Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 27, 2007

Engineering A Complex Solution

More digging and leaning on inside moles.

It’s true after all what I said about the engineering complex. The Star story made a number of University people very angry for obvious reasons and the word is now slowly coming out!

The Urban Village may well be replaced by a huge University of Windsor initiative focused around its new Engineering complex. The complex will be positioned to be one of the premier automotive research facilities in the world!

It has nothing to do with the municipal City politicians but has everything to do with the University and the Provincial cabinet members for this City and whether sufficient funding can be made available to jump-start the project.

Apparently, the coming of Ed Lumley as Chancellor of the University of Windsor was a breath of fresh air. Check out for his background including that he was born in Windsor and went to University here. His Federal Cabinet portfolios are very impressive. In other words, he knows how to really THINK BIG but more importantly how to carry out plans. He is a doer not a bureaucrat or a dreamer! The Globe calls him a "rainmaker!"

What is even more important to Windsor is that he was the Lead Director of Magna International Inc. Yuppers, that Magna that might take over DCX! Can you imagine that. Build on the existing DCX Automotive Research and Development Centre that the University already has.

Interestlingly, I received this note from an attendee at the Business Association meeting:
  • "Maybe I missed it, but I don't remember anything being said at the DWBIA AGM regarding the U of W doing something at the urban village site. There was a vague reference by the mayor about wanting more education in the downtown core, but I must have fallen asleep during the alleged U of W plans."
It appears that Eddie must have given part of the story to the Star since the Star said Eddie
  • "announced plans for "a significant project" Wednesday after speaking to the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association's annual general meeting."
What a nerve...he "announced." I imagine now that he will try and take the credit if it happens and to keep the business people downtown off of his back! After all the RFP for the Urban Village was supposed to have been out several months ago.

I just hope that this "announcement" does not kill the deal given the secrecy up to now. There are lots of people wanting cash from the Provincial Government for their part of the Province! At least the University President knew how to give a non-answer!

The potential for Windsor---thousands of high-paying R&D jobs for professionals and a true renaissance for Windsor based on our automotive roots. Combine that with the billion dollar plus bridge enhancement project and road to the border construction and look out world, here comes Windsor! This is the real way to re-develop our downtown and the rest of this City.

And it does not hurt Sandra's and Dwight's re-election chances either. From what I hear, Sandra is the main mover and shaker politicially. Perhaps this time she will make sure that Eddie does not try to steal her thunder in a Henderson column! It's big time jobs, not minimum wage ones.

For the University, big money for a big project and fundraising made easy as alumni throw money at this huge project. Hmmm how about calling it the "Frank Stronach Engineering Complex." Sounds good to me after a sufficiently large donation of course.

What is ironic is that Eddie who has not worked well with the University may be the big beneficiary of all of this. It will be done in spite of him yet he can take the credit since it happened under his watch as Mayor. {sigh}

Funny though, the ultimate irony for Eddie….the concept is one that Mike Hurst and Dennis DesRosiers advocated. Remember what Dennis wrote to me that I Blogged previously:
  • "…your previous Mayor was quite concerned... Mike Hurst asked me to come back to him with a few ideas for the City of Windsor to respond. My conclusion was that there was little that the City of Windsor could do to stop the erosion of the GM, Ford and DCX position in Windsor Essex county…

    The other thing we identified came from what Yves Landry who once told me ... that "the future of the automotive sector was the six inches between our ears" .. Quite insightful and another one of the reasons Mr. Landry should be viewed as the greatest man to ever step foot in Essex county. We picked up on this and recommended that the City of Windsor aggressively pursue a strategy of attracting "intellectual capital" to the area… Why not reposition Windsor - Essex County as the "Intellectual Capital" of Canada's automotive sector and one of the key intellectual centres in the entire global automotive sector. Now that's dreaming big and a lot more reachable than digging a billion dollar tunnel under the Ojibway environmental reserve.”

PS Ahhhhhhh it's nice to see that I scooped the Star on this story too. Henderson's story is reasonably accurate except Gord forgot to mention the real mover on this file, Ed Lumley. He also cannot bring himelf to give any credit to Hurst or DesRosiers either can he!

I understand that there are some very angry Board members that wil have to be calmed down. I wonder how Board members must feel reading about the project from interviews of Messrs Komsa and Paul rather than hearing about it directly. I would not be too pleased and would let those two know in no uncertain terms.

Moreover, given Councillor Postma's remarks the other day, she knew nothing about it. If Eddie has been working on this since February, Councillors were kept in the dark too until he decided to let them in on it. ie after HE gets all of the publicity!

Talk about Councillors being totally irrelevant to this Mayor. Now he has somethng to say at the conference next week other than how the Capitol was killed!

Shared Border Management

Oh my goodness. Can the border news get any worse for Eddie Francis and his team of advisors. Why he said on CKLW that they are working aggressively around the clock on the $75M tunnel deal.

That deal may be in serious trouble now if they are not careful. I wonder if they have phoned the Government of Canada, their proposed financial partner, on the latest problem to get relief so that their project has a chance of being successful.

I know that some concern has been raised by a few people in Windsor about how the deal can be financed. A small detail, I know!

Let's overlook that the Bridge Co. offered only $20M for a 100 year deal while Eddie offered $75M for a 75 year deal that may not start until 2020 because that is when the Alinda-Detroit management agreement ends. I wonder what his "unnamed" advisors had to say about that.

Assuming that Alinda stays around until 2020, how would Windsor make a penny to pay off the $75M that it has to pay upfront since Alinda receives most of the Tunnel revenues as manager. If Windsor just allows the debt to grow for the next 13 years and then the deal is that it starts paying off interest and principal at that time, then the real purchase price at, say 5% interest compounded, is $141.5M. If the idea is to raise tolls on the Canadian side to pay some of the principal and interest during that 13 years, well you know how much traffic was lost when the tolls were increased last year!

In any event, the issue du jour now is Shared Border Management (SBM). My suspicion has always been that the need for the expansion of the Tunnel plaza has little to do with traffic jams (queuing in the Tunnel solves most of that) but rather has to do with reverse customs or perhaps SBM.

The taking of land for the expansion is needed on the Canadian since room is so limited on the US side.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Congresswoman in New York State is a champion of SBM. A Press Release of hers describes the concept in this manner:

  • "In order to address the emerging security and traffic issues arising from 9/11, Canada and the United States agreed to the Smart Border Declaration in December 2001. The Declaration's aim is to enhance the security of the US-Canada border, while facilitating the flow of low-risk people and goods. Under that Declaration, the two governments agreed on December 17, 2004 to issue a framework to put land pre-clearance in place at the Peace Bridge. The pre-clearance pilot, often called Shared Border Management (SBM), would involve the relocation of all United States primary and secondary border operations for both commercial and passenger traffic from Buffalo to Fort Erie.

    The Peace Bridge Authority has made clear that for SBM to be included as part of the capacity expansion project, Canada and the United States must reach a final agreement no later than May 2007. If no decision is reached by then, the Peace Bridge Authority will eliminate SBM from their capacity expansion project and proceed to work with the City of Buffalo on a traditional customs plaza on the US side."

The Peace Bridge does not have to wait until May. The concept is dead now!

  • "Carolyn Thompson, (associated press)

    BUFFALO, N.Y.–Plans to improve traffic flow at one of the busiest border crossings by relocating U.S. customs inspectors to Canadian soil fell through today when U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff broke off talks with Canada after more than two years...

    With all inspections taking place on the roomier Canadian side, cars and trucks would be able to flow without stopping toward the New York State Thruway after crossing the bridge into Buffalo...

    It was unclear today how the development would affect plans for construction of a new, larger Peace Bridge to replace the existing three-lane span."

Isn't that similar to what would have happned at the Tunnel...quicker movement to the Detroit expressways after clearing US Customs here. It might have given the Tunnel a competitive advantage over the Bridge.

Now one can will the ending of SBM impact the Tunnel expansion and what effect will it have on the rapidly decreasing Tunnel traffic volumes.

