Environmental Minister Must Reject DRIC Proposal
He has no choice now but to turn down the DRIC proposal when it comes in front of him. If not, then a lawsuit is guaranteed to start. It is such a winner that even our Mayor would not only threaten but actually would start a legal case in order to prove how tough a guy he is.
If the Minister turns down DRIC, he will have to take the pressure of rejecting a project that has cost millions of dollars of taxpayer money on both sides of the river and years of work. It would be a shocking indictment about waste that would give rise to many more questions. Does the Minister have the intestinal fortitude to be able to do that and to withstand the incredible pressure that is being now and will be put on him!
In the end, rejection means that the only alternative is for the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project to be built. Since the object was to force the Bridge Company Owner to sell out cheaply, does the Minister have the nerve to disappoint those who have been directing this project for so many years?
The Minister of the Environment is the person within Ontario who must make the ultimate decision with respect to the DRIC project:
- “Requirements of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (OEAA)
As required under the OEAA, a Terms of Reference (TOR) document was prepared and received approval prior to commencement of the DRIC Environmental Assessment study. This document outlines the framework that the DRIC study team must follow in completing the environmental assessment including key opportunities for public participation.
Once completed, the Environmental Assessment (EA) Report will be submitted to the Ontario Minister of the Environment for approval. The formal review process provides opportunities for public comment.”
The Minister is not a rookie. Formerly, he was the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing so he would be very familiar with what is going on Windsor.
One should expect that the Minister would make his decision on the facts without any pressure, independently and fairly. There should be no bias or reasonable apprehension of bias in the process. In my opinion, this is impossible now.
I have already mentioned that I thought that Spanky may have crossed the line in his joint letter with Federal Minister of Finance Flaherty to the Toronto Star. Clearly, a decision had been made even before the DRIC Draft Environmental Assessment statement was published. No one needs a DRIC project if the Ministers already had made the decision. It certainly demonstrates to me that the DRIC process was nothing more than a process designed to justify what had already been agreed by the Governments. It was a farce.
- “We recognize that both our economies depend on the efficient flow of cross-border traffic. This requires that we have modern border crossings, including the construction of a new one between Windsor and Detroit. Canada is thus actively participating along with the United States, Michigan and Ontario in the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study.
Significant planning work has been completed to date and we look forward to constructing the new crossing as quickly as possible."
I also talked about the presence of Infrastructure Ontario being here already, even before the Environment Minister made his decision. Since this process will be so far down the road by the time that the Final Environmental Assessment report is presented to the Minister, nothing will be able to stop it:
- “Preparation for Windsor's border highway begins
Ontario's infrastructure ministry will come to Windsor over the next couple of weeks to start meeting with chamber officials, labour associations and contractors to launch job-hiring preparation for the massive border feeder highway planned for Windsor, the province's finance minister Dwight Duncan announced Friday.
"We want to talk with labour and business about the job opportunities all will have as we invest in the largest and most expensive piece of road in ever built in Canada," he said…
"We are beginning the process next week, involving local business and labour to take advantage of this investment," Duncan said. "We are anxious to get on with it…"
Duncan vowed Friday construction will begin sometime between next June and September.
"We are determined to get our work done and get on with things," he said. "We have an outstanding project and it's time to start."
Now the last part of the Triple Play. I wonder who the “provincial government insider” who leaked all of the information to Gord Henderson for him to tell us about it in his Thursday column. You remember about Eddie's ride to the airport in Dwight’s car.
Seriously, the only people it could be that I can think of are Dwight Duncan himself, the Premier to whom Dwight reports or perhaps his colleague in Windsor, the MITI Minister. None of them would have said anything I am certain so it had to have been one of their staff members who should be fired on the spot for leaking such confidential information. I see no alternative but for the Government to have the Ontario Provincial Police undertake an immediate investigation to find out the source of the leak.
Why am I so upset about this? Here we have a senior member of the Government, the Minister of Finance, the local Liberal MPP for the area, discussing important matters in an automobile. Was anyone else with them or was it just the two men discussing vital issues with respect to this region? Does this inspire confidence about how matters of Government are dealt with and billions of taxpayer dollars are spent? Is this the manner in which decisions are made… behind closed doors in an automobile travelling on Highway 401? The optics of this are horrific. This is not how Government is supposed to operate in the best interest of the public.
As far as I am concerned, there is such a reasonable apprehension of bias that the Minister has no choice but to require that this project to be started all over again and without any ministerial intervention whatsoever from both Senior Levels of Government. If he does not do so, then how can we have any confidence that the Government has “respected the process!”
