Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 08, 2008

15,000 Jobs At Risk In Windsor Poker Pot

[Groan] Now Henderson has to bring in his Italian in-laws in order to justify building Greenlink. I do not why he had to wait so long to do so. After all, his son returned from Italy last September/October it seems and Sam's presentation was October 9, 2007.

Amazing, what did Gord and his son talk about when the eldest son returned from overseas...his in-laws, the ambiance of Italy, the cities and sites visited? NOPE. They talked about the Autostrada and how "It's everything the 401 isn't. It makes the 401 look like a goat trail. Something from the Third World."

I can hardly wait to be invited to see a slideshow of the highlights of his trip: rest stops with clean washrooms and coffee machines, an Autogrill service centre with real meals, fresh baked goods, wines and picnic supplies, and tunnels with cows on top (isn't his son aware of the bovine flatulence issue!).

And in another column, after he has slammed everyone on the border and at the University for weeks and months, he has the nerve to say:

  • "Windsor is replacing longtime Windsorites with eager newcomers, many of them drawn by our relatively cheap housing.

    That could be a beneficial exchange, provided Windsor can produce large numbers of jobs to replace those that are pulling out. But what if we can't? What if the only work we can provide involves ministering to the needs of a massive, fast-aging boomer population? Given the social consequences, we better hope that there's more than changing diapers in Windsor's future.

I'm not sure that I appreciate that the Mayor is gambling with Windsor's future. How else can I explain what is going on with the border file. It is nothing more than a high stakes game of poker, as I shall describe the way I see it, and Windsor's hand is very weak. It's a winner take all except the odds are stacked against us when our Senior Level opposition has unlimited constitutional and financial power compared with a municipality. And when we depend on them for grants for huge deals.

This whole controversy with the Greenlink/DRIC roads has me so mystified. There really doesn't seem to be a significant difference between the concepts except for a few Schwunnels here or there. I would have thought that reasonable parties could sit down and negotiate away the differences to come up with a solution after all of this time. Instead, Manning Road is our new excuse for not negotiating a deal and declaring another war, this time on the County. This is added on to be war against the Senior Levels and the war against the Ambassador Bridge Company in both Canada and the United States.

How many more advertising blitzes do taxpayers have to pay for? Whatever happened with the results of the last advertising extravaganza? It looks like we have another two month border stall as new full-page ads are created for the Star, billboards put up and media ads on CKLW purchased. No wonder the media is so pleased and is prepared to strap W's all over their bodies.

Here is why I think that Eddie may be skating on thin ice, World Junior Hockey Championships or not. How long does anyone believe that the Senior Levels are going to stay in Windsor with all the abuse that they're getting from the Mayor and Council? When are they going to pull out and tell Windsor to call them when it finally figures out what it wants to do? Didn't this happen in the past when it was the City of Windsor who blocked the construction of Highway 401 to the border. That has got us into this mess in the first place with the traffic on Huron Church Road!

Doesn't Eddie realize that the Federal Conservatives' priority is the Asian Gateway in British Columbia? I'm not so sure with the Federal surplus reducing that the Federal Government is going to be all that concerned about pouring money into an NDP area where they have no hope of winning a seat when that infrastructure cash can be used for other places, say like the Greater Toronto Area, where there are seats to be won. Unless the Government comes up with money for Ford, it would seem that the Conservatives do not care about our area and even Jeff Watson is expendable.

How much abuse does Eddie think that Sandra and Dwight are going to take from him, his pitbull and Gord Henderson and the Windsor Star? Dwight has already given us a signal loud and clear with this statement "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG." that he has had enough. Heck, he is only the Minister of Finance. Interestingly as well, he is talking about jobs being at stake. What a nice way to pin the blame on the Mayor if everything collapses. Let Eddie take the heat as Dwight and Sandra go off into the sunset complaining that Eddie killed this magnificent opportunity for their hometown.

The consequences to Windsor are absolutely drastic. If Eddie gambles incorrectly, we are risking the loss of 10-15,000 high-paying infrastructure and spinoff jobs in this area. There is no doubt in my mind that if we do not get these jobs, and get these jobs quickly, that our City will be in terrible shape for a generation or more. These jobs are crucial if we are to transition ourselves from the automotive base that has given us so much success in the past into whatever it is that our new economy will become. These jobs provide the interim financial security for people in this City and is the only way that we will reduce our unemployment rate.

You want to know the difference is between high growth and low growth in this area:

  • "Assumes that Windsor's role as an economic centre and international economic gateway is significantly strengthened."

