Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, June 08, 2007

Betrayal---Where Is Our Right Of Recall

Councillor Halberstadt is scared and he has good reason to be. He and his colleagues have been threatened. If you check out his BLOG, you will see this comment.

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and Councillors Ken Lewenza and Fulvio Valentinis suggested last week in the Windsor Star that hiring an Integrity Commissioner might be a good idea in the wake of a controversy surrounding the posting of "alleged" sensitive information on the border file on my website...

    some municipal governments in Ontario are considering punishing Councillors who do not express support for Council resolutions, even when they vote in opposition."

Integrity you say....or eliminating a contrary opinion? Integrity...or making sure that no one talks. Integrity....or a chilling way to silence an opponent in violation of the right of free speech.

If you ever wanted confirmation that the desire for a tunnel for the road between Highway 401 and the border was nothing more than an election gimmick, to get the Mayor and Councilors re-elected, then you have it now.

It is a shame that we do not have in Premier McGuinty's legislation that extended the term of Council by one year the right of recall as well. Frankly, I would be leading the movement to have the Council tunnellers recalled today.

It does not matter what your position on a tunnel is....the issue is a politician keeping his/her word on an important matter in this City! Maybe our local politicians are all McGuinty disciples.

Read what was published in the Star and tell me that it does not make you sick to your stomach about how we have been fooled. Honestly, I want to see how the Editors of the Star and Gord Henderson rationalize all of this. There is no way that they possibly can do it. Instead, they focused their attack on Alan in the hope we would all be distracted by an irrelevant issue.
  • City plots DRIC plan
    Dave Battagello, Windsor Star, Saturday, May 26, 2007

    City council has agreed on a strategy to convince the provincial government to tunnel a controversial feeder route leading to the next proposed Windsor-Detroit border crossing.

    The binational Detroit River International Crossing team, assigned to determine the location and type of roadway, has indicated the Talbot Road-Huron Church Road corridor will be the main route to its planned crossing near Ojibway Parkway in the city's far west end.

    But the question remains whether a six-kilometre stretch of that route will be tunnelled, at-grade or below-grade. Tunnelling would cost about $3.8 billion -- up to six times as much as a surface road.

    But council and many residents who live in nearby subdivisions have demanded the provincial government -- which is responsible for the feeder route -- build a truck tunnel to handle at least 10,000 international big rigs travel the route each day, spewing unhealthy diesel emissions.

    With a final DRIC decision expected in June, council met for two consecutive nights this week behind closed doors to firm up its position for negotiations.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said he briefed councillors on his discussions last week with DRIC officials and attempted to reach a consensus among them on how much of the route they want tunnelled.

    "We are aware DRIC is moving towards a decision in regards to the corridor and what the route will be," Francis said. "Our experience in dealing with them in the past leads to concern on what the ultimate decision will be."

    The city will assemble its own technical information on tunnelling -- information the province has indicated it will look at prior to making a decision, Francis said.

    "We will get as much technical data together as we can," the mayor said. He said the city doesn't want an at-grade route. "We will not accept a cheap solution. We want something that works.

    "Our starting point is a tunnel."
Wow, there is a lot to talk about


According to Councillor Halberstadt, Sam and a team of his people were down here. How much will that cost the City. I heard some time ago that Sam was back and working on tunnelling [BLOG May 07, 2007 "Numbers Game"]

Here's what's funny though. If I knew about it, why didn't Councillors?

I heard that at the in camera session, a Motion was made to retain Sam. Then the next day, Sam and his team brought out a bundle of maps and other documents. A Councillor wondered cynically how so much work could have been done overnight forcing the Mayor to admit that he had asked Sam to work earlier. Clearly he did it on his own and without asking for Councillors' permission

[Doesn't that sound like what Mike Hurst did hiring consultants for the DCX plant and not telling Council and then seeking retroactive support to pay them! Why Councillor Francis, as he then was, said:
  • "If we can't resolve this, I no longer want to work in this environment," said Francis. "We go door-to-door to try and convince the electorate that we are the ones who should be entrusted with these decisions and yet we are not allowed to make those decisions with all the information we need."]

I defy you to ask your Councillor to show you a copy of any of the documents. You can't....The Mayor gathered up everything to prevent leaks. However, my inside moles know all.

I have heard that certain Councillors are disgusted with what happened and the lack of leadership being shown by the Mayor! Will that ever be reflected publicly? If so, when? If not, why not?


I am sorry to have to do this to the Mayor but if the story is correct then he is in breach of the Procedural By-law! You know THE WORD in Windsor when things get too tough for the Mayor and then the Mayor pulls it out to shut up people at Council.

How can the City negotiate anything? Sam's fees are a waste of money. The City has a position and there is no need to reach any other concensus. The City's position is Councillor Marra's Tunnel Motion.

The Mayor and Council cannot legally deviate from that position without a Motion of Reconsideration under the Procedural By-law. I'd ask the City Clerk if the 2 day session is therefore illegal but none has been appointed yet.

Here is what the Mayor tried to get a consensus on: "how much of the route they want tunnelled."

In effect, he is now admitting that what was said on the Tunnel Motion was all a gigantic joke. Council never really meant to support a tunnel at all. It was all a public relations gesture to fool the masses. The intent of the Motion was clear and now the Mayor is trying to force a backtracking from something that was totally unrealistic in the first place!


But what is the finishing point?

There you have it...the tunnel is nothing more than a negotiating tactic, not Windsor's position. It was never a real position. Who can ever believe this Mayor and Council. You never know what is real with them!

You know what this reminds me of....Councillor Valentinis on Face-to-Face when he totally undercut the Schwartz Report. Here is what I wrote in my BLOG on October 04, 2005 "The Valentinis Shocker:"

  • "But the greatest shock of all was the border. For 9 months now, Eddie and the Councillors have cried "Schwartz, Schwartz, Schwartz" as the ultimate solution for the border. Why Eddie wanted a billion dollars right away for his PLAN. No matter that it made no sense. This was the City position.

    Oh we had heard awhile back (on John's show too), when Sam Schwartz was being interviewed, that his Report was meant to be a thought provoker and not the be all and end all. That was a big surprise to me especially when no one seemed to pick up on it and he seemed to undercut his bosses' position.

    It is clearly the City excuse for its failure now. According to Fulvio, the Schwartz Report was merely a "starting point." The City had been asked to make a proposal and it did. No matter that the City has run up huge bills to be paid for by taxpayers promoting this "starting point" and has been trying to convince everyone to support it. Can you believe this re-writing of history?"

They are re-writing again.


It is hilarious....Eddie Francis is doing exactly what Mike Hurst did. They both were the Mayor that had a Motion passed in public that placated the masses--Mike on NO DRTP and Eddie on a tunnel-- and then a short time later in an in camera strategic session tried to reverse what the Motion said.

Mike asked for a partial DRTP while Eddie asks for a partial tunnel.

It's a shame that the pro-tunnel people are not as strong as STOPDRTP...If they were, Eddie's career as Mayor would now be over just like Mike's was when the story became public.

And the big irony for Eddie, as he well knows, is.....well, I'll save that one for another time!


Did you remember the Tunnel Motion? Here are relevant excerpts again:

  • "M74-2007 WHEREAS tunneling projects are common throughout the world; and

    WHEREAS the City of Windsor wants to protect neighbourhoods and get trucks off local streets; and

    WHEREAS tunneling combined with capturing and scrubbing emissions will significantly improve local air quality; and

    WHEREAS there have been numerous public statements and correspondence from the City of Windsor urging tunneling;

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Windsor advise DRIC that they must have a tunnelled solution as the design of the highway through the corridor determined by the final DRIC process, with an absolute imperative to mitigate any and all impacts on local residents and the community as a whole from Windsor Border Traffic. Adoption of this motion in no way indicates or implies any support for any existing Border Crossing Operator or Proponent of a new Border Crossing. "

Do you see anything in the Motion that limited the length of the tunnel..I do not either. It talks about the entire length of the highway. Then why is the issue for the Mayor and Council:

  • "But the question remains whether a six-kilometre stretch of that route will be tunnelled"
Where were Ward 2 Councillors Jones and Postma? Were they at the meetings? Were they asleep? Why weren't they screaming that their Ward is being sacrificed just like it was being sacrificed under Hurst when there was talk of DRTP North and a park for the corridor in DRTP South.

Here the talk is for a tunnel in the subdivisions area and who knows what mess for Ward 2 and Sandwich in particular. What a sell-out! What a "betrayal." Councillor STOPDRTP should remember that word. He used it before when Council seemingly reversed itself as it seems to be doing now.

I found it interesting that the add-on to the printed edition in the Star was the story about the Bridge co. requesting a demolition permit. Typical Star timing and story positioning.

