Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is Eddie Terrified Of Taxpayers

He has to be. How else can one explain the actions at Council recently when there is a controversial matter where citizens want to appear as delegations.

I blame it on that Ojibway protector, Alan McKinnon. If he had not scared Eddie so much, and so successfully, at the Windsor Council meeting held in Tecumseh last year where he attacked everything Eddie was doing on the border, we would probably be allowed to appear as delegations at Council.

Now citizen voices are shut out.

Clearly that explains the maneuvering to prevent citizens from being able to discuss the Windsor Utilities Commission matter at Council. Eddie might well have been successfully shown to be at fault given the anomalies in his WUC explanation.

Eddie just cannot take anyone opposing him or being put in a position where the finger of blame can be pointed at him. Why else is his favourite word "Council" when decision-making takes place. But if there is to be praise to be garnered, guess who is there front and centre!

It seems that Eddie cannot handle confrontation. For his sake, I hope he never runs for a Senior Level position. If he were a Minister, the Opposition with crush him in Question Period within days of his appointment. He just could not take heat.

I raise this with you because of the games being played with respect to the Schwartz presentation. It was given first last night, in camera as usual. I'm having trouble understanding under what provision of the Municipal Act this meeting was being held. It is a presentation of the Schwartz border route after all. It has nothing to do with buying or selling land, does not involve a personnelle matter, there is nothing litigious about it and there is no solicitor-client privilege involved.

Then on Tuesday, the public gets to hear Schwartz and friends anyway. What's the big deal for the need for secrecy? Aren't you also suprised that the Star did not provide any leaks or will that come in Henderson's column on Saturday? Something to be thankful for on this holiday weekend I guess is how it will be billed.

Now before you get all excited and say that you want to sign up as a delegation, the City website states clearly

  • "As this is a presentation only, no delegations will be heard."

At least one knows in advance that one will be cut off and doesn't have to attend a Council meeting and waste a Monday night before learning it as happened with WUC!

However the public does get a chance to speak about it.

  • "Please note: City Council at its meeting on October 9, 2007 will be asked to cancel the meeting scheduled for October 15, 2007 to allow for a week of ward meetings respecting the border issues beginning October 15th. Details to follow as to times and locations."

Now does this seem fair? We can't hear what people think about the Schwartz report at Council. Unless we attend each and every one of the Ward meetings, we cannot hear what people from all parts of the City say. No one knows who will be in attendance at the Ward meetings. The Ward Councillors will be there I am sure but will the Mayor or Sam or someone from the tunnel consulting firm?

Doesn't seem fair to Windsorites but it is probably fair for Eddie. He can control the Ward meetings and, probably after the first one, the media won't be all that interested. Except for the few people who attend the meetings, no one will know what happened and City Hall can spin it any way that they want. That would not have happened if citizens could appear as delegations at the Council meeting.

But, you protest, the voices of citizens will he heard and be acted upon. Not really. It is all a phony exercise since the wishes will not be heard by DRIC. The interesting thing, as Chris Schnurr pointed out in his BLOG, theWindsor Star report on September 19th, 2007 stated that:

  • “Schwartz and the engineering team are to inform council later this week when their work will be complete. The date will be before Oct. 15, the deadline DRIC has given the city to respond to the DRIC plan.”

Eddie's Ward meetings do not start until October 15, the deadline as set out in the article. So what is this, nothing more than a public relations exercise or to offer citizens what Eddie wants them to approve! It's a joke and a disgrace to democracy.

Of course there is a legal question whether what is being proposed for the form of the Council meeting is legal or not on Tuesday. In my view, the mere fact that it is a presentation does not mean the delegations cannot be heard.

Isn't this Windsor's answer to the DRIC? The precedent has been set. Remember what the Tecumseh meeting was all about. It was a Special Meeting too wasn't it:

  • "Council meets in formal session this day at 6:00 o'clock p.m., at the Ciociaro Club, 3745 North Talbot Road, to discuss the City of Windsor’s response to the Detroit River International Crossing Partnership (DRICP) Environmental Process."

There were delegations there, including Mr. McKinnon!

So Eddie, I don't really care what it says on the City's website. Why are you so afraid of Windsorites if what you are going to present is so good. Why won't you post it in advance as other Reports to Council are posted so people can think about it before they speak? Why are you playing such silly games and wasting so much Taxpayer money?

Now you understand Mayor and Members of Council---and you too dear reader---why there is a need for the WeACT Legal Fund. If it had some money in the bank now, it would be applying for an injunction to prevent the Tuesday meeting from taking place unless delegations were heard at Council.

Someone needs to stand up for the rights of the public. WeACT can if YOU, dear reader, get onboard with a contribution.

WeACT Legal Fund

WeACT is doing what it said it was going to do. It has started an Ontario Municipal Board legal action that hopefully will result in a decision that will permit a full financial, business and operational audit of WUC and its relationship with the Enwin Group of companies, not the limited one that is being proposed now by the Ministry.

Now it's time that you put your money where your mouth is and opened up your pocketbook if you are sick and tired about how this City is being run. I feel like Jerry Lewis asking for money but if he can do it so can I! I hope that I can be almost as successful as he.

Have you ever said something like this after you read a story in the newspaper or heard something on radio or TV that just infuriated you:
  • Where is the leadership in this City?
  • How can they do such a thing?
  • Who is going to stop them and how can it be done?
Well if you have then, congratulations, you are someone who should be joining the ever increasing numbers of WeACT members across Windsor. We are all people who had hoped for the best for ourselves and our City when we elected a new Mayor and Council four years ago. We hoped for change for the better last November. If you are a reader of this BLOG, I do not need to tell you what we received instead. We are disillusioned, disappointed and disgusted!

Pick your poison: the "on time, on budget" East End arena, the border file, 86% increase in water rates, US $75 million Tunnel deal, the inability to build a garage in Sandwich or whatever has made you angry.

