Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 09, 2007

Is Eddie Smarter Than Hazel

Hazel McCallion has only been the Mayor of Mississauga forever. She has a reputation "for strict efficiency and for being careful with taxpayers' dollars."

My understanding as well is that her city is also debt-free.

The Mayor there imposed a 5 per cent tax surcharge on all property owners to help pay the costs for infrastructure improvements. That is in addition to whatever the normal tax increase will be which is expected to be around 3.9%.

What did our Mayor say about what she did:
  • "Are you kidding me? The plan we have is working and we are not going to move away from that," Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said Thursday.

    "We are just trying to get through our budget. We've got our own challenges. The economy is down and given all the local challenges we are trying to get as close to zero (tax increase) as possible."

Yes sir we have a great plan. According to the Treasurer:

  • "Windsor needs about $230 million in roadwork alone, not to mention work on deteriorating sewers, sidewalks and bridges, Colucci said.

    To help address the crisis, the city started in 2002 with its own infrastructure levy -- one per cent every year. It has been rolled into the overall budget and included in any annual tax increases."

Hmmmm I think he just told us that the money was NOT used for crumbling infrastructure. And what did we spend our infrastructure levy on, which roads, sewers and watermains:

  • "The city's levy works out to roughly $4 million each year and has been used to help fund major projects such as the new Huron Lodge, the west-end police training centre and the downtown city services building, Colucci said. "We are doing the prudent things we can do, but the problem is so big we need help to address our infrastructure deficit."

Yes sir, it's a great plan. As I told you Eddie wanted the GST money to help pay for the support for the Mexicans who came to Windsor recently and to help out Mr. Mancini with brochures.

Yes indeedie..........our plan is so great that when we needed money for WUC watermain infrastructure, we played politics....ooops it was the fault of the previous administration....we increased rates by 86%!

Yes, our Eddie is so much smarter than Hazel. Aren't we lucky that he is our Mayor.

Have Canada And Ontario Split

What a bizarre story that came out of Toronto that involves the Windsor border crossing.

It was innocuous enough. It's the usual Province trying to grab money from the Federal Government -- type story with the Feds saying NO.

It seems kind of unfair to be honest about it. The Provincial Liberals have just won an election by throwing taxpayer money at taxpayers. Now that they have been re-elected, the Premier can act statesmanlike. You can hardly expect the Federal Conservatives to be interested in anything that he has to say when they need to throw taxpayer money at taxpayers in order to get a majority government.

A summary of the story as reported by Canadian Press is:
  • "Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't seem interested in using the projected $11.6-billion federal surplus to help struggling cities and towns pay for badly-needed infrastructure renewal projects, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Thursday."

That would not be worthwhile blogging but for the fact of this paragraph that directly impacts us in Windsor

  • "The two leaders did agree to "drive hard" on creating a new international border crossing at Windsor, Ont., something that both levels of government have promised for years, but instead of working together, the province and Ottawa will each push the project on their own."

I have no idea what the last part of the sentence means. Was that an error by the reporter? Did he misunderstand something?

Several hours later the media eg. CTV news, CKLW started attributing the comment to the Premier. The initial CP story did say that the Prime Minister did not meet with reporters but did not attribute the remark to the Premier initially.

One possible explanation is that there is nothing really new and nothing of significance was said. What is meant is that the Feds are interested in the bridge and Plaza only while the Province's responsibility is the road to the border (although the Feds will contribute 50% of the cost). Thus, each will push that part of the project that they are interested in.

Or perhaps maybe there is a split. Perhaps the Feds have finally said to Ontario that all that they are going to get in infrastructure sharing is 50% of the amount, not 60% not 70%, not 80%... 50% period! The Feds can't give more money to Ontario since they would have to give the same higher split to all the other provinces for all of their Gateway projects.

After all, you remember in the Federal budget that monies were set aside for the road with the comments being made that it was for 50% of the cost while in the Ontario budget that came a few days later there was no reference to money for the border at all.

The Globe and Mail in an Editorial today said:

  • "Finally, Mr. Harper should make the border a priority, earmarking more resources for the Windsor-Detroit crossing, which handles more than one quarter of Canadian-U.S. trade."

The Globe should realize, after their 2 1/2 page spread on the Ambassador Bridge that politicians are trying to ignore the obvious. Someone has to talk with the Bridge Company and negotiate a resolution with them for their issues or there will not be a border solution in the near term. Yes, there was a meeting in Ottawa between Transport Canada and the Bridge Company recently. And yes, based on the comments in the radio interview by Dan Stamper, the relationship seems to have improved. Nevertheless, we need serious conversations immediately to resolve this matter. Are they happening?

Lord help us if there's a rift between Senior Level Governments as well. As if we don't have enough problems. Perhaps the Governor's hubby could be retained to assist the parties in reconciling. After all, look what he did in Windsor.

By the way, I would not read much into the comment about driving hard on the Windsor crossing. As the Toronto Star columnist stated about the border and several other matters that McGuinty discussed with reporters:

  • "But one wonders how much of an impression McGuinty really made since none of these topics was mentioned in Harper's subsequent speech. Indeed, Harper did not even mention that he had met McGuinty earlier in the day."

Moreover the Prime Minister needed to talk positively about doing something on the border in Windsor since Transport Canada Minister Cannon is speaking on the subject at a P3 conference shortly and the Deputy Minister and Executive Director of the Windsor Gateway project are participants as well on a panel. How could the PM undercut him at this time? Cannon's speechwriters would have to do a whole new speech in so little time.

Wanna Buy A Tunnel

Perhaps Derrick Miller in his new career with his Citivest Capital Partners hat will be able to get this deal done finally. After all, their website says that they assist in P3s, the latest buzzword for government financings. Who knows, maybe he will help MDOT with the DRIC bridge too if it ever gets built.

I hope the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal happens quickly for Kwame so he can balance his budget and reduce debt.

For Windsor taxpayers, I can only pray that the US$75M deal never gets done unless our Mayor immediately flips it to someone who thinks they can make some money on it before Windsorites get stuck with a lemon.

If OMERS or some other pension fund buys into it, or it becomes part of an offering to individuals as part of an infrastructure mutual fund, well read the second story to discover that infrastructure may be sexy but not risk-free

And for those who think someone would finance the Greenlink road by tolls, or can finance a new DRIC bridge in a P3, well read on about a tunnel in Sydney, Australia. A new bridge here with the volumes not increasing dramatically as DRIC suggested would either be subsidized heavily by taxpayers or go broke since its tolls would be so much higher or could bankrupt the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Tunnel and Blue Water Bridge since there is not enough volume for all of the crossings. Then what?
  • "Sixteen months after opening Sydney's Cross City Tunnel is in bankruptcy. With traffic of 30k/day - about a third of the 89k projected at financing."

I hope that DRIC did not use the people who did the traffic projections for that project. You know already that DRIC has had to revise its projections downward several times already. In Sydney, it was claimed that

  • "...the bankruptcy which was due to highly erroneous traffic and revenue forecasts."

    "However the business plan on which the initial concession was based used botched traffic and revenue studies suggesting a fantastic 90k veh/day by the end of the first year. (The Holland Tunnel in New York City after 80 years has reached that volume and it taps the New Jersey Turnpike at one end and lower Manhattan at the other!)

    35k veh/day taps a substantial proportion of the traffic that used to travel on William Street the 6 lane surface signalized arterial above that was previously the main drag to the east. Traffic forecasters assumed quite wrongly, it turns out, that the tunnel would attract traffic from parallel routes miles on either side of William Street."

    The tunnel was eventually bought for A$590M resulting in a massive loss.

Fire sale as tunnel price plummets
Danny John, Vanda Carson and Jordan Baker
February 8, 2007

THE Cross City Tunnel, which cost more than $900 million to build, is now worth little more than a third of that, based on documents obtained by the Herald.

Files lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that three big Australian banks are owed $110 million by the tunnel's owners. About $460 million is also owed to foreign banks.

The documents also show that despite assurances from the State Government, taxpayers have been left out of pocket.

They show that dozens of organisations, from a cycling club to the Tax Office, became victims of the financial collapse.

A list of unsecured creditors - traditionally the last to recoup money - shows they were owed a total of almost $300,000, including about $100,000 to state and federal agencies.

