Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Those Who Can, Can. Those Who Cannot...

...become Windsor City Council members.

Do you think that I am being insulting. You ain't seen nothing yet!

As I predicted yesterday, the interesting part of the City Council Meeting last night was not the result, because that was expected. Rather, the part that I was interested in was the contrast between the Bridge Company and the Mayor and the City Council members.

It is the difference between those who can and who can achieve and those who cannot and are afraid to do anything for fear of being wrong and who are prepared to hurt anyone who is prepared to try to succeed.

Just watch the Windsor Star video on their website before they take it down. Listen to our Mayor's excuses. He has to blame the defeat of what the Bridge Company was proposing on the Canadian Border Services Agency. He is incapable of standing up on his own and taking responsibility for his own and Council actions. He cannot bear the risk of making a mistake.

Customs had to be the scapegoat last night for Eddie the way Council always is. Why else do you think he always uses the word "Council" when a decision is made. Eddie wants the glory of the title but he does not want to be the witness in the lawsuit as the one who actually acts as CEO of the Corporation.

It is just as he had to have Mike Palanacki take the hit for the Fleet Audit to deflect his incompetence of being the CEO of the Corporation of the City of Windsor for the last four years. The buck stops with him and his pre-election promises for not ensuring that the Corporation was run properly. But for a few comments by the Lead Internal Auditor which were devastating about the Fleet Operation, we heard nothing from the Audit Department. If Eddie had allowed Audit to say more, Council would have had no alternative but to demand a proper forensic accounting on the Fleet Department. This way, just like with the whitewash audit of WUC, Eddie and Council can hope that it all goes away.

What is very interesting to me is that Eddie talked to reporters about, and Administration included in their Report Package, certain letters. Eddie made a big point about saying those are the public document records that people should take a look at.

Don't you find it find it strange however that when he read out a letter from the Bridge Company at Council about closing southbound Huron Church it was dated in October, 2007, about 4 months ago. Strangely, this letter was not included in the package of letters that Administration set out. Why would they include it when it would become known that the Bridge Company started talking to them in October. It's better if everybody is led to believe that the Bridge Company was trying to do something sneakily.

Obviously, Gord Henderson meant it as a slur and smear in his recent column when he described Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper as
  • "billionaire, 80-year-old American transportation tycoon Matty Moroun, and his supporting cast."

I'm afraid that Henderson and Council don't understand how Moroun and Stamper have achieved what they have and how they have arrived where they are. As Henderson also said before and as he has forgotten it seems:

  • "I'm in awe of Moroun and his hired hands. These folks are the masters. They're always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players in what amounts to a high-stakes border chess match."

Something was going on at Council last night and I'm not sure I understand yet what it is. But I will take a stab at it.

Were you surprised at how calm, cool, and collected Dan Stamper was last night. I was. He sat there in a very respectful manner answering the questions that he was asked. I must admit that if I was in Stamper's position, I would have hit out at the Mayor and Council especially when Councillor Jones tried to emulate Perry Mason cross-examining a witness when he had no idea what he was talking about.

I think that the Councillor needs to be scripted a lot better before he tries to engineer another one of these TV lawyer performances. For Councillor Jones' benefit, "Black Letter Law" is defined as "The principles of law which are generally known and free from doubt or dispute."

In fact, the Councillor is so smart when he asked for the interpretations of a certain sections of the new Bridges and Tunnels Act, and he did not seem to understand what he was talking about with respect to the statute last night, that he just made it easier for the Bridge Company to get exactly what they wanted in the first place.

It is very clear to me that it was a no-lose situation for the Bridge Company. That is why Eddie tried so hard to put the responsibility on CBSA. If Council granted what the Bridge Company wanted, then he got what he came for. If Council refused, as they did, then Stamper has another reason to argue bad faith against the City of Windsor. As you know, the Mayor is the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, his competitor, and whose members include City Councillors. Eddie wanted to try to point his finger at someone else and say that if there was bad faith, it was their actions not his. He does not want some Judge saying that he is responsible so that the City has to pay out huge damages in a lawsuit.

If you want to consider it that way, then I should stop writing in my BLOG now. I have said it all. Clearly however, that is not why you read this Blog. You want insight, you want to know the real story, you want to know the story behind the story. Just keep on reading and you shall learn.

Remember what Henderson said about the Bridge Company as I write this,

  • "They're always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players."

Let me tell you what I believe really happened last night. The City turned down the operator of an international border crossing, the Ambassador Bridge, from undertaking in a timely fashion maintenance and preventative maintenance of its Bridge. That is a safety issue especially given the fact that it is an older bridge as the City's own Sam Schwartz keeps telling everybody.

What does this mean? Clearly, the Ambassador Bridge is not going to fall down but when the operator says that he should be taking certain steps why is the City refusing to allow them to do so and stalling them off. After all, the Mayor knew in October what the Bridge Company wanted to do with respect to the road. Why didn't the Mayor tell Administration to contact immediately the Bridge Company to discuss what should be done. He has a responsibility as Mayor of the City doesn't he? Or was it better to sit back and do nothing and then make it appear that he was caught by surprise. That darn October letter again.