I can just hear the Ward Councillors moaning about the demolition of a few boarded up homes when they said not a word about the destruction of their community by a non-tunnelled road and a DRIC Bridge.


I wish!

Wouldn't that be a nice way to go for a walk during the next few months...collecting signatures.

Failure to put into legislation the right of recall of Council members. That's another reason NOT to vote Liberal provincially.

The Pain For The Mayor And Council

I see that the Bridge Co. is applying to have several homes in Ward 2 demolished because of the interim by-law imposed by the City. Of course, there really is no need for the Bridge Co. to apply to the City in my opinion since the matter has to do with an international bridge so Bill C-3 applies making it a federal matter.

It's really like the Rail Lands by-law issue where the City was able to stop DRTP from building a truck expressway along their corridor since it was for non-rail uses. The Bridge Co. needs to demolish the homes for bridge purposes so how can the City oppose?

I assume though that the Bridge Co. is acting out of courtesy with the City and for other reasons too.

Now the interesting question is whether the Mayor and Councillors will vote against them. [Will Eddie pull a move as he did in the Burger King matter so he has "clean hands" and let the other Councillors take the fall?]

According to the real head of Council, CAO John Skorobohacz in a CBC TV interview, if the "bridge applies for a building permit [for its bridge], it will be turned down." I assume therefore he would want to reject the demolition permits too. The Administration report does and he was one of the signatories.

Here is the fascinating part. The Administration Report says a building permit must be issued BEFORE a demolition permit can be applied for. The CAO has said that no building permit would ever be issued. Therefore the Bridge Co. could NEVER get a demolition permit no matter how good their proposal was!

Frankly, he knows that ultimately the Bridge Co. would win but an appeal takes time and that stalls the Bridge Co. plans doesn't it!

I must admit that I thought the CAO's job was to be seen and not heard! He is a mere functionary, not a decision-maker or did I miss that change in Eddie's Procedural By-law. It is absolutely presumptuous for him to open his mouth on a policy matter that is something that Council is to decide. If he wants to make decisions, let him run for office. Otherwise, he should be told firmly to keep quiet.

Anyway, is it too late for the City? As the Senior Administrator in the City, has he hurt the City's position fatally? The question now is whether the CAO has shown a bias and a prejudice against the Bridge Co. that will impact in any Administration recommendations published in Reports and will certainly make it hard for the Bridge Co. to be treated fairly. Accordingly, if so, to try and salvage the City's position, I would think at least one step to take is for the Mayor and Council to censure him immediately and in public and to disqualify him from any further matters involving the Bridge Co. In the circumstances. I believe that the Bridge Co. can make a legitmate claim against the City for "bad faith" and a denial of "natural justice."

Hmmm perhaps this should also be discussed in the Pay for Performance section of the Agenda too.

Mind you, do you think now that the CAO has signalled his intentions that anyone will dare defy him unless Council tells staff that his comments are to be ignored. His remarks may have made matters intolerable!

Now how can an elected official or a CAO for that matter turn something down in advance without knowing anything about it. It's easy if you are a Windsor Councillor---you read all about the Bridge Co. plans on BLOGs since you just refuse to meet to be educated about it. (I have heard that the Bridge Co. will make a presentation now at Council on the 11th. I wonder why there was this big switch in attitude. Is it real or just pretend?)

Unfortunately, for the Ward 2 Councillors in particular, there is a big problem. While they are anti-Bridge Co., they are supposedly pro-constituents. And what did the constituents have to say about homes owned by the Bridge Co. at the public session in Sandwich....Well the Councillors will never know. They chose not to attend the meeting where "Other residents questioned the company on its plans for property it has purchased in Old Sandwich Towne."

One of the residents was concerned about an empty house next to hers that could be vandalized and cause damge to her residence and perhaps her pets.

Imagine if that resident's Councillors vote against tearing down the vacant homes and having the Green Corridor Team help design an environment that is suitable to improve the area and instead have them live beside homes that pose a safety risk. Bizarre!

And that is the issue. If the Ward 2 and the other Councillors prevent the Bridge Co. from demolishing the homes then they are the ones contributing to a situation that could cause residents harm.

I wonder if the Mayor and Council will seek the advice of outside Counsel in this matter. They should for their own protection and peace of mind. They may even need the advice of their own personal lawyers given their potential risks. Laugh if you will....but this can be very serious.

Surely they would NOT give the file to David Estrin for advice since he is being sued by the Bridge Co. No one would dare put David in the position where he could have a potential conflict would they?

It is not an academic point either. Ask the people who were charged as owner of a house that was damaged by fire and people hurt even though someone was charged with "arson and two counts of negligence causing bodily harm."

I would think that the Bridge Co. has the perfect defence: they were prevented by Council from tearing the homes down.

Those people on Council who voted to prevent them from demolishing the homes could now have a legal risk if the Crown could prove "bad faith." As I said, it is not a laughing matter.

Depending what happens Monday night, this could be the start of something very ugly. And Windsor, again is the loser!

The hypocrisy of it all...Item #8 on the Agenda "CQ47-2006, 3465 Wilkinson Lane, Outlaw Biker Clubhouse." Council wants the Federal Government to demolish the Outlaw Biker House in Sandwich since it is an eyesore and nuisance and to ensure public safety.

My suggestion to the Bridge Co. if they lose is to take all reasonable steps to protect the homes from damage, perhaps even board them up to make them difficult to enter, and put a big sign on the front lawn for the neighbours to see telling them this house is there because Council voted to prevent demolition. They should also post and give the name and contact information of each person on Council who voted not to demolish the homes. They should tell the residents to call those persons directly if there are problems!

To show you the absurdity of what Council is doing in Sandwich and what the effect could be, the Bridge Co. should apply for a heritage grant or loan, as Mary Ann Cuderman did, since EVERY home in Sandwich will be designated as heritage, and after they fix up a house at taxpayer expense, they should offer it to some motorcycle club. Now that would be a hoot!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Will Detroit Council Kill Eddie's Tunnel Dream

Here are two stories from Michigan Public Radio about the Tunnel deal that you might want to read and see how our Council will act in a similar case.

Now I am surprised frankly that Detroit Council is taking such a hard line. The Tunnel seems to be overvalued. That's great for Detroit since their deficit will be paid off but not so good for Windsor since Windsor taxpayers have to pay out all of that cash, US$75M. Where the heck has all of that money been hidden so that we can use it for a deal no one but a few at City Hall knew about? I don't remember it being discussed at Budget time.

There must be a Part 2 of this deal that Windsorites do not know about to raise that money. We know the Feds have been approached but it does not seem they are coming to the party since it has not been announced. We would have heard a leak already if they were in. (And if they do offer money, they have competition problems and Senate problems)

Moreover, the members of Detroit Council have this quaint notion that they should know about the deal before they sign off on it. "Irresponsible" was a word used.

How about Windsor's Council. The Mayor wants our Council to sign off on a deal, a business case study, without knowing anything. It is that poor a document.

Check out the image above from the Administration Report....It means, Trust Us...sign on the dotted line today and we'll give you some information tomorrow.

In this case, the Report makes it clear that COUNCIL may see something, probably in camera, business confidentiality and all of that, but there is no guarantee that we poor taxpayers will.

Sounds a lot like the out of control and now further delayed East end arena procedure doesn't it? We had to rush quickly to move forward on it even without a contract and now we have a delay that may add in costs!
What a City!

Detroit Council OKs Budget Without Tunnel Deal
Sarah Hulett (2007-05-24)

The Detroit City Council approved a budget today that takes issue with the Mayor's plan to turn over ownership of the City's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

The $75 million deal was a key part of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's budget plan.It calls for turning ownership of Detroit's half of the tunnel over to a new authority run by board members from Detroit and Windsor. But no formal agreement is in place with the city of Windsor.

Council President Ken Cockrel says since it's not a done deal, the city should be prepared to sell bonds to make up for that revenue.

"And that would only become necessary in the event that, once we do get the documents on the tunnel deal, if we do deem that it's not viable and it doesn't look good for the city of Detroit, we would vote that down and then be in a position to plug that $58 million that would be left in the budget," says Cockrel.

$58 million is what the Kilpatrick administration estimates the city would net from the $75 million deal after fees.

Detroit Council to Vote to Override Budget Veto
Sarah Hulett (2007-06-04)

Detroit's mayor and city council remain at odds over a key budget question.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick wants to plug a $58 million hole in the city budget by leasing the city's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to a new authority. And he's vetoed a city council move to plug the hole by selling bonds instead.

City Council President Ken Cockrel Junior says he's not opposed to the mayor's plan. But he says he's skeptical the deal will be finalized in time for the beginning of the new fiscal year, July First.