Here's the brilliance of the Bridge Co.'s ABPC plans that I have mentioned recently... not only will trucks be cleared faster but also fewer Customs agents will be needed to do paperwork inside the Customs offices for truck clearances. Those agents are now able to be freed up to work the customs booths to clear passenger vehicles more quickly. Again a huge competitive advantage for the bridge! Less waiting means quicker clearances which makes the bridge the crossing of choice!

One final word, the "greening" of trucks may make the DRIC traffic projection numbers fall some more. reports:

  • "A recent study by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and Natural Resources Canada claims extended double trailer configurations...represent a fuel savings of 55% when compared to single-trailer configurations...a reduction of 260 million litres of fuel and 730 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases per year....Additionally, the longer configuration could reduce the number of trucks on the road by between 6% and 10%, CTA says."
I'll tell you what is also fascinating. The Bridge Co. did all of this including enhancing security and quadrupling capacity at a cost of a few hundred thousand dollars not the billions that DRIC would have spent. I guess it makes a difference--perhaps one has to think and act smarter--when the money comes out your own pocket-book and not that of taxpayers.

That's why whatever Eddie is planning, and we can only guess what it is, scares the heck out of me. He is being an entrepreneur with OUR money. What kind of knowledge does he have operating a border! If we had listened to him, Sam's Horseshoe Raod would have been built as a truck parking lot at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead an expenditure by the Bridge Co. of a few million dollars and opening up booths solved the truck backup problem!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Urban Village Is Dead, Long Live The University/Urban Village

Have Windsorites been badly misled?

Only a few months ago, on January 27, to be precise, it was claimed after Mark Boscariol "lambasted city hall for foot-dragging on several fronts:"

"As for the urban village, Francis said a report to council in February will enable the city to issue a request for proposals and there are strong indications of developer interest. "

Today, months after the RFP was to have been issued an excuse is offered putting the Urban Village on hold indefinitely.

The story being circulated is that the Urban Village is to be replaced by a huge University of Windsor initiative. The word is that it is focused around the University's new Engineering complex. Impressive isn't it until we read:

  • "Right now we're just exploring all kinds of options," said U of W president Ross Paul. "And how that will end up, I don't know. We have lots of needs and we're spending lots of time trying to raise money both privately and from government and that will be a big factor in what we do."

Clearly time will be needed to work on this since the Province will have to put up millions of dollars if this is to move forward. So that should be worth a year or two of Urban Village delay or more. And then when that idea dies out, Administration would have to gear itself up for a new RFP. As the Mayor said on Monday to keep Councillor Halberstadt quiet, you know how busy Administration is right now.

Is this story true or another smokescreen for inactivity? Who knows!

All I know is if it was true, my top-secret University mole would not have said:

  • "I am not in a position to offer any information."

Hardly. He would be shouting about the major urban development to deflect the horrible reputation that the University has earned for itself as the destroyer of Windsor's history by demolishing the Grad House on the week-end!

Unless the University Administration has been keeping important matters from the Board, my tenured moles in the academia world know nothing about the University getting involved in a 50 acre development. As was said to me:

  • "Not one word of this has been told to the Board"

If the City cannot do it themselves, if what Councillor Postma says is true (see below), if the University needs cash for its ambitious program already and has to raise tuition dramatically, if the President is leaving soon, how can this 50 acre deal be taken seriously by anyone!

Oh well, at least the DWBIA got to hear the Mayor. Here is what he said to the Construction Association, I am told, through one of his assistants. I guess he was concerned they would be mad at him about the arena deal and his lack of work for them with the Urban Village delay:

  • "On behalf of the Mayor, Eddie Francis he thanks you for the personal invitation to attend the dinner for the Heavy Construction Association of Windsor. Regretfully the Mayor is not available on Thursday, May 17th and unable to attend your event at Ciociaro Club. However, the Mayor extends his best wishes for a successful and supported event and greatly appreciates the invitation. All the best.


    Nora Bertram Romero
    Office of the Mayor"

This whole matter is childishness and the handling of it is amateur hour. Tell us about "the potential for a “significant project” which could encompass most or all of the 50 acres" but refuse "to divulge details."

Stall, stall, stall! We all knew the Urban Village was never going to happen. Heck, it was Councillor Marra's project anyway. As the Mayor said

  • "We've got to be careful about the signal we're sending to outside investors."

Here are this month's signals if anyone is concerned:

  • keep Burger King guessing
  • tell "interested developers" the urban village is on hold
  • turn down a billion dollar investor deal
  • do not even talk to developers to learn their plans but read about them in BLOGs
  • get rid of economic development people who win prizes for us
  • lamb dinners are tasty

Now we are getting the truth. The Urban Village was on life support for a long time. Isn't that the reason why we are getting this new DREAM? Where was the RFP? How could the Mayor talk about an Urban Village in front of the downtown business people with no RFP?

I read part of his speech as quoted in the Star. Here is the part of the speech that must have been cut from the first draft. Unfortunately, it seems that Councillor Postma was out of town and did not know this quote was no longer part of it when she said the following:

  • Postma said the decision to postpone issuing RFPs for the urban village in favour of considering the education alternative was agreed to by council because "there's no other projects" that have been proposed for the area.

    "No one's really come forward with any ideas yet," said Postma, whose ward covers the property in question. "There really hasn't been much interest from anyone else at this point."

That seems totally inconsistent with what I quoted at the outset. Now to explain the two different statements and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, let's agree that we were not lied to. So what happened in two months that chased away all of the developers from Windsor?

My only conclusion:

  • No developer will work with a City where two of its finest families are chased out of town by a Mayor and Council on the type of deal that the Mayor said he wanted for an arena when he was first elected.
  • No developer will work with a Mayor and Council that is so anti-development that they will not even talk with a Company that has already invested and wants to invest another $500 million in a project to revitalize the Community and make the border work.
  • No developer will even come to a community where nothing is happening even with $300M in BIF money sitting around waiting to be spent for almost 5 years, with the highest unemployment in Canada, with a dead downtown and falling housing prices when there are lots of other places to invest where the economy is booming.

I am so glad to see how Councillor Hatfield has made the transition from hard-hitting journalist with Percy's Panel to politician so easily and so quickly:

  • "Coun. Percy Hatfield would neither confirm nor deny the involvement of one of the local post-secondary schools."

Frankly, Ross Paul is going to have enough trouble raising money for the Medical School and Engineering building from businesses and people who are hurting financially. He and the University Board better understand that blue-skying in the media is not the way to start fundraising!

The University President had his chance to accomplish his goal after his 2004 Star Guest column and 2005 State of the University Address and it did not happen. His term of office ends in July, 2008 as the search committee looks for a replacement. He had better stick to his new job of

  • "enhancing the profile and reputation of the University of Windsor on a national and international basis [and recruiting] students and faculty from around the world, and [encouraging] interest in the University of Windsor as a hub of research and development."

Putting the thought of "University" in front of urban village is a complete disservice to the Community!

World's Richest Horse Race

Pssssssst... Hey there you, that's right you. Want an inside tip on a horse race? I know a jockey!

Is the richest horse race the Triple Crown in the US, the Queen's Plate in Canada, the Dubai World Cup or perhaps The Grand National in the UK?

None of the above: it is the 2 horse race between the Bridge Co. and DRIC for a new crossing between Canada and the US at Windsor-Detroit where the stakes are very high.

What, you did not know about the race? Where were you hiding? You were too tied in to the All-Star game or Super Bowl or Wrestlemania or now the Detroit Grand Prix to keep in touch with this big sports event. The media coverage has been ongoing for years!

To be honest, I did not know about the big race either until recently. All I read now about is a "race." I guess the project is a horse of a different colour with the Bridge Co. and DRIC jockeying for position!

Then I remembered, my inside mole at the Star tried to give me a "heads-up" about it a few days ago. Remember that story where the headline did not spell the Bridge owner's name correctly. I should have known something was up and recognized the signal but I missed it:

  • "Bridge in $1B bond bid
    Maroun launches application in race to build twin span

    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.

    The bridge’s application is the latest move by Moroun in the escalating race to build the next Windsor-Detroit crossing and protect his US$60 million in annual revenues.