How many of you dear readers feel powerless since we have a lame-duck Mayor and a rubber stamping Council?

Have you heard about the newest citizen insult: preventing people from speaking as delegates after the Schwartz presentation on Tuesday at Council. It is typical of an extremely secretive Mayor and Council that is terrified of listening to citizens. Name a Councillor who is going to raise a fuss since there are several who are positioning themselves to run for mayor and don't want to rock the boat. Except for Councillor Halberstadt, and even he has been quiet over the past several weeks, who has at least tried to act on behalf of Taxpayers?

If you are a business person do you dare express something negative against the City? Ask George Sofos and his partner how they feel. How many times have people written to me about something that is wrong in the City but do not want their name quoted for fear of retribution.

Think I am kidding. Do you remember this:
  • "The Windsor Construction Association accused city council Wednesday of financial irresponsibility and negligence when it awarded the $47.9-million east-end arena project to the Collavino family's PCR firm without tender. "
They are a very powerful group of business people in the City. Did they sue to stop the City from awarding the contract on the arena. Hardly. Here is what they said:
  • "Lyons said the association's president is polling its board members to see if they want to pursue further action, but he doubts the issue will go as far as the courts. "Our pockets aren't deep enough," he said. ...

    Lyons said he was inundated with calls and e-mails leading up to council's meeting Wednesday when the deal with the Collavino brothers' PCR firm was approved. Many companies in the construction industry won't publicly condemn the city because they rely on millions of dollars worth of municipal jobs, but they asked the association to intervene on their behalf."
Let WeACT be your surrogate. Let WeACT take action when a wrong has been committed against Windsorites. Let WeACT allow you to do the right thing but without fear that your business interest could be adversely impacted.

Below is the press release setting up the WeACT Legal Fund. WeACT needs your money and it needs it now. The Legal Fund is set up so that your contribution can be anonymous if you so desire.

It's time that you opened up your wallet and made a contribution. How much? Whatever you want. $10 from each household in Windsor would make a nice start. But how about something symbolic, something to recognize why WeACT got started. If each household contributed the equivalent of one month's water Bill to the Legal Fund, then we might get somewhere!

If you want more information, then just email me at and I will put you in touch with WeACT.

  • "For Immediate Release
    October 4, 2007

    WeACT establishes Legal Fund

    The Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers (WeACT) announces that it has established its community Legal Fund.

    WeACT president, Chris Schnurr, stated, "The purpose of this Legal Fund is not only to assist with funding any potential challenges regarding possible conflicts of interest in the WUC matter; but also to ensure that taxpayers in the City of Windsor will have a both a ways and a means of making legitimate challenges of decisions made by City Hall."

    WeACT was formed to help in uncovering the truth surrounding the conflicting stories regarding the combined 86% water rate increase. The group has been demanding that a full and complete financial, business and operational investigation of the WUC and any third party relationships with Enwin by an independent third party be conducted as opposed to a section nine provincial-municipal audit restricted to WUC finances.

    "No other recourse is available to citizens but legal action if their own Mayor and Council refuse to grant them the right to make a presentation at a council meeting about important matters impacting taxpayers," Schnurr remarked.

    "The City of Windsor has at their disposal our tax dollars to hire lawyers to act for them. We, the residents of Windsor and members of WeACT have only our pay cheques."

    Funds may be paid into the Legal Fund by visiting any branch of the Royal Bank and making a deposit to Account #08152-1008275.

    Donations can be completely anonymously thereby eliminating any perceived or real concerns of retribution.

Ass Backwards

It looks like my BLOG on September 27, 2007 "Will The Watermain-gate Truth Ever Come Out" was pretty accurate!

It's Hogwash turning into Whitewash after all. What we are learning is:

  • citizens are not being allowed to comment on the Terms of Reference and what should be in them. It is all being done by the Ministry in London and Toronto. But it's okay, they get a copy of the Windsor Star delivered to them so they know everything that is going on here
  • the normal MERX purchasing process was not followed. Rather, "pre-screened, qualified accounting firms" were contacted. We don't know who these firms are, we don't know how many were contacted and we don't know if any of them are forensic accountants. If my information is correct that only one firm responded, then one wonders what these firms were asked to do
  • wow, if I am right about only one firm responding, why does it take almost 2 weeks to examine their proposal? I guess they want to ensure that it doesn't interfere with the Provincial election
  • it is bizarre that the accountants would know more about what is being asked than Taxpayers
  • the Minister's representative did not have the guts to come to Windsor but had to reply by letter

I noticed on Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG that he has not written very much with respect to city affairs over the past couple of weeks. He wrote about that saying

  • "As for my silence, it is not intended. I have plenty of things to say and write about, but I have only so much time in the day, given my efforts to find some balance in my life between work and home. I do intend to wade back into the blog in the near future, but I hope people don't equate breaks in my postings as meaning "my silence speaks volumes."

However he did have time to give one of his fearless quotes to the Windsor Star

  • "It seems to be backward... It's not the way I would have done it. But, who knows, I guess we will have to wait and see."

Doesn't it sound like he has given up, becoming tired of the struggle? It must be lonely when it is 10 against 1.

To be direct, I am disappointed in Alan's silence since he appeared to be the only champion on Council that Windsor Taxpayers had. I wonder, if he had been pushing this matter as hard as he had previously, whether the Ministry would be taking such a cavalier attitude. I suspect that there is more going on behind the scenes than we know.

In any event, it looks like Windsor Taxpayers will have to do it all themselves. Let's see what happens over the next few days before the election. I think there might be one or two events that take place.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's The Customs, Stupid

I do try to be positive after all. Honest.

But how can I be after reading asinine remarks like those of Industry Minister Jim Prentice who was delayed at US Customs for about 45 minutes sitting in a truck cab. Can you blame me for how I write!

