Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 29, 2008

New VOIP Technology



A new Google BLOG feature for you to try out. Now do not call too many times because you will have to talk to me!

Clearly, this is the wave of the future. Click a button and get connected to speak to family, friends, colleagues and businesses via the Internet. it will eliminate or greatly reduce long distance telephone bills.

Readers Write





It seems that people are getting more and more opinionated. Here are the latest missives:

1) If you're right about a mainstream alternative developing in this city, it's about damn time.....they've been in business for years and years and it's long past due for them to start doing their jobs finally....

2) Who said this and in what context: [Answer below] "That's the difference between me and my opponent. My opponent makes speeches. I offer solutions. It is one thing to get people excited. I want to empower you."

3) Stamper's argument on CKLW ring true. While there are lots of detours for other construction projects (including the long-term one for the casino), his minimal one is being debated. The city itself publishes a map of detours etc and there seems to be quite a few (Halberstadt also publishes a link to the detours in his blog). So what is an intermitent, short term one for minimal traffic. As for downtown - the area itself was blocked off for months and months for the supposed beautification project (which does little i would add)

4) So now council is going to do the audit that the audit department performed and took years to do?

If the audit department is that inept it should be replaced with a new department of auditor general.

5) [RE City to review audit of fleet] Will we ever see an end to such goings on within City Hall?

6) You know Ed, I think the reason Windsor wants the bridge to do more studies, more reviews, more information is because that is the way Windsor does business. The city expects everyone else to do what they do. Too bad the real world doesn't work that way...only in Windsor.

7) I wonder if Eddie is going to make Michigan get an EA study for the impact on Windsor?

The Mayor might as well remain consistent and get in writing, legally, that the access on the US side will not be done until the new road is done over here.
It sounds just as stupid as to what he has already stated.

8) It does impact Windsor if the traffic moves to the BWB. Does anyone understand how important the success of the AB is to Windsor? Without it there would be no Windsor.

9) Sooo... let me get this straight: objectors can't use the onerous environmental assessment process to delay indefinitely transit projects... but apparantly, the same courtesy is not extended to border improvements (at least until the DRIC is ready for review). It demonstrates that they CAN complete a review timely, but that they also CAN delay an EA indefinitely...

10) I was just reading the star and the comments people are making about the rate hikes at WUC...

I stated everyone has to fax or send in their bills to city hall until they say quit.
I mean if it takes 100 times per house, that is what they need to see.
People are hurting in Windsor and city council headed by a blind Mayor just doesn't get it. Money is at a premium and they are taking it away.

Never mind the economy, it is just plain wrong.

11) [Re: Mexicana flight] Do you think that Home Land Security would let this happen without making a comment, one to the city, two, to the Canadian Feds, which seems like an end around to the U.S. and Mexican border. They're probably all ready eye balling this situation, that's all we need is one Mexican worker being caught trying to enter the U.S. from Windsor/Essex county that came here by plane originally.

12) We sure need it but the Star article today about better times ahead even if the auto industry tanks is worth reading.

Major point is that this part of Ontario can be a retirement destination with good weather and cheap housing.

I cannot picture a demographic group more sensitive to property taxes, utilities and other direct expenses than retirees. A major initiative to attract these retirees to the area is for what the city provides in terms of electricity, water and city services is to do so with the greatest of efficiency and at the lowest possible cost. These same efforts are what will also help bring more business interest to the city as well.

13) Since The Mayor and council are consistently inconsistent, does that make them consistent?

14) Wow-it has to make labour types proud of Eddie’s Airport Strategy… the articles says “Mexico-to-Windsor charter to facilitate the quick transfer of migrant workers coming from Mexico to Essex County.” One would think with one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada that our great leader would concentrate on JOBS, not more workers from afar to compete for too few employment options in Windsor now…

Someone needs to tell Eddie “Hope” is not a “strategy” – it is a safety net of aspiration. We all HOPE that Windsor’s economy turns around, most of us can only do our small part. Hope is not enhanced by blaming someone else when the failed leadership opportunity is squarely at his hand. Hope is the aspiration of mere citizens, optimistic that their choice that Windsor is a great place to work & raise a family bears fruit. Perhaps it is time for Eddie to join the ranks of mere citizens and let someone LEAD with a viable STRATEGY.

15) "It is exciting to be part of this mutually beneficial partnership between Canada and our Mexican neighbours" - except when of course it has to do with disenfranchised Mexican refugees coming into Windsor.

16) When I was working downtown, the Burger King manager told me that they had to move from their Goyeau and Wyandotte location because the entire area was owned (or being taken over) by the City and they had huge plans for tunnel plaza expansion. Now the City is blocking their attempt to locate a few blocks away???

Although I support the WSO's dream of turning the armory into a concert hall, I found their appeal to the "safety of children" to be disingenuous. I was disappointed.

17) great series ! Keep up the good work

18) A letter received from Dennis DesRosiers and the Globe story referred to:

Following are four stories that highlight the challenges and potential solutions for woes in Windsor.

First is a story from the Globe that discusses how much upside there is in promoting Canada as an intellectual centre for automotive research, design, development and testing. The auto sector alone is spending about $US 35 billion per year in North America addressing social policy agenda items like climate change, fuel efficiency, safety, vehicle design etc. so the opportunity to get more of that investment in Windsor is huge.

Then we have an article about 'bailing out' a facility in Windsor that has nothing to with the need to get Windsor more involved in the intellectual side of the sector. Sure it would be nice to get this engine facility but why does Windsor always get diverted into "bail out" situations? Situations that will do little to transform Windsor into a leading centre for intellectual jobs. Why is Windsor afraid of embracing the development of intellectual side of its economy.

And then there is an article about how the University may have to downsize its engineering initiative due to costs ... a facility that will go a long way to converting Windsor into more of an intellectual region ... Just imagine what Windsor could have if the $30 million or so promised to the school only if it went downtown was put into this new on-campus development and the University had $150 or more dollars to put into developing the region's intellectual capability ... now that would be something....

And then we finish with another fine example of a little company that is putting money into Windsor creating intellectual jobs. Yves Landry got it right a decade ago when he said "the future of Windsor's automotive sector is the six inches between our ears"
  • Knowledge is key to our manufacturing future
    'A lot of the things we do is between pure university research and industrial practical research'
    MICHAEL VAUGHAN February 21, 2008

    As foreign-owned auto makers continue to warn about Canada being such a high-cost environment, automotive manufacturing jobs will come under ever greater threat.

    The answer, if there is one, is for Canada to put greater emphasis on developing opportunities in RDT&E (Research, Development, Test & Engineering).

    The clean diesel engine laboratory at the University of Windsor is one example of how this is being done.

    When you walk into it you get the feeling that Speedy Muffler and Future Shop must be sharing space. There's that slightly oily automotive smell, there's a room full of what might be engines (they are) covered in wires, behind a glass wall. Everywhere else, it's computers and monitors.

    What's happening here includes diesel engine R&D for Ford Motor Co., International Truck and Engine Co., Imperial Oil and other worldwide collaborators.

    It got started in 2003, pushed along by Auto21 - a national research initiative that supports researchers working at academic institutions, government research facilities and private sector research labs - and government money. Since then, industry has been beating a path to its door.

    In the next two weeks, two more Auto21 research programs will be profiled.

    Dr. Ming Zheng, Ph.D., P.Eng., is Canada research chair in clean diesel engine technology and an associate professor at the University of Windsor. He's also a co-founder of the lab.

    Vaughan: We're standing in a room that's just jammed with computers.

    Zheng: This is the control room.

    There are 16 computers analyzing the three diesel engines that you see through the glass.

    We can measure 136 temperatures simultaneously. We also have motion detectors at critical locations so we can tell if there are any leaks. We can control the fuel pressure in real time.

    This computer measures all the emissions and we can analyze it while we are running the engine. This one measures the load. This one is for exhaust gas recirculation. This one is for cylinder pressure and combustion analysis.

    We can record 200 measurements on one engine cycle to see what's happening inside the cylinder.

    This one has the air flow and the fuel flow measurements. This one is critical - it's for diesel fuel injection control. We control the fuel injection directly with digital combustion control.