In 2026, the low growth employment figure is 125,220 while the high growth employment figure is 162,520. That is quite a difference isn't it! It is the difference between housing prices collapsing, mortgages being foreclosed, more people leaving the City and prosperity.

Those figures came from a planning study undertaken for the Official Plan Review in January of this year. What it says to me is that if this region wants to get thousands of new jobs for our new economy, then we better get this border finished already. We can hardly be an economic center and international economic gateway with the road system and bridge system that we have in place now! It tells me that, as I have argued before, this City can prosper because of our geographic location if only our political leaders have the sense to recognize it.


I was sent an e-mail over the weekend by friend of mine who described to me a container ship that was built to transport goods from China to North America. It points out clearly how important logistics and warehousing will be in the future and how Windsor can take advantage given its location. That ship with a crew of 13 can bring over 15,000 containers of goods made in China! The goods arrive on that ship several days before the typical container ship. It means that the cost of transportation for a product manufactured in China is virtually nothing.

What are we doing as an example to become the western terminus of the H20 highway so that every ship that goes through the St. Lawrence system with goods for the US Midwest offloads in Windsor? Are we improving our border so that Windsor becomes the main distribution point for goods coming through and going to the southern United States? We have an important function to play even with goods coming from Asia since even if those containers are shipped by rail they still need to be offloaded somewhere before they hit their final landing spot.

Michigan Senator Cropsey's remarks are also very troubling. Doesn't Eddie understand that the US (and the Senior Levels) may decide that there is no need for new bridge at this time. The Michigan Senate would love to kill DRIC and the likelihood of them agreeing to build a DRIC bridge and duplicate facilities costing several hundred million dollars which they have spent at the Ambassador Gateway is minimal. If Michigan says no, then what will the Senior Levels do? If Michigan pulls out, then why would Canada and Ontario stay in? Let the Ambassador Bridge Company build their bridge for smooth crossing with the extra lanes added and then it is Windsor's problem how traffic gets to it.

I can see the Senior Levels making a decision very soon, especially since they're having a new traffic study undertaken by outside consultants, to leave the City taking their money with them and blaming it on the Mayor and Council. The excuse obviously will be traffic volume reduction.

What will the Mayor say then... he won!

There is something going on between the City and the Senior Levels that we have not been let in on. Greenlink is nothing more than the excuse that is being used by the City to use as leverage against the Senior Levels. In other words, Eddie is bluffing by using Greenlink as his way to put pressure on, or so he thinks. It is his way he believes to win the big poker pot.

Consider this remark by the Mayor and tell me that it is not a game of poker:
  • "The latest on Greenlink is that we have provided the Province of Ontario and their team with the technical information that they were requesting. One item that we have not provided them with, but we have deliberately held back on is the issue of costing.

    We’ve asked to see their costing; they have not completed their costing yet, so once they submit their costing, we’ll provide our own costing. But we’ve shared it with them in our meetings, but we just haven’t given them a hard copy."

What is this? Keeping his cards close to his vest? Childish bickering? I won't show you mine unless you show me yours first! We're talking about a multibillion dollar transaction here, not some silly game. The parties really aren't all that far apart as far as the construction goes but they are very far apart as far as money goes as far as I'm concerned. And I don't just mean money for road construction.

I think there is more to this than meets the eye. Let me refer you to something that was said by one of our Councillors sometime ago and that was repeated in a slightly different fashion by a Councillor recently from what I've heard:

  • "As I enunciated in my comments Monday night, the city should seek a much broader border strategy...

    There will be little money left over from a total tunnel project for other infrastructure work. This is something that is not commented on enough regarding the border. Creation of this new 401 extension to a new bridge will have massive secondary and tertiary effects on city infrastructure. Traffic patterns will change, how local streets tie into the new highway will change, where storm water run-off ends up will change, even the viability of existing and proposed residential and commercial areas will change.

    The DRIC will try to chart these effects, but they will be focused primarily on getting the route and new bridge done.

    The city needs to pursue its own assessment of the ripple effects on local roads, and demand compensation to improve connecting roadways."
That's it isn't it, compensation for roads. Eddie could not care less where the roads are built. After all, he's not really opposed to Manning Road and upgrading EC Row. It is all timing and sequencing as far as he's concerned, not international trucks on our Expressway.

And if you want more, here is some language from from Eddie's Senate Testimony where it is clear that he is desperate to keep control over municipal roads. If Brian Masse had done his job, then Bill C-3 would not have destroyed Eddie's position. Pay us to be the host of international trucks is the cry:
  • "Of all Canadian municipalities, Windsor and its citizens are most uniquely affected by the situation of the border and border issues. In no other jurisdiction does local traffic co-exist and mix with international traffic in residential neighbourhoods or on city streets. This is an illustration of life in Windsor.