The commission list was dated December 27, when CrossCity Motorway went into receivership. On the same day the Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal, said there was no financial risk to taxpayers.

The documents, compiled by receivers KordaMentha, show that local superannuation funds are owed nearly $115 million in unsecured loans to the State Government, and the Tax Office is facing unpaid bills of tens of thousands of dollars.

Among the unsecured creditors were staff, whose unpaid wages amounted to $22,668 and holiday pay added up to $105,498.

KordaMentha, appointed by the banks to sell the tunnel for the highest sum possible to cut their likely losses, believes it will have found a buyer by June.

But KordaMentha has deliberately withheld figures on what it thinks it is worth, because it does not want potential buyers to know what they could pay for it in a fire sale.

The receivers are also unsure of how much they will raise when they finish unwinding the operations and finances of the five companies that separately own the tunnel, the equipment and plant, and the way it was financed.

One company, CrossCity Motorway Nominees number 2, is owed $223 million by one of its sister firms, while the CrossCity Motorway property trust owes $332 million to Nominee company number 1.

The banks and creditors are likely to pursue cross-claims against the various entities as they try to claw back what they are owed.

Among the claimants hoping to recover money are Hong Kong-based Cheong Kong Infrastructure, one of the original investors in the tunnel, which has lodged a claim for $58.5 million. CKI has been joined by fellow shareholder Bilfinger Berger, which is seeking $23.4 million, and four superannuation funds, which seek a total of $31 million.

But as unsecured creditors they stand to lose every cent unless the receiver recoups more than $570 million, having paid off the banks first.

Industry sources estimate that a toll road operator, the most likely buyer, will pay only around $350 million for the tunnel.

That price would leave the banks, led by Westpac, which is owed $46 million, facing losses of $220 million. The rest of the creditors would get nothing.

That would almost certainly prompt KordaMentha, under pressure from the banks, to launch a court action for damages against the NSW Government over the reversal of the road closures which finally tipped the tunnel into receivership.

The former tunnel chief executive, Graham Mulligan, who is employed by the receivers, recently estimated that any such claim could amount to as much as $100 million.


$900m The cost of building the tunnel.

$350m Estimated sale value.

$570m What the banks are owed.

$220m Likely loss for the banks.

$100m The looming court claims.

97,000 Original daily traffic estimate.

30,000 The current daily traffic flow.

The tunnel's mounting toll

THE more we learn about the Cross City Tunnel debacle, the more ominous it sounds. The latest statement from the project's receivers mocks the Iemma Government's repeated assurances that the cost of the collapse will not be borne by the taxpayers of NSW.

The tunnel cost about $900 million - about $330 million came from shareholders and $570 million was in secured bank loans. The tunnel's sorry performance means the shareholders have lost their money. The banks will share whatever the receivers can now get for the tunnel, which is likely to be a couple of hundred million dollars less than the banks are owed. That will force the receivers to look elsewhere to make up the shortfall. And the first avenue they are likely to look is at legal action against the Iemma Government for breaching its contract by reopening roads around the tunnel. Damages won by the receivers would come from taxpayers' pockets.

But do not expect any apologies from the Premier, Morris Iemma, or his cohorts for this grim prospect. What do they care about your money? Look at how they dismissed the $60 million lost on the tunnel project by the State Super Corporation, one of the tunnel's shareholders. The state's Finance Minister, John Della Bosca, had the gall to say this was not a loss for the fund's members. Of course, it was - and the fact that it might be offset by gains on State Super's other investments does not make it any less so. Of course, the biggest cost is to the reputation of NSW as a place to do business. By breaching its contract with the tunnel operators, the Iemma Government ensured that those writing contracts with NSW will in future include a premium to cover the risk of dealing with a government that might welsh on a deal. One way or another, that premium will be paid by the people of NSW.

The immediate worry, though, is the prospect of that lawsuit. The Government may yet have to head off legal action by buying the tunnel - despite its frequent protestations that it is not interested. To placate the receivers, the price would have to be close to the $570 million owing the banks. Whatever the price, you can be sure the Iemma Government would tout it as a grand deal for the taxpayers of NSW.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How A Tunnel Toll Increase Becomes A Decrease

Does calling a Tunnel toll increase a Tunnel toll decrease make it smell as sweet?

It's all a joke. The Star Online headline reads:

  • "Tunnel tolls expected to decrease because of the loonie's surge"

The toll from Windsor to Detroit was US$3.50 or CDN $4. The new toll is in US dollars increases to US$3.75 while it is reduced Canadian $3.75. A roll of tokens will be the same in both currencies: $65. That is a decrease of CDN$5 and an increase of US$5.

For a border crosser like me who does not use the Tunnel very much, I would save a quarter if I chose not to use US money. However, for the person who uses the Tunnel frequently, is very sensitive to currency fluctuations and who probably has been paying for some time in US dollars, that person now has to pay $.25 more since the US dollar price is still cheaper than the Canadian dollar price and $5 more for a roll. ie US$3.75 = CDN $3.51, US$65 = $CDN60.75

What a great way to encourage US tourism by making them pay more!

I note that it was stated:

  • "A report authored by the tunnel commission's executive director Mark Galvin predicts tunnel traffic should increase by about one per cent thanks to the planned new rates, generating increased monthly revenue between $13,000 to $17,000."

So now we know what Eddie's mismanagement of the Tunnel has cost us. On average, the Tunnel has lost $15,000 per month for every one per cent of lost volume. We know that the dividend has dropped significantly. I thought the last number that I heard for a dividend was $1 million. That amount was much lower than the amount quoted at the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit where I thought the number was around $6 million. Now that is managment from our "Young Entrepreneur of the year" all right!

According to Transport Canada, the Tunnel's volume at the end of 2003 when Eddie became Mayor was 6.39 million cars and at the end of 2006 was 4.81 million cars or a loss of 1.5 million cars. In other words, the Tunnel saw a reduction of about 23.5%. Based on Galvin's number, the Tunnel revenues dropped by over $4 million in 2006 alone!

Somehow we are to believe that reducing the tolls by $.25 Canadian and increasing them by $.25 American will bring success to the Tunnel by increasing volume and revenue.

Well maybe and maybe not. I have been a Tunnel user since I started crossing the border. It is just more convenient for me with where I live and where I go to take the Tunnel. But for the last several times going into the United States, I've chosen to drive the extra distance and take the bridge. I do so for the simple reason that when I am at Goyeau and Wyandotte and see the Tunnel backed up all the way from the US side, I go to the bridge and go through much more quickly! My criteria for which crossing I will take has now become not the price but how long it will take me to get through.

Lower toll prices does not automatically mean success. This is been recognized before in the past and by the Mayor. He has

  • "acknowledged that "our traffic has gone to the bridge and we have to do a better job of convincing people that the tunnel should be their crossing of choice."

One of his Board colleagues stated "We have tried in the past to keep fares low to encourage usage, but it appears our patrons are not being supportive of that position because we are losing business to the (Ambassador) bridge."

The problem is that Eddie cannot make up his mind which hat he should be wearing. Which is more important, his Tunnel hat or his Mayor hat:

  • "The tunnel should be run for a common purpose. [DCTC] are operating it as a toll road where we're trying to operate it in the public interest."

Notwithstanding his assertion that “We're a public utility” in relation to the Tunnel, he is also the business competitor of the Ambassador Bridge. Does this competitive side of the Mayor help explain why we still have a border mess on Huron Church road? Why would he fix up that road when Goyeau is a mess and the Tunnel Plaza improvements are far from being done as both Dev Tyagi and Abe TaqTaq have told us recently.

Will Eddie's toll pricing actions help? Here's what was said in the past:

  • “Francis countered there hasn't been a noticeable increase in traffic numbers despite the Windsor side of the tunnel providing the cheapest cross- border tolls at either the bridge or tunnel in recent years.”

What was also said that is interesting in the story is:

  • "Negotiations between the city and Detroit also remain ongoing to potentially finalize Windsor's takeover as operator of the Detroit side of the tunnel, Francis said.

    A deal was anticipated to be finalized in June, but has been slow to complete. "The two teams from both cities are still meeting frequently," Francis said. "A transaction of this nature with two cities and two countries is very complex. The teams are working extremely hard to bring a resolution to the discussions."

