Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 30, 2007

DUHHH The Provincial Election Is Over

Nice to see how well our two local MPPs/Cabinet Ministers stood up for Windsor, and especially our border crossing. In the Throne speech, there was not one single word about Windsor or the border crossing.

A Liberal political operative told me before the election that the Liberals would know how to deal with Eddie. I guess this is how they are going to do it.

For his sake, I sure hope that Eddie got his deal with the Liberals signed in blood. If not this City has been screwed royally. I must admit that I would have thought that any leverage that he had was before the election and not after. That was my experience with STOPDRTP. You nail the politician before when they need you not after the election when they don't.

For such a supposedly savvy politician and a master manipulator in his own right, has our distinguished Mayor been hoodwinked? I cannot believe such a foolish statement as the following that the Mayor made:
  • "The speech also didn’t include a reference to Windsor’s border.

    “I was surprised that they didn’t mention the border in light of the fact that the feds mention it at every opportunity they get.”

DUH... the next municipal election is in three years and then Sandra and Dwight are rid of Eddie while the next Provincial election is in four years in 2011. They can ignore Eddie and Windsor as much as they want until they are up for re-election again when they can try and fool the new Mayor.

After all, we should expect the Feds to talk about the border. They want to ensure that Jeff Watson beats Susan Whelan don't they. So they have to try and pretend to remain interested in what happens down here.

Is that the best that the Mayor can do? No outrage expressed...was he totally caught by surprise? Or are we games playing again, with Eddie being told that there will be a deal on the border so don't be too mad at us publicly?

Here's more information for you. It's probably no wonder that we haven't heard anything about Dwight Duncan and Greenlink. The City hasn't done very much about Greenlink either. Now I thought that Eddie was supposed to file his materials with DRIC, including his "scientific" survey results, by November 15. I asked for a copy of that report from the representatives of the Senior Levels. Here are the responses I received:


    To: Ed Arditti
    Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:57 PM
    Subject: RE: City of Windsor response to DRIC

    Good afternoon,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Although we have met with City officials and their consultants about the City's GreenLink proposal, at this time, we have not received any formal reports from the City in response to the Parkway alternative that the DRIC team presented in August. If you need further information, I would encourage you to contact my colleagues at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, who are leading the DRIC study on behalf of the Canadian partners. I would be pleased to provide their contact information, if you do not have their coordinates already.


    To: Ed Arditti
    Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 12:05 PM
    Subject: RE: City of Windsor response to DRIC

    Mr. Arditti:

    Thanks for your inquiry. We welcome input from the City and all stakeholders. We have not received a report from the City at this time. We look forward to receiving and reviewing the City's report, so that we may continue to improve our understanding of their proposal.

    You may want to contact the City for further information.

Hmmmm Why did Eddie as the Leader on the Border spend all those thousands of dollars on media ads and have meetings in all the Wards for citizens and the City has not done anything? I don't get it. What's the hold-up? Has the City asked for an extension?

Perhaps someone on Council could introduce a Motion removing the Mayor as the Leader on the border file if this is the best that he can do. Oh, and if they do it, they should introduce the Motion right away, say on Monday, before Councillor Brister introduces his Teacher's Pet Motion.

Row, Row, Row Windsor's Boat

I told you, dear reader, that the Star is on a mission. The real challenge however is to try to figure out sometimes what that mission is since even the Star Editors seem to be confused on what they should be doing.

To paraphrase Shakespeare in Hamlet to explain the problem that the Editors have: To criticize or not to criticize the Mayor, that is the question.

Last Saturday's editorial was one of their funnier ones but it made clear what they believe their role is. Part of their job is to stifle dissent and to preserve unity. They do a good job of hammering those that they don't care for except, ironically, they actually give credibility to those whom they attack. These days, the more ferocious the attack, the more believable a person becomes in the eyes of Windsorites.

The Star, and City Hall too I would wager, were terrified about what Dennis DesRosiers would say this week in his speech. As time goes on, it is clear that the speeches made by DesRosiers in the past are bang on when he criticized what is happening with this City. How else to explain this comment about him other than to discredit him in advance.

  • "But his characterization of Windsor as a dysfunctional community riddled with dissension and incompetent leadership is counterproductive."

The Star did not know what DesRosiers is going to say yet they are trying to protect Eddie in advance since they are assuming that he would be dumping on the Mayor.

You see as well that they echo the Mayor's theme which is their positive way to stifle any discouraging words by anyone. Their last line in the Editorial was priceless:

  • "This is a rough storm but we can weather it together. We're all in the same boat. We'll find safe harbour soon enough if we all just grab a paddle."

Why doesn't that that sound just like the Mayor? There is that "we" word. Whenever something goes wrong, our Mayor is united with his Councillors. When they go right... who is front and center alone?

Do you want to know, dear reader, why you cannot take the Windsor Star seriously, if you ever did. It is because they make the news; they don't report it. That's part of their mission too. Did you actually read what DesRosiers said about leadership in his speech in the Star? Hardly! You read it in my BLOG!

Here's what they say their role is:

  • "The Star and other media outlets have a responsibility to focus on positive stories -- they are out there -- instead of focusing only on the negative ones that land with a thud on the community's doorstep. People are still opening businesses. People are still imagining new and better ways to trap that mouse."

Yes, focus on the positive. Tell us the good news. Don't tell us what's wrong. Don't place responsibility where it belongs. Blame it on the "perfect storm" and not the Mayor as if nothing that he has done so far is responsible for anything.

  • "You can't blame Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and city council for the strong loonie, border congestion, 9-11 and adjustments in the international auto sector. You can't blame the unions or the province or the federal government either.

    That's the imperfect thing about perfect economic storms like the one battering Windsor. No one person and no one thing is to blame."

For whatever reason, and I have my own theory about it, but Star cannot blame Eddie for doing anything wrong. The WUC fiasco Editorial and the recent one on the airport on openness are pointed right at the Mayor and yet the Star Editors refuse to name names. Try and see who is at fault in Monday's Editorial about the arena. They are shirking their responsibility as the major news outlet in the City. But I guess their excuse is that there is a greater cause that they are fighting for, whatever that is.

What is so ludicrous about the Star's position can be seen in the story about the Tunnel. There we have it: the Mayor talked to the Tunnel Commissioners in confidence on the US $75 million deal but we mere citizens who may have to bear the brunt of it financially cannot know what is going on. Do you have any idea what the legal fees must be since they are working nearly day every day on it? Not only that, the Tunnel is soon being transformed into a private corporation of which the Mayor is the head, like the airport, so that we will find out nothing about it unless Drew Dilkens' Motion is approved by Council.

How does one deal with the Star other than to say that within the Editorial ranks there is a conflict when you read an Editorial like the one on Monday that goes completely against what was said on Saturday:

  • "If it was only a loonie that will be buried beneath the ice of the arena under construction in the city's east end, taxpayers would have no business inquiring about the sale of luxury suites by the Windsor Spitfires. But when 65 million loonies will form the foundation of that publicly funded arena, taxpayers deserve some answers and a little respect.

    The Spits' new home is being built with public money at a time when jobs are leaving this city, and residents, already reeling from water rate hikes, are facing the prospect of property tax increases...

    Taxpayers deserve to see this contract because the arena is being built with their money and they also deserve to see the agreement because this city has a dubious history when it comes to inking deals. The fact that councillors themselves never saw the contract -- they voted in favour of the deal based on an administrative report that was taken away from them following in-camera discussions -- is all the more reason why this deal must be made public."
DUH!!! If the Councillors did not see the agreement, then guess which person on Council is the only one who did. Guess which person is the only one responsible for the arena fiasco respecting the confidentiality. Guess which person is the only one responsible for the secretiveness. Why is it so hard for the Windsor Star to say "Eddie Francis."

I cannot stomach the excuse about a "perfect storm." It is not as if it just happened. It is not as if we did not know that there would be problems with the economy. Isn't it the job of a great leader to anticipate and to plan for action to minimize any pain? Not just to sit back and tell us that what is happening is cyclical and that everything will be good again just like in the past. That's what Eddie told the realtors as reported in Saturday's Star.
  • "once the economic cyclical wheel turns, the city will be better positioned to compete."
In fact, he washed his hands of everything. It is not his job to fix anything. Rather
  • "it is up to them to "sell" the city, one deal at a time."

When Eddie first became Mayor I suggested that he read two books: one was by Nathan Phillips, the popular Mayor of Toronto, and the other was the Prince by Machiavelli. Had he read Phillips' book, the Mayor of all the People, then he would understand how a Mayor truly unites a city and how a Mayor "sells" a city without the need of a huge PR department. Had he read the Prince, then he would have learned how to deal with Fate and perfect storms.

