Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 24, 2007

Watermain-gate: More On WUC Salaries

Great story by Monica Wolfson in the Star on WUC salaries and on meeting lengths. I wish she had added number of meetings so we could do a calculation of salary per minute in each of the years.

Take the shortest WUC meeting. If it was $500 payment for 6 minutes, that is the equivalent of a rate of $5,000 per hour. Why City outside lawyers should be furious since their hourly rates would be so tiny in comparison!

Interestingly, if one compares WUC when ex-Mayor Hurst was there and WUC under Eddie, Mike looks very good! See, I can say nice things about Mike when deserved. And Mike was never a "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" either.

When Hurst was around, meetings were considerably longer and they discussed important matters like watermain replacement including a report that formed the basis of the recent WUC consultant report. They also discussed budget amounts for replacement, alternative methods of making watermains last longer. They introduced a water levy and said it must be used for capital purposes only.

Under Eddie...well we will have to see what the investigation shows won't we!

Back in March, 2006, the Star reported:
  • "It's a heck of a lot of money," said Coun. Joyce Zuk.

    As councillors' attendance at utilities meetings increased last year, so did their pay, Francis said. The annual salary for a city councillor reached $46,038 in 2005, compared to $37,437 the year before.

    The mayor and four city councillors receive $500 each for every meeting they attend as board members of Enwin Powerlines and Windsor Canada Utilities Ltd. They also get $250 each for every subcommittee meeting they attend. And WUC pays $8,200 annually to individual board members...

    Now that the work is done, some of the councillors will step down and the number of meetings will "go back to normal," according to Victoria Zuber, the utilities' chief financial officer...

    Zuk said councillors' salaries will drop this year because there won't be as many meetings to attend, now that the problems at the utilities have been resolved."

However, there is more to it than that as I was told. The WUC payments have an extra added benefit. They are pensionable:

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Colucci, Onorio
    Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 2:25 PM
    Subject: RE: OMERS

    Please see below.


    Onorio Colucci

    -----Original Message-----
    From: OJIBWAY NOW! []
    Sent: July 17, 2007 1:32 PM
    To: Colucci, Onorio
    Subject: Re: OMERS

    I would appreciate a reply

    Ed Arditti

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: OJIBWAY NOW!
    To: Colucci, Onorio
    Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2007 9:40 AM
    Subject: OMERS

    Do Councillors and the Mayor pay into the OMERS Plan? [Colucci, Onorio] Yes Are their contributions based on their salary as a Council member alone or salary plus the fees they get from committees and boards as well [Colucci, Onorio] The councillors' contributions are based on the councillors' salaries plus the Board payments. The mayor's contributions are based on the City salary alone.

    Thanks for your co-operation

    Ed Arditti

Here is one more thought. The lowest number of minutes per meeting was in 2005. Isn't that the year Eddie said:

  • "The Windsor Utilities Commission will have to justify any water rate increase this fall, Mayor Eddie Francis said Wednesday.

    "I pay for water and I want to know what we pay these rates for," Francis said at a meeting of the commission.

    "(The rates) have to be justified. We aren't going to stand by when they say 'We need this.' We are going to ask why."

    Francis said in an interview he believes water rates are too high...

    When the study is completed, Francis said he hopes it will show water rates can be decreased."

Can you really believe that remark in light of what has happened with the huge increases! If only the meetings had lasted a few minutes longer. Oh I forgot, 2005 was before the election.

Step Two For E C Row Truck Traffic

Of course some of you are still non-believers. You do not accept that we will have international trucks on E C Row. I can understand that.

I was at the DRIC Community Consultation Group meeting the other night. I asked Dave Wake of MTO to explain what the big difference of opinion is between their proposal and that of Gridlock Sam. I said in reading what Gord Henderson said the Schwartz proposal was and what DRIC put forward, they seemed very similar to me. ie both talked about 9 or 10 shunnels or short tunnels or overpasses or land bridges or whatever one wants to call them.

He said that in his opinion, they were not that far apart.

I then asked why the newspaper reported that the Mayor was so upset about what DRIC was proposing. His answer back was a surprise. He said that I ought not to believe everything I read in the newspaper.

Are we games playing again? Will Eddie, Dwight and Sandra kiss and make up soon over a "compromise" DRIC road? Will they shove their solution down the throats of the Councillors (how Schwartz can even propose a below-grade road without Reconsideration of Bill Marra's Tunnel Motion I do not know)." Perhaps the depressed road with overpasses will become a short tunnel again. Henderson's column told us what is going to happen as you will read below.

Anyway it would be no big surprise. The DRIC road was, is and will be the main road to the border

There would still be a need however for a redundant road to get trucks to the border even with a DRIC road in an emergency and the need for a temporaty truck road probably when construction started. I thought there was a discussion previously about using E C Row that way.

Eddie knows that and must also know that Dillon Consulting Enginners, the selected engineering firm for the new E C Row rehabilitation study, did a Report in 1993 on E C Row. Here is what they suggested:

Now that looks like an expansion of E C Row to me.

Cansult, the Federal Government who reviewed Schwartz stated:

  • "A review of the General Arrangements of the E.C. Row Expressway bridge sites from Matchette Road at the west end of the expressway easterly to Lauzon Parkway reveals that, as part of the planning and design for the E.C. Row Expressway, allowances had been made for a third lane in each direction within the existing median width in twelve (12) of the sixteen (16) sites. Furthermore, provisions had been made at four (4) structure locations for an ultimate collectordistributor system, namely from just east of Dominion Boulevard easterly to east of Howard Avenue. In that area, the two (2) lanes in each direction, which would function as the collector lanes in the future, have been constructed, while the future core lanes, two (2) in each direction, will be placed within the existing “median” space."

So expansion is easily undertaken it seems.

But now we need an excuse don't we to expand the expressway. After all, the Mayor is our no-international-trucks-on-E C Row champion. He needs a graceful way to do a complete reversal as is being done with the DRIC road.

Money is the root of all excuses in Windsor so follow along. Back in 2006, this was written about the rehabilitation cost of E C Row:

  • "E.C. Row Expressway/Dougall Parkway - ongoing annual rehabilitation of the pavement and bridge structures along the E.C. Row Expressway and Dougall Parkway. The expressway is comprised of 106 lane km, 26 bridges, 2 culverts with a span greater than 3m, and 2 pedestrian bridges. Perpetual cost to preserve this infrastructure is $2.5 million per year. NOTE: Does not include capacity improvements to the expressway."

In 2007, the wording was similar except for a key figure:

  • E.C. Row Expressway/Dougall Parkway - ongoing annual rehabilitation of the pavement and bridge structures along the E.C. Row Expressway and Dougall Parkway. The expressway is comprised of 107 lane km, 26 bridges, 2 culverts with a span greater than 3m, and 2 pedestrian bridges. Perpetual cost to upgrade and maintain this infrastructure is $5 million per year. Note: Does not include capacity improvements to the expressway.

The cost has now doubled! Sure costs increase but in 2005 it was only $2.35 million per year.

Looking at the Dillon rehab work fees, the cost for the rehab itself I am told might be calculated in this fashion. The design engineering fees are a percentage of the anticipated construction costs unless there is something unusual or particularly challenging in the design. The fee for a bridge rehab would be about 3.5% of the construction cost. The total fee to Dillon is $432,00 which makes the construction cost around $12.4M

Now that is a big chunk of money just for rehabilitation work when we have to pay for Detroit sports extravaganzas, watermains, sewers, an East end arena and a soon to-be-announced new City Hall. Where will the City find that money and will taxpayers go crazy over it? What can we do, what can we do?

I would wager that the Senior Levels would jump to our rescue. Sandra, Dwight, (after ther re-election of course) whoever from the Feds would rush right in to save us from this financial catastrophe. We could not blame Eddie or Council. I am sure that it was the past Administration that messed up in not keeping up the roads. This Administration was being forced to spend so much more money. After all there have been bridge collapses elsewhere and we cannot have it here. Wait a minute---that sounds like the WUC again doesn't it.