It's no wonder there is no deal. Our team is totally exhausted. Why Eddie had said that they were working "around the clock" so they are probably sleep deprived but bank account enhanced.

Was Derek Miller leaving his job in Detroit a signal that this deal is in serious trouble? My understanding is that he was quite involved in trying to structure an arrangement with Windsor.

How is Eddie going to pay for the deal? Chris Schnurr in his BLOG speculated that perhaps the 10% budget cut will help pay for the Tunnel deal. Maybe it's the 1% GST funds that he wants. Those are alternatives but a better one I think is that Eddie will lease out the entire Tunnel to generate revenues for whatever he wants to do with all that money. To make the Tunnel more attractive, he needs to show an increase in volume not a constant decrease. As he said before to justify his mismanagement

  • “We can't always think in terms of increasing tolls to maximize profits, we also have to go after more market share.”

Of course he does not tell us what to "think" when you lose revenues, profits and market share.

Of course, price competition is an acceptable way to generate business but not if supported by taxpayers to the detriment of a private enterprise competitor.

Now I assume Alinda has the opportunity to finally increase prices on the US side given that Eddie has done so. After all they must have paid a pretty dollar when they took over the operation of the Tunnel. They have waited long time in Windsor while in Alabama they increased tolls right away when they took over operation of several bridges.

And Windsorites are being asked to put up US$75M for this. Where are the Councillors? Oh I forgot. There is a separate Tunnel Corporation with Eddie at its head. Councillors don't count now, if they ever did!

More Quickies

Here are some more quick thoughts for you


I just cannot believe what he wrote. He has pulled back the curtain in OZ and shown us the Wizard. He has pointed the finger at the Emperor and his lack of clothes.

If you truly want to understand what has gone on in Windsor over the last four years with Eddie Francis as Mayor and what will continue to go on until such time as he is replaced, I can do no better than quote the last sentence of Gord's column of November 6, 2007. This encapsulates so well everything about what Eddie Francis is and why this City is a mess.

"Plenty of vision. Lots of great pictures. But no cash.
The story of our lives."

Do I hear you saying Greenlink? Or THINK BIG?

It has all been talk hasn't it. Visions of what Windsor can be in speeches. Nice artists' renditions. But no action. And where there has been some, such as the arena, it was due to third-party forces. No wonder people are suggesting facetiously that Tecumseh offer to build a bridge across the river to force Eddie to do something!

To give you a good example of what I mean, you only need to read Henderson's column about the lack of money to build the University complex downtown that would have solved all of our problems and then look at the story on page 2 that says

  • "$1M upgrade allows arena to host shows"

When Eddie ran for Mayor, he wanted a public/private partnership to operate an arena downtown with a maximum City contribution of $15 million. We are already at almost $65 million for a City owned and operated arena in the East end and counting. Even assuming that this is the maximum cost, and we know it's not, we are out $50 million. And here we have Henderson writing another one of his columns talking about the $58 million downtown project that should be built. Or even a second-best project at $35-$45M.

You can do the math as well as I and see why the City can't do anything right and why we don't have the money for it. You cannot blame the University for being financially prudent. You can blame the Mayor and Council for reversing their position for reasons unknown. You can blame them for what they have done and the fiscal problems they have brought to the City because they were afraid of Project Ice Track going to Tecumseh as they drove the Toldos and Rosatis out of town.

Perhaps we might make a few bucks by selling off the artists' renditions to get back some cash.


Wasn't there supposed to be an item discussed at Council with respect to the border? I remember from the video scrum posted on the Windsor Star website that the Mayor said that there would be something discussed last Monday. I wonder what happened.

Maybe that was encompassed in Councillor Halberstadt's question about border legal costs that were buried in the Communications package. We learned that the marketing costs are an extra over and above the almost $3.4 million discussed.

It cannot be about the US$75 million Tunnel deal. I hear there's no news about that even though the teams are supposedly working so hard still to accomplish something. And we are still waiting for the Public Open House on the Tunnel Improvement project that was postponed last February I believe. I thought it might have to do with the road to the border but I wonder if the technical teams from DRIC and the City have even met yet.

I guess we'll just have to keep on waiting until the Mayor decides to tell us something at Council.


I am slow. I admit it. It took me all this time to figure out why Larry Horwitz was Gord's big hero and why he showed up in Gord's column so many times in such a short time period.

You see, Gord needs a DWBIA foil so that when all of Eddie's downtown plans fail miserably, he can use someone to be optimistic and to give us hope.

I've only met Larry once but I've read a lot about him in Henderson's columns over the years and I think that he is a very progressive and interesting person. He is certainly dedicated to the downtown and wants to make it grow. For that is to be congratulated.

That job used to be filled by Marc Boscariol. He was a big Eddie booster and to be fair he had to be. He had $2 million of his own money tied up in his projects downtown. He needed downtown to succeed.

In my view, both of them made serious mistakes in thinking that Eddie will do anything to help the downtown. The arena didn't go downtown, 311 centre is not going downtown, the Capitol Theatre will be tied up in litigation forever, what urban village, and I don't want to talk about St. Clair College and the University of Windsor. More distractions. If we actually had the border being fixed up, there would be many hundreds of out-of-town workers filling up hotel rooms and seats in restaurants for the next several years as the road and the Enhancement Project were being built here.


"No truth to rumours of a bitter split" on the University Board. Oh please. They may be all united now but that wasn't the case before.

I am so tired with BS about why the University did not go downtown. I think it's time that someone from the University actually go public, make a statement and answer questions to tell us what really happened.

Who on the Board of the University and in the Administration of the University were pushing for buildings to go downtown without doing any kind of significant cost analysis to see if it made sense and what impact it would have on students? Who on the Board and in Administration fought the battle, not necessarily not to go downtown, but to see if it made sense for the University, as a university, to move and not put the University and its students in jeopardy merely to be a catalyst for a downtown rejuvenation to save the career of Eddie Francis.

We need to know who actually saved the University from financial ruin and saved a number of students from being hurt in their education and who was interested in an ego building exercise.

All of a sudden now we are hearing from "Marty Komsa, outgoing board of governors chairman, board members were hugely excited about the proposal from university president Ross Paul, but it simply couldn't be justified financially...Another drawback, said Komsa, is that engineering students in their first three semesters need immediate access to the main campus, which would be 2.1 kilometres away."

Did you hear any of these remarks when this was all first announced?

Henderson's diatribe against the University is totally uncalled for. His comment
  • "Meanwhile, the downtown limps from crisis to crisis while our university, historically disconnected from a host community it needs to embrace, continues to huddle in perfect isolation in its below-the-bridge academic ghetto."

is an insult to people whose function it is to ensure that the University survives. Gord just does not dare put the blame where it is deserved. In the circumstances, the question to ask is whether Gord will demand that Eddie contribute to the University's plans for its new complex no matter where it is located since it will help the City of Windsor.


I guess that was the reason. I was already to Blog this item:

  • I'm sure that you saw the story on page 3 in the Tuesday Star about the Capitol Theatre. It was a good story except if you have not read the online version, you would have missed a key part of it.

    Here is what was deleted, probably because of a lack of space on page 3:

    "Mayor Eddie Francis said despite the board's good intentions, he sees no quick end to the Capital fight.

    "The board has hired a lawyer and they believe they can negotiate a settlement with the trustee with the city writing the cheque," he said. "I just hope they are not being misinformed or somebody is providing them with misleading information as to what the city is prepared to do.

    "They seem to believe the city will come in and write a cheque and we are not prepared to do that. We are trying to get in front of a court to argue the validity of the mortgage. We believe the building and property belong to the City of Windsor."

    Silly me, I would have thought that the Mayor's position was a key element to include in the story and the published version. What it says is that the Mayor chooses to litigate rather than to resolve anything. Isn't that important for people to know?

    But for the online version, the readers of the Star would never know about what he has to say about this. Council ought to be outraged at the Mayor's position, the arts community should be and so should taxpayers. This matter can be settled so simply that it is ridiculous and instead our Mayor wants to fight lawsuits and pay legal fees.

However, there were the key paragraphs in the second story by the Star.

Should the Star have published the story they did or waited another day for the whole story? I'll let journalism professors figure that out and what the role of the Internet is and how it impacts how newspapers carry on business in the age of instantaneous news.