  • "What Fortune Can Effect In Human Affairs, And How To Withstand Her

    IT is not unknown to me how many men have had, and still have, the opinion that the affairs of the world are in such wise governed by fortune and by God that men with their wisdom cannot direct them and that no one can even help them; and because of this they would have us believe that it is not necessary to labour much in affairs, but to let chance govern them. This opinion has been more credited in our times because of the great changes in affairs which have been seen, and may still be seen, every day, beyond all human conjecture. Sometimes pondering over this, I am in some degree inclined to their opinion. Nevertheless, not to extinguish our free will, I hold it to be true that Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions, but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less.

    I compare her to one of those raging rivers, which when in flood overflows the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil from place to place; everything flies before it, all yield to its violence, without being able in any way to withstand it; and yet, though its nature be such, it does not follow therefore that men, when the weather becomes fair, shall not make provision, both with defences and barriers, in such a manner that, rising again, the waters may pass away by canal, and their force be neither so unrestrained nor so dangerous. So it happens with fortune, who shows her power where valour has not prepared to resist her, and thither she turns her forces where she knows that barriers and defences have not been raised to constrain her."

In other words, no one can predict when disaster will hit but provision can be made in advance to deal with it and to minimize it. In Windsor's context, it was obvious that the Big Three were in trouble and that our economy would suffer. What did Eddie do about it? Our Economic Development Commission was years in the making and is a huge joke. It took them a year for heavens sake and a million dollars to figure out that they do not have any marketing materials. Where is our economic diversification plan or is our plan just to bring in speakers from out of town to tell us how well we will be doing in the future?

Where is the border solution that would have produced thousands and thousands of high-paying jobs for Windsor that would have provided a soft landing during the transition from reliance on the Big Three to our new economy? Why are we spending millions of dollars on an arena at taxpayer expense when we could have partnered with private enterprise and limited our financial exposure? How can we help out citizens in distress in these tough economic times when part of our budget is going for bridge financing of a $65 million and counting ego extravaganza? (Ooops, I forgot that our tax base is not going to be impacted by the arena.) Where are we going to find the money to build shovel ready land at the airport or a new City Hall or pay for infrastructure like roads and water mains and sewers except if we lease out City assets?

If our future depends on partnering with the University and building an intellectual R&D Centre for automotive excellence in Windsor, then both the Star and our Mayor have to be condemned in the strongest terms for the hatchet job they have done on the University. Instead of being thrilled that the University had the foresight to put forward a proposal that may save the City, all we have are attacks by the Star and the Mayor. Build where we tell you in the downtown to save the Mayor's career or you get no money from the City. How shortsighted and how perverse.

Take a look at this story in the Detroit Free Press to see what a city should be doing to embrace what the University wants to do.

  • "Michigan has tools to fix its economy
    Using colleges as a resource is key, groups are told

    If Michigan has the nation's worst case of jobs migration and stunted economic growth, North Carolina is the oft-cited flip side of that story -- a place once saddled with dying industries that has recovered to become a high-technology growth mecca.

    Rick Weddle runs the huge Research Triangle Park in the Raleigh-Durham area that has been a key driver in North Carolina's economic comeback.

    And he has a provocative message for those wringing their hands about Michigan's malaise:

    • Shame on Michigan for failing to capitalize on its tremendous assets.

    • Quit whining and do something. A strong bias for action is critical to re-energizing the state's economy...

    The Research Triangle Park, now 7,000 acres, was formed in 1959 on scrub farmland located midway between three major universities -- Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. It now has more than 40,000 full-time workers at 160 companies and research agencies, including IBM, Cisco, Nortel Networks, Lenovo, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences."

Imagine that, building a University complex at a spot where it can expand to 7000 acres and not in a downtown where it could not expand it all.

What I have discussed has nothing to do with the excuses set out in the Windsor Star Editorial! They represent a failure by the person who is the Head of this City and who rightfully deserves criticism for his failures.

Remember before what I wrote about the Star:

  • "Take Saturday's Star as an example. We should have a debate some time whether the Star is performing a service to this Community as the major media outlet in town or a disservice. Are they providing the news or making it or manipulating it for their own purposes...

    [Windsor Star executive editor Marty] Beneteau [said] "We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change. I think we got a lot of results this year and this now validates the results we got."
I am afraid that the Star misunderstands. They do not recognize yet that their job is not to be a cheerleader for this Administration, an Administration that its citizens expected a lot from and which has has failed us badly. According to the Star, with this Mayor,
  • "Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
    Life is but a dream. "
By not doing its job, the Star is not allowing us to row together. Rather, it has left Windsorites up the creek, without a paddle.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

CanWest Needs To Clean Shop

Short and sweet.

CanWest, the owner of the Windsor Star, needs to send down to Windsor the head of their newspaper group. His/her function is to coach the Editors about their jobs.

The first person who should be coached is the person who decided that the speech of Dennis DesRosiers, and in particular the section dealing with his views on Windsor, should be buried on page C2, the 24th page of the Thursday Star.

Whether you agree with Dennis or not, it does not matter. He has an important point of view that we need to hear. He is a well recognized expert, known across Canada for his opinions about the automobile industry. He is also from Windsor and maintains a presence in Windsor with his role at the University. If the Star can give so much space to a Frank McKenna who can talk about Windsor and write a Guest Column, it is a shocking indictment of their editorial judgment that they gave so little to DesRosiers.

Let's see now... CKLW interviewed DesRosiers on their prime 5:20 p.m. spot on Wednesday, CBC TV news with Susan Pedler did a major interview of him on the 6 p.m. news and John Lewis of A-Channel virtually summarized his speech on their 6 p.m. newscast.

And what did the Windsor Star do... damage control to help out a failing Mayor who
  • "dismissed the speech as the analyst’s annual attack on the city. “It’s a typical, predictable Dennis speech. And that’s all I’ll say.”

Why that comment was very similar to that the day before dealing with the 2007 Local Government Performance Index (LGPI) by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg.

  • "It’s conclusions were dismissed by local officials, who said it drew unfair comparisons between cities.

    “I write it all off,” said Mayor Eddie Francis."

"Dismissed" must be the newest, favourite word. It's the typical action of the beleaguered Mayor who cannot deal with any criticism. Why, as Gord Henderson would say, Eddie is "Shooting the Messenger."

Really now, how can one complain when the Star gave DesRosiers so much advance publicity... a Henderson column a week ago and a big Star editorial on Saturday. What the heck, who needed to read his speech anyway when the Star told us in advance what he was going to say. Look at how much time they saved us by ignoring most of what he said.

We must maintain unity after all and accentuate the positive. Criticism will not be allowed. You see the Star has a mission. It is not to report the news as one might have thought that a newspaper is supposed to do. No, no, no, it is much more important than that:

  • "The Star and other media outlets have a responsibility to focus on positive stories — they are out there — instead of focusing only on the negative ones that land with a thud on the community’s doorstep."

It is time that Canwest bring some people here are who understand what the role of a newspaper is, especially when it is the major media outlet in town.

Thank goodness that you, dear reader, and readers of the BLOG of Chris Schnurr had the opportunity to read for yourself what Dennis had to say to form your own opinion. You don't get that chance in a CanWest newspaper it seems.

If you did not read the speech, you can find it in the archives yesterday

How Greenlink Will Build E C Row As A Border Road

I wonder if Gridlock Sam and Parsons Brinckerhoff retained a security advisor as part of their group when designing Schwunnels. You know those short tunnels up to 1 KM long that Sam put in all over the place in Grenlink that we are supposed to be so happy about. In fact, I wonder if the DRIC people did as well with their road project.

If you stop and think about it, can you imagine the border chaos that would be caused if there was an accident in a shunnel or a Schwunnel. It does not take a super brain to figure out that even the smallest fender bender involving a couple of transport trucks could cause backups for hours going into the United States. Can you imagine what would happen to cross-border trade if we had the equivalent of that California fire that took place recently involving over 20 trucks.

The trouble is that I believe that all of these people know the answer. They're treating us like fools again. There's much more involved in all of this border stuff than we poor taxpayers can figure out. One only needs to look at the materials that were disclosed in Port Huron as part of their border crossing file to know that we are not being given all of the relevant information.

There is no doubt in my mind that the tunnels, Schwunnels and shunnels are huge security risks. I will let you figure out in your own mind the various ways that those who wish to harm the economies of Canada and United States could do so without very much effort. Unless there is going to be a tremendous security system in place before a vehicle enters the road to the border, then our economies are at risk.