    We are the only ones in Canada with this overall capability and in the whole world there are not many universities that can do this.

    The computers look familiar, but nothing else does.

    For $1,000, you can buy a computer, but they work in combination with the actuators and the sensors as part of a very expensive, sophisticated system.

    All our equipment is worth about $3-million, not including the engines. Research engines cost about $1-million to build and we have two from Ford and one from International Truck.

    If we can't get the best research tools, our industrial partners will get it for us.

    So are you engineering consultants for them?

    This laboratory is not only for research, it's for teaching.

    A lot of the things we do is between pure university research and industrial practical research.

    Through Auto21, we have built up a number of industrial projects.

    We're working with Ford, we're working with International Trucks. We have daily communications with their engineers.

    Who does the work in here?

    With 16 computers, we still need two full-time PhD students to control the equipment and run the experiments. They are paid, but it is very cost-effective.

    The field programmable diesel array has PhD students programming their algorithms differently and all making marginal improvements upon marginal improvements.

    After several generations, you can have innovation and we do this with great speed.

    So we are leaders in this area. Even the research laboratories in industry can't afford to do this highly intelligent work.

    Does industry pay for everything it gets out of here?

    We're open, we show our research methodology to the industry. Some of our basic research results we publish, but with research contracts we only report to the sponsoring company. In that case, it's only the research methodology we publish.

    Give me some examples of sponsored research.

    With Ford, we're doing bio-diesel engine research and some electronic control work.

    This is a super-fast engine analyzer with a response time of 1.5 milliseconds.

    This is for diesel common rail fuel injection control and it's very difficult to do. We control pressure in a high-pressure pump up to 2000 bar.

    To control this pressure at a stable level is a very challenging job. Our injectors make eight shots in one cycle while advanced diesels on the road make two or three. And with our equipment we can do twelve or more.

    Do you get lots of visitors?

    Our setup is unique and when they see it many of our visitors want to set up something similar themselves. So the students benefit very much and they all get hired by industry.

    Renault came to visit us from France and scheduled 30 minutes but stayed 2½ hours. At that point, they changed their mind and now they want to benchmark our lab.

ANSWER TO QUESTION---No it was NOT Dan Stamper speaking about the Mayor. It was Hillary Clinton who accused rival Barack Obama of lacking substance and experience. She "Clinton portrayed herself as a fighter and Obama as someone who makes a lot of speeches that sound good but do not offer solutions." (Windsor Star, Feb 14)

Smelling Mayoral Blood








Do the sharks smell the blood in the water? Are they circling around our Mayor? Is his mayoral career about to become the victim of a feeding frenzy? Where before, Eddie could do no wrong, has it become now that Eddie can do no right!

The airport jobs and development farce is just the latest reason for panning the Mayor and questioning his competence and ability to lead!


Just read the BLOGs in this City and the comments on them and check out the Windsor Star forums to see what I mean. Why there is even some negativity in Star Editorials believe it or not.

Is the saying "If You Don’t Define Yourself Someone Else Will" being proven true?

It is fascinating to watch. Eddie and his Eminence Greasie have been trying for years to build up the image of Eddie into him becoming our infallible, super-human lawyer/businessman/non-politician who will bring us into prosperity if we will only trust him and let him lead us.

Now is this just an edifice of straw falling down around him. If it is, he has only himself to blame. He tried to define himself as a winner. His actions, the stalls, the threats and lack of success are defining him as a loser as Windsorites finally wake up to the fact that our Philosopher King is wearing no clothes.

I will say it again. The fact that the Mayor was forced to cave in to public pressure and called for a Ministry inquiry into WUC is a shocking indictment of how far he has fallen and how quickly! He was elected with almost 78% of the vote just over a year ago and now he was forced to go to an outsider because of credibility issues. Such action is so rare that it stands out province-wide and gives Windsor another black-eye. I feel so sorry for the Gazelle Feeders trying to sell Windsor as a place to invest in and to do business.

Let's look at the most recent example, the University Engineering complex. Here is what I wrote before about what Eddie said at his State-of-the-City speech:
  • "And then the gutless part of the evening "Together, we are working to build the new, state-of-the-art Centre for Engineering Innovation. And, it needs to be downtown." Of course he “ad-libbed” so it would NOT be in writing when Eddie threatened saying if it was not going to be downtown, do not expect a City contribution.

    The City would play a role "if and only if the campus was brought downtown."
Notwithstanding the pretend business case at the 11th hour, 59th minute, and 59th second where no money was really offered to the University, and even with the Gord Henderson harangues, the Board rightly turned him down cold.

Who did he think he was huffing and puffing with no aces in his hand. He needs the University to save his neck not the other way around. He is in no position to demand anything. After all, it is only a project worth over $100 million that can make Windsor a leader in research for the automotive industry.

As if the University should care. Imagine if the Engineering Complex was opened at the University campus, would he refuse to attend, would the City refuse to play, would he “snub” them too? Obviously not.

Let's take a look at the DRIC road. As I have written before, Sandra and Dwight came out swinging in favour of it. Then the Chamber of Commerce gave Eddie a poke in the eye too:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis has expressed disappointment in Windsor's chamber of commerce for supporting a plan to create a six-lane below-grade border highway through South Windsor."
Will Eddie be forced to back off from Greenlink. Of course he will. It all has to do with jobs desperately needed here. Here is what the Chamber said:
  • "But with jobs and investment at stake, the local business community does not want any more delays getting construction started on a border traffic route solution, said the chamber's chairman Peter Hrastovec.

    "We want to see something done," he said. "The concern of business is to get this moving forward. That's in the best interests of the community."

How about the Capitol and the threats against the Trustee to have him removed. Did the Trustee back off and do what Eddie and his lawyer wanted. As Councillor Halberstadt wrote some time ago:

  • "In answer to a reader's request for an update on the court proceedings involving ownership of the Capitol Theatre, we can expect a delay of up to four months before a Superior Court hearing takes place...

The Trustee did not give in to the Mayor. We are still going to have litigation although with a new Capitol Board a settlement is easily achievable that should give everyone exactly what they want.

Interestingly, the Theatre seems to have re-opened anyway and is taking bookings until the end of the year. Don't you find it strange that the "fire hazard" issue that the Mayor talked about before seems to have disappeared from sight? Was the problem fixed and if so, why could it have not been fixed before? I guess the theatre is no longer a "fire trap."

The arena....wait until we find out what the price tag is going to be. I wonder if there is a pool amongst contractors as to what is the final number. And the Global Spectrum deal...has it been signed yet?

Our new IT industry, why there are allegations of poor working conditions, workplace violence, payroll shortfalls, cancelled lunch breaks and lower than promised commissions [NOTE: These have not yet been proven] But I notice that the Star has now linked Eddie back into it:

  • "Politicians, including MPP Sandra Pupatello and Mayor Eddie Francis, who played a role in using subsidies and incentives to bring Sutherland to Windsor, have acknowledged problems, but labelled them as "growing pains."
I could go on but you get the picture. Some key event has happened that has made people ready to take on the Mayor when they would not do so before. Does that explain the need for someone to do a poll in the City, as disclosed on several BLOGs already, to test attitudes of Windsorites? Latest rumour is that it was commissioned by the Mayor himself. A Councillor might want to ask the question if this is true or not.

I do not know what that event could be. Did Eddie overplay his hand for the Detroit Tunnel deal and the Tunnel Plaza Improvements? Did he throw Schwartz in the face of the Senior Levels too many times. Did the daily questions before the election at Queen's Park over the arena matter annoy the Government and now is it payback time? Was it the trip to Germany with no real report yet but conflicting media crumbs only, the fleet vehicle mess or the whitewash WUC audit? Was it the bread and butter issue of infrastructure jobs that are being stalled as people lose their jobs and homes in the City with the worst unemployment rate in the country? Did someone just say enough already.

Eddie is vulnerable but does he truly understand the depth of the feelings against him. I cannot help but feel that his position is even worse than that of Mike Hurst in his final year. The negativity against him is that high right now.

