Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama Issue: Canada's Ultra Secret American Playbook

Did Canada interfere in the US Presidential Election? Has the Obama issue now raised itself to the highest political office in Canada?

CTV news reported:
  • "opposition MPs hounded the government over the reports of the apparent involvement of Ian Brodie -- the prime minister's chief of staff -- in the so-called NAFTA-gate affair."

At least Canada has made the American news media, other than for hockey, even if for only a day or two. Just wait until I show you how Windsor fits into all of this, believe it or not!

The issue arose over whether the US presidential candidates on the Democratic side really support renegotiating NAFTA or whether what they have said in the US is nothing more than a political game to get votes in certain states, especially Ohio, during the primaries.

In particular, the stories about Barack Obama seemed to be out there in order to stop the momentum that he has gathered over the last few weeks in winning a number of primaries.

The Toronto Star reported that

  • " David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, signalled Washington's quiet displeasure at the controversy.

    "I guess you could say it shouldn't have happened. It was interference. "

Check out the New York Times article to read more about this brouhaha

As Forbes Magazine online wrote, this matter is crucial to Canada:

  • "That charge led Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take the unusual step of denying that Canada was trying to stir up trouble in the election process of its powerful southern neighbor.

    "I certainly deny any allegation that this government has attempted to interfere in the American election," he told the country's parliament.

    Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States and would be badly hurt if Washington pulled out of NAFTA."

To be direct, normally I would have little interest in this issue since it appears to be nothing more than a political tempest in a teapot. However there was a key section in the Times' story that fascinated me:

  • "He added that the Canadians had reached out to Professor Goolsbee and that he met them as a “courtesy.”

    “At some point,” he added, “they started talking about trade and Nafta, and the Canadian Embassy confirmed that he said exactly what I have been saying on the campaign trail.” Campaign officials said Professor Goolsbee went to the consulate as a professor, not as an adviser to Mr. Obama and that other campaign officials did not know about the meeting when it was held.

    In a statement, the Canadian Embassy in Washington suggested that the consulate had sought out Professor Goolsbee specifically because of his ties to Mr. Obama’s campaign.

    “The Canadian Embassy and our consulates general,” the statement said, “regularly contact those involved in all of the presidential campaigns and, periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials."

I'm afraid that this has let the cat out of the bag. It has revealed a big secret of Canadian foreign policy to our detriment in my opinion. The Canadian Embassy has made a huge mistake that will cost us dearly once the American media get ahold of the real story. Can you imagine Prime Minister Harper being interviewed on Inside Edition or Extra just after Britney's latest escapade.

While Canada tries to maintain good relations with United States, as do other countries for a variety of reasons including strategic and economic, I wonder if other countries have created an ultra secret playbook that sets out exactly how Canadians should deal with Americans in order to influence them on our behalf.

That top secret playbook is called:

"Advancing Canadian Interests in the United States: A Practical Guide for Canadian Public Officials."

This should not be a surprise since:

  • "Recognizing the importance of these connections, the federal government is working to further enhance stronger bilateral relations with the U.S. This includes expanding Canada’s official network in the U.S. With the opening in July 2006 of the new Canadian Consulate General in San Francisco, Canada’s network in the U.S. now includes 13 consulates general and six consulates, in addition to the Embassy in Washington."

For the conspiracy theorists who believe that there is a concerted effort to unite Canada, United States, and Mexico, these paragraphs from "A WORD FROM THE CHAIR" should cause a severe chill:

  • "What has changed more recently is the range and scale of these linkages. Virtually all federal and provincial departments now have strong ties with their US counterparts, whether by sharing information on food safety, conducting joint inspections at ports of entry, or co-leading working groups on energy matters. Indeed, the extent of this collaboration in certain sectors has blurred the division between domestic and bilateral affairs.

    By focusing on the networks of collaboration between government officials in Canada and the US, the Roundtable sought to provide guidance to Canadian public officials to make the most of these unique channels of cross-border co-operation. It aimed to highlight many of the essential practices that energize these channels, from building trust at the person-to-person level to understanding the institutional context within which US officials operate. Indeed, several lessons in this study can also be applied to Canada’s other foreign relationships."

Given the range and scale of these linkages and the networks of collaboration, it was clearly necessary to ensure that Canadian bureaucrats all travelled in the right direction. Moreover, it is from "The Canada School of Public Service [which] helps ensure that all public service employees have the knowledge and skills they need to deliver results for Canadians"

  • "While the bilateral relationship is too complex for a single government to “manage,” the role of providing some guidance to the increasing number of government and non-government players nonetheless remains. This role requires that practitioners of the relationship share information about the US and seek guidance from the main co-ordinators of Canada-US relations, such as the Privy Council Office, Foreign Affairs Canada, International Trade Canada and Canadian missions in the US, among others. An important motivation for co-ordination is to ensure as much as possible that Canadian actors speak with a single voice in their interactions with US officials."
Accordingly, just telling you what is in the Table of Contents of the playbook should demonstrate to you that the subject matter of it is huge and very extensive:
  • Executive Summary

    1. Scope, Rationale and Methodology of Study

    2. Networks of Collaboration

    3. Functional Channels of the Relationship

    4. Co-ordination of the Relationship

    5. Provinces, Territories and Intergovernmental Collaboration

    6. Understanding and Engaging the US Political System

    7. Asserting Canadian Interests

    8. Conclusion



    Appendix I: Select Bilateral Processes and Agreements

    Appendix II: Canadian and American Governance: A Comparative View

    Appendix III: Useful Web Sites


    Figure 1: Actors in the Canada-US Relationship

    Figure 2: Snapshot of the Canada-US Relationship

    Figure 3: The Formal to Informal Dimensions of Bilateral Processes

    Figure 4: Approaches to the Co-ordination of Canada-US Relations

    Figure 5: Bilateral Regional Groupings

    Figure 6: Executive Office of the President

Especially interesting are the "The 20 lessons in this study...of how practitioners can make the most out of their co-operative relationships with US officials."

Here is just one tip that is disclosed about how to beat the Americans and they will not even know it:
  • "As mentioned earlier, practitioners believe it is useful to keep non-contentious issues at the working level, avoiding conflict and resolving issues at the operational or regulatory level before they become matters of policy or high politics. It is also an effective means of avoiding the linkage of disparate issues in bilateral negotiations."
And how to diffuse Obama-type affairs:
  • "In the eternal Washington competition for access and influence, the Canadian ambassador may need to seek publicity for his or her cause. Clearly, this kind of diplomacy must be practiced with considerable finesse or else risk being accused of interfering in US domestic affairs."
Of course, there is more to this story than what I have set out already. Notice that the Chair of the group that is responsible for this playbook is Louis Ranger, Deputy Minister of Transport Canada. Yes, that Mr. Ranger whom I have mentioned before.

Did you notice how quickly the Canadian Embassy came out with a press release to try to put the Obama story to bed before people start asking questions. Remember, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States is Michael Wilson and for a time he was involved with the border matter until he disappeared as quickly as he entered the fray. The Canadian Embassy tried very hard to downplay everything didn't they. The reason for this has nothing to do with the Presidential election. It has everything to do with the economic future of Canada. And Mr. Ranger is right smack in the middle of that too.

As you will recall, Transport Canada under Mr. Ranger issued a position paper on "Canada's NATIONAL POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR STRATEGIC GATEWAYS AND TRADE CORRIDORS." As I wrote about this before:
  • "The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association states that...We must put in place the infrastructure and logistics systems that will enable Canada to become the logistics hub of North America — the preferred point of entry and exit for trade."

This Report has to be the culmination of Mr. Ranger's career. It is that important to Canada's future. Unlike many other bureaucrats, his career has been primarily within Transport Canada so it would be a fitting legacy for him.

Obviously, the threat to NAFTA is a huge concern to Canada since our economy would be put in jeopardy and a huge concern to Transport Canada since their raison d'être revolves around trade and infrastructure. It is no wonder then that "that the consulate had sought out Professor Goolsbee specifically because of his ties to Mr. Obama’s campaign." They had to make sure that Obama was still onside.

If you think the story ends there, wrong again. Guess who else is in the group with Mr. Ranger. The group is multi-Departmental from the Canadian Government. But there is also one other person on there who intrigues me: Right Hon. Herb Gray, International Joint Commission. Yes, Windsor's own Herb!

Do you see where I am going with this? In my opinion as I have said before there is an overriding agenda on the border file that probably has to do with economics and trade and the desire of Canada to maintain its access to the US market. Fundamental to this is controlling corridors and gateways into the United States as well as to and from Asia and Europe.