    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 Star had been given the scoop by their Michigan leakors or their Canadian contacts who seemed to like to have stories break in Windsor first to get coverage.

Then the Free Press Editorial:

  • "Suspend a wasteful race
    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."

Then the Star again:

  • "They also fear construction of a secondary truck plaza would further aid the bridge's goal to twin its crossing and win the race to build the next Windsor-Detroit bridge.

Then it became "official" in the Detroit News as an MDOT official talked about it on the record:

  • "The race to build another bridge from Detroit to Windsor -- North America's busiest commercial crossing -- is heating up...

    The private owners of the 78-year-old Ambassador Bridge have received Michigan's environmental blessing, snapped up $400 million in land and say they're ready to erect a twin span over the Detroit River as soon as U.S. and Canadian officials sign off.

    A public crossing, meanwhile, has progressed from pipe dream to action, as Michigan Department of Transportation officials test the ground strength in southwest Detroit for bridge supports and discuss potential relocation plans with area businesses. Canadian officials are working in lockstep.

    The scramble makes some wonder whether two bridges would be built.

    "It's absurd to have these projects going on at the same time"We at least need a moratorium on one of them."

    While that's not likely to happen, the state's leader of the public project, MDOT's Mohammed Alghurabi, said only one span will be successful. The private plan is further along in the process.

    "We've been clear that the intent is not to have two bridges," Alghurabi said. "If the Detroit International Bridge Co. were to succeed (in getting cleared for construction), then the (public project) will not continue."

I do not feel so bad about it however. Even the Governments of Canada and Ontario did not know there was a race going on and still do not. Here is what the Governments' spokespersons said a year ago:

  • "Windsor Star 04-27-2006
    Ambassador Bridge officials are pushing forward with plans to build a twin span and have killed a controversial feeder road through Windsor's west end.

    Owner Matty Moroun's bridge "Enhancement Project" calls for a new six-lane cable-stayed bridge metres west of the existing 77-year-old crossing, according to environmental assessment documents obtained Wednesday by The Star.

    The bridge company plans to use the same Huron Church Road access route and keep the new span contained within existing plazas and property it already owns…

    Transport Canada has been speaking with the bridge company about meeting dates and should be getting together sometime within the next few weeks, said spokesman Mark Butler.

    "We are obliged to take a look at any project that comes our way," he said.

    The federal ministry is a partner in the binational Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study, the government effort to determine the next crossing location.

    "There are two distinct proposals for a new crossing -- one by the private organization and one under consideration by four levels of government.

    "You can't characterize it as a race. They have to meet certain requirements. There are certain hurdles they have to cross."

    The binational team is no longer considering any proposal brought forward by the bridge company, said Dave Wake, project manager for DRIC.

    "Their recent submission is a separate process," he said.

    "We are proceeding as planned and are on target for our timelines. I've seen nothing to date to cause any changes in our timelines

    Windsor Star 04-25-2006
    Spokesman Mark Butler of Transport Canada, one of the partners that make up the Detroit River International Crossing Project -- which is studying the options -- said the project isn't falling behind.

    "We have met every expectation and time frame so far," he said.

    Accelerating the time line beyond the current goal is unnecessary and illegal, given the strictly defined environmental requirements, he said.

    "We have completed needs and feasibility studies indicating a new crossing must be in place within the time frame of 2013 to 2015," said Butler. "In short, there is really no need to accelerate the process.... To do otherwise would risk lengthy legal challenges and other delays."

In fact, the other day, Mark Butler of Transport Canada confirmed on Melaine Deveau's show that there is the possibility of THREE bridges for our area. He said there was a need for at least one bridge. He said it was unfair to categorize what was going on as a race.

MDOT's Mohammed Alghurabi comment comes days after MDOT's consultant said "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." Doesn't it seem like everyone at MDOT is trying to close the barn door, but the horse has already gone.

I wish the two sides would get together and figure out whether there is the need for a DRIC bridge when everyone knows that traffic is not growing and the Ambassdor Bridge's enhancement project will be completed three years before the DRIC bridge. If the issue is also redundancy, that can be solved both by reverse customs (I guess that is the real reason that it won't happen very quickly----the Ambassador Bridge could have it in place tomorrow so this argument would be lost) and by keeping the old bridge.

We had better run on down to Casino Windsor, or is it now Caesars Windsor, or whatever it's called, and place a bet in the new “Legends” sports lounge before it is too late and the betting windows close. I hear the Vegas bookies are handicapping the race this way:

  1. The Ambassador Bridge would not destroy Sandwich and Delray ( and search "ambassador bridge" to see the video) while a DRIC bridge would disrupt hundreds of business and homes on both sides of the border

  2. Governor Granholm has threatened to shutdown the Michigan Government because of budget difficulties, Ontario did not mention a penny for the border in its Budget and the Feds only put up 50% of the costs for a road to the bridge. Who can finance the project? A perfect Trifecta for the Brridge Co. isn't it

  3. Windsor's Tunnel Plaza Improvement Project is in limbo while queuing is now permitted suggesting major money problems there now

  4. Presidential permit is not needed by the Bridge Co. but is needed by DRIC

  5. US Department of State has not given its concurrence for a new DRIC crossing in the central area even though asked to do so

  6. Private and US taxpayer money have already been spent on the Ambassador Gateway project which would accommodate an Ambassador enhanced bridge so there would be no need to duplicate it a mile away

  7. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who supports the private project, says a public bridge is "unnecessary and unneeded."

    "The expectation that we sacrifice another neighborhood (and) duplicate the financial investment is unacceptable and creates bad public policy," Kilpatrick wrote in a Jan. 17 letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

  8. The Bridge Co. has already spent $500 million on purchasing properties for the project while DRIC has not yet started.

  9. Spending by the Bridge Co. would earn Michigan billions in federal matching grants and Michigan would also not need to spend its money on the bridge project

  10. Assuming fair competition, it is unlikely that any private investor would finance a public bridge without huge Government guarantees or payments since overly-optimistic traffic projections were wrong and the market-place cannot support three bridges

  11. A new public P3 bridge could not compete against the lower cost Ambassador Bridge if there was fair competition resulting in its bankruptcy and financial hardship to all border crossings in the region

  12. The DRIC road is similar to the City of Windsor's WALTS road which leads right to the Ambassador Bridge and can be fed by a Lauzon/E C Row connection to Highweay 401 which Windsor's Mayor needs for his transportation hub THINK BIG dream.

Hurry before the bookies figure a dozen points is too much and stop accepting bets.

Giddyup before the newspapers report fully on the ABPC that the Bridge Co. put in that quadruples truck capacity and that started working with Canada Customs on April, 1 to enhance border security.

Why lose out on a sure-thing bet! The old nag of the DRIC project may be destined for the glue factory.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Headlines In The News

I wonder what you think of these stories



It's budget time and we are facing a big tax increase. I have not forgotten about Citistat although the Mayor may have wished that I had!

Remember that was the big election platform issue that got Eddie elected the first time around. It was supposed to save us millions every year but seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Along with the savings too it seems.

Mayor O'Malley of Baltimore is now Governor O'Malley of Maryland and here is what he is doing with Citistat:

  • "StateStat -- a variation of the acclaimed, statistics-based government management program that Gov. Martin O'Malley developed while mayor -- is coming with him to Annapolis, and with it, the sort of biweekly meetings that subjected Baltimore officials to stiff questioning over everything from rising overtime pay to unfilled potholes.

    Public policy experts and officials across the country have called O'Malley's development of CitiStat a shining example of government efficiency realized; workers have compared it to facing the Spanish Inquisition"

I wonder if John Tory might pick up on this to help him beat the Liberals. He can call it PROVSTAT! Or will the Liberals use it to stay in power. Both will never implement it, just like our Mayor did not, but it gets you elected. And to a politician, that is all that counts!


Do you remember what Eddie said when it looked like Festival Epicure was going to die:

  • "Although Windsor’s popular Festival Epicure may be cancelled this summer due to lack of sponsorship, some residents and local businesses have expressed an interest in creating a “new and different” food festival, Mayor Eddie Francis said Sunday.