"Given that this represents about $58 million of the coming fiscal year budget, to just go ahead and accept that this deal is going to be approved by Council at a later date, without really having seen any detailed paperwork on it, would in our opinion have been irresponsible," says Cockrel.

A vote to override the mayor's veto is expected tomorrow.

Will Windsor Council Kill Eddie's Tunnel Dream


You have got to be kidding me. The problem they will have is not hurting their arms when they quickly stick them up high when the question on the Motion is called to approve!

I sent this note to the Mayor and Councillors and so far have had ONE reply:

  • "----- Original Message -----

    From: Ed Arditti

    To: Mayor Francis and Council
    Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 11:27 AM
    Subject: June 11 Council meeting

    The meeting on June 11 will be very important to the City of Windsor.

    According to Councillor Jones, at the last Council meeting, a number of you will not be in attendance.

    Please advise me if you will be present or not. I need this information by Thursday at noon at the latest."
The witch-hunt will now be on to see who leaked to me that he/she will or will not be present. That poor Councillor will see his/her name in the Windsor Star soon for daring to break the Code of Silence and not letting only Eddie tell me the answer! It may even prompt the need for an Integrity Commissioner as the last straw. (See I have to protect my source!)

Expect Councillors to ask loads of questions on Monday night however to pretend that they are protecting our interests when they in fact also know little about what Eddie is doing.

That's called "public consultation" in Windsor.

Let's guess who will ask the most questions so that he/she can demonstrate that he/she is Mayoral material! You first...

Did Brian Masse Kill Eddie's Tunnel Dream

Poor Eddie. With a friend like this, who needs an enemy!

According to the Administration Report, Eddie's plan is to transfer the City's asset, half of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel, to a new Company to be incorporated. That Company would also be the new operator of the Tunnel. That's about all we know. For a US$75M transaction! How shameful!

Now I don't know about you, but I don't think the City has US$75M lying around in a slush fund somewhere that it can use to do the deal. I also do not know how Windsor can operate the Tunnel, or its half, since it has never done this before.

Accordingly, there must be more behind this deal than we know including some partners for the City who can put up the dollars or put up cash with the Tunnel revenues as security.

Actually, I hope the Feds put up all or part of it. Then we will see some real fun as the two Governments will be involved in the Tunnel as a competior of the Bridge Co. and as its regulator as well! That is almost a virtual cinch to allow the Bridge Co. to get its Enhancement Project approved or to be able to start a massive lawsuit for unfair competition!

And the Bridge Co. would then be able to go back to the Senators in Ottawa for help. Here is what the Senate said in their Bill C-3 observations:
  • "On the question of the federal government’s potential involvement in future international crossing projects, your Committee heard suggestions that the provisions in the bill that allow the Minister of Transport to recommend to the Governor in Council whether or not to approve a project would lead to a substantial conflict of interest for the Minister.

    On this point, officials noted that Transport Canada currently does not own or operate a single international bridge or tunnel. The existing federal structures belong to Crown corporations, which are autonomous even if the Minister of Transport is responsible for them. To quote an official, “the Minister has absolutely no authority over the day-to-day activities of these organizations, including those dealing with safety and security.”

    Therefore, given the autonomous ownership and operational arrangements established for existing federal structures, your Committee is confident that the Minister of Transport will not be in a position of conflict of interest in the future.

    However, the Minister of Transport should be particularly sensitive to any situation where the federal government is in a situation where there is an appearance of conflict, especially when the interests of a private enterprise are at stake."

However, it may that Eddie has lined up a pension fund or a private equity investor to help him out or perhaps a bunch of local guys who have some dollars and want to invest in infrastructure to diversify their investment portfolio.

Now here is where Brian Masse comes in. He takes credit for helping to bring Bill C-3 in. That Bill provides:

    No person shall, without the approval of the Governor in Council,

    (a) purchase or otherwise acquire an international bridge or tunnel;
    (b) operate an international bridge or tunnel;

    Approval for anything referred to...may only be obtained by submitting an application to the Minister for approval by the Governor in Council.

    A person who submits an application shall provide the Minister with any document or information that is required under guidelines issued by the Minister and any other document or information that is required by the Minister after receipt of the application.

    The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, approve an application referred to in section 24 subject to any terms and conditions that the Governor in Council considers appropriate.

Transferring the City's Tunnel asset to a new Company which is also set up to operate the Tunnel would trigger the need to get approval from the Feds. Unfortunately, the Feds do not have any guidelines respecting what is needed in an application yet as far as I know and the Regulations are supposed to take a year or two to draft.

So does this mean that Eddie's deal is in limbo thanks to Brian and the Feds?

The Feds will have to act in proper fashion to review the application. Remember when the Bridge Co. tried to do a deal with Kwame and both Eddie and the Feds got involved to try and stop them. The Feds would accordingly have to act in good faith or else the Bridge Co. could argue that they were discriminated against improperly.

So I wrote the other day to Transport Canada seeking an answer but so far, I have not received one:

----- Original Message -----
From: Ed Arditti
To: Mark Butler
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 2:35 PM
Subject: International Bridges and Tunnels Act

According to a Report to be presented to Windsor Council:

"Windsor considers it necessary and desirable to transfer ownership of the Canadian Tunnel and the assets used in association therewith to a corporation that is wholly owned by Windsor that will have the purpose of acquiring, owning, operating, managing, repairing and maintaining the Canadian Tunnel with power to subcontract all or part of such purposes. In addition, Windsor considers it to be in Windsor’s best interest to acquire from Detroit the right to control and operate the US Tunnel to permit it to operate the Canadian Tunnel and US Tunnel as a unitary and integrated tunnel after the end of the term of DCTC’s lease."

Will you please advise

  • if this transaction is subject to the International Bridges and Tunnels Act with respect to transfer of ownership and with respect to the transfer of its operating, managing, repairing and maintaining

  • would any subcontract be subject to the same provisions

  • what is the procedure that the City must go through for approval

  • what time period would be involved

  • will public hearings be undertaken

I would assume that no action will be taken in the near future based on the following comment:

  • Transport Canada officials... are aware that the proposed provisions dealing with governmental approval of sales and transfers affecting ownership or control may cause concern to stakeholders. They expect, however, that these stakeholders will be active participants in the regulations consultation process, and that their concerns will be dealt with at that time. "

I would appreciate an answer today since I intend to write a BLOG on this matter tomorrow morning."

Of course there are other hurdles that have to be overcome, especially a huge one in Ontario Legislation that does not yet seem to have been considered. But that is for another time.

So if Kwame is in a hurry to get his money, then he better hope that the deal with Eddie can be completed in a timely fashion. He also should NOT make an enemy of Alinda...just in case!

Will Sandra And Dwight Kill Eddie's Tunnel Dream

Or has Dalton McGuinty already done it because of what he did the other day?

Oh this deal is not so easy for the City to put through.

I am sure that Eddie and Donna Cansfield must have had a nice lunch over it and Eddie's legal people must have talked to the Ontario Government about it. But have they all missed an important point?

Eddie wants to set up something called a Section 203 company under the Municipal Act to take over the assets of the Tunnel and operate least in the beginning. It will be subcontracted almost immediately thereafter. There has to be a deal behind it with someone to finance the US$75M required but that is not being told to us now and may never be told to us poor taxpayers in any detail.

The Council agenda item says that the Regulations under the Municipal Act have to be amended to allow this deal to go forward. Do Sandra and Dwight want to be the sponsors of this so that it can be argued that they are helping a competitor of the Bridge Co. and thereby prejudicing the DRIC process? What happened to "respecting" the process?

Dealing with Section 203 companies, one commentator said:
  • "The government has proceeded cautiously with the municipal corporations provisions, but has signalled a willingness to revisit the issue. As a result, very few municipalities have utilized these powers."

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing may not be too keen on a Section 203 Company either to operate a Tunnel, a non-core function of a municipality, especially when there is competition with the private sector involved. Will Ontario now compromise its position with respect to the Enhancement Project since they would be assisting a Bridge Co. competitor:

  • "Policy and Procedure Considerations

    The province has no interest in seeing municipalities create taxpayer-subsidized corporations to compete in areas that are well served now by private sector companies, nor to forestall the private-sector playing its traditional role in providing goods and services to Ontario’s communities, their residents and their businesses. Municipalities would focus their attention on core service areas...

    Corporations for different service sectors may require specific provisions in the regulations. This is a new tool and it is important to balance the need to protect the public interest with the need to ensure fair competition with private sector businesses...

    Corporations delivering essential public services will be required to act within a framework of accountability to councils and the public."

And if no one knows yet Eddie's second deal, how can there be accountability to Council and the public?

What everyone may have overlooked is that the Municipal Act itself may have to be amended, not just a Regulation. In my opinion, the City may not have the legal power to do what it wants to do. Will someone from the Government seek to amend the Act or will a Private Member's Bill be needed.