Which Gateway is the most important gateway into the United States, the Gateway over which most of our trade goes into the United States... the Ambassador Bridge. Who was involved in the FIRA fight with the Bridge Co. years ago? Who in my opinion is deeply involved against the Bridge Co. now? Interesting that they are both on the same Committee that deals with Canada/US relationships.

I read this interesting statement on the Internet:

  • "The significance of the Central Cartage case appears to extend far beyond ownership of the Ambassador Bridge. The decision was the agency's first under Canada's new Liberal administration and FIRA's new chief, Herb Gray. Gray, whose 1972 report on multinationals in Canada prompted the creation of the agency, is a long-time critic of foreign corporate activity in the country.

    U.S. government officials speculate that the decision may be the first step in Gray's campaign to broaden the jurisdiction of FIRA.

    At present, FIRA's jurisdiction is limited strictly to reviewing applications for new investments in Canada. Gray is looking to make the agency an oversight body as well, with the power to review multinational operations after corporations establish Canadian facilities. Such a move would have dramatic implications for foreign investors-each year, multinationals reinvest $6 , billion in Canada, and if Gray's ' proposals are adopted, these investments would fall under FIRA's scrutiny.

    All signs indicate Gray may very well succeed. In the Liberal Party's opening address to parliament on April 13, the Trudeau administration vowed to extend the powers of FIRA to include the oversight provision. If FIRA does begin extracting more favorable terms from foreign corporations, the credit will be Gray's. According to Marc Lortie, spokesman for Canada's Embassy to the U.S., "Herb Gray is the prime mover behind all these policies."

There is a lot of Bill C-3 in those few paragraphs concerning FIRA isn't there, especially over "oversight," managing operations and foreign ownership. It certainly looks now like the war over the Ambassador Bridge ownership never ended notwithstanding that the Bridge Company thought they had signed a peace treaty with the Canadian Government when they settled their FIRA lawsuit a number of years ago.

It all fits in very nicely together. NAFTA, corridors and gateways, the Ambassador Bridge.

Frankly, it looks like Canada has suckered the Americans using the ultrasecret playbook (Did someone slip up by the way... it was loaded onto the Internet at ).

We convinced them that even though the Ambassador Bridge location, where the Americans are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Ambassador Gateway project, is the best place for a new bridge, they ought to destroy Delray and put a new bridge there.

We seem to be able to convince them to say things that we can build upon to convince P3 investors that they ought to sink their money into a bridge that may go bankrupt if there is not enough traffic.

Moreover, we let them go forward with their plans first to see what the reaction will be so that we can change our plans as needed. We even extended the time during which we said that our report was going to be produced from March/April into June/July to ensure that we have the best answer to meet any contingency.

Once the Michigan Governor killed the downriver locations for a new bridge to save her own political neck, she owed Canada one and it looks like we have not hesitated to call in our IOU big time.

And if the Canadian Government crushes the Bridge Company and a P3 investor favourable to Canada takes over building the Enhancement Project because that is really where the new bridge is going to go (and makes the Tunnel part of the package as well since both Eddie and Kwame will be desperate for a deal at any price) then Canada has done quite well!

Fortunately for Canada, the Obama story will die quickly and nobody will look at the playbook. Are we ever lucky. Our Ultra Secret is still safe.

Windsor Or Port Huron

You must read this story from the Port Huron newspaper. No, it is not a story talking about Windsor getting Port Huron's failed arena for the Spitfires.

If I changed in the article the name of the City involved from Port Huron to Windsor, you would see the same kind of silly games being played in that part of the world as are being played in the Windsor/Detroit area with respect to the border issue. Well, not quite. You see that in that neck of the woods the City and the County work together in a united voice.

What is wrong with Government? Are they so willing to waste taxpayer money to fulfill their own objectives that they are prepared to take action no matter what! Do they really think that they can run over taxpayers like this and that taxpayers will do nothing?

Look at the billions that will be wasted here and the hundreds of millions in Port Huron. Why are these projects between Michigan and Ontario such a farce? Is it the same at other border crossing areas or is it unique to this Province and State?

There is something very peculiar going on. I wish I knew it was and so does my pocketbook.

  • Plaza objections abound
    'Consortium' asks: How will area benefit?

    Times Herald

    In strongly worded letters, Port Huron area officials argue the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed $433 million Blue Water Bridge border-inspection plaza is fundamentally flawed and unacceptable.

    A "consortium" of four local governments - the county, the city and two neighboring townships - said the draft fails to adequately answer even the most basic question: Who benefits from this project?

    They also accused state and federal agencies of sandbagging local residents and, at times, deliberately misleading the community.

    "It is just simply disturbing and appalling that after more than five years of study at a cost of more than $10 million in tax money that such fundamentally important and readily available information has not been provided," Karl Tomion, the city manager of Port Huron, wrote in a 15-page letter to the Michigan Department of Transportation. "It borders on absurd that almost half a billion dollars will be expended (resulting in massive disruption to the community) without a hard look at the benefits that are expected to result..."

    he asked MDOT officials if truck traffic would be routed onto local streets during construction.

    "'Absolutely not' was the answer I got," he said. "As it turns out, trucks will empty out onto Hancock (Street), and there's simply no assessment of any impact it would have on Garfield school. My kids went to Garfield."

    In Tomion's view, three of the biggest issues involve border delays, the size of the plaza and estimated traffic volumes.

    He said local officials repeatedly asked MDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection if similar projects were under way elsewhere on the border.

    "They said our plaza would be a new standard," he said. "They mentioned some crossings on the Mexican border, but they never told us about the Peace Bridge."

    The Peace Bridge, which crosses the Niagara River at Buffalo, is similar to the Blue Water Bridge in traffic counts, although the Peace Bridge handles more passenger vehicles and fewer commercial trucks. The customs plazas at the two bridges both are located in built-up neighborhoods.

    A proposed new plaza in Buffalo would require 39 acres, Tomion said, far less than the 65 acres being requested in Port Huron.

    "We believe the Blue Water Bridge plaza could be reduced in size to something similar to what is planned at the Peace Bridge," he said, describing the two projects as similar "in virtually all relevant respects."

    Wilbur Smith Associates, a private consulting firm, is writing the environmental impact statements for both plazas.

    Tomion expressed dismay that the Port Huron document includes no analysis of average delay times or the length of traffic backups at the Blue Water Bridge.

    "When we have verbally inquired about this issue previously, we have been told by MDOT staff that these calculations cannot be released due to security concerns on the part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection," he said.

    What's top-secret information in Port Huron apparently is freely available in Buffalo. Tomion said he was surprised to find "a very extensive analysis (with) dozens of pages with tables and figures" regarding delays and backups at the Peace Bridge.

    "We are very disappointed that the citizens of Port Huron and Michigan have not received equal consideration and treatment compared to residents of Buffalo/Niagara, New York," he said.

    He noted CBP even has a Web site - - with real-time information on border delays.

    Traffic counts look wrong
    Estimates of future traffic on the bridge are mystifying, Tomion said.

    MDOT projects a 50% growth in traffic volumes in the 20-year forecast period, a time when the region's population is expected to increase less than 10%.

    In the past, Tomion said, bridge traffic has spiked after obvious milestones - the opening of Highway 402 in Ontario and the completion of Interstate 69 in Michigan are two notable examples.

    No such milestones are anticipated in the next 20 years, he said. On the contrary, there are developments that could reduce traffic volumes, such as a proposed ban on Canadian trash trucks, a third crossing between Detroit and Windsor and passport requirements that seem likely to discourage cross-border travel.

    Research by Bob Clegg, Port Huron's city engineer, suggests MDOT has consistently overestimated traffic growth on the bridge. A 1998 estimate, for example, missed a forecast for 2006 truck traffic by more than a million vehicles, Tomion said.

    'Reverse inspections'
    Groden shared a report from the county's Metropolitan Planning Commission, which concluded that the existing plaza - completed a decade ago - is handling only one-third of its design capacity.

    He and Tomion questioned whether traffic growth is the real reason for expanding the plaza, as MDOT initially claimed.

    They also questioned whether the issue is national security and cited a 2006 letter from MDOT's director, Kirk Steudle, who complained that Homeland Security had been unwilling to commit to staffing additional inspection booths.

    A related issue is reverse inspections, which would check vehicles for bombs and biological weapons in Canada before motorists cross the bridge. The Bush administration and Congress have appeared cool to the idea.

    Tomion said reverse inspections remain an alternative in Buffalo, "recognizing that there will be a new administration in Washington in about 14 months" - long before actual construction...