The Province will upload E C Row so it is a provincial road like the new DRIC road will be. The DRIC road will be called the continuation of Highway 401 so the other could be called the Highway 401 Business Section road.

Anyway, there is no point complaining. We are getting the DRIC road and an upgraded E C Row whether we like to or not. In the end, it is probably the right thing to do but oh the drama and the waste of time and effort to get there.

PS...And if I have not convinced you yet, then here is what Henderson had to say that should demonstrate it convincingly. Please do not try and tell me that this is not a giant game with Windorites the butt of the joke.

  • Waving the white flag
    Gord Henderson, Thursday, August 23, 2007

    ...Perhaps it's time for the chamber leadership to swallow its pride and go, cap in hand, to CAW Local 444 president Ken Lewenza for a quick primer on how high-stakes negotiations are conducted.

    Rule number one: Don't try to cut the knees out from under your bargaining team, especially not at a critical stage when the folks across the table are signalling they have more to offer.

    Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello couldn't have made it any clearer last week if she had scrawled it in cherry red neon: DRIC's proposal is merely a starting point. "I anticipate when we get to the end we will be very close to what the city is looking for," Pupatello told The Star's Dave Battagello. "Is it perfect today? I don't think so. There is still room for improvement."

    That was an invitation from someone with the premier's ear to sit down and hammer out a compromise that might not be everything the city wants, but will be dramatically better than the DRIC pitch.

    But apparently Pupatello's message sailed right over the chamber's head. Instead of backstopping the city in extracting the best possible terms from the Dalton Gang, the chamber wants an immediate capitulation that would compromise Windsor's future while leaving hundreds of millions of federal and provincial dollars for capital improvements on the table...

    An incensed Lewenza couldn't believe his ears when the chamber tumbled -- like a cheap trick -- for the DRIC's no-tunnel opening gambit. "There's no doubt the chamber has weakened the city's bargaining position," confided Lewenza. "It has undermined the city and the process and our negotiating ability to improve the program..."

    Even Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, who was playing "bad cop" to Pupatello's "good cop" last week, is now signalling there's more to be had from bargaining. "There's room to compromise. Our fervent desire is to work with Windsor to enhance this proposal," Duncan told me, adding he's looking forward to seeing proposals being prepared by the city's tunnel engineering experts...

    According to a government insider, total tunnelling is a non-starter, because it can't be justified on a cost-benefit basis and because of the horrendously costly precedent it would set for Toronto and other cities pushing for infrastructure improvements.

    But it's possible, said the insider, that the $1.5-billion DRIC plan, which involves covering over about 1.5 km, or one quarter, of the route north to the E.C. Row, could be improved with longer or additional covered sections. "Can we get to two kilometres or 2.5 kilometres? If it's feasible, you've got a government that's prepared to do that."

    He said the city has pushed the process a long way from the ill-conceived Nine-Point Plan of 2003, which would have wrecked the E.C. Row, and now a significantly better deal than the DRIC plan is reachable. "We're this close," he said, holding two fingers apart. "We just need to get over that last hump."

    At some point a deal will be done, no thanks to those who would sell Windsor short. A better quality of life and hundreds of millions of dollars short."

Please note in addition the vicious attack on the business community. This attack is nothing more than telling the business community to shut up about Eddie or else since Gord knows how vulnerable Eddie is now.

Gee I wonder who the government insider is who revealed all of this information to Gord around the time Gord was speaking to Dwight. ["We're this close," he said, holding two fingers apart." Which politician made this gesture recently at a meeting I was told]

Interesting use of the words "starting point" don't you think. Who else used that term?

I wonder if Eddie ever had this information about the tunnel being a non-starter and if he did, why were we induced into believing that a tunnel was an option and for so long! And as for this idea that just popped into the insider's mind about a longer tunnel, that has already been disclosed to Councillors when Schwartz was in town recently. I was told this by a City hall insider some time ago! It is not something "new" but is something that is already on the table.

All Gord is doing is setting us up for the "compromise" and trying to give Council a way out of its solemn pledge as evidenced by Marra's Tunnel Motion. He is revelaing nothing more than what is around now except that taxpayers have not yet been let in on the secret. Our role is just to pay and pay and pay.

So Eddie will be our big hero again for his wonderful negotiating skills provided he is still Mayor after the WUC fiasco.

Isn't this what Henderson's column is really about. Forget Eddie's miscue on WUC....he has bigger and better things on his mind to save Windsor. We need him around to get us all of those hundreds of millions of dollars (Like the $300M BIF funds that are about to expire perhaps because the Mayor could never achieve a deal?)

Dave Wake already said at the CCG that the deal is effectively done. Now Henderson is telling us what Schwartz has already proposed as disclosed to Councillors as if this is something new. We see the first step being taken re E C Row.

Want more:

  • Why the hell do you think senior Provincial insisted that DRIC call what they proposed "short tunnels."

  • And why the hell do you think that the Provincial Ministry inquiry of WUC will be a white-wash if public involvement in setting the Terms of Reference is not allowed! After all, we don't want to shoot the WUC messenger do we? We have DRIC road deals to do.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Watermain-gate: Yet Another Shocker

Eddie Francis will make an excellent father. As time goes on and we watch him in action on Monday nights, it appears that he would have made an excellent kindergarten teacher too. Look at how well he has trained the girls and boys on Council to do what they are told.

Is it me or have they not understood that the Mayor's political future and that of four Councillors is on the line in Watgermain-gate? It is no longer merely a question of water levy rates or 1,000 customers getting free water perhaps, or even whether levy funds were diverted.

No the issue is whether the people of Windsor have been told the truth by our elected officials!

We have had so many stories told to us that are irreconcilable that who knows where we stand any more. We need an investigation or audit or inquiry or call it what you will by an impartial third party who is allowed to get all the facts and to separate truth from fiction.

Can we get one? Frankly, No---not if the way this matter has been carried on is allowed to continue. What do I mean by that:
  1. The Mayor has called privately and exchanged emails with the Ontario Auditor General, a person who may be investigating his actions and those of other Councillors while they were Chairs or member of WUC
  2. The Mayor called for a "discussion" at Council on the WUC matter but the public was not able to talk since it never took place
  3. The Mayor introduced a Motion and it was passed unanimously by Council without notice to the public by waiving the Procedural By-law rules so no one could appear as a delegation
  4. Will anyone second Councillor Halberstadt's Motion so that the public will finally be allowed to speak and express their views
  5. We do not know who is working with the Ministry to set out the terms of reference of their audit ie will it be broad or narrow
  6. Is this exercise going to be just some number-crunching by a new set of eyes or the full investigation the public is demanding.

Then we learn another new shocker. The Mayor has known since last Friday that the Ministry was going to be involved. Notwithstanding that the Star story was erroneous on Saturday since the reporter could not have known that anything changed, the Mayor did not tell anyone anything for days. Why not? Was something going on in the background?

  • "Francis refused to answer Wednesday why he kept the audit's approval under wraps for days."

Sorry that is not quite right. It seems according to the online story on the Star's website

  • "Francis informed councillors of the audit on Saturday morning in a confidential e-mail he issued."

Funny, that line was deleted from the published Windsor Star! Why! If the Mayor could tell Council, why couldn't he tell the public? Oh, oh, I forgot.....we don't have open and transparent government in Windsor but decisions are made and information is disclosed in camera!

I cannot figure out what is going on. I cannot figure out why such a simple exercise in fact-gathering is taking on such monumental proportions and is becoming so complicated.

What it tells me is that we need an amendment to the Municipal Act. With longer terms for Council and no way realistically to control our local elected officials, citizens should demand that the next Government promise us the right of recall! I sure wish we had it now

Step One For E C Row Truck Traffic

This item will be on the Agenda for Council on Monday. It will probably go on the Consent Agenda since who wants to scare the public about problems with bridges on E C Row.