    Francis said he wasn’t “overly concerned” that the spirit of the successful food and drink festival won’t be revived in some other form since Epicure’s executive producer, Ken Brandes, announced Friday the late withdrawal of the event’s title sponsor, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

    “I’ve received several indications from people who are interested in stepping in to do some type of similar festival,” Francis said.

Thanks to a loyal reader, I wonder if this was part of the PLAN for next year and a way to consolidate the Tunnel deal by chumming up with the Detroit Mayor. From the Detroit Free Press:

  • "Detroit has started to deliver on the river - riverfront, that is - and at no time will that be clearer than during a new, outdoor six-day party this summer called “Detroit International River Days.”

    This afternoon, sunlight bounced off the meandering Detroit River and through the glass panes of the General Motors Wintergarden in the GM Renaissance Center, where city and nonprofit officials held a press conference to announce details of the festival.

    “This is a really, really great thing,” says Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who spoke at the press event, along with Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis."

Oh and is Roger Penske involved too as the Chairman of Downtown Detroit Partnership? You remember, that Super Bowl, Grand Prix fellow. You know, those international events that have given us so much business and made us famous the world over. You know, the ones in which Eddie, I mean Windsor, was being "branded."


I think we are one step closer to regional amalgamation. The County is learning from Windsor how to do things.

I am sure that you saw this story. Sounds like Windsor and the East end arena doesn't it:

  • "Town skirts tendering
    Water park project OK’d without competitive bids

    Amherstburg council decided to save time over money Monday by awarding a $250,000 contract without tendering the work.

    Following the recommendation of administration, a majority of council voted in favour of contracting Waterplay Manufacturing Ltd., DeAngelis Construction and HGS Consulting to build a new splash pad at Toddy Jones Park without a full tender process.

    According to a report presented to council, “The tendering process would significantly slow the project down...”

    Councillors Rick Fryer and Robert Pillon voted against the staff recommendation, saying the town should have tendered the project.

    “I feel like we're rushing into this,” Pillon said...

    “Normally I would suggest tendering,” said Coun. John Sutton. “We can waive it in this case.”

    Amherstburg’s purchasing policy requires that any spending greater than $25,000 be open to competitive bidding. This is to help promote competitiveness within suppliers of goods and services, as well as to ensure the town is getting the best deal for the taxpayer’s money. Council can vote to bypass the procedure, however, for “legitimate reasons,” said CAO Frank Pizzuto."


How many of you remember that old TV series?

There are a few police stories that gained a lot of publicity when the y first came out but seem to have disappeared. Where is the traditional media following up and getting us answers?

The first was a big story that the Star reported:

  • "A Windsor police constable and a sergeant are being investigated after Chief Glenn Stannard received an anonymous tip alleging that a speeding ticket issued to a prominent city businessman was never processed."

We were not told who that businessman was and probably should not have been until the facts were known. It could have been a smear job!

Well it has been two months almost since the Chief said:

  • "I don't like the facts that I see so far, but there are always two or three sides to a story so I need to, like any other investigation, wait until I get all the facts," Stannard said Friday. "We need to deal with this properly and quickly. We were on this right away. We're not wasting any time. We've got nothing to hide."

That was an interesting comment given the passage of time. Should the OPP be involved now if we do not get an answer soon?

Then drugs and taxis and the shooting near Councillor Postma's house. The Star reported as well:

  • "the shooting victim... was apparently visiting the house and had just gotten out of a cab when someone shot him.

    "The shots came out of the cab," Berry said. "

Are residents safe taking cabs with this story still outstanding and the revelations at City Hall?

What is the Head of the Windsor Police Services Board, our Mayor, doing about this?


With a unanimous PAC vote behind them and the concurrence of Administration it seemed, how could Burger King lose? Oh I can just hear what other developers and industrialists have to say about moving to Windsor after this fiasco at Council.

What great information did our City Hall/Border Star reporter tell us about what happened at Council on Monday when Burger King and I suspect Ms Doyle were surprised and shaken by the defeat to allow BK to move to the Top Hat site. I am still waiting for the Star story.

Several people told me that they saw the Mayor whispering to Mr. Tyagi before Mr. Tyagi told us that the move had nothing to do with the Tunnel Plaza Improvements. Then I do not understand the whole discussion about "grandfathering" what BK had at the old site. Why was that relevant and seemingly an exception to the Drive-Thru policy the City adopted.

What did the BK rep and whoever from Administration discuss in the "hall" where Eddie told them to go and talk after the BK defeat?

Where did Eddie disappear to right after the BK session for so long?

But the big mystery is why Eddie voted to make a tie vote which meant nothing since the Motion was defeated on a tie vote when the Motion had already been defeated by a 5-4 vote? Why didn't the Star ask the obvious question about why he voted and provide an answer?

Obviously, BK has to take some action. How much will that cost the City in legal fees before this is finished?

However, the more interesting aspect is what will come out at the hearings that no one wants us to know it seems! What will I find in my MFOIA records? This could turn out to be a juicy story by the time it is done. It will make for a tasty treat.

Spreading A "Good News" Border Story

Here is an item from "The Business Executive" that you may find of interest.

Perhaps it provides some positive news about the border for once that should be shouted out to help our City demonstrate that the border is not a block to doing business here.

It is an elaboration of what I first set out in this BLOGsite about quadrupling of capacity at the Ambassador Bridge and enhanced security action due to a new process introduced by the Bridge Co. and Canada Customs. It also means that the existing bridge footprint should be sufficient for years to come without the need to build a huge truck plaza.

Oh well, our Mayor does not want to meet with the Bridge Co. to learn about their achievements. I guess the thought process must be then why should anyone else in Windsor know?

PS. I won't tell you how little this cost to do either. Quadrupling capacity need not cost billions (or millions) either!

As far as I am concerned the border situation has totally changed. If capacity is an issue, the problem has gone. If security and redundancy are issues, the problems have virtually disappeared with an almost reverse-customs set-up. If monitoring is important, then that has been solved. If we want to save taxpayer money, then the Bridge Co. has already done it. If we want improved traffic flow, that is no longer an issue. If we do not want to disrupt thousands of people, homes and business on both sides of the border, then we use the existing bridge footprint. If we want to protect a corridor for the future it has already been identified.

What are we left with...allowing the Bridge Co. to build an enhancced bridge to allow the FAST and NEXUS vehicles their own lanes, allowing a new bridge to be built with a back-up bridge for redundancy purposes (almost like the Sarnia situation)

Oh yes, a small problem: getting Eddie and Council to decide where the new road to the Ambassador Bridge will be built and to stop playing politics. Frankly, it is time for the Senior Levels to make that decsion and start building.

Oh heck, it is only thousands of high-paying construction and spin-off jobs (not minimum wage call centre work) and prosperity while we diversify our economy that are at risk.

And if Sandra, Dwight, Bruce, Jeff, Joe and Brian don't do it now.....THROW THEM OUT OF OFFICE! Stop respecting the process and get off your collective asses and do what you have been elected to do.

Isn't it truly bizarre. On the one hand the Bridge Co. works with Canada to solve the border problem with Canada Customs and on the other fights with Canada (Transport Canada) over the border problem. Isn't it time for some senior mandarins and the PM in Ottawa to wake up!

  • New Security measures at Ambassador Bridge
    BY CHERYL VIGH The Business Executive

    WINDSOR — New security measures on the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge will significantly reduce the hundreds of trucks that must travel two kilometers down Windsor’s busy Huron Church Road to an offsite facility for secondary inspection.

    Commercial truck importers and carriers that have not sent shipment information to Canada Customs in advance of their arrival at the border will not be permitted to proceed into Canada. Instead, they will have to return to the U.S. until they have prepared one of six line release options available to them.

    Effective April 1, the Security and Service Enhancement Initiative is a joint effort of the Canada Border Services Agency and private company The Canadian Transit Company that operates the Ambassador Bridge, to enhance security controls and expedite the processing of commercial shipments.

    This initiative, says Andrea Kent, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, was developed to address the unique concerns present at the Ambassador Bridge — as the busiest land border crossing in North America for commercial truck traffic and with a secondary inspection facility located off site.