The Mayor was trying to play again, to assert that the City has power under the 1921 statute that incorporated the Bridge Company. He is trying to assert therefore that he can prevent the Bridge from doing anything, especially building its Enhancement Project. That was the Mayor's objective last night.

Unfortunately, he lost that argument in front of the Senate when they rejected his approach point-blank. It is ironic that Eddie's buddy, NDPer MP Brian Masse, takes credit for passing Bill C-3. In reality, he hurt the City's position badly to the advantage of the Bridge Company. That Act has made it absolutely clear that the City has no power whatsoever.

Transport Canada wanted that Bill. They got it. They must now tell the City that the running of an international bridge is under federal jurisdiction and that the City has no responsibility whatsoever in this matter. The Bridge Company has forced Transport Canada to take a position and to tell the City that it is the Federal Government who makes the rules in this matter, not some mere municipality.

In other words, the fight is now between the Federal Government and the City of Windsor to resolve this issue. It is up to the Minister, Lawrence Cannon, to tell the City that they are out of order and to remind the City what the true legal position is. The Bridge Company has now forced the Feds to act.

The problem that the City also has is that if someone wants to have a bit of fun, then that person should demand of Transport Canada that maintenance reports on the Tunnel should be made available so that we could know what condition it is in. I suspect that, as a very old structure, it has problems as well. Do you ever recall Sam Schwartz talking about the Tunnel? Oh, I forgot, he could not talk about his client's structure and what shape it is in.

That may mean that the City may have to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars, taxpayer dollars, to fix it up. It also means that the City has to take steps immediately because the Tunnel has been described as a unique security risk. Transport Canada must require the City at this time to take active steps to eliminate that concern. Bill C-3 requires it. Who would invest in Eddie's US$75M Tunnel deal now as a financing party. Sorry Kwame but you now have a $75M budget hole thanks to Eddie!

The Bridge Company people can sit back smiling now and let Transport Canada do it all or else they are in violation of their own statute that they wanted so badly to introduce into law.

But if you think that is the best that the Bridge Company could achieve last night, you are sadly mistaken.

They just won the border war.

There is no way now that any Government can justify spending taxpayer dollars on a new bridge crossing. Oh yes, there is still a need for a road to the bridge if the Governments really want to build one, and I'm not sure that they do. However no one in their right mind will now build or invest in a DRIC bridge after what happened at Council.

In effect, the Governments of Canada, Ontario, Michigan, and the United States will have to provide absolute guarantees that an investor in a P3 deal will not lose their shirt on a new DRIC bridge. They cannot do it after last night and if they cannot do it, no one will invest. As you will recall both the Government of Canada and MDOT are not prepared to spend governmental money on building a new bridge. They expect a P3 investor to do so. You remember that MDOT has said that "tolls" will pay for the new crossing.

That is out and out BS. The tolls at the new bridge, assuming there is fair competition, will have to be about three times higher than that at the Ambassador Bridge. Since the Ambassador Bridge is free-flowing and its tolls are lower, then very few truckers will ever use the new bridge as the high-priced alternative. Accordingly no one will invest unless the Governments guarantee. Not only will they have to guarantee principal and interest, but they'll have to guarantee that there is enough revenue for operating costs. And the Governments don't want to do that nor can some of them afford it.

What am I talking about you may say. How do I read all of that into what happened at Council last night?

It is very clear. It is the traffic stoplight issue that makes what I am saying so very obvious. Even though the Bridge Company had to pay to have the stop lights put up in the first place, the reason that the City wants to have the lights taken down is because the lights were put up for CBSA employees to cross the street safely. (Who cares if Bridge employees get hit by a car when they try to cross Huron Church, they don't count).

And why isn't CBSA concerned about their employees crossing the street? It is because Customs employees will never man those booths, not even in an emergency or as insurance.

To be direct about it, CBSA is saying that in no circumstance can they ever see in the foreseeable future the need to have the six additional booths or even to have them manned if an interim need arises.

That is a breathtaking revelation that changes the whole border debate dramatically.

We know how smart CBSA is in relation to other Government Departments because, after all, they are there on the front lines dealing with border crossing matters on a day-to-day basis. Accordingly, they are a lot brighter about these things than Transport Canada, the main mover behind a new DRIC bridge. If CBSA is saying that they don't need any new booths, then please explain to me how Transport Canada can justify spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money for a new bridge that is not needed as disclosed in writing by the Government Department most familiar with this matter!

In fact, the Bridge Company must bow to their superior knowledge and agree that they spent all this money for nothing for building those booths.

How can anyone now doubt that there is no need whatsoever for a DRIC bridge. There is no need for it on capacity because truck volume numbers are down as CBSA has made so clear by their refusal to man the booths, there is no need for it for security and there is no need for it for redundancy. CBSA has just said so in no uncertain terms! I might say in "Black Letter Law" to make Councillor Jones happy.