As I have told you several times already, Cansult, who was retained by the Feds to shoot down the first Schwartz Report, already identified issues with E C Row overpasses and suggested how to improve E C Row.

The Report says that there is a "severe need to proceed withthe rehabilitation of these structures." Doesn't that sound troubling to you?

We all know that Eddie is positioning himself as our figher for keeping trucks off of E C Row. However, when the damaging news is disclosed and the costs required to fix it are given, who in Windsor will oppose the "uploading" of the road back to the Province as part of the border solution.

Our fears will be assuaged. Assuming that trucks and cars will be kept separate AND, of course, that DRTP is dead, E C Row will be transformed magically into our connector to the soon-to-be taxpayer paid "shovel ready" airport lands and the transportation hub. It all fits together so well.

With E C Row being made the redundant border road in case of emergency (the new DRIC road is still the main road to the border) do you want to know what I have just figured out. The Joint Management Committee got almost everything they wanted 5 years ago.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

The Title of this BLOG has been attributed to Mark Twain or Benjamin Disraeli.

Effectively what this means is that there can be no lies. It also means that there can be no truth. Lies and truth are now flexible concepts depending on what someone chooses to use as the starting and finishing point. Those points are determined by what one wants to achieve.

Let's look at the renovations to the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel as an example. Councillor Gignac claimed the Tunnel came in at $18M, $2m under budget.

  • "This is a great achievement."

It is if you forget:

  • "The two-year upgrade and restoration of the University Avenue tunnel ventilation building wrapped up" on May 30, 2007 when it was supposed to be finished by October, 2006
  • The "commission awarded a $12,370,720 tender to Windsor's Vollmer and Associates for upgrades to the tunnel's ventilation system [$2.5 million below previous estimates]" in April, 2004.
  • The Star reported in June, 2005 that the "$13-million renovation project at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel is six months behind schedule and facing major cost overruns because of structural problems, says a report to the Windsor tunnel commission."

Now we are told in a huge Star advertising section that the bus terminal was opened on time and under budget. Well that is true depending on the start and finish dates. If one looks at the time the project was officially approved by Council, September, 2006 at a budget of $7.5M, this project has been a remarkable success.

If you accept that it was to have been built for Super Bowl at a cost of around $6M, it is a horrible failure.

If you accept that the cost of the land should be deducted from the cost, then it is considerably over-budget if you do the math, never mind taking into account the changes made.

If you accept that Greyhound has effectively been given a 50% equity stake in the building for paying the costs a tenant would normally pay, then who did this deal!

Here is a timeline on the bus terminal to show you what I mean. You choose the start date and the finish date. Pick the numbers you want to use and come up with whatever answer you want to prove whatever it is you want to prove.

  • 12-13-2002 It's estimated the terminal, to be shared by Transit Windsor and Greyhound Canada, will cost $6 million...We need about 65,000 square feet
  • 03-18-2003 The 8,000-square-foot, 12-bay building would cost about $4 million, with one-third of that total paid by the provincial government, leaving the city on the hook for $2.67 million, providing Transit Windsor and Greyhound Canada continue their partnership.
  • 02-24-2004 The proposed 64,000-square-foot terminal is expected to cost between $4 million and $6 million with the province providing up to $2 million in matching funds.
  • 10-16-2004 A empty lot which used to house the downtown Canadian Tire store is being recommended by a site selection committee as the location for a $6.125-million transit terminal which will be shared by Transit Windsor and Greyhound Canada.
  • 02-09-2005 The 11,800-square-foot building, which will be triple the size of the existing 63-year-old terminal, will be on the site of the former Canadian Tire store, adjacent to the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Radisson Hotel.
  • 05-19-2005 Construction had been slated to begin in June with a projected opening date in January. But talks with Greyhound have proceeded more slowly than anticipated, Iatonna said. At issue is the size of the $6.2-million building.

    Iatonna said the city would like to bring the cost of the building in under $6 million but Greyhound wants to ensure the new terminal can accommodate everything it requires to serve customers, including ticket wickets and counter space, bus bays and offices.

    The proposed one-storey, 11,800-square-foot building, adjacent to the Art Gallery of Windsor, is also expected to include a waiting area, a parcel pickup centre, information kiosk, drivers' room and dispatch facilities.
  • 06-13-2005 Originally scheduled to be completed in time for Super Bowl XL next February, the $6.125 million terminal on the site of the old Canadian Tire store is now expected to be completed next spring.

    Greyhound's financial contribution to the project is expected to be limited to annual lease payments which will offset some of the capital and operating costs.
  • 10-14-2005 Negotiations with Greyhound Canada for a $6-million downtown bus terminal have hit a snag and placed a deal with the city in limbo.

    Negotiations were stalled when Greyhound balked at contributing $2 million to the project without having an equity share in the terminal.
  • 03-31-2006 A $6-million deal for a new transit terminal that could open by spring next year has been reached between the City of Windsor and Greyhound Canada.

    Greyhound will be using four bus bays, but will not rent any space inside the 8,000-square-foot building, which is a scaled-down version of what was originally planned for the site...

    Greyhound Canada will be given 50 per cent ownership of the new transit terminal in 25 years. "We'll be 50-50 partners," Francis said...

    Francis said the deal is a good one for taxpayers because the cost of operating the building is essentially covered by the $160,000 annual payments Greyhound will make.

    "Instead of them giving up-front cash, this is what they're giving, which still allows us to pay off the operating" expenses, Francis said.
  • 05-13-2006 'Funky' transit depot...The 9,000-square-foot terminal -- pegged at about $6 million -- will have a domed roof with a skylight, glass and brick facade and indoor palm trees...

    We're still in the working phase," she said. "The site is quite congested. We're trying to maximize use of the site..."

    Isabelle-Tunks said the terminal will have a large indoor concourse and the ability to accommodate 12 Transit Windsor and four Greyhound buses.
  • 09-19-2006 A new Transit Windsor bus terminal that will cost $1.5 million more than anticipated was approved Monday by city council.

    The building that will sit at Chatham Street West and Church Street, came in at a price of $7.5 million, well above the $6 million that was originally budgeted...

    The building plans grew from 8,000 square feet to about 9,200 square feet.
  • 05-26-2007 Stewart said he's looking forward to the grand opening of the bright new $7.2-million bus terminal
  • 06-23-2007 The $7.2 million City Centre Transit Terminal received rave reviews Friday when it was opened for the first time to Transit Windsor staff and municipal officials.
  • Advertisement August 17, 2007 Transit Terminal opens on time, under budget
    For Isabelle- Tunks, the project has been a success because “it was completed on-time and under budget, and it meets the needs of the users.” Despite three labour strikes, there was a negligible impact on the schedule.

    The final cost is about $7.4 million –- $100,000 under budget. “We did this by reviewing finishes and design features, selecting the most cost-effective [ones],” says IsabelleTunks.

    Construction, carried out by Gulf Construction, began in October 2006 and was completed in mid June bringing the project within the tight 10-month timeline.

So you see how it works. It is NOT a lie; it is just damned statistics! Can you imagine the praise when the East end arena comes in on-time and under budget too!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who Will Second The Halberstadt Motion

Quite an Editorial in today's Star. If they had mentioned the name of one of Canada's best forensic auditors, Al Rosen, in it, you might have thought that I had a hand in it being written since that is what I have advocated!

It's put up or shut up time now for Councillor Halberstadt. It seems that the Councillor feels he was "duped" by WUC:

  • "it appears to be pretty obvious they (were) trying to downplay the extent of the increase."

Too bad no one from the Commission with any facts was around:

  • "WUC chairman Ken Lewenza couldn't be reached for comment. WUC's acting general manager Max Zalev was unavailable Tuesday and his staff referred questions to WUC spokeswoman Sylvia deVries, who was on leave in the spring when the utility created the inserts."

