Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, March 03, 2008

More Random Thoughts

Here are a few things that struck me as interesting as I was going through my various media sources.

You will note the criticism I make about the Federal Government. What scares me is that the border file is one file that I am familiar with. What if other files are handled in a similar fashion!


It appears that DRIC will produce their report in the spring or perhaps in early summer now.

Let me see, spring ends on June 21 doesn't it. I'm sure that many were expecting the Canadian DRIC results out in March or April but that's not going to happen now.

Why does everything keep getting reported in American newspapers that affect us on this side but not in Canadian ones. In any event, here is what is reported in the Detroit News:
  • "Government representatives...were also shown a potential site for another bridge between the two countries over the Detroit River.

    "More than 10,000 trucks cross the Ambassador Bridge every day and we're working to establish more capacity across the Detroit River," said Sean O'Dell, executive director of the Windsor Gateway Project. The program is Canada's project to make improvements in Windsor to reduce traffic congestion from the bridge.

    "We're hoping we'll be able to make the decision by mid-June or early July."

It seems that the American consultants were able to complete their report earlier then the Canadian consultants. I wonder why. Are there significant problems on the Canadian side that caused the delay? As usual, no one will tell us so you will just have to guess dear reader.


The American DRIC consultants effectively have told the Ambassador Bridge Co. that when the new DRIC bridge opens, that bridge will effectively take away the majority of the Bridge Company's traffic even though the tolls will probably be three times higher. Only a Government consultant could practice that kind of economics unless the Government is going to take away in a mandatory fashion the Bridge Company's business, say by a marshalling yard or staging area on the Canadian side. The number was 80% of truck traffic and 60% of total traffic.

Clearly, that kind of number is designed to attract the attention of a P3 investor. Otherwise why would an investor who normally wants a monopoly situation at a location have any interest whatsoever in sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into a new bridge in Windsor when there is competition.

But maybe there's a little twist to it as well. You see, according to Industry Canada Minister Prentice, the Ambassador Bridge will not be able to provide any kind of competition. According to him in his speech that he delivered in Toronto just the other day, an investor need not be concerned anymore about the Bridge Company. According to the Minister in a throwaway line, he said:

  • "As we all know, that bridge is well past capacity."

If that was true, then the extra traffic would be able to go to the new DRIC bridge and the Bridge Company could not complain because their bridge was full. That was part of the theory that DRIC had early on when they expected there to be a 50-50 split in traffic with the Ambassador Bridge being full.

Actually Mr. Minister, those of us who actually have been involved in the border file know that the bridge is operating only at about 50 to 60% of its capacity. We also remember that the Ambassador Gateway project alone will allow almost 5.4 million trucks a year to be handled just about 2 million more trucks that are handled today. That comment came from the US DRIC consultant over a decade ago when the Consultant was involved with the Ambassador Gateway project.

If Canadian Government Ministers keep boosting a P3 bridge like this and the numbers don't work out (all that Prentice should have done was look at the slides that the Bridge Company showed at the Senate hearings), does that mean that the P3 investors can sue the Government? That could be even better than a Government guarantee when punitive damages are added to the total claim.


I feel so sorry for Matty Moroun. How can the poor man know what reality is anymore.

First he builds some extra Customs booths on the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge for use as required by CBSA. That agency tells him in no uncertain terms that they have no intention at this time of manning those booths. According to them, and they should know shouldn't they, there is no increase in truck traffic to justify that staffing.

Based on those comments, Mayor Francis felt justified in refusing permission to the Bridge Company to close the northbound lane of Huron Church Road on a temporary and intermittent basis and to require the Bridge Company to remove the traffic light that the City said they should put up in the first place.

Now however the Industry Minister said in that same speech in Toronto that:

  • "As important as border infrastructure is, it is just as critical that all of our crossing points are fully staffed. This week's budget provides $75 million over the next two years to increase the number of border services officers at key crossings."

In other words, we need more Customs agents and therefore Customs booths in order for traffic to flow smoothly across the border. And where are their new Customs booths that are ready for occupation but are not being used, and paid for by private dollars as well... yes you are correct, at the Ambassador Bridge.

You are very smart, dear reader. If you can figure any of this stuff out, perhaps you might be good enough to write Mr. Moroun and try and explain it to him. I'm sure he can't figure out what's going on.


Minister Prentice made a very strange comment in his speech that makes it appear as if the Government has no idea what it is doing. Is the Government trying to tell the Ambassador Bridge Company something? Are they looking for a compromise solution to the border crossing mess:

Frankly I'm not sure what it means, but I would treat it as an invitation to meet:

  • "We have already committed an initial $400 million as part of our promise to fund 50 percent of the eligible costs of improving the Windsor–Detroit crossing, including the Ambassador Bridge."

I thought the $400 million was just for the border road itself. All of a sudden some of that money is to include something with respect to the Ambassador Bridge. That is a very surprising statement. Remember as well that the Federal Government did not add in any extra money to $400 million originally allocated to the Project even though the Minister has talked about it being an "initial amount."

I am hoping that the politicians may finally understand that they have been played by their bureaucrats and that all they're doing is inviting a lawsuit. That will tie up the border for a decade or longer and they know it.