Here are just several quotes that I found in the Port Huron materials. There was talk about building a 1.5 mile secure traffic corridor in Port Huron. Here are some comments about it:
  • "CBP has serious safety and security concerns regarding the proposed alternative-believing that It will create new and unacceptable security vulnerabilities. To be viable, this alternative must fully recognize and address the safety and security requirements.
  • Many of the conclusions related to the security risks are flawed. The reports ignore an attack for the purpose of shutting the trade corridor between the United States and Canada. Additionally, the reports ignore the inherent security issues associated with the bridge over the Black River and its accessibility and vulnerability to a terrorist attack that could also close the entire secure corridor for days or weeks, depending on how long it would take to replace or repair the bridge."
  • "CBP disagrees with the conclusion, "The security team believes that a terrorist attack on the bridge is unlikely, and an attack on the plaza or secure corridor is even less likely." The plaza and secure corridor are much easier targets then the bridge itself, especially the secure corridor due to the bridges that are at or near grade. The bridge over the Black River in PA-3 is especially vulnerable because of the water across and the fact that it is at grade. Once again, the conclusion is inherently flawed."
  • "However, the corridor's most important economic attribute is its role as a major North American trade route. CBP emphasizes this because the report does not acknowledge this, and hence recommendations do not accurately reflect what is at stake.
  • CBP disagrees with the statement "The increased perimeter and footprint does not increase the likelihood of an attack…" Military protocol identifies that the larger the perimeter to secure, the more vulnerable the perimeter is to a breach.
  • A secure corridor offers higher probabilities for increased traffic accident back-ups since the corridor extends the distance to the plaza. Currently, if a backup occurs along the highway after the bridge vehicles can leave the plaza at a local exit and bypass the highway. Local diversion of traffic is impossible with a secure corridor. A secure corridor will offer more opportunities to terrorists to close the trade corridor. As an example, sabotaging the Black River Bridge target instead of the Blue Water Bridge."

I am sure that you see what I mean. I know that the DRIC or the Greenlink road is not a secure corridor but the principles are the same with tunnels. In fact, our proposed solution may be worse. It is going to be the main way that trucks get to the border. The security risk is the border road and not the bridge itself.

What does all of this mean? Of course we are going to have Huron Church Road fixed up but not with any major Schwunnels since that would be totally irresponsible from a security point of view. Even though the Americans are concerned about their side of the river, do you really think that there are going to allow us to build a road system that puts their economy at risk? I am sure that Customs and Stockwell Day are not that foolish either.

Clearly the answer is that a backup or redundant road must be built if we are to have shunnels or even Schwunnels. That is the only way it can be done responsibly. That was one of the issues in the United States with respect to the DRIC corridor there. There was a need for a redundant way to get to the border.

There's only one alternative for a back-up road that I can think of that makes any sense and fits in very well with what the Mayor wants to do at the airport and with the Intermodal hub. It also fits in to the fact that this particular road needs major construction improvements and the City clearly does not have the money to do them.

That alternative is to turn E C Row into an alternative route to the border.

We will get a 10 lane road with 4 lanes in the middle for international trucks only paid for by the Senior Levels. And then you know what, with E C Row upgraded, and all this talk about DRTP with its brand spanking new doublestack rail tunnel being proposed, why it would not surprise me for someone to say let's use that new rail tunnel for trucks instead!

With the golf course sized area that can be used for a joint Customs plaza in Windsor and using DRTP North only at first as well, since that does not involve the richer South Windsor area where STOPDRTP grew up, now we have our connecting corridor linking up the two parts.

If you think I'm kidding, then please explain to me, if the truck Expressway idea is dead, why DRTP just bought some land in Detroit from the City that they needed for their truck Expressway. I believe they paid several million dollars for it.

What will we have...what the Joint Management Committee and the Senior Levels wanted 5 years ago. Here comes the Son of the Nine Point Plan all over again.

Here we go again. And it is all due to that brilliant Voice of Council, our Leader on the Border as he described himself Monday night at Council, our Mayor. No one else. The finger points directly at him. Thanks Eddie!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

DesRosiers Strikes Again

I'll let you read DesRosiers' speech for yourself with no commentary on it by me. I wonder how the Establishment will react?

Gee, do you think Eddie's ""united front" of local business and labour leaders to discuss how Windsor can move forward in these tough economic times" might be his reaction in advance of Dennis' remarks. By the way, isn't that the job of the Gazelle Feeders? A vote of non-confidence in them by the Mayor I would think. A slap in the face.

Were the Henderson column and the Star Editorial trying to do damage control in advance as well to protect the Mayor from Big, Bad Dennis if he was a meanie?

Just in passing about Eddie, check out the Star video if it is still up and see him get so uncomfortable when he might have to share the kudos and limelight with his Councillor colleagues.

It is hilarious. They may have to spit out teeth after another slap in the face and insult! Tell me why they take it!

Time to let Dennis have his say:


    Speech to: Windsor Homebuilders Association
    By: Dennis DesRosiers, President, DesRosiers
    Automotive Consultants Inc.

    Thank you for that kind introduction and thank you my friends for inviting me back to talk to your group again this year. It’s always a pleasure to come back to my hometown where my family and many friends and business clients still live. Most of you know I am a proud Kennedy Collegiate graduate, a proud University of Windsor graduate and proud supporter of the Windsor Essex County region.

    My presentation today will be in two parts, first an overview of the automotive situation in North America where I will examine some of the implications for Canada and to a degree Windsor – Essex County. This will take about 15 minutes.

    Second, I also am compelled to talk about Windsor from a broader perspective and to provide you with some very heart felt words from someone who is from Windsor, who understands Windsor, who is passionate about Windsor and can provide the view from within yet at the same time lives “outside” Windsor and can also provide the view from afar.

    Review Auto sector slides (attached)

    Now let’s deep dive into the “Windsor Issue”

    Two years ago I came to Windsor and gave a speech at a Tooling conference entitled “Help me understand”. In this speech I asked Windsor to explain why they were not acknowledging and responding aggressively to the economic crises facing them.

    Quite frankly the political and media response to this crisis made no sense to me so I asked Windsor to “help me understand” why they were doing what they were doing. There were about a dozen things I asked about and I’ll not repeat these today other than to say that I never got an answer. And Windsor’s economic situation has continued to deteriorate over the last two years.

    Today I’d like to turn this phrase around and I title my speech “Let me help you understand”.

    The slides on the automotive sector are meant to help crystallize what is going on in the sector. It is clear that the sector has globalized at the expense of GM, Ford and Chrysler and that any entity that touches these companies continues to work through wrenching structural change.

    Many of these entities are in Windsor … raw materials, tooling and advanced manufacturing technology suppliers… automotive parts and modules … vehicle assembly … car dealers … aftermarket players and all of the knowledge-based imbedded professional service suppliers including R&D, engineering design, finance, insurance, legal, accounting, real estate, transportation and logistics and so on. The list is very long and wide reaching.

    The problems in the auto sector partly explain why Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in the country, why Windsor has falling real estate and home prices, high commercial vacancy rates and high foreclosure rates. But there is a lot more to this than the economics of the auto sector and let me help you understand that hoping it will all get better will not change Windsor’s situation. I believe it is going to require strong leadership.

    Let me help you understand leadership. Lee Iacocca in his recent bestseller titled “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” stated that the principal role of leadership is to confront, understand, and explain reality head on, to develop realistic and achievable strategies and solutions and to marshal the necessary resources for successful outcomes. Leadership in Windsor falls short of Lee Iacocca’s definition. I see people in leadership positions who appear to be afraid to embrace difficult challenges and instead rely on selective facts to the point of myth making, to cast them in a favorable light. And most troubling to me is that any evidence and opinions that challenges the myth, gets dismissed and often loudly.

    Confronting reality requires honesty and putting oneself at risk. That … my friends … is leadership -- putting oneself at risk.

    Fear of failure is the motivator in Windsor rather than daring to succeed.

    It’s somewhat ironic that leaders who employ the strategy of not confronting reality to avoid failing, are in reality, making failure more likely. When the ostrich sticks its head in the sand, which end is up? With one’s head in the sand how can other opinions and perhaps the best opinions be heard? That speaks to another problem in Windsor and that is those who should be leading do not surround themselves with strong voices, instead preferring ‘yes’ men. In this way, only select opinions and ideas can be heard. Some would argue that preventing alternative viewpoints is often used as a decoy to cover one’s own shortcomings. My Dad told me only one thing when I started my own company, he said, “Dennis always hire people smarter than you”.