Somebody in his Ministerial staff goofed up royally. It will hit the fan when he gets back to Ottawa. Didn't someone give him a book of Windsor border crossing platitudes that he could mouth. You know like "Windsor is the most important border crossing point in Canada and we need to ensure that traffic flows smoothly." Or "The Windsor border is our most important infrastructure priority."

Instead the Minister said:
  • "His verdict: Prentice was "extremely surprised" the federal government hasn't addressed Windsor's border situation, the busiest in the world, since 1929."

DUH!!!! Where has he been since he became a Cabinet Minister? Where the heck has Transport Canada been? Has this matter never been brought to Cabinet? Or more importantly, where is Brian Masse on this issue?

Do you mean to tell me that our NDP MP responsible for the border has not been able to explain yet what the border situation is like? Perhaps the problem is that Brian Masse doesn't understand the border issue and is confusing everybody in Ottawa about it. Some of that seemed to come through during the hearings for Bill C-3. If this is what his representation for us is like, then we have big problems here.

Mind you, Brian did say this in his recent press release:

  • "I have already achieved an accomplishment in this area with amending and ensuring the passage of the International Bridge and Tunnel Act which became law earlier this year."

I think he forgot about how many of his amendments were rejected--that amnesia disease that strikes politicians again-- and how this Bill may actually hurt Windsor, not help it. So it is no wonder he is confused.

It is shocking that a Minister would try and blame the border mess on the previous Government after all of this time. Why he sounds like Eddie Francis in the WUC fiasco blaming the mess on past Administrations and not "politics."

I know that the Conservatives are Canada's New Government but really saying "he was "extremely surprised" the situation wasn't addressed years ago by the previous government" has to be one big, giant cop-out.

Wow, is Prentice ever making it easy for Susan Whelan to beat Jeff Watson in the next election. Obviously, it seems Jeff has done nothing either to make the Government aware of the issue if the Minister is so out to lunch.

The biggest disappointment, but not really a surprise, is that the Minister has no idea how a border should operate. It would seem that Transport Canada does not understand that either if this is what the Minister believes. What is the point of building a new bridge and spending billions of dollars that merely creates a giant parking lot across the Detroit River if there are not enough fully staffed Customs booths that would clear traffic.

Customs is the problem for heavens sake, not capacity! Lanes are not the issue, the number of fully staffed booths are.

Doesn't the Minister know that the volume of traffic at the border now is significantly decreased from that of 1999? It is the same at other border crossings across Canada. DRIC has reduced their traffic volume projection numbers already several times at the Windsor border. Take a look at the optimistic traffic projections at the Blue Water Bridge and compare that with actual volumes. Some private investor is fortunate that the Government put in money to build the new bridge there rather than a pension fund.

The most obvious explanation that it is Customs that is the issue is the opening by the Bridge Company of four booths on the US side. That cleared up the backlog of trucks immediately on Huron Church Road at a cost of only a few million dollars. Compare that with the Horseshoe Road that Schwartz wanted to build that would have cost hundreds of millions of Taxpayer dollars and all that it would have done was provide parking spaces for trucks.

It would appear that there was a backlog that impacted FAST trucks. Was there another US Customs computer glitch or a security crack-down? Or did the Americans want to teach the Canadian Minister who was the real "boss" at the border since they knew he was coming over. Realpolitik at its finest!

It might have been that the truck in which the Minister was riding was stuck behind non-FAST vehicles in a line-up. That is precisely why the Ambassador Bridge wants their Enhancement Project completed quickly. It is to have an extra lane built in each direction, a third lane, for NEXUS and FAST vehicles.

The world has changed if the Minister did not know that. In 1999, the Bridge was able to clear more trucks with fewer Customs booths than they can today. It takes about triple the number of booths to clear fewer trucks.

The issue, dear Minister, is not capacity and adding bridges that cost billions, but ensuring that trucks can go through a security process quickly with the required number of fully staffed Customs booths open on both sides of the river. That is what the Enhancement Project is all about.

The Minister should be talking to his colleagues in cabinet about expediting that project rather than wasting billions on creating new parking lots in the air. The problem is that Transport Minister Cannon is in hiding, too busy worrying about electing Conservatives in Québec. As far as I know, he has never yet met with the Ambassador Bridge people to discuss the border crossing. And where is Ambassador Michael Wilson? What a disgrace!

But hold on there, perhaps I got it all wrong. The Minister did say that cabinet is "in favour of anything that increases the throughput." Perhaps he does get it after all. Oh sure he had to talk about "capacity" and "public infrastructure." Remember, the Government has to "respect" the DRIC process.

Throughput however is not capacity. Remember when the Government challenged the Bridge Company to increase throughput by 25%. The White House fact sheet said in 2006:

  • "To promote prosperity by reducing the costs of trade, the United States and Canada decreased transit times at the Detroit/Windsor gateway, our largest border crossing point, by 50 percent."

Remember what the proposed Michigan House said in relation to a "resolution expressing appreciation and support for the Ambassador Bridge:"

  • "Whereas, The Ambassador Bridge has continually taken steps to enhance its service and to increase the volume of traffic that can move safely and efficiently between Canada and the U.S. with capacity increases in 2001 and 2004; and...

    Whereas, In response to a December 2004 request from outgoing U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, and Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan, for a 25 percent increase in throughput capacity at each border crossing by June 2005, the Ambassador Bridge has presented plans for a 50 percent increase in capacity on the U.S. Plaza and a 45 percent increase on the Canadian Plaza"

All that without spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a new bridge too.

Is all of this just more games playing? Are we in limbo until after the Provincial election? Do we have to wait until some time in the middle of October to find out whether we are going to have a Federal election? Is this the Government speaking out of all sides of its mouth?

I am just so tired of it all. Aren't you? I just hope that the Michigan Legislators have the courage to cancel the DRIC project so that we can get down to the serious business of how a border should properly operate.