The Bridge Company people must be laughing themselves silly at the antics of the Government of Canada. CBSA has killed any justification for a new DRIC bridge and has made it impossible for any financial person for any P3 partner to justify to his/her management the need for investing in this project. All that the Bridge Company needs to do now is to take the CBSA letters to the American Legislators and let them think for about 10 seconds about the consequences of what has been said by the Canadian Government. The US law-makers will not spend one single, solitary penny more on this DRIC extravaganza if I am correct.

Now you are sitting there, dear reader, saying that the Bridge people can't be too smart either if they have invested in these booths and if they want to build a new Enhancement Project. In fact, Councillor Valentinis who ought to know better, impugned their integrity. He cast aspersions on their motivation.

Unfortunately, the Councillor has a very short memory. Moreover he doesn't run an international border crossing.

He forgot that there is an economic justification for building the Enhancement Project. After all, isn't it easier and less expensive with a new car then with one that is a dozen years old even if it is running well considering all the work that is required to maintain it. It is no different with what the Bridge Company wants to do. They have said that they can recoup a great deal of their costs for a new structure since it is costly to maintain the existing bridge while traffic is on it.

And since Sam Schwartz is the world's expert on bridges, just ask Eddie, they would be derelict if they did not immediately start construction but for the Governments. An extra lane in each direction helps traffic move much more smoothly for the pre-cleared traffic.

Believe it or not, the Bridge Company made a bad mistake before 9/11. They did not anticipate a terrorist attack on New York City and did not have enough booths available at the Bridge so that there were huge backups in Windsor and at every other border crossing in North America. Gee, even Public Authorities make mistakes too I guess.

The Bridge Company at least learned from their mistake. Remember how the truck back-ups on Huron Church were eliminated? Not by spending $1 billion on the first Sam Schwartz Report Horseshoe road and other short-term remedies but by spending a few million dollars to open up four new booths. If you will recall as well, the Bridge Company had to sue the United States Government in order to do so. When the booths opened, the backups disappeared and generally have disappeared ever since that time.

I believe that the Bridge Company vowed never to be caught like that again. That is why they are continually opening up new booths even when there does not appear to be a short-term need for it. Unlike the government, they are prepared to spend their own money to ensure that this border crossing works and remains number one no matter what may happen in the future. Does anyone honestly believe that a Public Authority would do the same thing or would have the money to do it!

If, heaven forbid, there is another calamity, at the least there will be be these booths instantly available to allow the border to run smoothly. Perhaps Councillor Valentinis can now apologize and recognize that perhaps he doesn't have all the answers.

The City of Windsor is again acting in a manner that will chase business away from this City. If you are concerned about Windsor having a reputation as a union town, forget about that. We have two Councillors who help picket against the Bridge Company in a demonstration thereby revealing their bias against the Company. The same Councillors participate in a Council debate respecting the subject matter of the demonstration and in fact introduce and second the Motions to defeat what the Bridge Company wants to achieve.

We see a mean and petty Mayor and Council who are prepared to close down a road to their Tunnel everyday to help their business when needed but who will not accommodate their Competitor when they want to do maintenance on their international bridge.

And if the Bridge Company has problems, a private investor who may want to invest in a DRIC bridge will see that they have to deal with such a Council as well. Who needs that.

We see the same mentality in this Mayor and Council that is similar to that of the City officials who refused to allow Highway 401 to be completed years ago to the international border. We are the beneficiaries of that mess. Imagine what our children and grandchildren will have to deal with after this Mayor and Council are responsible for the Senior Levels walking away again.

We see a mentality that US states, especially Michigan, must love of an anti-business City Administration and seemingly powerless Senior Levels of Government. The Americans can point out the failure of the border to operate thereby asking investors who want to build somewhere in North America why they would want to build in Ontario and in Windsor in particular. Sending a trade mission to this part of the world as well would make a lot an awful lot of sense since I would expect a number of businesses here could be easily convinced to move their operations into US where their customers are. Canadian Senator Kenny no longer has to worry about the American "Dirty Little Secret." We are doing it to ourselves.

However, if you want me to be really insulting, let me do so now. If you want to see an absolute disgrace, just keep on reading

Do you know what else was on the agenda last night: the request of waiver of fees to close roads for the filming of a TV series. Why our Administration is so busy creating a new Film policy/procedure that will help determine how to close roads for film companies that provide so much benefit to this City that they can ignore the Ambassador Bridge Company whose bridge is only what made this City what it is today and what the City could be tomorrow if we had a municipal government who had the faintest idea what they were doing. Had the film people come up with about $1700 and not asked for a waiver of the fees, I am sure that the City would have helped them close streets down. Heck, it would be justified as helping start a new industry in Windsor. Larry Horwitz would have come out in full support of it, probably hoping that Pammie would come to town so he could see her again.

I will be doing a BLOG on the right of recall of Government officials soon! It is badly needed in this City.