The solution is pretty clear as I have been saying for years now: the Enhancement Project and the road to the Ambassador Bridge is an intermediate solution, DRIC is tabled and brought out if and when there is some need for it.

The Feds and the Province do not have to spend more than $400 million each probably on an intermediate road and if they put it in those terms no one, including the Mayor, can object. After all, the Mayor was prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on an interim solution too... Sam's parking lot, the Horseshoe Road.

One can argue that Prentice's position is consistent with that of Cannon and MDOT since the latter two have said that there is no need for a new bridge until decades from now.

Don't forget as well that Cannon in his remarks to the P3 conference also left the door open respecting traffic numbers.

Perhaps instead of cryptic remarks that require a fortune teller to understand that are buried in a huge speech, the Government Ministers to pick up the telephone and make the phone call. I believe that the Ambassador Bridge Company's phone number is in the telephone directory to make it easy.


I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Dwight Duncan, Ontario's Minister of Finance, may just be joking with us again. Remember how every politician at the Senior Level who comes to Windsor tells us how important the Windsor border crossing is to the economy of Canada and then does nothing about fixing up. I wonder whether Dwight's comment about 7500 new jobs to be created down here with infrastructure improvements is the same kind of remark.

By that I mean, he, on behalf of the Provincial Government, talks a good game about creating jobs to show his concern (and to beat up on our Mayor) but does nothing about it. How else to explain the lack of concern that the Canadian DRIC report seems to be several months late now.

As for our Mayor, he tells us that jobs are so vital down here and that it is the highest priority for him yet he goes to Germany, spending taxpayer dollars to do so, and come back with the hope of perhaps producing a few jobs at the airport in three years provided that we can grow enough onions to fill a jumbo jet.

I've been saying for I don't know how long that the construction of a Enhancement Project and the building of the road to the Ambassador Bridge would produce up to 15,000 infrastructure and spinoff jobs. Here is what Governor Granholm is doing in Michigan. That leads you to ask the question why our politicians can't do the same thing.

And if you think I'm kidding about the number of jobs that can be created, here is what the Public Authority's project in Fort Erie could do. And no one can question what they say, right Brian.

  • Granholm accelerates road projects to create 2,100 jobs
    Thursday, February 28, 2008
LANSING - Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Wednesday announced that 34 road projects across Michigan will be accelerated from the 2009 construction season to 2008, creating 2,100 new jobs in Michigan.

The announcement is one piece of the governor's economic stimulus package she unveiled in her recent State of the State address.

MDOT is accelerating almost $150 million in road and bridge projects, creating approximately 2,100 jobs in planning, engineering and construction.

The projects will extend the life of bridges or roadways by at least 10 years and will bring much-needed road improvements and safety projects to roadways across the state.

"By accelerating these projects into 2008, we are creating jobs today for our Michigan workers," Granholm said. "In addition to creating new jobs, we are also improving Michigan's infrastructure and stimulating economic growth by making travel easier and more efficient for commuters and visitors who are traveling throughout our great state."

The 34 accelerated "economic stimulus" projects are located in communities throughout the state and were selected because they could be accelerated into the current year. Projects will be presented to the state transportation commission today.

I happened to see this article that was published about a year or so ago with respect to the Peacce Bridge:
  • Officials say American Plaza equals thousands of jobs for US construction workers
Buffalo -- Western New York industry and building trade workers Monday joined Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to support efforts to move now on construction of a new Peace Bridge and American plaza.

“For 15 years this community has been talking about building a new Peace Bridge, the time for action is now,” said Higgins. “A new bridge is not only good for the economy and the environment, it will literally engage dozens of Western New York businesses and put thousands of ironworkers, cement masons, operating engineers and others in the construction field to work.”

Based on a Federal Highway Administration formula which converts project investment dollars into job creation numbers, construction of an American Peace Bridge plaza and surrounding infrastructure will create approximately 2688 construction jobs for US workers. Construction of the bridge itself will result in thousands of additional jobs for both US and Canadian construction workers. According to the Peace Bridge Environmental Impact Statement, total construction job counts are expected to reach approximately 4800.

"As I have stated recently, following the statements of Department of Homeland Secretary Chertoff that Shared Border Management is not a viable option for the forseeable future, we must now proceed with the building a new Peace Bridge and American plaza," said Mayor Brown.

"By doing so, we can complete this critically important project, which will create construction-related jobs, provide an opportunity to invest in the surrounding community, and contribute to Buffalo's ongoing financial revitalization."


I wonder what Councillor Lewenza will do if City Hall employees decide to go on strike since the City seems to want to cut back on employee numbers and wages and benefits. As Chair of WUC, what will he do if a P3 deal is structured and employees will have to be cut back.

I ask this question because of remarks at the Councillor made over the weekend.

  • "City councillor Ken Lewenza Jr. also stopped by on the picket line Sunday to offer his support, saying at just over $11 per hour, the TRW workers need an increase comparable to other local parts workers in the region.

    "It's very important to the auto industry to get them back to work as quick as possible," he said.

    "The city hasn't really seen too many labour disputes in last 10 years, but it's part of the process.

    "At $11 per hour they decided to take it to the streets and I support that."
Who will the Councillor support... the unions or taxpayers? Now he knows why he was made Chair of WUC, to take the hit.