    Security initiative will reduce border wait times
    Previously, about 600 trucks per day did not clear primary inspection requiring further inspection or in many situations, inspection from other government departments. The aim of this security initiative is to reduce redirection to secondary inspection for less than 100 trucks.

    “This will allow us to do more monitoring rather than have to deal with a large volume of routine processing,” says Kent.

    Occasionally, trucks have not shown up at secondary inspection although most upon investigation, do not report to the facility out of error.

    “Pre-9/11, if a truck didn’t show up at secondary, we might have lost some revenue. The same can’t be said post-9/11. If a truck doesn’t show up at that facility it’s a whole new ball game,” says Skip McMahon, executive director of external affairs for the Canadian Transit Company.

    “From compliance standards obviously it is a concern and we take that issue very, very seriously,” says Kent. She says there are monitoring systems and enhanced physical controls in place to track and search shipments. Monitoring and escorting 50 to 100 trucks per day will make the inspection process more manageable, adds McMahon.

    Immediately after 9/11 McMahon says the bridge company put armed guards on both sides and they’ve added fencing, lighting and more surveillance cameras on the bridge and at the plazas...

    In addition to enhancing security, this initiative will reduce border wait times for carriers. With carriers and importers using a mandatory line release option customs officers will perform risk management and processing in advance of border arrival. While inspection may still occur, a majority of carriers will not have to travel to the off site facility."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Whopper Of A Deal

I have to tell you, I am a pretty clever BLOGGER. Either that or the Mayor and Council have become so totally predictable.

I actually wrote the following BLOG on March 10 but decided not to post it. I was absolutely right in what I wrote about the outcome. The Motion for rezoning was defeated in the most bizarre of fashions.

The vote was 5-4 to defeat it. However, the Mayor then voted to make it 5-5. That did not change anything because a tie vote under the Procedural By-law means that the Motion is defeated. Why then did Eddie do what he did?

Another interesting point. Dev Tyagi, General Manager, Public Works who was sitting at the front of the Chamber beside Eddie corrected another member of Administration stating that Burger King wanted to move and that it had NOTHING to do with the Tunnel Plaza Improvement Project. I don't understand that remark either.

Hmmmm I wonder if Eddie's vote and Tyagi's remark are somehow connected. I'll let someone else figure that one out

I am sure that there is a story behind this. I will be able to find out what it is once I get my MFOIA records. I'll have it my way after all!


I am surprised that the Burger King across from the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel still is in business. With all of the Tunnel back-ups blocking their property, I am surprised that anyone can get there during the worst of the tie-ups. They must have lost a lot of money over the years at that location.

It is a no-brainer that the site is needed for the Tunnel Plaza Improvements IF they go forward. That might be doubtful with the huge drop in vehicle traffic, almost 10% last year alone and around 50% since 1999. If we ever have the Tunnel Project Public Open House re-scheduled (postponing meetings is a favourite past time at City Hall it seems), we will see that the BK site has to be expropriated:
  • "In the Windsor Star 03-13-2004, the Mayor said

    "Dedicated lanes for trucks, commuters and tourists are among ideas for an expanded plaza which could accommodate lineups, he said, without impacting normal city traffic.

    Expanding the plaza across Goyeau Street and on to city property such as the former police station, plus obtaining the Burger King and other properties, would allow better access to toll booths for U.S.-bound traffic, he said."

I would expect some pretty tough bargaining for the value of that property and some very high costs that would take a big chunk of the $30M set aside for the project!

The expanded plaza could also be used for reverse customs but let's pretend that we don't know that yet so we can all be surprised when the Mayor announces it one day soon. Remember he mentioned that after the Mackinac conference.

You may recall that in my Municipal Freedom of Information Act application, I asked for the City records:

  • "6) All records dated between November 1, 2002 and the current date concerning any plans or proposals respecting the Burger King, Top Hat Supper Club and Bus terminal sites including but not limited offers of purchase and sale, matters involving expropriation, assessment appeals, matters involving land uses such as Drive-throughs"

Of course I have not received them.

The properties involving the Burger King site and the Top Hat site are interesting to me. The Top Hat site might have been used for the new bus termnal except it was not available at the time for the bus terminal site when the City was looking.

In a BLOG, I wrote in November 21, 2005 "Bits and Pieces" I had a brilliant idea for the two property owners:

  • "I thought that it [Top Hat site] would be a great location for the Burger King restaurant! Their present location must have suffered after 9/11 and clearly it will be expropriated when the Tunnel plaza is built.

    So why doesn't the City expropriate (or buy) the existing Burger King site, move Burger King over [Similar precedents have been set in other expropriations] and then Burger King could use the cash to buy and build at the Top Hat site. All one neat package!"

It looks like something along those lines might have happened from the notice above! Except it must be a private deal with BK buying the Top Hat site directly since they need a zoning change. The Whopper folks would be moving to the Top Hat site provided probably that they get a Drive Through.

Do you think they will get it? They should but....the City needs to sell the old bus terminal site. That was how the City would get back part of its cash for the move to the new terminal. Again, remember my BLOG September 19, 2006 "A Terminally Classic Mega-Project" where I said:

  • "Francis said the old bus terminal will most likely be sold. To whom and at what price? (Perhaps Burger King can now move here since their other land purchase deal fell apart) But what if the $800,000 value for Greyhound's land is wrong and less is received. Who makes up the short-fall, the City?"

Is this another charge to the bus terminal project that is only now becoming apparent?

I should hope that Councillors will allow the deal to go through for the sake of the owners of the Top Hat site who have had serious financial problems. It's a chance for them to get their money out finally.

But I can also see the City blocking the BK/Top Hat deal because of the "Drive-through" excuse to force BK to move to the old bus terminal site.

It should be interesting to see what happens.

And if I ever get my MFOIA records, who knows what else I might find to be of interest.

Deep Throat's Highway Robbery

I had not heard from him for a long time. And then I got the summons.

It was slightly after 2 PM in one of the better establishments on Erie Street. He was there, alone, sitting in the corner with a bottle of wine and some appetizers in front of him and the smell of sweet pipe tobacco was all around his spot. The table seemed out of the way, yet he had a commanding view of who entered and who left the restaurant.

  • "You cannot smoke in here," I cried out. "Windsor's smoke police might come in and ticket you!"

With a look that only could come from Deep Throat, he glanced up at me, smiling that smile and said "I don't think they will bother me." And I knew they would not dare.

We exchanged a few pleasantries. He asked about my knee and hands and wondered if I had sued the City yet. I couldn't meet him earlier because of physio. "You really are going to subpoena him aren't you?" he chuckled, remembering my BLOG "and ask for punitive damages after all of those damaging Administration Reports on sidewalk concerns. They are making it so easy for you aren't they!"

We talked about the arena, the City's reserves, the continued secrecy, the reduced agenda size of Council meetings and what that meant for open and transparent Government in Windsor. Then, as if he could read my mind, he came to the point of the rendezvous:

  • "The Mayor doesn't want you to know about the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal does he. Now you understand why your Municipal Freedom of Information application has gone nowhere fast. $100,000 for records....that might be an entry for the Guinness Book of World Records! He could not afford to let you find out what he wanted to do. You were pretty close though to guessing it anyway."

I was shocked. It was just about the only time I had ever been praised by this key insider. If there was someone who knew everything about everything in all the Governments involved about the border issue, it was this person. I still did not know his real identity or for whom he worked. He just said it was "his job" to find things out when we first met and that he would "share" information with me at the appropriate times of his choosing.

Naturally, I had a ton of questions to ask. I started first about the $300M BIF money. It was about to run out. Windsor contractors, their employees and Windsor's economy would suffer with this five years of inaction. I remembered the press release:

  • For Immediate Release
    September 25, 2002
    News Release

    $300 Million Canada-Ontario Investment at the Windsor Gateway

    WINDSOR – Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Ontario Premier Ernie Eves signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years as part of a joint investment to upgrade existing infrastructure on the Ontario approaches to the Windsor-Detroit border crossings.

