My Last Border BLOG Ever
There hardly seems to be a point in writing anymore about the border since the announcement of the DRIC road and the new bridge and plaza locations today should end the entire debate. Accordingly, if there is nothing to write about with respect to the border, why should I bother?
And that is what today’s Announcement is supposed to be all about isn’t it. It was all a political announcement designed to achieve a political objective. It had nothing to do with what is really going to happen at the border.
We are supposed to believe that the Governments on our side and eventually on the US side will approve what the DRIC people are putting forward, meaning that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project is finished.
However, dear reader, do you and I believe that? Naw…we know better. This is just another step in the process designed by the Governments to force the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out cheaply. They have to play the game right to the end or their bluff will have been called. It is all a game of high-stakes poker with the future of Canada at risk. This is something that the Harper Government has still not yet understood about NAFTA, especially if Obama wins.
Now I know how the uninvited Billy Joel fans think about the Casino people. I have to tell you that I’m very annoyed. I thought as a member of the media, since Transport Canada and the MTO have both accredited me, that I would be invited to the press conference today. It did not happen in spite of phone calls to the media representative of Transport Canada and e-mails to him as well. I did not even get the courtesy of a response. Not only that, I am on MDOT’s list for mailings in the United States and I did not get a note from them about the special meeting tonight that they called so urgently this morning.
I guess the problem is that if one does not follow the party line the way some people do then one is cut off from access. I assume I am being punished for saying some nasty things about what the Governments are doing and how the Canadian Government in particular is jeopardizing the country for some petty little reasons that they have with respect to this one particular border crossing. They are prepared to sacrifice free trade between Canada and the United States, for what?
Anyway, if you want to swallow what the Government wants you to hear, there are enough media outlets in town that will feed you the Government line. If you want some insight, them you might want to check with what some of the BLOGGERS in town write with which you may agree or disagree.
I have no intention of going through the details of what was said at the Presentation today. You can read about that online or in the Star or listen to it or watch it on the news over the next day or two. Rather I would like to give you my impressions of what took place at the Presentation today.
My thoughts are random and in no particular order. It is just what struck me after listening to this for several hours this morning. I do want to congratulate CKLW for having the courtesy to run the entire Presentation live and on air so that those of us who were not invited could hear what was going on.
Here is the total and complete absurdity of what was said this morning. Believe it or not, I have to thank Brian Masse for it. Thanks to Brian, we know that the Governments are almost in a state of desperation about border crossings not only at the Ambassador Bridge but at the Tunnel and at the Blue Water Bridge as well. At the Tunnel, Detroit Mayor is so desperate he is threatening 1300 job cuts if the deal with Eddie, whatever that is, is not approved by Detroit Council. He does not seem to be concerned that Eddie doesn’t have the money but that is something else. In Port Huron, the Plaza is being reconfigured supposedly to quiet down opposition to it.
I won’t even get into what is going on at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie/Buffalo.
However it is the Truck Ferry where everything is falling apart. Brian was trying but was not successful to find out what was going on with respect to the acquisition of the land there so that the Ferry Operator is allowed to have trucks cross over that property so that they can use the Ferry. As you may recall, for 18 years trucks have been trespassing over land owned by another in order to use the Ferry.
There is no doubt that Brian was trying to embarrass the Federal Government for not having control of the land around a border crossing. However, it was hilarious how each level of Government was pointing the finger at another as to who is responsible for dealing with the landowner. It looks as if it is the City of Windsor who is supposed to do that ultimately, probably because Eddie, although in attendance, was not on the platform to point the finger to someone else to take the blame.
Be serious, if three levels of Government in Canada cannot deal with this silly little piece of land dealing with the Ferry, then how are they going to deal with the Ambassador Bridge Company and with the management there that is not afraid of them and is prepared to take the appropriate steps to protect their business interests. It just boggles the mind that Canada thinks they can do anything.
And that, dear reader, is the reality about why the Announcement today is absolutely meaningless in the scheme of things.
