Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, February 07, 2008


This is the final installment of my Three Part Series on the future of Windsor. Does it really seem all that hard to achieve success in this City? I don't think so.


He had to bang a few heads together but it really wasn't all that difficult. He pointed out that either the parties worked out a deal or there would be litigation for the next 10 to 15 years that would harm the economies of Canada, the US, Ontario and Michigan, never mind the cities of Windsor and Detroit. He just had to be forceful and threaten to lock them in the meeting room at the refurbished Capitol Theatre until an agreement was reached. Now that was great drama.

The agreement amongst all of the parties was reached very soon thereafter and he was given the credit by everyone. It allowed the Bridge Company Environmental Assessment to be completed as quickly as the law allowed. The DRIC report setting out a location for a new crossing and the exact road to the border was publicized and then tabled.

What happened next was quite shocking except to the Mayor's insiders who helped structure the deal. It was based on an idea written by the BLOGMeister in his BLOG "Wednesday, April 11, 2007 How A Kangaroo Can Save Canada's Economy."

The two Senior Level Governments admitted that truck volumes had dropped rapidly and that the basis for a new crossing, capacity, was no longer there. They said it was unconscionable to expect taxpayers to pay not only for a new crossing but to subsidize that crossing as well until such time as the traffic developed. They thanked DRIC for all of their efforts and said that at this time they would not build a new border crossing although they would protect the corridor to the crossing from encroachment until such time when it was needed.

To meet the “intermediate” needs of the region, and note the use of the word intermediate, under the existing Border Infrastructure Fund, the Governments agreed to fund the building of the road to the Ambassador Bridge. That was a genius move since existing program monies already allocated could be used. Interestingly, Schwunnels immediately disappeared from the City’s vocabulary as did the need to spend millions on maintenance and security of parklands. Everyone agreed that the DRIC road would be built along the DRIC corridor and it would be designed to permit it to serve both the existing bridge and the new bridge if ever one was going to be built.

The justification for the Enhancement Project was that it was not a capacity increase but rather an upgrading of the existing crossing to permit the freer flow of trucks and cars using the FAST and the NEXUS systems. The old bridge would provide redundancy backup in the event of a problem with the crossing. Again, that project fit under the criteria for BIF.

Naturally, with the strong support of his colleagues behind him and with the endorsement of the County, the Mayor was able to say that the entire region was behind this transaction.

In the blink of an eye, the border crossing issue disappeared. From the fall of 2008, when the EA was completed until today, thousands of high-paying jobs were created to build that bridge. Even more thousands of jobs were created as spinoff jobs as out-of-town workers moved to the City and needed places to stay, to eat and drink, to shop and to spend their money. Three or four times as many jobs were expected to be created once the road project cleared all of its hurdles.

A minor industry was created in Windsor… providing red ribbons for plant openings. All the dignitaries had just attended the ceremony at the Chinese auto plant located near the airport. The announcement that the border crossing had been fixed finally permitted industry to see what a gem Windsor was! Its location and skilled and experienced work-force were the positive inducements to the Chinese to look seriously at putting up a new plant in the Windsor area rather than in the Southern US. With the new engineering complex nearby and with many automotive suppliers opening up research facilities there, it was a natural for the decision to be made to build in Windsor.

Interestingly enough, the head of the CAW was in attendance as well and he was part of the opening ceremonies. Their deal with Magna was used as proof to demonstrate that the unions were more than capable of adapting to the times.

This plant obviously spawned a whole boom of new plants opening up around it by parts suppliers to support the building of the automobiles. It wasn’t hard to get incentives as well from the Senior Levels of Government to help induce the building of the plant in Ontario. After all, the fight about the reopening of the Ford plant made the careers of a number of local politicians. They were not shy in the using that precedent to encourage the Senior Levels to keep on spending.

There was little need for the Gazelle Feeders to go out and sell the region. Their problem became coping with the influx of requests for information about where new plants could be built. Fortunately, the Mayor and the County had built on the suggestion made by Tecumseh’s Mayor some years back to create a huge industrial Park of 5000 acres. It was readily available for all who wished to build a plant bringing prosperity to the region.

I could go on and on talking about economic diversification, the sale of homes, the creation of a new retail in downtown and all of the tourists who are enjoying the facilities of the Casino and the Capitol Theatre. There was a little hiccup when the WFCU arena almost went into bankruptcy. Fortunately, the Mayor was able to twist the arms of the former Project Ice Track people and they came in to take over the running of the project and even kicked in some money as well.

You saw the video on the Star website online and on TV about the opening ceremony at the Ambassador Bridge today. Exactly 30 months after the EA was completed and precisely as promised, the new bridge was finished. “Ahead of time and below budget” as Dan Stamper the President of the Bridge Co. kept on saying! The joy on the faces of the owner and his family members and those who worked for him was matched by the expression of delight on the faces of the members of the public who came there to share that moment in history of the bridge opening. It had been a long time coming.

There was one sad moment and one of nostalgia. While I was standing there watching the ceremony, off in the distance I saw a lonely figure whom I thought I recognized. As I went over there to try to talk to the man, he must have seen me, and started walking away. I thought I heard him say under his breath “It was all my PLAN. They just would not share in my Vision. I should have been there opening the bridge where I wanted it to go.”

Immediately I knew who it was then and just let him go. My attention was brought back to the platform when the Mayor was introducing the Bridge owner, the Premier, the Transport Minister and Senator Kilpatrick, asking them to cut the red ribbon to signify the opening of the bridge!

His Worship, the Bacon Man had brought home the bacon for his hometown. It wasn’t so hard after all. And you could see the big smile on his face.

There it is. What Windsor can become if only we have the right people there to make it happen. It really is not all that far-fetched now is it. It builds on what is going on today. All it requires is that decisions be made and actions be taken now.

Mayor Francis and his Councillor colleagues have the opportunity to do so. It will require a drastic change of thinking on the part of our Council. It will require Councillors to take a more active role in what is going on in the City just as the Council in 2003 did.

Decisions are not that hard either. We have enough facts. We don’t need more studies and more consultants and more THINK BIG dreams. We have had years of those already and nothing has happened.

I hardly think that we need litigation to move us forward. As we can see, threats don’t work against the Senior Levels who hold all the cards anyway. All that hiring lawyers will do is delay our future for years and years so that cities like London can keep on getting the plants that should be coming here.

The key to the solution however is YOU, dear reader. YOU must keep on reading the BLOGs. YOU must start demanding action from our Council, whether contacting the Mayor and your Ward Councillors directly or by commenting on the BLOGs or writing on the Star Forums. We must keep the pressure up, you and I together.

After all, is only our City’s future that is at stake.