    Groden called for improvements to the M-25 bridge over the Black River Canal.
    "The canal bridge is already a chokepoint," he said, recalling how a minor traffic accident earlier this year brought traffic to a standstill for four hours. "That chokepoint is only going to get worse if the plaza is built..."

    Port Huron Township officials plan to discuss the issue Monday, and Beedon said it is urgent for state and federal officials to go ahead quickly with improvements to the corridor, including the expressway bridge over the Black River. That work is not planned until 2010 or later, which Beedon said is unacceptable given the safety issues.

    "The corridor is our first and foremost concern," he said, "but we're also on board with many of the city's concerns on size and need."

    Tomion echoed that, saying the city endorses the township's call for putting the corridor improvements on a fast track.

    "The two townships, the city and the county are working as a consortium," Groden said. "We recognize we may have somewhat different concerns, but there's more impact as a united voice than if you're four voices."

    If all else fails, he said, "I can assure you the recommendation of my board is that we litigate."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Who's In Charge

Honestly, I could not make this stuff up. No one could.

I'm too tired this morning to take a look at the Ontario Municipal Affairs Act to see under what conditions the Minister can put someone in to take over the operations of this City similar to the way the Province put a Trustee in place at one time with respect to various Boards of Education in the Province but maybe it is time that someone in the Ministry consider doing so.

The farce that is City Council continues. The problem is that they are dealing with a huge budget of about half a billion dollars that affects the lives of 200,000 people.

This kind of childishness over the Library cannot be allowed to continue when we have issues like the border, jobs, taxes and levies and economic development that need to be solved right away.

I've had all of these strange thoughts in my mind since last night. I came home reasonably late from a several hours long meeting that dealt with City Operations from a citizen's perspective. I had been called earlier in the evening and told that there was a Special Meeting of Council dealing with the Library and was asked what I knew about it. I had no idea what it was about and found it quite strange.

However, when I got home do you know what I thought about since I was hungry... do the Councillors get a meal at one of these meetings the way they do at a regular Council meeting. If not, are they allowed to charge the City for a meal the same way that I used to do at my old law firm when I worked late?

If it was allowed, I wondered where they would go for a meal and how much they are allowed to charge. Would they go to Timmie's and get a coffee and a muffin. Could they go to TBQ to get a slab of ribs. Or perhaps they were allowed, if they chose to go for meal after the Meeting, to go to the Keg because the parking rate is so cheap there thanks to the arrangement made by the Mayor as a means to rejuvenate the downtown.

Then I wondered if Councillors would go together or could Administrators go with Councillors or are they supposed to go individually.

You see what happens when you think about this stuff too much....all kinds of wild ideas.

When I went to the Star website and read the memo from the CAO, it brought back memories of my days doing employment law. I thought that John Skorobohacz must have nerves of steel or an iron clad employment contract or both. Imagine, taking on two Senior Councillors like Halberstadt and Marra and even the Chair of the Audit Committee. I wondered whether I could get a copy of that employment agreement which I believe the Mayor must have arranged to have drafted since I'm sure he did not want another Jane Boyd-type incident but I doubted if I could get a copy since it is a personnel matter.

On the other hand, I wondered if the CAO felt that he was being pressured such that he might take the position that he was being constructively dismissed. Now that would open up a whole can of worms and could get the City involved in a lawsuit by the time it was over.

Oh me oh my, what a mess.

To come back to the Library, I just don't get it. I thought the Library had regular annual audits. Then there was the special audit that gave them a terrific result and now it appears that there is a desire for a "a line-by-line review of library budgets for the past five years." Let your kids become forensic auditors. No risk of lack of work with this City Hall.

In passing, I'd like to know who leaked the CAO memo. If we had an Integrity Commissioner, that would be something that I would think the Commissioner should look into. Can you guess who the Library person is that everybody is talking about even though they should not be talking about matters involving personnel? It should be obvious to those who have been following this Library crisis. Or is it somebody else that nobody knows about? What a shadow that is being cast on all of the people in the senior ranks of the Library.

How much money is being spent on audits at the Library? How much time is being focused on the Library? Why does the audit need to go back so many years... does that include the time when Steve Salmons was there? Is this a way to get back at him and also the Province for Greenlink?

I'd like you to compare the way that the City is acting with the Library with that of the Windsor Utilities Commission. I think it is time for Councillor Marra to ask for a comparable audit of the Commission. If they can do it for such a small organization such as the Library, then they had better do it for WUC as well and for Fleet Operations.

If only Eddie had carried out his campaign promise and looked at all of the City Departments in a timely fashion, we would not have this mess. There it is again, it points directly back to the Mayor and his lack of running the City properly.

Another issue that I find very interesting is the conflict between the CAO and the Audit Committee. I'm not a Governance Expert but does the CAO have the right to overrule the Audit Committee with respect to the use of legal counsel?

According to the A-Channel interview of Councillor Marra, the 400 City Hall Square audit report has been available at least in draft form since April 2007. Again, the time period involved seems very similar to the extended period in which the Fleet audit was undertaken. We need clarification of this immediately. I wrote at the time respecting Fleet:
  • "To answer the charge that it took the Audit department two years to do an audit of a City Department for a three-year period, the Audit Department press release blamed it on "Staffing issues."

Audit had written in its report:

  • "Fleet management initially restricted the information it supplied to the auditor," the report said. "In all stages we were required to request information multiple times before obtaining adequate documentation from fleet management."

Eddie made a very dangerous statement in the Star. I hope he has backup:

  • "Francis immediately contradicted Halberstadt's assertions. "That's not the issue that was discussed today," he said. "The concern was that the particular employee approached the Windsor Public Library and asked the chair (Halberstadt) to authorize a pay adjustment under false pretenses, suggesting to the chair that it was a pay equity issue. It was authorized without board approval."

If you are that person, what would you do? Imagine, a Mayor saying that you may have acted in an improper fashion. If the charge is valid, then shouldn't that person be fired? If the charge is not valid, then are we looking at a lawsuit since a person's career could be put at risk?

I don't understand very much about this 3% pay equity issue. I believe that the Mayor can clear it up very quickly by telling us which senior people within the City, and not just City Hall itself but in all of its corporations and divisions, received such an increase in salary, if any. I know that he said that the Meeting was not supposed to discuss it, but the issue is there and needs to be addressed immediately.

I have no intention of sitting here trying to figure out who is telling the truth and who is not. I can't do it even if I wanted to since obviously I don't have all of the evidence in front of me nor am I able to ask any the participants questions that would help me along the way.

All I know is that this is just another example of destroying the image of the City of Windsor. Don't blame it on the Bloggers when the Mayor and Council are doing a terrific job on their own of making this City a laughing stock. Promoting a positive image about Windsor, don't make me laugh.

As I said a long time ago, we have a lame-duck Mayor who is unable to lead. We have Councillors who are jockeying for position so that they can decide whether they should go for the top City job or perhaps a job at a Senior Level of Government. I don't see any ability in any of them right now to work together for the betterment of this City.

I see meetings called at the last possible second, in camera sessions turning into public ones with charges and finger-pointing and accusations. I especially liked how the Mayor decided to interrupt the Interview scrum that Councillor Halberstadt had. Just like his "Point of Clarification" when he interrupts people at Council when he gets concerned about something. Some of my readers are a lot smarter than I when they identified "open and transparent government" as a big issue in my poll.

Three more years of this childish bickering. I am not sure I can stand it. I better start updating my research on the right of recall of elected officials and figure out how to get it into place sooner rather than later.

The Mayor's State of the City Speech on March 17 may well be an interesting time.

Brief News Briefs

I tried to keep this as short as possible. But I could not [sigh].

There is just too much to talk about.

I just had to ensure that you have the background for some of these matters so that you would understand what is going on.


Can you imagine, if we keep having all of these questions about audits in the City, our kids might be encouraged to become forensic auditors when they grow up rather than artists preparing renderings for all of the City's THINK BIG DREAMS.

I found the story respecting the audit on 400 City Hall Square bizarre. Apparently, it was alleged that
  • "delays that have kept an audit of the recently constructed 400 City Hall Square government building under wraps."

Our two Councillors on the Audit Committee, Marra and Halberstadt claim it seems that they are unable to get the report released:

  • "It's been in front of administration and legal for a long time now," Marra said. "We don't have a good explanation for the delay.

    "There is no good excuse, no good response to why this has been delayed, but the reality is it has been. I think a lot of people are anxious to see the results of this."

Now it would seem to me that there is no reason why this report cannot be released very quickly if it has been around for awhile. Private industry would not sit on a report for a long time. They would want to know right away if there was a problem and correct it.