Is it too late for Eddie? That is up to him entirely in my opinion.


Can Eddie learn? Will he finally take Council and Windsorites into his confidence? Will he ask us to help and provide support and mean it? Will we have open and transparent Government? Will he learn to accept blame when it is deserved and take the praise only if he earns it? Can easy matters stop being made overly-complicated for reasons unknown? Will he stop managing his future and start worrying about our NOW?

Who can afford any longer a 3 year long lame duck Mayor. It is time that we took back our City if he does not change immediately. Any Councillor who does not start acting for the people today should seriously reconsider running for election three years from now.


Just like the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen story who had the nerve to tell us the truth about the Emperor, we owe Dwight Duncan a debt of thanks for one thing. He at least had the nerve to say THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG.



video

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Border Feud: Survey Said







Sheeeesh, I feel like the Master of Ceremonies of the game show "Family Feud." That is the show where two competing families have to answer questions about surveys taken from audience members.

It appears that a number of parties have been taking surveys in Windsor recently.

A public opinion poll is going around asking questions about which Government level would be trusted with respect to the well-being of Windsorites respecting the border road. I have no idea who is the sponsor of that poll but I would suspect that it is either a political party or a Government.

The media have also been in the game with respect to the border and the relationship between the City and the Ambassador Bridge Company. CKLW has run three polls recently and remarkably the results are very similar, within a few percentage points.

I'm quite surprised frankly that so many people believe that the Ambassador Bridge has been treated unfairly after the Mayor, Gord Henderson and the Star editorial have all been attacking them. It demonstrates pretty clearly to me that the Bridge Company story has been accepted by a considerable number of members of the Community since they have been reading BLOGs and listening to some of the non-newspaper media which have provided an alternative point of view with respect to the story to clarify the situation.

It ought to mean that a few Councillors should start jumping off of the sinking Ship "Lame-Duck Mayor" before it is too late! Eddie won't be around 3 years from now at re-election time and people have long memories.




There is also a poll from Today's Trucking where the industry basically says we don't care if it is a public bridge or not, just keep it operating properly. Hardly a ringing endorsement for a Public Authority running a bridge from people whose business lives depend on a smoothly operating facility.


Of course, one of the best indicators of public opinion in Windsor, other than the increased number of readers to the various BLOGs in town, is the Windsor Star Forums. I'm sure that the Mayor and Councillors read them. If not, they had better do so. They are brutal, no matter what the story, against the City Government in language that frankly I would be afraid to use on my BLOG.

What I also find it very amazing about all of this, when talking about the Bridge Company, is that they have not been allowed to present their proposal to the public at the lengths that Sam Schwartz has been able to do so. Nor have they been involved in spending thousands and thousands of dollars, taxpayer dollars, when it is the City that does so in a massive advertising campaign previously and getting ready to start a new advertising Blitzkrieg.

What Eddie has done and is proposing again to do clearly reminds me of what ex-Mayor Mike Hurst did with his blanketing the City with billboards promoting DRTP. That didn't work either.

So I will say what the Mayor said in a Star story about Greenlink, just changing the words slightly:

  • overwhelming support for the Ambassador Bridge Company that the Mayor and Council can't ignore
  • There is no doubt there is tremendous support from across the city as well as the county as well as from trucking business interests for the Ambassador Bridge Company
  • This allows us to demonstrate to the Mayor and Council that there is overwhelming support for the Ambassador Bridge Company.
  • Mostly everybody supports the Ambassador Bridge Company over the City and the Public Authority concept.
  • You present that information to them and they have to consider it.
  • Based on sheer numbers, I think this shatters any response they've received.
  • I say that these surveys are just as scientific as the one that Eddie put forward.

Don't you think, dear reader, that we would be better served in Windsor if the feud game ended and all of the "families" started working together and cooperating.

Eddie Going To BC Too

I regret to announce that I may have to stop writing this BLOG for medical reasons. My doctor has warned me that my blood pressure has risen dramatically since I have started writing on the Internet, especially over the last few weeks.

I thought he was kidding me until I reacted late last night to the online version of the Windsor Star and read the story about the airport and the jobs to be created there. If that was not bad enough, I woke up this morning to a story in the published Star about a hundred employers from British Columbia holding a job fair here. I went apoplectic!

I thought that this line in the Star story about the airport summed up everything about Eddie Francis as Mayor
  • "Windsor's potential to become a "perishable centre."

It is absolutely accurate. Under his lack of leadership, this City is perishing, very quickly. While other cities prosper, our businesses close. While employers in other areas are begging people to come there because they lack manpower, our citizens are moving out. As house prices rise in other jurisdictions, our homes are being foreclosed. I told you the other day about the absurdity of the comment that a depression could be good for Windsor.

Look at the B.C. story

  • "750 people who poured into a British Columbia employer job fair at the downtown campus of St. Clair College...More than 100 B.C. employers were at the fair to recruit mostly young Windsor residents."

Don't you get it... our future is being encouraged to move out of this City. The young people who are just starting their careers are looking elsewhere....machine operators, automation technicians, shipping and receiving clerks, nurses and lab technicians, cooks and landscaper, electrical engineers, designers, technicians and support staff. They see no hope here and can you blame them. Heck, employers even want some of our "seasoned," grey hair types too.

Ahhh, you say, you're not being fair to the Mayor. After all look at all the jobs, jobs, jobs that will be created at the airport exporting onions. Wait a minute here. I thought foreign goods were to be shipped to Windsor to be re-distributed to the United States not the other way around as is being described now. All the high-paying jobs are going to be created in Germany not here.

I get it. The jobs that will be created in Windsor are warehouse type functions offloading products from trucks and putting them into airplanes. More minimum wage ones to go along with the call centre ones and the ones serving retired, rich Torontonians. Those should be terrific opportunities for newly educated University and St. Clair graduates.

But here's the hooker and what makes me absolutely sick to my stomach:

  • "But Michael cautioned that the success of such a venture won't come overnight. A realistic estimate, by Michael's reckoning, would see the first flight landing in the renovated airport in three years.

    Nazzani said it could take 12 to 18 months just to have a commitment from all parties involved."

Three years!!! For hopefully 50 jobs!!! If this was not a G-rated BLOG I would be writing a whole bunch of expletives deleted. Eddie Francis and Federica Nazzani spent all of this taxpayer money for what! So that Eddie can tell us about some ridiculous opportunity and then say:

  • "You're going to hear more exciting announcements taking place at the airport," Francis said. "This is just one initiative. We have a couple of others that are in the hopper."
I beg you Mayor, please save us from this excitement.

I sit here in disbelief. The growers in the region are not going to make the money on the sale of onions in Germany. It is the distributors and retailers in that country that will make the cash. We are nothing more than the new, low-cost producers that they can exploit. If there was such a great opportunity, it would have been carried out already by our agricultural community. They are not fools but sophisticated business people. By the way, I hope that no one told our German friends that those onions that they saw advertised came from Mexico or Chile anyway and that they were not locally grown.

This reminds me, have you ever had a grapefruit in Florida or tried to buy one when you are on a visit? They look pretty awful don't they. The reason is obvious: all the good ones are for the export market. So much for onions in my cooking.

I will let you look up information about Michael and Thomas yourself. Go to http://www.freshline.aero/

Their latest press release by the way is dated in September, 2006. Their startup of operations is some time in 2008. They do not appear to be a very experienced operator in this business from their website and yet our Mayor seems to want to depend on them for our future. I expect that the reason why nothing can be done for three years is "4 aircraft in operation by late 2009." If you look at their routes, North America was not even on their radar screen.

This is nothing more than a sick joke by a desperate politician who left town so Dwight Duncan would not confront him. I am sorry to be so harsh. We have a Mayor who is so out of touch with reality that he thinks that this plan of his will make people happy. He is blocking 15,000 jobs. FIFTEEN THOUSAND. For what? I wish I knew the answer.
By the way, if you want to save the Windsor Library System, I know how to do it. Eliminate the Economic Development Commission. They do nothing...the Mayor is doing everything. Who needs new brochures printed now!

BLOGexclusive: Michael and Thomas

Here are the German onion importers.