For the wannabe lawyers amongst you, take a look a this:

The Municipal Act provides

  • 2. Municipalities are created by the Province of Ontario to be responsible and accountable governments with respect to matters within their jurisdiction and each municipality is given powers and duties under this Act and many other Acts for the purpose of providing good government with respect to those matters. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 2.

    19. (1) By-laws and resolutions of a municipality apply only within its boundaries, except as provided in subsection (2) or in any other provisions of this or any other Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 19 (1).

    The Regulations under the Municipal Act say:
    3. A municipality may use the power to referred to in paragraph 1 of subsection 203 (1) of the Act to establish a corporation only if the municipality by itself, or together with one or more other public sector entities, establishes the corporation and,

    (a) the corporation’s purpose is to provide a system, service or thing that the municipality itself could provide; or

    (b) the establishment of the corporation is expressly authorized by this Regulation.

The Province would have to provide a regulation that allows the Municipality or the Corporation to be able to carry on business in the US. But that is not enough. The Regulation cannot allow something that is contrary to the Act. The Act would have to be amended as well since the City can only act within its jurisdiction and not in the US. (See Business Corporations Act where the specific extra-territorial power is granted "A corporation has the capacity to carry on its business, conduct its affairs and exercise its powers in any jurisdiction outside Ontario to the extent that the laws of such jurisdiction permit. R.S.O. 1990, c. B.16, s. 16.")

What will Sandra and Dwight do? Will they introduce the changes to the Act? Have they been put in an impossible position? Damned by the Star if they don't act...damned by the courts if they do!

But it is all OK now for the Ministers. The pressure is off. No legislation can be passed until after the election

  • "legislature was scheduled to sit for another three weeks, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced yesterday Queen's Park would shut down early. "

I sure hope Kwame has Alinda's phone number and that he takes a hard look at their deal before it expires and after the exclusivity period with Eddie ends. If I am right, there can be no deal with Eddie until the fall which may be too late for Kwame and Detroit Council!

A Waste of 2 Hours Of My Life

We need another newspaper in Windsor!

Thanks to the Windsor Star, its editors and its ace border reporter, Dave Battagello I will have spent about 2 hours watching a video of Detroit Council where the Bridge Co. made its Enhancement Project presentation and then writing about it.

I wasted my time, and I do mean waste, because of Battagello's story: "Bridge plan challenged."

I got a video of the meeting so I could see for my own eyes and hear with my own ears what happened.

I was expecting fireworks, near fisticuffs after reading the quotes of the various Councillors. It seemed so exciting. I expected to see Dan Stamper shouting back as wild statements were being made as he was trying to rebut them. I wanted to watch the show!

The words used in Battagello's story: challenged, question, criticize, opposition, rejection, hit with more than an hour of questions, expressed reservations, expressed dismay. Those were pejorative enough weren't they

A "grilling"....hardly. What I saw and heard were "professional" politicians who work full-time on their job---Detroit Councillors---asking tough questions and getting back straight answers. They were doing their job! They were quiet and respectful in their questioning and the answers came back that way too!

I wish our Councillors would follow their example on Monday night and ask tough questions of the Bridge Co. and get real answers so they would know the truth. I hope that some of them have the guts to ask tough questions of our Mayor on the Tunnel and airport deals on which he is trying to get approval with no significant information provided whatsoever. That would NEVER happen with these Detroit Councillors. They would rip Eddie apart if he dared try.

Sure there were concerns...what else would one expect? They had questions that needed answering and they got them. Were they satisfied with the answers.... who knows. It was not a decision-making meeting but an information session.

Yes there were Councillors who expressed oppostion to a "private" border crossing--that is their personal point of view. But they were at least open and honest about it. However, there was also a comment about Homeland Security issues with Windsor operating the Tunnel. Did you see that reported in Dave's article? I wonder why not.

What you read primarily in the article were the questions or comments by Councillors but not of the Stamper answers to them. Why didn't Dave write about Bill C-3 giving the Federal Government control over International Bridges? That eliminates Windsor's role except as specifically set out in the Act. Why didn't Dave write about Windsor, the owner of the Tunnel, being the competitor of the Bridge Co. and naturally wanting to hurt their competitor's position? That was raised!

You did not read that the City Administrators who were there in big numbers from various departments hardly asked any questions and made few comments. You did not read about the explanation given about the PAB bonds and how the Bridge Co.'s actions help Detroit. You did not read about lower tolls or improving the economy or being a logistics hub for the economic future of the region. You did not read about the Coast Guard's role in the EA process or redundancy contributed by the old bridge or the cost savings of millions per year which would help build the Enhanced Bridge or about DRIC trying to by-pass Detroit to its disadvantage. You did not read about the "no opposition" by MDOT to the Enhancement Project

You did not read any of this because you read the Windsor Star! And that is why I am serious about an online newspaper.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Quick Ones

  • Just some things I have heard


    In light of Administration reports, the damages in the Dr. Robert Yovanovich case seem very reasonable. In this case as the Star reported:

    "Calling Windsor "reckless," an Ontario Superior Court justice has ordered the city to pay a prominent city surgeon $844,450 in damages for not warning him about a raised catch basin that threw him from his bike, injuring him for life...

    "The fall separated Yovanovich's left shoulder, leading to a deformity, and caused mild nerve damage to his neck and right side, which results in numbness and burning in his right leg. The injuries are permanent and cause Yovanovich various levels of pain at all times, Justice J. Morissette wrote in her judgement released May 31.

    Morissette said the city was negligent for not conducting any formal inspections of the road, which had been under reconstruction and closed to the public just six months before Yovanovich's fall. She also blamed the city for not marking the elevated catch basin or posting warning signs, pylons or barrels near it."

Doctor Yovanovich was quoted as saying:

  • "The City of Windsor has really had a callous attitude and generally shown reckless behaviour in terms of safety issues for cyclists in this city,"

His lawyer stated:

  • "This judgment is really a victory for everybody who uses the road - in-line skaters, runners, cyclists, moped, wheelchair users," said lawyer Martin Wunder. "It's going to, I hope, make the city and other municipalities be more responsive and responsible to their obligations to their cities."

I was shocked that

  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and city solicitor George Wilkki said they didn't know enough about the case Monday to comment."

Sure the damages are probably covered by insurance but the City has a substantial deductible I would expect. And with claims results like this, rates can rise. In light of the Administration reports outlining problems with the City's sidewalks, the Mayor and City Solicitor may want to become better informed of cases. Is there a systemic problem that the Mayor as CEO will have to answer for in other cases!

Oh, I am interested as well. It looks like my "slip and fall" claim against the City has just improved too!


Surely our Gazelle feeders with their new staff members and Board honorariums now all set have been out there negotiating with Magna for their new plant to be built in Windsor at the shovel ready airport lands.

Surely Buzz Hargrove has been talking with his new bestest buddy, Frank Stronach, to have that plant built in Windsor so Frank can make good on his proposed Magna-CAW alliance. You remember, Magna was going to let the CAW organize their companies.

Here is what this is all about...a story from the Free Press:

  • Magna shops for plant site
    Supplier will build European cars in North America

    Magna International Inc., which has an auto assembly plant in Europe, has been looking at land in North America for a similar facility, indicating that the auto supplier may be close to expanding its unique complete-vehicle production business.

    Magna, the world's third-largest auto supplier, sees a market for assembling vehicles in North America for European automakers, Magna President Mark Hogan said Tuesday.

    "Clearly the OEMs here have enough capacity. ... They are not really in the position to outsource assembly," Hogan said, using industry shorthand for original equipment manufacturers. "Clearly the euro to the dollar has affected the way the Europeans think about manufacturing."

    In addition, Hogan said he sees a market for assembling vehicles for automakers that have exceeded capacity but need a way to make more cars.

    The development of new propulsion systems in vehicles could also lead to a market for the more complicated vehicles being assembled at a facility run by Magna, he said.

    "It's coming," he said. "Once we secure a couple, three product programs, we'll have enough to get going."


Is it true that a major Financial Institution has the inside track on buying the naming rights for the East end arena. I have heard though that the bid price is NOT very high but then again who wants to bid much in this City with this economy?

Mind you, a low bid means that the charities in town and the University fund-raising could suffer as well if people don't have money. How will the University, as an example, ever pay for their stadium, a new medical school (whose costs are much higher) and a more expensive downtown Engineering complex?

My guess is that some people will be quite upset if this Firm wins. It may explain a whole bunch of actions that have taken place in this City recently.


With all of the closings and high vacancy rates, you'd think there would be some prime pickings here.

