Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 25, 2008

Digging For A Tunnel Answer

I may as well be uncharacteristically blunt. The Tunnel deal stinks. Or maybe it does not. Who knows.

I have no idea what Detroit Council knows about the transaction but from the comments made from the other side of the river I don't think they know much.

I have no idea what the Windsor Council knows about the transaction nor the members of the Windsor Tunnel Commission.

What I do know is that the taxpayers of Windsor and Detroit have very little idea about what this transaction is. After all, it is only an asset worth several hundred million dollars if we are to believe our Mayor and an important international border crossing point that is vital to the economy of our region.

One would have thought that, if the transaction made some sense and that our politicians would become heroes over it, they would want us to know what is going on to show us how smart they were. We would be fully made aware of everything. Instead it is wrapped in secrecy and confidentiality. That makes me nervous given Eddie's deal-making ability as we have seen before! I can hardly wait to see the Spits contract.

I won't speak about the other side of the river because I don't know what is going on there but their Council seems upset. I do have a better idea what is going on on this side of the river. And I am upset as you, dear reader, should be as well.

What I do know is that this transaction was supposed to have been completed about a year ago but for whatever reason it was not. I have no real idea what the transaction was a year ago and why it could not be concluded. I assume that it has to do with financing but I would suspect that there is a lot more to it than that.

I don't know why our Mayor has to hide things from taxpayers. As you know, I have filed a complaint with respect to the March 27 Joint Windsor Council/Windsor Tunnel Commission meeting. If you look back at the BLOG I wrote, there is no doubt in my mind that the Mayor did not want people speaking at the public session with respect to the rollover. It is never mentioned in the press at all before the event and was not mentioned the day after either.

The only conclusion I can reach is that the whole process was designed to hide the transaction from the public. Why, what's to hide if the deal is a good one?

You want to see something curious? Take a look at the Council Minutes page on the City website. Try and find the Minutes for the March 27 meeting. You cannot. They are not posted. Why not, what are they hiding? They posted the Minutes for March 25 and for March 31 but they did not post the Minutes for March 27. Well, that is not quite true NOW. They were posted AFTER I asked for them.

I asked for and received a copy of the March 27 Minutes. Want to see something strange again:

Don't you find it interesting that the only two people who did not attend the meeting were non-Councillors. In other words the only truly independent members of the Windsor Tunnel Commission were not there. I know that one of them was out of town and I believe that the other one was as well.

Oh I am sure that the excuse will be given that is so hard to coordinate so many schedules that a date had to be set no matter what. If they were out of town on that date, tough luck. Yet, our Council at a Council meeting can defer matters because Councillor Jones was unable to attend at a Council meeting because of a personal emergency. I am rather surprised that the Council and Commission could not so arrange their approvals such that the outside members could be present and ask questions.

Now this is a very complicated transaction, or it could be depending on how it is structured, involving cities on both sides of the river, incorporating new companies, dealing with laws that cover both sides, sophisticated financial transactions. How much time did the meeting take: Around an hour and a half. Council spent more time on feral cats!

Oh I forgot, Councillor Gignac does not need to look at agreements in order to approve million-dollar legal and consulting bills. Councillors do not need to read agreements or are willing to do major deals without agreements as with the Arena. Did Councillors read and understand Canderel, Mady Garage, MFP? Haven't we learned anything in this City.

I have asked the Councillor to provide me with information to give me the same kind of comfort that she has but I have not yet even received the courtesy of an answer from her. I have asked the City Clerk to provide certain information and again no documentation received.

Is the reason for the denial because I know how to read these documents and can understand the transactions. Is someone afraid that I might blow the whistle on a dumb deal? That is my conclusion; you may have your own.

I do not trust this Mayor and Council to do the right thing for Windsor on this deal. It is simple as that. The secrecy makes me extremely nervous.

While I'm thrilled that the City of Detroit may do very well on this transaction and have their Budget hole plugged, what bothers me is that Windsor may well be taking unacceptable risks that we just don't know about. If that happens then who will plug Windsor's Budget hole?

More On The 400 Building Audit

It may be spring but there is a real chill in the air at City Hall these days with a number of Councillors wearing heavy sweaters, especially when audits are discussed.

Here is the note sent out by the Chair of the Audit Committee to explain what is going on. Note the key comment that I have put in bold and you will now understand former auditor Mike Dunbar's comment in the Star much better:

  • "Members of City Council

    At its last meeting the Audit Committee requested Administration provide their final comments to the Lead Internal Auditor with respect to the 400 Building Audit Report as part of the usual audit protocols.

    Administration provided information last week to the Lead Internal Auditor and she immediately met with Administration. The new information provided is material and significant in nature. The City Auditors Office now needs to review and analyze this information before proceeding with the release of a final report. The Report tabled at the December 2007 Audit Committee in-camera meeting is likely to change in content considerably after the City Auditors Office completes it work plan.

    As a result of this finding the Audit Committee made a decision at its meeting today to defer issuing the 400 Report at this time due to the new information received from Administration by the City Auditors Office last week. There is a significant amount of audit work required to ensure the 400 Building Audit Report can be finalized. In order for the Report to be issued the City Auditors Office needs to follow normal/usual auditing protocol to ensure what is presented in the Report can be supported by fact.

    The Committee has not received or reviewed the new information and will not receive it until it is in Report form. This practice is usual auditing protocol.

    The City Auditors Office will prepare a report for the May meeting outlining the work plan and expected delivery dates.

    Maxwell Zalev

    Audit Committee"

Interestingly, Zalev failed to mention in his note that the CAO had the initial report in his hands in December, 2006 and the Audit Committee had it in their hands in April 2007 AND NOTHING HAPPENED FOR A YEAR! I do not understand his reluctance to comment on this fact or to explain the delay. This to me is a very serious concern.

Dunbar's comment was:

  • "The complete report tells the whole story -- including questions we could not get answers to -- and the public deserves to see that."
I am surprised that no one asked the question why answers were not provided in a timely fashion nor why the Chair did not provide the reason. The CAO gave the "staff changes" defence to help explain the delay but why didn't he say this before. That was part of the defence used in Fleet Operations audit too in case you forgot:
  • "With respect to the statement that "the tone at the top" is not strong, I certainly concur, in that since the corporate restructuring in 2003, there have been 3 Chief Administrative Officers, 5 General Managers of Public Works, 2 Executive Directors, 3 Fleet Managers, and vacancies at the supervisory level. It is only since August 2007, that the Division has finally had a full management complement."
Previously though Councillor Marra had 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."
I would ask a Councillor on the Audit Committee as an elected representative of the people to answer some questions but they have been told not to speak. Anyway, I probably could not understand them with their teeth chattering from the chill.

Obviously now, we will never see the questions not answered and we will never know if Administration acted properly or not since as Mr. Zalev said:
  • "The Report tabled at the December 2007 Audit Committee in-camera meeting is likely to change in content considerably after the City Auditors Office completes it work plan."
The earlier report with the dirty linen in it that Mr. Dunbar wants us to see will never see the light of day. It will be superseded by the new one UNLESS Ms. Berry points out specifically where the problems were. I wonder if she would do that.

What the key issue is becoming is not what is in the report but what I see as the attitude of an Administration that believes that it is not subject to review unless they so allow it. Rememeber some of the observations I made with Fleet Operations:
  1. "The counter-offensive is interesting however:

    "Mike Palanacki, executive director of operations, maintained Wednesday there remains no evidence of fraud involving the city's fuel pumps.

    He said the department had more documentation that was never considered regarding the city's fuel than was indicated in the audit report.