    This slide shows the primary corridor to the Ambassador Bridge, some 12 kilometres away from Highway 401. For traffic to cross the international crossing, they must pass through a local community. They mix with residential traffic, neighbourhoods, communities and businesses. The next slide is a photo or local traffic mixing with international traffic at an intersection...

    It is a concern that we raise with you, but it has historically been recognized by Parliament. Parliament has recognized that the City of Windsor is entitled to require its consent to be obtained in the establishment or modification of border crossings through the city...

    Windsor accepts the responsibility of hosting the world's international border crossing. We accept that responsibility; it is a responsibility that we have lived with for some time. However, I view the border in the city of Windsor and Detroit as a critical supply chain to this country's economy -- a critical supply chain that extends far well beyond our corridor, connecting us all the way down to Laredo, Texas; connecting us with the ports on the West Coast; and connecting us with the shipping lanes in Asia...

    There is one question you asked earlier in terms of consulting. If they consult with us, we may not get what we want; we are not asking for that. However, I do not want to leave this in terms of being not as clear as I can be. Consulting with the city is also reflecting the precedent that has been set by case law and has been set by earlier acts. Those consultations do not and should not give the minister of any day the authority to make decisions outside the scope of his or her jurisdiction. Municipal laws and municipal rules and authorities must be continued to be maintained. That is something that has been recognized over the past 80 years. That is our submission. It is one thing to consult and one thing to say that we will talk to you, but included in that consultation is that the municipal jurisdiction under the provincial spheres will be respected as well..."
Eddie wants to exact a price, a big price for that consent, for being the host. How much is our Mayor looking for? Oh how about $1 billion as a starter. You think I'm kidding. How else do you explain the use of the number $2.6 billion by Gord Henderson three times in his column as to the cost of Greenlink? Just an error? I don't think so. Neither he nor his editors are that forgetful that Greenlink was priced at $1.6B. That was the the starting maximum number. Eddie intends to negotiate down from there obviously.

Why else is Eddie waiting for DRIC to reveal their numbers first. He knows that their number is just an approximation since they have not done detailed construction and tendering. That's how Megaprojects are undertaken... based on estimates so that when they go over budget, it is too late to stop because the process has started already. He will force DRIC to increase their costs dramatically once he gets their figures and then his experts will come in with lowball numbers.

Does anybody believe Eddie's $1.6 billion for the Greenlink road. It's a 2007 dollar number and not for the complete road to the border but that has NOT been explained properly to the public who thinks that Greenlink and DRIC costs are the same. Why else the ad blitz but to pressure.

That was just the start of Eddie's bidding. Then he can graciously offer to back off of Greenlink provided that the Senior Levels pay to the City of Windsor the difference betweeen the actual DRIC road cost and Eddie's Greenlink numbers. He hopes to get a few hundred million dollars out of this to help pay for, say upgrading of E C Row as an example or the arena or the new City Hall or airport shovel ready lands or the Junior Hockey Championship guarantee.

Of course, it's not going to happen given the Federal Government's constitutional position and the new Bill C-3 if it was not clear before. How will the Senior Levels dare pay Windsor money and not all other border towns as well? That can never happen.

That is why we are having all these big threats of lawsuits and why Eddie really went to Ottawa. Eddie knows he cannot win but he certainly can stall for years and that would hurt the Canadian and Ontario economies. Stalling and starting lawsuits can cost major cost increases on big construction projects as well so that it might be worthwhile for the the Senior Levels, and the Ambassador Bridge Company, to placate him and hold their noses as they knuckle under.

It seems to me that our Mayor is trying to gamble with the City's future in order to get a few bucks out of the Senior Level Governments. If he was a good negotiator who has a proven track record of structuring good deals and who has not antagonized everyone that he has dealt with, then I might be prepared to support what he tried to do... if only he told Windsorites about it so that we would know what is going on in his mind.

Except he is not a good negotiator. I also believe that he is way out of his league in negotiating any kind of significant deal. He is still in the Jr. A Hockey ranks playing with experienced NHL-types. He is not as good as the cheerleaders and sycophants would have us believe him to be and as I'm sure he believes as well.

The problem Gord chooses to ignore is that our Mayor playing with your future and mine, dear reader, and that of our children. If he wants to gamble, I would prefer that he do so using his own money at Casino Windsor.