Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wrath Of Gord

I better be careful what I say in this BLOG. I do not want the Wrath of Henderson to fall on me as happened to Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

We do have a new image I believe, a new brand. Truly, Windsor is now the Tijuana of Canada!

I just couldn't help thinking about this as I listened to the Mayor on the radio and then read through his speech.

I was the one who came up with the expression Montréal-to-Tijuana trucks to describe international trucks going through Windsor when I was with STOPDRTP. With our bars, Windsor ballet and a young American drinkers being lured to come over here, this is a party town between Canada and the United States just like the southern city.

And now to top it off, we are making it easy for our citizens to fly out West to get jobs and to send money to the folks back home. It sounded so much to me like the Mexican farmworkers who flew here on a Mexicana airlines to help our agricultural industry. No wonder the Mayor was so happy to see them here since they clearly had given him inspiration.

What struck me about Eddie's speech is how Schwartz-like it sounded and Henderson's reaction to it. Here was the grand Jobs Vision, the THINK BIG way that we would solve our jobs crisis. Never mind the details, buy into the vision and the dream and do not dare criticize. Mind you, if it had been Sam giving the speech, I expect the amount involved would have been $250 million not $100 million. Doesn't quarter of a billion with a "B" sound an awful lot better. It would have made a huge headline too.

Come on Eddie, THINK BIG. If you are going to be shot down in flames, at least go down in style

Isn't that why Gord wrote the Column that he did, front-page stuff too. In case we did not understand the message, Gord's column was distributed even before the Mayor's speech was finished last night to tell us what we should think. I saw it just after 8 p.m. on the Star website. In other words, you are a naysayer if you say anything negative about what Eddie spoke about. Get on board or else.

To be real, why should Eddie "fully expect screeching and squawking" if his PLAN has merit. If he can be negative about it so quickly, then all he is doing is inviting people to pick holes in it and to find out what is wrong with it.

I would have thought that everyone would applaud him this morning. Why wouldn't we after all when our City is at risk with jobs leaving here and homes being foreclosed? Could it be that both Eddie and Gord know something that we don't know about this PLAN? Could it be that they both know that the PLAN is utter nonsense designed to protect Eddie's failing mayoral career?

Could this be the secret? Perhaps this is why people will squawk and screech. Perhaps Gord gave it away when he said the following which sounded like Eddie's University deal that failed and was about the same sum of money:
  • "The fund envisioned by Francis wouldn't require an annual levy or taking on new debt. Because the city is in relatively good financial shape, courtesy of its debt reduction plan, it will have an extra $20 million available in 2011-2012 and tens of millions more at its disposal in subsequent years."

Isn't Gord saying that we have no money until after Eddie is Mayor. This PLAN and all of the work necessary to bring it to fruition is like the Services Delivery Review... that program will take 30 months to achieve. Nothing will happen other than Eddie giving speeches until 2011 when money is around after the arena is paid off supposedly. If that is the case then, frankly this is all a huge joke on the people who are suffering and they should be furious about it. As should the Councillors who will have to run for re-election after the Mayor is gone.

  • "Francis said the need for local incentives hit him, like a brick between the eyes."

I wonder if the Mayor still has a concussion from the blow. Did he get emergency treatment right away in Windsor or did he have to go into the United States to get help?

To be honest, I thought that the speech was backwards. The most obvious way that we can get jobs today is by solving the border crisis. There are 15,000 high-paying infrastructure and spinoff jobs begging to be taken if only we can get an agreement on the border road and on the Enhancement Project.

What I had hoped to hear from the Mayor was that he was prepared to sit down with both the Senior Levels and the Ambassador Bridge Company to resolve differences. No such luck. Instead all we heard was a plea for Greenlink, a project that is never going to move forward, and that an advertising campaign that is going to cost taxpayers dollars and will stall off a border solution for more time is starting.

Clearly, everyone knows that he has lost on the Border road and is praying that the Senior Levels will impose a solution to get him off the hook. I wish they would act like a genie and grant him his wish already. Get the "cheap" solution road costing $1.6 billion built to the new Enhancement Project bridge already. Create those 15,000jobs!