    "I do have issues in the way the audit was done and the report," Palanacki said."

    DUH, Mike, if you had all of this information, and you had the opportunity to give it to the audit group, why didn't you do so. An incorrect report would not have been issued and we would have had no headlines. Did Mike think so little of the audit group of the City that he felt that he could ignore them? Sure he had issues about the audit, so much so that he did a whole two-page letter as I referred to above."

  2. "It is pretty clear that the City Audit department is treated as a joke, especially since it took two years for them to complete their investigation on one department covering a three-year period:

    "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."

    And even then, if what is said by Mr. Palanacki is true, they did not get complete information.

  3. I'm sure that by now you would have expected that I would of taken a shot at the Mayor and his lack of management skills. Why should I, it's obvious. He is such an easy target.

    As the only full-time Member of Council and the chief executive officer of the municipality, it is his responsibility and duty to ensure that the organization is managed properly.

Go back a bit in time now when the 400 audit issue first burst out. There was a very strong email written by the CAO that was leaked to the media:

  • "Alan Halberstadt joined his council counterpart Bill Marra Thursday to say he was unhappy with an internal e-mail issued by CAO John Skorobohacz...

    He said administration was being unfairly blamed by the councillors."

In that email as well, the CAO tossed in a comment about the RFP for the Integrity Commissioner as "a separate but related matter." I did not understand at the time why it was put in since it seemed so out of place. I must admit though it seemed pretty scary to me.

I thought about that email again today. I suspect that with a City Code of Conduct in place and an Integrity Commissioner around, a Councillor would have to be pretty brave to dare open his/her mouth against a staff member since it might violate the Code and could lead to significant penalties.

The Facilities group at City Hall better check if the heating and air conditioning systems are working properly at City Hall. I would hate for our elected officials to catch a bad cold.

In case anyone is wondering, Dev Tyagi was the lead person who has been gathering up Management comments for the last 1 1/2 months I was told.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

News, Fast And Furious

Here are more news items that you may find interesting


Some readers have asked what the correct answer was for the exam question that I presented the other day.

Interestingly, I am told that only one student in the entire business class got an A+ on the question. The perfect answer was to reject all of the suggested answers and to say that the entire process should be scrapped and started all over again. The conflict of interest made it impossible for the organization to demonstrate that there was no bias in the selection process.

That is called out-of-the-box thinking by that student that seems so popular in this area after the City's Strategic Planning Session of several weeks ago. Except that in our City, to think outside-of-the-box, one has to create a box first.

Irony of ironies, unfortunately for that student, while at the top of the class, no one wants to hire him/her. Apparently that person is much too ethical.


I guess some ad genius thought he/she was being cute. I guess the ad was designed so that border crossers would think that the Tunnel was so easy to use now with the Ambassador Gateway project being started that it was just like being on the "Highway to Heaven."

The only problem is that the "narrow" part defines the Tunnel's major problem, for commuters especially. It is only one lane in each direction. Thus if one is a Nexus commuter, if one is stuck behind a bunch of non-Nexus vehicles in the Tunnel, then one is stuck with nothing that can be done about it. That's a main reason why the Bridge Co. wants to add a lane in each direction so Nexus users will be able to go through the border more quickly.

Of course that means that the Tunnel will lose traffic won't it? No wonder Eddie is not too unhappy if nothing happens with the DRIC or Enhancement Project bridges for years, or at least until someone is foolish enough to finance his Tunnel deal!


I am really annoyed.

I wrote this wonderful BLOG including a copy of Dan Stamper's letter that was buried in the City's Order of Business and explained its significance both with the respect to Canadian constitutional law and how it could impact personally on the Mayor and Councillors.

Did the media pick up on it? Did anyone wonder why no one mentioned it at Council during the agenda item that dealt with Sandwich? Did anyone ask the Mayor or Councillors whether they felt at risk personally? Did anyone wonder what the impact of that issue was with respect to the homes on Indian Road?

Hrrrump. Hardly a ripple. The best that I saw was the last line of the Battagello story posted online that was written right after the Council Meeting. He wrote:

  • "But company president Dan Stamper has sent the city a letter indicating it is a federal entity and should be exempt from municipal rules."

I must admit when I saw this late at night I was quite excited. It was in the key spot in Star articles, right at the end so that most people wouldn't see it. I expected a massive exposé to come.

Imagine my disgust when I opened up the newspaper and saw that this line had been cut, eliminated, removed, taken away! What was the reason for this? Surely it could not have been for lack of space. Wasn't this huge challenge by the Bridge Company worth at least a mention?

Oh well, at least you, dear reader, know something that may in fact impact the border issue significantly in the future that most of the Star readers don't know. They will be surprised but you won't be.


Now this is a BIG aside:

  • "Lawyer Cliff Sutts, who is representing the city, said Tuesday that aside from financing, completion of the deal hinges on how quickly Detroit moves in responding to the most recent revisions to the draft agreement."

However, look how quickly time flies on this deal or does it mean that a cast of thousands have been working around the clock even now. Only a short time ago Mr. Sutts said:

  • "Sutts said the transaction should be complete within 60 days, pending certain surveys "that are holding things up at the moment."

Now he can say:

  • "I have been waiting to receive revisions they are making to a draft agreement I prepared,” he said. He described the deal as “virtually complete.”

But is this the reason for the 60 days:

  • "There has been some discussion about an application with the City of Windsor and Infrastructure Ontario,” said Steve Dyck, a spokesman for the agency. “It’s at the due diligence stage — looking at information that will be required in terms of processing the application.”

    He said the tunnel deal would qualify under the loan program, but Windsor has not yet indicated when the application will be made."

The guidelines state:

  • "The application process is estimated to take six to eight weeks from Infrastructure Ontario’s receipt of a complete application including all supporting documentation."

Poor City of Detroit....they just have wait some more to find out if Windsor and the Province will solve their Budget problems.


Here is what industry does to make the border work better:

  • "(From Perrin Beatty is president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce....A small number of companies representing a significant portion of trans-border volume have voluntarily undertaken hefty costs to be designated as low-risk shippers and receive expedited crossings."

As their reward for doing so and so that their trucks can cross the border more quickly, here is how the Government proposes to thank them and incentivize others:

  • "Ownership would be with the government of Canada, but you need to know how much traffic will be on the new bridge, how much tolls will be and so forth,” Butler said. The surveys given to trucking firms will gauge interest in paying an extra fee to travel in a dedicated Nexus or FAST lane that will start along the highway to the next bridge."

The Ontario Trucking Association should be thrilled with these additional costs that the Governments may be proposing. It's a nice trial balloon to see if the Association will shout and scream. If so, the proposal might be dropped since OTA is a very powerful industry group.

Obviously though, the Governments need money desperately from private investors to pay for the DRIC road...."Cheap" solution here we come. Thanks Eddie for the stalling! Now we can get the worst of all worlds and the Senior Levels will point the finger of blame right at you!


What was the purpose of the Joint Council/Library meeting:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and some councillors objected to being blamed for cutting funds leading to the closure."


  • "Hemingway: I am getting to know the rich.

    Colum: I think you’ll find the only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.

What else can one say about the $14M vacation home in Arizona.

The National Post actually ran the story first.

Here is the Arizona story

Is Windsor Out Of Control

Tell me the truth. Do you feel as I do?

This City is out of control and there is nothing I can do about. The sad part is that there is another 2 1/2 years to go with this Mayor and Council. Thanks Dalton.