But this is politics after all isn’t it? If the Minister of the Environment makes such a decision then doesn’t Spanky have to resign? What other alternative would he have if he is the person responsible for wasting millions of dollars and years of effort in a matter that is so important to the Province?
Who knows, maybe that is the end game. Kick out that DRIC study and say because the matter is so urgent that the Government needs to introduce legislation to permit what has been proposed to be undertaken notwithstanding the Environmental Act. No, I am being too cynical. That could never happen in a democracy.
You and I both know that this is not going to happen. Spanky resigning could discredit the Government so badly that the Progressive Conservatives could form the Government and even John Tory could be the next Premier after the election.
The Minister needs another excuse. Fortunately, the Minister has an easy way out thanks to the Ontario Realty Corporation. They are the ones who did the site investigation and selection according to the Star. One of their criteria is environmental issues.
I find it very interesting that the Windsor Star has not reported the pollution matter issue that CKLW reported days ago and which I posted on my Blogsite. I find it bizarre that this important news about the border was not published by the only daily newspaper in town. Could it be that it is not doing so because it could prejudice whatever it is that the Mayor wants to do with respect to Brighton Beach and the jail? Could it prejudice his plans re the sale of lands to the Senior Levels for the plaza? Millions of dollars are at stake given the $11 million or more that the City paid to buy the lands in the first place. As the Mayor said:
- “It’s exactly the location for both plaza and bridge the city proposed nearly four years ago,” said Mayor Eddie Francis.”
If there are serious problems there, then there go the City’s plans!
I believe that the Star and the other media in town owe it to their readers, listeners and viewers to follow up on this story. If they refuse to do so then one needs to ask why.
While CKLW did the story, there is a question whether the story is 100% accurate. Here is the information that I have been able to uncover through my Government sources. Of course, it may be self-serving for the Government to say this now because of the impact on DRIC.
There seems to be some confusion over the CKLW coverage regarding the proposed jail site and what the Government’s spokesperson actually said.. While CKLW reported that the Ministry's reason for not choosing Brighton Beach was pollution, that was not something said to the media according to what my sources claim.
It is claimed that the spokesperson did speak about Brighton Beach possibly being more difficult to get approvals from the Ministry of the Environment as part of the Environmental Assessment because Brighton Beach is comprised of heavy industry. Perhaps the station came to the conclusion this means pollution. However that is not what was said it is claimed. The issue with heavy industry is that it would be considered "sensitive land use" because there would be people living, sleeping and working in the building 24/7. In accordance with the Ministry of Environment guildelines, the introduction of sensitive land uses in heavy industrial areas is not encouraged.
Frankly, it is a difference without a distinction. The result is the same.
Just so you know, there is a specific Environmental Guideline with respect to this matter:
- COMPATIBILITY BETWEEN INDUSTRIAL FACILITIES AND SENSITIVE LAND USES
“The objective of this guideline is to prevent or minimize the encroachment of sensitive land use upon industrial land use and vice versa, as these two types of land uses are normally incompatible, due to possible adverse effects on sensitive land use created by industrial operations."
To be blunt about it, if the location is too dangerous for prisoners to reside there and for Corrections employees to work there, then how can Canada Customs officers and the public use the bridge and plaza. I am shocked that the head of the Customs union in this area has also been so silent about this matter.
While I am certain that the DRIC could spend some money to undertake massive environmental studies to prove that this is not a real issue, I would find the results hard to believe. One side of the Provincial Government is saying one thing while another side of the Government is saying something completely different. If I am the Minister of the Environment, I have to make a decision based on protecting the public. Out of an abundance of caution, considering what ORC said and that the the guidelines of the Ministry would be violated by the DRIC project, I would have no alternative but to toss it out!
Is all this too far-fetched, too unbelievable? Hardly. We know that Ontario is now a have-not Province. It cannot afford to spend $3 or $4 billion on a DRIC road. Neither can the Federal Government if it is going to start running a deficit, small or otherwise.
No investor would ever finance such a road because it is uneconomic. It would require massive government subsidies of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, something that no Government would dare do in this time of economic uncertainty while there are other, less expensive alternatives.
This could be an action by the Province directed at the Federal Government to force them to increase amount of money that they are to contribute to this project. If the Federal Government refuses, and they have to do so because every other Province in Canada would otherwise demand equal treatment, then what is the result? Windsor gets the cheap solution for Huron Church Road and an upgraded E C Row from 4 up to 10 lanes to match what will be taking place west of Huron Church.
Don’t be too surprised. After all, that was proposed in 2002 by the Joint Management Committee Report. And Eddie can hardly argue against it because he was one of the Councillors who supported what we will effectively get!