The praise gave me some courage so, being bold, I blurted out

  • "I suspected the $300M was gone a long time ago. The bureaucrats like to trot it out but I have always thought that it was going to be used for a different purpose for quite some time and not for the road to the Ambassador Bridge. I know it was supposed to be used to fix up an existing crossing but other than the multi-million dollar overpass, for what has it really been used in Windsor?

    I must admit though that I have still not really figured out whether that BIF money was rolled into the $400M the Feds said was coming to Windsor in their Budget. I read after the Budget that the money "is earmarked to support construction of the controversial Huron Church Road-Talbot Road superhighway, federal transportation and finance authorities confirmed on Tuesday."

My restaurant companion looked at me quizzically since I had not been this forward before

  • "Oh don't be silly" my friend chortled. "The federal money has been set aside, not committed to anything. Just like with the Toronto subway money. It will only be dished out when it was politically expedient to do so and for whatever project makes sense at the time. Come on, there could be a Federal election soon"

I was on a roll.....His look was not going to stop me

  • "Hold on. I remember reading when BIF monies were set up that "The Prime Minister and Ontario Premier Ernie Eves will announce on Wednesday that their governments are going to spend $300 million to try and relieve traffic congestion at Canada's busiest border crossing...Insiders say the aim is to relieve traffic congestion at the Ambassador Bridge on the Windsor-Detroit border."

    I even remember another time when "The Windsor Star obtained a copy of the federal-provincial news release to be released today which focuses on truck routes headed for the Ambassador Bridge." Why they cannot use the money for anything else. It was for the road to the Ambassador Bridge" I stammered.

With a look of incredulity on his face, Deep Throat said

  • "HaHaHaHa....are you ever naive. What do you think this is, "highway robbery" or something? Stealing money from the Ambassador Bridge "highway" and giving it to a different project....HaHaHa. If BIF isn't around any more then there is no money for a road to the existing bridge is there? In a few months it will be "What BIF money? That program expired after 5 years." Clever these bureaucrats aren't they! HahaHa?"
Then the look on his face and his mood changed dramatically. His voice was softer, low as if he did not want anyone to hear, other than me, what he was about to say. His tone was almost conspiratorial now.
  • "You are not the only one with inside moles my Blogging friend.

    Several years ago I was given by my informants a top-secret, draft blueprint of the PLAN for the border. It was not the final draft mind you but very detailed. It was a multi-year PLAN with timetables and key decision points noted and with unbelievable diversions built in designed to distract attention. People were to be sent on wild-goose chases as silently, in the backrooms, everything was being pieced together.

    The Rail lands by-law that might have allowed DRTP to be built notwithstanding what Council and citizens wanted always intrigued me. I always wondered if someone had masterminded it or whether the fuss was just an over-reaction. As much as I tried, I never could prove it one way or the other.

    Even the Ambassador Bridge people got duped. Remember when the first Bi-national report came out on alternatives, their Twinned Bridge ranked highly! Well it took some time to get the PLAN going. Effectively, the Ambassador Bridge was fooled into thinking they had a chance. They were stalled off for years by being part of DRIC and then were tossed out when it was near final decision time! It was only later that Dan Stamper figured out what happened to them with the DRIC drawing of the plaza design being the #1 Exhibit!

    Now obviously the PLAN has changed over the years but not dramatically. Your Mayor bought into it early on and since he is so smart, it has to be the only way to go. Therefore the PLAN cannot ever change significantly. If it did, then your Mayor would have to admit he made a mistake. And that can never be allowed to happen. So we are watching the PLAN blueprint being played out."

I just sucked my breath in. Never before had he been so direct with me....Before, it was always the Socratic method of dialogue---asking me the question so I myself could arrive at the answer. No, this time he was "telling" me directly not "asking." This change bothered me. Something was very bad and that did not bode well for me or for Windsor!

  • "The Detroit Windsor Tunnel deal is part of this now although originally it was not. No one cares about the Tunnel except Eddie. That's why the Feds and Province signed Phase 1. They did not care about a $30M Tunnel Plaza Improvement deal. It was chicken-feed in the big scheme of things. But Eddie did since it was going to be the way he became a Mayoral superstar. Everything was moving nicely for Eddie until the Bridge Co. signed the Tunnel deal with Kwame. Eddie freaked and had to pull in the heavy artillery to try to kill that one."
I remembered that Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said that there were "security and "redundancy" concerns about creating one Canada-U.S. superplaza" (except isn't that what "Shared Border Management" is in the Buffalo area) Why she even "sent a letter to Mayor Eddie Francis to emphasize there are no plans to move Canada Customs officers to Detroit." Moreover, "The Canadian government has threatened Detroit with legal action if it approves the Ambassador bridge's bid to take over the U.S. side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. "
  • "That is when the Tunnel became part of the PLAN," I shouted out!

A slight nod of the head which I took for a "yes" and a big "SSSSSSSShhhhhhhhhhh" was what I got in return.

  • "Let me continue. The original PLAN was quite convoluted, trying to accomplish a whole bunch of local political objectives for something quite simple and straight-forward. That was your Mayor. Why be simple if it can be complicated. When I saw the PLAN, I noted the obvious legality concern re financing but I was told that was not a big issue!

    In a nutshell, as one part of the total PLAN, the City would pay each of OMERS/Borealis and CP Rail $150 million for their interest in the almost 100 year old rail tunnels that DRTP proposed to use for their truck highway. Those two companies would only get that money provided that they agreed to use it for building a double or triple-stack new rail tunnel in Windsor to compete with the one owned in Sarnia by CN! That money was originally to be provided to Windsor under the BIF program and whatever Government infrastructure program fund was around. Highway robbery and more right HaHaHa! However, as time passed the financing changed as more money was needed.”

I shook my head in amazement and spit out sarcastically

  • "Not only will the two organizations get a new rail tunnel, they will get thousands of trucks a day through their rail tunnel being trucks taken away from the Ambassador Bridge. Instead of a loss on their project and a write-down of assets, they make a “profit” on the sale and get guaranteed revenue with the mandatory marshalling yard for which Ontario has issued an RFP. That yard will direct trucks to the CP Rail system, about 2,000 a day.

    It’s almost April 30. I am so glad that taxpayer pocket-books will help save the balance-sheets and bottom-lines of the organizations that tried to destroy the heart of Windsor with DRTP. It even helps out OMERS with the FSCO investigation.”

Deep Throat took a sip of wine and continued

  • “There were some confidential talks held between the City and CP Rail early on.

    Talks got a lot more serious when the Bridge Co. tried to do the Tunnel deal. The shock to Eddie was an asset that he thought was worth $2-300M being valued at around US$50M after the US$20M offer for the Detroit half. Eddie was frantic. His plan was to copy what Mayor Daley did with his Chicago toll-road and lease the whole Tunnel to make a gazillion dollars.

    Now he was stuck. He needed Federal money but he recognized that he overplayed his hand by snubbing them. Accordingly, he cozied up to them using both charm with a Provincial contact and fear using the power of his friends by hammering Sandra and Dwight over Project Ice Track. He used the Province to get the Feds back to the bargaining table.

    Without going into the gory details, there is serious talk of the CP Rail rail tunnel (Nobrega’s speech and the Bill Muir articles) BUT there is an addition. Eddie needs another $100M for a total of about $400M so he can pay off Detroit and Alinda for their half of the Tunnel and have a few extra millions needed since the cost of the Tunnel Plaza improvements has increased dramatically!”

    It’s pretty clear that the Feds won’t throw in all of the money for a new rail tunnel or to help out completely with the Tunnel even though they talked about $400M in the budget (just a co-incidence on the Budget figure eh!)…. they would have trouble with the Americans if they were involved with strategic border crossings into the US. But Mr. Nobrega in his speech said

    “We are committed to investing another $300 million of equity to significantly expand this corridor to create a one-billion-dollar trade gateway asset."

    All of a sudden we might see Borealis as an equity investor with CP Rail in its new rail tunnel and with the City in the Tunnel. And if Eddie is that tied into Borealis….

“OH MY GOODNESS!,” I screamed out loud. "It can't be. I thought Windsorites had fought that battle and won. A Highway 401/Lauzon/E C Row link to the airport lands and then a continuation to a 2-lane DRTP North to use the old tunnels for a truck border crossing!”