Strange that the Mayor who was contacted by the Star did not return the page since he did all the talking before and he was not even the WUC Chair, Junior was. Then again, I can understand why not:

  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has handled this issue poorly from the start, offering contradictory statements that have done little to instill public faith."

Those people at WUC should have been the big Buskers sponsor after all. According to the Star today they work acts of magic. They turn 86 per cent increases into 36 per cent ones and $600 million in 30 years to replace watermains from $660 million over 100 years. Feats of pure wonder and amazement.

Back to the Councillor. He should receive the credit for not knuckling under. He left his Motion on the table so Windsorites have the chance to express their opinion as delegations about what should be done with an investigation at Council next Monday. BUT....who will second it. I know that five Councillors have been contacted to do so and not one has said he/she would.

Are they personally afraid to do so? Are they afraid of the consequences to their political career? They must know that seconding a Motion does not necessarily mean a person is in favour of it. Someone CAN second a Motion in order to have the debate.

Are they afraid to antagonize the Mayor or their colleagues? You know, not be part of the team. If so, they do not deserve to remain on Council. They would not performing their duty as a Councillor!

Without a seconder, the Motion dies under the Procedural By-law and no one gets heard. If the Star is right that there was "what seemed an attempt -- a well-orchestrated one -- to upstage Halberstadt, Francis introduced a motion, passed unanimously without public notice or input" then do not expect anyone to second Alan's Motion. After all, we all know that the Mayor cannot handle any kind of criticism against his infallibility and cannot tolerate being blamed for anything.

It is up to Alan, not only as a Councillor but as a member of the City's Audit Committee, to take charge and to get a seconder from amongst Councillors Dilkens, Postma, Valentinis, Gignac and Hatfield. I did not mention the Mayor or Councillors Lewenza, Jones, Marra and Brister. As far as I am concerned the latter were on WUC during the relevant time period and should have absolutely no involvement whatsoever in anything to do with an investigation.

In fact, one should question how the Mayor could introduce his Motion in the first place and how the four could vote on it! Where were the City Clerk and City Solicitor when that happened at the last Council meeting!

If Councillor Halberstadt does not have the ability to get a seconder on a matter such as this, then he is powerless and any hope that he may have to be our next mayor or perhaps run for a Senior Level position would be dashed. Oh I know his fellow colleagues get mad at him but he should have the ability to line them up on something so important as this.

If there is no seconder....well, let us not even contemplate what could happen next! I cannot believe that the six remaining Councillors would act so irresponsibly.

If They Cannot Afford WUC Water...

...Let them drink champagne instead.

Mayor Eddie Francis thinks nothing of spending money like water on the Detroit Grand Prix: US$80,000 worth. I wonder what Windsor will get out of it. Remember the hype over the Super Bowl about how much money would flow into Windsor and the reality.

I listened to Eddie on his interview show on CKLW last Tuesday. What an embarrassment that show is. With the lobs he is fed, he would hit more home runs than Barry Bonds! He did a terrific job of trying to sell tickets to the Grand Prix on the show. Fortunately he had just enough time to mention the announcement of the University Engineering complex before he ran out of time. I guess I know what his priorities are.

Heck, who needs to have a "family destination" function for Windsorites and their families like the Buskers Festival for a paltry CDN$40,000 when you can THINK BIG and spend twice the amount in Detroit! Seriously, do you really think that Roger Penske would go to a buskers type of function.

I read the article about Roger in Windsor Life magazine. I wonder if Eddie will take over a copy to give to Roger, along with his CV. I note the quote in the article:

  • "He [Roger] has an inate ability to place the right people in the right jobs."

Right about now with this WUC fiasco which seems to be getting worse every day, Eddie may want to keep his options open. I wonder in which job Roger would put him. Sports sales is a distinct possibility since Eddie did such a great job on CKLW. I would think a communications position might be doubtful however if Roger got a copy of today's Star Editorial.

Who knows, Roger might even want some of the taxpayer paid "shovel ready" land at the airport for his businesses one day too. Perhaps Eddie could sell him an acre or two at pre-construction prices while the race is on.

For our $80,000, Eddie gets to take his wife out for dinner. She needs to get away I am sure after that very long labour in childbirth. Eddie Francis and "First Lady" Michelle Prince, as she is described in a US press release, will be rubbing elbows at the Grand Prixmiere, the official kick-off party for the 2007 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix with Governor Jennifer Granholm and First Gentleman Daniel Mulhern. Eddie is one of the honorary chairs you see.

Remember the last time Eddie met Mulhern at Super Bowl meetings. After that, the City of Windsor gave the Governor's hubby a contract to make the Councillors less dysfunctional. Taxpayers paid him "$3,000 to dispense leadership advice."

Geeez, I hope Eddie buys Dan's book instead for the Councillors this time around. It would be a lot cheaper! Perhaps Dan could autograph the book covers too if there is a volume purchase.

You know, the Grand Prix race and Windsor Council have a lot in common...they both keep going around in circles and get nowhere fast.

I wonder if Jen and Eddie will make small talk about border issues too as they enjoy the food at the reception. I wonder if she can persuade him to allow the road to the Ambassador Bridge to be built. You know, as one Canadian-born American politician, the Michigan Governor, talking to another Canadian politician, the Windsor Mayor. Perhaps she could also give him some tips on which country to go to for new jobs for Windsor. She has been doing some travelling I believe, 5 out-of-country trips by the time they meet.

The party is a nice benefits the Belle Isle Conservancy and the Henry Ford Museum. I am sure that Eddie and Michelle would have chaired a gala over here too for local organizations except few Windsorites with our high unemployment rate can afford the ticket prices like those in Detroit of $250 or $500. And why get all dressed up to go out for a lesser function.

It's a good thing that the Transit Windsor bus service to the Grand Prix race is NOT running on the 30th, the day of the Gala. I am sure that Eddie would have booked a seat to show unity with his fellow race-fans. However, with the poor experience of the Tunnel bus and US Customs with the very long waits, Eddie could have been late for his own party!

I hope that our Mayor enjoys the outing. As the racers say...."Gentlemen, start your engines!"

BLOGEXTRA: SPP Declaration

Our Border crossing made the big time, 2 1/2 lines in the Joint Statement of Prime Minister Harper, President Bush and President Calderón at the North American Leaders’ Summit:

  • "Canada and the US will maintain a high priority on the development of enhanced capacity of the border crossing infrastructure in the Detroit-Windsor region, the world's busiest land crossing."
I really wish I knew exactly what that meant since capacity is hardly the issue with reduced volumes of traffic. Notice the word "enhanced"....that ought to tell you something about what the leaders are thinking!

In a document I read on the Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America website I note that it dealt specifically with Windsor/Detroit when it stated:
  • "The SPP benefits the American people in many ways, and much progress has already been made...

    To reduce the cost of trade, the United States and Canada decreased transit times at the Detroit/Windsor gateway, our largest border crossing point, by 50 percent. "
They could have easily said instead that capacity was increased by 50%! And remember, only the Bridge Co. does NOT need a US Presidential Permit to build its Enhancement Project.

It would seem that Ambassador Wilson has signalled well that he understands what now needs to be done and the US is onside. The DRIC road with a short right turn leads right to the Ambassador Bridge. Is the border mess finally over now that the Provincial Government has told Eddie he is irrelevant. Will we get finality right after the election!

We can only hope.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Windsor's Auto R&D Future

Inside moles are a valuable source of information when an issue arises. They have the background knowledge, or they know where to get it, to help put matters into a proper context.

They are everywhere... inside the Star, City Hall, Queen's Park, at the University. The fun for me is having several different insiders give me bits of seemingly unconnected information and then being able to bring it all together for you, dear reader, to understand.