    It appears that the preferred method here for dealing with the mighty economic challenges facing this region is to create the appearance of “doing something” or “spin control”, complete with glossy brochures and fancy slide shows. Most in Windsor believe that if you make it sound and look good then everything will be fine. In this region if you acknowledge reality and challenge those who should be leading Windsor, you get labeled as anti-Windsor.

    This is not what Lee Iacocca had in mind.

    One has to keep in mind that investment decisions by the national and international business community are -- not surprisingly -- business case driven. One needs to be cautious in waging rhetorical and over-hyped marketing campaigns that ironically, turn off the business community. These campaigns might fool Joe Blow citizen who sees “something being done”, but to the investor community – the very community being sought after – it does not. Marketing doesn’t attract investors, creating a business climate where companies can thrive creates investment.

    Let me help you understand that GM, Ford and Chrysler and everyone touching them are definitely not coming back to their previous glory days. It is certainly NOT cyclical as some suggest. This time it’s very different. Global forces are in charge of these companies and represents structural change not cyclical change.

    I have very high hopes that GM, Ford and Chrysler will survive and will be more vibrant in the future. But they will be unable to rescue Windsor on their own like has happened a number of times in the past. The auto sector has a role in moving Windsor into a new dimension – perhaps up the value chain. But that role will require a difficult transition to world-class standards of innovation, skills development and productivity improvements.

    Let me help you understand that there are deeply rooted cultural factors that are also responsible for the problems in W-EC, not just the global economics of the automotive sector.

    After many decades of strong employment and high wages it is not surprising that an “entitlement” culture evolved. But an “entitlement” culture is troubling in a competitive global marketplace. Global players work for their market share; they are not “entitled” to anything. And acting like a ‘victim’ when you don’t get what you feel you are ‘entitled’ to makes matters worse. While it may play well locally, outside of Windsor it does you a lot of harm.

    Perpetual entitlement/victim-hood stifles the need for change… on the corporate side of the equation a belief that it is “just a matter of time” before what is rightfully yours will come back prevents companies from innovating with new products and aggressively introducing and experimenting with new technology.

    On the labour side of the equation it surfaces as a telephone book thick labour contract where workers feel they have to protect themselves with voluminous legal language.

    But also let me say that there has been progress -- credit local labour leaders who get it and are confronting reality but they cannot do it alone. They need phone calls returned. Their members need help. They need a leader as defined by Lee Iacocca.

    On the political front … victim-hood is blaming your troubles on every other level of Government except your own … after all “if only those Feds or those guys at Queen’s Park would help us everything would be all right”….

    The headline in The Windsor Star on Saturday pronounced that, “Windsor’s woes are cyclical”. That is what I mean when I say you have a culture of entitlement. Windsor doesn’t have to respond because all the problems are cyclical … it is only a matter of time before Windsor is boom-town Canada again.

    Let me help you understand that no automaker is ‘entitled’ to market share. Their problems are not cyclical. Windsor is not ‘entitled’ to funding for a new bridge, Windsor is not ‘entitled’ to billions of Gov’t funding for tunnels, Windsor is not ‘entitled’ to more funding for its University and College. Windsor has to earn these privileges. It is not the Federal or Provincial Government’s job to bail out Windsor.

    Windsor truly believes that ‘larger’ market forces control its destiny, be they economic or political forces … this so-called ‘perfect storm’… when in actual fact it is Windsor’s response or lack of response to these market forces that has put it into this situation.

    Let me repeat this.

    Windsor truly believes that ‘larger’ market forces control its destiny, be they economic or political forces … this so-called ‘perfect storm’… when in actual fact it is Windsor’s response or lack of response to these market forces that has put it into this situation.

    It is Windsor’s job to rescue Windsor. Everyone has a role but no one is “entitled” to anything. Leadership has to come from within.

    Let me give you an opposite example on which I, and others on the Board of Governors at the University of Windsor have worked very hard.

    The University was just awarded $40 million by the Province to help it build its new research campus. Talk about a Government helping out! The University didn’t get that money because of ‘entitlement’. Our initial proposal asked for the money because our existing buildings were dilapidated. That was the wrong approach. We got that money because a number of very smart people worked in harmony to create a superior concept – a superior product -- to any other University in the entire province. Then we worked hard as a focused and unified team to get this funding. We were not “entitled” to that money; it was earned on the basis of an innovative and a meritorious proposal.

    This is a good example of what can happen when you get rid of the mentality of ‘entitlement’ and put in its place true leadership. In the University’s case we had the leadership of our Chancellor the Hon. Ed Lumley who is a true leader. He didn’t take the leadership mantel to receive credit for his efforts, it was not ego driven. He took on this role to make a positive contribution to his alma mater.

    It’s going to take real community leadership such as what Mr. Lumley exhibited to set Windsor on the path to prosperity.

    I find most Windsorites very insular; they stand on the edge of Essex County and look in. Very few look out and most reject outsiders, like myself, when we come to Windsor to provide a different perspective.

    A Politician at Queen’s Park once told me that “Windsor is only 350 kilometres from Toronto but Toronto is 35,000 kilometers from Windsor”. The outsiders that can help you are very close by; but Windsor too often treats them like they are on another planet.

    You are fortunate to have Dwight and Sandra and in the past politicians like Dave Cooke who can bring an outsiders perspective to Windsor because when their Governments were elected they were forced to live in the outside world of Toronto and they gained the perspective of an outsider. I would argue that they brought a lot of economic benefit to Windsor. This is what an outsider, with intimate local knowledge, does ... they make a difference.

    That is what Yves Landry did when after spending much of his career outside Windsor gaining an “outsider’s” perspective he came back to Windsor and went to his head office and effectively made the business case for a strategic investment in building a $500 million dollar automotive R&D and advanced education centre in Windsor.

    I’m worried because I hear and see more and more Windsor becoming … self aggrandizement vs sacrifice … intolerance vs tolerance … secrecy vs openness … divided vs united.

    As long as these negative attitudes are allowed to, or worse yet, encouraged to fester then Windsor will continue to suffer.

    I can’t tell you in more forceful terms, “You will never rescue Windsor by dividing Windsor. You rescue Windsor by uniting Windsor, bringing people together and moving forward.”

    That is your current biggest flaw on the local political and media front. Your local politicians and your local media have engendered a culture of divisiveness rather than unity.

    For instance, it is beyond belief that the University of Windsor is being criticized as it moves forward with a capital expenditure program that may reach $200 million dollars over the next few years.

    The Ambassador Bridge is being beat up and criticized for wanting to spend a billion dollars of its own money to help fix the border.

    Will Borealis and CP Rail find it difficult to spend $350 million to replace a 100-year rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor with the state of the art double-stack infrastructure needed to integrate the region into global supply chains?

    How do some councilors respond to bringing desperately needed jobs and investment to Windsor: Instead of daring to capitalize on these few private sector opportunities to lever them for bigger investments – local politics undercuts them, they refuse to meet with them and then throw obstacles in their path to make it as difficult as possible to spend hundreds of millions in an economically depressed city.

    As the world shrinks and information flies around the globe -- how do you think Windsor’s actions play in the boardrooms across Canada and the United States and the rest of the world? Mention Windsor right now and eyes roll -- it’s that simple. I see this because I’m in some of those boardrooms.

    This is only a short list but together they represent thousands of jobs. Let me help you understand why these jobs are not coming to Windsor … it is the culture of “entitlement” … “victim-hood” … “insularity” … “divisiveness” …

    Why isn’t Windsor united behind these industrialists who want to spend money and create jobs in this City? From an “outsiders” point of view, let me tell you that virtually every other City in Canada would be tripping over their feet to help the University, the Bridge Company, Borealis, CP Rail, Tony Toldo and the others who want to help Windsor.

    Not here. The minute someone wants to invest here, many of your local politicians and some in the media start issuing their customary “demand list”, hire lawyers and tell these investors to do it their way or hit the highway… witness the contortions over all of the proposed investments.

    The Windsor Star quoted a local politician just a week or so ago.

    Quote. “If you think it’s the worst city in the world, what are you doing here?” End of quote.

    And the columnist who referred to this quote was COMPLIMENTING the person who said this. To paraphrase this quote, “It is my way or the highway in Windsor”.t

    Remember, there is a lot more money to be made outside Windsor than inside Windsor. The ordinary citizen referred to in this quote likely has no choice but to stay in Windsor but investors take these kind of quotes very seriously … they hit the highway and put their money into other communities.

    I do see hope for the future on the civic leadership front.

    One veteran councilor --who understands the big picture -- introduced and passed a motion to bring together the educational community, the business community and local governments in an effort to identify skills needed for the next generation of workers.

    One new member of council just introduced a notice of motion for more transparency. Another new councilor asked for a regional economic summit to come up with local strategies to address the economic crises.

