Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Does Budget Mean Feds Pulling Out of Windsor

Is this photo symbolic---Finance Minister Flaherty putting the boot to Windsor?

Am I crying wolf too much? Will it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or is it just another incident in a long drawn out border file that might get resolved one day but means little?

Here are the little bits that I found in the Federal Budget with respect to the border crossing:

1) Improving Canada’s Borders
Our borders have to facilitate trade, travel and commerce while protecting us from external threats. This is why Budget 2008 is investing in borders by:

  • Committing $75 million over two years to ensure the Canada Border Services Agency has the resources it needs to effectively manage the border.
  • Introducing a higher-security electronic passport by 2011.
  • Doubling the validity period of Canadian passports to 10 years when this electronic passport is launched.
  • Providing $14 million over two years to expand the joint Canada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk frequent travellers across the border.
  • Providing $6 million over two years for federal activities to support provinces and territories planning to introduce enhanced driver’s licences.
  • Allocating $26 million over two years to introduce the use of biometric data into visas issued to foreign nationals entering Canada.
  • Providing $15 million over two years to establish a permanent facility to enhance the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region.
  • Allocating $29 million over two years to meet priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

2) To support our communities and ensure the competitiveness of the Canadian economy, Canada needs access to modern infrastructure. Our Government is making the largest single federal investment in public infrastructure since World War II through our Building Canada plan—a total of $33 billion over seven years for roads, bridges, water systems, public transit and international gateways.

To help us maximize this investment, we have created a new Crown corporation called PPP Canada Inc. It will be the first public-private partnership office of its kind at the federal level in Canada. By increasing our use of P3s and taking into account contributions by other levels of government, we should be able to leverage a $100-billion investment in infrastructure.

3) Public-Private Partnerships

Recognizing the need to look beyond traditional approaches to infrastructure financing and delivery, Budget 2007 announced measures to transform Canada into a leader for public-private partnerships, including:

  • A $1.257-billion Public-Private Partnerships Fund (P3 Fund), a unique infrastructure program designed to support innovative P3 projects.
  • A federal P3 office to spearhead efforts to promote the use of public-private partnerships in Canada.

The Government has made significant progress in implementing these measures. Key milestones include:

  • The federal P3 office, PPP Canada Inc., has been created. As a Crown corporation, the office will work with the public and the private sectors towards encouraging the further development of Canada’s P3 market.
  • Program parameters of the P3 Fund have now been defined. The P3 Fund will target the same categories of projects as the Building Canada Fund and will invest in public-private partnerships using a range of innovative financing instruments, such as loans, loan guarantees, non-voting shares and repayable contributions. Implementing the P3 Fund will be a key priority of the new Crown corporation during its transition to full operational status.

4) Investing in Infrastructure

Modern, high-quality infrastructure is vital to Canada’s long-term prosperity. That is why Budget 2008 is:

  • Making the Gas Tax Fund, which will be worth $2 billion in 2009–10, a permanent measure, allowing municipalities to better plan and finance their long-term infrastructure needs.
  • Setting aside up to $500 million in support of capital investments to improve public transit.
  • Announcing the establishment of a Crown corporation, PPP Canada Inc., to work with the public and private sectors to support public-private partnerships.
  • Providing $10 million over two years to enable repairs and environmental cleanup to permit the transfer of more small craft harbours across Canada from the federal government to interested parties.

5) $400 million as a contribution towards the access road to the new Windsor-Detroit border crossing.

It was a rehashing of the past as far as the border goes. There was nothing new in the budget, not even more money for an access road which was a big surprise. After all the Feds will have to contribute another $400 million or so as their 50% share of the $1.6 billion DRIC road. Maybe they're saving that up to save Jeff Watson's neck once the election is called.

They should have contributed something since after all the Windsor border crossing is so important as every politician keeps telling us. Moreover, since the Province has not really put up any money other than the BIF funds, what a nice way of putting the pressure on Premier McGuinty and Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan. Put up or shut up Province!

Now when they did not make the obvious political move, I got concerned. Have the Feds become fed up with the stalling of the City of Windsor? Will nothing ever please this City? Why continue taking abuse when communities around Canada would fall over themselves to get the kind of money that is being offered to Windsor which is seemingly being turned down by our Mayor and Council to the detriment of citizens, especially the unemployed.

While I do not think that the Feds would pull out of Windsor before an election, there is no doubt that the failure to increase payments to Windsor is meant as a statement to be taken very seriously. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Feds, or the bureaucrats at least, are re-evaluating their Windsor position. This file is becoming an embarrassment to those who saw their careers shooting forward with a big success here. If it looks like it may bomb out, then why not blame it all on the Mayor and pull out before one's career is affected negatively.

Perhaps it is the Feds who are doing the Ipsos Reid poll after all.