As for me, I'll just ask the question why there is no desire to have settlement talks when there is a new "legal" Capitol Board. It seems odd....we just had a speaker in town telling us how we might save the downtown and yet we seem ready to stand by as a key ingredient in keeping it alive passes away. The Star rants and raves about the downtown yet says nothing and does not demand that Eddie sit down and resolve the mess.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dan Stamper interview

I'm told that some of you, especially those at work, do not have speakers so you may not have been able to listen to the Dan Stamper interview on Detroit radio. Moreover, in light of what is taking place in Lansing, appears to be happening in Ottawa and given a new Minister of Transportation in Ontario, I thought it would be worthwhile to transcribe the interview and then comment on it.

There may be an opportunity now to get an acceptable resolution on all of the border issues. This is the most hopeful time period that we have had, to be quite blunt about it, since the time when Eddie Francis was first elected as Mayor and had everyone eating out of his hand. Then he blew it all.

Effectively, the road to the border corridor has been determined and now we just stalling over how many tunnels we will get and how long they will be. Will we get a "shunnel" as DRIC wants or a Schwunnel as Eddie wants? In other words, we are fighting over a "C" and a "W." Perhaps the parties could retain Garth Brooks, the famous country singer, as a mediator since he knows a lot about C&W!

Given the situation in Michigan and Ontario with their financial problems, the attitude of the Michigan Legislature as expressed in their budget documents and the promise of the Governor to Senator Cropsey, with a new Ontario Minister that hopefully can look at the border matter with a fresh point of view and a seeming change in Canada's attitude, it may be that we can finally have talks between the Governments and the Bridge Company to resolve the mess.

Frank Beckmann Show 760 WJR Detroit Oct. 30, 2007

Frank Beckmann: Nice to talk with you again

Dan Stamper: Good morning Frank. How are you?.

Beckmann: I am very well. Where is this headed right now? What is your feeling what the Legislature will do with the appropriation?

Stamper: I don't know. I know there is a lot of discussion going on. There is a feeling with both the House and the Senate that this is a boondoggle for the state to be even involved in. And I know that there’s been a lot of closed-door discussions over it whether to continue it or not continue it. [There is no doubt that there is a major concern over spending given that the Legislature wants to have hearings almost immediately on the expenditure of funds and has said that MDOT cannot spend any money other than on the study without their prior approval]

Beckmann: Why would the state be interested in trying to spend $2 billion to build another bridge to compete with yours or replace yours?

Stamper: Well based on discussions we’ve had with the Governor’s office and with the Director of MDOT, both are saying that our project is the best project for Michigan but for Canada saying that they won’t allow us to build another bridge and let us land it in Windsor. And the facts are that Canada has not been quoted as saying that anywhere. In fact, we were meeting last week with Transport Canada in Ottawa and they said everything but that. They are not against our project. They like the study of the DRIC but if our environmental assessments are correct, they are not going to stop us from building our twin bridge. So I am kind of lost as to why the State of Michigan Governor and the MDOT Director would continue to blame Canada for not doing what's good for Michigan. [Blame Canada? Have we been living through a re-run of South Park or is there something more?

Has there been a misunderstanding between Canada and Michigan that has resulted in a controversy? Or has there been deliberate disinformation spread designed to prevent a resolution? If so, who spread it and why? Will we find out now who the "LEAKOR" is? If there has been disinformation spread how much has it cost taxpayers in both countries and the Bridge Co. and how can that money be returned to the taxpayers and to the Company?

It is fascinating to me that there was a meeting in Ottawa. It would be interesting to know who attended at that meeting to see how serious a meeting it was. Was it just the bureaucrats or was Transport Minister Cannon also in attendance? If he was there, I think that this was the first time that he is met anyone from the Bridge Company face-to-face.

The interesting point is the attitude of the Canadian Government with respect to the EA. There certainly seems to be a softening of Stamper's attitude towards Transport Canada so we would have to say that there were some kind of breakthrough that was made or some kind of understanding that was reached. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part. There is a harshness in tone with respect to the Michigan executive that is repeated throughout the interview.
How can one explain the change in attitude of Transport Canada? It is very simple. They understood what the Senate of Canada said in their Observation language after the Bill C-3 hearings:
  • "However, the Minister of Transport should be particularly sensitive to any situation where the federal government is in a situation where there is an appearance of conflict, especially when the interests of a private enterprise are at stake."
Do you really think that the Minister and his staff want to appear in front of the Senators and tell them that they ignored what they had to say? I am sure that the MDOT officials feel the same way. Accordingly, if anyone believes that the Senate Resolution in Michigan is merely "words on paper," then that person is sadly mistaken.]

Beckmann: Well if Canada is fine with it as you say that should end the discussion right there? Lets move ahead with private investment in this

Stamper: Absolutely and we all felt that there is more to this than we know and the State of Michigan has continually blamed Canada for not doing the right thing for Michigan and I just think that it is way past time to do what is right for Michigan and I don't think Canada, and I am pretty sure they will confirm that, are not against what we are trying to do. [Again a hint of reconciliation. The intriguing part which may or may never be revealed what is it that is "more to this than we know."]

Beckmann: Do you think that MDOT wants to replace you as the Ambassador bridge link or join you in that enterprise and compete with you?

Stamper: Well, as you are aware and everyone is aware, MDOT owns and operates the Blue Water Bridge and they tried to take most of our business a few years ago when they twinned the Blue Water Bridge. They built freeway connections to it and now they are talking about spending another $450 million to fix the plaza that was done wrong by MDOT . That they are a direct competitor and I do believe that plays a role on what’s been going on. [It is interesting to me about the relationship with MDOT and the Bridge Company as both regulators and competitors. It is very similar to the relationship with the Government of Canada and with the City of Windsor in relation to the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. The question that may well have to be decided one day if there cannot be resolution is how much of what the Governments have done is regulation and how much is anticompetitive behavior]

Beckmann: Well as you said, $450 million to fix a plaza that wasn't done right in the first place which once again points out that private enterprise is always going to do a better job on these projects than government is, isn't it?

Stamper: Well it's proven that way. We’ve got an 80-year history at the Ambassador Bridge. We are the number one border crossing both in volume of commercial traffic and in efficiency. It has been noted by Federal Highway in a number of their reports that we are always consistently better operated than any of the government-owned bridges. Our projects also needs no homes, no businesses and the DRIC bridge would take somewhere between 150 and 300 homes that have to be condemned and about 60 businesses that would have to be condemned. So it raises in the question, where is this all coming from and we all know the Governor is Canadian but we sure didn't think it would fall into this kind of decision making. [I do not follow the Blue Water Bridge matter that closely but it is surprising to me that the issue of spending over $400 million to fix up the MDOT mess hasn't been discussed more often. Imagine giving the people who made the mess in the first place so much more money to fix it. And these are the people that we are relying upon to fix up Windsor/Detroit. Now that makes me scared.

The part that has always boggled my mind on both sides of the river is why no one will accept the Enhancement Project that causes no disruption in Sandwich and Delray but people would rather fight over putting in a new DRIC bridge in an area where there may be salt mines and brine wells. Even DRIC is not so confident about what it is that they're going to recommend since they have created a peer review panel to overlook the work that they're doing. Why are we taking an unnecessary risk worth billions of dollars if a mistake is made?]

Beckmann: Her husband, also, his company I understand has become a consultant to the City of Windsor for leadership projects so I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not. [Again I don't understand it. Why would the Governor's husband work for a proponent in a matter in which his wife has to make a decision? Why would Eddie retain him in the first place knowing that this could cause an embarrassment on both sides of the river? Oh well, maybe the conflicts rules are different on the other side of the river]

Stamper: Well you know, I don't either, but there are so many things involved in this and so many sub-consultants involved that we need to take a deep breath and look at what's good for Michigan and there is no doubt and it has been confirmed that our project is the best project for Michigan but for this claim that Canada will not allow it to happen. And Canada is processing our environmental assessment just like Federal Highway or Coast Guard is in the US and I just think it is disingenuous for the Governor and the Director of MDOT to blame Canada for them not doing what's right for Michigan. [I wonder who the sub-consultants are that Stamper was talking about.

