Well this is the speech of mine that you did not hear at Council last night. I could not deliver all of it since the Mayor invoked the 5 minute Procedural By-law limit rule on me. I believe that he is incorrect in what he did since this was a "public consultation" under the Municipal Act and the Procedural By-law does not apply in my opinion.
He would not even answer my questions ...some consultation!
Oh and my friends on Council were so concerned that they would not grant me an extension of time. Guess they read it all on my BLOG before anyway.
Time for me to consider my legal options.
It has reached the point in this City that something has to be done to re-assert the power of citizens. Frankly, I was shocked at Council last night. Councillors have no guts. It was sprung on citizens on June 11, in the afternoon before the Council meeting, (although the report was prepared June 5) that only the Mayor, CAO and Treasurer would be on the Board of Directors of the new Companies that control the Tunnel assets and will be involved with Detroit. Not one single Councillor is seen as fit to be on the Board
Now the interesting part is that only a few months ago, Tunnel Commissioners were appointed and the Tunnel Plaza Improvements were held up to bring them up to speed supposedly. Now they are no longer needed at all. The Mayor and 2 people who report to him are in control. Quite an effective Board eh!
That to me is absolutely scary. While a few Councilors were disappointed about the fact that the Board was so small, not one did anything about it!
So what can be done...I got it...Perhaps I'll start up a Legal Fund to support actions on behalf of citizens. If that is proper to do in Canada, then you, dear reader, can send me a contribution so that you can protect your identity and your business interest. So many of my readers give me tips but are afraid to come forward since the are concerned about what might happen to them or their business. It's a very small City after all. Just ask the Construction Association during the East end arena debate! Now there could be an outlet.
This takes place in the US and let's see if it works here. As an example, whether you approve of the group or not, the ACLU exists to protect this balance:
ACLU is a
"nonprofit and nonpartisan and have grown from a roomful of civil liberties activists to an organization of more than 500,000 members and supporters. We handle nearly 6,000 court cases annually from our offices in almost every state.
The ACLU is supported by annual dues and contributions from its members, plus grants from private foundations and individuals. We do not receive any government funding."
So with looking to start an online newspaper and now a nonprofit group to keep this City on an even keel, it may be a much more active "retirement" that I ever imagined. Perhaps I'll throw in starting a new political "civic" party too just to keep life interesting.
In the end though, dear reader, it depends on you and your family, friends and colleagues as to whether there is any point in doing any of these things. I cannot do it alone.
Here's my speech:
"I am not against doing a deal respecting the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. As far as I am concerned, it is a non-core asset of the City and there is no reason why taxpayers should not capitalize on its value and use the revenue generated for core functions of City government.
Heaven knows, with the problems this City has, we need the money but we need to do what we do properly, in the best interest of taxpayers.
What we are being asked to do today may seem to be very simple—setting up a few section 203 companies. Instead the truth is that we are doing is signing a blank cheque.
That is why I am opposed to Administration’s recommendation. We require a proper consultation respecting the entire transaction, with full, complete and true disclosure not piece-meal bits and pieces.
This report is a continuation of the secrecy at City Hall, to keep us in the dark as if all we are good for is to pay out taxes and remain silent.
We are being asked
To set up two section 203 municipal corporation
We are to transfer the Tunnel assets to the Canadian one at “fair market value”
Have the second one enter into an agreement with Detroit to operate the us side of the Tunnel
I want to read to you what the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has to say about section 203 companies and to demonstrate that this is a very serious matter that requires a full consultation:
“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.”
In other words, is the City engaged in a “core service” area if it gets involved in running a border crossing? I don’t think so when we have obvious matters like roads and sewers that are in a mess. Neither Mayor Kilpatrick in Detroit or Mayor Daley in Chicago who leased his toll road for $1.8 billion thought that this is what a municipal government should do. Why is Windsor involved? The business case study does not tell us.
Whatever happened to the asset review committee that the City set up that was to look at matters such as this? Has the City ever decided what it should be involved or not involved in.
What troubles me greatly is that taxpayers are being treated as fools
We all know that this is the first step of a major transaction involving a $75m agreement with Detroit and then a phase 2 where we have to do something with the Tunnel assets to help pay for that deal. On the day the deal with Detroit closes we need US$75m!
Why can’t this Administration be honest with us? Why can’t they tell us the deal? Who is involved as partners? Is it Borealis and DRTP, Alinda, Macqaurie Bank, the Federal or Provincial governments, someone else? Are they ashamed of what comes next?