Just to give you a different perspective of the Ambassador Bridge Company and how they manage the border, I attach part of a newspaper article from a Texas newspaper that I saw today:

  • "In Fabens, the 1938 wooden bridge, will soon be taken down and a new bridge will be built 600 yards upstream between Tornillo and Guadalupe. The new bridge, with a price tag of about $100 million that includes access roads and inspection buildings, will be one of the largest on the border with six vehicular lanes.

    That bridge project is the only one in the area and one of five in the nation to have received a presidential permit, said General Services Administration spokeswoman Shala Geer-Smith. The new bridge, 12 years in the making, should start going up in 2010 and be complete by 2012, El Paso County officials said.

    The bridge will be paid for with federal and county money.

    But El Pasoans continue to dream about new bridges.

    Last year's Border Improvement Plan by the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization listed options for future ports of entry in the area, including crossings in Sunland Park and Socorro.

    But the most popular option was a bridge in the middle of El Paso's East side at Yarbrough Drive.

    Stephanie Caviness, owner an executive search firm for maquiladoras and president of the Foreign Trade Association, called the idea "ambitious" but also "one great possibility."

    "Avenida de las Torres (in Juárez) runs right to the border, so a lot of the Mexican access infrastructure is in place," she said.

    This summer, Donald Michie, president of NAFTA Ventures Inc., took a trip to the U.S.-Canada border to visit the Ambassador Bridge, a privately owned border crossing in Detroit. He came back convinced that infrastructure was not so much a problem in El Paso as was bad traffic management.

    In a report to the El Paso Bridge Commission, Michie said that the three-lane bridge in Michigan can process six times the traffic volume of El Paso with crossing times of less than 20 minutes. Bridge Commission Chairman Tanny Berg said waits longer than 20 minutes are a problem.

    The owner of the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit International Bridge Co., does not rely on slow public funding for bridge improvements -- "no 900-day project," Michie wrote, a referring to the more than two-year Downtown construction project.

    The bridge's private managers work well with CBP officers, Michie said. Moreover, they dedicate themselves to traffic flow management while officers stick to law enforcement. Michie reported that bridge employees are posted in traffic to radio CBP when traffic gets heavier so they can open more lanes.

    The company also has facilities ahead of the bridge for truckers to make sure they have the proper import-export paperwork before they get to CBP inspectors, Michie said.

    Wait times recorded by the CBP one day last week showed a reported wait at the Ambassador Bridge of 5 minutes at 2 p.m., compared with 20 minutes at the Bridge of the Americas and 110 minutes at the Zaragoza Bridge at the same time."

Bumped From The Airplane To Japan

Good old Councillor Brister. Being the loyal soldier, will not get him the endorsement of Eddie Francis for being the next Mayor of Windsor.

Eddie already suckered the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget into being the head of the arena committee. He will be blamed for the cost overruns, not the Mayor. But Dave doesn't see that. He is too busy putting into his scrapbook the Henderson column praising him to the high heavens when in fact he is being set up for a fall.

Here we all thought that the Ward 1 Councillor was just sticking a knife into his Wardmate, Drew Dilkens, who is chair of the International Relations Committee, about the big trip to Japan. We must have foolishly thought that Brister wanted to make sure that Dilkens will think twice about running for Mayor against him. Some are saying that Dilkens might run for Mayor if all of his possible Council opponents, including Brister, keep falling by the wayside. It's not that Dilkens wants the job. It's sort of like last man standing gets it!

Councillor Brister is after all the self proclaimed penny pincher Council. I can well understand the Councillor making a big fuss about the trip to Japan and all that it would cost except the reality is that the cost for Windsorites going is only the cost of an airplane ticket. The Host City picks up the rest of the tab.

Why not insult the Japanese, they only sent 22 people to Windsor to try and establish relationships with us. Things are so good in this City that we can afford to insult a group of people to whom relationships are important as a condition precedent for doing business. But that doesn't matter to our Councillor Scrooge.

But of course nothing is as simple as it appears at City Hall. Who was the person dumped from the trip. Six people were supposed to have gone to Japan from the City but now only five are going. This information is all buried in the Order of Business in the City Hall website and the Minutes.

Even that person was not named in the report. One had to identify him by a process of deduction and elimination. One could say that Councillor Brister is being somewhat hypocritical since he was on the Budget Operating Committee that approved the trip in the first place only a few months ago. I assume that the Mayor and the CAO were also aware and they did not oppose before either.

So what happened? What gives? My inside moles have been hard at it again and here is the scuttlebutt.

Mark Galvin whose title I think is Executive Director, Windsor Tunnel Commission on an interim basis was supposed to go on the trip but now has been bumped. One could say that he was a sacrificial lamb since after all he is a mere City Hall employee so why should he get in on the good life and get a free trip overseas. Unfortunately life is not that simple in Windsor.

Mark was scheduled to go overseas presumably because he was supposed to look at scrubbing technology in Japan. Electrostatic precipitators are well known there. As you know our Tunnel ventilation building does not have a scrubber on it so all of the Tunnel exhaust is blown out over the City. So much for our environmental green policy.

Since the Mayor and Council want a tunnelled road to the border, one would have thought that Mark's trip to Japan would be vital. After all we do not want 6 km of Tunnel dirty truck exhaust to be vented out into the City do we.

Now here is where it gets interesting. My fellow Windsor blogger, Chris Schnurr, has claimed that there is very little technology out there with respect to scrubbing. So far no one has been able to prove him wrong. I read where
  • "contaminant removal technologies has been to improve in-tunnel air quality where visibility has to be maintained and access to fresh air is problematic...There is no data available which demonstrates the effectiveness of ESPs in improving external air quality in either Norway or Japan...In those rare instances where contaminant removal technologies have been used to manage external air quality, there has been no data released on the effectiveness of their use in improving external air quality."
Not what everyone here was expecting and hoping for.
Heck even Sandra has said
  • "Ventilated air cannot be cleaned ... There is no scrubbing technology that would clean the ventilated air that emanates from an end-to-end tunnel.”