I was stunned. I could not believe what I had just blurted out. All of that the public opposition down the drain. Was a reversal really possible? I know there was a flip-flop on DRTP North after a secret Council meeting during the Hurst regime or maybe there was not. No one could say for sure afterwards since there were so much confusion. This could never be true. Surely this could never happen again. Council would never allow this to happen.

  • “Oh, right. Just like with the Western Super Anchor and Eddie’s demand for a P3 arena with a $15M maximum taxpayer investment before he was elected mayor. Now what do you have in the East end and, at $65M and counting, with not a negative word from the Councillors! Why one Councillor even justified spending more since it would be a premier facility!”

With that last remark, Deep Throat pushed his chair back and started getting up.

  • "Hold on," I said. "Not so fast. Do you mean to tell me that the Ambassador Bridge won't get its enhancement project?"

He looked straight at me and then I heard this huge burst of laughter

  • "Won't get it? My Blogger friend, the Governments just handed the enhanced Bridge to them on a silver platter. Not only that, a road to the bridge as well. The beauty of it is that the bureaucrats don't know it yet! You see, that part was NOT in their blueprint!

    Their PLAN was to force the bridge owner to sell out and cheaply too...I can tell you that the bureaucrats expected them to fold not to move forward on their enhanced bridge! They expected the bridge executives to come on bended knee begging for a purchase by the Government before their bridge was devalued.

    A fatal error on their part."

And with that, he got up, shook my hand and left with only the smell of sweet pipe tobacco to acknowledge that he was even there at all. Then the waiter came with the bill!

Monday, April 23, 2007

News Of Interest

Some news stories for you to consider


Someone has to pay Alinda to get rid of their Tunnel operating agreement or they are staying around until 2020. And I expect that the price will not be low considering that Alinda just made a deal.

Can you imagine....Windsor pays out US$75M upfront and can get no revenue until 2020 from the US side......Wow the tolls will really have to be high to cover the interest costs alone (unless of course taxpayers get hit with the bill).

Here is what is happening to the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan's possible takeover of a port terminal in NYC as reported in TTNews Express. Alinda could play hardball too depending on what they paid for the right to operate the Tunnel.

Perhaps this is DCTC's revenge on Eddie now.
  • "Group May Pull Out of N.Y. Port Deal

    The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan may abandon a proposed takeover of a big New York port terminal because of a fee dispute with the port authority, the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.

    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants a $45.7 million payment from Orient Overseas Ltd. before it transfers the lease on a Staten Island container terminal to the Toronto-based pension fund, the paper reported.

    The pension fund agreed last year to pay $2.4 billion to acquire four terminals from Orient Overseas, including two in Vancouver, British Columbia, and one in New Jersey.

    The group has received approval for three of the properties, but the New York component of the deal, valued at $470 million, appears in jeopardy, the newspaper reported.

    On Friday, Orient Overseas attempted to salvage the transaction by promising to pay a $5 million fee and as much as $17 million for future improvements, but that offer that was rejected by the port officials, the paper said.

    Teachers and Orient Overseas plan to send a letter to the Port Authority today offering further improvements to try to complete the deal, the Globe and Mail reported."

I see a legal challenge was being considered to stop its demolition.

I had spoken to a couple of grad students recently about what could be done and mentioned that the Law School had a "pro bono" group that could help out.

Moreover, it would be interesting to challenge the City on the decision not to give the building "heritage" status. A certain Councillor should learn to be careful what he says!'s too late since the University tore the house down. What will the "heritage" defender, Councillor Jones, say of this action. Oh I forgot, the building was not in Sandwich but in another part of his Ward. He's too busy still trying to find a bank and a drug store for Sandwich.


It's a very nice time of the year there.

I expect that our Gazelle keepers will have to fly there to accept the Financial Times award on behalf of Windsor. If they play their cards right and have a good travel agent, they can schedule a tour over most of Europe at no extra cost on plane fare to shout out the advantages of Windsor.

It's a much nicer trip than going with Minister Pupatello out west in winter to get jobs!

But what is the point of going anyway to convince someone to come here. I thought that only 1 new job out of 100 created would come from an outside investor.

Here is the funny part about the award: are the people who did the work to convince the Magazine to award the prize to Windsor still working at the Commission any more or have some or all of them been let go? Weird eh!

Imagine the increased size of the wrongful dismissal awards too by their success if they were terminated and have a lawyer involved. Ouch!


I saw this on CKLW's website:
  • "The local Victorian Order of Nurses is ending the postpartum and infant parenting program. It's due to a lack of funding. Since it began in 2003, the postpartum and infant parenting program has helped more than 16-hundred people."

It's a real shame.

I am not sure exactly what the VON program is here. When my kids were born, we used the VON service in Toronto to come around for a few weeks just to make sure everything was OK. I remember that the nurse saw that my son had a virus that the hospital missed when he was checked out so that we were able to deal with it right away.

It felt good and comforting for both of us that we had a professional come to our home so we could ask questions and get answers right after the babies were born.


A reader sent this note to me:
  • "You mention again the possibility of Burger King at Goyeau relocating as part of the proposed Tunnel Plaza 'improvements'. I would note that the Beer Stores throughout the city have been renovated to a new self serve style with a notable exception at Windsor Ave. Could this be a coincidence that the money comes lately to this location or, are the Brewer's Retail folks not wanting to waste money on renovations that will be hit with a wrecking ball in the near future?"
It looks like it will be knocked down IF the project moves forward. I just looked at the proposed plans that the City presented at their last open house


From a City newspaper that should know about tunnels, the Boston Herald:
  • "From 1802 on, visionaries in Britain and France agitated for a tunnel under the English Channel, 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. A tunnel was finally opened in 1994. It is used every year by 8.2 million rail passengers, 2 million cars, 1.3 million trucks, 77,000 buses and shippers of 1.8 million tons of freight.

    Despite operating in one of the most prosperous and heavily populated areas in the world, the Channel Tunnel loses money every year. Its $20 billion cost was 80 percent over budget; its passenger traffic has been only 38 percent of the initial forecast (and freight use 24 percent).

    The Bering Strait, face it, connects nothing with nothing in one of the world’s nastiest climates. There is no reason to think these promoters of a 3,700-mile link are any better forecasters than the folks who put a tunnel on the 213-mile route between London and Paris, and every reason to conclude that the cost of big infrastructure projects is always low-balled - Boston’s Big Dig a notorious case in point. The Bering tunnel money could be put to much more productive use elsewhere."

The Price So Far And Future Of DRTP

When you are fed a THINK BIG meal about transportation hubs from the Mayor and Council, be careful that the meat described as steak is not really bologna.

I guess DRTP can never give up. When you see the costs so far you will know why.

Is it now to be first a new doublestack CP Rail rail tunnel and then to be followed by the DRTP truck expressway (probably in Ward 2 with DRTP North only) with a Lauzon/E C Row connection to Highway 401? Before, it was positioned differently, the other way around. The Michael Nobrega speech and Bill Muir "tunnel and corridor to Highway 401" should put us on absolute guard all over again!

I recently found a speech by Michael Nobrega, the new head of OMERS. It gives us information about DRTP that we did not know including why it may still be around. It also tells what the future of OMERS is with him as Chief especially in relation to infrastructure investing.

As a taxpayer and therefore an indirect contributor to OMERS, I am worried about "investment specialists motivated by pay-for-performance incentives."

Mr. Nobrega does point out that there are risks to investing in infrastructure:
  • "Fourth are political risks. Governments can change their minds about privatizing assets even after you have invested considerable time and money in due diligence, structuring the deal and negotiating the asset transfer...

    Our vision for a high-volume rail and highway trade link between Canada and the United States continues to be on hold for political reasons. While we are confident that the project will ultimately succeed in some form, in the interim, the cost to Canada and the United States in terms of trade and productivity is enormous...