Transferring the assets of the Tunnel to a company takes the assets out of the control of Councillors and taxpayers. It is now the directors of the company that have control of the assets and there is absolutely no guarantee that the City will not sell out part of that company in a public-private partnership. And there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
There is no corporate governance model in the business case study whatsoever. In fact, the Municipal Freedom of Information Act may not apply to it either.
We are told that assets will be transferred at “fair market value.” What does that mean? How much are we going to get? If the assets are sold or leased subsequently at a higher price it is the holding company that makes the profit not the City!
To take a case in point---what if it is determined that half a Tunnel is worth $20m but that a whole Tunnel is worth $75m. It is the company and not taxpayers who make the $55m profit!
The excuse given is that we need to transfer the assets for liability reasons. Then I have to ask why Administration has been so negligent for so many years. Until now, no one raised this issue. Only when there is a deal with Detroit did someone wake up
Here is the most disgusting line in the report.
Why isn’t it presented now!
What an insult….sign here on the dotted line Council without knowing anything. Detroit Council did not put up with that. Why are we? It’s just like the East end arena…sign here and start spending money before we have a contract. What are we signing…who knows. All I know is that costs are higher, there are environmental issues and there are delays!
Administration will tell Council. Where, in camera? There is no commitment to tell the public anything.
Once Council approves what Administration says in this report and transfers the assets, the rights of taxpayers are gone!
Let me deal with the business case study. It is a joke. There is nothing of value in it whatsoever that deals with what this transaction is all about.
No financial details, no governance model, no accountability statement, no operating cost and profit details. I can think of least 15 items need to be discussed but are not
Let me ask some basic questions:
1) How do we know that the valuation of the Detroit half for a 75 year deal that does not start for 13 years is $75m when the Bridge Co, . Only offered $20m for a 100 year deal in a bidding process. Who did the appraisal report and where is it?
2) What is the value of the Tunnel. If we are to go on the basis of what we are paying Detroit…it should be worth around $150m. Yet our Mayor said our half alone was worth $2-300m in 2005? Do we want the same people to run the Tunnel who have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars in lost value and a decrease in dividends from $6.6m per year to virtually nothing.
3) How are we going to pay the $75m—sublease the Tunnel, sell it, securitize the revenues, get federal or provincial loans or grants
4) How does it make sense to be involved with an asset whose volume has decreased dramatically since 1999, which lost 10% of volume last year after a toll increase and which has lost another 15% of its traffic this year
5) How will the Tunnel compete against the enhanced Ambassador Bridge, the new DRTP rail tunnel if built, a DRIC bridge when it is losing market share to the bridge only now
6) If the deal does not start for 13 years and if we have to pay interest on the $75m, then the cost adds about $1 per vehicle for the toll. We saw what happened when there is a 75 cent difference between the bridge and Tunnel….what happens when there will be $1.75 difference?
There are serious issues that need to be fully discussed.
I am glad that Mr. Sutts is here since he will have to sign a letter of opinion that Windsor has the legal power to enter into and complete the deal with Detroit. I am not sure how he can do that at this time.
I have two areas of concern in that regard.
First, municipalities are created by the Province of Ontario to be responsible and accountable governments with respect to matters within their jurisdiction. By-laws and resolutions of a municipality apply only within its boundaries.
How then can Windsor set up a company to carry on business in Detroit which is outside of Windsor and outside of Canada. A regulation cannot change this section of the Act. If I am correct, then the Municipal Act itself has to be changed or a private members bill has to be introduced to allow this but that cannot be done until Queen’s Park comes back in session which may or may not be before the Provincial election in October.
Second and more fundamental, transfer of ownership of assets and change in operation of the Tunnel requires approval under the newly passed Bill C-3. Unfortunately, the Federal government does 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 are we in a state of limbo?
I think it shameful that this matter has received virtually no public notice whatsoever other than a listing on the City’s webpage. How many people search that out. If there has been an ad in the media, I do not recall it. I do not even recall a media story on this subject.
30 days notice of the public meeting should be required with an advertisement like any other serious City matter, not the few days that Administration gave us.
I can say a lot more than this but I will stop here. We need a proper business case to be prepared. We need a City government that works with its citizens and does not try to hide important matters from us.
Who knows what we may be able to achieve for the good of Windsor if trust is established! While I support a Tunnel deal, I cannot support what has been presented to us. "