  • "City administrators had called for more time to respond to the audit and for city lawyers to go over it to determine what names and details should remain confidential and what details should be made public."

Apparently it seems that Administration may need as much as two more months before the report can be released.

You know that all that this does is create the impression that there is another mess and that somebody has something to hide.

Here we go again. I don't get. I thought everything was fine. We learned that

  • "Brodel Management was paid $13,811 to review the construction of 400 City Hall Square."

Back in February of 2006, the Star reported:

  • "Councillors approved a report by an independent consultant who found the building was constructed under budget and filled an important need by bringing several city departments under one roof. "Overall, the assessment was that it was done well" and it met the objectives of the city, said John Skorobohacz, the city's chief administrative officer...

    Skorobohacz said the project came in under budget and the city will have an extra $1 million, based on projected revenues and operating expenses.

    "Because we're paying ourselves, the entire building gets paid in 20, 21 years time," he said."

The contractor wrote a Letter to the Editor in which he said:

  • "After much speculation, allegations and innuendoes, it is vindicating to read in The Star report of Feb. 7 that the municipal building at 400 City Hall Square was constructed under budget. Not that we, the design builder, had any doubts about the conclusions now reached by Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, the independent consultant and the city's chief administrative officer."

So what's the big deal? Everything is perfect. Why the delay? If everything is okay, then why does the report have to go to Legal to determine

  • "which names or issues should remain confidential."

Why, those people who are involved in keeping this project under budget should be praised and promoted, and their names should not be hidden.

Now here's a concern that I have. If there is something wrong at this building and if in fact it did not come in under budget as we are told then we had better get very worried. Councillor Brister as the arena Chair better get out his sharp pencil.

My recollection is that Council passed a Motion

  • "That Administration UNDERTAKES their due diligence in the review of the offer of PCR Contractors Inc. for the purpose of finalizing the design, equipment and fixed final price including engagement of construction cost analysis by a licensed quantity surveyor, commissioned by the City of Windsor."

There was a presentation that resulted in this note:

  • "Greg Curan, representing Curan McCabe Ravindran Ross Inc., appears before Council to provide an overview of their cost review for the proposed Greater Windsor Recreation and Sports Centre, and concludes that overall, PCR’s Design Build proposal of $47,920,000 excluding GST is a fair market value for the project given the scope included, and that the budgetary allowances for “fit-up costs’ and “site servicing costs” are reasonable, and reiterates that should the project be delayed, there would be a potential for the cost of the project to increase."

This is all so curious. If there may be problems at a building that has come in supposedly under budget, then are there problems now at the East End arena? Should the City's auditors be instructed immediately to do a report on the arena finances to see if they are on budget or not. If there are problems, we should know about them now, not after the arena has been constructed.

After all, Council Brister's political career is at stake.

UPDATE: Now there is a different version of what is going on. Is some or all of what I said above based on the first Star story incorrect? If so, then should the Audit Committee including the Councillors be blamed not Administration?

Now the CAO according to today's Star claims that Administration is NOT holding things up. His email as published suggests that the delay is that of the Audit Committee of which the Councillors are the members! If that is true, then have the Councillors maligned Administration and if so, why? What is going on? Why are there such attacks taking place?

There seems to be a conflict too between the Audit Committee who wants the Legal Department to review the Report and the CAO who has instructed Legal NOT to do so since Councillors have alleged that Administration is delaying the release of the report and he wants external counsel involved.

And here comes the Integrity Commissioner again.

I am sorry, I have no idea what the truth is now. Do you? Is this how a half billion dollar corporation is run?

And what do the Mayor and the Audit Committee Chair, Mr. Zalev, have to say? I'd like to know.

I think the Minister of Municipal Affairs better take notice. Time for a real forensic audit of the entire City don't you think! WUC, Fleet Operations, 400 City Hall Sqaure, the Library...what a farce.

Just so you know, I rewrote part of this BLOG based on the new Star story and CAO email.


Perhaps the stories I've heard are really true. It seems strange. If the Mayor was so concerned about the DRIC road that he was going to spend a ton of taxpayer money on advertising in support of Greenlink, then shouldn't the ad campaign have started by now.

I am told that the Mayor has apparently reconciled himself to the fact that the Province will not listen to him with respect to the road to the border. In other words, Greenlink is going the way of other Eddie border concept proposals like the Horseshoe Road and full tunnelling. None really were viable solutions although they served their purposes of stalling and delay.

It won't be so bad though for Eddie. He can play our hero and martyr who has been crushed by the insensitive outsiders imposing a solution on Windsorites that will detrimentally affect our quality of life for generations to come. It brings a tear to my eye just writing this.

So then are we going to have an advertising blitz... you better believe it. But what exactly it is going to be for I'm not sure. It was strongly suggested to me that the Ipsos Reid poll was undertaken on behalf of the City. If the results show that the City is considered more trustworthy than say, the Province, then expect the City to use the ad money to campaign for whatever it is they think they can get out of the Province or to use the Province against the Federal Government.

The only thing I can think of offhand is that the City might want the new DRIC Plaza to go on its Brighton Beach properties so that the City can get as much money out of the Senior Levels as possible in negotiations or, if necessary, in an expropriation. Lots of land already taken over should mean big bucks for Eddie to upgrade E C Row and build a Lauzon/Highway 401/E C Row connection.

Hey wait a minute, wasn't that John Tofflemire's idea years ago?


Can you imagine if the Bridge Company made a presentation to Windsor Council and said that they wanted to build their Enhancement Project but in doing so, they might have to tear down 324 to 414 homes in Sandwich and uproot up to 56 businesses with as many as 920 jobs. In addition, the relocation of seven churches and three historic structures would be required as well as affecting the Community Health and Social Services Center and three recreational areas.

If that had happened here,

  • the Star would have thundered that no private company should be allowed to destroy a community,
  • Gord Henderson would do another column praising Eddie and telling us about the tunnel project in Ottawa where that City is "counting on upper levels of government to pay at least a third of the cost of whatever plan goes forward." The cost of the project is around $3-4B
  • Brian Masse would argue that a Public Authority was needed immediately to build a Public Bridge,
  • Sandra and Dwight would have no comment because they are respecting the process,
  • the Mayor would have threatened another lawsuit and an advertising blitz,
  • the Ward 2 Councillors would invoke the Interim Control Bylaw
  • the West End politicos and activists would be staging protests in which 20 or 30 people would come out, less if it was windy or snowing.
  • And Transport Minister Cannon would be in a Québec riding trying to win the seat for the Conservatives in the upcoming election.

Seriously, what I have outlined is what DRIC presented to Detroit Council with respect to their new bridge as reported by the Detroit News.

I am rather disappointed that the West end politicos and activists have not joined forces so far with their friends in Delray to mount a rally against what DRIC wants to do.

Perhaps they are doing so but in a stealth mode because when I was near MacKenzie Hall the other day, I thought I heard a bunch of people practising the singing of "Kumbaya." I also heard them chanting:

"2, 4 ,6 ,8
Whom do we NOT appreciate.

I bring this up because of a story I recalled in the Windsor Star:

  • "Windsor Star 06-17-2006
    Bridge site joins neighbourhoods

    Activists and politicians from the west-end community of Sandwich are vowing to work hand-in-hand with their southwest Detroit counterparts in Delray following a bus tour of the historic industrial community across the river.

    The two communities are hoping if they have a common voice on a preferred location for the next Windsor-Detroit border crossing, they will influence a binational government team assigned to select the best option.

    "We've said time and again to people over here, we consider this family," said Mary Ann Cuderman, leader of residents' truck watchdog group in Sandwich.

    The two communities have already been confirmed as the location for the next border crossing. Only a final decision on its exact location remains. But there is a major hurdle. The best location in Delray for a bridge and plaza is its less populated eastern edge, but that lines up roughly across from Watkins Street, the most heavily-populated part of Sandwich. Meanwhile, Brighton Beach, the preferred choice on this side of the river, lines up across from the most populated and valued section of Delray.

    It means only a diagonal crossing or more lengthy and costly S- type bridge can satisfy residents on both sides of the river."

They better help out because: That's what friends, and family, are for!


DRTP has gone through a number of transformations in their name over the years, from the Tradeway to the Jobs Tunnel. It has gone from a truck expressway above ground to a tunnelled route below ground.

Now it appears that they have transformed themselves again. It is now a rail project to build a doublestack rail tunnel although it is not clear if they have completely given up on building a truck expressway. Moreover, the name has changed from the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership to the Detroit River Rail Tunnel, from DRTP to DRRT.