Eddie's working with one of the world's great tunnel experts, according to Eddie, Parsons Brinckerhoff of the Big Dig fame. What if they told him that there was no good scrubbing technology since he just met with them recently. What then would be the purpose of sending Mark to Japan and then have him come back saying scrubbing doesn't work and that truck exhaust and fumes would be dumped into Windsor neighborhoods?

It makes a mockery doesn't it of the City's position for the Senior Levels to spend $4 billion on all of this which achieves nothing. It makes a mockery of the Mayor who after all was Chair of the Tunnel Commission and should know whether there is scrubbing technology. It completely undercuts the Mayor's position on the border and would virtually now give the Ambassador Bridge Company the right to build its Enhancement Project with a connecting road that should have been built years ago.

How to solve the problem? Simple. Have Councillor Brister play his pennypinching role and have Mark be the victim who cannot go to save money in this time of economic restraint. No one would know any better. In other words, it was not dirty air that got scrubbed but Mark and the fact-finding to let us know the truth!

Now we'll never know about whether scrubbing works or not. The tunnelling myth lives on to stall things off for several more years of fighting.

If I had been asked, I would not have sent Gord Orr. He is more valuable here. It is more important that he continue doing his movie reviews with Michelle Prince on CKLW. Heavens, we would not want to miss out on that would we.

As for Dave, he will have another entry for his scrapbook.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Finally, Some Good News

The Henderson column "Glimmer of hope" was a very interesting one, not just for what it said, but for what it did not say.

I had heard about the luncheon several days before it took place and was interested in finding out what it was about since my source had given me some information about what was to take place there.

When I find fascinating in Henderson's piece is that there was not one negative word written about the lack of action by City Hall with respect to the mess that the City is in economically. My understanding is that there was a strong undertone about the lack of City leadership during the lunch.

The thought that I had that is the most encouraging for Windsor is that more and more people have come to the conclusion that City Hall, and in particular Mayor Francis, are irrelevant to the success of this City. In fact, people are beginning to understand that they are a hindrance.

We are "Sin City." Our big SIN is that we have a lame duck Mayor leading a rubber-stamping Council. They think that they are relevant but they are not, failing at everything they try to achieve. Perhaps it is redemption time for us.

However, since a reader of mine told me that it is time for me to be positive, let me be so.

Tony Toldo should be congratulated for taking the initiative to bring together 40 of the leaders in this City. I'm told that the attendees were the Who's Who of business people in Windsor. The fact that they were brought together in one room at one time is very heartening to me. It means that these people who have become successful by working in the City are still interested in helping the City succeed. They have finally come together hopefully to take this City back.

I agree with Gord that Tony Toldo could have walked away from Windsor after the way he has been treated by the City in the Project Ice Track matter. He had no chance of being successful whatsoever if one read the Administration reports at the time. The fact that he has not done so, and is in fact trying to help the City prosper, may be his greatest act of philanthropy.

I have no idea if the Mayor was there or not because I did not ask the question. Whether he was there or not really is irrelevant to me. If this City is going to go anywhere, given the massive restructuring of the automobile industry, it will be industrialists and business people who will take the lead in creating the new Windsor, not City Hall. Heck, our Council cannot even figure out how to build a garage in Sandwich. We need these leaders to work together to achieve something for the City with or without City Hall's involvement.

And why wouldn't we want to work with these men and women. They are successful. They know what they are doing. They create jobs and make money and help the City prosper. I have never understood why City Hall does not embrace these kind of people and ask for their help.

Instead, we seem to like to chase them away or put up roadblocks in their way. I have already written so many times about the thousands of direct and indirect infrastructure jobs that could have been created here over the last five years that would have helped soften the blows that we have taken as auto jobs disappeared.

And do you know what else, it is more important for City Hall to prepare a Schwartz report that "counters" what the Government wants to do on building a road to the border than to cooperate with them in achieving something positive for the good of the region.

This adversarial relationship that we seem to have with the Governments and especially when our local political leaders threaten lawsuits against the Senior levels, has hurt us badly. The Mexican immigration situation is merely the latest example.

I have never been a big fan of the Gazelle Feeders and still am not. I've not heard very much about them accomplishing anything significant so far. Any organization that says
  • "Because of the nature of the region’s strategy, traditional performance measures such as the number of new plants attracted, or the number of jobs retained, albeit significant, should not be the primary indicators of success. These could actually be counterproductive by driving the wrong behaviour."

cannot be taken seriously.

If Mr. Toldo is able to build on what he achieved at the luncheon, then there may be more than just a glimmer on our horizon. It is finally a good news story.

One final word. I hate that time is being wasted on this dream of a downtown engineering complex. I'm sure you noticed the comment at the end of the Henderson column

  • "A world-class health sciences centre. Perhaps working hand in glove with a new engineering research campus.

    What a remarkable legacy that would leave."

Yes Gord, but a legacy for whom? Eddie! Certainly NOT Mr. Toldo by the time the Spinmeisters get through!

There was also the story about the downtown business association being prepared to contribute money to improve the area around the Complex if it is going to be built downtown.

I think it is time for the University to stop playing games and to let the community know that some of the people who would contribute or get involved in the Engineering Complex believe that a downtown campus makes no sense whatsoever. It is time the University stop playing politics and got on with the job of building what could be a project that revitalizes Windsor. It is no longer necessary to say

  • "We're very much in the early stages," Lori Lewis, the university's manager of news services, said of the project.

    "A number of factors still have to be considered," she said. "It's just too early in the game to talk about a specific site. We have a lot of work to do."