The issue about Canada needs to be clarified right away and any misunderstandings eliminated. DRIC has said that the Ambassador Bridge crossing was the best location on the US side. But for the false story with respect to the size of the Customs Plaza, the Ambassador Bridge would have been chosen I am sure as the best crossing on our side. Given that, I do not understand why we need to continue spending money to investigate another crossing that makes no sense.]

Beckmann: Well we will know in the next couple of days whether they plan to go ahead in competition with you if they approve the spending to continue the study right?

Stamper: Well we hope this is not just an anti-competitive action on behalf of the State of Michigan, but I think it will all play out shortly. [It will play out and it seems within the next 30 days when hearings by law have to be scheduled in Michigan.]

Beckmann: How soon could you actually get the project started Dan with approval on this side? How far would you have to go with approval in Canada?

Stamper: Well we have completed the draft EA's both in the Canada and the US. The US one is now being finalized and by the end of the year the final EA will be in the Coast Guard's hands. We hope by January the final EA for Canada, unless they try drag their feet a little bit, and some of these environmental assessments take a little longer that we would hope. But we like to put a shovel in the ground next year and create about 3,700 jobs for Michigan and for Ontario. [Stamper has clearly challenged the Governments on both sides of the river to get the EA process completed ASAP so that jobs can be created. If the road to the border can be finalized as well, then we are looking at another 10,000 or so jobs that would be created in Windsor alone.]

Beckmann: And how long would it take to conclude the project? How much would it cost?

Stamper: We have already spent, which is really the disappointing part in this, we have already spent about $500 million in the property acquisitions and demolition engineering and EA process and we have done that in good faith to replace our bridge and we have done it based on the Gateway project which is currently going on at the Ambassador Bridge and that is about $220 million worth of work which is under construction now, and based on agreements with Canada and commitments from Canada to fix its road. So we have already spent about a half billion dollars of our money to get to this point and it is about another $420 million to build the bridge. [Here's an important point in all this. The Bridge Company has already spent about $1 billion with the full knowledge of Governments on both sides of the river. I just don't see how Governments can walk away from this by changing the rules almost towards the end of the game and say we are going to build a bridge a mile away from you, to compete with you and, in the circumstances, will have to subsidize a private enterprise competitor. Litigation in this matter would be horrific.]

Beckmann: So the total is a little over a billion dollars?

Stamper: It should not be this hard to spend a billion private dollars in the State of Michigan with the problems that are going on in the State of Michigan today. [Reread Stamper's statement a couple times. It truly is not believable but we are seeing it happen in Windsor/Detroit!]

Beckmann: Amen to that. Keep us informed. We will watch what happens in Lansing and if there is more funding approved for the bridge, then for the study of the bridge, we know you will have enough of a delay coming my friend.

Stamper: Well I hope that people will see the light and want these jobs in Michigan and Ontario and start supporting us and if anybody wants information on the project, go to our website and you can leave comments support or opposition to our project but we got to say that ninety percent of all the information we are gathering is supporting our project because of the jobs.

Beckmann: Dan, I appreciate the time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007





Capitol Rising

Congratulations....Now that there is a Capitol Board (although there may be a fight over that too) a very simple way to end the Capitol matter is available, a way that could have been accomplished months ago but which for some strange reason was not.

I had a conversation with Debbie Stanson, the new president, the other day and told her how this could be done. I of course reminded her that, if it was accomplished using my idea, then my terms for my consulting advice were naming a part of the theatre in honour of my parents. That seemed to me to be a lot better than paying me a gigantic fee for the advice that I was giving and something that, for me, would more meaningful than a few extra dollars in the bank.

Do I expect it to be done? Probably not. There is something at play here that no one seems to know about that has allowed this matter to drift on for about 10 months now. Can you imagine the City and the Trustee, as I understand it, cannot even agree in which court they should be. Can you imagine how much money must be owing in legal fees in this matter that could have been used for the Capitol.

Oh this is so similar to the interim control bylaw in the downtown that put everything on hold, the interim control and demolition bylaw to be followed by Heritage designation designed to stall off the Ambassador Bridge and to building a garage in Sandwich and the various Schwartz reports and tunnel demands that have prevented building the road to the border.

Of course, the delay meant that Sandra and Dwight were not be pressured before the election to help out. Will they now do anything as with the Elgin Theatre in Toronto which was "rescued by the Ontario Heritage Trust?" I doubt it.

Stall, stall, stall... it's all we do in this City. For what end? Maybe you have the answer.


New Board Elected for Resolution of CAPITOL THEATRE Bankruptcy.


The newly elected interim Executive Board of the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre (Windsor):

Deb Stanson, President
Eleanor Piotrowski, 1st Vice-President
Oona Mosna, 2nd Vice President


Richard Hawrish, a bankruptcy specialist and lawyer with the firm of Paroian, Skipper and Hewitt was contacted as legal counsel on behalf of the members of the Corporation of the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre (Windsor).

On the basis of Mr. Hawrish's advice, and the community determination to ensure that all aspects of the operation (including the charitable status and objects) remain intact, a new interim Executive Board of Directors for the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre was elected by the paid membership (34 members) of the Capitol, on 14th September, 2007.

Upon the Board's appointment, Mr. Hawrish was duly retained as legal counsel for the newly established Board and the Corporation. Mr. Hawrish has subsequently provided legal advice relating to the status and process, to ensure an acceptable resolution to this matter for all stakeholders, and those issues as they relate to the transfer of the Capitol Theatre to the City of Windsor.

It should be noted, that a similar motion to transfer the building to the City was previously voted on and approved, unanimously, by the membership of the Capitol Theatre at an Annual General Members Meeting held on the 23rd January, 2007.

The new board would like to see that this issue is dealt with swiftly and appropriately in order to ensure that the Capitol Theatre is operational in the future.

As winter approaches,there are concerns regarding the possible disrepair of this historic theatre, as well as the expenses related to administrative and legal fees that continue to mount on all sides, with no revenue due to the theatre itself being shuttered.

For the sake of the theatre and the community, the board would like to assist with a resolution and proposal to satisfy all involved parties.

Any and all questions relating to this matter should be
directed to:

Debbie Stanson
President, Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre

Feeding The Starving Gazelles

Someone better be careful. The Animal Control people may be called. It looks like the gazelles have not eaten for a very long time and their feeders need a huge infusion of cash in order to satisfy their hunger.

It had to be one of the strangest performances I have ever seen at Council. Remo Mancini, Chair of the Economic Development Commission, came to Council asking for $50,000 to match what he's going to ask from the County Council as well this week.

Now I recall that the Commission's budget was $1.3-million annually rising to $2.1 million after five years. What the heck did they do with all that money that necessitated them coming in begging for more? How did they spend that cash?

You see there is this private enterprise partner who wants to put in $150,000. I think it is in cash. I'm not sure though if it is cash, services or a combination thereof to do something with the Commission. This amount is to be put in provided that the municipal entities put up $50,000 each as well. Get it, put in $50K City Council and get $200K. What a deal! Who could turn it down. That's how to lever money.

Now here's the weird part. Mancini refused to tell Council who this party is, telling them that they will have to wait for a few days. Nor did he tell Council exactly what is going to be done with this quarter of $1 million. I think the Commission had a business plan since it appeared that Matt Fischer was reading from it. It might have been nice for him to share with us mere mortals what it said but why bother.

They let him get away with it. Heck, what happened was that Councillors fell over themselves throwing money to accomplish whatever it is that Mr. Mancini wants to accomplish with whomever it is that he wants to accomplish it with but won't tell us about. Council will also probably throw in more money to sustain in the future whatever it is that is supposed to be done. Even the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget who was the most skeptical of all of the Councillors and who thought that the Commission did a poor job with young entrepreneurs did not have the guts to vote NO.

And that's what groups should do when they want come to Council and ask for money. They should just say to give it to us and don't be so inquisitive. It worked for the Commission, beautifully.

The Board has been around for about a year or so and Mr. Fischer since February. I was expecting to hear some dynamic announcements that will be good for the economy of the region. Something positive for a change so that I could write a positive BLOG. I was hoping to hear that they attracted some new businesses or new investors, or that there was expansion of existing businesses and new jobs being created. I heard none of this.