You know that this project is a loser because in the Windsor Business Magazine article, Mike Rohrer, DRRT's community and business relations representative is telling people to "THINK BIG." You remember what happened to the projects of the last person who told Windsorites to do that.

I'm looking forward to seeing their new website, to see all of the PowerPoint presentations, to receive copies of the glossy brochures and to see billboards all across the city. I wonder whose ad blitz will spend more money, DRRT's or Eddie's ie the ex-Mayor or the Mayor.

DRRT are going all out now. They have commissioned a new song for their new name unveiling which I can post here now first, exclusively:

Banana, fanna fo-Frt,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Survey Results And Surprises

The results are in and frankly there are a lot of surprises to me.

First off, I decided to close down the survey early. I noticed that the number of hits towards the end of last night were declining pretty rapidly and therefore assumed that the likelihood of a lot of new participants was low. I did not want people deciding towards the end to "pack" the results.

I followed the polling fairly carefully and only noticed an oddity with respect to results right after the Council meeting on Monday.

Are the results scientific? Well if the Mayor's Greenlink poll was "scientific," then this one is unimpeachable and the results more than "overwhelming." Of course, my universe is not the City of Windsor but my numbers are much more statistically impressive than that of the Greenlink poll at least with respect to my readers. And probably extremely accurate.

If my readership is actually representative of the City, and it would not surprise me if it was relatively close given the Ward distribution, then I believe that the results that I have obtained may well be representative of the City as a whole. My readers may well be considered more "business types" but I do know that I have fairly wide distribution in non-business environments. The results interestingly enough certainly are consistent with other polls that have been done recently.

I'm sure that you will draw your own conclusions from the results but here are some comments that I will make.

In general, the results of the survey were consistent throughout the entire time. The first results were very similar to the last ones. There were no big changes from start to finish. The location of respondents seems very consistent throughout the City. When I did one quite some time ago, most of the respondents came from one or two Wards.

If there is a war going on between Councillors Halberstadt and Lewenza, then Councillor Halberstadt should declare victory and Councillor Lewenza better learn to hold his tongue. The poor showing of both of the Ward 2 Councillors is probably not unexpected given that the CKLW polls show a great deal of support for the Ambassador Bridge Company across the City as well.

Finally, if I was a Councillor, I would start thinking again about supporting the efforts of a lame-duck Mayor whose numbers are horrible. Sure, sure, his Term is only about a quarter finished and we should expect a number of announcements in his last year in order for him to go out of his job with a bang and to create a legacy. However, it may well be that his unpopularity will become so intense that nothing will save him. Just take a look at some of the comments on the Windsor Star forums on almost any subject to see the animosity. If nothing will save him, then the Councillors who support him may have a tough time being re-elected.

The two examples that come to mind of politicians that really could never overcome the feelings about them are Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. You either loved them or hated them. There was no inbetween. In my view, it will be the same thing about Eddie. Right now, haters amongst my readers outnumber dramatically the lovers!

Frankly, it is not a surprise that most of my respondents believe that the Mayor is doing a very poor job. The results can be dismissed easily if one wants to do so by saying that if you are a reader of my BLOG then naturally you are against the Mayor.

That is the answer to give if you want to try and justify a negative result and I'm sure that is going to be part of the spin. What I have found however is that many of my readers do not necessarily agree with everything that I write but come here to find out what is really going on behind the scenes and to get an alternative point of view.

I find the percentage surprisingly high given the fact that the Mayor was re-elected with about 78% of the votes cast only over a year ago. 80% of respondents effectively believe now that the Mayor is doing a horrible job. That is in unbelievable and shocking result in my opinion. Even the 78% number is relatively low considering that the Mayor was really running against a "Chicken Suit" with no real competition whatsoever. The results also seem to be consistent with the CKLW polls which were really a contest between the Bridge Company and the Mayor with the Mayor losing badly again.

The Mayor received many of his "Excellent" votes right after the Council meeting so he may have received a bump from the Cable TV broadcast.

For those who want to become mayor, it is no longer necessary to worry about Eddie from these results or frankly from the Windsor Star. Even with all of the support on the Editorial and Henderson side, Eddie's results are dismal.

For those Councillors who are nervous about linking up with Councillor Halberstadt, stop worrying. By far and away, my readers felt that he was doing the best job amongst all of the Councillors. Even with all of the recent attacks on him.

I'm surprised, given his experience and his name recognition, that Councillor Marra's numbers were not higher. However, my expectation is that the first year of his comeback was designed to be low-key so that he would not offend people who merely think that he was campaigning for the next mayoral election. His first year was designed to be a team player year rather than getting a lot of publicity for itself. Given the popularity of Councillor Halberstadt, the unpopularity of the Mayor and the fact that I believe that Dave Cooke is being promoted as Windsor's next Mayor, Bill had better start developing a reputation for getting things done before it is too late. People expect things of him and the results show he is not delivering so far.

The big shock of this whole survey to me was how low Councillor Gignac's numbers were. She was one that Gord Henderson always seem to like. There is no doubt that she is bright but my big complaint about her, and it still is the same, is that I really have no idea what she stands for. Sure she asks good questions but clearly that is not enough for the respondents of this poll. If she has ambitions for the Mayor's job or perhaps at a Senior Level, then she needs to do a lot of work

For a rookie, Councillor Dilkens did fairly well but then again he is in the newspaper quite a bit so he will have name recognition. Plus he positions himself very nicely on some of the issues that he has supported. He is almost in a no lose a position on most of them. The other rookie, Councillor Hatfield had much better numbers than I would have guessed . Again, to be direct, I expected a lot more from him given his experience on CBC news on the City Hall beat for so many years. I wonder if it is still the glow from his previous career that has not worn off yet. Or perhaps he is a much better Ward Councillor than he is on Cogeco so that he makes his constituents happy.

For Councillor Brister, my suggestion is that he keep his "Brister for Councillor" signs since his Mayoral credibility after this poll is minimal.

No big surprise with Councillor Lewenza being at the top of the list of the Councillor doing the worst job. In my opinion. the surprise is that his numbers are not worse.

I think he was helped by the very poor showing of the Ward 2 Councillors, Jones and Postma. Jones especially surprised me because in the previous poll that I did his numbers were quite good. It is very clear to me that the Ward 2 Councillors are being viewed as stumbling blocks for development of both their Ward and of the Enhancement Bridge project given their support of the Interim Control Bylaw.

Councillors Dilkens and Marra received very few negative votes. Given his high visibility and the attacks on him from his colleagues and the media, Councillor Halberstadt had very few negative votes as well. I found it interesting that the Three Blind Mice did extremely well comparatively speaking.

The numbers for Councillor Valentinis should be disappointing to him. I would have expected them to be higher given his longevity on Council and his experience. I suspect that his attack on his Wardmate and his strong support for the Mayor have hurt him.

What a big surprise that the border is the main issue in Windsor. Still. Will this issue ever go away? If you look at the various economic matters and add up all their numbers together, then clearly respondents are very concerned about the economic future of this City.

My guess is that it was a tough choice to decide which is the most important issue. I would think that those who voted for the Border believe that if it is solved, a lot of the other issues would go away. Especially from an economic perspective with thousands of new jobs created.

I'm very surprised at the number of people who voted for open and transparent government being the #1 issue. I assume therefore that there are more than two or three out of 200,000 people who have a concern about all of the in camera goings-on with this Mayor and Council.

The lack of votes for the arena did not make a lot of sense to me considering that the City will be unable to undertake certain activities for years because there is no money due to the arena construction. However, the results are what the results are. Just wait to see what the reaction will be if there is a cost over-run.

The good part about the respondents this time compared with other polls that I have done is that there is a fairly even distribution across the entire City. What has happened before is that the number of respondents were predominately from one or two Wards. We even got a sprinkling from those who live outside of Windsor, some of whom probably are from the County.

So there you have it. Not really an awful lot new. But it is nice to know that my personal hunches about what is going on in the City have been confirmed.

I believe that this poll can be a wake-up call for a number of the Councillors who are very upset at what is going on from what I've heard but who are still concerned about taking action for fear of what the results might be to them personally .

As for the Mayor and his Eminence Greasie, the results will be "dismissed" out of hand. After all, it comes from a Blogger and you know what those types are like don't you. If that is the Mayor's reaction, I feel very sorry for him. He should be learning that what he's done for the last few years as Mayor has not worked and the voters know it. Even though he is not going to run again for Mayor, or so it seems now, he needs to produce results if he hopes to have another career.