Such talk merely gives rise to false expectations and terrible disappointment when the location is finally announced. We already had that with a downtown arena. We don't need that again.

It is time for Chair Komsa of the University Board or the President, Ross Paul, to break the news to the Mayor and to the public.

Francis and The Border

Here are some border stories involving our Mayor.

Is it my imagination or is he becoming more and more irrelevant on this issue as time goes on? He just keeps singing the same tune but no one seems to be listening or caring. DRIC just keeps on going, the Bridge Co. keeps on going re their Enhancement Project, the Senior Levels keep on going re the DRIC road.

What does Eddie do---talks on and on and on and on about a tunnel while he hides Schwartz and spends our money. And we can wait as Lauzon/E C Row is brought back by a Councillor whom he suckers to do the dirty work by bringing a Motion of Reconsideration at Council.


I saw this comment from

  • "Now the administration has determined it is going to take between $6 billion and $8 billion to repair or replace some of the oldest of most delapidated bridges in New Jersey, which includes about 34 percent of them...

    Former chief engineer of New York's Department of Transportation, Sam Schwartz, said back in August about 13 percent of the bridges nationwide are structurally deficient.

    "If a bridge is structurally deficient, we ought to treat it as a patient in ISU, and we ought to be monitoring it on a regular basis," Schwartz said."
Do you really think that Michigan can afford to build a new DRIC bridge when I am sure that it will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on bridge repairs throughout the State.

Now Dr. Francis claims that Sam is an international guru on transportation matters and Sam has said that we ought to be concerned about the Ambassador Bridge given its age. So why won't our General Practitioner Mayor listen to his hired, expert Specialist and allow the Bridge Co. to cure its problem by replacing its old factory with a new one and rehabilitate the old one for redundancy purposes?

That sounds like good medicine to me!


I guess I missed this one. I must have blinked.

This is the August meeting, disclosed at the October public Council meeting, where Council must have approved the hiring of Parsons Brinckerhoff. Interestingly however, in a Gord Henderson column in June, it was stated that

  • "the talks collapsed when the Detroit River International Crossing team (DRIC), in response to a tunnel proposal prepared by New York traffic guru Sam Schwartz and U.S. engineering giant Parsons Brinckerhoff, offered only token improvements in plans for a depressed roadway."

What seems fascinating to me is that PB could be hired by someone, have negotiations with DRIC and the Council didn't even know who they are according to the notes from the Special Meeting.

Oh I forgot the Mayor is the Voice of Council. And it seems of their brains too.

How could there possibly be negotiations? It must mean that Council nothing about them since the tunnel experts had not yet been hired.

Can you tell me who's in charge? Can you reasonably state that this entire process by the City is not totally out of control!


Do you ever watch this TV program or Dancing with the Stars. I was reminded of those shows when I read Eddie's comment:

"Francis said he can't understand why Ambassador Bridge officials are "dancing around" the city's requests for detailed information.

"We have been asking for and continue to ask for the detailed studies, so that we may be able to evaluate the impact on our community," Francis said. "Until we get those studies, it's really hard to comment on the issue."

Funny, isn't this the same Mayor who did not want to meet with the Bridge Company? All of a sudden now he wants information from them.

I wonder what detailed information Eddie requires. It seems rather hypocritical for him to demand detailed information when he is so secretive about information that taxpayers have paid for and paid for and paid for. Why is it that everyone else knows about the Schwartz Report other than taxpayers? What is going on with the Tunnel Plaza Improvements or the US $75 million tunnel deal?

Eddie very well knows that some of the things that he is asking for are not required given what the Bridge Company's plans actually are. They are not plans to double capacity as he well knows.

Why can't the Mayor just ask for the plans that are required under the Environmental Assessment Process? While he may have personal preferences as to what he would like to receive, he knows legally that they are not required and need not be produced.

I wonder if Eddie has yet understood that he has blown the City's opportunity to deal properly with the Bridge Company. Perhaps what they are telling them now is that he is irrelevant.



Would someone please buy a suit jacket or sports coat for the Premier of Ontario. He looked so ludicrous on TV news standing between Sandra and Dwight all dressed up in their Sunday best with him in his shirt with his sleeves rolled up. I know that this is his image but really.

If the man can't afford proper clothes, then how can he afford to spend almost $4 billion on Eddie's dream.

How can the Mayor possibly support any Liberal candidate when the party has rejected his tunnel concept. After all, the Premier said that the DRIC proposal is "a pretty solid recommendation."

Well I would think that the deal between the Liberals and the Mayor must be signed in blood. How else to explain what is going on? I am sure that you saw the weasel words in the Star's story that could allow the Government to change his position:
  • "The people of the city of Windsor are the ones who have to live with this, so let's see what they have to say."

That is why the Schwartz report will not come out until after the election and why the border has not been made an election issue in the Provincial campaign.

And after the election, who will care? Not the re-elected Cabinet Members.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is Schwartz Irrelevant

I do not mean any disrespect to Sam. After all, he is merely doing his job. He must be tired though rewriting his Report so many times.

Can you imagine the fit of rage that the Mayor must have been in as he saw the first section of the Star and the Bridge Co. ad there the other day. They are moving ahead in spite of the Mayor and in spite of the silly games that he is playing. There are moving forward as well notwithstanding some of the impediments put in their way by the various Governments. As their ad states, the purpose of the Open House:

  • "to present the results of the environmental studies for the replacement span."

In passing, I would think that Transport Canada may also be surprised at the speed at which the Ambassador Bridge Company is moving forward. Didn't I read the following just a few weeks ago:

  • "It is difficult to estimate how long it may take the bridge company to complete the environmental assessment process, but "projects of similar scope" take about two years, Butler said.

    "It could be quicker," he said. "The ball is in their court. They know what needs to be addressed."

Hmmmm I think I know what kind of ball the Bridge Co. is playing with. I think it is called HARDBALL. And the Court they may want to play in might have a Judge in front of it given some of the things that have gone on!