You read it here first about the key role played by Ed Lumley in bringing this huge investment to Windsor. And who wrote first about an R&D Tech Centre, and not necessarily downtown. No, I am not trying to pat myself on the back but telling you not to accept at face-value what everyone seems to be saying. There is a lot going on behind-the-scenes.

I find it fascinating that along with Lumley's name, Gord Henderson also mentioned that of Dennis DesRosiers in his column. Was he trying to make up for the dust-up that he and Dennis had some time ago? The interesting comment was that Dennis and Eddie "huddled" and that they "departed on amiable terms." Will Eddie now retain DesRosiers as Hurst did to assist the City to develop a meaningful auto strategy and to take advantage of his auto industry contacts? Was Gord telling Eddie it was OK to do so!

I give you all of this as background. With all of the talk of economic development, the auto industry and our future, I heard about a report from our past. So I asked around for it and a mole found it for me. It makes great reading for our leaders in Government, Education and Economic Development.

This Report was prepared for the previous Mayor, Mike Hurst and then ignored it seems by Eddie. It seems that some are now trying to take credit for an idea that has been around for years. You know what, let them today pretend that what is going on is a fresh idea but let's get on with it!

Here are some interesting excerpts from the Report. This Report was insightful in predicting the demise of Windsor's manufacturing base and the potential growth of the region as the centre of intellectual capital in the automotive sector. It must be painful for Eddie to realize that his nemesis Mike Hurst was responsible for commissioning the Report and even more painful for him to know that Dennis DesRosiers wrote it:
  • Automotive Sector Strategic Plan
    A Research Report Prepared by
    DesRosiers Automotive.Consultants.Inc


    The Windsor-Essex County Development Commission’s business development strategy for the automotive sector will be supported by two foundations:

    1. Windsor is at the centre of the North American automotive industry
    2. Ontario is a competitive location.

    These foundations will support four “pillars” or targeted initiatives of a business development strategy:

    1. Developing Windsor as the “Intellectual Capital” of the Canadian and North American automotive sector.
    2. Targeting high value-added OE parts manufacturing and MTDM.
    3. Linking a human resource strategy to an economic development strategy.
    4. Examining the full length of the value chain.

    Windsor is at the Centre of the North American Automotive Industry

    Windsor is situated on the frontier between Ontario and Michigan, the two leading motor vehicle manufacturing jurisdictions. It is also in immediate proximity to the world headquarters of Ford and General Motors, the North American headquarters of DaimlerChrysler and dozens of Tier 1 parts manufacturers. Major concentrations of assembly plants in Indiana and Ohio are also within a few hours’ driving time. Highway 401 and Interstate Highway 75 provide a direct connection to North America’s core concentration of manufacturing plants. Jurisdictions where automotive manufacturing capacity lies within 500 km. of I-75 and Highway 401 accounted for almost three quarters of North American vehicle production in 1999...

    However, by 2010, we still expect Windsor-Essex County to be within 1,000 kilometres of 69.6 percent of vehicle assembly capacity, 67.9 percent of engine capacity, and 63.1 percent of transmission capacity.

    Equally important, Windsor is directly adjacent to Detroit, the nerve centre of the North American automotive manufacturing industry. This proximity to the industry’s senior decision makers means that Windsor is uniquely placed within Canada to attract automotive research, design, development and testing capabilities. The key automotive business development opportunity for Windsor-Essex County may be its potential to become the “intellectual capital” of the Canadian automotive sector. This is discussed in more detail later in this section.

    Ontario Offers an Attractive Investment Climate

    In 1999, Ontario produced almost 3 million vehicles, ranking only slightly behind Michigan among North American jurisdictions (Table 6.9). When compared with vehicle producing countries, Ontario ranks fifth globally, behind the United States, Japan, Germany and France.

    Support for Research & Development

    Tax incentives for research and development are channelled through the federal government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit program, and the Ontario Innovation Tax Credit. The after-tax cost of one dollar spent on R&D is $0.49, one of the lowest in the world...

    Proprietary product and process technologies have become a key source of competitive advantage in a rationalizing and globally competitive automotive manufacturing sector.

    Initially the dynamics of outsourcing and rationalization favoured the concentration of research, design, development and testing by OEMs and parts manufacturers in facilities in close proximity to vehicle company head offices in Detroit. Windsor, despite its location just across the Detroit River from those offices, historically was prevented from fully participating in this automotive technology cluster because of the Canada-U.S. border. In the past, border delays, the need for what the industry calls “face time” and the lack of a communication infrastructure were seen by OEM executives as an impediment to the ready sharing of information between the vehicle company head offices and their suppliers R&D facilities. Even Canadian-based suppliers such as Magna International and The Woodbridge Group were compelled to concentrate their R&D activities on the Michigan side of the border in order to be able to provide customers with the desired level of day to day interaction.

    Advances in information technology have made “face time” and the international boundary less of an issue by facilitating real-time interaction and sharing of technical information between head offices and R&D centres without onsite visits. Windsor’s geographic proximity to Detroit, however, is a significant draw to R&D activity, and it is thus emerging as the most favoured location for automotive technological research in Canada. DaimlerChrysler and Ford have established new R&D facilities in Windsor within the past couple of years.

    Several elements of infrastructure are in place to support the continued growth of Windsor as the “intellectual capital” of Canada’s automotive industry. The engineering school at the University of Windsor has been a growing source of engineers for automotive manufacturers and is increasingly focusing on automotive engineering, although they have not been able to meet the total engineering needs of the area’s automotive sector. St. Clair College is the principal outside source of skilled trades training for area automotive manufacturers. It recently announced the founding of a Centre for Manufacturing Excellence. Windsor is a North American centre of automotive MTDM, a sector that is becoming increasingly capital and technology-intensive and employing increasing numbers of engineers. The Ford and DaimlerChrysler R&D centres are providing nuclei for the emergent automotive technology cluster, and generous federal and provincial tax credits, in conjunction with Windsor’s other locational advatages discussed earlier, provide a powerful incentive.

    The missing pieces in the technological infrastructure are:

     An adequate supply of engineering graduates from Canadian universities
     Compensation for engineers that is competitive with that of the U.S. automotive industry. The low value of the Canadian dollar in recent years has exacerbated a “brain drain” of automotive engineering talent to the United States.
     A designated Automotive Engineering field of specialization at a Canadian university. The University of Windsor is working on further developing the automotive capabilities of its Applied Science faculty, and developing automotive streams in Business Administration and Law. An adequate emphasis on trade and technology at the high school level.
     There are likely further requirements to develop Windsor-Essex County Counties IT infrastructure, although this was not a focus of this study.

    Filling in these missing pieces will require a concentrated collabourative effort on the part of industry leaders, educators, organized labour, and elected and administrative officials of all three levels of government. Union leaders might, at first, be expected to be skeptical of an “intellectual capital” strategy that could be seen as focusing on creating white-collar/professional jobs, rather than unionized blue-collar positions. However, R&D and engineering facilities in fact employ large numbers of unionized skilled tradespeople and support a significant number of production jobs tied to these engineering centres.

    The “intellectual capital” strategy will also serve a fundamental community-building purpose. Sons and daughters of blue-collar workers who attend university and seek “upward mobility” will be presented with employment opportunities within Windsor-Essex County, rather than having to relocate elsewhere in North America.

    6.7.2 Focus on High Value Added OE Parts Manufacturing and MTDM

    The focus of Windsor-Essex County Development Commission’s automotive business development activities, therefore will need to be on high value-added OE parts manufacturing, particularly powertrain components.