Instead, all that I heard was that it has taken the Gazelle Feeders about a year to realize that they don't have any marketing and promotional materials. Nothing, nada, zippo, zero. And that they need some now or they cannot compete against the other development commissions around North America. You'd think that Windsor's CAO who is involved with the Commission would have run to the Mayor much earlier to tell him that the Commission is unable to do any selling of the City.

It's shocking. It is absolutely preposterous. Where's the rest of the Board, don't they know what's going on either? Is there no common sense?

We are told as well that we are going to see the results of the economic summit that took place in August. Three months to do a summary of a meeting seems to me to be a fairly long time. After all, Mr. Mancini said months ago that

  • "the next step in strengthening the local economy will be to prepare a report based on the numerous recommendations made by more than 150 participants and then establish priorities.

    "We have to decide what to pursue immediately and we will need to mobilize the community to help us do that," said Mancini."

Like the true politician that he used to be, Mancini talked about the old dysfunctional Commission on whom he could blame everything. Just like the Liberals blaming the Tories for the financial mess when they first came to office.

Yet, the old crew were responsible for Windsor winning that FDI award. But why give them credit. Most of those people who worked to achieve that award are no longer working for the Commission. You remember that was the award in which "Windsor has been named the best small city in North America for investment by a publication of England's prestigious Financial Times... fDi magazine (Foreign Direct Investment)."

It appears that our new Commission has done nothing to date to capitalize on that award or least we did not hear about it last night. How could they after all, they don't have any marketing materials. By the time that those materials are created, printed and distributed, there will be a new award winner and our advantage will have just disappeared.

Can you imagine the sales call...

  • "Hello, I am from the City of Windsor... Windsor, Ontario. You know the City that won that prestigious FDI award in April, 2007. That's right, last year's reward.

    I would have contacted you earlier but we did not have a budget for a phone call or for a face-to-face meeting. It didn't matter anyway since I did not have anything to leave with you or to send you and the only film about the City that I could show you came from that found by the Mayor that was dated back in 1994.

    But don't worry, our website is only six years out of date too."

I heard Mr. Mancini drop the word "outstanding" so many times I lost track of the number. I wonder if that was a word used in that retired English teacher's BLOG that Monica Wolfson talked about in yesterday's Star. In my opinion, I have seen no evidence such that the word can be applied to the performance of the Commission.

But I'm being much too harsh. I should expect little from them. As was said before

  • "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."

Oh, and by the way, I probably should not have written this BLOG in this tone. I might get scolded by the Mayor if he thinks it is negative. You see he lectured everyone again after the presentation was over demanding of us that we all have to be united and pull together. It was the same drivel that he gave us in his State of the City speech. You remember:

  • "We are all Chief Public Relations Officers of the City of Windsor...

    Others are listening. Others are watching us. The old era of airing our dirty laundry in public is over.

    We must unite."

I am prepared to face the wrath of Eddie. I am prepared to be called petty and mean spirited. In a City that is desperate for jobs, this lack of action is inexcusable. It's interesting. Chris Vander Doelen was doing a bit of speculating in his BLOG:

  • "But if it plays its cards right, the city might also be the base from which Volkswagen launches a huge expansion in North America -- an expansion that probably includes a new assembly plant."

If you were a Volkswagen executive watching the Economic Development Commission last night, how would you react to this City? If this is a case where actions speak louder than words, then are we ever in trouble.

More Odds And Ends

Here are some interesting bits of information that you may not have seen:


The costs to date are $3,357,537 for the border file and the OMB application. How much of that includes the work of Gridlock Sam and Parsons Brinckerhoff I have no idea. We do know however that those costs are approximately $500,000.

Those costs obviously don't include the costs incurred subsequent to September, 2007. We would need to add on the cost of five full-page ads in the Star which would have to be in a range of $50,000 I would think, the costs of ads on CKLW and the mailer.

If the Mayor's latest numbers are correct, about 3-4000 people people are supporting Greenlink. Let's add on another couple of thousand who responded to the advertisements. Let's say that's 5000 people. That works out to slightly over $100 per person to get an approval vote.

Pretty pricey road campaign wouldn't you think. I remember the good old days of STOPDRTP. We could get 1500 letters signed in a weekend with a few people going out along the DRTP corridor and asking for support.

311 MOVE

Did you see the story about the necessity to move the 311 location outside of the City's downtown core. How absurd.

The excuse given is:
  • "Another reason for the move has to do with security. A report on the city's emergency response plan says the 311 call centre should be the backup for the 911 service, located in the downtown police station. For it to be a true backup in the case of a massive power outage or other disaster in the downtown, the 311 call centre should be in another area of the city, the report by Lapp-Hancock Associates says."

For a massive power outage, hasn't anyone ever heard of backup generators? As for a disaster downtown, if it is that big of a calamity that the entire downtown is affected, I would think that a good part of the City would be affected as well.

Anyway, the perfect location is the Junction since it has the space and the parking. But you know it's never going to go there!


Doesn't this sound so similar to the Windsor Utilities Commission matter. We have a need for capital expenditure, it is not met and then we get hammered subsequently. I noticed the following comment by Councillor Postma to justify the fare increase at Windsor Transit:

  • "Coun. Caroline Postma, who chairs the transit board, said the new fares are justified because of increasing costs in areas such as insurance, wages, fuel and maintenance, as well as the city's "desperate" need for new buses."

But it's okay. We can keep the Transit Windsor agreements with transit authorities in Detroit and its suburbs to provide reciprocal bus service. We learned though that "During an average week, between 30 and 40 passengers take advantage of the transfer exchange." We keep it so the Mayor can use this to show how progressive he is with an international bus service linkage. And we can keep the Tunnel bus service even though it loses $25,000 per year since every time a bus goes through it generates revenue for the Windsor Tunnel Commission.

Remember what I blogged before about how money was not going to be used for buses. Boom, then we need them and fares have to go up.

  • "In doing some research on Transit Windsor, I discovered that

    "The bus fleet, which consists of 99 coaches, is on average 12 years old.

    "The useful life of a bus is 18 years," Williams said.

    A quarter of the fleet is 18 years old and two buses were bought 28 years ago. Administrators had hoped to buy six new buses this year at a cost of $2.7 million."

    Our Mayor said on March 16, 2007:

    "Before we buy new buses, I'd like to streamline practices," Francis said. "I move we not buy new buses and reconsider the issue in 2008. Before we add to services, we need to get a handle on the service we provide."

    Then during final budget deliberations in early May:

    "In finalizing its budget, council did end up helping the landlords by re-directing a $1-million savings by agreeing not to buy any Transit Windsor buses this year and instead apply the money to reduce this year's multi-residential rate increase from 3.25 per cent down to 2.95."

I'm absolutely waiting to see the Mayor's dramatic white board presentation at Council to explain this one.


I read the story in the Windsor Star about AIESEC, Association International des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales. It is an international organization of which I am very familiar since I was involved with it at the University of Toronto many years ago.

When I was involved, it offered job exchanges for business and economic students only around the world. Canadian students would work overseas while overseas students would work in Canada. Now, as I understand it, the program has expanded to include students from a number of different university disciplines.

I met with one of the organizers and was shocked to learn that I was the only person in Windsor who responded to AIESEC after Dave Hall's story was written to offer any kind of assistance whatsoever.

I was thoroughly disappointed since for businesses it provides them with the opportunity to get top-notch international students, many with postgraduate degrees, working here for them for several months. In my experience, companies would use them for special projects quite often. In addition, I found out that many students were so outstanding that companies offered them jobs either in Canada or with an associated company in the student's home country.

I hope that some of my readers will contact AISEC at 519-253-3000, ext. 3148, or or or or go to

Here is why I am a big booster of AIESEC. It is a note that I sent for their 50th Anniversary "Alumni Stories" Project for stories showing how AIESEC impacted the lives of Alumni

  • "It is not very often that one can point to a specific event and say that it had a significant influence on the course of one's life. I can say that about my involvement with AIESEC.

    Many years ago, at the University of Toronto, I was the summer program coordinator. My functions included arranging accommodation, meeting students who are going to work in Toronto at the airport and then taking them to their residence to ensure that they settled in properly. I was also involved in organizing social functions, trips around Ontario, visiting businesses and other such programs to make their stay in Ontario educational and enjoyable.