DRIC has already rejected what Schwartz proposed originally (Unless he has come up with something new, the rewrite is a huge waste of money for taxpayers since DRIC will reject it again). So why is Sam still around? I saw David Estrin at the Bridge Co. session. I wonder what he had to say.

I would have thought that the best time to put pressure on Cabinet Ministers is right before the election. It's a nice perk to be a Minister and I must admit that if I was in that position I'd like to keep it. Wouldn't you think that Eddie should have held a Schwartz gala in which he showed off his new "Swiss Alps" on his proposed roadway to the border. At that time, the population of Windsor would rise en masse and demand that everything that Eddie and Sam wanted done must be undertaken or our two Ministers would not get one single vote.

Instead, nothing. Not a peep. Not a leak in a Henderson column. Don't you find this all too, too strange. And you don't think that there is a deal betwen Eddie and the Liberals.....Give me a break!

Oh and there was a discussion about a Lauzon/E C Row roadway at Council yesterday.....Just watch for that to be brought back by a Motion to Reconsider. And right after the election too after the two incumbents have been re-elected.

Star Gazing

Here are some comments that I thought might be of interest to you after looking through the pages of the Windsor Star.


I wonder if the federal NDP ever speak to the provincial NDP. I think an introduction service might be a good idea right now to get Howard Hampton an appointment to meet up with Brian Masse.

Can you believe it, Howard comes to town and makes a big announcement with respect to the border. When he is asked about it, what does Brian say:
  • "he couldn't comment on the plan because, though he discussed Windsor's needs with Hampton, he wasn't aware of what was announced."

Why isn't that ducky. If the leader of the Ontario NDP thinks so little of Brian, the self-proclaimed expert on the border, that he will not share with him the details of the announcement in advance, then why should we take Brian seriously.

Howard really should have talked to somebody who knows something about the border. I was going to suggest that he talk to the Bridge Company but that might be heresy for a member of the Party that wants everything publicly owned. After all, who needs facts.

Good old Howard would spend $1.8 billion for his share of the costs. But he only talks about funding for four years in an amount of $250 million per year. And that is the cost for the road only. When you factor in the interest cost, and the uncertainty about where the money is coming after four years, the NDP plan doesn't make an awful lot of sense to me.


I just can't believe it! How can the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget be so dumb. Hasn't he seen what happened to Junior? Doesn't he think it could happen to him as well? I guess he was too dazzled by all the glowing tributes in the Gord Henderson column.

Lucky Junior was made Chair of WUC in the year that it had a financial scandal. If in fact part of the plan in all of this is to privatize the water system, Junior is going to have to sell that concept to his union buddies as the Chair when he knows that privatization means union layoffs. Eddie must be splitting a gut laughing.

And there we have the Councillor Brister, in Gord Henderson's column, being made a scapegoat for what we know are going to be huge cost overruns. Eddie will say that he didn't know about that because Brister was in charge. You know, the financial wizard, the Council watchdog, the tightwad who predictably will oppose anything that costs money. Mind you, his outrage at spending all that money on the Detroit Grand Prix was hardly deafening.

Heaven help us. Didn't we hear the same expression with the revisionist history about the funky bus terminal. Now we hear it with the arena:

  • "On schedule. And on budget. Brister's eyes glitter as he delivers those words."

Weeeeelllll, it's might be on budget if you don't include the cost for the arena land and the extra cost for the environmental problems for the property downtown. Then there is $8M extra for getting there: McHugh Street will be extended to link Lauzon Road and Florence Avenue. The four-lane road is budgeted at $3.6 million for phase 1 and is currently under construction. A bridge will be constructed over Little River Stream with a budget of $4.4 million.

We all know that there is not enough parking at the site for 6500 spectators plus another 900 people who can sit in the three other rinks. So expect some genius to say we better buy some extra land for an additional parking lot. Having a whole bunch of Transit Windsor buses to move people after a game just isn't going to cut it. How many buses would be needed after all?

Remember Lasalle and the extra costs there. "To bring services and bring the roadways that are not part of the recreation site -- that are not part of the building -- that's where some of the additional costs come in." They increased the costs by 44% above initially announced projections.

I feel sorry for Brister. He is self-destructing in front of us and he's proud of it. He's even giving us the language for it:

"Brister knows he pinned a bull's eye on his back" and

"My credibility is on the line."

So much for Brister running for mayor. And thanks to Gord, Eddie has the perfect way out of the arena mess! Just blame it on Brister.


Did you see the story about

  • "Members of a coalition fighting what it calls the Liberal government's "secret" plan to privatize Ontario's energy supply is challenging Energy Minister Dwight Duncan to a debate."

I liked Dwight's non-reply although he better start being more polite and less combative if he wants to look like a statesman as our next Liberal leader:

  • "Duncan, meanwhile, said Kahnert "can debate me any time and anywhere by running for public office. "

It's too bad that this challenge did not come out before. With Dwight self-destructing in the WUC matter by his schmears, any good candidate could beat him with the right campaign aproach.

Speaking of privatization, you know, dear reader, that our friends at OMERS, one of the DRTP owners, through its investment entities BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust and Borealis Infrastructure is a big investor in the Bruce nuclear plant. It has a a long-term agreement with the Ontario Power Authority. Once everything is finished up at their project there,

  • "Bruce Power’s output [would be] the source of about 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity on a typical day. Following the restart, the company’s eight units will supply the annual power needs of more than four million homes."

Now I have been wondering about the WUC matter and maybe soon the sewers. It is such a fiasco and the numbers are so big that I have been wondering what is really behind it. Remember, that I have already speculated that WUC could be privatized right. Heck even Gord Henderson was suggesting that it was a good idea.