When reading the Star this morning, I did not know whether I should laugh or cry. First we have Councillor Bill Marra being told that he could not open up his mouth with respect to the Tunnel transaction and now Counselor Halberstadt:

  • "Halberstadt said he could not comment since Zalev was designated as sole spokesman on the issue."

I guess these gentlemen have a very difficult dilemma as do all of their colleagues on Council. They do have a legal responsibility under the Municipal Act and yet they are being told to keep quiet because of their position on a Board or Commission. I think that Councillors have a very serious conflicts problem that they need to talk to a lawyer about immediately.

More delays for reasons that we are not given, more in camera conversations... what are we to believe? The obvious is that there's a horrific mess that took place on the 400 building that is being covered up for some reason. The CAO seems to shrug it off when he said:

  • "Skorobohacz insisted city administration has nothing to hide.

    "People will have the perception they have," he said."

If there is nothing to hide, then why won't someone let us in on the good news. The reason for my concern is the comments attributed to the former auditor. I am very shocked that he spoke out frankly. That is not something that I would have expected. It suggests to me that there is something going on, whatever it is, that we poor taxpayers are not entitled to know about it. Why not?

It seems to me that Mr. Zalev has an obligation to tell us what is happening in much more detail or if he refuses to do so then it is the duty of the Councillors to act. They don't have the right to keep their mouths shut given their legal responsibilities.

Here's what is very interesting to me:

  • "The latest delay, after the hour-long audit committee discussion Wednesday behind closed doors, is due to "substantial" new information being handed over last week by city administrators to the city's lead internal auditor...

    The types of information (provided by administration) are significant in terms of depth and scope...

    Zalev said he didn't feel the presentation of this new information was an attempt by administration to derail or delay release of the report. But he also could not answer why the new information only came forward last week."

Isn't that very similar to what happened with the Fleet Operations and was one of the complaints of the auditors? Is Administration in effect really telling the audit function to mind their own business and to stay out of their affairs? Why couldn't Administration act in a timely fashion. The initial Audit report has been out for about a year.

Is this sentence from Mr. Dunbar what this is all about"

  • "The complete report tells the whole story -- including questions we could not get answers to -- and the public deserves to see that."

Do we in fact have an Administration that cannot be controlled by elected officials in Windsor? Is that what Dunbar is really telling us? Where's the Mayor in all of this since he was not shy in getting directly involved in the WUC matter by speaking directly with Provincial officials:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said it was inappropriate for him to comment on the latest delay, given how audits and the audit committee are supposed to be independent and left alone to conduct their work."

What he should be commenting on and for which he is directly responsible since Administration reports to him is the fact that Administration only now gave out information that is "significant in terms of depth and scope." Why wasn't this done before? Why is Administration allowed with impunity to not provide relevant information to the audit function? Does he control Administration or doesn't he?

To be direct about it I would like to see the report that was issued. I would like to know what Administration has not provided. I see no reason why the Audit Committee should be allowed to continue to hide the initial report. I would expect that the two Councillors have a copy of that report and they should be forced to release it immediately by their Councillor colleagues.

Here is what is even more troubling about all of this. The Report that was presented to Council about the project claimed:

  • "City council hired in 2006 its own independent consultant, who reported the building was constructed under budget and meets the city's objective of consolidating many government services under one roof."

I expect that this report was a justification for the City going alone on the East End Arena and being responsible for the project. If the Fleet Operations and 400 building audits give rise to concerns then who knows what is going on with respect to the Arena and whether it is being managed properly or not. I just do not know the answer.

Then we have the second audit story with the headline "Francis accused of political meddling." To be direct, I'm not sure that the story justifies that kind of a headline. The word "meddling" is a very highly charged one.

The complaint by Councillor Halberstadt is:

  • "Halberstadt said audit-related news releases should be cleared by the committee members, with no influence from the mayor's office.

    "I think he was involved in the press release. I think it was based on reports in the media and a desire to clarify what was thought to be inaccurate reports.

    "I feel before the auditor gives out a press release where the mayor's office is involved, it should come back to the audit committee -- that's the protocol I'm looking for."

Interestingly, the Mayor's response does not specifically deal with his involvement. If he was not involved, then why didn't he say so:

  • "Francis said his office had no influence over the news release. "I don't know what he is saying. The audit is independent. The lead auditor in this case reports to the audit committee and they do what they have to do. It's free of political interference."

Not influencing or interfering does not mean that he was not involved. What is the truth and who will find it out for us?

When one adds in this audit fiasco to so many things that are wrong in the City that I have no intention of outlining in this BLOG since I will just depress myself, it makes one wonder what remedy a citizen has other than being forced to pay out his/her own personal funds to start a lawsuit to get any kind of satisfaction. That is not right to ask one citizen to do that.

It really is time for the Provincial Ministry to take a look at putting in better checks and balances in the affairs of municipal governments since they are not just dealing with putting up stop signs and closing down laneways anymore. If one looks at the City of Windsor, this City with a budget of a half a billion dollars will be involved in spending billions of dollars in infrastructure alone as just one example. It is involved in significant, high-priced entrepreneurial transactions which, if they go wrong, could be disastrous for taxpayers.

I wish I knew what to do.

Investigating DRIC

One day when this is all over, with all of the investigations into the DRIC affair and the waste of $60 million of taxpayer money on both sides of the river have been completed by the proper authorities, we may find out what really has happened over the last five or six years, or perhaps even longer as I suspect, surrounding the border file.

We will find out who the players are, the real decision makers, and what their agenda actually was. It will be demonstrated that it had little to do with the Ambassador Bridge other than the Owner of the Bridge was a stumbling block who had to be eliminated for their goals to be achieved. We will discover the truth, and also the lies and the deliberate misinformation that in my opinion has categorized this file for so long.

What we will find out to our disgust is the loss of time for this region that we will never be able to recover without a great deal of difficulty and the real crime, the hardships and worry caused to so many people. And how we have become the laughing-stock of two countries.

Can you imagine how better off this region would have been, and I mean Windsor/ Essex County and Detroit, if work on the border had started years ago. We would now be near completion, we would have had the benefit of 15,000 jobs to tide us over during our economic diversification period and our region would be proclaiming that we are open for business.

The SPP Joint Statement of the Three Leaders and the NACC Report signify to me almost the end of the unhappy DRIC saga that has cost us so dearly as I Blogged. There is no doubt in my mind that certain elements of the Government of Canada, Transport Canada in particular, must have hoped that the Amigos meeting would culminate into the endorsement of their new, publicly owned, P3 bridge. Instead, Windsor was barely mentioned and lumped in with Tijuana.

Looking back over time, this is the latest of a number of events that have altered the course of this file. These events include:
  • the victory of STOPDRTP and the realization by politicians at all levels that Windsorites cannot be taken for granted (It is a shame that local politicians even now seem to have forgotten that lesson)
  • the 2 1/2 page Globe and Mail spread on the Ambassador Bridge that signified that the assumptions made by the bureaucrats that the Bridge Company Owner would be scared by the DRIC process and would sell out at almost any price was a gross miscalculation
  • Dwight Duncan stating that "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG" which to me meant that the gloves were off as the Senior Levels finally had had enough
  • the start of the Ambassador Gateway project settled any doubts about whether the Bridge Company was going to build their Enhancement Project while the sheer scope of it made ludicrous any thought that the American Governments would duplicate it less than a mile down the road.

So the future is now rosy, correct. Windsor/Detroit will be getting a new bridge, the one that was being constructed over the last decade as the Bridge Company did what it said it was going to do. We are going to get a new road to the Bridge. And everyone will live happily ever after.