    We were very fortunate in our program in having about 20-30 people from around the world staying and working in Toronto. What I found fascinating was their perspective of the world and of life that was so much different than mine in North America.

    As a result of the experience that summer, I decided to do postgraduate work overseas rather than enter the workforce immediately after University. While I did get a postgraduate degree, which helped me immensely in my career, my real reason for doing what I did was to experience what I learned in Toronto that summer from my friends from overseas.

    But for AIESEC, there is no doubt in my mind that my life would have been different!"


It is well-known that the Michigan Senator is not a friend of the Ambassador Bridge Company. That's all right. That's his opinion. However, if you want to understand why the Bridge Company is having the problems that it is having than one needs only look at a comment made recently by the Senator.

The Senator surely must know better than this. If not, then he should learn to keep his mouth closed until he finds out the true information

  • "This is a huge issue. The Canadians, who should be our partners, have already passed legislation, commonly referred to--not a resolution, by the way; legislation--as the C-3 legislation that says no private entity can build an international border crossing into Canada. That's a law in Canada."

That is absolutely false. There is no such provision in the law. He ought to read the legislation first before speaking.

The Senator owes his colleagues, his constituents and the Ambassador Bridge Company a correction and an apology. Now that he knows the true facts he can support the Bridge Company moving forward with its Enhancement Project to help out Michigan in getting thousands of jobs and being able to move forward.


No I'm not trying to pick on her nor am I picking on Chris Vander Doelen. It looks like both of them actually read Windsor BLOGs and even admit it. However both of them, reporters at the Windsor Star and Bloggers on the Star online edition, have jumped on Bloggers for drawing incorrect conclusions about some of the material that they have written online.

According to Chris, he pulled one of his BLOGs because his wife thought it was too negative, not because of some great editorial conspiracy. As he said

  • "It's so unrelentingly negative. A real downer," Da Wife said. "Is there no hope?" Well, actually, no. Not as long as the current powers-that-be continue to run the city. They aren't going to change, and they aren't going anywhere. All we can expect is more of the same.

    But I took the piece down. Who wants to be unrelentingly negative? That's almost as gag-inducing as being unrelentingly positive. "

Da Wife may be just as upset by the explanation since the language is quite blunt and direct.

As for Monica, she explained

  • "...what you read on the Web isn't necessarily going to be the same, thorough story you'll find in the paper edition of the newspaper.

    Why is that?

    Because often the Internet is used like radio. We break a story online and then maybe we'll update it...

    The reason I write this explanation is because a story I did last week was the subject of a blogger's ire. He complained about the story that appeared on the web versus the one that was in the paper. What he doesn't know is I wrote the Web story in 10 minutes after returning from a meeting and I had not even started reporting. So the web story only contained the basic facts of an event that just happened. Once I was able to interview more people and go through my notes, I wrote a fuller, richer and more complete story of the event for the newspaper.

    So, please remember, the stories you see online are sometimes our first version of a story. They may contain unintentional errors, which we try to correct quickly. Or they may be a full story. But you won't know the real story unless you read the newspaper."

If this is the new journalism and is acceptable practice I think it is shocking. Now we have to guess when we read a story online whether it is true or it is not true. Is it correct or is not correct? Maybe it will be updated or maybe it won't. Has a reporter started reporting or not? If I am not a subscriber to the Star, then it means I should not take seriously anything that is in the online Star because only the real story is in the published edition.

Oh I know the practice is designed to use the web to beat out CKLW or A-Channel or CBC with breaking news. But that is no excuse. Accordingly, should we demand that an "*" or a disclaimer be placed beside online stories warning us that what is written may not be correct and will only be correct in the published newspaper.

Now that's a way to keep that revenue up. Publishers and other papers should have thought of this before. Only give the public the "real" news if they pay for newspaper! Keep them guessing otherwise.

I don't blame the reporter. I blame the Publisher. If one is to take a newspaper seriously then one should expect what is published, whether it be online or in the paper is as accurate as it can be. Don't publish it otherwise. After all, aren't three of the main rules of journalism according to Joseph Pulitzer "Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy."

Of course there will be add-ons and corrections, no one doubts that. But when a story changes dramatically, and I have identified a number that I have seen, then one is entitled to ask what is going on at the Windsor Star.

I leave you with this excerpt from an article by William Safire. It contains a phrase that I read in a Globe and Mail column many years ago by one of its main columnists who had messed up on a story. I can still remember it:

  • "At the beleaguered White House, Joseph Lockhart, a spokesman for President Clinton, lectured hectoring reporters with, ''I understand the competitive pressure that everybody is under, but I do think it's a significant lowering of standards when getting it first supersedes getting it right.''

    This was an allusion to a journalistic adage that was taken up in the 1940's by Hearst's International News Service: ''Get It First, but First Get It Right.''

We deserve better from the Star as the only major newspaper in town and the news outlet from which most people get their information.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Windsor Bloggers Are Respectable Now

It has taken just over 2 years since I've started writing a BLOG before it seems the Windsor Star will take blogging seriously.

We Bloggers have suffered the odd Henderson attack and name-calling in his column. And I had a nasty Page 2 story written about me that I think was designed to hurt me and discredit me. Instead, the attack increased my readership dramatically and gave me respectability according to some. Oh I know the Star has Bloggers on their website but, as we have seen, their reporters seem to come and go with their BLOGs for reasons unknown.

What I believe is the Star has finally realized, along with other members of the media, that Bloggers do play a role in our society. To be direct about it, in Windsor, we are the alternative to the major media. I have been told so many times that people read the BLOGs not necessarily because they agree with what we Bloggers say but because we provide them with information that no one else does. We allow our readers to form their own judgment based on information provided.

Some people are still having difficulty with it. We have our sources. We get scoops. Disgruntled citizens complain to us and look to us for help. We get City Hall insiders leaking information to us, including those very close to those who govern us. The media pick up stories from us.

Few in power will dare admit that they read our ramblings but they do. They have to respond to what we write even though they hate it and will never acknowledge it. They hope that if they ignore us we will go away. We won't. We just grow stronger every day.

Some are still afraid. As an example, while I have been accredited by both the Federal and Provincial Governments with respect to the border issue, I still cannot even receive a response from the City of Windsor to my request to be accredited the way other reporters in the City are. The reason for this failure should be obvious. City Hall cannot afford to have someone they cannot control get "official" information or have access.

For example, how did Gord know that

  • "Duncan took a congratulatory phone call from Mayor Eddie Francis Tuesday night, before the swearing-in celebration really took off, and they're scheduled to meet again in Windsor on Nov. 9 to go over details of the GreenLink plan."

Did Eddie tell him that or Dwight or someone from their offices? Was it given to him on a silver platter? I have to scrounge around for that kind of info.

What prompted these thoughts is Monica Wolfson stating in her BLOG that she is

  • "going to expand the subjects of my blog to writing about the Internet and specifically local bloggers, Internet sites, etc. I'm appointing myself to this task, as it seems like it's a pop culture area that gets little attention."

You will note in the Star today her page 3 story on a local Blogger. I was surprised at the extent of the coverage including a photograph. However, I was somewhat also surprised at her comment:

  • "some local bloggers revel in the missteps of politicians."

If one writes about politicians, one writes about both the good and the bad. In Windsor however, it is difficult to write about any "positive" steps taken by a politician at any level. And to "revel" is hardly the word that I would use in describing what local bloggers do.

My own view in writing what I do and in reading the other political BLOGs in town is that we write more in sorrow than to revel. We all seem to be expressing the same point of view even though we may say it in different ways and using different tones. We cannot believe that our local Government is so out of touch with its citizens and so uncaring of what we think. All of us want the best for our City and are shocked at what is going on here as we see it crumble in front of us.

Frankly, some of the Star reporters' BLOGs are more negative than anything than any of us have written. Just ask Da Wife of Vanderblogger.

Ms. Wolfson should know exactly what I mean after the personal experience that she has had in the Windsor Utilities Commission matter. Her stories and the BLOGs forced a Mayor who was elected with almost 78% of the vote less than a year before to call in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to to do a third-party audit, even though it will turn out to be what few in town wanted. I am sure that she learned about pressure as well when one writes about a Mayor during a crisis.

One other thing Ms. Wolfson talked about

  • "some bloggers who can be petty and mean-spirited."

