Welcome Senator Fortier
A big Windsor welcome to Senator Michael Fortier! It looks like the distinguished Senator is the newest Federal politician to be involved in the border file. I wonder how long he will last before he is chewed up by this file as well. It seems to be a career ender for politicians at all levels and on both sides of the border.
Barrie McKenna, the Globe and Mail's correspondent and columnist in Washington who covers Canada-U.S. relations, business, trade, economics and politics wrote a variation of the border thickening theme that Canada is using ad nauseum these days:
- "Border paranoia: The cost is real and hits Canada the hardest
If Canadian businesses feel like they're no longer enjoying the full benefits of free trade with the United States, it's because they aren't. "The benefits Canada derived from the [free-trade agreement and the North American free-trade agreement], have been substantially eroded," Mr. Grady concluded.
At a time when exporters are already suffering from the stronger Canadian dollar and the U.S. economic slump, Canada can ill afford to lose its export base.
The tragedy, however, is that these exports may be lost forever.
Companies that do business in the U.S. are gradually restructuring the way they operate to avoid the border. Inevitably, that means shifting production inside the U.S. security wall.
This is, of course, the antithesis of free trade. Security has trumped prosperity.
The cost is borne by both countries, but the burden falls disproportionably on Canada because it's more dependent on trade with the United States than vice versa.
Ottawa is starting to get serious about the things within its control. Public Works Minister Michael Fortier, for example, is spearheading Canadian efforts to replace the aging Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., along with approach roads and customs infrastructure. The $3-billion-plus project would go a long way to easing congestion at the busiest trade gateway to the United States. But completion of the bridge, which also requires U.S. funding, is still years away.
Changing the U.S. security mindset could prove even more intractable.
With the looming U.S. elections, Canada has a rare chance to reframe the border debate, and to begin a new conversation with a new U.S. administration."
It looks like I was not that far off the mark when I speculated about Senator Fortier in my BLOG May 13, 2008 "Naming The Unnamed Cabinet Minister:
- "Accordingly, by a process of deductive reasoning, I believe it is elementary, dear reader Watson, that the person whom I believe is the one responsible for what could turn out to be a disastrous situation for Canada is Senator and Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Michael Fortier!"
Just to give you a bit of background about the Senator, he is one of the few Cabinet Ministers in Canadian history who is not a member of the House of Commons but a member of the Senate. Accordingly, he can never participate in Question Period in the House. From the Prime Minister's website, we learn that Mr. Fortier worked in the legal and banking fields. More importantly, he co-chaired Stephen Harper’s national leadership campaign in 2004 when Mr. Harper became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He also co chaired the Conservative Party’s national campaigns during the 2004 and 2006 elections.
Obviously, Fortier is a close confidant of the Prime Minister and must obviously have his trust, especially if the Globe states that he is now involved in the border file. One of the oddest remarks in the Globe story is the following which I also emphasized above:
- "Ottawa is starting to get serious about the things within its control."
Do the Conservatives mean to say that up until this time Ottawa really had no interest in the border file no matter what they said? Over five years of do-nothing efforts and wasting taxpayer money?
It means then that Transport Canada Minister Lawrence Cannon was completely irrelevant and nothing that he said should be taken seriously. It means that Ambassador Michael Wilson who seemed to appear and then disappear in a cloud of smoke will definitely be put out to pasture at the appropriate time since his credibility is completely shot now.
All of his time and effort wasted when in fact we should have been sitting around waiting for the Senator to appear on the scene and then we might get some action done.
I hardly think that a man with the Senator's credentials would be interested in environmental assessments. That is for the plebes to work on. He has to be involved in more important things like wheeling and dealing with all of the players on the border file and the financial big boys.
Again as I speculated before, and I believe correctly,
- "Another hint. Whoever the person is has to be well versed in finance because he was talking with our Mayor about the purchase of Brighton Beach. He would not have come down here just for one single purchase transaction but rather he would have to be down here for the financing of the entire project, a public-private partnership that the Government is trying to force down the throats of taxpayers.
He is probably also down here as I said before to talk about the Tunnel. The Federal Government expects to scoop it up at a very low price because there's no one else interested in taking it off the hands of the Cities of Detroit and Windsor. He will use the City of Windsor as his front so that the American Government will not get upset about Canada controlling the Tunnel and probably the new bridge crossing as well.
Accordingly, he would also have to be someone who is very experienced in the Government in contracting and would be knowledgeable in P3's.
Another clue. Which Government department "buys more goods and services than any other public organization in the country — buying everything from the flu vaccine to security systems to aircraft. "
I would expect that Senator Fortier will find out very quickly that the DRIC assumptions are invalid and what was told to the Senate by Transport Canada cannot be believed especially after the US DEIS. I expect that if he is truly coming down here to understand the situation then he needs to speak to everyone involved.
He either has to become fully informed or there will be litigation at some point that will last for a decade or longer.
The border file is such a mess and such a disaster that it will in fact jeopardize Canada's relationship with United States. It has become a big deal in the border war for some Canadian politicians and bureaucrats who have their own agenda that they wish to fulfill no matter what it does to our relationship with United States. Those people need to be told the facts of life by someone who has the trust of the Prime Minister. It will be interesting to see if that ever happens. Or is Fortier their front as well?
The comment made that
- "Canada has a rare chance to reframe the border debate, and to begin a new conversation with a new U.S. administration"
is so far from the truth that it is laughable now.
With interference in the US primaries over NAFTA, trying to pressure the US President, end running the Democrats, insulting John McCain, leaking incorrect information thereby making it seem as if the United States has acted illegally, threatening the United States with our oil and trying to make the Americans spend billions of dollars that are not required, our only hope is that the situation can be salvaged at all.
We'll be watching you Senator. Carefully