Except I'm not so sure about all that.

We will get the bridge and the Americans will be all right. Sure they still have 18 months of disruption by the Ambassador Gateway project to the Interstate system but when it is done, they will have a superb road system connecting to the border. I believe that the American side has already backed off on the new DRIC bridge because it makes no sense for them to even think about spending more money on the border crossing and disrupting the community of Delray when there is no need to do so. As the Michigan Legislators will make clear, they can spend the money for other more important purposes.

On the Canadian side, I think the situation will be very tense. As was absolutely clear from the SPP meeting, Canada is desperate to protect its position in NAFTA. I wonder if it was Ambassador Wilson who gave Prime Minister Harper the foolish advice to threaten the Americans on oil supplies if they try to renegotiate the Agreement. If it was the Ambassador, not only has he made an enemy of the Democrats by trying to influence the selection of their nominee but he has now antagonized the Republicans who aren't going to be threatened by Canada over oil embargoes.

To me, the very meek statement by Harper about Windsor means that someone made the decision to back off on our border crossing, of course stating the platitudes about it that have been made so many times over the last few years by so many politicians, because the big fight is going to be over NAFTA. The issue has now become Canada's access to the United States markets. It makes little sense for Canada to get into a fight with the US about the Ambassador Bridge, especially when the Bridge Company Owner runs the operation so well.

If the new DRIC Bridge will be tabled and the Enhancement Project put forward as the intermediate solution so that everyone can save face, what happens to the road to the border?


My real fear as I have expressed for some time now is that the Senior Levels will walk away from Windsor and not do anything for the road to the border. That means that thousands of jobs that we could have had in this City will never happen because of the silly games that have been played for the last few years from the Schwartz Report #1 to full tunnelling to Greenlink. They have never had a chance of being adopted and yet we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money and wasting years in pretending that they have a chance of success. More than that, we threatened lawsuits and may even foolishly start one.

One stall after another for what reason I still not yet been able to figure out unless it was all to do with preserving the competitive position of the Tunnel so it can be financed.

Why would the Senior Levels help out a small and unimportant town in a forgotten part of Ontario with a Mayor who shows no gratitude and who feels free to snub them publicly when they come to town? How many slaps in the face are they going to tolerate before they say enough? They have the constitutional power to do what they want as the City has already admitted. They will act if they want to.

Why would the Province build a road that is 10 times more expensive than any other road built in Ontario? It makes no sense I am sure to other members of the Government who would rather the money go to their constituencies. To be direct about it, as a Windsorite, I would rather that the Province build the at-grade road and give to the City the difference in cost between that amount and the DRIC road cost. That would total about $1 billion. I am sure that we can spend a billion in Windsor in a much better fashion than wasting it on a DRIC highway. The money given to us could be justified as our fee for being the host Community for an international road.

What about this scenario: if there is no Government bridge to be built, then why build a road at all. Let the trucks keep on going down Huron Church Road because there is no unanimity on what should be done locally. I expect that the Province would still be willing to upgrade EC Row but even that may not happen unless the County put some pressure on the Province.

The speech given by the Premier of New Brunswick put the $400 million to Windsor in the national spotlight. Just watch every other jurisdiction try and take that money away from us now, especially before a Federal Election when Harper will definitely need all the help he can get if he is to be re-elected, even with a minority Government. The comment made by Transport Canada's Mark Butler about a levy for vehicles and truckers to use Nexus/FAST lanes suggests to me that the Federal Government may not have the cash to spend more than $400 million and also suggests to me that the Province may not even have the money to spend on its initial $400 million. The days of big Government surpluses are over for the foreseeable future.

The Bridge Company has always made the border work. If in fact more truckers go on the speedy system to cross the border and the chokepoints as described in the NACC report and in the Brookings Institute report are eliminated then the border becomes virtually invisible as in Europe. No one needs another bridge if that happens and then who needs to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on another road that one can argue is no longer needed?

Do you see what I mean... we may now have in Windsor the worst of all worlds. And it would all be due to the brilliance of people who designed a business model of how the world should be and cannot react to the reality of what the world is, especially when there are changes.

There is only one solution for everyone to save face and to pretend that everybody likes each other and wants to work together. By that, I mean every level of Government on both sides of the river and the Ambassador Bridge Company.

First, everyone needs to acknowledge that traffic volumes have decreased significantly and the likelihood of them increasing dramatically as in the past is very remote. That should be easy to be accomplished because in fact US DRIC has said that in order for the new bridge to survive it must cannibalize all of the other Southwest Ontario/Southeast Michigan crossings. That then means that the Governments have to spend millions of dollars per year to subsidize those other crossings. That makes no sense.

Second, the parties must acknowledge that a new DRIC bridge is not needed at this time but that the Enhancement Project must move forward and replace the old bridge and allow the new one to add a lane of traffic so that the preapproved traffic can move through the border more quickly using the new third lane.

Third, what is being done should be called the intermediate solution so that the DRIC report can be tabled and be pulled out some time in the future when traffic volumes have grown.

Fourth, and this is the difficult part, how will traffic to get to the Enhancement Project. I have my doubts frankly that the DRIC road will be built because it is just too expensive. Assuming that it is NOT going to be built, then the at-grade road should be built and be called the "intermediate" road and be paid for using the Border Infrastructure Fund money. That is a face saving way out for everyone.

However, let's assume that the Senior Levels are still prepared to pay $1.6 billion for a road to the Enhancement Project. Eddie's only way out is on the day of the announcement of the DRIC road to declare a victory and say that DRIC has finally listened to the people of Windsor and has built a road such that he can approve what has been done. He can justify the spending of all the money on lawyers and consultants by saying that he stood strong for Windsor and the Senior Levels folded. If he wants to know how to do that properly, he should ask Jr. to set up a meeting with his father for Eddie so that he can show him how CAW does it all the time.
There is an incentive for everyone to sit down now and resolve this mess on a mutually acceptable basis and while everyone is still relatively friendly before some lose badly, especially the City of Windsor. There are heads on the block and necks on the line.

Windsor is viewed as the armpit of Ontario. Unless the border is fixed up and fixed up soon we will be given a new name. The name is what the Windsor Star photograph as the casino sign was being erected shows on the online Windsor Star. Another Jay Leno moment for this City:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Library As The City

One short story in the Star dealing with the Library that points out in one place just about everything that is wrong with the City.

  • "He said that "as a city councillor I would have voted no," but as a library board member he would have voted yes on the motion."

There is the inherent conflict of interest I've talked about so much between acting in the best interest of the taxpayer and acting in the best interest of another organization. In whose interest is the Mayor acting when he takes action on the Tunnel as an example? What about the levy increase for the Windsor Utilities Commission or the non-increase that we saw this year for which we know we will be hammered in the future? Councillors have Board meetings and their salaries are increased dramatically by the payments received from certain Boards and shared amongst all Councillors. In whose interest is a director/Council member of one of our private Corporations acting?

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and some councillors objected to being blamed for cutting funds leading to the closure... "If you want to blame me as chairman I'll take the blame," Halberstadt said."

At least Councillor Halberstadt has the guts to stand behind his decision. Our Teflon Mayor has to find someone else to take the fall doesn't he. It will be Brister when the arena goes over budget, naysaying and whiny negative Bloggers for our City's negative image not border stalling, sending people out of towns to find jobs or WEDC fiascos, the former WUC Administration, Hurst on everything. Eddie won't start the lawsuit against the Senior Levels on the DRIC road; we will demand it. Why does he always talk collectively about "Council" except if there is limelight and then none of them are ever around.