The hundred million dollar fund. Eddie used Kitchener as his model. I took a look at what their fund is doing in Kitchener and it doesn't resemble anything similar to what the Mayor was talking about. Here is a description from Kitchener:

  • "In 2004 after an extensive public and corporate engagement process, the City of Kitchener created an innovative and creative solution to meeting the needs of one of Canada’s most rapidly growing populations.

    It’s a one-of-a-kind strategy to fund major strategic infrastructure for the next decade, and a strategy that is spurring massive economic growth today, while building strong foundations for tomorrow.

    Through a 10-year tax levy, the City created a $110 million Economic Development Investment Fund that allows Council and staff to address two critical issues: the need for new and creative sources of funding for Kitchener’s future, and the crucial need for industrial employment lands in the city.

    To date, more than $60 million from the fund has been devoted to supporting downtown projects that will grow and diversify the local economy and bring more people to live, work, visit and learn in the core. Additional funding has been committed to strengthening the city’s traditional manufacturing industries through the development of new employment lands in other areas of the cities.

    The City of Kitchener EDIF took home first place at the 2006, Economic Developers Council of Ontario awards in the category of Physical Infrastructure.

    Some of the downtown projects supported by the Economic Development Investment Fund include:

    $30 milliion, University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy, opening Jan. 2008
    $6.5 million, Wilfrid Laurier Faculty of Social Work, opened Sept. 2006
    $5.5 million, downtown parking solutions
    $3.3 million, for major streetscape improvements downtown
    $2.7 million, improvements to downtown’s Victoria Park
    $1.7 million, for Downtown Community Centre, opened in 2005

    $12 million committed to funding industrial employment lands"

Take a look at the brochure at

The interesting thing about what Kitchener did and what Windsor is not doing is:

  • "Recognizing that the challenges it was facing required a different, more inclusive, future for municipal government and public service, City Council directed administration to engage the community in extensive discussion and debate about its collective vision for the future of the City of Kitchener.

    By asking for and hearing what citizens were saying, Council and staff were better able to identify community needs and develop policies, programs and projects to address those needs. This citizen engagement took full advantage of the knowledge and expertise within the community and helped target the City's valuable resources into appropriate areas."

In Windsor, the Mayor just tosses out the concept as part of a speech after talking to some fellow in Tennessee who wants local incentives to reduce his business risk. So now we would have the "new tools" for the fellow in Tennessee. We would have $100 million to give away.

The Mayor calls what he proposed, Jobs Today, a beginning that requires conversation. How long will that take? It ought to be good for at least a year's worth of talk alone. And of course the Development Commission can set up another conference to deal with this subject and report on it, eventually.

Please don't tell me than that this speech wasn't anything more than "political." I can just imagine how much money our two German friends with their startup company would have received from the Mayor with the promise of creating 500 jobs at some time in the future in Windsor. Why I bet that we would be a funder of one of their Airbus airplanes. If the deal had been done, there is no doubt but that the spotlight in the auditorium would have focused on them as the Mayor spoke about them and the crowd would have jumped to their feet with a standing ovation.

I have no intention of being accused of being a naysayer when talking about this hundred million dollars fund. I have to change the conversation don't you know. I only heard that about 14 times in Eddie's speech. I don't have to be the naysayer because the Premier already is.

I wondered where Eddie was going to get all of these funds. I guess he wants $30 million from the County. That should create a world of mirth and laughter at the joint City/County meeting on Wednesday if someone asks for that. Then the Mayor wants matching funds to the City's contribution from the Province as he said on the radio this morning. Here is exactly the answer that will be given by Queen's Park. Will it be delivered by Sandra or by Dwight after his Budget:

  • "Your government has received about $800 million in various labour market development funds from the federal government," Hampton said. "Windsor is a community that's desperately in need of an aggressive, targeted refundable tax credit such as Quebec has, Manitoba has, Saskatchewan has, and New Democrats have advocated for."

