Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Do Sandra And Dwight Want An OMERS Job

Surely, that has to be the explanation for what happened yesterday. I can think of no other. After all, the Government person who received the most money in 2007 was Paul Haggis, former OMERS CEO, who earned $2.24 million in 2007 as well as about $10,000 in taxable benefits.

I suspect that his salary is overstated because he did leave the organization last year and was replaced by Michael Nobrega. I'm sure there are some extras thrown in that would not normally be part of the salary. Nevertheless it is a reasonably generous organization when their Senior Vice President, Sponsor & Government Relations makes over $400,000.

A Cabinet Minister with greater responsibilities receives a lot less.

Accordingly, after years in Government service, it would not surprise me if those two Cabinet Ministers may well be looking for new opportunities in the private sector given their vast experience.

If that is not the case, then it looks to me as if a serious faux pas has been committed by our two Cabinet Ministers at the Rotary Meeting yesterday when Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan, delivered his speech. And the horrible part is that they should have known better.

I am afraid that the consequence of this breach may well be disastrous and will put back this region for years and years. To me, based on what the Ministers have said before, the DRIC process has been contaminated and must start all over again.

A very good legal argument can be made that there is either bias or an apprehension of bias involving the DRIC process given what the Ministers did. What were they thinking?

Go back to my BLOG February 08, 2008, "The Art Of The BORDER War" and take a look at the letter that I attached that was sent by Dwight. More importantly, a similar letter was sent by Dwight and Sandra on February 7, 2008 with respect to the border file. That letter is below.

The letter makes it absolutely clear that the Ministers cannot be involved in dealing with specifics with respect to the border before DRIC makes a final recommendation. Moreover, they cannot even meet with a local Council on the matter before the recommendation is made. It would be "inappropriate."

If the Ministers cannot meet with the Windsor Council, then surely the Ministers should not be dealing with a border proponent. That would follow from what the Ministers wrote to the City. I would think that doing so would be even worse.

Fortunately, dear reader, you receive this BLOG. Here again is some information that you did not receive in the Windsor Star. All they did is cover a bit of Dwight's Rotary speech and tell us that Councillor Dilkens was "baffled" by Sandra and Dwight's refusal to meet. Doesn't that make things even worse for Dwight and Sandra:

  • "We've had indications they're not prepared to sit down at this point for fear of jeopardizing the work that DRIC (the Detroit River International Crossing study, a binational government process to determine the location of the next Windsor-Detroit border crossing) is doing and it's not our intent to jeopardize the work that DRIC is doing," Dilkens said."

What the Star did not report is that Michael Nobrega of OMERS was in attendance at the luncheon. You remember OMERS don't you... that is the municipal employees pension plan that is the owner of DRTP along with CP rail. Or maybe it is the owner of the Detroit River Rail Tunnel now or DRRT (that I pronounce as D-I-R-T). Not only was he there, he was sitting at the Head Table I was told. Moroever, he was introduced by Dwight who said some very nice things about him.

Was Mr. Nobrega just in the neighbourhood and thought that he would drop in for lunch? Was the only seat that was available for him at the head table? If Dwight and Sandra could meet with him, then why couldn't they meet with Eddie and the Councillors? Nobrega represents a proponent after all while Eddie and Council represent the people of Windsor, you know the same people that elected Dwight and Sandra.

It is very strange that the Ministers can hobnob with a proponent but not with the City. Somehow they can argue that meeting with the City can be prejudicial to the process but not when dealing with a proponent. There must be a difference that they can see but I must admit that I'm having difficulty figuring out what it is.

Now let's get real. There was a reason why Mr. Nobrega was in town. He did NOT come all the way down from Toronto for nothing. We know that OMERS is very chummy with the Minister of Finance since Dwight's predecessor contacted OMERS to see if the Province could use their money for some of their projects.

  • "Ontario ’s Finance Minister Greg Sorbara invited some of the province’s most powerful investors to consider helping to finance the rebuilding of the province's crumbling infrastructure. According to Sorbara, the province's pension funds have a central role to play in financing public-sector projects. "

Dwight himself is very knowledgeable about OMERS because when he was Minister of Energy his department and OMERS worked out a deal on the Bruce a nuclear plant.

So why was he here. I can think of several reasons:

  • he likes Rotary food
  • interviewing Sandra and/or Dwight for a job
  • helping to finance Eddie's Tunnel deal with the new subsidiary and/or with Detroit
  • putting in an offer for Enwin and/or the Windsor Utilities Commission
  • arranging some kind of P3 deal with the Province for Windsor, perhaps for the road to the border
  • negotiating to be the P3 partner in the new DRIC bridge
  • lobbying the Windsor MPPs for the doublestack rail Tunnel
No, he could probably could do all of those things over the telephone since they are pretty small deals. It has to be something much more difficult that requires his personal involvement since the money and the stakes are so high.

No matter what the intended result, DRIC has been compromised. Let the lawsuits begin.