    On the need for unity I also see hope. I’ve observed the Herculean efforts of Tony Toldo to pull together the top industrialists in Windsor into a cohesive group and I applaud this effort. He has become the “Champion” and “Voice” for Windsor that we lost when Yves Landry died.

    He is Windsor’s Roger Penske.

    Now we have to find a way to integrate all the other groups in Windsor into his initiative and here I applaud Mr. Toldo as he had the foresight and leadership to invite the two major labour leaders in Windsor to his brainstorming session. Business and labour working together, whom would have thought this possible – Tony Toldo – that’s who!

    Of course many have to come to expect this type leadership from Mr. Toldo, Windsor’s Mayor emeritus. I bet most of you didn’t realize you had two Mayors. You have an elected Mayor and then you have Mr. Toldo the Mayor emeritus of Windsor who is trying to build a unified group to lead Windsor out of this mess – vintage Iacocca.

    Mr. Toldo is daring to succeed!

    Let me help you understand what needs to be done on the economic development front. Historically Windsor has had four key elements to its success… a tool, mould and die sector, an automotive sector, an agri-food sector centered more in the county than Windsor but critical for the area and finally a tourism/hospitality industry that feeds off of Detroit.

    Each of these sectors needs a specialized business case based strategy to help stabilize and regenerate their presence down here. They will find it difficult to revitalize on their own.

    Let me help you understand that if you abandon any of these four sectors you will be making a major mistake. These industries have formed the backbone of economic development in this community for many years and they absolutely must form the backbone of your strategy for the future. The notion I’ve heard down here that these sectors should not be addressed or are “yesterday’s” businesses is extremely self-destructive. It is these four sectors that represent the best opportunities to create your so-called “Gazelles”.

    I see a fifth sector that holds huge potential and this is the entire medical sector be it educating doctors, nurses and dentists or designing and manufacturing innovative medical devices or caring for an aging society.

    Virtually anything that touches the word “medical” is a rapid growth industry in Canada. Embracing this industry has significant economic benefits for the City not to mention the health benefits for your citizens.

    Why not expand your MTDM sector into tools and equipment for the medical field not just the automotive field. They are talented enough to do this.

    Windsor is going to become more of a retirement community and some would argue that Windsor should do more to promote itself as a retirement community. Locally or in Detroit you have virtually everything a retirement community needs, world class entertainment, professional sports, transportation, temperate weather, shopping, modest house pricing, a relatively low cost of living, etc. You are missing one very big thing. And that is more healthcare. This includes not just the human resource side of healthcare and the education side of healthcare but also the infrastructure related to healthcare.

    Just think of how many jobs there would be in the Windsor Home Builders Association if we were to double or triple the healthcare infrastructure in Windsor. Think of how many new homes would have to be built if Windsor could encourage thousands of retirees to relocate to Windsor because we had the best healthcare infrastructure in Canada, the best medical education in Canada, the best Hospice in Canada, the best nursing school in Canada, a centre of excellence in medical devices technologies. Go down the list.

    And in the automotive sector the future is “the six inches between your ears” not blue-collar jobs. Yes we need to try to keep as many of these jobs as possible but every single factory job that is lost can be replaced with a higher paying “intellectual” job. Yves Landry proposed this strategy more than a decade ago and little has been done to promote it. You have more interest in low skill and low paying call centre jobs than high skilled high paying research, design, development and testing jobs. Figure that one out in your mind.

    In summary, let me help you understand some things that I see Windsor needs.

    1. Windsor needs local politicians who are prepared to listen and to bring people together rather than isolate so many citizens. A number of councilors have respect, intellect and experience and I would encourage them to take more of a leadership role. They have the ability. There is an immaturity with some of your local politicians so other local politicians have to step forward and fill the leadership void.

    2. Windsor needs to create an environment where people are not afraid to stand up and express an alternate point of view, where healthy debate is encouraged rather than mocked. It’s obvious what is going on down here – toe the party line or get beat up … my way or the highway. We all know the drill. First, the headline story, followed by outrage, followed by a print media drubbing, followed by attempts to discredit the source, then claims that someone is cleaning up the mess despite causing it. And finally there is a call for other levels of Government to fix the problem.

    3. Windsor needs the labour movement to continue to evolve in a more collaborative and progressive way to help build a globally competitive workforce and profitable companies which is the absolute best way to secure durable well paying jobs, benefits and pensions. The classic industrial union role is to counter bad management. Well most companies are now well managed and the role of the union needs to be re-defined. Windsor needs brilliant labour leaders who have the power to move the needle. There are talented folks in the labour community that can re-define their role in this City.

    4. Windsor needs more community leaders like Tony Toldo who are willing to stand up and be champions for this City and indeed who are willing to challenge those who do not want to unite to help this City.

    5. Some say, “Give yourself permission to be positive about the City”. I say that Windsorites shouldn’t need ‘permission’ to work together or to allow alternative points of view. No one in Windsor should need ‘permission’ to acknowledge the City is in crises. Windsor needs leaders who don’t seek ‘permission’ to lead but instead have the strength of character to lead on his or her own.

    6. I also think Windsor citizens need to step up and to give encouragement to those leaders who want to move this City forward. There are times when it seems that the more I tell it like it is in Windsor (ie: The Truth) the more I get beat up. But I get hundreds of e-mails and phone calls and I talk to dozens of citizens in restaurants and at events in this City. They all are incredibly supportive and tell me to soldier on since they agree with my fundamental message. But when I ask them why they don’t step to the plate and speak out themselves they all say the same thing … “Dennis you don’t understand, anyone who speaks out against the in-crowd in this city is ostracized and cut off and publicly humiliated or punished or at the very least, black listed. I won’t be subjected to that treatment”. In other words … “my way or the highway”.

    Well isn’t it sad that Windsor allows its media and others to do this. But don’t tell me I don’t understand. I fully understand because I bear the brunt of these attacks as well. Don’t you find it interesting that your local newspaper attacked me last Saturday with an editorial five full days BEFORE I was scheduled to give this speech? To quote Shakespeare, “Thou doth protest too much”. Or to paraphrase, “Those who are most guilty protest the loudest”.

    You know … I have to be in Windsor almost 20 times a year for meetings and after these meetings I have a three and a half hour drive back to Toronto. On that drive I spend the entire time trying to answer one simple question. “Why…. Why am I doing this?” Well let me tell you “Why?”

    I’m doing this because I have a passion for this City and see so much upside for Windsor. For instance, Windsor has the potential to be a global centre for automotive research, design, development and testing of vehicles and parts.

    I’m doing this because I know that Windsor is one of the most caring and compassionate Cities in this country just look at how much is raised each year for various charities.

    I see a group of hard working citizens that deserve to have economic prosperity. I want to make this happen.

    I see a very entrepreneurial industrial group like the tool and die guys who have brilliant minds and given the right circumstances can help Windsor innovate out of its quagmire.

    I see Windsor as a “riddle” wrapped in an “enigma”. It’s the ultimate puzzle that needs to be solved. But it can be solved and that is how I answer the question … “Why am I doing this?”

    Let me tell you a very short story and then I’ll sit down. Over my seven years on the Board at the University of Windsor I have attended over 100 meetings on campus. With most of these I have 2 to 4 hours to kill during the day so I wander around campus knocking on doors and sitting on park benches talking to professors, students and the administrative staff. Man o Man I can’t tell you how this exercise uplifts my spirits. Talk to the students at our University and you sense an incredible desire to make this City work, to improve its outlook and to capitalize on its potential. I suspect it is the same with most or the other citizens of Windsor.

    Why would anyone tell these citizens, these students that, “if you think it’s the worst City in the world, what are you doing here?”

    I also must admit that I get very discouraged many times on my drive home. It is not pleasant to be yelled at meetings and denigrated in your local media and I must add… also denigrated BY your local media. Read Saturday’s editorial in The Star.

    But I keep coming back because of the people in Windsor and the students at the University of Windsor. I have faith in and care for the people in this region. Go back to the earlier quote, “If you think it’s the worst city in the world, what are you doing here?” Well they are trying to make the City of Windsor a better place to live. If I was a citizen that’s how I would answer the politician who said this and then I’d ask my own question. “Why aren’t you trying to make this City better?”

    Let me finish by telling you that if the insider/outsiders like myself ever find they can’t answer the simple question of “Why am I doing this?” and then decide to stay away, then Windsor will be in even bigger trouble.

    Thank you for your patience and I hope you now understand an “insider/outsider’s” perspective on Windsor.

    The most important thing that government can do for its citizens is to give them a positive future. I want to do my part by helping to build a stronger regional economy and standard of living for the citizens of Windsor Essex County. I hope your civic leaders have the same objective. Thank You.