I cannot believe that she is talking about Councillor Halberstadt and his BLOG that way. Just kidding Alan. You know about the amoebae sense of humour.

Sucking Up

Gord has to be absolutely desperate by now. How else to explain it?

He knows, as well as many people do in Windsor I would suggest, that Greenlink is another dud. None of my 69 questions have been answered so far. The likelihood is that the DRIC road will be built with a few modifications to make it appear as if Eddie has done something significant. In spite of everything, they have to save face for him.

I just found it absolutely incredible what he wrote in one of his recent columns:

  • "Peering into my cloudy crystal ball for 2013, I see Ontario Premier Sandra Pupatello, no wait, maybe that's Dwight Duncan, smashing a magnum of bubbly over the hood of the first 18-wheeler given the honour of thundering through the six tunnels of the spanking new GreenLink Windsor Parkway."

I can just read the future story now...... Ooops a major problem was caused when the Premier broke the bottle on the hood. Nobody told the Premier that he/she was supposed to break it on the bumper. The alcohol in the champagne caught fire on the hot diesel engine resulting in a massive explosion in the huge Greenlink Schwunnel. That caused a major Schwunnel collapse into the roadbed that nearly hurt a number of frolicking children who were playing in the parklands above. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

It appears that it will take almost a year to fix up the Schwunnel and the roadway to ensure that there is no further risk to truckers and the public. In the meantime trucks will continue to roll up on Huron Church road to the new Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project crossing that has been operating since 2010. Notwithstanding the strike at the Blue Water Bridge that started in 2007 has not yet ended, the Bridge has been able to handle the increased volume easily.

Gord is up to his usual tactics. Hammer Pupatello until she knuckles under. Then be nice to her when Eddie needs her for some Sutherland jobs and for some arena money. After she's re-elected, keep on with the flattery. Why that tactic has worked very well with some City politicians hasn't it to keep them on side. Nothing like the hope of an endorsement from the Mayor for the next mayoral election. (Note rumours are starting to circulate that Eddie in fact may run for a third term so these people may be out of luck anyway.)

As for Dwight, there is no need to butter up Spanky. They love him at the Star. He was virtually unscathed during the Pupatello attack time. He apparently can do no wrong.

Reality check time.

Sandra is not the major player in the border issue. It's her job to know what's going on here and that's why she claims that she talks to the Mayor every day. She seems to be merely the go-between running between the Mayor and those who are the real decision-makers at Queen's Park. It's her job to try and contain any damage that the Mayor may cause to the Province for whatever objectives they may have down here. She strikes me as another Donna Cansfield, the former Minister of Transportation who lost her job after the election. She was the front person but that's about all.

As for Dwight, he is so interested in Greenlink that he won't know about the details of the project until almost a month after Sam delivered it in Windsor. It is pretty clear to me that Dwight must have known that he was going to get the Minister of Finance job if the Liberals were re-elected and that is the reason why he has not said a word about it for so long. Oh Sandra can gush about it, and that helped her politically, but she is not the one who holds the purse strings in the Province.

Dwight will say all the right things to make it appear as if he is on side. Remember, it is the Federal Government that actually set aside money for the road to the bridge. How much was set aside in the last Provincial budget for that road?

Does the Province have $400 million to match the monies put forward by the Feds? I doubt it. Everyone knows about the struggle between that Province and the Feds for more infrastructure money.

Don't forget as well the $500M Gong Show money that was offered by Dwight and his Cabinet colleague that was immediately pulled back the next day. What an embarrassment that still has to be to the Minister of Finance. If you will recall however, no money was available until after 2010. So we still have several years more of fun and games before the Province is in a position to put forward a big sum of money in Windsor. After all they need to build that subway in Toronto to keep their votes there.

Now just between you and me, dear reader, did you notice? Gord has just told us that Eddie has no intention of running provincially. Stéphane Dion and those that want to take his place better start worrying or hope that Eddie gets a job with Roger.

Star's Half Story

I guess I shouldn't be surprised anymore but I am. I guess I should know by now that the Windsor Star is on a mission. I guess I should realize that if you have an agenda, you have to do whatever it takes in order to achieve your objective.

All I am sure about is that some people at the Star must be just as embarrassed about the story as I am angry about it so they had to bury it on page 7 when normally it would appear on page 2 or page 3. You know the story published in Friday's Star: "Michigan sticks with DRIC."

Windsor Star readers deserve better. They need to be given the facts so that they can draw their own conclusions. If you read what the Star said, you would not know all the details. Of course, my BLOG readers are aware of much more.

You know for example:
  • That there was a Senate Resolution "to support the plan of the Detroit International Bridge Company to establish an enhancement span to the Ambassador Bridge and to urge the Michigan Strategic Fund and U.S. and Canadian authorities to take certain actions regarding this project"
  • That Senator "Cropsey also asserted that as part of the deal Gov. Jennifer Granholm expressed her support for the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge."
  • An accounting was demanded of all funds paid for DRIC (Is this the beginning of a value for money audit?)
  • Any additional spending to implement any recommendation of DRIC will require the prior approval of both the Michigan House and Senate.
Oh the apologists are out there trying to downplay the significance of what the Michigan Legislators did. They have to don't they? Otherwise they would be out of luck and not able to spend more millions of taxpayer money.

Oh the Senate resolution really doesn't mean very much. It's just a piece of paper with words on it. I guess they think it is like the Observations of the Canadian Senate that are not strictly part of the legislation on Bill C-3. But let us see whether the Bureaucrats in either country dare defy the Senators in both countries. Who cares what the Governor has to say, it doesn't matter even though she is the head of the State. And don't worry about the money, it will be found. Toll revenues you know even though they would be many times higher than those of the Ambassador Bridge unless taxpayers are to subsidize them too.

It was interesting that the Star story covered a Republican so that it seemed to suggest that not every Republican was in favor. But it was also very interesting that they did not get a quote from certain Democrats. For example this interesting one in the Detroit News:

Rep. George Cushingberry Jr., D-Detroit, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, said

  • "lawmakers are close to an agreement that would allow Matty Maroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, to build a second span across the Detroit River to Windsor."

Didn't you just love the quote from Eddie:

  • "The fact they decided to support the process underscores the need to move quickly toward a final solution.

    "There are a number of private operators and private interests who would love nothing more than to dismantle the DRIC process. Those private interests will continue to protect their own interests. That's not going to stop.

    "They will lobby at all levels and create an environment of confusion with misinformation because it satisfies their best interests."

It is so funny reading about Eddie wanting to move quickly when his advertisements just talk about all the time being wasted in inaction. For most of that time, he was the Mayor and his stalling on the road to the border has caused major issues in getting a resolution. Do you see him working with DRIC or trying to "counter" their plans?

Gee, was Eddie speaking as the Mayor of Windsor when he was talking about private operators and private interests or was he speaking about himself as a competitor of the Bridge Company who wants to spend US $75 million to become the Tunnel operator.

Why would he want to fix the road to the border to give the Ambassador Bridge an advantage when the road to the Tunnel and the Tunnel Plaza improvements project are in such a mess and need to be fixed up first. Dev Tyagi told us that the Improvement project will not go on for some time due to negotiations taking place. Therefore don't expect agreement on a road to the border soon.

It is so obvious that the Ambassador Bridge issue was very important in Michigan and very visible.

  • "The Ambassador Bridge issue has been blocking the final approval of the state transportation budget."
What a change in direction. Instead of being the embodiment of evil as people like to portray them, the Bridge Company was supported by a significant number of the members of the Michigan Legislature.

To be direct about it, in Michigan the tide turned for the Bridge Company when they attended the hearings in Lansing. The Legislators understood very well by the time the Bridge Company representatives were finished what the consequences were financially to the State if DRIC moved forward. And I believe it fair to say they did not like them. That has been reflected in the State's actions to date.

In the same way, the Bridge Company representatives were very successful in front of both the House and the Senate in getting their story across. What was said to be a "slam dunk" originally took several days of hearing and resulted in Observations that are very favorable to them also.

Unfortunately, a Star reader would not get any of this different perspective by reading the Star story. Aren't you glad that there are Bloggers in Windsor that will give you a different perspective on the news so that you can form your own judgment rather than having it being formed for you by those on an impossible mission.