Here's a story from the London Free Press. I wonder if he has an interest in the Capitol Theatre:

  • Farhi feathers his 'nest' in core

    Mon, June 4, 2007 By NORMAN DE BONO, SUN MEDIA

    From the Royal Bank building at King and Richmond streets, Shmuel Farhi can see some of the $250 million worth of property he owns downtown.

    London's most colourful developer has gone on a shopping spree, buying up more than 20 downtown properties in the last six months alone.

    Shmuel Farhi puts the total value of his downtown property at more than $250 million.

    He says it's all part of a master plan that's just begun.

    "It is part of my strategy. The more I own, the more I control. The better for me," the outspoken Farhi says.

    "I am not an investor who is looking at tomorrow or the next month, but 10 years from now. I am building a nest here, a massive plan over the next 10 to 20 years."

    Most notable among his recent acquisitions are two parking lots north of the Dundas Street courthouse -- the largest pieces of vacant land available downtown at 100 Queens Ave. and on Fullarton Street immediately to the north...

    That acquisition is the tip of the iceberg for what has been a busy 2007 for Farhi, who often is at odds with city hall over downtown parking...

    "We have more than 1.5 million square feet and if you had to rebuild it, it would cost $250 million."

    The recent deals make him the largest landlord in the downtown with more than 80 properties, including land and buildings, in the core, Farhi says.

    He won't say how much he's spent on downtown land, dismissing totals as not important. He has a buy-and-hold philosophy, acquiring what he sees as quality real estate and holding it for the long term...

    City manager Jeff Fielding isn't bothered Farhi has bought so much downtown, but he says the city needs to work with him.

    "In a city this size, it is typical to have one or two individuals with a strong interest in the downtown, with multiple holdings. But it means we have to maintain a working relationship," he says...

    "He is a very savvy guy. Never underestimate him."

If he is not buying here, are we ever in trouble with our economy!


There goes the Star again, telling us how good infrastrucutre investing is a few days before the big June 11 Council meeting. Thank Goodness, the Star is making it so easy for Eddie to gain approval.

Be a very careful if you are asked to invest in infrastucture deals. If it hits the pages of the popular press, it is probably too late. You have missed out on it. It's the money boys who will make the big bucks now as individauls get involved.

DRTP is a good example....What has it achieved so far except eat up investor money?

The Star ran this story:

  • "Infrastructure is prime
    Doors opening to meld public/private
    Ray Turchansky, CanWest News Service, Monday, June 04, 2007

    There is a growing movement afoot to match rich investors seeking new opportunities with a sector that's increasingly in need of just such an infusion -- infrastructure.

    In early March, William Robson of the C.D. Howe Institute issued a report on the subject: "Crumbling bridges and leaking pipes need fixing; new roads and power lines need building as cities cope with growth -- Canada needs infrastructure investment...

    But the Howe Institute says the time has come for the investment world to design infrastructure securities, backed by infrastructure portfolios "with adjustments to ensure a good mix of credit quality among the available units."

    It adds: "The time is ripe, then, for another financial innovation in Canada. Individual savers need a piece of the infrastructure action."

Here is an example of some infrastructure action that you could see bundled one day so that you can own a piece of it. Caveat emptor

  • "Bridge business not booming in 10th year
    Last Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2007, CBC News

    The Confederation Bridge opened 10 years ago Thursday, and while it has been a success in many ways, as a business venture it is having difficulties.

    A group of four companies owns the bridge: OMERS, a pension fund controlled by Ontario public servants; Vinci Concessions, a French company with worldwide interests in roads and bridges; Ballast Needam, a Dutch construction company; and Alberta-based Strait Crossing.

    The bridge joining P.E.I. and New Brunswick got off to a bad start, with 30 per cent cost overruns in construction. But things began looking up when it opened. Tourism jumped 40 per cent that first year, and along with that came a huge increase in traffic across the Northumberland Strait.

    Increases continued for the next three years, but have been falling since.

    The drop in traffic is significant, because the group cannot make up the losses at the toll gate. An agreement with the federal government means the maximum increase in tolls in any given year is three-quarters the inflation rate. So the group is reliant on volume, which has been in decline since 2001.

    The other source of revenue for the bridge is a $42-million-a-year subsidy from the federal government, but the group has never seen a penny of that. That money goes to the pension funds and insurance companies in Ontario that bought the bonds in the early 1990s to create a fund to build the bridge. The bondholders also collect 80 per cent of the tolls: $25 million to $30 million.

    In 1998, when traffic was looking good, the bridge owners had a second bond issue of about $330 million to cover the construction cost overruns. Operating costs are also going up, in particular insurance, which took a big hike following the terrorism attacks of 2001.

    The group generally doesn't release financial information, but it is known that at the end of 2003 the owners got a dividend payment of $2.6 million, not very much on a billion-dollar bridge.

    In 2032, ownership of the Confederation Bridge will transfer to the federal government. Representatives of OMERS told CBC News they hope their investment will begin performing better before then."

Imagine owning a piece of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel with volumes falling like a stone, security concerns, competiton from the Ambassador Bridge, a possible DRIC bridge and now a DRTP rail tunnel! Who'd invest in that! Hey, Windsor is!


You thought I was kidding. You did not appreciate that you get information ahead of the masses by reading this BLOGsite.

You did not take me seriously when I said that DRIC should be testing the effect of cow farts on border traffic. [BLOG January 05, 2007, "Apocalypse Cow: TEOTWAWKI"] We may not need a tunnel if cows are the real problem and can save billions in tax dollars

I am sure you saw the Star story that said:

  • "Carbon dioxide levels in a barn full of cows in Harrow were almost as high as a CO2 reading of belching exhaust fumes from cars outside Union Station in downtown Toronto, a Grade 8 school project shows."

It's not BS any more. Where is our Mayor and Council? They jumped on the tunnel bandwagon pretty quickly. Now they should be demanding that DRIC do this testing now!

Readers Write

Here are some more comments from loyal readers

1) Good Morning Ed:
Saw your recent entries and viewer comments.

One I have made in other venues is this: Canada's auto trade is absolutely linked with the US trade. During the period of the low dollar, negotiations in auto were directed to raising the hourly rates as expressed in Loonies per hour. The rising Loonie means a raise for all of the auto workers which affects competitiveness. Exchange rates are always going to be an issue as long as the US Dollar and the Loonie are separate currencies.

If the CAW is as forward thinking as they pretend, why did they not years ago tie their hourly rates to the exchange rate. They could have chosen to negotiate in the US Dollar and had the pay cheques issued in Canadian, or they could have a rate adjustment clause that would work something like COLA where over a 3 month or other period a rate adjustment would be applied to the hourly pay to avoid dislocations in the industry.

Do you think that simply greed was a motive to offer no relief to the manufacturers for the exchange rate changes?

2) Good morning Ed.

Just getting back from vacation.
I was away during the labor rally. I really did not have to be here because it was heard in New York too.
This stuff is fodder for the competition. I met a few people who constantly look for opportunities and I can tell you Windsor is going to be blacklisted.
Thanks for the help Buzz.
Yes Windsor was voted a good area for investment, but when? Timing is everything.
I think Buzz and company fail to realize, investors want to make money, not give it away.
Investors are willing to to work with people and local governments, not be threatened.
Personnally, I think the era of the baseball bat and threats are over.
When it all comes down to the end it's negotiating skills, not gorilla mentality that produce results.
But that's just me.

3) This individual writes a weekly blog. From the Chairman of GM on down, everyone in Detroit reads his column. Today's is very interesting....and does not help Windsor one bit.

[NOTE: Excerpts from "RANTS by Peter M. DeLorenzo}

Clueless in Canada and mired in a state of denial in Detroit, organized labor is pathologically out of touch - and out of time.

Detroit. Canadian Auto Workers union leader Buzz Hargrove is an interesting character. He's quick with media-friendly quips that garner a lot of attention, he's a fierce defender of his union membership, and he fancies himself as the only bright light of rational thinking in the whole union vs. management dance. But he's also a loose-cannon firebrand who is firmly entrenched in organized labor's "entitlement" past and a looming impediment to any substantive progress in the upcoming contract bargaining talks with the Detroit-based automakers.

And he proved that convincingly with his idiotic statements over the weekend at a union rally in Windsor.

The purpose of the Sunday meeting, according to the Windsor Star, was to rally the 1200 members of Local 1973, who were upset with the fact that GM had decided to build a new six-speed transmission at their St. Catharines (Ontario) plant instead of in their Windsor (Ontario) transmission facility. Hargrove, in classic management-bashing rhetoric, told the assembled workers that "They made the decision to put the transmission in St. Catharines, and they say publicly if they don't get the right deal in St. Catharines it will not come to Canada, therefore eliminating Windsor. I say to them, you better find a goddamn product for Windsor or we'll take all of the General Motors corporation down in September 2008. General Motors workers have earned the commitment, especially in Windsor." Hargrove went on to say that a strike action would be used as a weapon to destroy GM when his union's contract negotiations begin in 2008 (the UAW contract negotiations begin this summer).