    Advantages to be leveraged in attracting manufacturers of high value-added parts include:

     The presence of two Ford engine facilities and the GM transmission plant.
     Proximity to North America’s core concentration of assembly and engine manufacturing plants in southeastern Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and southwestern Ontario
     Windsor-Essex County’s critical mass in parts manufacturing and MTDM, resulting in a large pool of skilled and experience workers
     Access for parts suppliers to the area’s highly developed MTDM capabilities
     Windsor-Essex County’s developing technological infrastructure

    Windsor-Essex County has been particularly successful in attracting investments by German-based parts suppliers, but less successful in drawing in Japanese companies. Although they should not be ignored, in terms of attracting global investors, the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission might be advised to continue to focus on European players. Japanese-based assemblers and parts suppliers deal with relatively flexible company unions in the home market, and have historically displayed a strong preference for jurisdictions without a strong union presence in North America. European parts companies, by contrast, are accustomed to dealing with powerful unions such as IG Metall in Germany, and tend to be less daunted by the CAW presence in Windsor-Essex County. DaimlerChrysler’s strong presence in Windsor should also offer unique opportunities with European suppliers.

    The “union issue” could also be sidestepped by a focus on machine, tool die and mold, since the majority of Windsor-Essex County MTDM shops are non-union. This sector also produces very high-paying jobs with skilled trades employees frequently earning six-figure incomes with overtime and has established a strong track record of locally-generated growth.

    In many of the executive interviews, the shortage of engineers was described as critical and identified as the number one obstacle to expanding research, design, development and testing activities. In other words, it is the most formidable barrier to the “Intellectual Capital” pillar of Windsor-Essex County’s automotive business development strategy.

    Media reports indicate that a shortfall of engineers is a problem experienced by a number of manufacturing sectors across Canada. In the Windsor-Essex automotive manufacturing sector, the engineering squeeze is exacerbated by a “brain drain” to Michigan. Canadian engineers can easily obtain U.S. work permits under the “Treaty Canada” provisions of the Free Trade Agreement, and those employed by Windsor-Essex County automotive manufacturers often find the substantially higher after-tax incomes available just across the Detroit River difficult to resist. This is occurring just as downloading of design, development and testing responsibilities and the increasing technological sophistication of MTDM is creating unprecedented demand for engineering talent within the Windsor-Essex automotive manufacturing sector.

    The above types of problems are not unique to Windsor-Essex County or to the automotive manufacturing sector. Practically every jurisdiction in North America where the key economic sectors are facing fundamental technological and structural change are grappling with skill shortages and training issues.

    Those jurisdictions that are proactive and successful in addressing skill shortages and other critical human resource issues will create sustainable competitive advantages in attracting new investment...

    Windsor-Essex County stands out within the North American automotive manufacturing belt in its ethnic and cultural diversity. This fundamental community strength remains to be fully harnessed by the region’s automotive manufacturers.

    The key to building diversity and skills in the Windsor-Essex County automotive workforce lies in recognizing that human resource and business development strategies for a given jurisdiction cannot be developed in isolation. Building on human resource strengths and addressing shortages and weaknesses in skill sets is a critical pillar of any effective business development plan...

    Engineering services. Ford and DaimlerChrysler have recently made major commitments to automotive R&D in Windsor. North American vehicle manufacturers, however, also make extensive use of independent testing laboratories and engineering firms around Detroit and elsewhere in the United States. Windsor, with its proximity to Detroit, could be marketed as an attractive location to some of these players.

There's the outline of a strategy to make Windsor #1 in Canada and a major player in the world auto industry for R&D. We have the blueprints in the DesRosiers Report. If you look at what is going on now and what was announced yesterday, a lot of the building blocks are here and available. All we have to do is to have everyone working together to cement them in place. We have the foundation. Now we better build the rest of the Complex.

And leave the egos at the door!


Can we afford any more political gamesmanship in Windsor over the WUC investigation?

$830M may be at stake by the time this is over for public expenditures on water issues including watermain replacement. We need to know the answers arising out of the serious questions raised and we need to know them now!

You know, I really could take more seriously the concerns of the Mayor about our water system and the need to raise gigantic sums of money for it if he had not said in 2005:

  • "The Windsor Utilities Commission will have to justify any water rate increase this fall, Mayor Eddie Francis said Wednesday...

    Francis said in an interview he believes water rates are too high...

    When the study is completed, Francis said he hopes it will show water rates can be decreased."

Can you believe it--rates were too high before the election. No concern re watermains before the election notwithstanding the 2002 WUC Report. Doesn't it seem more and more that the WUC under our Mayor's leadership was falling asleep at the tap. Or was "politics" involved? Inquiring minds must know.

Then again, if he had said that there was a huge problem, he could not have justified a City go-it-alone East End arena at a cost of mega-millions but would have had to enter into a public/private partnership limited to a City contribution of $15M. He advocated for a P3 when he first ran for Mayor.

I thought you might want to see the Notice of Motion introduced by Councillor Halberstadt and the Motion introduced by the Mayor which was passed unanimously by Council dealing with the Watermain-gate investigation

They are 2 separate and distinct Motions so both can be pased and can co-exist.

Now urban legend has it that our Mayor only sleeps a few hours per night since he works so many hours in the interest of our Community. Since he has a new baby, he must sleep now even less what with the feedings, changing diapers, some crying during the night and giving support to his spouse if she has to get up during the night. It is tough being new parents.

Well if Eddie is up anyway, you just know he has to be thinking about City business. He probably thought long and hard about his Motion and what he would do since he knew Councilor Halberstadt was going to introduce one.

Well I have thought long and hard about it too and I want to give you my thoughts but first, here are the actions at Council that are of interest with the key points emphasized:

Here is Councillor Halberstadt's Motion which was introduced first

  • Notices of Motion

    1. Councillor Halberstadt gives notice that he intends to introduce the following motion for consideration at the August 27, 2007 meeting of Council:

    WHEREAS concerns have been raised about the finances and operations of the Windsor Utilities Commission; and

    WHEREAS a July 26, 2007 press release from WUC stated that "In 2004, the watermain replacement levy was implemented….This levy was intended to be used for capital, but was required to fund operations"; and

    WHEREAS the estimated replacement value of watermains has raised questions when cost – per km comparisons made with other municipalities; and

    WHEREAS it has been reported that 1000 customers of WUC have received water but not paid charges for the water for a number of years; and

    WHEREAS an 83 percent annual increase in water rates was originally reported as a 36 percent increase; and

    WHEREAS a 64 percent annual increase to the blended water/sewage surcharge rate, 2007-2008, was reported as 60-61 percent and is causing hardship to citizens/taxpayers/businesses in Windsor; and

    WHEREAS more increases in the water rates are being contemplated within a year; and

    WHEREAS the cost of an audit by the provincial office of the Auditor General would not be borne by municipal taxpayers or WUC consumers, if all channels are properly followed;

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Council hereby requests that Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Economic Development and Trade and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, and Dwight Duncan, Minister of Energy and Chair of Cabinet, BE ASKED to request that the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario undertake a special assignment and perform a "value-for-money" audit of the WUC; and further,

    THAT the Ministry and the Auditor General shall BE REQUESTED to investigate and report publicly to the citizens of Windsor, as soon as reasonably possible, on the questions raised into the financial affairs, and business practices and affairs of the Windsor Utilities Commission.

Here is how Windsorites were deprived of speaking about this issue at Council

  • 2. Moved by Councillor Dilkens, seconded by Councillor Valentinis,

    M217-2007 That Rule 13.9 (a) of the Procedure By-law regarding business not already before Council

    BE WAIVED to permit the introduction of a motion by Mayor Francis without prior notice respecting a provincial municipal audit into the financial affairs of the Windsor Utilities Commission (WUC).


    Councillor Postma was absent from the meeting when the vote was taken on this matter.