    - 30 -

Dwight's LEG-al issue

You know the old Henny Youngman jokes don't you:
  • I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places

  • Doctor, my leg hurts. What can I do?" The doctor says, "Limp."

  • "You didn't believe the doctor could fix your leg!" The man said, "I stand corrected."

What prompted the telling of these leg jokes was a story in the Star about Dwight Duncan apologizing for his sexist remarks about Sandra Pupatello and her legs. Dwight should know better as a senior Minister in the Government of Ontario. These days you can't go around pulling people's legs anymore, especially a LEGislator.

Now we all know that Dwight and Sandra are in a "friendly" competition to see who runs Windsor. For quite some time, most people would have said that Dwight was the main man here. However his faux pas may give Sandra a leg up. Dwight will have to be very careful what he says now. He had no choice but to apologize. He did not have a leg to stand on for his remarks.

Let me go out on a limb. A bit of a warning for Dwight. He better not make another remark like this again. If he does, he will be on his last legs as a Cabinet Minister. Premier McGuinty won't allow this to happen again. He might kick him out from the Cabinet.

According to the Star story, "Duncan was unavailable to speak for himself Friday. " I guess he still had his foot in his mouth at that time. Apparently as well "Pupatello couldn't be reached for comment either. " She probably was on the first leg of a trip somewhere since she travels so much as Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Now I would have thought that the Star would have had some fun with this story but they played it pretty straight. They had no choice. They had a few skeletons in their closet. They didn't want a good swift kick either. Remember what Gord Henderson said about Sandra in one of his columns:

  • "OK. So the short skirt, the blazing brown eyes and those impossibly long legs created a jaw-dropping first impression as she came bounding up the stairs. But honest, it was the spunky, no-guff attitude of a university grad named Sandra that made her visit memorable. "

Hmmmm I wonder if Eddie will apologize on Gord's behalf, sort of a quid pro quo.

And how about these from the Eagele Eye of the Star:

  • "The feasting started early last week with the Capitol Theatre celebrity roast, where the sexy, svelte and very leggy Sandra Pupatello -- the guest grille du jour -- delivered some pretty cheeky rebuttals of her own to those who dared take on the formidable foe of Mike Harris."
  • "And speaking of gazes, keep your eyes open next week, when we present a roasted, toasted, lightly grilled (but never fried) look at Sandra Pupatello. Oh, those legs, those legs..."

I'll make a suggestion to Sandra. As a member of the LEGislature, she should not tolerate this kind of comment anymore. She should put her foot down and not stand for this anymore. I wish her the best---break a leg as they say on Broadway!

The Saturday Morning Funnies

I like writing a BLOG on municipal politics. It is, after all, the level of government that is closest to the people and we can see exactly what the impact on us is when our City Government takes action or does not take action on certain matters.

I'll tell you one thing that is not funny. People are angry in this City. All that you need to do is to take a look at the comments that are posted on Blogsites or read the Windsor Star forums. Our Mayor and Council are quite fortunate that the Premier increased the length of their term by one year but it did not include a right of recall. If he had, I would expect that there would be a number of petitions out right now asking for new municipal elections.

I have a very extensive database of information that I draw upon on when I do my research before writing a BLOG. What is interesting is going back into the past and seeing what a politician said before and what that same politician says now. The classic is what the Mayor said with respect to a new arena in downtown designed to be a public-private partnership but which instead turned into a municipally owned East End arena. That kind of stuff makes it so easy.

However sometimes is not necessary to do a lot of work in order to write one of these BLOGs. This weekend was one of those times. Stuff I read in the Saturday Star was so ridiculous that the BLOG almost wrote itself.

Take the Mayor's comment on Greenlink and the survey that supposedly shows wide spread support for the project. If this is the basis of what Eddie is trying to show DRIC then is he ever in trouble. For all of the thousands of dollars spent in media advertisements he barely got over 1% of the population of Windsor supporting his proposal. Using the word "tremendous" or "overwhelming" many times in the Star story doesn't make it so.

Honestly I almost couldn't stop laughing when the Mayor said this knee-slapper

  • Francis said the survey was scientific because callers had to be at least 18 to vote and could vote only once."

He can't be serious. If made this comment in a University Statistics exam, there is no doubt he would have failed. This is about as unscientific a survey as one can imagine. It was easily beatable and could have been stacked very easily. I've also heard certain stories about people calling the City and arguing with the operator when they wanted to vote no.

Here's something I found very quickly about scientific and scientific surveys:

  • "The unscientific surveys are less well known, if quite widespread. There are 900-number call-in polls, man-on-the-street surveys, shopping mall polls, and even the classic toilet tissue poll featuring pictures of the candidates on each sheet.

    The major distinguishing difference between scientific and unscientific polls is who picks the respondents for the survey. In a scientific poll, the pollster identifies and seeks out the people to be interviewed. In an unscientific poll, the respondents usually "volunteer" their opinions, selecting themselves for the poll.

    The results of the well-conducted scientific poll can provide a reliable guide to the opinions of many people in addition to those interviewed -- even the opinions of all Americans. The results of an unscientific poll tell you nothing more than simply what those respondents say."

Then I read in another story that the Mayor of claims that our woes are merely cyclical and that it is up to realtors, and I guess the rest of us, "to 'sell' the city one deal at a time." Is that like putting your pants on one leg at a time too?

I must admit I haven't got the faintest idea what that phrase means but it must be something meaningful or else the Mayor would not have said it. But do you really believe that even he believes that our crisis is the same as those in the past. Good thing he gave his speech before he read the front page of the Saturday Star with the headline "Pacifica gone, plant shifts into lower gear."

I know he won't go to see him but Dennis DesRosiers is speaking this week in Windsor. I think Dennis might be able to educate him about whether or not this is the same kind of cyclical problems that the auto companies had in the past.

Here's what scares me. If Eddie believes what he says, then this City is in serious trouble. He said

  • "Typically, as a region, we've been through these challenges before. It's nothing new."

But surely everyone in the city must know that what worked in the past is not going to work now. The auto companies, the Big Three, are not coming back the way they did before. This is not a part of the previous kinds of cycles. This is a part of a significant restructuring of the global automobile industry. If the Mayor does not understand that, then no wonder his economic policies just don't work.

Hallelujah we're going to have a new convention centre according to the Mayor and streetscaping and the casino's expansion. Too bad with the border being the way it is, and the Mayor doing nothing about it, we won't have any tourists to come and visit us. The Star wrote on Saturday about the mess at the border on Black Friday. Do you really think any Americans are coming over with those kind of horror stories being plastered all over the media? For heaven sakes, even the Casino is letting people go right now.

I didn't see anything in his speech saying that he is going to help the University with its expansion even if it does not go into the downtown. Wasn't he the one who threatened that he would not give any money to the University unless it went where HE said it should go. Now he takes credit for what Dennis DesRosiers has been arguing should be done in Windsor for years and years and years and which advice Eddie ignored.

Then came the Gord Henderson column. Another classic. A column built on sources, anonymous government officials and provincial government insiders.

I really loved this column. Oodles of ink wasted on Brian Masse. Did you notice that he did not come out and support Greenlink. He knows it's not going to fly and he does not want to be tarnished by it when it fails.

Brian Masse has the nerve to talk about the border and what should be done. Where was he when his party held the balance of power to do something for us? He failed in getting through most of the amendments he said he wanted on Bill C-3, a Bill which does not help Windsor in the least little bit.

The column really was designed to put pressure on our Provincial Cabinet Ministers and Gord decided to use Brian to do so. Heck we learned that there were meetings in New York recently so obviously someone wants to keep the pressure up on the Senior Levels.

I guess that Brian is starting to run for the next federal election and is attacking the Provincial Liberals. He must have read my recent BLOG and is afraid about whom the Federal Liberals are going to run against him given his sorry record on the border.

There is one statement that interested me since I thought it was accurate. The Province in its last budget did not identify any money for the new road to the border. However to say that the Feds are "on board, ready and waiting to write a cheque" is absolutely incorrect. The Feds put up $400 million in its last budget, an amount that won't even pay for the DRIC road.

I found it amusing that Gord had to tell us that Duncan was not available for comment. He still does not seem to be available for a Greenlink comment even after he was supposed to have met with Eddie on November 9. All we get are excuses that he is away. Being Minister of Finance means that Dwight has learned that he has to keep his mouth shut.

There you have it, dear reader. That's how the BLOG virtually wrote itself. It was really that simple.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not Again, DRTP's Newest Idea

ARRRRUUUGH, DRTP is back again.