Leveraging The Tunnel


I have speculated for a very long time that the purpose behind the Bureaucrats’ action with respect to DRIC is to force the Ambassador Bridge owner to sell out at a cheap price. Unfortunately for them, they miscalculated as they finally must have understood when they saw the 2 1/2 page Globe and Mail article some time ago.

I had this wild idea after reading a number of articles recently about the Tunnel. Are the Feds trying to do the same thing with the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel to end the City’s ownership of it but using different tactics? In other words, do you think that the Feds are using Eddie now to buy out Kwame and then to force him to sell Windsor’s interest in the joint Tunnel to them? Is he a participant in this Federal scheme, willing or not, to try to salvage anything on the Tunnel?


The Tunnel itself is a declining asset that will require capital improvements if the latest story out of the Windsor Budget talks is correct. How much money is needed is not clear but the Tunnel Ventilation Building cost a fortune. It looks like both the Tunnel Improvement Project in which the City has to fork over $10M and the Tunnel deal with Detroit are in trouble. As I Blogged before, the City Budget has no money for the Improvements for years even though the City is committed to spend the money when Eddie signed the Agreement with the Senior Levels!

I had read recently in the Detroit newspapers about the problems that Windsor is having completing the Tunnel transaction in Detroit. The Detroit News reported:
  • “The one-time tunnel deal with Windsor, which the mayor has been counting on to eliminate the city's deficit, was stymied because Windsor was having a hard time getting the cash from conventional sources. Windsor hopes to get the money from its provincial government. It's unclear how large the deficit is, but when Kilpatrick announced the plan in 2007, he hoped it would raise about $75 million.

    Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel hammered the mayor on a timeline and more specifics. "What are we agreeing to? Who are the players?" she asked.”

And this one:

  • “Kilpatrick talked about having a balanced city budget, which would only happen if Windsor can agree on a roughly $75 million deal with the city to take over its share of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. That plan that has been stalled for nearly a year as Windsor tries to find the money. "

Kwame needs a deal or else Detroit is in more financial trouble. Eddie needs a deal or he fails again to accomplish a goal. Moreover, an interesting question to ask is whether the City is in breach of its Agreement if the City Budget has said that the City will NOT pay out now its share of the Improvement costs. That is all Eddie needs…the Senior Levels walking out.

Ultimately, if Eddie does anything with the Tunnel or is forced into doing something, (probably for financial reasons since the City will no longer be able to afford it), it is my opinion that Canada’s Federal Government will be the main participant. However the price is going to be a lot less than our Mayor hoped for. It would be a good deal for the Feds since the price of both sides of the Tunnel has probably dropped like a rock given the needs of the 2 Mayors.

I do not think that anyone including the Feds has a big interest in the Tunnel any longer. I suspect that the Feds have an interest in ensuring that they have control of the Tunnel in the same way that they want to have control over the bridge to the United States and other border crossings across Canada. They also need it to kepp prices up for a P3 operator of a new crossing. Can't have low prices at the Tunnel to keep business from the DRIC bridge can we.

They played Eddie like a fiddle ever since the Bridge Co. deal for the Tunnel was over so that now he is desperate for a deal, any deal! The only question now is when will the Feds take Eddie out of his misery and pay him some money.

I doubt that the Province has the money to invest in a border crossing as Kwame suggested and probably would be criticized severely if it chose to do so. I hardly think that the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel is something that the Province needs to be involved in and in any event would have to get approval from the Federal Government under Bill C-3.

The Feds have been involved before and were expected to be the Mayor’s financing source. However that fell apart. Was that deliberate on the part of the Feds? Did that put Eddie in a real jam since they were his final back-stop if private investors turned him down?

We were told at a Council meeting that there were negotiations going on with respect to the Tunnel Plaza Improvements and I speculated at that time that they were money issues involved as well.

Now Eddie learns that the DRIC project will take away 26% of his traffic. That should certainly impact the revenues in a negative way at the same time that the City’s budget says that the dividend has to be slashed because there were capital projects that needed funding.

The Feds must understand very well because of their due diligence what the traffic is, the condition of the Tunnel, its value, and what is happening to it from a market share perspective. It is a declining asset that very few private investors would be interested in other than perhaps Alinda who is involved on the Detroit side but who I am sure would rather just be manager.

Did it make sense for Eddie to try and do a financial deal on the Tunnel? That gets into the whole argument about should there be P3 transactions involving public assets. For the sake of this BLOG, let’s make the assumption that substantial sums of money could be brought in to the City’s revenues by leasing it out so that it would be beneficial to taxpayers.

At one time I expect that the Tunnel, especially if Windsor could have purchased the interest of Detroit at a good price, could have had some real value. However, under the management of our Mayor as the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission the value has dropped significantly. As I wrote before when dealing with the US $75 million deal that Eddie proposed:

  • "Back in February, 2005, the Mayor claimed that "We're sitting on a $200 million to $300 million asset." But that was when he said that Windsor was getting $6.6M as a dividend. At that time, the City was looking to hire someone who would live and breathe tunnel business to make it prosper. After all, the Tunnel was called as well "our greatest revenue-producing asset."

    In November, 2005, Representative Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit said "Factoring in inflation, Detroit's side of the tunnel is worth at least $62 million up front, Tobocman said. In 2020, the city could ask for $118 million for its portion of the tunnel, he said." (He's probably using an inflation factor of around 4.5% and that is after DCTC was gone).

    I assume that Rep. Tobocman got the number from someone in Detroit City government. If we multiply it by 2 to include Windsor, then we would get a value today of about $125 million for the Tunnel. That is quite a drop in value in less than a year!"

I’m sure that you remember the Bridge Company’s number for the value of the Tunnel which seemed so low but which looks remarkably accurate when looking at the Tunnel today.

In yesterday’s paper it was stated that the Tunnel dividend was slashed to zero dollars due to traffic declines. Yet in December I saw the following:

  • “Neal Belitsky, a spokesman for the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corp., declined to release the raw numbers but said "traffic from Canada to the U.S. has increased since late August when the Canadian dollar first started strengthening.

    "But overall traffic has remained steady because the number of same-day trips from the U.S. to Canada has dropped," said Belitsky. "And these are generally round trips anyway, so the numbers tend to remain fairly consistent overall but might fluctuate in one direction or the other for various reasons."

The dividend has been cut rather dramatically as well. At the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit a few years ago the dividend was said to be $6.6M. It was then cut to about a million dollars a year I believe and now it is ZERO. Yet I had written a month ago:

  • “In passing, in going through the documentation even more, I saw the following which confirms to me how poorly the Tunnel has been managed:
    "Tunnel Dividend - Due to Reduced Cross-Border Traffic 1,000,000."

Does anybody know what is really going on at the Tunnel because I’m very confused about it?

The Federal Government is in a very strong position right now and is probably the only one who is interested in the Tunnel. Did the Mayor’s fear of acting ultimately do him in and us too as we may only see a fraction of what the Tunnel was worth only a few years ago?

Does Eddie have any leverage against them that he can use to try to build up the numbers for his failed Tunnel deal. Only one thing that I can see right now. Continue to harass the Bridge Co: more Interim Control By-law, demolition by-law, no closing of Huron Church, the upcoming heritage designation and so on.

Perhaps that might make the Bureaucrats more friendly if he helps them on the DRIC bridge and earn the Mayor a reward!

I told you my idea was wild!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Budget And Our "Cheap" Solution


video

Be careful what you have nightmares over, for it might actually come true.

Thanks to the Mayor talking about the "cheap" solution that the Senior Levels want to impose on Windsor, I think we are actually going to get it. Just do the math, if the Feds put in $400 million in the Budget, with no increase this time around as the Mayor clearly expected, as their 50% amount, then the Province would add their 50% or $400 million which means the amount of money available for a border road is $800 million.

Why then would the Senior Levels add in another $800 million to build the DRIC road. If you are going to be criticized as being "cheap" by the Mayor and Council for putting in $1.6 billion to build a DRIC road, then one may as well save $800 million and put in the true "cheap" solution.