Here is the Mayor's Motion

  • Moved by Mayor Francis, seconded by Councillor Marra,

    M218-2007 WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 9 of the Municipal Affairs Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.M.46, and amendments thereto, (the "Act") the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (the "Ministry"), may, whenever requested by any municipality expresses by resolution of its council, direct a provincial municipal audit into the financial affairs of the municipality; and

    WHEREAS, pursuant to section 9(2) of the Act, the scope of such a provincial municipal audit may be limited to the financial affairs of any local board of a municipality; and

    WHEREAS the Windsor Utilities Commission (WUC) is a local board of the Corporation of the City of Windsor; and

    WHEREAS the involvement of the Provincial Auditor has been identified as the likely party to conduct such an audit of WUC; and

    WHEREAS the Council of the Corporation of the City of Windsor requests a timely response by the Province to the matters identified;

    NOW BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the Corporation of the City of Windsor requests that the Ministry direct, pursuant to Sections 9 and 10 of the Act, a provincial municipal audit into the financial affairs of WUC.

Here are some thoughts in no particular order on the two Motions:
  1. Halberstadt's Motion would have allowed public debate, Eddie's took away that right since the requirement to give Notice was waived
  2. Halberstadt's Motion if for an Auditor General "value-for-money", Eddie's is for a Section 9 and 10 Ministry audit and inquiry
  3. Halberstadt's motion requests a value-for-money audit, although without specific Terms of Reference which is required, ["includes reporting on instances of misuse or mismanagement of public funds, overexpenditures, and other irregularities... assessing whether public resources are well administered... with due regard to economy and efficiency, and whether procedures to measure and report on the effectiveness of programs and organizations have been established and are operating satisfactorily] while Eddie's Motion has no TOR at all
  4. Halberstadt's Motion deals with the financial affairs, and business practices and affairs of the Windsor Utilities Commission while the Mayor's Motion restricts the inquiry into "financial affairs"
  5. Halberstadt's Motion requires the Auditor General to be involved while Eddie's Motion merely mentions him in a WHEREAS clause as a "likely party."
  6. Halberstadt's Motion may never be seconded and therefore never heard since some Councillors are wusses while Bill Marra seconded Eddie's Motion

As I have said before, Eddie is a great planner but unfortunately, reality sometimes has a way of butting in. Here is what I mean:

  1. Every day there is something coming out that makes matters worse
  2. Why is Eddie so afraid to allow citizens to appear as delegations? Council was to have had a "discussion" about the WUC and several people had tentatively signed up for that but it was never presented as an Agenda item. We know that Eddie will be criticized severely and he cannot handle being blamed. Remember Alan McKinnon in the Tecumseh meeting taking Eddie on and how Eddie reacted
  3. Who was told that the expert consultants were to make a presentation and when (Eddie made a point of saying, incorrectly in my opinion, that delegates could not speak to that)
  4. When did the Mayor tell the public that he was going to introduce a Motion about the WUC
  5. Was the procedure proper on his Motion
  6. Could he even introduce the Motion in the first place
  7. Who could and who could not vote on it
  8. Does Eddie really think that citizens will allow him to get by with a limited is just making it worse and worse for him if that is the impression he is creating
  9. According to Eddie, he wanted this matter to be cleared up quickly. He said that the A-G would take too long so then why did he point out that the A-G would be the "likely person" to act. How would his Motion get us results more quickly
  10. Was it appropriate for the Mayor call the A-G privately thereby possibly "contaminating" him so he cannot act
  11. Would Eddie's Motion take longer for an inquiry than Halberstadt's to complete. The Star reported that the Ministry "is still in the early stages of studying council's audit request and researching the background" and the "The minister did receive the resolution and is currently reviewing it." Next the A-G has to be brought in and he has to decide if he wants to take on the project and it would take him about 2 months before he could start. At any stage the request could be rejected
  12. Poor Councillor Marra, does he not realize yet that he is falling deeper and deeper into the murk that could kill his mayoral chances .

What would happen if no one in the Provincial Government wanted to take on the matter? Would the public have forgotten about all of this since months could pass from now until a final decision was made. It would be kept out of the press and the Mayor and Councillors would give a "No comment since this is being investigated" response if anyone asked a question.

Even if it went forward, the scope of the Mayor's Motion is so narrow that it would not deal with the tough questions that have been raised.

The Emincence Greasie has been involved I am sure with the strategy for damage control. Make it appear as if the Mayor has taken the lead and is handling the matter. Keep it quiet for as long as possible and limit the inquiry as much as possible. It will all go away as people's anger is reduced over time. Have a few good news stories come out like the Engineering complex and the new and even more improved Schwartz Report being rewritten as we speak and all will be forgiven.

Another Mess, Another Petition

Oh my goodness. When bad luck rains on Eddie and Council it pours! Now they have to deal with the Capitol Theatre fiasco which could have been solved months ago but for more gamesmanship.

When will this City be governed properly instead of going from crisis to crisis. What a laughing stock we have become! How sad for Windsorites!



Please distribute widely. We ARE the community Voice!

The Citizens for the Capitol Theatre (CCT) petition can now be accessed and signed online.

Please be directed to the following link (below) and show your support for this VITALLY IMPORTANT community theatre and public trust.Please also forward this petition to those who consider the Capitol Theatre to be an important community facility in the city of Windsor.

The CCT's main goal is to have community input at the table where future usage of the theatre is being considered.



The Citizens for the Capitol Theatre (CCT) is a community based organization formed to help facilitate the re-opening and ongoing usage of the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre in a sustainable capacity as an established public trust.

CCT recognizes the interests of the artistic, entertainment, educational and business communities by adopting strategies to maintain this historical theatre and helping to establish the future cultural well-being of Windsor and region through diversity of programming, artistic excellence and ongoing dialogue with the community.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Engineering Winners and Losers

What's fun in what I do and why I write this BLOG is to try and look behind the headlines and to try to discover what is really going on.

Take the Province's announcement of $40M to the University for the Engineering School. That clearly is great news for the University and a huge boost for Windsor since that can get us moving into the ranks on the "intellectual" side of the auto business.

From what I am hearing, there is a movement to make the School part of a huge R&D complex to draw major private sector companies from around the world to do research work in Windsor.

I have heard that companies are not at all keen on a downtown campus. I also understand that Chrysler and the University have an interest in a big chunk of property around the Chrysler Automotive Research and Development Center. "The 132-acre stretch of airport property [is] adjacent to the centre and being turned over by the city of Windsor will be the site of an automotive safety research area complete with barrier impact facility."

What an ideal location wouldn't you think. Isn't it close by the International Truck and Engine Corporation Centre for Innovation at the University of Windsor, on Deziel Drive? Within spitting distance is the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing, located at St. Clair College’s Windsor campus.

There are questions that need answering obviously like is the $40M an upfront payment or spread out over many years as with the new Medical Building. Where will the complex go? If it is an R&D park, who will run it and get businesses to relocate there? How does it fit in with airport redevelopment and border roads and so on.

Ed Lumley and Dave Cooke I am told were the driving forces to get the Province onside and to put up big money. Ross Paul did his damndest as well, being very nervous recently that there was no announcement out of Queen's Park. This clearly will be his legacy to the University and to Windsor.

I thought someone was being a bit mean-spirited at the Star with the big Sutherland expose on Saturday. Remember that Henderson gave Eddie credit for this initiative. Well now it is Sandra's fault:
  • "MPP Sandra Pupatello (L-Windsor West), who was instrumental during negotiations to bring the India-based company to Windsor by helping provide provincial incentives"
Was this designed to take some of the bloom off of the rose today with Sandra's announcement? If so, all it does is intensify the animosity between the Mayor and the Provincial Liberals that reared its ugly head with the Raceway arena move to Tecumseh.

Sandra and Dwight are the big winners before the election obviously. But it probably means that there is no money for Windsor for a long time unless the Feds step in to help. Sandra and Dwight must have cashed in their IOU's with the Premier and Finance Minister on this one.

I am surprised in the circumstances that there was no Federal presence since one of the drivers of Ontario's budget surplus came from "increased transfer payments from the federal government." But that would mean that Jeff Watson was going to have to be on the stage and in photo-ops and that would NEVER happen!