Windsorites want results not speeches. The Mayor cannot point to anyone else except himself for the failures that have been achieved to date since on most of the key issues he is the lead and on the border, the Voice of Council. It is very clear that Windsorites believe that he and those that follow him on Council are not deserving of their support at this time.

More Musings

A few items for you to consider.


A whole bunch of new BLOGs are starting in Windsor these days. I already told you about Kdduck Talk at This BLOG is a very political one and probably one that the Mayor and Council will pretend to ignore as they read it everyday.

Then another one started up to spread good news called interestingly enough "Good News Windsor at The creator said
  • "For the citizens of Windsor, Ontario, Canada who are inundated with cynicism and negativity surrounding their future.

    This is your pep rally Windsor. Cheer on!"

I wonder if I should take credit for some of these people starting up BLOGs about Windsor. After all I was one of the first to start up a political BLOG and now some are doing BLOGs with W's strapped to them in reaction.

Did I help create them. Am I now the BLOGfather instead of just the BLOGmeister!


Did you read the story in the Star:

  • "Animal shelter raided by city

    City bylaw inspectors assisted by Windsor police executed a search warrant at Windsor Animal Rescue Thursday to obtain blood and stool samples from all its dogs, to test for contagious viruses...

    Two police officers, two city staffers and two veterinarians arrived at the self-described no-kill animal shelter...

    "There's nothing wrong with the dogs," said an angry shelter owner Donald Lafrance...

    City staff at the scene declined comment.

    City licencing commissioner Diane Sibley confirmed the city was behind the search warrant.

    "We received a series of complaints and this is part of the investigation of those complaints," said Sibley.

    The search warrant states "there are dogs infected with parvo and/or other infectious diseases being kept at the premise noted below."

I thought that his name sounded familiar and I checked the City's Minutes. I wonder if this is the same person:

  • "Donald Lafrance, Ward 4 resident

    Donald Lafrance, Ward 4 resident, appears before Council to speak to the importance of the Ambassador Bridge to the city of Windsor, and requests that the City of Windsor attempt to build stronger relations with the Bridge officials."

I happened to notice on the City's website a banner in relation to Greenlink. Perhaps it was there before but I just noticed it on Friday.

I can hardly wait to see the advertisements and listen to the radio and TV spots and get the mailings.

Rumour has it from one insider Liberal, although denied by another, that the Province will counter any advertising by the City.

I'm not sure I believe that the Province would waste money to support the DRIC road because it has not yet been approved. More importantly, if I were our two Liberal Cabinet Ministers, I would just point out how much money the City is wasting at a time when every penny counts and how many jobs are being lost by Eddie's stalling. Anyway, reading the BLOGs and Forums, Eddie's support for anything is dissipating quickly.


It's a tossup about that Ipsos Reid poll. I have heard that it is financed by the Liberals and I've heard that it is run by the City and/or Mayor's office. Who knows what the truth is.

I believe that a Councillor should ask at Council publicly whether the poll is being run on behalf of the City or the Mayor and if so demand to see the results and to know the costs. The question though that is asked has to be carefully framed. My bet would be that if the poll is being done for Windsor, it is probably being done under the auspices of some big consulting firm probably retained by a lawyer to maintain solicitor-client privilege.

If it is done by the Liberals, would it be done by the Party itself, by a local riding association or by the Government? If it is done by the Government, is it obliged to reveal the results of the poll since it is being funded by taxpayers? I thought that was a requirement if the poll was run by the Federal Government.

I doubt if we'll ever know directly and I doubt if a Councillor will ask the question. Maybe it is the time for another Municipal Freedom of Information Application to be brought if the information is not brought forward in an open and transparent way.


As expected Maryvale had no problems getting an exemption from the Interim Control Bylaw, as it should. I am sure that the Councillors will be very merry after the Council meeting to show how they looked at this matter on a case-by-case basis.

Of course, there is nothing new. Councillors could have been just as merry before the extension of the Bylaw but they were petrified that would give the Ambassador Bridge Company an argument so they could tear down their homes on Indian Road. Now that the second year of the Bylaw has started, Councillors feel more comfortable granting exemptions since any Appeal would probably take about a year to get heard.

I'm afraid however that since Administration did not come up with the criteria for exemption as set out in Councillor Marra's amendment last week at Council, the Maryvale matter should have been deferred again until such time as the criteria were determined. Otherwise isn't this blatant favouritism that the Ambassador Bridge Company can use against the City.

Thank goodness that the Windsor Star Editorial gave permission to Councillors to grant the exemption. They can rest easy knowing now that the Star will not slam them. I thought about going through the Star Editorial to fisk it but I didn't feel like wasting my time. I just wanted to point out one section however:
  • "Clearly, the city's mission is the right one. Whether you're living in Olde Sandwich Towne or Riverside -- South Windsor or South Walkerville -- it's the responsibility of our elected leaders to attempt to keep our neighbourhoods thriving and prosperous."

I agree with that but not in the way that the Star is suggesting. It would seem to me that the Star would be doing its readers and Windsorites a favour by demanding that the Mayor and Council start talking to the Senior Levels and to the Ambassador Bridge Company before this City is devastated and it no longer has any advertisements to run in its newspaper because no one here will have any money to buy anything.

Oh well, that's a pipe dream. The Star Editorial Board seems to be so anti-Ambassador Bridge that they could never do so. It's a shame but the Star as we know is a on a mission to have a public bridge regardless of the consequences. After all:

  • "We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change."

I will just say that the last sentence of the Editorial is hilarious. It states in relation to Maryvale:

  • "it began its expansion plans in good faith and with community support, long before the bylaw went into effect."

We found out at Council that Maryvale acted in fact after the bylaw came into force but who cares right when you have exempting to do.

I guess the Star Editors forgot that the Bridge Company has spent about a half billion dollars and started its project about a decade ago. Looking at the cranes on the other side of the river, it was not kept as a big secret now was it!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dead Men Don't Check Out Library Books

Go figure. Try and explain this if you can.

Compare this:
  • "A proposal to cut funding to arts groups, such as the symphony, the art gallery and Artcite, by 10 per cent was pulled off the table Tuesday, during a marathon budget session that went long into the night...

    Council averted controversy on arts funding by deciding to maintain funding at 2007 levels."

With this:

  • "City council has reduced the library’s 2008 $8.7-million budget by $400,000 — less than the $790,000 councillors originally suggested — and is insisting the cuts be made without cutting branches or hours, creating a sticky situation for library board members.

I would have thought that Council should be applauding the efforts of the Library system. In fact, I would have thought that Council probably should have asked the Library to send some of their people to Fleet Operations to help them out. After all, there was never a controversy about the possibility of dead people checking out items from the Library.

I'm sure that you remember that when the audit that was undertaken of the Library system came out, it was quite glowing about how well that group ran their operation. Compare that with the mess that Fleet is in. It seems to me that Council should be spending more time worrying about Fleet then about the Library but what the heck do I know.

I have never understood what the issue is between the Library and Council. Other independent bodies seem to co-exist with Council without the animosity that seems to be in place between the two groups. As an example, the Windsor Police has a much bigger budget than the Library but I don't see the big fights between that group and the Mayor and Councillorss. Mind you, police officers carry guns. Hmmm perhaps librarians, like Customs Officers, should demand the right to bear arms as well.

Clearly, Councillor Lewenza is on a mission. It really has nothing to do with the Library. Here is a bit of background that might put some of this into context for you. The word is that Councillor Lewenza wants the Federal NDP nomination once Joe Comartin chooses to retire. The Conservatives I heard were trying to encourage Councillor Halberstadt to run for them. If Junior can knock off his opposition in advance or try to discredit him, then it makes it easier for him to be elected doesn't it.

I would think that Councillor Lewenza should keep his mouth shut with respect to the Library from now on since his colleagues have repudiated him. He was not successful in having Councillor Halberstadt removed from the Board. Given the dislike of Halberstadt by many of his colleagues, Junior's failure has to be a real slap in the face to him. That just goes along with him being shut down by the Mayor at Council meetings quite often when he goes on one of his tangents.

Of course we don't know the reason why Junior lost since it was decided in camera but clearly his colleagues must not think much of what he wanted to do. It would have created another scandal in the City respecting in camera actions just before the Mayor's Speech to the City. I know that most of the Councillors don't like Halberstadt too much these days but they obviously like Junior even less. If Councillor Halberstadt wants to have some fun, he might ask for Junior to be dismissed as Chair of WUC if that organization dares asked the public for any more money.

I was told by a couple of people that the view on Council seems to be that no one will ever second a Motion that Halberstadt brings and that very few are prepared to vote along with him on a controversial issue. They don't want to be associated with him it seems. I find all of this humourous because all it does is build up the prestige of the Councillor from Ward 4 as the "People's Choice."