I do not really believe that the Senior Levels will leave Windsor without doing something but my suspicion after the Federal Budget is that what they will do here will be the minimum required.

The way it will be done I believe is the following. The Wilbur Smith investment-grade traffic survey will demonstrate conclusively what the Ambassador Bridge Company people have been saying now for some time: that the traffic is not there to justify the building of a DRIC bridge at this time.

The "at this time" will be the face-saving way for the Senior Levels to table DRIC and allow the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project to go forward. After all, at the budget meeting last night, the dividend to be paid by the Windsor Tunnel Commission to the City is now said to be zero due to "decrease in cross-border traffic." How can a new bridge be justified especially when it is supposed to take away a quarter of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel business. The Mayor will go ballistic since his valuable asset will be decreased in value dramatically by the DRIC action.

Since the Ambassador Bridge project is not adding capacity but rather is a providing a facility to replace their old one, it would be viewed as an intermediate measure until such time as the traffic increases.

As an existing structure, then the Senior Levels under the extended BIF program can provide several hundred million dollars to build an intermediate road to the Enhancement Project bridge. That road comes under an existing Government program to which some money can be added that has already been set aside at least under the Federal Budget.

Don't forget as well the Gong Show $500 million from Dwight Duncan that is supposed to be available after 2010 which I believe will provide the Province's share of the cost of that road. Why else hasn't the Province put any money in so far. They don't have it until 2010!

The timing is almost perfect for Dwight Duncan who has said "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG" to blame everything on Eddie. Dwight will be the saviour who will bring us at least 7500 jobs as he said in one of his comments recently.

My recollection is that a number of years ago the Bridge Company said that a road could be built along the DRIC corridor at a cost of around $300 million. Add into that the cost of inflation and some "green" aspects and I would believe that the cost would fall well within the $800 million budget.

Someone obviously led the Mayor astray with respect to what the Federal Government was going to do. Knowing our Mayor, he would only say something if he knew it was going to be true. He never makes mistakes you know. Listen then to the clip from CKLW to hear how confident he was that there was going to be money that he wanted to be used for Greenlink in the Budget.

Thanks then to the stalling and the ridiculous positions put forward by our Mayor, we will now get the "cheap" solution that he is been talking about for so long. Had he negotiated from a position of cooperation rather than of threats and lawsuits, we might have achieved a lot of what we wanted. More importantly people would actually be working now rather than looking for moving companies so they can find a job in another location.

For Councillors to continue to be united behind a lame-duck Mayor who is failing boggles my mind. I assume that a whole bunch of them want to be retired as well and that's why they just don't care about the electorate.

Does Budget Mean Feds Pulling Out of Windsor


Is this photo symbolic---Finance Minister Flaherty putting the boot to Windsor?

Am I crying wolf too much? Will it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or is it just another incident in a long drawn out border file that might get resolved one day but means little?

Here are the little bits that I found in the Federal Budget with respect to the border crossing:

1) Improving Canada’s Borders
Our borders have to facilitate trade, travel and commerce while protecting us from external threats. This is why Budget 2008 is investing in borders by:

  • Committing $75 million over two years to ensure the Canada Border Services Agency has the resources it needs to effectively manage the border.
  • Introducing a higher-security electronic passport by 2011.
  • Doubling the validity period of Canadian passports to 10 years when this electronic passport is launched.
  • Providing $14 million over two years to expand the joint Canada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk frequent travellers across the border.
  • Providing $6 million over two years for federal activities to support provinces and territories planning to introduce enhanced driver’s licences.
  • Allocating $26 million over two years to introduce the use of biometric data into visas issued to foreign nationals entering Canada.
  • Providing $15 million over two years to establish a permanent facility to enhance the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region.
  • Allocating $29 million over two years to meet priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

2) To support our communities and ensure the competitiveness of the Canadian economy, Canada needs access to modern infrastructure. Our Government is making the largest single federal investment in public infrastructure since World War II through our Building Canada plan—a total of $33 billion over seven years for roads, bridges, water systems, public transit and international gateways.

To help us maximize this investment, we have created a new Crown corporation called PPP Canada Inc. It will be the first public-private partnership office of its kind at the federal level in Canada. By increasing our use of P3s and taking into account contributions by other levels of government, we should be able to leverage a $100-billion investment in infrastructure.

3) Public-Private Partnerships

Recognizing the need to look beyond traditional approaches to infrastructure financing and delivery, Budget 2007 announced measures to transform Canada into a leader for public-private partnerships, including:

  • A $1.257-billion Public-Private Partnerships Fund (P3 Fund), a unique infrastructure program designed to support innovative P3 projects.
  • A federal P3 office to spearhead efforts to promote the use of public-private partnerships in Canada.

The Government has made significant progress in implementing these measures. Key milestones include:

  • The federal P3 office, PPP Canada Inc., has been created. As a Crown corporation, the office will work with the public and the private sectors towards encouraging the further development of Canada’s P3 market.
  • Program parameters of the P3 Fund have now been defined. The P3 Fund will target the same categories of projects as the Building Canada Fund and will invest in public-private partnerships using a range of innovative financing instruments, such as loans, loan guarantees, non-voting shares and repayable contributions. Implementing the P3 Fund will be a key priority of the new Crown corporation during its transition to full operational status.

4) Investing in Infrastructure

Modern, high-quality infrastructure is vital to Canada’s long-term prosperity. That is why Budget 2008 is:

  • Making the Gas Tax Fund, which will be worth $2 billion in 2009–10, a permanent measure, allowing municipalities to better plan and finance their long-term infrastructure needs.
  • Setting aside up to $500 million in support of capital investments to improve public transit.
  • Announcing the establishment of a Crown corporation, PPP Canada Inc., to work with the public and private sectors to support public-private partnerships.
  • Providing $10 million over two years to enable repairs and environmental cleanup to permit the transfer of more small craft harbours across Canada from the federal government to interested parties.

5) $400 million as a contribution towards the access road to the new Windsor-Detroit border crossing.

It was a rehashing of the past as far as the border goes. There was nothing new in the budget, not even more money for an access road which was a big surprise. After all the Feds will have to contribute another $400 million or so as their 50% share of the $1.6 billion DRIC road. Maybe they're saving that up to save Jeff Watson's neck once the election is called.

They should have contributed something since after all the Windsor border crossing is so important as every politician keeps telling us. Moreover, since the Province has not really put up any money other than the BIF funds, what a nice way of putting the pressure on Premier McGuinty and Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan. Put up or shut up Province!

Now when they did not make the obvious political move, I got concerned. Have the Feds become fed up with the stalling of the City of Windsor? Will nothing ever please this City? Why continue taking abuse when communities around Canada would fall over themselves to get the kind of money that is being offered to Windsor which is seemingly being turned down by our Mayor and Council to the detriment of citizens, especially the unemployed.

While I do not think that the Feds would pull out of Windsor before an election, there is no doubt that the failure to increase payments to Windsor is meant as a statement to be taken very seriously. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Feds, or the bureaucrats at least, are re-evaluating their Windsor position. This file is becoming an embarrassment to those who saw their careers shooting forward with a big success here. If it looks like it may bomb out, then why not blame it all on the Mayor and pull out before one's career is affected negatively.

Perhaps it is the Feds who are doing the Ipsos Reid poll after all.

Security Forces To End Greenlink




As I've written before with respect to this matter, it is inevitable that the various security groups on both sides of the river including Customs will tell the DRIC people, if they have not told them already, that Greenlink just doesn't work from a security perspective. In fact, I'm surprised that the DRIC road has gone as far as it has since in my view it is a security risk as well.

You see these Schwunnels and shunnels and tunnels, whether long or short, are a concern. No need to try and cause damage to a bridge that is well protected when blocking a road to the bridge accomplishes the same purpose and so much more easily.

Roads became a huge issue in Port Huron as far as US Customs was concerned. They will become one here too I predict.

Accidents, tunnel threats and tunnel problems all result in disruption of trade between Canada and the United States. Isn't what those who want to destroy our economies are prone to do even if they do nothing. A threat to damage is enough to close the road down, never mind something real.