  • "At a joint meeting all the participants are equal," Guillet told councillors at the end of the session. "I did not feel like a joint participant. I feel I have been reprimanded, lectured and talked at."
Imagine a lowly Library Board member calling the Mayor a kindergarten teacher, in effect, scolding his pupils. It seems that not one Councillor other than Councillor Halberstadt has the nerve or the guts to stand up to Eddie and tell him off. "Spit it out," lecturing at Council, showing Councillors how to hold their arms up straight to gain his demeaning for 10 adults. And to be shown in this manner week after week on television for the entire City to see.

  • "Francis said the library board needs to move ahead with a strategic plan for the future, and said the board is having problems with how it handles its authority, or governance."
And the City's strategic Plan is what after 2 sessions put in some planters to tart up the City after cutting the Parks budget? How about jobs or is the Mayor still working on the Jobs Today Fund plans? A border solution or millions more to be spent on litigation. 15,000 jobs or a Greenlink ad blitz. Speaking of governance, open and transparent government has disappeared to be replaced by Procedural By-law tricks and games.
  • "[Francis] referred to "severance" issues with the library that are being considered in camera by council, but did not elaborate."
Why elaborate. Throw out things and see if they stick. Speaking of severance, how much of the Economic Development Commission funds will be paid out not to find new companies to relocate here or help expand but to pay off former staff! How many companies were to come here but the Mayor could not tell us who they were for confidentiality reasons. (Except for the secret German onion importers that justified a trip for two overseas at taxpayer expense).
  • "The board is being asked to reconsider closing the branch, and to look at expanding services to underserviced parts of the city."
Now how is that to be done? What magic is to be performed? How about reconsidering the Library budget? Others have to reconsider their position but not the Mayor or Council. Perhaps they are wrong on the Tunnel deal with Detroit, on the DRIC road, on the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project, on the Engineering Complex, on the WUC audit, on keeping confidential any significant transaction.

  • "Coun. Al Halberstadt, who chairs the library board and took some flak from his fellow councillors... Coun. Dave Brister is also on the board."
Only Halberstadt gets hammered because he is a thorn and does not follow the party line and kiss-up. What has the other Library Councillor suggested other than slashing reserves and distancing himself so as not to take the hit on a branch closing. You know already about the attacks on anyone who dares defy City Hall, the money being wasted on feel-good ad campaigns and the strap-on order by our local radio station. I can hardly wait for the Star's waste of money too. To survive in Windsor, one must be a cheerleader and sycophant.
  • "We have a broken [Library] system."
Let's see now, didn't the Library audit come out quite well to the shock and dismay of some on Council! Where are Eddie's audits of Departments that he promised when he first became Mayor? Who needed a WUC audit? Who had the scandal of dead men perhaps pumping gas? What will the long-delayed 400 building audit say. As for the arena [LOL].
  • "We give you that pot of money," Francis said. "I find out some of the money has been going to paying for some of those severances."
How generous of Eddie! See above re the Economic Development Commission who took a year to figure out they needed some brochures to hand out.
  • "We're the ones that write the cheque. We are concerned with the way it's been handled."
As a taxpayer whose taxes and levies are skyrocketing upwards and who can see what Eddie's new extravaganzas will cost us when they all fail, I can only say:

Canada Loses Big Time

It looks like the Three Amigos had a good time in New Orleans. I wonder if they went to Bourbon Street and did a bit of a sightseeing too. I would have loved to have seen Stephen Harper with his hair down!

However, if one looks at what Canada was able to achieve at the 2-day session with respect to a border crossing in the Detroit/Windsor area, it was a huge loss. It was virtually ignored.

From what my sources tell me, there is no doubt but that Canada made a big push to try to get Washington on side to build the new DRIC bridge. I had heard about a number of Ministers that went to Washington over the past year to meet with the US Federal Government officials to try to get them on side.

I will let you judge the results for yourself. The key is not the Joint Statement by the three Government leaders but rather the reports prepared by the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC). That group was set up in this fashion:

  • "the North American leaders recognized that to accelerate progress under the SPP they would benefit from direct advice from the private sector. They encouraged business leaders from the three countries to form the North American Competitiveness Council."

Here are the relevant parts from the various reports that they have prepared for the Leaders. Note the marked change in emphasis. There is no doubt but that the cranes "flying" to "roost" at the Ambassador Bridge for the next year or so for teh Gateway project has influenced the thinking of many people more than any words can say:



    Accelerate work on the border crossing infrastructure in the Detroit-Windsor region through the Bi-National Partnership process and the Detroit River International Crossing Study. The infrastructure in this region is extremely important to the economies of Canada and the United States as well as to the NAFTA-wide supply chain security. Given the age and condition of the existing infrastructure, and vulnerability to unforeseen circumstances, high priority should be given to ensure adequate and reliable bridge-crossing capacity in the Detroit-Windsor region, including capacity that can accommodate the transport of dangerous goods. U.S. and Canadian governments should also invest in infrastructure and capacity improvements at other high-volume crossings, including at Blaine, Washington; Buffalo, New York; and Calais, Maine.


    We are seeing significant progress in many areas including ...the Detroit-Windsor crossing...

    In terms of specific border crossings where infrastructure enhancement is considered critical, Canada and the United States agreed to develop a timeline toward the implementation of a new crossing at Detroit-Windsor. The NACC members look forward to participating in the planning for this new crossing.


    Supply-chain development. Efficient transportation networks are critical to establishing competitive supply chains across North America. As agreed by Ministers in Los Cabos, governments should move quickly to modernize and expand transportation infrastructure at the borders. However, at high volume crossings on both the northern and southern land borders of the United States, such as the Detroit-Windsor and Nuevo Laredo-Laredo crossings, progress has been much slower than expected. It is imperative that location decisions and financing agreements for expansion of critical border infrastructure at these and other high-volume border points be expedited given their strategic importance to North American supply chain development.

I don't know about you but to me this seems a rather dramatic change in just over one year. To be blunt about it, when you look at the 2008 report, what the business people are concerned about are the nuts and bolts of border crossings and not the issues that the bureaucrats want them to take a look at like spending billions of dollars on building an unnecessary border crossing in this area.

Here is the boring stuff in the report to make your eyes glaze over unless you are in the import-export business:

  • Facilitated entry for cargo.
    While disappointed by the breakdown of negotiations in 2007 on the planned pilot project for land preclearance, the NACC is encouraged that governments are discussing the recent United States proposal for “facilitated entry” for cargo. The NACC continues to favor a more comprehensive approach to reducing border congestion that would entail shifting the customs clearance process, to the extent possible, away from ports of entry, and toward the inbound side of choke points such as border bridges and tunnels. In the longer term, as many inspection processes as possible should be moved away from the border. For example, food and agricultural inspections currently carried out at the border could be relocated to manufacturing facilities where government inspectors are already present. In the meantime, other steps recommended by the NACC in 2007 would help to speed the secure processing of cargo shipments. These include: raising the threshold for low-value clearance of goods; simplifying the NAFTA certification requirements; simplifying the NAFTA rules of origin; enhancing the benefits of participation in FAST (in the United States by implementing the dedicated greenlane concept for trucks/maritime containers and in Canada by allowing access to the CSA/FAST program for all goods from all countries in all transportation modes); agreeing on full mutual recognition of the PIP and C-TPAT programs; and achieving the target of one million NEXUS participants within the next eighteen months. We also urge the Mexican government to implement a program similar to C-TPAT, enabling United States and Mexican customs organizations to achieve a mutual recognition agreement that would provide reciprocal benefits for participants in each country’s program. In the short term, we urge the United States and Mexican governments to standardize and extend hours of operations at crucial border crossings.

