weeks ago? It was for local consumption only

It would appear that Eddie came to the conclusion that the Progressive Conservatives could not win or that he could not beat Sandra (or even Joyce Zuk) even with the help of Gord Henderson's slamming. When push came to shove, Eddie learned he needed the Province to close the deal with the call centre jobs.

Or was it more...was a deal struck between the Liberals and Eddie to get him not to run, perhaps when Duncan and Caplan were here and now Donna Cansfield is firming up details?

It seems to me that Eddie has been very chummy with the Provincial Liberals. He and the Province, especially with Michael Kergin, the Provincial Border Czar, have been "bestest buddies" against the Federel Government for a long time. Eddie and Donna Cansfield have had a tete-a-tete recently dealing with the transportation hub. And on CKLW, Eddie said he recently had a great 2 hour working session with the Province to which I doubt if the Feds were invited.

Is it just me or does someone else see the fine hand of some desperate people involved in what is going on in Project Ice Track in Tecumseh due to the upcoming election? Was the death of Project Ice Track the proof of the Eddie-Liberals deal?

As Councillor Valentinis said before dealing with arenas
  • "There is no question there is a much bigger agenda here."

Let me ask a bunch of questions:

  • hasn't the Government given a lot of money already to Windsor but has received no gratitude for it
  • isn't there some concern that other areas of the Province will be upset if Windsor gets more money for an arena but it still has to be done for election purposes
  • if money was given to Windsor for its arena, wouldn't money have to be given to Tecumseh as well
  • is the Provincial Cabinet that crazy to give millions to two arenas
  • if Dwight wants to be re-elected, how would he explain money to Windsor but not to Tecumseh when his new riding has the Town of Tecumseh in it
  • haven't the Liberals taken a beating over the arena
  • Didn't Councillor Halberstadt say "Caplan told the media at the Chamber of Commerce Breakfast that there is no money for an arena, although I still wouldn’t rule it out as the government tries to buy voters with their own money as the election grows closer."
  • isn't having the Project Ice Track arena die the best way to get over the arena issue and getting the Star off your back
Did that happen?

Here is what the Star reported the other day:
  • "[Tecumseh] was also concerned the Ice Track didn't have a "site-holder" agreement with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming commission, which is necessary to move the slots to Tecumseh.

    The town was going to borrow $15 million to put toward the project, and cover the $5-million cost of water and sewer services, which it planned to pay off with slots revenues.

    "What makes the project viable from the town's perspective is the revenue being generated by the slots," said McNamara. "There was a responsibility for the Ice Track proponents and OLG that they had to come to an agreement."

    Kruba said the track has OLG's permission to move the slots. The town is "relying on a very specific condition" that isn't necessary this early in the process, he said, adding that town representatives were present at meetings with the OLG.

    OLG spokeswoman Teresa Roncon didn't return calls Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, Windsor Coun. Dave Brister said it's good news for Windsorites that the slots, and their $2.4 million in annual city revenues, are staying put.

    He said 10 per cent of the take goes to programs for children and the other 90 per cent goes to capital projects."
Here is what Gord said in his column:
  • "Cabinet ministers Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello also win. With a provincial election on Oct. 10, you can be sure neither wanted to explain to city voters how millions in gaming revenues, including school breakfast money, had been ripped away from a city with daunting social problems and handed over to a prosperous bedroom community.

    Also relieved, surely, is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission. Battered by embarrassing revelations of misconduct and ineptitude in its lottery ticket operations, which resulted in the forced departure of its CEO and a scathing indictment by the ombudsman, the last thing it needed was to be embroiled in a nasty local struggle which could have forced it to squander millions of dollars moving its slots just a few kilometres."

Looking back in history, didn't Gord say:

  • "Close to 14,000 Windsor children from low-income families and struggling neighbourhoods have benefitted over the last 20 months from the raceway slots revenues that well-heeled Tecumseh is trying to hijack.

    Lost amid all the snickering over how the city got snookered by Tecumseh in the arena wars is this sad reality: Windsor kids will be the obvious losers if the town succeeds in snatching the roughly $2.4 million the city receives annually as its share of slots revenue...

    And I wonder how our Liberal cabinet ministers, Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello, can look themselves in the mirror after greenlighting this outrage perpetrated on their most defenceless constituents...

    It boggles the mind that Pupatello, who has thousands of social service recipients and countless poor kids in her Windsor West riding, is refusing to accept any blame.

    Pupatello knows full well she and her cabinet colleagues could, if they had the guts, make it clear to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission that the slots money must stay where it will do the most good for the most people, right here in Windsor."
Why does this all make me suspicious. The Star said on April 4:
  • "the town’s last meeting with Ice Track proponents was March 8, but issues jeopardizing the agreement had been festering before that.

    The town was troubled by the lack of a “site-holder agreement” between Ice Track and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) which would be necessary to operate slots in Tecumseh."

This is a huge project. if there were all of these "festering" problems, why wouldn't the parties be talking? Why were there no discussions to prevent the deal from dying? Then CAO Greg Keating of Tecumseh left his job.

It is all very mysterious to me.

Here is the giant Easter goodie however that seals part of the Eddie-Liberals deal as quoted in Friday's online Star:

  • "Arena cash
    Province poised to announce $3M or more for Windsor's new arena complex

    Ontario’s government is poised to announce Windsor will receive between $3 million to $5 million to help fund its new east-end arena."

One last thought...If Tory was jilted or played, we in Windsor better hope that he is not the new Ontario Premier!