It's pretty tough to talk about DRTP's new rail tunnel plans when they've been kept from public view. Oh, we have seen a few words about them on the Jobs Tunnel website but hardly enough to be able to say anything significant.

Before anyone gets too carried away with the exercise in any event and even if there are more people attracted to it than detractors, one has to remember that it will compete against the doublestack rail tunnel in Sarnia and CN will not sit idly by as a new competitor tries to take away rail traffic from them.

The major problem the DRTP has with respect to their new rail proposal is whether anyone believes that they are really going to do it. I suspect that very few people will be supportive of them and will believe that they have dropped their idea of building a truck expressway unless something stronger than Marge Byington's words are provided.
  • "Since DRTP's truck plan was eliminated from consideration by a the binational study team, DRTP has turned its focus on rail, DRTP spokeswoman Marge Byington said.

    "Right now, we are going ahead with rail and there is no considering trucks," she said. "It's a very exciting project. The best part of the rail tunnel is it seems to have far more people attracted to it than detractors."

Here's what bothers me about what was said. Even though they were eliminated, DRTP still pushed forward on their truck road for quite some time. When did anyone ever hear that they were only interested in rail. You see the qualifier in what she said: "Right now." What happens later?

Perhaps what they've done is change their approach to the truck highway. Instead of building it first as they had originally proposed, perhaps they will build it after the new train tunnel is built. No one can take seriously the comment about using the old rail tunnels for Via and Amtrak trains. There just aren't enough of them to make that that idea sensible. So are we being duped?

What also troubles me about DRTP is that they're playing the game that they did before and which cost them in the end. What they're doing now is lobbying behind the scenes trying to get politicians and others onside to try and ram through their idea before the public is even clued in. If you go to their website, there is not a word about what they're proposing now. It's still the old truck expressway website.

When do they intend to make their plans public for people to take a look at them? Are they afraid again that there are holes in what they are proposing such that when it is viewed by Windsorites it will be shot down again?

I have found over the last few months that there have been several supportive articles published about a new DRTP high-capacity rail tunnel but they are published on strange websites by people who seem to know a lot about what DRTP is proposing but who don't seem to have any kind of a connection with it. It almost seemed as if some kind of a guerrilla marketing campaign was at work so that when people search DRTP they will see this new proposal.

I wrote before about the doublestack rail tunnel and the competition between Sarnia and Windsor.

  • "We have had a battle with Sarnia before and lost. The issue then was the double-stack rail tunnel back in 1993. You should take a look at the Canadian Transportation Agency decision for some interesting reading

    As an example:

    "the construction of a rail tunnel at Sarnia would have, among other matters, an adverse economic impact on the Detroit/Windsor area, shifting industrial, warehousing and intermodal transportation activities away from Detroit. According to the interveners, creating a double-stack corridor through Sarnia/Port Huron cannot rival a double-stack corridor through Windsor/Detroit in terms of creating primary and secondary industries as the Sarnia/Port Huron corridor would completely bypass the vital industrial centers of southwestern Ontario and southeastern Michigan."

Presumably, there is still a strong argument that we need such a new rail tunnel in Windsor if what was said in 1993 was correct. If that's the case, I have a question. If it is so important to build such a rail tunnel why haven't CP Rail and Borealis built it already? As OMERS CEO Michael Noberga said:

  • "We invested $175 million in the Detroit River Tunnel Project, a rail tunnel between Windsor and Detroit. CP Rail, one of Canada’s two continental railroads, is our partner. We are committed to investing another $300 million of equity to significantly expand this corridor to create a one-billion-dollar trade gateway asset."

The Star story said that the cost of the tunnel would be $350 million. Wouldn't CP be prepared to invest the other $50 million or why wouldn't Borealis increase their investment if this is such a good idea. Instead here's what we read now, over a year after Nobrega made his comment about investing:

  • "Once financial analysis is complete, DRTP will work toward launching an environmental assessment for its new rail tunnel, Byington said.

    "We have started the analysis and know it can be built. Engineering is sound. We are hoping to start (an EA) before too long."

It doesn't seem that much as happened during that time does it. But then again DRTP was always very good with concepts and ideas and proposals and artists renditions.

I can hardly wait for the new buzzword that will describe this project. I just hope that DRTP understands finally that Windsorites will not be railroaded.

Non-Windsor Residents Forbidden To Read This BLOG



Whew. That should protect me. I have been scolded but I can learn. I can transform myself from being one of a bunch of "personality-driven naysayers who undermine Windsor's best interests to advance their own agendas." I don't want to be considered amongst the "malcontents, myopic whiners and hired saboteurs." I can be positive, linked arm-in-arm with my fellow Windsorite cheerleaders and sycophants and put on my rose-city coloured glasses to put a positive spin on everything that is wrong with the City. No more negativity coming out of my mouth that can be used by other cities' economic development commissions to hurt us. Only the good stuff now!

I had not intended to write much about the Standard & Poor's upgrade of the City of Windsor to "AA" when I saw it in the newspaper, I could not believe what I read. But who was I to argue with the geniuses at S&P? Congratulations to Eddie and all that for getting us the increase. Why should I again write about Creditwatch? Who needs the hassle. Let outsiders look after themselves. Caveat Investor!

However that was before the Windsor Star's designated "hitman" decided to write to me. He/she is the person who sometimes likes to correct what are believed to be my errors in my BLOG or to ask why I have not blogged something that this person considers relevant. Here is what was written this time:

  • "Hey Ed,

    How come no comment on the city's improved bond rating...doesn't fit the agenda, I guess...I'm guessing there'd be comment if it had dropped......"

And my reply:

  • "Geez [Name of person],,,,,,,give me chance.

    I can only research so much at one time. I'll be commenting on it.

    Glad you are still reading my BLOGs!"

And a PS

  • "PS. I am going to blame you (not by name since I keep sources confidential) if I am attacked as a naysayer "

I am not privy to the way that the rating services give their grades to municipalities. All I know is that I live in Windsor and I see certain things going on here and I wonder how anyone can say that this City should be upgraded from a financial perspective. It's my point of view just like the AA rating is that of Standard & Poor's.

Here the concerns I have. Whether they are relevant to Standard & Poor's I have not got any idea. I will make my remarks in the context of the S&P report as published on the City website. But that is not all. I will reveal as well:


Let me first deal with the S&P report:

  • City of Windsor Upgraded To ‘AA’ On Debt Reduction Progress

    On Nov. 19, 2007, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services raised its long-term issuer credit and senior unsecured debt ratings on the City of Windsor to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-’. The outlook is stable.

    The ratings on Windsor, in the Province of Ontario, reflect:

    􀂃 Declining debt burden. With the implementation of a debt reduction policy in recent years and the continuation of the 1% capital levy, Windsor’s direct debt burden continued to fall. At the end of 2006, the city’s direct debt stood at 25.7% of operating revenues. Standard & Poor’s expects this to continue in the medium term. We expect Windsor’s direct debt burden to increase moderately in the next year following a C$40 million issuance next year, then decline to below 25% of revenues by the end of 2010 as projected by Standard & Poor’s. This level would be below the middle of the range for similarly rated peers;

You have to admit that sounds pretty good. Except here some things that trouble me with respect to debt reduction that I have seen previously:

  • As I wrote before "Long term debt was projected to be by 2007--$217 million ($56 M higher than now) and by 2010--$191 million ($30M higher than now) and that does not include the $206 million employee future benefit obligation (as at 2004). Are those numbers still valid?
  • You think we have a program that actually reduces the amount of debt outstanding. Not so. "The name Debt Reduction Fund is probably a misnomer. It is probably better named the Debt Avoidance Fund. The City's debt is not callable (i.e., not repayable ahead of schedule). Therefore no matter how much money would be available, we could not repay any long term debt prior to its normal retirement date. However, the City can refrain from issuing debt for new projects and thereby allow the debt to reduce annually as a portion of the existing debt comes due. In summary, by avoiding new debt we allow the existing debt to gradually decline.
  • We have a unique way of reducing debt in Windsor. As was said in the WUC financial report in 2005, we don’t use the money for capital infrastructure improvements… rather we use it to pay down loans. "we’ve spent less money on capital build programs, giving us greater cash flow and allowing us to meet key debt reduction targets. Our focus on debt reduction will help us to sustain financial stability and will allow us to continue to reinvest in our infrastructure and operational programs." Right, we are suffering the consequences now
  • We don’t replace buses when necessary in Windsor… we do defer purchases and then increase fares
  • As the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario report on bridge improvements tells us… it looks like we need to spend $5-7 Million per year annually. The 2007 budget is $1.5 million. Fingers crossed we do not have a tragedy here.
  • We don’t take out long-term debt for an arena … we just bridge finance.
  • Pay as you go makes terrific sense. For the City. Don’t you get it? We are now the City’s banker and we’re really good because we don’t charge any interest. Take it out of our pockets and save the expense for interest.