Of course, some of you are nonbelievers and don't think that anything like this could happen. If you listened to the news the other day you would have heard about the closing down of Hwy. 400 for hours. The story is reprinted below.

It really doesn't take much of an imagination to figure out what someone could do who wants to hurt border trade considering what happened just north of Toronto.

Greenlink R.I.P.


Highway 400 reopened after bomb threat
Date: Feb 26, 2008

A tense roadside standoff ended peacefully overnight Monday after a man surrendered to police after threatening to blow himself up along the shoulder of Highway 400.

The incident began shortly before 9:30 p.m. when a man pulled a silver Honda Civic onto the shoulder of the highway’s southbound lanes, then told York Region Police that he would blow himself up when the next tanker truck drove by.

Police then closed the highway in both directions between Highway 9 and Major Mackenzie Drive.

The man sat in his car, which was loaded with propane tanks lashed together with duct tape, for more than three hours. He surrendered to police after they used a remote-controlled robot to communicate with him.

All northbound lanes of the highway were reopened around 2:15 a.m., and the southbound lanes were reopened around 3:45 a.m.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sleep And The Interim Control By-law


You will have to excuse me, dear reader, but I had to make a choice last night. Should I go to sleep at an almost normal time or should I stay up half the night to write a BLOG to try and explain the farce that took place at City Council yesterday. As I’m sure you can tell by now, sleep won out.

In case you were wondering, yes I was at the Council meeting last night but only for about an hour. I chose as well not to sit around for hours at a time while City Council stalled as long as possible so that the Interim Control Bylaw issue would go on late so that few viewers on Cogeco would watch it. Isn’t that what they did the week before as well with respect to the Bridge Company matter to obtain City permission to do maintenance work on their bridge?

I taped the meeting but I wanted to be at Council to see what was actually happening. It’s like going to a hockey game as distinct from watching it on television. In the end though, I decided that I was not going to waste my life away watching a Council in action whose only action is inaction.

The conclusion last night with respect to what Council going to do was obvious even before the meeting was held. I heard from several inside moles that people were being told to apply for exemptions. That meant to me that the extension was a done deal and the Council meeting was merely window-dressing!

I must admit that the speeches given by all of the residents were really quite excellent, no matter which position they took. The resident part of the debate was at a very high level given the intensity. It is a shame that Council could not have delivered speeches that were comparable.

In any event, I took great comfort in my decision since we were told by Councillor Postma before the vote was taken that “This is going to pass tonight.” I wish she had told us that earlier in the evening so that no one would have had to have stayed so late and in fact I wish she told us that before the meeting so that no one would have had to appear at all.

Effectively, what the Councillor was saying to us is that it doesn’t matter what anybody says, Council had a ready made up its mind. That should be a good one for the Bridge Company lawyer to use to show bias on the part of the City.

I wonder if you noticed the little bombshell that the Mayor dropped. He had had a meeting with the Bridge Company last week, obviously between the two meetings at Council. Clearly, the meeting did not go well at all. How do I know that… very simply. Last week, the Star out of the blue ran another story about Eddie attacking the Bridge Company with respect to Huron Church Road. There was no reason for that story. I understand now however that the story must have been the Mayor’s response to what he and Dan Stamper talked about during their meeting. The negative stance taken by Council on Monday is nothing more than confirmation that the meeting must have been a disaster or else Eddie would have ensured that Councillors were less antagonistic to the Bridge Company.

What I found hilarious frankly about the session was that almost all of the questioning of the delegations was directed to the Bridge Company and it dealt with matters that had really nothing to do with the Interim Control Bylaw. Did you find it odd that so few of the other delegations were asked questions, especially the residents who were suffering. No one asked them what they wanted to do or what suggestions they had. No, it was all about the Enhancement Project and security and a replacement bridge and so on. Yet remarkably when speeches were given by the Councillors, there was little conversation about that at all. It is all very odd.

Speaking of odd, it seems the Procedural By-law has been repealed or else it is used AGAINST citizens only. How else to explain its possible violation again. It was raised last night that the Interim Control By-law may now be invalid because of improper procedure at the last Council meeting that dealt with the subject. Both the Clerk and Chair of the Meeting, the Mayor, ignored the request for a ruling. Why…because they would have been forced to admit in my opinion that there was no By-law in existence any longer! They would have looked like fools!

I have some advice for the Bridge Company. If they want to get any kind of results with respect to their attempts to tear down the homes, then they need to get the assistance of Councillor Postma. She is all powerful in dealing with this matter. She said last night that people should put in their applications and that she would be there for them, lobby for them, and help them work through the process. She is their Councillor too remember! The bridge is in Ward 2.

Never fear though, if that doesn’t work, apparently she has the ability to tell residents that merely because their buildings have problems, they can demolish them. Even without going to Council to get a permit to do so. That’s what happened in one case it appears from what a resident said. She granted her permission for demolition and no exemption was obtained. I wonder if that will be the advice she gives to the Bridge Co. since the precedent has been set by her.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Council made a mistake when they passed the bylaw last year and they are suffering for it now. Why else are they going to treat the 15 applications for exemption with such haste and speed, virtually guaranteeing approval. They did not think through the process but acted in a knee-jerk reaction because of legal matters IE to stop the Ambassador Bridge. They did not recognize that they were helping to destroy Sandwich and especially the people who lived near the homes that were to be torn down. It made me almost throw up frankly when I heard the pious “ Feel the pain” comments by some of the Councillors.

I did not believe a word of it nor do most residents in my opinion. It is all about stopping the Bridge Company as many of the speakers talked about and as several of the Councilors alluded to.

Don’t you find it fascinating that in the last 12 months for consistency purposes no property could be exempted. Now Council has religion and they can deal with matters on a case-by-case basis and somehow that won’t impact their case against the Bridge Company. The reason for that is obvious. By the time anything happens, the second year of the Bylaw will almost be over. It served its purpose to stall off the Bridge Company for two years. The hypocrisy of this Council is about the worst I’ve ever seen from any politicians at any level.

The one speaker last night that surprised me the most was that of the representative from the Chamber of Commerce. His attack on Council was quite strong, much stronger than I would have expected. Mind you, I should not have been shocked by this because after all this Council is killing business and chasing away investors from this area. That is the point that he made last night, loud and clear. But it is also loud and clear that this Council just does not care.

The other thing that was fascinating to me in watching Council last night was that it was obvious that the Councillors had no idea what they were doing last year. Apparently many did not realize until last night that the Demolition Bylaw was permanent, forever, they needed to do nothing about it last night. They all seemed to be totally taken by surprise by it, including the Mayor. Do they have the faintest idea what they’re doing?

I make this remark especially in relation to Councillor Dilkens. It appears that no one on Council after he was elected told him the reasons why the Bylaw was important. Apparently there are some legal reasons but no one saw fit to tell the new Councillors what they were. Somehow during the last year he found out what those reasons were and therefore voted against the position that he took last year. I wish I knew what those reasons were but I assume that it must have been something that was discussed in camera because he did not share them with us last night.

Sorry but I want to know why my Ward Councillor does what he does. Now you can see the evil of this Council spending so much time in camera! The truth behind their decisions is hidden from the electorate.

The obvious question to ask is why are Councillors kept in the dark by the Mayor and Administration and Legal Counsel. Heck, I wonder if the Councillors even knew that the Mayor was dealing with the Bridge Company and what they discussed and what the results were. Call your local Councillor today and find out the answer.

I was so amused by Councillor Jones and his discussion about “themes.” It appeared to me, especially after he was attacked on the heritage matter by the Bridge Company lawyer, that the only theme that he was interested in talking about is why this bylaw wasn’t directed at the Bridge Company.

His Wardmate, Councillor Postma, admitted that there were no criteria that had been developed for exemptions to the Bylaw. That prompted Councillor Marra, playing his usual compromise role, to suggest that criteria be developed for both the Interim Control Bylaw and the demolition bylaw and that a report be prepared. Although it should be done with urgency, I believe that no matter can be dealt with until such time as those criteria are developed and passed by Council. That may mean that Maryvale again next week must be deferred and Mr. Wilson’s garage cannot be built.