Here are my other thoughts:
- The Announcement today was really designed to undercut the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project with Michigan legislators. The Canadian Government keeps saying that they are going to treat the Bridge Company fairly with respect to their Environmental Assessment. Of course, that is not in their interest but don’t dare say it or else there would be a huge damages claim against them. What the announcement today will allow the Bridge Company enemies in Lansing to say is that the Canadian Government has effectively killed the Bridge Co. project and the DRIC the bridge is the only solution that Canada will allow to go forward.
- Not only is Canada trying to discredit federal politicians in the United States who are running for President, Canada is now taking a shot at the Michigan Republicans in the Senate and Senator Cropsey in particular just before their hearings are to take place. Can Conservatives in Ottawa really be this stupid? I wonder what would happen if Senator Cropsey issued a subpoena to have some Canadian Federal and Provincial Ministers attend his hearings.
- Just to put it a different way, Canada is telling the United States and Michigan that the bridge is going where they want it to go, PERIOD. It does not matter nor does the Canadian Government care what the Americans think
- The amount of money that will be required to complete this project is $200 million each for the plazas on both sides of the border and about $800 million for the bridge. The comment was made that the bridge will be owned by the Government of Canada. Does that mean that Canada will pay for all of it, or rather their P3 partner will? What about the Americans, what will they own… will they have any interest in the new bridge? Is there going to be another Homeland Security scandal involving this bridge before it is built? If the bridge is a P3 bridge, how does Michigan get involved when they have no legislation to permit it? This appears to be Canada’s way to completely control the most important border crossing between Canada and the United States.
- Of course, the $1.2 billion cost makes this crossing completely uncompetitive with the Ambassador Bridge. So who is going to invest in it? It was interesting when the Government was given the opportunity to say that P3 companies have been banging on their door looking to be involved. They did not do so. In fact, the Government even refused to say what criteria they were looking for in a P3 partner even though they have been involved in other P3 deals.
- I was disappointed that our Mayor was not interviewed. However, Patty Handysides got to speak to him and unknowingly, he revealed all. Schwartz Report #1, full tunneling and Greenlink were, as I suspected, nothing more than stall tactics. The Mayor claimed that the City has $100 million worth of projects that need to be started and he hopes that the workers will not be taken for the DRIC project so that the City projects will be put on the back burner. Silly me, if he has all of these jobs, then why does he want to chase workers of Windsor to commute out West? Why doesn’t he just start them? Instead, he wants the DRIC project to start after the City works have been completed. What the Mayor has just said is that he will ask for at least $100 million from the Senior Levels for Brighton Beach, since it cost the City around $20 million in the 1990s for that land. He is telling them that he wants the money for his projects so that he can use this as his excuse to be reelected for a third term. Eddie is not going to litigate but rather is using all of this as his negotiating tactic.
- Confirmation was given by Minister Cannon that Senator Fortier, as you read here, was the Minister who came down to talk to the City presumably about both Brighton Beach and I would guess, the Tunnel. No wonder Kwame is going all out for the Tunnel deal now. It would not surprise me if he has learned that the Feds might be his investor and not the Province.
- As well, the Senator came down here to speak with the Ambassador Bridge Company also. It was interesting at the Presentation with the lack of a reference to the Bridge Company. The Ministers did not want to get involved in a hypothetical conversation about litigation but they did get into conversation about whether the Bridge Company might be the P3 operator for the Federal Government. Is that what the good Senator is going to offer to the Bridge Company i.e. to take away their business that they developed and built up at their private cost and expense and then allow them to bid to get it back!
- Did someone in the Senator’s office leak the story to Radio-Canada about the Americans being on-side with respect to the new bridge?
- It was interesting who was not present at the Announcement. I did not hear about anybody from MDOT or the Michigan Government being there. They would not dare given Senator Cropsey’s hearings. Who was the spokesperson for the American Government? It was someone about as low on the totem pole as possible and so unconnected with the file as possible that he could not say anything. It was the US Consul General out of Toronto. To me, that speaks volumes about the Americans not having made a decision and that this process was designed by Canada to try to force them to go along with what Canada wanted. It reconfirms as well what happened between President Bush and Prime Minister Harper at the SPP meeting and between US Secretary Peters and Minister Cannon at the mini-SPP. Canada lost.
