What The DRIC Announcement Means
I think that I had better mark this day on the calendar. I finally agreed with something that Gord Henderson wrote in his column. Of course, as is typical with the Star, one had to read to the last line in his Column in order to find this gem:
- "It's appalling to think that Windsor's future, and the health of future generations, could be sacrificed on the grubby altar of personal ambition."
Truer words were never spoken except those words were directed right at our Mayor.
What I am terribly afraid of is that his stalling and threatening will mean that the Senior Levels will have enough and pull completely out of Windsor. There would go the thousands of infrastructure jobs needed until we can diversify our economy. Up would go the sign "Windsor Closed For Business." There would go our future and that of our children for reasons that only our Mayor knows.
Fortunately for us, that may not be a practical step that the Senior Levels can take now after all of their comments about how important the Windsor border is to the economies of Canada and the United States. However, it does not mean that they need to spend billions of dollars for a road to the border. That would be the real loss for which the Mayor would be responsible and whom we should blame.
When DRIC makes its announcement this week there is more at stake than just the road to the border. Let me talk about a number of matters that are involved.
The first one, and this is important both to taxpayers in Windsor and Detroit, is the likelihood of a Tunnel deal being brought to fruition has to be minimal. Who is going to invest in a declining asset when a DRIC road to a new border crossing is going to be built. Traffic will decline in the Tunnel even more than now. The Star Editorial today denouncing the Minister of Finance is not a smart idea when you are looking to the Province for funding in order to pay $75 million to Detroit.
Will Eddie be in town for the announcement this week? He flew off to Germany when Dwight had his pre-budget meeting. At Council last night, Eddie left early and based on a remark by Councillor Hatfield, it appeared that he might not be in attendance at the meeting next week. Moreover, he was not on the radio this morning. That is highly unusual.
I also believe that Windsor will be lucky if we get the DRIC road. I saw a story the other day that suggested that the Federal surplus may disappear and we already know the problems that the Province has with respect to money due to the downturn in manufacturing. Note well that the Province has not committed to any specific sum of money yet while the Federal Government has seemingly committed to $400 million.
The Mayor's Press Release in which he talked about the road and bridge together in one breath and the Transport Canada comment about a levy to use the speedy lane to the border suggest to me strongly that there is no money for a DRIC border road.
US DRIC has pretty much said and confirmed that traffic volumes are not growing and that the only way that the DRIC bridge will be successful is by cannibalizing traffic from the other Southwest Ontario crossings. If that is the case, there will be enough difficulty in building a DRIC bridge never mind paying for a DRIC road that is 10 times more expensive than any other road in Ontario. Interestingly DRIC has made the obvious argument that if Governments built the Greenlink road in Windsor they would have to build a similar road everywhere else. That is never going to be happen.
Once Wilbur Smith does their investment grade traffic analysis, it is clear that the traffic volume reduction will have to be disclosed by the Senior Levels. That means in my opinion that a Border Infrastructure Fund "intermediate" road will be built and a new DRIC bridge postponed until traffic picks up. Monies have been set aside for an intermediate road and the Governments will be able to get away with an at grade solution as a "temporary solution." It also means that the Governments are going to have to make a deal with the Bridge Company to allow them to move forward on their Enhancement Project or this region will absolutely suffer. The DRIC bridge again will not be built until the traffic volumes can justify it.
Just as an aside think of the financing. The Governments cannot afford to build a bridge and that is why they want to do a P3 deal. In order to do so, they have to take away traffic from the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Watcher Bridge. Those crossings will suffer financially and in order to keep them open the Governments will have to subsidize the crossings or the tolls will have to increase so dramatically that tourists won't use them as much and the truckers' cost will have to be passed on to consumers. It is a no-win position to be in.
Of course, only one person will be blamed for all of this... our Mayor who stalled the process for years. Obviously, he is aware of that and that is why he needs this ad blitz. He has to divert attention from himself by, in my opinion, not only threatening a lawsuit against the Senior Levels but starting one. That would be catastrophic for us and would force the Senior Levels' hand. I'm sure you read this comment by David Estrin:
- "The mayor said he's made his opinion known on the DRIC positions on GreenLink to local MPPs Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello, who are provincial cabinet ministers.
"My comments were that this is disappointing DRIC has chosen to go this way. It's unfortunate that this information is part of their decision making."
A letter was sent Monday by the city's Toronto lawyer David Estrin to Wake, expressing "significant concern" that DRIC's "unprecedented and belated attack" on Greenlink "disrespects" the city's rights under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (EAA).
DRIC must carefully consider alternatives presented and objectively and fairly review them, he said.
DRIC is raising issues on its website and making statements about GreenLink without first raising them with Windsor indicates "bad faith" and conduct contrary to what's required under the Ontario EAA, Estrin states.
"Baseless content of this criticism raises a significant concern that DRIC is being pressured to reject GreenLink."
Asked whether the city may legally challenge the DRIC process, Francis responded he will wait until all the information has been presented by government officials."
You know things are getting desperate for the Mayor when the Star Editorial goes right after Dwight Duncan. He has been generally left out of the discussion until now. Oh he would get the odd swipe but primarily the target was Sandra. Not now:
- "But Duncan only seemed to heed that letter's advice when it came to commenting on the city's GreenLink plan...
It is hard to fathom how Duncan could have reached that firm conclusion in such a short span unless his office was involved in a process that is supposed to be free of political taint. It is also hard to see how those comments could not be perceived as Duncan taking sides on an issue he claimed he couldn't weigh in on...
The finance minister was at it again Friday, defending DRIC and critiquing GreenLink after DRIC quietly issued a release offering technical criticisms of GreenLink."
It's not a very smart tactic to use with the guy who holds the purse strings. Eddie is again biting the hand that feeds to Windsor's detriment
In the end though the biggest loser will be Eddie Francis. No matter what anyone says, for all this time he's been underestimating the costs of the Greenlink road. He knew better. Can anyone take seriously anything that this Mayor has to say about the border now? What other matters is he hiding from us? His comments about quality of life ring hollow when he couldn't come clean with taxpayers.
The "grubby altar of personal ambition." The question that I've never been able to figure out is what Eddie wants out of the border matter. I can tell you from personal experience, the border was never an important matter for the Mayor when he first ran for office.
Is the Estrin lawsuit or a threat to one nothing more than an attempt to get money out of the Senior Levels to finance the Tunnel? Is this Eddie's way to get money out of the Senior Levels for Windsor for "hosting" the border road? Is this Eddie's way of trying to be successful for his next career? Is there some other objective? I wish I knew.
To be direct about it, getting money for the Tunnel deal if it made sense or getting money for Windsor or some other objective may well be commendable. If the Mayor could accomplish it, then he ought to be praised for. Why can't he come clean and tell us what his objectives are so that we can support him? As the Senior Levels learned previously with the STOPDRTP movement, there is nothing so strong as united Windsor. Why is he so afraid of citizens? I just don't get it. The ends do not justify the means as far as I'm concerned.
The tragedy with Eddie Francis when he finally leaves office and we look back at his two terms is how he squandered the support of the people of Windsor and how he failed on the border crossing. Open and transparent government... does he really understand that concept? To his dismay I am afraid, the saviours for Windsor will be his "enemies," the Bridge Company and the Senior Levels.
They will finally get it done in spite of him.