    Premier Dalton McGuinty responded by pointing out the "close to $1.5 billion" the province has invested in the city of Windsor in the last four years in various projects, including the Casino Windsor expansion and the new satellite medical school.

    "None of those were supported by the opposition," McGuinty said. "I'm afraid to think of what would have happened to Windsor had we not been there working with the community."

That was from the Start story today "NDP pushes for aid to city." And good old Jeff Watson got his little dig in as well respecting federal funds:

  • "a great first step if the city is truly serious about wanting federal funding support for the mayor’s new plan would be a phone call to him."

Who knows Jeff, you might get lucky and the Mayor will call you but it will not be until after he phones people about conventions, businesses and doctors. Has he called you about Ford yet? Just wondering.

As I said this morning, Eddie wants all this money for Greenlink and Ford and for roads and sewers and watermains and whatever else he's asked for PLUS now a big chunk of the money set aside for cities that have problems. He is beginning to sound like Oliver isn't he... More Please.

Speaking of the $30 million City contribution, where did that come from? That was the big shocker to me last night that was not explained in the Mayor's speech. Is it like Gord said, not available until after 2011 or is it available now?

If it is available now, I don't understand why our taxes had to be increased if we have all this money lying around. I wrote to the Operating Budget Chair, Councillor Halberstadt, this morning and asked him where these funds are shown on the City's Financial Statements and whether there is any other such money somewhere. I'll let you know what he says.

To be honest about it, don't you think would be more productive to give this $30 million to Ford right away if it is available since we are told by the CAW that all of these jobs will be produced if only the carmaker gets the money it needs. We can then fight the Feds to get the money back.

A major problem in all of this as I see it is that the Economic Development Commission is going to have responsibility for determining who the winners will be to whom we should give this money. Do the members of the Commission or their staff have the skill to be able to do this? I hardly think so since they were not hired to be entrepreneurs. Look how long it takes them to do anything. Frankly, by the time they create the criteria to give out money, it may be too late.

In any event, I remember the Head of the Gazelle Federa saying at Council that we really rely on the Province to bring us new business since we don't have the resources to do that ourselves.

However, never fear. There may be a solution. The Mayor will do it all and by himself. After all, he went to Germany without the Development Commission going along and now he's making phone calls to investors, something I thought that the Commission was supposed to do.

He will travel the world if necessary looking for jobs the way he did in Germany. He phoned Tennessee. I expect him to go to Mexico to see if he can bring in more Mexicana flights. He told us as well that they were German companies that he could approach. He will have to go out west to set up his commuter scheme. There is no doubt that he will follow the path of Governor Granholm and travel to Asia to talk to car manufacturers about plants in Windsor or at least to have our plants be suppliers to them.

He will travel to Ottawa and Toronto for funds. He will go to New York to deal with Sam. Of course, he will also have to go to Detroit for all the events that Windsor sponsored with taxpayer money. He may have to go to Chicago to see how they did their toll-road P3 to use with our Tunnel deal that may or may not take place on the 27th.

Did you see the headline on page 4 of the Star "Many sleepless nights." What other projects did he have sleepless nights on... Canderel and the border come to mind right away. No wonder he has 18 hour days because he can't sleep.

This almost sounds like jet lag to me from all of the traveling that Eddie did up until now. He told us how many airports he has been in "either on the Friday midnight flight back to Windsor or the 6 am flight out." One can only read the enRoute magazine so many times after all on an airplane even if you can get quotes to use in his speech from the former Mayor of Bogota.

I wonder if the Mayor uses Melatonin to help him recover from jet lag. I know a lot of people swear by it when they travel over different time zones. One of the things I saw about Melatonin on Wikipedia is that

  • "Many supplemental melatonin users have reported an increase in the vividness or frequency of dreams."

Anyway, I'm not going to pick a fight. I'm going to change my conversation and be positive about Windsor. Clearly I am not a naysayer because my Three-part Series on how to solve Windsor's problems was a positive step in making this City prosper again. You know, as I Blogged the other day, that I'm looking for a certain chest to strap a "W" on.

I'll just let those nasty Windsor Star subscribers on the Star Forums do the job instead.