- After the problem that closed down the Expressway today in both directions, look for terrific pressure being put on the City to allow the Expressway to be used while the road to the border is being built. There is a need for an alternate route. Of course, the City will agree provided that the Mayor gets the kind of extra money that he wants. After all, if the DRIC projects are done after his projects are completed then he does not care about timing does he.
- The guys laughing the most today have to be ex-Mayor Hurst and John Tofflemire.
- Again the Ministers were pretending that there is no traffic issue and that the volumes will be there to necessitate a new bridge. Of course, that is not what US DRIC said since they have to cannibalize traffic from other crossings but who cares about facts. They confirmed that Wilbur Smith is doing a traffic analysis for the possible investors. Of course, I am certain that the criteria under which they are operating means that the result wanted by the Government is inevitable.
- I wonder why Minister Fortier was not present since he is a key guy on this crossing.
- No wonder MP Jeff Watson was smiling from ear to ear. He thinks this Announcement and its 25,000 jobs will mean that Susan Whelan has no chance of beating him. He is also praying that this number of jobs means that everyone will forget that the Federal Government refused to invest in Ford. I think that he or someone else threw in the word “high-paying” in relation to the jobs.
- 25,000 represents the number of jobs on both sides of the border. It is a lot more than anyone has predicted so far but what the heck, numbers don’t mean anything anyway.
- The absurdity of the situation for a new bridge was pointed out again by Patty Handysides. She stated that we do not have enough Customs agents now and that the officers at the border must work overtime. How is Canada going to staff 29 more booths when they have said that six new booths at the existing Ambassador Bridge are not needed and therefore will not be staffed. The cost of running the DRIC bridge would take up a good chunk of the $75 million that the Federal Government set aside for Customs agents for the entire country.
- It was no mere coincidence that the announcements for the bridge will be made at separate times between Canada and the United States. It is no mere coincidence that MDOT is having a Special Meeting tonight and that they stated:
“This morning, our Canadian partners issued a media release announcing the technically and environmentally preferred location of the new Canadian inspection plaza and bridge crossing between Windsor and Detroit. The U.S. is aware of this identification, and it is consistent with the technical and environmental analysis we have undertaken on the U.S. side to-date. The purpose of the meeting tonight is to make the U.S. study team available to you for any questions you may have, and continue to provide you with details and information on results of the study process being followed.”
A couple of other interesting matters that you may want to consider. Why was the Government afraid to mention the number of homes that would have to be taken. The Star claimed that it was 30 homes and some businesses while mention was made of only “a handful” at the Presentation.
I must admit that this was quite a surprise to me since I was unaware of the necessity to take any property in Canada. The focus was always on Delray and the hundreds of families and businesses that would be uprooted there. What other surprises does DRIC have for Sandwich that we have not yet been told as the road, plaza and bridge are being designed? How many of the surprises does Eddie know already? If he does know of some, will he overlook them for the money that he is to receive from the Senior Levels?
Did you notice this on the Star online that was removed this morning in the published Star:
- “Another source close to the border debate said Tuesday Moroun has to weigh his options because a lengthy legal battle against DRIC would also likely hold off approvals for his own bridge proposal. That could be problematic since the 79-year-old Ambassador Bridge may be moving close to requiring some major repairs.
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration is said to have hired a consultant which recently studied the bridge's condition as part of the ongoing $230-million Gateway project in Detroit -- a two-year effort that involves several Detroit freeways, including I-75, being reconstructed to better link with Moroun's bridge.
"He has the ability to tie this up for many years," said the U.S. source. "How serious is his maintenance issue -- that's the unknown."
I would really like to know why those several paragraphs were removed. My guess is a very easy one. If it is true, which I doubt, that the bridge is in need of major repairs, then who would dare stop the Enhancement Project for moving forward. If there was a catastrophe then the Government officials who prevented the replacement from being built would be in serious difficulty and could perhaps be charged criminally if someone got hurt. Moreover, it would certainly end the DRIC project or put it seriously at risk financially since there would be a competitor to the new bridge with no guarantee that the new bridge would even be able to pay its own way.
Regretfully, dear reader, you will be stuck with me for some time longer. Nothing changed today of importance. The fun and games are continuing. Trust me, I’ll have a lot more to write about for you to read with your coffee.
Would you care to dance?