There is more:

  • 􀂃 Robust budgetary surplus. Compared with financial performance in the past two years, Windsor’s operating balance has remained stable at 15.5% of operating revenues (Standard & Poor’s-adjusted), which is at the median of similarly rated domestic peers. As with other Canadian municipalities, Windsor continued to face budgetary challenges in 2006, such as the need to revitalize aging infrastructure. Despite these pressures, Windsor’s overall budgetary position, which includes capital revenues and expenditures, remained stable at a balanced position, which means that the city is generating sufficient liquidity to fund a portion of its capital program;

Again that is good news but

  • we still have to raise taxes even though we are trying to cut $15 million from costs
  • It is so robust that we can’t afford to finance a Buskers Festival although we do have enough money to help out Eddie’s friend Roger in Detroit
  • With the highest unemployment rate in Canada are surpluses going to disappear very quickly as social needs increase? Haven't we cried about lack of money over some Mexican immigrants coming to Windsor and how we could not afford it.
  • Yes there are challenges for aging infrastructure… $830 million worth just for water nevermind roads and sewers. But don’t forget that we will have to spend a whole bunch of money for a new City Hall and $100 million or more for servicing airport lands and building an intermodal hub. And then there will be those costs to cut the grass on all those Greenlink parks and to pay for policing and maintenance and insurance and repairs.

Then the next section:

  • 􀂃 Improving financial flexibility. We expect the city’s financial flexibility to improve in the medium term, as a result of the city’s implementation of the aforementioned capital levy and receipt of federal and provincial gas tax revenues, which the city has earmarked for transit and road improvements. In addition, similar to other municipalities in Ontario, Windsor should benefit from the gradual uploading of the Ontario Drug Benefit and the Ontario Disability Support Program to the provincial government during the next four years.

Yes sir, we are so flexible.

  • 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.
  • With regard to gas tax, Windsor is projected to receive approximately $4,100,000 annually when the full 2 cent allocation is fully implemented after October 2006 from the province [actual $3.8 million in gas tax revenues to be used for transit]
  • The City of Windsor maintains more than 1,000 kilometres of roads, and 20 per cent of them require repair, said Mike Palanacki, director of operations for the public works department. To address the needed repairs, he said, the city should be spending $24 million annually, but this year only $5 million has been earmarked.
  • The city of Windsor stands to receive about $33 million through to 2010 from federal gas tax revenue. "That doesn't even barely scratch the surface," Francis said. The city still has an "infrastructure deficit" -- repairs to its infrastructure required over the coming years -- of over $150 million. "For the country to be strong, our communities need to be strong." 02-18-2006

These strengths are partially offset by:

  • 􀂃 An economy that is somewhat less diversified than that of similarly rated peers. Windsor’s economy was negatively affected by the economic slowdown in the province and the U.S. The city’s economy continued to face challenges from the slowdown in the manufacturing sector, particularly the auto sector. The city’s concentrated exposure to the auto sector, an industry that tends to be cyclical, is high compared with that of rated peers. Nevertheless, in recent years, the city’s various economic diversification initiatives have begun to pay dividends. Other sectors include tourism, hospitality, and biomedicine. The city is strategically located on the southwesttip of Ontario and adjacent to one of the most important gateways to the U.S. The expectedexpansion of border crossing capacity by 2013 should help bolster trade in the long term;

I had trouble with this section:

  • Somewhat less diversified. Doesn't he know that we are the auto capital of Canada, or rather the Big Three auto capital and how many thousands of jobs we have lost so far including spinoff jobs. If he thinks the change in the auto industry that is taking place is cyclical, I better give him Dennis DesRosier's phone number
  • tourism and hospitality is dying or hasn't he read anything about a higher Canadian dollar and the perceived border problems due to local politicians shooting off their mouths
  • our location doesn't seem to be doing is very much good since the border still hasn't been fixed up
  • as for our hopes of our Economic Development Commission doing something, I'm afraid they have gazelles to feed and brochures to publish. I mean it only took them a year to find that desk drawer that was empty of any kind of marketing materials.
More Issues:
  • 􀂃 Windsor’s large postretirement liabilities, which are among the highest in its peer group.

$206 million in 2004

Here is the S&P Outlook

  • The stable outlook reflects Standard & Poor’s expectation that the city’s debt burden will continue to fall and that its capital spending will not increase significantly beyond its current plan. Substantial improvement in Windsor’s operating performance and its postretirement obligations could result in an upward ratings revision. Conversely, a further marked, sustained deterioration in the city’s economic performance or a sharp deviation from the current capital program could result in a negative rating action.
  • Terrific conclusion that protects S&P coming and going.

So that's what I think from someone who lives in Windsor and who sees what's happening here every day. I couldn't believe what I read but there it is. Let investors chew out S&P not me.

But something doesn't make sense to me. Surely the S&P fellow knows all the stuff that I have said. All he has to do is the most basic search about Windsor and he would find out everything. So what's really going on?

I wrote to S&P and the analysts involved and asked the following question
  • "I would appreciate if you could advise me what your process is when you examine a municipality in order to do a rating so that I might write a BLOG on that subject. For instance do you actually travel to Windsor and meet with the officials of the City? If so with whom would you meet? How long would you stay here? Do you examine the books and records IE do a mini audit? Do you ask the City to complete a questionnaire or a survey instead of or in addition to a visit? Do you undertake own media searches about what is taking place in the City so that you can decide on its economic vitality and its economic future?"

I haven't got an answer back yet and I don't know if I will. But I have a theory, oh yes I do.

You see the S&P analyst really didn't have to worry about Windsor. He is more interested in protecting investors and not taxpayers. So if everything looks good for investors, he's doing his job. If things are not good for taxpayers, well as the Mayor said, we can always move.

Want to know what I think... the Mayor has told S&P all about the P3 deals that he may do. As I have written before, they include the Tunnel, Enwin, WUC. Perhaps the new DRIC bridge plays a role too somehow along with the DRTP rail tunnel and maybe even the arena. It could include the airport too.

Infrastructure is sexy and profitable. Eddie could lease assets for up to 99 years (hey, we're still the owner), get a huge upfront payment, pay off debt, build all kinds of ego monuments and still have money left in the bank. Why, he would be our hero right now and long gone from Windsor as Mayor, when the chickens came home to roost.

I know you think I am just being foolish but I'm not. It wouldn't surprise me if, as part of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal, the two City Governments were not made aware of what happened with the toll road in Chicago and the Indiana Turnpike by their financial advisers.

Just taking a look at Chicago, since that City's Mayor is a hero of our Mayor. They received $1.8 billion when they leased their toll road, a sum considerably greater than they ever expected to receive. That kind of money has to brighten the eyes of any Mayor in any city.

That upfront P3 money could be used to pay down debt, reduce taxes in future years, be set aside for special projects, used for reserves and so on. My guess is that it would burn a hole in someone's pocket in Windsor and we could squander it building shovel ready lands at the airport for developers at taxpayer expense.

Doing a bit of research and looking back at Chicago and its rating history, in the 1990s it had a fairly poor rating very similar to Windsor's previous AA- rating. In fact in 2004, one of the major rating services dropped their rating to negative. After the P3 toll road deal was completed and Chicago's bank account was filled up to brimming, their rating boosted upwards to positive. There is no doubt that the P3 deal was very much responsible in the ratings services increase of the credit rating of that city.

If it can be done for Chicago, it can be done for Windsor too can't it. Eddie just has to copy what was done there. It would not surprise me if he is too.

So no need to worry, no need to fuss. Our AA rating as far as investors are concerned really has nothing to do with what is going on in Windsor right now. It all has to do with what Eddie is going to do with P3 deals in the future. And how much money he will get for the assets.

And in case you still do not believe me... take a look at the Purchasing Bylaw that was changed right after Eddie Francis became Mayor.

  • "Sole Source" means the purchase of a good and/or service where there is only one available supplier of that good and/or service that meets the needs or requirements of the City of Windsor.
    32. (1) A Sole Source purchase may be used for the purchasing of goods and/or services for Contracts of any Contract value, in the following circumstances:
  • (i) Where a public/private partnership exists.
With Eddie in control of the Tunnel and the Airport corporations, it's a slamdunk for him.

There, now you know it all. Shhhhhhhhh keep it between us. You, dear reader, don't want to be branded as a Windsor "enemy" do you.