Was Eddie the big loser? The fact that no announcement was made that the School is going downtown could be pure politics. Save that for a later day before the election to show the start of the Urban Village. Build up momentum and excitement (and take away people's attention from WUC as the demand builds, fuelled by the Mayor, for a downtown campus).

OR does it mean, along with Dwight and Sandra's support of the DRIC road, that the Liberals have had enough of Eddie and this is their way of showing him that. If Dwight and Sandra support Halberstadt's Motion to bring in the Auditor General to investigate the WUC, Eddie will know that he is isolated and virtually irrelevant for the next three years!

For today, however, let's savour the moment and the investment in Windsor. Some good news finally. We sure can use it.

Pupatello Press Release

Here it is, hot off the presses. It helps explain what this is all about. It is more than just an Engineering School!

For Immediate Release


The McGuinty government will be providing $40 million in capital funding for a new Centre for Engineering Innovation at the University of Windsor, Sandra Pupatello, Minister of Economic Development and Trade and Dwight Duncan, Minister of Energy together with Bruce Crozier, MPP Essex, announced today. The Centre will help establish Windsor as a primary North American centre for automotive and manufacturing engineering.

"In today's global economy, we've got to be better than our competitors," said Pupatello. "Ontario's future depends on our ability to be leaders in ideas and innovation. With a highly skilled and innovative workforce, the Centre for Engineering Innovation will attract high value research and new investment to the province by strengthening our position as a global leader in automotive and manufacturing innovation."

"Establishing this Centre for Innovation at the University of Windsor is an important win for this community and for the Ontario academic community," said Dwight Duncan. "As Minister of Energy, I'm particularly pleased to know that low environmental footprint technologies will be used at the facility and that it will be built to Gold LEED standards."

The new $110 million Centre of Engineering Innovation (CEI) will be an entirely new university facility and a new approach to engineering. Unlike traditional approaches to engineering education, the CEI will bring industry partners directly to faculty and students to operate research and development and co-op programs. The concept known as a "manufacturing courtyard" will bring industry and academia into much closer contact on a daily basis.

"The University of Windsor has been at the forefront of automotive innovation," said Dr. Ross Paul, President of the University of Windsor. Our new state-of-the-art CEI will boost Ontario's productivity by graduating world class engineers, while strengthening the University of Windsor's reputation for academic excellence, particularly in engineering."

CEI will allow the University of Windsor to expand its Faculty of Engineering's annual undergraduate enrolment from 1,400 to 2,000 students over the next five years.

"This investment in engineering is positive news for Windsor and region," said Mayor Eddie Francis." It will help strengthen our economy, assert our position as the nation's centre for automotive research and help transition us to a knowledge-based economy."

"This capital investment is crucial to future prosperity in the region and enhancement of Ontario's global competitiveness," said Bruce Crozier, MPP Essex. "CEI will help our region attract new investment, particularly in the automotive and manufacturing sectors."

This initiative is part of the McGuinty government's overall strategy for jobs and prosperity that includes investments in infrastructure, postsecondary education, stable energy supply, research and innovation and key economic sectors.

"86,000 more students have the opportunity to go to college and university since our government started - a 22 per cent increase. More students are receiving grants - there are three times as many grants going to 120,000 students," said Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Chris Bentley. "The University of Windsor's new engineering centre will add to the new opportunities we've created for Windsor students."

This is just one more example of how, working together, Ontarians have achieved results for the economy. Other job creation initiatives include:

  • Ontario's automotive investment strategy has leveraged more than $7 billion in new investments and anchored thousands of high-value jobs

  • The $500-million Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy provides repayable loans interest free, for up to five years, to support investments in technology and innovation. The innovative projects supported by this strategy will generate nearly $465 million in new investments and support the creation or retention of about 3,500 jobs.

  • Building east-west partnerships to help Ontario manufacturers tap into opportunities flowing from Alberta's oil sands, which are expected to generate projects worth more than $100 billion by 2020.

  • Aggressive action to boost international trade and investment, including business missions to China and India/Pakistan and expanding Ontario's roster of international marketing centres to ten.

WATERMAIN-GATE: The Investigation Screw-up

I truly cannot take this any more. There is only one way out now.

If there is a way to screw something up, then Windsor does it!

Now we hear that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs may not undertake the Section 9 inquiry into WUC as requested by the City. The Star reported that a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs said
  • "It's not automatic. It's not a done deal -- in fact most times I say it doesn't happen," said June Kasperski Wild, municipal adviser for the ministry's Windsor-Essex region.

    "Our jurisdiction doesn't include municipal policing. We do things of provincial interest...

    Requests such as Windsor are rare and doing them are even more rare," Kasperski Wild said...

    Kasperski Wild said she didn't known how long it will take for a decision to be made."

Well this makes a complete mockery of what the Mayor said at Council during his attempted hijacking of Councillor Halberstadt's Motion which was to bring in the Provincial Auditor General. Didn't the Mayor state he wanted something done right away and that is why he wanted the Ministry involved. I wonder if anyone called the Ministry in advance and just neglected to tell us what they said. Now we find out they may not be involved and their decision could take some time to make.

We have to have action taken since Windsor's reputation and that of the Mayor and Council are mud now. As I said before, can you recall any Municipality asking for a third party audit and investigation? Nope, Windsor has to do it because of the mess that has been made with the seeming doubts as to what the facts truly are. Citizens no longer believe our local Government so we have to bring in outsiders to tell us the truth

Welcome to Windsor new investors. Put your money here!

As for the Auditor General of Ontario, there is an ethical issue whether his Office can be involved or not now since the Mayor spoke directly with him. Has the A-G been "contaminated" by Eddie's call? Is there now an appearance of lack of impartiality so that he is disqualified since the matter was discussed even to a small degree.

Why the CAO or City Solicitor did not make the call if it was just to gather information rather than the person who might be investigated is beyond me.

I have not discussed a lot yet about the possible conflict of interest of the Mayor and 4 councillors--or perhaps even the entire Council--- but the fact that the Clerk allowed the Mayor to introduce the Motion or that he dared do it is absolutely astounding. But that will be for another time.

There is only one solution: Councillor Halberstadt is a member of the City's Audit Committee. He must take charge now. His only alternative is to bring in a third party forensic auditor from out of town to undertake the broadest of investigations into WUC to answer the questiosn that I and others have raised. Moreover, it should deal with what happened subsequently about how the Mayor's Motion was introduced by the Mayor and the A-G phone call and determine the propriety of those actions.

I had suggested Rosen & Associates out of Toronto before since they are Litigation and Forensic Accountants. More importantly, they had investigated Boards of Education for the Ontario Government resulting in the appointment of a Provincial Supervisor over the Toronto, and Ottawa Boards of Education as an example. I wonder if that could happen with the WUC! Check out his Toronto Report

He works quickly too. In Ottawa, he was given one month to examine the Baord of Education's budget.

According to the Ottawa Citizen:

  • "Mr. Rosen, president of Rosen and Associates Ltd., advised Canadian auditors general from 1977 to 1992, and Ontario auditors before turning mainly to forensic investigation. He has been an accounting professor at York University, the University of Alberta, University of Washington and the University of British Columbia."

It also stated that:

  • "On Bay Street, Mr. Rosen is known as Dr. Al, or the Enforcer. As the manager of Rosen & Associates Ltd., he has worked on more than 750 litigation cases, often as an expert witness. Now in his late 60s, his many credentials include a PhD (he taught accounting at York University for more than 30 years) and a CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner.

    "Dr. Rosen is the undisputed reigning champion of forensic accounting in Canada,''

The National Post reported that hospitals were concerned when he was hired by the Government to review the books of Ontario's 160 hospitals:

  • "Hospital administrators are worried about the province's appointment of a forensic auditor, one hospital sector source said, because the term implies mismanagement on the part of institutions."

It's time for Alan to arrange for him to be hired and to get the job done. Council has no alternative! This farce has to end. NOW!