In effect, Hargrove is saying, let's take an entire industry that's literally and figuratively hanging by a thread and destroy it with a strike - and destroy our own jobs in the process. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? To the highly corrosive mindset at the helm of the CAW, apparently it does, unfortunately...

Whether these guys live in a weird Twilight Zone of Denial or they're just pathologically out of touch - or both - it's clear to everyone within a hammer throw of their senses that there isn't a snowball's chance in Hell that the Detroit-based automakers can survive in the newly-limned global automotive market if the existing union contracts are left essentially untouched in the upcoming negotiations - as these union leaders are making noises suggesting that they should be...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If the Detroit-based car companies had the cojones to do it, they could "lock-out" the current membership of the UAW and CAW. And do you know what would happen then? There would be short-term pain to be sure, but then there would be fifteen people lining up for each and every job all across this country and in Canada - all eager to work for reduced wages and benefits...

Hargrove and Gettelfinger have yet to come to terms with the fact that they face a clearcut choice in these upcoming contract negotiations. And that choice comes down to this: They either accept a reduced number of jobs at a reduced pay scale and with reduced benefits, or they will be left with no jobs at all...

Right now, Buzz Hargrove and Ron Gettelfinger have given every indication through their inflammatory statements and juvenile grandstanding that they are shockingly ill-qualified for the task.

How Festival Epicure Built The Enhancement Project

Are the pieces of the puzzle finally coming together but in a way that no one ever expected?

You remember the deal don't you...DRTP and the Ambassador Bridge each contributed 50% of the amount required to allow the Festival to go on after it looked like it was going to have to be postponed. We learned that Mike Hurst called Dan Stamper to ask him to contribute and Stamper said he would if DRTP paid half.

I always wondered why Mike made that call. I figured that something was up and there was! DRTP now wants to build a rail tunnel under the river so it means that their original plan to build a truck tunnel may now be dead. My speculation on this was correct after all. I think that Mike was having fun with the Bridge Co. but in the end, I think his phone call will result in the building of the Enhancement Project.

Mike is a strong Windsor booster. That is well known. And saving the Festival is a good civic action (and also a way to take a shot at the man who took over after he left office). However, DRTP needed to be loved by Windsorites too. They had a new plan, another change in what they were. Why not help pay for a Windsor Festival.

I am sure that most of you do not read CRAINS Detroit so let me post excerpts of a story they ran on the new DRTP rail tunnel proposal. It may be significant for the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel as well and the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project:

  • Tunnel vision: With land in hand, partnership looks to flex muscle on new rail crossing
    By Andrew Dietderich and Amy Lane6:00 am, June 4, 2007

    Seven years ago, Marge Byington and a group of investors came forward with a plan to build a new commercial railroad tunnel under the Detroit River connecting the U.S. and Canada, which they say would save at least 12,000 local jobs.

    Until this year, the plan was stalled because the city of Detroit owned a key piece of land required for the project that it did not agree to sell to the partnership until April. While preparing to close on the sale last week, the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership, or DRTP, said it will now use political clout in and outside of Michigan to secure roughly $100 million in federal funding and permitting support to put the rail tunnel on a fast track.

    Without a new tunnel, freight trains will bypass Detroit for a newer tunnel in Port Huron that larger double-stack railcars can fit through, said Byington, who held economic-development posts in the former Commerce Department under Gov. John Engler and in the city of Detroit under Mayor Dennis Archer.

    Now the director of government relations for the U.S. side of the DRTP, Byington warns that if the Port Huron rail tunnel surpasses Detroit's, development and jobs would head north to Port Huron as companies decide to move jobs closer to rail lines that pass through the Port Huron tunnel.

    The DRTP claims that if it doesn't get the last portion of funding and help getting an estimated 70 state and federal permits it needs from the federal government quickly, Michigan could lose out on millions spent on new and upgraded plants while continuing to lose jobs as more companies opt to use the rail tunnel in Port Huron.

    Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and other railroad companies that use the Detroit-Windsor tunnel can't fit double-stack rail cars that carry SUVs through the Detroit crossing.

    The only other option besides Port Huron would be to truck that cargo either over the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit or the Blue Water Bridge that connects Port Huron to Canada.

    The DRTP's new rail tunnel would cost between $400 million and $450 million. The DRTP has most of the money from the tunnel's owners, Canadian Pacific and an investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

    The partnership has enlisted congressional representatives whose districts have a business connection to Canadian rail and trade.

    One DRTP supporter is U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., a member of the House transportation and infrastructure subcommittee. “This is a national issue,” said Westmoreland, who toured the existing tunnel last September and met with members of the Detroit Regional Chamber, local union members and the Detroit City Council.

    “Rail is extremely important in getting timely products into and out of Canada. We need to do everything we can to remain solid trading partners. The Detroit-Windsor border crossing affects how product is delivered to and from Canada. It needs to be updated. Period.”

    Georgia also has automakers such as Kia Motors America Inc. with large plants in the state.

    James Hoffa, president of the Washington-based Teamsters union, said the tunnel, called the “Jobs Tunnel” by DRTP, should be an urgent priority. “It will attract more rail freight, will keep the region's rails service viable and will help Southeast Michigan become a logistics hub,” Hoffa said in a written statement to Crain's.

    In a speech Wednesday night at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference, Hoffa further stressed the importance of the tunnel.

    “The jobs tunnel will revitalize a 100-year-old rail tunnel,” Hoffa said in his speech.

    Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador Bridge, supports a new tunnel, even if the bridge would lose some business to the tunnel.

    “We support anything that improves the logistics and transportation options in Detroit,” Stamper told Crain's Wednesday.

    Backups at the bridge also have been cited as a reason for the tunnel by the DRTP.

    John Taylor, an associate professor of marketing and logistics at Grand Valley State University, said he doesn't buy that argument.

    “We did a study and found that there's typically never more than a 30-minute wait for trucks at the Ambassador,” Taylor said.

    U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said the tunnel and a new bridge in the works could co-exist. Two separate plans call for new bridges.

    Still, Rogers said “there are a couple things to me that are very important: competition, redundancy and security. Certainly the tunnel fits those criteria.

    “If they (planners of a second bridge) want to build another bridge, and the tunnel gets built, I'm not sure that's a bad thing,” he said. “The more activity we have flow through that border crossing, I think helps Detroit, helps the suburbs, helps the state...”

    But the rail crossing in Detroit is outdated and can't accommodate today's larger trains like the Tellier Tunnel. Because the Detroit-Windsor tunnel is too small, double stacked rail cars need to be unloaded before the tunnel and then reloaded after crossing, or take an alternate route.

    The report says that if the tunnel is built the region will retain between 9,000 and 12,000 jobs because of the economic activity created by the tunnel. Byington said another 1,700 jobs will be created each year for four years for construction and jobs also would be created on a permanent basis to operate the tunnel.

    And she said the rail tunnel — along with possible new bridge capacity; the “aerotropolis” proposal to develop the area in, around and between Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Willow Run Airport; and the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal under study in southwest Detroit — are all pieces of infrastructure that collectively could position the region as a hub of logistics.

    U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, at the request of rail-tunnel proponents, is seeking a $500,000 congressional appropriation for a study that would look at the rail tunnel to determine if it is the best way to increase rail freight traffic in the Detroit-Windsor corridor, said Brent Colburn, Stabenow's deputy chief of staff. He said factors to be studied would include feasibility, impact on existing infrastructure, and cost.

    Colburn said Stabenow “definitely sees that there's a need for a new transportation option, back and forth across the border. We're still looking at all the possibilities, and the study would be part of that process.”

    Though the DRTP has spent between $75 million and $100 million in engineering and environmental studies in the last seven years — about what it's seeking from the federal government — the DRTP only recently began to seek federal assistance. That's because it received approval to buy 20 acres from the city of Detroit in April.

    The proposal to sell the land went before the Detroit City Council “seven or eight times,” in the last four years, Byington said. Each time, however, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's office would request the study back for more examination.

    “Detroit needs to be a center for transportation,” said Matt Allen, press secretary for Kilpatrick. “But we really need to look at any international crossings that want to be here and how that would incorporate into our side of the river. That's not something you just step right into.”

    DRTP plans originally called for converting the existing rail tunnel — which consists of two smaller tubes side by side — into a crossing for trucks. Canadian and U.S. government agencies planning to build a new bridge Downriver as part of the Detroit River International Crossing project, however, didn't receive the truck tunnel project well, Byington said. So the project was scaled back.