Wasn’t it Councillor Postma who introduced an anti-blockbusting bylaw? She admitted that the Interim Control Bylaw did not stop blockbusting as some thought it would but that it had the opposite effect. If that is the case, then again it is confirmation that Council acted without thinking and all that happened with this bylaw is that the neighbours suffered because of Council antagonism towards the Bridge Company. I guess that happens when you own a competitive border crossing that is doing badly.

Someone must have received a matchbook cover that had the expression “No pain, no gain” on it or just ate a fortune cookie with the lamb chops at the Council pre-meeting dinner. It is such a cute saying. Councillor Postma made a comment that she “feels for them” i.e. the residents who live across the street from the boarded-up mess and who live around horrible conditions. But she brightened up with her optimistic comment of hope that we are now entering into the “Dawn of a new day.” I am sure that those who live with mice, rats, skunks, drug dealers and vandals are truly encouraged.

Why Councillor Lewenza also said that he “Felt their pain.” Listening to him speak, I felt pain too!

Junior smeared those that dared have a point of view differing from his. He attacked residents who did not live in Ward 2 for daring to speak out because obviously they were nothing more than stooges for the Bridge Company.

Frankly, the Mayor should require this Councillor to either apologize or shut his mouth. He is a true embarrassment already. His remark was insulting and a disgrace. It was designed to put a chill into any residents who dare come out and say something against this Councillor. This is consistent with his attitude of speaking out against residents on the WUC matter. And I’m sick of it.

His smear of “private enterprise” was also quite disgusting considering that were it not for business people, he and many Windsorites would be out of a job.

The essence of Council’s hypocrisy was Councillor Gignac’s remark that this Council was there to help out Sandwich. She knows as well as anyone else that there is no interest in helping out this part of the community just like there was no interest in helping out the other part of the West End when the arena was moved eastward. She pointed out that her grandmother and grandfather had also looked at building up Sandwich given its historical value and that nothing was ever done.

This Council is being consistent with ignoring the area although pretending to do so merely to block the Bridge Co. What is Council going to do in Sandwich… as was pointed out, nothing, given the result of other CIPs.

She also talked about the “growing pains” as this process continued since it was not an easy time for residents. Listening to her my pains grew.

Councillor Brister was so eager to help out his residents too in fighting against a possible bank location at the corner of Dougall and Cabana. However where was his help in assisting residents in Ward 2 who wanted to see homes that were boarded up across the street from them having them torn down? It is fine to be “objective” in a Ward that is not your own and where the voters don’t count because they don’t elect you. Perhaps this is a signal that Council Brister has understood that he can never be elected mayor in the city so that he is written off Ward 2 in his own mind at least.

The only Councillor who was consistent was Councillor Halberstadt and he was the only one who voted against the bylaw being continued. He did admit however that if the Demolition bylaw had been repealed, he probably would have voted to continue the Interim Control Bylaw. I believe that Councillor Dilkens also said something similar.

Oh there were other comments that were made and I know I have not talked about several of the Councillors but you get my drift I am sure.

Now you must surely understand why my desire for sleep prevailed so that you had to wait until the afternoon to read my words of wisdom on the Council meeting. The sad part about all this, especially given my legal background, is the question now is not if the Bridge Company will sue but when. I expect that the tape of the meeting will be transcribed and Ms Lombardi, their lawyer last night, will be asked about her comments on what was said. It should not be a great leap for her to give a legal opinion that Council acted in bad faith against the Bridge Company. The Councillors is made it so easy. Imagine the damages when they sue that taxpayers will be forced to pay.

2800 jobs due to the Ambassador Gateway project in Detroit, 6,700 infrastructure jobs due to the Province’s $450M program. And 0 jobs for Windsor as our Council spends about 3 hours on an Interim Control By-law that probably is invalid anyway and is designed to stall.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Marshalling Traffic To The DRIC Bridge


This whole DRIC border project is becoming stranger and stranger.

We have just had the Canadian Border Services Agency effectively kill any thought of a DRIC bridge when they told Windsor that they had no plans at this time to staff the six new booths that the Ambassador Bridge just built. Clearly, the lack of traffic concerns them ie. why would Customs officers sit in booths if there was not enough border traffic to justify it.

I will comment on this in another BLOG but did you read the Detroit media about the DRIC bridge:
  • "Building a publicly funded border crossing in southwest Detroit could eliminate 340 to 414 homes, five to seven churches, Rademacher Park and 685 to 920 jobs, according to a study released Monday."

I ask the obvious question then how can anyone justify building a new DRIC bridge that would require staffing for more than six booths if there was not enough traffic to justify the staffing of six. It doesn't make any sense to me. Not only would the Government have to duplicate the actual Customs facilities but now it would have to duplicate staffing as well. At about $1 million per lane when one takes into account salaries and benefits for staffing a lane with officers and support staff over 24 hours, that's a fair bit of money.

And wiping out Delray too!

There is no doubt that when legislators in United States see some of this information they will be hard-pressed to support MDOT moving ahead as well. Already at least the Republicans see no purpose in moving forward on the DRIC project. They can use the money required for better purposes.

And just so you know, US DRIC has estimated that the U.S. cost of the combined bridge, plaza, interchange, utilities and associated property acquisition ranges from $1.277 billion to $1.488 billion. Add in the Canadian side and we have an International Mega-Project in the billions.

But we have to keep on playing the game don't play we. We need to pretend that the DRIC bridge has a some possibility of being built because otherwise what will put pressure on the owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out at a cheap price. As I Blogged the other day, the way to do so is to generate traffic numbers about how much of the volume the new DRIC bridge will take away from his crossing.

According to DRIC, their new bridge would cause significant traffic shifts over the entire area from the Blue Water bridge right to the Windsor crossings. Dealing with truck traffic, the bridge in Sarnia could lose up to 18% of their traffic or more. The City of Windsor owned Detroit/Windsor Tunnel could lose up to 26% of its total traffic. The Ambassador Bridge could lose up to 75% of its truck traffic and 39% of its car traffic. Mind you, I thought part of the DRIC exercise was to remove traffic from Windsor too eg to rail, marine and to other crossings. So much for that when bridge economics come into play. We cannot have car and truck numbers crossing the bridge go down now can we!

The new bridge good carry as much as 80% of the truck traffic carried by the two bridges and 60% of the car traffic.

Now those are pretty impressive numbers don't you think. If I was a P3 operator, I'd be salivating waiting for the Governments to ask me to invest my money in a new DRIC bridge. The only fly in the ointment however is that damned Ambassador Bridge whose tolls for using their bridge would be about a third of what I would have to charge, assuming that there was fair competition. I guess that the Alinda people might want to compete as well at the Tunnel and probably the Sarnia folks might have some concerns about going bankrupt also.

P3 operators generally like monopolies and don't want to compete in the marketplace for traffic. A number of the agreements with respect to roads have clauses in them which require that the governmental authority not build a road that competes with the toll road. After all how can the P3 operator make money if there is a free road nearby.

Now that won't work with respect to border crossings because as MDOT said the new DRIC bridge would be paid for by tolls. I don't know about you but if I have a choice between two equally efficient crossings I'm going to take the one that is cheapest especially the cost is one third of the other. So how then does a DRIC bridge stay in business?

The answer came from the Leakor in another Todays Trucking Magazine online article. I am sure that the article has been distributed to government people with a cover note saying this is how we will guarantee that the new DRIC bridge is financially successful. Let me attach a few excerpts from that article:

  • "ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Windsor truck marshalling hub closer to reality
    02/18/2008

    WINDSOR, Ont. -- It's no secret that the biggest problem with the Windsor-Detroit gateway is the lack of infrastructure available for the number of trucks that bottleneck at the mouth of the border.

    For decades, there's been an avalanche of "solutions" proposed to fix the situation. Some of them make sense -- expanding border capacity with a new bridge or twinning the current Ambassador, for example -- but almost all attempt to put the trailer before the tractor, so to speak.

    That, anyway, is what Ann Arquette and Kathy Ouellette believe. They have a point -- and, of course, their own plan.