If you will notice, Junior, the WUC Chair, seems to be the spokesperson on the WUC matter promising to talk to everyone who has concerns. Don't you think that is odd given that the Mayor was front and centre before.

As for me, I think that privatization is something that our Mayor wants to do in a whole bunch of areas but he just won't let us in on the secret yet. The Tunnel deal for US$75M was to be his first coup.

WUC Chair/Councillor Lewenza is out there talking the WUC fiasco Mayor since Eddie has no nerve to meet anyone about it. But there is more. When you hear more big numbers thrown around---wasn't it over $800M for WUC---and more big increases in payments by residents, then watch also for privatization talks.

I can hardly wait until a card-carrying union guy like Junior is forced as Chair to support privatization and the laying off of union staff "for the greater public good!"


I think that Dwight has a fear of losing politically. I think his "melt-down" as henderson descrtibed it has had an impact on him that he can never forget or live down. How else to explain that he looks at everything it seems through political glasses.

We have seen his schmears on Schnurr, his attack re Hydro and now his classic comment respecting the immigration matter:

  • "What's important is that we quit playing political games and start working together."

What a statesmanlike comment except for the fact that we just learned a few paragraphs above in the story:

  • "Watson said the province received $8 billion in federal funding this year for social service delivery, which includes money for refugee claimants...

    "The province is paying for 80 per cent of the costs. We're working with the City of Windsor and the mayor," [Duncan] said Sunday.

    "With this kind of volume (of refugees), the other 20 per cent should not be on the shoulders of Windsor's ratepayers. It should be done by the federal government."

    Duncan said the sharing of financial responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments when it comes to refugee claimants has been the subject of debate for many years."

You see, it is all a phony issue after all. It is all politics. It is all part of the fight between the Province and the Feds for cash. Just like whether the Feds will pay MORE than 50% for the border road as the Province hopes.

And Eddie is helping his Provincial buddies by scare-mongering. Wow, what a deal he must have struck with them eh!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hola Amigos

It appears now that Windsor has a major problem with respect to Mexican immigration. Or do we? Is it all show for some other reason?

Now we may know how the politicians in some of the US states feel when they have a problem of illegal aliens. Perhaps some of the smugness of Canadians, and Windsorites in particular, will be put to the test.

However, a twist in this issue has arisen as a result of a Letter to the Editor on Saturday in the Star. I do not know who Art Williams is. However, he has made a very serious allegation in his Letter about the Mayor that requires an immediate explanation. He alleged:
  • "It has certainly been no secret to our mayor that Windsor has been heading toward an immigration crisis. For several years now, the non-profit agencies in the city that help newcomers settle into our community have been asking the mayor for leadership in putting together a comprehensive settlement plan. The requests have been rebuffed...

    As long ago as 2005, it was reported to the mayor that the province and the city were facing a demographic crunch and that the strategic importance of immigration for Windsor was increasing. We knew then the immigrant profile in the city was different from the rest of Canada. We knew then that Windsor was a destination city and retaining immigrants in the city would not be the major challenge. Rather, settlement and attracting immigrant entrepreneurs would be among our greatest challenges."

It is clear that he was not talking about the emergency refugee issue that has arisen with the Mexicans who have arrived here and it appears will be arriving here by the busload. He is talking about "normal" immigration. However, immigration questions will be asked as the refugee crisis goes on about how the City has planned for both types of entries.

My immediate question is: are the actions of the Mayor NOW in relation to the Mexican situation designed to deflect the wider question of immigration in Windsor that Mr. Williams is raising or other failures on his part? Is it better to get people worked up about illegal immigration rather than the economic mess we are in or the WUC fiasco?

Here is why I ask. I have a couple of questions to ask about the money that Windsor is supposed to be spending dealing with the new refugee-immigrants. I thought there was a program that the Senior Levels have where they pay up to 80% of the costs. Dwight Duncan said:

  • "The province is paying for 80 per cent of the costs. We're working with the City of Windsor and the mayor."
I wonder as well if the County has to make a contribution.

If that is correct, and I do not know what the facts are, then the huge numbers that are being tossed around that Windsor has to pay are not as big as we thought. In fact, MP Jeff Watson said that the Feds could adjust the funding if required. Why then the big headlines about money if this is all true? Why the big scare tactics? The Mayor must have known the facts about financial re-imbursement some time ago. Is he doing this to help out his Liberal buddies here, to deflect attention away from the Provincial Liberals at a time when they have been funded by the Feds for such a case as Jeff Watson claims?

It's funny, we want it both ways. We are proud of our position as the gateway to Canada but in taking that attitude there are also some negatives, one of which is dealing with illegal aliens. Isn't that a cost of doing business especially when the City is a border crossing operator.

The other matter that we are going to have to deal with in relation to the Mexican issue in Windsor is multiculturalism. Our heritage is very important to us since we have so many groups living in this City from all parts of the world. Yet, how does that fit in with some of the nasty comments that are being made about the Mexicans. Oh I understand the negativity about people playing the system and jumping the line but we do need to be careful in what we say.

The matter is not an easy one and gets very complicated. My understanding is that Mexicans do not require a visa to enter into Canada. If that is the case that makes it almost impossible for immigration officers to keep them out of the country if they say they are coming here for a visit.

The problem is not unique to Windsor. I wonder how many immigrants ask for refugee status every day at Canada's major airports. How is all that being paid for and could that apply to the Windsor situation?

The concern for citizens I think is that someone somewhere is playing the system and that everyone loses other than that someone who is making a bundle of money. The immigrants lose since chances are they will be returned to their home country after they had paid out significant sums of money to get to Canada in the first place. Windsor and Canada loses because we are obliged to put these people up at considerable expense until the Immigration hearings are held.

I do not have an answer to the this immediate problem but I only hope that in dealing with the problem, we can deal with it with great sensitivity. However, we also need to talk about the wider issue that Mr.Willams raised and what it means for Windsor.