    The amount of money committed for the tunnel has not changed by Canadian Pacific and Borealis Infrastructure Management, part of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. That amount is 75 percent of the total cost, or between $300 million and $337.5 million. Since the DRTP has committed to not seeking money from Detroit, Wayne County or the state of Michigan, it's turning to Washington, D.C. to fund the remaining 25 percent.

    Bill Shreck, director of communications for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said M-DOT supports the idea of the tunnel and has offered to set up a meeting with the Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to “get all the parties together, see if there's any issues, and what we could do to facilitate.”

What is the significance of all of this:

  1. Remember the Nobrega speech I quoted that said that OMERS/Borealis had $300M to invest. That was new money I believe. They had NOT said that they were going to put that money into the truck tunnel
  2. The cost of the rail tunnel has escalated dramatically up to $400-$450M. Back in 2004, Marge Byington suggested it would cost around $210M
  3. DRTP still wants $100M from the Governments
  4. The sale of the piece of land in Detroit has to be the key signal that Borealis has a major involvement in what is going on. Kwame would have had to agree to it.
  5. I have to believe that somehow Borealis is behind Windsor's Tunnel deal so Detroit's deficit can be paid off. We have no idea how Windsor is going to finance it, we see all of this funny math and project costs. It would not surprise me to see a deal amongst Detroit (sale of the strip of land needed), Windsor (DRTP lands turned into greenspace), Governments (providing money for all of these projects) to eliminate Detroit's budget problems, finance the Tunnel and rail tunnel and who knows what else. It would not surprise me either to see Alinda's proposal being used to get Windsor's bid upped so Detroit Council can say it got a victory too.
  6. DRTP just helped the Enhancement Project get built!!!
  7. US Rep Mike Rogers talked about "competition, redundancy and security" which were key areas of concern for DRIC. Ambassador Wildson at Mackinac talked about capacity and security. Those issues have NOW been eliminated by a DRTP rail tunnel
  8. There can be no logical opposition to an Enhancement Project today
  9. A DRTP rail tunnel falls into rail rationalization and Eddie's transportation hub concept
  10. How can Transport Canada dare try to stop the Ambassador Bridge when it will help its competitors, the City's Tunnel and the DRTP tunnel
  11. Canada's Foreign Affairs Department and Michael Wilson in particular are now running the Windsor border file NOT Transport Canada. The PMO has made that clear now!
  12. If this works out, Harper might actually gain a seat or two in Windsor!

More Notes From Readers

Here are some more reader thoughts. Where are yours:

1) Hi Ed,

I have been reading your blog recently and you are right on the money with the many issues facing Windsor and with all the layoffs, plant closures and investment leaving Windsor I wondered if you noticed the recent taxi by-law that was passed last week stopping outside investment in the Windsor taxi business.

For a city that needs investment and to clean up its image to outside investors, this has moved Windsor 10 steps backwards eliminating anyone from investing in the taxi business and further investment spinoffs it can create. They have eliminated the business owners right to sell their business.

Wiping out everything you worked for and with a stroke of a pen your retirement!

Look in to this and I'm sure you will be very disapointed by what has happened.

2)It seems once again that our illustrious labour leaders have dug themselves (and us) a big hole in the ground.

Not only did Buzz's big mouth not help Windsor one bit (but I'm sure the lemmings loved it!) but I believe that all of those union signs waving in the wind didn't send a positive message either.

How will anyone in Europe or Asia understand that this was supposed to be a rally to say "we are open for business" instead of "we are a group of unions and you will do what we say?" Pictures are worth a thousand words and this rally said it all in the wrong possible way!

Couldn't the unions have had banners that stated Windsor is Ready or We Are the Best, Professionals at Work? Instead they chose to promote what THEY wanted, namely their union local plastered on whatever picture was to be taken.

Too bad because the idea was great but the outcome will not be a pretty sight.

3) I followed the national news coverage of the protest both on CBC and CTV. What did we see, (1) Buzz "Lightyear" basically threatening the federal government to do something about job losses in the auto industry (2) CAW "Kenny" screaming and almost popping a blood vessel as he hollered into the microphone about the government needing to do something Yep... let the cameras roll Canada this is labour oriented Windsor where they have lost lots of jobs.... but we aren't millitant. Every national news report stated that the protest was a union event rightly or wrongly..... what message were the viewers getting?

It is unfortunate that both "Kenny" and his friend "Mr. Lightyear" didn't plan a golf game instead of a protest last Sunday.... the benefit to Windsor and area would have been much more positive. If they are both so starved for media coverage maybe they could both double date Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Spears. We then could read about "Kenny and Buzz" in the gossip column at the grocery check out. At least we wouldn't have to worry about the image "damage" to the City of Windsor

Windsor a militant labour town..... what would you think if you saw the national news coverage from anywhere other than Essex County !!!

4)In that same article written by the Canadian Press, Buzz bemoans the fact that 17,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last two years due to trade agreements or lack there of.

Another memo to Buzz. A 93 cent loonie doesn't help either.

Another memo to Buzz. Don't blame Free Trade. Many Windsorites have TN work know those little I-94's Homeland Security hands out after you get a job in Detroit. And they bring back hard currency to Windsor.

Another memo to Buzz. Threatening a strike defeated the purpose of the rally. You made it personal. You blew it. As predicted.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing in Canada.............and in Ontario? Aren't Toyota and Honda building manufacturing plants here?

Jobs disappearing? Another memo to Buzz. You knew there was overcapacity in North America and to the victor goes the spoils (ie: the product people want to buy). To the plants that don't produce what people wish to buy...........then you know what happens.

The greatest threat to any union is efficiency and a good rival product. Ironically it can be a unions greatest ally too.

I hope he gets that memo.

5) Just a quick question for you. What ever happened to Matt Fischer's 120 day action plan? Other than the removal of some in house positions and personnel I haven't seen anything fruitful.

[NOTE: Here is the compensation for members of the Windsor Essex Development Commission;

Board payments:

Chairman $975 per month

Members $600 per month

Special payment to Chairman $1500 per month from Oct 24 to Feb 16, equivalent of three out of region days per month [for the extra work required in setting everything up]

Out of region business travel paid at $500 per day]

6) Only the border czar knows & can speak!

And if Eddie is the czar, that makes Michelle the czarina –

what will that make their baby, when it is born and other children he might have?

Why, czardines, of course!

7) Hi Ed,

I was just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I have just recently come across your writings a couple of months ago and haven't stopped reading since (I've even spent hours reading your archives). Its great to see that there are Windsor residents that a passion for local politics and choosing to take an active role. Although I have no political experience or political money, I would like to run for city council in 2010 if my personal life allows. So, please keep on blogging as I find your insight incredibly informative and refreshing. Thanks Ed and keep up the good work!

8) Hi Ed,

I just got off the phone with Enwin (who wins? They win!) and found out that our illustrious 35% hike in water fees will actually be more like 70%+! I was informed by the CSR that the customer service reps were told a day or two ago that should any Enwin customers call about the rate hike that they should respond that it will approximately double the water bill!

The audacity of this mayor and especially Enwin to pull off a stunt like this when the city is bleeding jobs and people that they would sock it to the one's who are staying (or should I say stuck) here. Will Tecumseh's water rates now be lower than Windsor's? What makes this more painful is the fact that Tecumseh relies on Windor's water treatment for their source.

Add this to the increase to the property taxes, add this to the high delivery charges we get from Enwin Electricity (how can the cost of delivery be the same as the cost of the electricity we purchase?) and we are getting slammed from all sides. Of course we are told that the water mains need replacing but no one says anything about the sprawl that continues unabated and the cost of putting new water mains in these new locations. If we don't have the money to fix the ones we have what business do we have in building more? How will we pay for these to be replaced in the future? I know, WE will pay and pay and pay some more.

The problem that Eddie doesn't understand is that we do not have unlimited amounts of funds in our pockets. No wonder people are moving to the suburbs or out of the county altogether. With no one steering the ship it is a matter of time before this city slams into the proverbial rocks. The question is... Will anyone be here to witness it?

9) What if we started applying on Thursdays to “provisionally/conditionally petition to be a delegate reserving the right to speak on as yet unnamed agenda items”.

10) A rant from Dennis DesRosiers:

You have to wonder which planet Buzz lives on these days. He's lost about 30,000 members with the problems at GM, Ford and DCX, his friends in the UAW are down a million members from their peak way back in 1972 and yet they have the confidence in their position that they are willing to "take down" GM if they don't get a new product for the GM Transmission plant in Windsor.

And in the same speech he says the problems with the auto sector in North America is that we allow imports into our country. So his solution is to break every international trade law in the world and restrict imports and to threaten GM. Smart, real smart! "Earth to Buzz, come in please ... you are no longer in the power position. The problem isn't that Koreans are not allowed to buy your products it is that CANADIANS and AMERICAN are not buying your product." And if you ever hope to see these people come back and buy your product you had better let the GM's of the world do what they need to do to become competitive.