    "It's a matter of building foundations first," says Arquette, director of corporate affairs for Border Gateways, a Windsor firm that's been pitching an ITS-based truck traffic management system for southern Ontario border crossings.

    An MTO truck marshalling facility would be located off of the highway and meter pre processed trucks to the border.

    The company is vying to manage a public-private "truck marshalling yard" being proposed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in Windsor, Sarnia-Port Huron, and Fort Erie-Buffalo. The facility -- to be located on the outskirts east of Windsor, off Highway 401 -- would act as the staging area for a complete "trade corridor management system," as Ouellette dubs the concept.

    The theory is that a truck marshalling yard in the Windsor-Essex area would reduce border queuing by ensuring all truckers' administrative and Customs reporting info is completed before approaching the border. It would also provide truck storage real estate during periods of high congestion. Once cleared, the trucks would be metered through to the border, resulting in more efficient flow and less trucks idling close to homes and businesses inside the city.

    The concept has been discussed for a while, but moved a step closer to reality this month when Border Gateways secured capital financing by signing a partnership agreement with John Laing PLC, a UK-based specialist in public sector infrastructure assets. The up-front capital could make Border Gateways the frontrunner for a long-term concession agreement with provincial and federal governments...

    the facility's main purpose would be to assist truckers -- especially owner-operators -- with the myriad pre-crossing processes, explains Ouellette. Effectively, RFID and weigh-in-motion technology would electronically capture carrier and shipment information from the highway and by cross-linking the info with Customs databases, the center would clear drivers to proceed to the border or, as needed, assist them with paperwork or e-manifest transmissions."

Just in passing, the Ambassador Bridge Company already has set up these pre-processing centers so that the "main purpose" to assist truckers is already being fulfilled.

Do you get it? The way to guarantee success of the DRIC bridge is to force trucks to use a certain crossing. And obviously the crossing of choice would be the Government bridge. That's how they would get the numbers. It would have to be made mandatory to use that staging area and the means to do that is Bill C-3 as I have said before [BLOGs December 04, 2006 "Clever Bureaucrats" November 27, 2006 "Who Is In Control AT MTO"].

I am not going into all of the arguments why staging area would not make any sense, especially for Windsor. The one however that is the most important from a business perspective is how much it would cost for a truck to use the mandatory staging area. Now remember, the area has to be paved to be big enough in case there is a huge backup at the border. Of course there may never be a backup if the border is running smoothly but it doesn't matter, that facility has to be paid for.

I've seen estimates of the cost being in the range of $20-$25M or more and naturally not even a private investor like John Laing PLC is going to risk their money on that. So it will have to be government financed.

Every truck that uses the facility will have to pay a fee to pay for it. How much will that fee be... who knows. Obviously truckers will try and avoid the area if possible which means that instead of using main highways they will take back roads. After all they don't want to be stuck at some staging facility at $100-125 an hour while a bureaucrat figures out which border crossing they should take it assuming that the bureaucrat believes there is no truck back up.

In the end, I could see a whole bunch of truckers saying that it just doesn't make sense to go across the border any longer. The costs are too high and the wait periods too uncertain. They would just pull out the marketplace leaving fewer truckers for shippers to use. With fewer truckers, the obvious result is that shipping prices are higher meaning that it is more expensive to do business in this country.

If it is too expensive do business in Ontario or in Canada, then why would anyone locate their plant here or why would anyone remain here if by going south of the border the Company can deal with their customers without the border hassle.

The concept is wonderful in a world designed to meet the needs of the bureaucrat. However, unless the bureaucrat understands business and in particular transportation that business model may not bear any relationship to reality. We saw that in Canada before with the National Energy Program which was designed to protect the Canadian oil industry but in fact destroyed it and allowed foreign companies to take over a good part of the oil patch.

This is an old story that we saw about a year and a half ago with the same players being mentioned. The only difference is that there is a private investor involved that may have put in some money into the project, how much we do not know.

While it is designed obviously to ease the concerns P3 investors and to cause aggravation to the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, it does nothing except make the bureaucrats look even more foolish than they are.

As someone knowledgeable in the trucking industry told me:

  • "Don't believe everything you read, the "marshalling yard" idea is as dead as the dodo. Frankly, it never was alive depite the lip service occasionally paid to it by some politicians, again, no one I know in government ever thought this was anything but silly."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Windsor Depression Coming



Read this article from Today's Trucking Online. Is it me or does our Mayor sound like a spoiled little brat who will have a temper tantrum if he does not get his way. The problem is that if he has one, then we all suffer. By that I mean not just Windsor but the economies of two countries.

And I wonder if this is part of his game-plan as well...to actually pretend to start a lawsuit to tie up the border for years to get what he wants. If you read his language carefully there is no doubt it is part of a legal case that may be in draft stage already for all I know.

The childish threat of another lawsuit to block the building of a road to the Ambassador Bridge is exactly what we need here to make this area a retirement community for rich Torontonians. Who needs 15,000 high-paying infrastructure and spin-off jobs when "hopefully" the Mayor might get 50 from sending our goods to Germany after his taxpayer paid trip, not vice-versa, and we can get thousands of minimum wage call centre ones and for looking after retired folks.

Eddie will fight "till the end he claims." Since his end as Mayor is in about three years when he will start his next career, I guess he must be talking about the end of Windsor as a viable community!

That's the future we have to look forward to with this Mayor.

  • Mayor says he'll fight for GreenLink truck route 'till the end
    02/25/2008
WINDSOR, Ont. -- Despite mounting opinion that Ontario will choose to disregard Windsor's enviro-friendly GreenLink truck artery plans, Mayor Eddie Francis says he's still optimistic -- albeit cautiously-- the plan isn't dead yet.

High-ranking Ontario Liberal cabinet ministers -- including Windsor's own MPP Sandra Pupatello and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan --are said to prefer a different, cheaper plan to construct a dedicated commercial road from Highway 401 to a new border crossing in the Ojibway Industrial area.

Francis and much of city council vow to keep fighting for their solution, though. That, incidentally, has also bothered the provincial politicians in Toronto, who criticized the city for its recently announced plan to spend more money on a pro-GreenLink campaign.

The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study -- a team of Canadian and American bureaucrats overseeing the new crossing and its supporting infrastructure --has until nest month to approve that "parkway" plan or go ahead and endorse GreenLink, which tunnels 65 percent of the Huron Church Road-Talbot Road corridor below grade and insulates the route with greenery and parkland.

To avoid "walls of trucks" separating neighborhoods, Greenlink offers a 65 percent tunneled route In a recent interview with TodaysTrucking.com, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis says residents and businesses overwhelmingly support the city's idea over the province's favored design, which only offers 25 percent tunneling and less parkland than the $1.6-billion GreenLink plan.

He wonders, however, if DRIC hasn't already been influenced by Queen's Park. "I would also hope this is not a political exercise DRIC is undertaking."

He points out that despite the opinion coming out of Toronto, DRIC still has a responsibility under its own environmental assessment (EA) mandate to approve the most viable plan. "And the EA mandate is pretty clear that DRIC needs to consider all alternatives that better address those factors that have been identified to improve air quality, connectivity and protect neighborhoods," he tells us.

"If you go through all the factors that have been enumerated by the EA process, all our plans are clearly superior to DRIC's. They are obligated under the EA to consider (GreenLink). If it's easily dismissed, then they're going to have issues on their hands to explain how our plan in fact doesn't do all those things."

It would be an unforgivable mistake if the border route decision were heavily based on cost, continues Francis. While the price tag is a significant factor, the value of GreenLink far outweighs its competing solution when the impacts on the community are considered.

"This is not about building a road through empty space, the province wants to build a road that goes through a community, which was ultimately the result of the province making the mistake of ending (highway) 401 where it did. We're all paying for that now. What we're saying is do it right so that 50 years from now we're not making someone pay for more of our mistakes today."

So, what happens if DRIC gives GreenLink thumbs down next month? It depends on their reasoning, says Francis, adding that if the city isn't convinced the EA was properly followed, council will have "recourse."

"We don't want to unwind the process," says Francis. 'But we'll have to see and assess the situation."