    The recent United States Customs and Border Protection proposed rulemaking on “Importer Security Filing and Additional Carrier Requirements,” better known as the “10+2” initiative, imposes potentially costly new requirements on importers. This proposal requires submission (and resubmission) of hundreds of millions of data elements at a tremendous cost to the government and trade community. Additionally, we are concerned that the proposed data elements are inconsistent with those agreed to under the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards, potentially burdening North American companies with duplicative data requirements and additional costs.

Do you see what I mean? It's almost as if George Bush flew over the Detroit area in Air Force One, saw the work being done on the Ambassador Gateway Project and decided that he had other places to spend his money. It is as if he said to his bureaucrats to let private enterprise take the risk and the heck with the Canadians!

I am sure that Ambassador Wilson's faux pas with NAFTA did not help either. His usefulness as Canadian Ambassador to the US has to be just about over and should last only until a new US President is elected. Stephen Harper had NAFTA to protect and did not need to use up any IOU's to fight a battle for the bureaucrats.

The reality is that the business people understand that the issue is traffic flow not bridge capacity. They need to eliminate chokepoints and not put in extra lanes over the river. Building new bridges achieves nothing if a truck still cannot get through the border quickly.

This has to be a massive defeat for the DRIC supporters. But it should not be a surprise. If you remember this letter, the President has already said that DRIC is finished. Why nobody has focused on this letter is beyond me:

BREAKING BLOGnews: Three Amigos Lump Windsor and Tijuana Together

Here is the comment dealing with the border crossing in their Joint Statement. I am glad to see that the Leaders have finally picked up my "Tijuana" reference from my STOPDRTP days:
  • "Joint Statement by President Bush, President Calderon, Prime Minister Harper - North American Leaders' Summit

    To make our borders smarter and more secure, we are coordinating our long-term infrastructure plans and are taking steps to enhance services, and reduce bottlenecks and congestion at major border crossings. In this regard, we are working to coordinate the efforts of federal agencies to enhance capacity at major border crossing points, such as Detroit-Windsor and San Diego-Tijuana. We are deepening cooperation on the development and application of technology to make our border both smarter and more secure, as well as strengthen trusted traveler and shipper programs. We will seek to allocate resources efficiently so as to avoid unnecessary inspections. We are exploring new customs procedures, such as a more uniform filing procedure, with the aim of reducing transactional costs while enhancing the security of our borders. We are cooperating to install advanced screening equipment at ports of entry to deter and detect the smuggling of nuclear and radiological materials. The United States and Canada are working to finalize a framework agreement to govern cross-border maritime enforcement operations in shared waterways. All of these efforts will help us more effectively facilitate the legal flow of people and goods across our shared borders while addressing threats to our safety. "
If you read this carefully, what is being done is taking steps to improve the flow of traffic. With increased flow, no new capacity is really needed is it?

"Enhanced capacity"---same language as last year! See Wednesday, August 22, 2007. "BLOGEXTRA: SPP Declaration"

Here is exactly what PM Harper said about our border crossing. So do not get too carried away by the Star's headlines:

  • "PRIME MINISTER HARPER: (As translated.) We talked about common stakes for our three countries. President Bush, myself

    -- we have discussed commerce and the advantages that NAFTA brings to our three countries and has been doing for 14 years. We talked about the progress that we made, and we have talked about not only what has been done, but also what needs to be done.

    We concluded that it's essential for the prosperity of our countries to continue this effort. And we have emphasized in particular the border crossing, Windsor-Detroit. It is evident that greater North American cooperation will lead to the creation of jobs, and will allow us to compete in a very effective way to other emerging commercial blocs around the world.

    I also talked about our concern about the thickening of the border between our countries. The Chambers of Commerce of the United States and Canada are concerned about these border issues for several years. And the Council for Competitiveness has also talked about their concern about these border issues.

    It was a great pleasure to come to New Orleans for this summit. And of course, I want to thank President Bush and the population of New Orleans for their great hospitality. And I'm looking forward to see President Calder n who will greet us in Mexico and welcome us to Mexico next year.

    (In English.) President Bush, President Calder n and I have discussed the common issues and challenges facing our three countries. We discussed the importance of cooperation on security and trade and the benefits that NAFTA has produced for each of our three countries over the last 14 years.

    We also talked about the progress we've made and are continuing to make to improve North American security. We agreed that continuing to improve and expand trade is the key to greater prosperity for our peoples, and we are putting special emphasis on the Detroit-Windsor crossing."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gag Order

Democracy no longer exists in the city of Windsor.

Now you know why BLOGGERs in town have to be discredited or even destoyed at all costs. You see, we cannot be controlled by the powers that be. We cannot be silenced. We are free to comment. We are free to question. We are free to criticize. We are free to think and to say what we believe is right and wrong.

I am sure that you saw this shocking and disturbing remark from Councillor Marra in Saturday's Star:
  • "Council approvals in Windsor and Detroit are required to sign off on the deal

    Coun. Bill Marra, a member of the city tunnel commission, said councillors have been asked to refrain from commenting until the negotiations are complete."

Obviously, this was done in relation to comments that he and Councillor Dilkens made the week before that were quoted in the Star. They must have caused major problems. I wonder if they've received scoldings, gentle or otherwise, from Detroiters or others locally the way I did:

  • "Coun. Drew Dilkens said despite the mounting legal fees, pursuit of the deal remains worthwhile.

    “The fees are high but so is the expectation of due diligence to make sure the deal is right,” he said. “I would rather spend the money in advance and not worry about this after the fact.

    There ought to be a very strong business case before we jump into any kind of deal of this magnitude. At this point, we haven’t seen that.”

    Coun. Bill Marra, a member of the tunnel commission, said his comfort level has declined since the federal and provincial governments backed away.

    “Initially, it was based on being able to secure funding from the provincial and federal governments. I understand those opportunities don’t exist. Regardless of how this is set up, it falls on the municipal taxpayer and there needs to be a good business case.”

    He noted that tunnel traffic has drastically declined in recent years to the point where the city’s dividend from tolls has dropped from $6 million to zero.

    “(Sutts) is the best you can have on this,” Marra said. “My concern is not legal finds, but ultimately is this decision favourable for the taxpayer. What looked good eight months ago might not be good today.”

My goodness. Imagine that. Councillors doing what the Municipal Act says they are obliged to do:

  • Sec 224. It is the role of council,

    (a) to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;

    (b) to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;

    (c) to determine which services the municipality provides;

    (d.1) to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality;

    (e) to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality;"

Something is very wrong with this transaction for a Councillor to be told to be quiet. It is even worse for a Councillor to obey this direction! A Councillor has received information in camera but is now forbidden to think and speak out even if he/she thinks the deal might hurt taxpayers. What is everyone so afraid of?

It is Councillor Marra's duty to tell us who put the gag order on. Who told him to keep his mouth shut and not perform his legal role as a Councillor. Not only is he on Council, but he is also a Tunnel Commissioner and will be a member of the Board of the new Tunnel Corporation.

It is interesting to note that he is not allowed to speak "until the negotiations are complete." By then it is too late isn't it. The deal is done. What a wonderful time for a Councillor to go public then with concerns.

Do you really believe that our Mayor if he has completed the transaction with Detroit will go back to renegotiate some terms merely because a Councillor thinks there's not something right. After all he is the lawyer isn't he, even if his only time in practice was for a very short time between his Call to the Bar and when he announced he was running for Mayor.