11) Bravo Ed -- awesome read with the java this a.m.! A few out loud hoots were heard. Nice research. I loved the Garlock and Reinas quotes. This needs to get out to a wider audience... You are blogger of the year!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Are Peace Talks Underway In the Border War

Here is another report from our border war correspondent embedded with the Allied Forces somewhere in Sandwich or Delray:

War-time censors are now allowing word of two dramatic events that took place to be reported. One took place in Sandwich over the Victoria Day week-end and one at the Mackinac Conference.

The Axis of Evil forces have been in turmoil ever since the Globe and Mail printed the 2 1/2 page article about the Ambassador Bridge. They finally understood that their attempts to pressure the Bridge Co. into selling out had failed and that the Bridge Co. intended to move forward quickly on their Enhancement Project.

At Axis of Evil HQ, the mastermind bureaucrats behind the DRIC plan tried to re-group their forces

I am sure that you saw the story about the more than two dozen American and Canadian Legislators who were in town over the holiday week-end with the Canada-U.S. Inter-parliamentary Group.

According to usually reliable sources, what you did not know is that a group of hijackers attempted to seize control of the weekend meetings and force the legislators to support the DRIC process by resolutions passed at the session. A bus tour of Sandwich and a river tour using a Coast Guard ship were the weapons of choice.

Fortunately, security forces were able to prevent the hijacking. I am told that the hijackers' leaders were so concerned about the favourable impression that the Bridge Co.'s plans received during their Open Houses. culminating in the 2 1/2 page spread in the Globe and Mail, that this desperate action had to be taken as a last gasp!

Thankfully, the ring-leader of the mission, whose name cannot be reported to save him from continued embarrassment, failed to reach his objectives again. He was so ineffective that this time around, he failed to get a DRIC resolution passed EVEN THOUGH NO ONE FROM THE BRIDGE CO. WAS IN ATTENDANCE TO OPPOSE HIM!

The unofficial communique at the end of the meeting was reported verbally to the Star and hit the Governments of Canada , Ontario and Windsor hard:
  • The need to "modernize" Windsor-Detroit border crossings was a key issue ie modernize what you already have, the Ambassador Bridge operation. Even though it is the best border crossing in North America and the biggest in value of goods crossing, the $300M BIF funds to be spent to fix up the road to the border have not been used for their prime purpose. Gvoernments specifically have promised for almost 4 1/2 years to do so but have done nothing in all of that time. THE PROGRAM ENDS IN SEVERAL MONTHS SO THE FUNDS WILL BE LOST TO WINDSOR
  • Another border crossing is necessary to reduce delays and boost trade between the two countries. ie not a word about a DRIC bridge costing taxpayers billions but perhaps an unstated support for an enhanced Ambassador Bridge that costs taxpayers nothing.
  • We have to do it in a way that the roads are modernized and made more efficient ie a slam at Mayor Eddie Francis and Council who have not achieved their promise to find a long-term solution and to the Canadian Governments who have not spent a penny on road connecting Highway 401 to the Bridge. The Americans have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Ambassador Gateway project to connect the Ambassador Bridge to the Interstate system properly.

It appears that, at the same time that this action was taking place, on another front, various presentations were made and letters of support were being sought to help keep DRIC alive. One came from auto industry reps and was timed to be revealed during the Mackinac Conference. However, the persons behind this ploy forgot that these same industry reps were on record publicly and supported improvements to the existing crossing in Windsor ie at the Ambassador Bridge.

Moreover, a vicious counter-attack at the Axis of Evil forces was delivered by Alan Cropsey, majority leader in the Michigan Senate, at Mackinac who said

  • "that legislators will likely pass a proposed amendment to the state budget within 60 days that would cut financial support of a continuing study for the bridge project."
He called the DRIC project
  • "a boondoggle," he said, noting the state has far more pressing budget needs."

In an exclusive report, we have learned that there was a strong rumour being circulated at Mackinac that the Undergound in the Axis of Evil Canadian territories are rebelling at the actions of the bureaucrats. A signal of their new power came from a very conciliatory remark made by the Canadian Ambassador to the US, Michael Wilson. It may be that the old, bureaucratic regime has been overthrown and peace is being sought.

Not many know that Wilson is very familiar with the Ambassador Bridge Co. since he was part of the Conservative Mulroney Government that settled the previous war with the Bridge Co. that lasted for about a dozen years and cost millions of dollars.

As one of Prime Miniser Harper's key advisors, it is clear that his visit to the region was more than co-incidental. It may be that the PMO was shocked by the Globe story since the ground situation appeared not to be as well in-hand as they had been told by their forces in Transport Canada. The bureaucratic generals in charge there had claimed that they were winning the war. The PMO may have needed in independent observer on the scene. The PMO's office may have been just as suprised as the Senators in their Bill C-3 hearings. Here are some comments in the Senate:
  1. "This seemed to be slam dunk before."
  2. "At the beginning, when this bill came in we were led to believe, and I am not saying there was any bad faith, it was going to be a bill that would pass easily...

    All of a sudden we understand that there is an adverse effect for one of the strong participants in the bill. I was told last week by someone from the Department of Transport that ...we should be going on as fast as possible with Bill C-3. I want to be sure that as we process this bill through this committee that we understand it is not the same as Bill C-44, it is not the same as Bill C-26 and it does seem to have an adverse effect on a player that not been identified and, from what we have been told, has not been listened to reasonably by the department and not listened to at all by the minister. Therefore I want to be sure we understand that I hope we do not think we will be fast tracking this."
Now the PMO was finding that there were political problems that could cause major concerns before an election, especially when a Liberal Senator said:
  • "I am a little conflicted here because the bill is introduced by a Conservative government who is pro-business. I am a left-wing Liberal, and I seem to find myself on the side of defending the private enterprise here, which is okay. I find it an interesting juxtaposition.

    I am confused. This has become a much more complex and acrimonious process from when I first read the bill. They are talking about building a new span less than a mile away."
It is clear that Ambassador Wilson was on a fact-finding mission under the cover of other events in the Windsor area. In fact several sources claim he has been in town recently to gain on-the-ground information before Mackinac so that he would be fully briefed if questions were asked of him there!

It appears that the matter was urgent. Wilson must have finally been made aware of an earlier communique set out in the Senate OBSERVATIONS of Bill C-3:

  • "...your Committee agrees that it is necessary to apply consistent rules and policies to these international crossings, large or small, regardless of who owns or operates them; especially those to ensure the safety and security of the structures.

    On the question of the federal government’s potential involvement in future international crossing projects, your Committee heard suggestions that the provisions in the bill that allow the Minister of Transport to recommend to the Governor in Council whether or not to approve a project would lead to a substantial conflict of interest for the Minister. ... However, the Minister of Transport should be particularly sensitive to any situation where the federal government is in a situation where there is an appearance of conflict, especially when the interests of a private enterprise are at stake."
The speech by the Ambassador at the Mackinac Conference reached a dramatic climax when he was asked a question by Steve Tobocman of Michigan, a Bridge Co. opponent, designed to force Wilson to support DRIC. Shockingly, given the Transport Canada position, the Ambassador brushed it away easily. The question dealt with the efficacy of Bi-national planning for infrastructure of DRIC study and the importance of bi-national co-operative planning. The Ambassador stated:
  • "Let me start with that first, that is an overlying principle to all the work we do. The more that we can coordinate our thinking, the more we can take into account the interest of both countries and come up with combinations of responses to the various challenges that we face, the better off we are going to be as a competitive entity here.

    On the Ambassador Bridge, or the expansion of the bridge capacity, I think there is only one way we can do this is to have joint planning. It’s complicated, because it requires 2 federal governments, 2 provincial or state and 2 local governments are all engaged in this. In addition to that, we have to take into account the interest of the private sector to make sure that the things that they feel are important, the things that feel must be taken into account in the decision making process are critical to the success of whatever comes out of the other end process.

    An over-riding principle has to be that we have got to do this carefully, we have to listen to all those different points of view as we go through this."
That statement was recognition by the Canadian Government at the highest level that they will have to deal with the Bridge Co. It is clear that while some arms of the Canadian Government work with the Bridge Co. to improve border operations, others see their mandate to stall. Clearly the PMO has recognized that Transport Canada's tactics have failed. The PMO understands that the fight could turn into a disastrous loss with their negotiating position with the Bridge Co. being diminished due to the futile efforts of Transport Canada.

Ambassador Wilson's remark is a strong indication that there may be hope yet to an acceptable solution being reached!

Reporting from the war zone...Now back to the studio.