Of course the discussion at Council last night about the Integrity Commissioner was nothing more than a warning to Halberstadt that once this official is in place he will be attacked. Why would he be attacked... because he dares speak out and does not do what he's told like most of his colleagues. Then of course the big criticism is that Alan writes a BLOG. You know, that's something whereby the Councillor can communicate with his constituents and others in the City. It's strange since Lewenza is someone who claims that he believes in communications.

It's very telling... Councillor Lewenza probably made a Freudian slip when he said that he wanted Councillor Halberstadt removed as a member of the Board because he did not create a good environment in the terms of "building bridges." There obviously is more to the grudge then the Library. Councillor Halberstadt has been known to support some of the efforts of the Ambassador Bridge Company and in fact wants Council to talk to the Bridge Company to try to resolve the differences between the two organizations. That does not meet the agenda of some.

Councillor Lewenza claimed that there is a need for it leadership at the Library Board. He is such a good Chair of the Windsor Utilities Commission that the Mayor had to shut him up and did all the speaking when the WUC fiasco took place. There was no leadership shown by Lewenza in that mess. Just wait until the attempt is made to privatize it.

As a member of Council, doesn't Councillor Lewenza get a free computer and Internet access? He gets a Blackberry too doesn't he. Imagine some of his constituents who might not have the money to get access or who cannot afford a computer especially in the tough economic climate that we have right now. I know that they can go to the Library to use their computers and access. Does the Councillor know that?

Councillor Lewenza should remember as well that the City of Windsor came at the bottom of a list with respect to literacy. Where do most people go to take out books that should help them with their reading? I wonder if the Councillor knows the answer to that question.

There is no doubt that the Library situation is part of a power-play to get that organization under the control of the City. For what reason I have never understood. It's not that big a deal to be concerned about but somehow for the last several years it has been in a state of perpetual crisis.

I really thought that the idea of the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget to help solve the Library's financial position was absurd: use part of their reserves. Mind you, this came from the same Councillor who wanted the Art Gallery to sell some of their paintings that were not shown on the walls to help cut their deficit as well. He shows as much sense with respect to books as he does with respect to works of art.

How does one explain all of this mess since little of it makes sense on its surface. How about plain old power politics. It happens in all organizations and not just the Library. Maybe it is as simple as the desire of getting rid of one manager and putting in another, one more friendly possibly. Maybe it is forcing the Library into a position of deficit or bankruptcy so that the City can take it over under the Libraries Act. The Act provides that if a Library is not maintained and operated properly "its assets and liabilities are vested in and assumed by the municipality ."

Whatever it is, it is time for this nonsense to stop. It is destroying the Library, the group that seems to be one of the best run in this City and one that is essential. There are more important issues to focus on.

Is Steve Salmons ever lucky that he left and got a good job with the Province on the border file!

Destroying Windsor's Credibility

On behalf of all the Bloggers in Windsor, I want an apology from the Mayor, Council, and the media. We are not the ones who are causing problems for the image of the City. Guess who is a significant contributor by getting the City tied up in the Mayor's scandal in Detroit.

I'm sure that you either saw or heard about the story in the Detroit News yesterday about the problems that we're having in the City. It certainly is not a positive story about the City but frankly it tells about the issues that we have to cope with here without sugarcoating things. It's hardly a surprise. For those who have not read it, I will attach it below.

But that's not the big news. The big news is the vote that Detroit Council is taking with respect to asking Kwame Kilpatrick to resign as Detroit Mayor. And here is what part of the reason for this:
  • "Council votes on mayor today
    Christine MacDonald / The Detroit News

    The resolution was beefed up significantly Monday, when council members added additional justification to the list of reasons they believe Kilpatrick should resign...

    Also in the resolution, the council criticized Kilpatrick for losing the National Conference of Black Mayors conference that was to meet in Detroit next month, and for failing to give council up-to-date information on a plan to lease the city's share in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to Windsor.

    The lack of details concerns Sheila Cockrel because the mayor already is counting on close to $58 million from the tunnel deal to help balance the city's budget."

From WDIV:

  • "Cockrell sighted three recent developments on why the mayor should resign: ... and by not updating the Council about the sale of the Detroit/ Windsor Tunnel, which is a crucial part of balancing the current budget."

If Kwame survives, what do you think that his relationship with our Mayor will be in the future. At Super Bowl, Windsor was nothing more than a source to help plow the streets if there was a snowfall. Imagine now what we will be, even if there is a new Mayor, if the deal does not go through for US $75 million and very soon! Watch the failure being pinned on Eddie for not being able to raise the funds necessary to do the deal so that Detroit is suffering financial problems.

Or was that always part of someone's plan to screw Detroit to take over the Tunnel cheaply? Now perhaps this explains why the Bridge Co. could never finalize their deal with Detroit to become the Tunnel operator.

Here's the Detroit News story about our woes:

  • Monday, March 3, 2008
    Woe is Windsor
    Border crossing hassles, factory job losses and weak dollar batter economy
    Steve Pardo / The Detroit News

    WINDSOR -- Michael Plunkett hasn't seen an economy this bad in the 30 years he's been serving upscale tavern fare to customers in downtown Windsor.

    "This is the most challenging time I've ever seen," said Plunkett, 55, owner of Plunkett's Bar and Grill. "There are ups and downs in every market; as businesspeople we know that. But in my professional experience, I've never seen anything this bad that has gone on for this length of time."

    Windsor, a manufacturing town and tourist attraction, is going through what economists and business owners call a perfect storm.

    The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, started it, delivering a staggering blow to the economy because of fewer border crossings. Events following over the years -- American homeland security issues; manufacturing job losses, passport confusion, international health scares such as SARS and mad cow; the weakest U.S. dollar in more than three decades -- all have piled on to further shake Windsor's economy.

    Experts are worried the sketchy Windsor financial system could continue to hurt the entire region. Windsor, like southeast Michigan, is vested heavily in the slumping automotive and automotive parts industries.

    While Canada had a 33-year jobless low of 5.8 percent in January, Windsor's unemployment was 8.7 percent -- the highest in Canada. Michigan's unemployment in December was 7.6 percent -- the highest in the United States. The Detroit/Livonia/Warren area was even higher that month at 8.0 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

    Ironically, the very things boosting the Canadian dollar are crippling Windsor. Canada has a comparative wealth of natural resources and as a nation is enjoying record prices on crude oil, gold, minerals and a strong demand for coal, chemicals and grain.

    But Windsor is a border town with a reliance on exported goods and U.S. visitors instead of natural resources. A powerful Canadian dollar drives up prices and makes everything from automotive parts to hamburgers more expensive for Americans.

    "It's unfortunate what's good for Canada right now is actually the worst thing in the world for Windsor," said Mark Meldrum, a business professor at the University of Windsor. "All the variables are there for a perfect storm. We are in the middle of an economic winter and I don't see the end in sight. The losses from the manufacturing base, that's hurt number one. Hurt number two is Windsor has relied on a cheap Canadian dollar."

    U.S. dollar loses value
    That cheap Canadian dollar doesn't exist right now. Six years ago, Americans were cashing in to the tune of about $1.60 Canadian for every greenback they exchanged. Now, the American dollar is about equal to the Canadian dollar -- or weaker.

    Inserting an American $20 bill at an automated currency exchange machine at Casino Windsor last week netted three five-dollar bills, four loonies and four nickels -- $19.20 Canadian. With future rate cuts projected by the federal government, odds are the U.S. dollar will decline even further.

    Goods and services are now seen as a bargain for Canadians visting southeast Michigan, and that's the silver lining, said Charles Ballard, Michigan State University economics professor.

    "As the dollar falls, it's tough for Americans who want to take a vacation abroad but it is bringing in some visitors to the U.S. because the dollar is so weak." Ballard said. "If Canadians are crossing the border to shop it's good for the retailer in Detroit. That is the one upside of the fact that we've been on this consumption-spending binge for the entire life of most Americans."

    Casino hurt, too
    Casino Windsor used to try to reel in Americans by advertising the exchange rate, where gamblers could get more playing time on the slots or rolls of the dice with their American dollars. That's no longer the case.

    "Back in 2002 you got six quarters for a buck and that's no longer an option," said Holly Ward, Casino Windsor spokeswoman. "Once you lose your competitive advantage, you've got to option another one."

    The casino is in the midst of a $400 million improvement. It has revamped its gaming hall. A 400-room hotel tower is under construction. The company is also adding restaurants, a 5,000-seat entertainment center and 100,000 square feet of convention space in efforts to improve business.