Can you imagine someone telling a Detroit Councillor to keep his/her mouth shut. Why are our Councillors so accommodating?

And if you truly believe that this matter will come in front of Council publicly for approval, then you have not been following events lately. The Tunnel is owned by a Tunnel Corporation that is private. This is just a borrowing transaction whereby the Corporation will get money from someone, perhaps the Provincial Government, and then somehow transfer that money to the City of the Detroit and receive in return some interest in the other side of the Tunnel. Maybe.

Why would it need to go in front of Council where delegations could appear and perhaps convince Councillors to reject it. It is not needed for a private Company just like with the airport lands and its private Company. It is only a borrowing after all. Money is borrowed all of the time. It is NOT a sale which Mr. Sutts said would have to go to Council.

I really wonder what the Ward Councillors know about the Tunnel Transaction. What business case has been prsented to them so far? When you have two Councillors being this concerned that they speak publicly about it, then I am concerned. When you see them being gagged, then there is cause for alarm.

Councillor Marra in particular should be concerned if he intends to run for Mayor. If he wins, then he is burdened with Eddie's Folly and will take all the flak as Eddie goes on to do his bigger and better things.

Just imagine, if Council approved all of Eddie's recent grandiose transactions what the Mayor and Council for generations to come will be stuck with: $30 million of money we don't have today for the Engineering Complex, $30 million of money we don't have today for the Jobs Today Fund, $75 million of money we don't have today for the Tunnel deal. Never mind how much it is really going to cost for the East End arena. Don't forget, we still have 2 1/2 more years of Francis extravaganzas.

Have you been as mystified as I am about the silence of the Windsor Star and Gord Henderson on this deal? What do they think? Does it make sense from a taxpayer perspective? Is this what the City should be spending its money on? Why have we not seen any editorials or comments about this deal?

I wonder who put the gag order on them also.

Outside Lawyers' Pension Fund Contributions

I am thrilled that Windsorites are ensuring that Toronto lawyers will be well-looked after in their senior years. Our contributions through legal fees are greatly appreciated I am certain. And Windsor lawyers are doing well too so the City is not discriminating against them either.

Be fair now.....Private enterprise lawyers have to keep up with Judges who are hoping to get "a salary of close to $307,000. As it is, the judges have already enjoyed a 48-per-cent wage increase since 1999."

Here's a lawsuit shocker above that I have never heard of. I don't remember hearing about it from the City or the Windsor Tunnel Commission either. It's part of the Tunnel roll-over deal package.

DWT (Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC) is owned by Alinda who is the Tunnel operator.

I wonder what it is all about. It looks like there is a very serious and costly dispute going on between the parties. How much money is involved, I have no idea. However, if DWT has been holding back Tunnel toll revenues for almost a year, we are obviously talking many millions of dollars.

Justice Winkler has a background in Tunnel matters:
  • "He has also acted as a judicial mediator for large multi-party disputes including the... Windsor-Michigan Tunnel dispute."
Here is another lawsuit that will start soon at a cost of more millions by the time it is done.

This will be the basis of the claim against the Senior Levels. What else do you think the Greenlink ad blitz was all about---getting the road? Don't be so silly. The City cannot afford to keep it up.

It was published in the Greenlink ad in the Star and is partof the Greenlink mailer.

When the Senior Levels say they want the DRIC road, it means that they did not listen to Windsor. sue them. Can you imagine if they dare make their road announcement before Eddie's deadline passes. OMG! The Statements of Claim will be flying!

It is not Eddie saying to start the legal fight; it is YOU, dear reader, with all of your Greenlink mailers sent back. I hear that Councillor Brister is the star collector bringing in hundreds of them so far. Eddie will be so proud of him! The Mayor and Council are merely doing what you told them. How can they be blamed for spending more of taxpayer money?

What the heck, we do not need 15,000 jobs when we have all of those trees and flowers to plant to tart up our City entrance-ways.

OK....those are the News Tips of the Week for the traditional media to follow-up on! Do I win the prize?

Deep Throat's Crossing Shockers

The room in Downtown Windsor was full of the aroma of the smoke from a very expensive Cuban cigar.
  • "I thought that you cannot smoke even in a Private Club these days," I said. "you know, the No Smoking law and all that!"

  • "This spot is my 'home away from home.' And even in Ontario, a man's home is his castle where a man is free to smoke and do as he wishes!" chortled Deep Throat. Clearly, he had prepared his response if a Health Department functionary dared interupt his usual Havana! "Well my boy, have you figured out what has been going on over the past several years in Windsor with this border stuff?"
My blank stare immediately gave him the answer without me opening my mouth. I had the Bi-national, DRIC, Mich-Can, CTC, DRTP, DCTC, DWT, TC, MDOT, FHWA, MTO all clouding my brain. There was the JMC Report, the Schwartz Report, the Estrin-Schwartz Plan, the Nine Point Plan, the Made-in-Windsor solution, the Jobs Tunnel, Tradeway, the Green Solution and Greenlink. There was Bill C-44, Bill C-3 and the Rail Lands By-law never mind Presidential Permits.

There was that look of pity on his face as Deep Throat cleared his voice. What he then told me was so unbelieveable, I am not sure that I fully understood the significance of it. I will relate it as best as I can.

Quietly in a voice that I could barely hear he said,
  • "Do you remember the Schwartz Report #1? What was the strangest thing that Sam said that just didn't make any sense whatsoever to mere mortals?"

He was laughing so hard now that I thought the buttons on his vest would pop.

  • "That's easy" I replied. "It was that Socialistic Mumbo-Jumbo about one for all and all for one. I never did understand why he put that in. It just seemed so totally strange:

    Here's what he wrote:

    "Balanced Traffic between Blue Water Crossing and Windsor-Detroit Crossings

    Developing a balanced traffic network between the Sarnia-Port Huron and Detroit-Windsor Crossings would provide benefits without a new crossing but would be compatible with any of the new crossings. Essentially it means adopting acceptable levels of service guidelines at all facilities as a goal and maintaining the goal, as best possible, through Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) measures, policies, directing trucks after they are screened and pricing strategies. It sets aside the profit-motive, which means each facility is competing for the most traffic, with a utilitarian-motive: the greatest good for the greatest number. Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants."
I thought back to the time I first read that an eternity ago. My first reaction upon reading it was WOW!!! What is a political statement doing in an engineering document and this kind of political statement? Set aside the profit motive, greatest good for the greatest number... there was going to be governmental control of where a truck could or could not go. It reminded me of the expression I remember reading in University in a political philosophy course "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"

The eyes of Deep Throat opened wider.
  • "Well Grasshopper," he said in that mocking tone of his "you have learned something speaking with me all this time. "

I too took the remark very seriously even though I did not know its significance. Those were the days when Eddie and the Senior Levels had been in a relatively good relationship or so it seemed. I figured that Eddie and Sam were privy to some of the thinking of the Senior Level politicians and bureaucrats.

  • "And naturally, our Mayor to show how brilliant he was had to reveal all but at much too early a stage. When it happened, he could take the credit for it and say it was all part of HIS Plan" I blurted out!
  • "Exactly correct" said a voice coming out from a cloud of smoke. "But have you ever had confirmation of this or was it just mere speculation on your part?"

I hated when he did that. Calling my bluff when I started to feel superior. There is something that I had missed and I didn't know what it was. The problem for me was he was always giving me a hint while it always was staring me right in front of my face but I couldn't see it.