    We invested $175 million in the Detroit River Tunnel Project, a rail tunnel between Windsor and Detroit. CP Rail, one of Canada’s two continental railroads, is our partner. We are committed to investing another $300 million of equity to significantly expand this corridor to create a one-billion-dollar trade gateway asset."
The amount of money put into DRTP is shocking...I did not know that billboards are that expensive in Windsor. I also did not know DRTP was stopped for "political reasons." All this time I thought that the arguments that we at STOPDRTP made were persuasive. {Sigh}

What it also says is that OMERS/Borealis and CP Rail were never going to put in all of the money in the initial $600M project, as we already knew, and I do not see them saying that they are going to commit a huge amount of money for their underground solution. A $1B asset does not look like Mr. Nobrega sees a tunnel ever being built along the entire DRTP corridor since a tunnel would cost much more than that using DRIC's numbers or even those of Marge Byington in Lansing ($2B). Scratch off "Rails-to-Trials" as our friendly solution.

I must admit that I thought that DRTP was still around since one does not write-off assets while a Government investigation is underway. But I do not think that is the complete reason why.

Mr. Nobrega clearly has a vision for what Borealis will do in the future and cannot afford to be seen as making a mistake. PLUS there is supposedly a P3 desire for the new crossing. By the way, I did not see mention of the the write-down of "$183 million of private equity and infrastructure assets to ensure these assets properly reflect current market conditions" in the 2003 financial year.
  • "But our story is about much more than acquiring equity ownership of infrastructure assets. Creating Borealis Infrastructure as a separate investment entity of OMERS protects the plan from material risks. It also does something else that is vitally important. It enables us to create a corporate culture where we can attract investment specialists motivated by pay-for-performance incentives comparable to many private sector merchant banks...

    Few pension funds or merchant banks in the world match the depth and breadth of expertise that we have assembled at Borealis Infrastructure. In the next stage of Borealis Infrastructure’s evolution, we will partner with other like-minded pension funds in the pursuit and acquisition of trophy infrastructure assets around the world.

    The nature of this partnership could take several forms:

    • Creation of a North American infrastructure fund, managed by Borealis Infrastructure, in which OMERS would be the lead and largest investor; this fund structure is particularly attractive to smaller pension funds without the resources to pursue and manage an in-house infrastructure program.

    • Borealis Infrastructure and OMERS would also consider expanding their reach of co-investment partners to include other major capital pools around the world."

The other day, the Globe and Mail ran a story on:

  • " Infrastructure: A safe road to riches
    These assets are attracting investors because they offer reliable returns"

Guess what was mentioned:

  • "Some examples of pensions owning infrastructure: OMERS jointly owns the Detroit River Rail Tunnel with Canadian Pacific Railway...

    Assets like these offer a range of benefits to pension funds, and they can do likewise for individual investors."

Here is a clue to the future from the speech:

  • "we are confident that the project will ultimately succeed in some form...We are committed to investing another $300 million of equity"

Want to know the answer is to "in some form"....forget DRTP, that's just politics. Here is what Borealis says it owns:

  • "OMERS jointly owns with Canadian Pacific Railway the 8,5OO-foot Detroit River Tunnel that links Windsor and Detroit. More than $130 billion of goods flow annually through this cross-border asset."

The reason why this is so interesting is the strange articles that have been posted by "Bill Muir" on the Internet where the emphais is on CP Rail and a rail tunnel. Just watch how this plays out. I have a theory about this too which I shall write about soon. Wasn't the cost of that tunnel supposed to be around $300M? Here is one of the Muir articles that signals what is happening:

  • The Importance Of The Detroit Windsor Jobs Tunnel
    By Bill Muir

    By region, Canadians do the most business within the Great Lakes region by nearly four times over the Midwest region.

    The Automotive Industry in Canada

    With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the automotive industry found Canada and Ontario in particular a welcome place to do business. Recently, automotive jobs in Ontario are on the increase while in Michigan they are on the decline. Last year, Ontario built more cars and trucks than any other location in North America.

    Detroit/Windsor Rail Corridor Is Vital to the National Transportation Network

    The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership (DRTP) owns and operates the 100-year-old rail corridor that runs from Highway 401 in Canada to I-75 in Detroit. All the land within the corridor is owned by the DRTP. The tunnel serves CPR and any other railroad operators that wish to use the tracks, making this a “neutral tunnel.” The Detroit rail crossing run by the DRTP is an ongoing business and carries over 450,000 rail cars a year. This is equivalent to over 1,000,000 truckloads.

    The DRTP/CPR corridor is an existing, 100-year-old transportation corridor through Windsor and Detroit. Much of this corridor is surrounded by vacant or industrial land.

    Keeping Viable Rail Service in Detroit

    This tunnel is challenged by its age. Next-generation rail cars are being put into service by the railroad industry now and will continue over the next several years. These taller rail cars are bigger than the inside diameter of the existing tunnel. In 1906 when this tunnel was built, no one could have imagined a rail car 21 feet, 10 inches tall!

    Below is a recent article regarding American Honda Motor Company’s purchase of $100 million worth of the new, taller rail cars. These new cars will not fit through the existing Detroit/Windsor rail tunnel.

    Honda is shipping cars by new Auto-Max railcars

    The Greenbrier Companies announced today it has

    received the largest order ever for its Auto-Max railcar

    used for transporting new automotive vehicles. The $100

    million order is from American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

    The extra-wide decks in Auto-Max railcars can be adjusted to adapt to changing consumer patterns. In addition to carrying passenger vehicles three high, Auto-Max is the only railcar that carries most sport utilities, cross-over vehicles, compact pickups, and minivans in a tri-level (three-high) configuration. The decks are also readily convertible to carry large SUVs and large pickup trucks in a two-high configuration due to Auto-Max's patented features.

    [Posted Feb 14, 2006 at Inside Line, an, Inc. blog] The Solution

    As discussed previously, the next-generation, high-capacity rail cars and double-stacked seatainers will not fit through the existing tunnel. A new, larger tunnel must be built. The new, larger tunnel will be built next to the existing tunnels.

    How the New DRTP Rail Tunnel Will Be Built

    The new DRTP rail tunnel will have an inside diameter of nearly 27 feet to accommodate the next-generation rail cars and double-stacked seatainers. The tunnelling will be through the soft clay layer, using a pressure-balanced, tunnel boring machine (TBM) shown in the middle left.

    This unique machine is huge and is used to bore through the clay layer while building the tunnel behind it. Equalized pressure is maintained at the cutting head to prevent problems with the clay layers above the machine. Once the pre-cast, concrete tunnel segments are laid in place by the machine, the entire geological structure is stabilized. The tunnel is completed when the TBM breaks through on the opposite side from where it started tunnelling.

    The DRTP Jobs Tunnel will be 1.6 miles long and can be completed in less than four years after the environmental assessment (EA) is completed and government permits are granted.

    The new rail tunnel will be completed in five phases:

    1. Environmental Assessment Phase

    2. Engineering Design Phase

    3. Funding Commitment Phase

    4. Tunnel Construction Phase

    1. Tunnel Boring Machine Commitment

    2. Tunnel Liner Commitment

    5. Commissioning Phase

    The New Detroit Windsor Jobs Tunnel Security

    Security is an important part of CPR’s daily business. This is especially true in the Detroit/Windsor corridor.

    CPR operates its own police force on both sides of the border to ensure security.

    Also, all rail cars are run past a VACIS (Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System) device to Gama-Ray all rail cars before entering the United States. The government-monitored system, using trackside towers (such as the one shown at right) can detect stowaways, contraband, and explosive devices by generating an interior image of each railcar and its contents whether they be tank car, hopper car, container or boxcar, as it rolls by at 5-7 miles per hour.

    Moreover, the new rail tunnel will have the most sophisticated sensor array of any tunnel on the North American border.

    With all these security measures, this border crossing is safe.

    It is clear that the CPR track system is a key element in delivering the products needed to keep millions of Americans working in the Midwest. And, it is also clear that this system is jeopardized by the restrictions of a 100-year-old tunnel in Detroit that is not adequate for the next-generation rail cars coming on line.

    The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership (DRTP) owns and operates the 100-year-old rail corridor that runs from Highway 401 in Canada to I-75 in Detroit.