    The revisions are expected to be completed by June. "We're not immune to issues beyond our control but when they're happening you need to provide new reasons for visiting," Ward said.

    Three months ago Casino Windsor laid off 226 employees after posting $320 million in revenue for fiscal year 2006-07, down $120 million from the previous year.

    Farmington Hills retiree Charles Hill is a big fan of the updated Windsor casino.

    "This place puts the Detroit casinos to shame," said Hill, 67. "I like it better here. The staff is always nice and I love that there's no smoking."

    Visits from U.S. decline
    Windsor instituted a smoking ban May 31, 2006. The law bars smoking in all public facilities. Hill's comments aside, the ban on smoking is not seen as a positive in the gaming industry.

    "We're told by our friends at the casino (that) the high-end gamer is a smoker," said Sandra Brandt, Windsor director of tourism.

    Americans have been visiting Windsor less frequently for years. In 1999, Windsor saw nearly 7.5 million American visitors who pumped $687 million into the local economy, according to Canadian tourism statistics. By 2004 -- the latest figures available -- that number had shrunk to 3.76 million visitors who spent $335 million.

    The economy, the exchange rate, those are all factors, said Paul Twigg, owner of Lazare's Fine Coats & Jackets, an 82-year-old downtown Windsor business. But they're not the main factor.

    "The number one issue that has to be resolved is the border crossing," said Twigg, who has seen a double-digit decline in American customers since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. "You have to make it easy for people to come and go like we used to. We need to consider ourselves a neighborhood and not two foreign countries."

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No WUC Rate Increase

It is amazing what a few concerned citizens with determination can accomplish by asking the right questions and keeping the pressure on our politicians.

I'm probably looking a gift horse in the mouth and am going to jinx everything but I'm very confused about what is going on at the Windsor Utilities Commission. Or in this case, what is not going on.

I'm not sure if you should be thanking WeACT or not for this. On Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG, George M. Sandala, Chair, Audit & Finance Committee, Windsor Utilities Commission stated:
  • "The Audit & Finance Committee has been conducting open public meetings for the entire budgeting process and the focus/direction throughout has been very clear to all in attendance. At the February 14th open public meeting, the 2008 budget was finalized for recommendation to the Commission. It is a balanced budget with no rate increase recommended. This budget will be presented at the Commission’s April 10th open public meeting. Nothing was nor will be deliberated in camera.

    As Commissioners we take our fiduciary obligations seriously and in discharging one of our responsibilities relative to “Duty of Care”, we have exercised great care, diligence and appropriate skill, acting with the view of the best interests for all stakeholders. We have strived to present a balanced budget in order to lessen rather than heighten the anxiety level of our ratepayers. Your comments appear to create a heightened anxiety level for our ratepayers by suggesting “. . . another rate increase is coming right up . . . “ I suggest your readers be enlightened on the facts from our open public meetings and I look forward to the clarification within your blog."

Seriously, does this make any sense to you at all!

On the one hand, we should be grateful that the rates are not going to be going up in 2008. On the other hand one can legitimately ask if this is nothing more than a political game to keep the rates low for fear of having a huge taxpayer backlash. I would suspect that the Mayor and other WUC Councillors were afraid that they might be run out of town if rates went up dramatically again.

But let's assume that what we are told last year was correct, that we have this huge need for money to pay for watermain replacement. If that is the case then why aren't the rates being increased as they probably should be. Is this political gamesmanship again, the same kind of silliness that the Mayor talked about that necessitated that huge increase previously. Remember he talked about politics that caused the problems of low rates but is politics going to cause new problems again down the road. Will we still have to pay the piper in the future, say about three years from now when Eddie is no longer the Mayor.

Remember how this was played out in the past with the blame game:

  • "Defending an 86 per cent water rate increase, Francis has laid the blame on former commissioners, accusing them of playing politics by keeping a lid on rates even as the city's watermains deteriorated.

    Now, Francis says, WUC is forced to pick up the slack.

    But WUC records from 1999 to 2007 show that commissioners did increase rates and that it was only after the utility came under the control of the city that a 31/2-year freeze on rates was imposed.

    In May 2005, Francis told The Star he believed water rates were too high...

    WUC records show water rate increases ceased when city council took control of the utility in February 2004. WUC administrators pleaded with commissioners to raise water rates in 2005, but WUC commissioners -- including Francis -- refused.

    While councillors had been on the WUC board for a year by then, they argued they were still trying to understand WUC operations. It turned into a three-year learning curve -- commissioners didn't raise rates in 2006 either.

    Coun. Alan Halberstadt says he believes the 86 per cent rate hike was delayed for political reasons.

    "Here's the bottom line: I believe they delayed this increase until after the 2006 election," he said. "This is the first year of a four-year term."

I don't know about you but I'm pretty nervous about what is going on because I do not understand it. I went through my database and here's what I found:

  • Windsor Star 07-26-2007

    "The reasons cited for the Windsor increases are the crumbling pipes, years of maintenance neglect and the rehabilitation of the Lou Romano Wastewater Treatment plant. The backlog in infrastructure improvements plagues most North American cities, officials said.

    Few municipalities have tackled the problem yet. Lewenza said Windsor is at the forefront of municipalities addressing infrastructure deficit.

    The rate increases won't end in August. Water rates will rise again by $6 per month at some point in the future, Lewenza said."

  • Windsor Star 07-28-2007

    Water bills contain three components: a fixed water meter charge, a charge for water consumption and a water main replacement levy, which is 13 per cent of the water charges. The water main and meter charges are increasing, but the rate charged for water consumption is staying the same. So reducing consumption will have little impact on the water bill, but it can help residents save money on the sewer bill, which is calculated as a percentage of the total water bill. The sewer rates are also increasing 47 per cent Aug. 1.

    "There are no shortcuts when it comes to water," Zalev said.

    The pending water rate increases are a stopgap measure to begin water main replacement work. The water utility plans to raise rates again by $6 per month in the future and managers want to revise the water rate structure so that residents have an incentive to cut back on water use, Zalev said."

  • Windsor Star 08-16-2007

    An 86 per cent water rate hike will provide only three-quarters of what the Windsor Utilities Commission needs for its watermain replacement projects and more increases will be needed, according to a consultant's report released Wednesday.

    The report says WUC will have to raise rates again in a year or two to fully fund projects. The rate increase could be as much as $100 per year.

    "This is an interim report without a last chapter," said Gary Scandlan, associate director of Watson & Associates, which looked at the city's water infrastructure and developed a way to pay for replacing it.

    "A $6 per month (additional increase) was an early number and is subject to change."

    Board members have two choices regarding the next rate increase, Scandlan said.

    The utility can issue debentures to keep water rates low initially, but rates would have to rise significantly in about 10 years to begin paying off the debt.

    Or the utility can dramatically raise rates again soon and take out fewer debentures."

  • Windsor Star 12-18-2007

    WUC work falls short despite rate increase

    Despite last summer's increase, which angered ratepayers, Zalev said an additional rate hike "is something the community will have to deal with if we get to the (consultant) level...

    WUC administrators are proposing a $48-million budget. To pay for all its expenses, controller Mark Friel gave commissioners a few options, including raising water rates, increasing the fixed meter charge, reducing capital spending or using the line of credit.

    Despite increased water revenue from the 87-per-cent rate hike, the water portion of the budget is projected to be $2 million short because of rising costs. Water production expenses increased four per cent because of rising chemical costs, wage increases and needed plant maintenance.

    The "managed services" fees WUC pays Enwin also shot up by almost $1 million, or 10 per cent. Enwin, the city-owned electricity utility that shares meter reading and billing services with WUC, charges the water utility $8.3 million for its share of the expenses. That cost is rising to $9.3 million, according to proposed budget documents. The fee skyrocketed because of increased wages and benefit costs."

I am even more confused now than I was before when this WUC fiasco first started. I don't know about you but if only we had a proper forensic audit or a value for money audit undertaken rather than the whitewash audit a lot of my confusion might have been cleared up. Instead, once this hits the traditional media, and WeACT gets involved, the farce will start all over again.

Don't these WUC people ever learn!

All I can see now is a need for money and yet no increases. I'm not against keeping rates steady or lowering them if required but if we are told that they have to be increased then why have they been frozen?

It is time for Councillor Marra to step up to the plate and demand a proper audit so we can get to the bottom of things.

In case you still haven't contributed, because I think there may well be a need for legal counsel to be a hired even now, you may contribute money to the WeACT Legal Fund by donating in one of the ways set out at