I look closely at him and by this time he picked up the Windsor Star and was reading it. He had folded it just like those people who know how to fold newspapers to read in a bus or subway car or if they were a rail commuter. I looked up and saw the page of the Star that was facing me. I knew the answer. There it was, I finally saw the forest after getting rid of the trees that the Governments were planting:

  • "Feds hope to lure bridge firm
    Monica Wolfson, Windsor Star, Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Transport Canada is conducting surveys at Windsor and Sarnia border crossings to get information on future traffic and revenue that might convince a private company to help build and operate a new bridge.

    Border guards started giving out surveys to motorists coming into Canada at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and will continue the process for several months, said Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada. While mail-in surveys were handed out at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge, 20-second face-to-face surveys were done at the tunnel only, after drivers cleared customs...

    Stamper said the Detroit River International Crossing bridge isn't going to draw more traffic to the region, but instead will steal away truck business from the Ambassador Bridge, tunnel and Bluewater Bridge.

    "A (U.S. environmental study document) said (the DRIC) expects to take 76 per cent of the Ambassador's traffic, 26 per cent from the tunnel and 19 per cent from Bluewater," Stamper said. "That tells me the DRIC bridge is not a solution to a transportation problem, but a cannibalization of other traffic."

    Transport Canada will start giving out surveys at the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia soon."
Dammit....I was right. I had guessed the answer. The surveys were being given out at the Ambassador Bridge, the Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge. They were very detailed as well:
  • "The survey asks for the time of crossing, purpose of the visit, the origin of the licence plate, the number of passengers in the vehicle and the nearest intersection or landmark of where the trip began on the U.S. side of the border. It also asks how frequently the driver travels, how the toll was paid, whether the driver is a Nexus member, when the driver anticipates returning to the U.S. and which border crossing will the driver use."
It was designed to lure a private investor alright; it was designed to lure someone to control all of the crossings in South West Ontario and not just for the DRIC bridge! They needed the information as part of their financial package that Wilbur Smith was putting together. No wonder, the Tunnel deal in Detroit was only going to happen if the Feds invested. They wanted the ownership and control over everything. No wonder they were going after the Ambassador Bridge Company so strongly.

I laughed and said to Deep Throat:
  • "While they didn't say it exactly the same way, both Stamper and Transport Canada's Butler said the same thing:

    "it's for an investment grade study to take our traffic away and create a financial proposal for investors" was Stamper's comment.

    Butler said the purpose of collecting the information -- especially from trucking firms -- is to create a revenue and traffic forecast to attract a private partner to help build and operate the next bridge."

It is all being done for the private investors on Wall Street, Bay Street and for the City in London, England. A package of border crossings gift-wrapped as only the Government could do. The creation of a huge monopoly that boggled my mind. It is virtually similar in concept to the amalgamation of "the British Columbia (B.C.) Lower Mainland port authorities" by the Government. It must be the model that is proposed to be followed in SW Ontario!

So that is that I thought. I finally figured it out, mind you with a bit of help from my friend. I sat there very smugly thinking that there was nothing more for him to say until he did it again. That right eyebrow arched up as he said...

  • "well, what more?"

I was flabbergasted... how could there be more? I had guessed everything hadn't I? There was the Windsor Star up again and I looked at the article more closely. I turned white. I screamed out loud

  • "Are they seriously trying to destroy Windsor? Do they want to kill this border crossing by making us uncompetitive? Do they want to put us out of business? What do they have against us?

There it was plain as the nose on Deep Throat's face:

  • "The surveys given to trucking firms will gauge interest in paying an extra fee to travel in a dedicated Nexus or FAST lane that will start along the highway to the next bridge."
I stuttered now and fumed, flush with anger at the broken promise of a free road with no tolls:
  • "They want to make the new DRIC road a toll road! Every other road to the border does not pay a toll but now if a truck wants to cross the border, they will have to pay one if they want to use the speedy lane. The other operators cannot run their crossing as well as the Ambassador Bridge Owner so Windsor has to be penalized for his success by putting an extra fee on a trucker. Just like government, protecting the disadvantaged and taking away any incentive to succeed" I sighed.
Deep Throat stared right at me with his strong, piercing, deep blue eyes. He was not smiling now
  • "It is NOT a "toll" my young friend. Just like a levy in Windsor is not a tax. The Federal spokesperson was speaking. Why? The Province does the roadbuilding not the Feds. So it will be called a border levy so no one can complain: "It's not a toll but a levy. We kept our word. We did not break our promise!" Of course, the two Governments will split the levy. OR perhaps it will go to the P3 investor to allow them to build the road at no cost to the Government. "

    "The game is up," he said. "Why do you think Anne Arquette and her marshalling yard concept with truck control software suddenly made an appearance out of the blue. After the Premier of New Brunswick asked for almost $300 million of the Federal infrastructure money, there would be no money left to pay for the extra $400 million for the DRIC road after the first $400 million was spent. As for Ontario, with the economy falling apart, they will be lucky if they can even afford to pay $400 million. What you just read was a trial balloon to see if the Ontario Trucking Association would go ballistic. if not...." as his voice drifted.
I could just picture it all now in my mind ... as I closed my eyes... a package of all the border crossings being given to one investor. That investor or perhaps someone else would build a toll road to the border. The $1.6 billion DRIC or the multibillion dollar Greenlink farce... we'll be lucky if they build a proper at grade "cheap" roadway. The only one standing in the way of this master plan was the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge. No wonder he was under attack from all angles and on both sides of the border.

When I opened my eyes again, the chair across from me was empty as if no one had ever been there except for a puff of smoke and a properly folded Windsor Star. He was gone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Windsor/Detroit Truth From Sarnia

Windsor has to be destroyed so a private P3 investor can make money. The Governments' agenda has to be accomplished no matter what the consequences for Windsor.

I guess the DRIC and Government people must think that I and others locally do not read the Sarnia and Port Huron newspapers. They think they can say all kinds of things about our border crossing provided it is not covered by a Windsor or Detroit media outlet and that no one will find out about it!

How else to explain these comments by Mark Butler of Transport Canada. They are simply unbelievable and a disgrace.

After you read this from the Sarnia Observer, let me try and analyze what was said. It should shock you too!

  • Blue Water Bridge site of survey
    Data to be used in new bridge plans
    CATHY DOBSON, The Observer

    Thousands of cars were stopped for a quick survey at the Blue Water Bridge Thursday by officials wanting to know where they were going and what route they were taking.

    Transport Canada spent 24 hours on the bridge plaza conducting 1,300 to 1,400 surveys, said spokesperson Mark Butler.

    Similar surveys were done at the Windsor tunnel in order to generate financial information for a possible public-private partnership when a new bridge is built across the Detroit River.

    A new international crossing, owned by the Canadian and American governments, is proposed between Windsor and Detroit, Butler said.

    The Canadian government has already made the policy decision to pursue a P3 partnership for construction on its side and is gathering survey information for revenue projections.

    “Private financiers want to know the kind of return they can expect, so we are looking at what type of traffic is coming across, traffic flows and the number of vehicles,” Butler said.

    Drivers were stopped during a 24-hour period near the Blue Water Duty Free Shop and the Currency Exchange for an interview lasting 30 to 45 seconds. They were asked where they were travelling from, where they were going and the roads used.

    The data is also useful to the Blue Water Bridge Authority and will be shared with officials there, Butler said.

    A second survey is being mailed directly to trucking companies to determine why they use the Blue Water Bridge.

    The Blue Water Bridge accepts trucks carrying hazardous goods while the Ambassador Bridge does not. The proposed bridge would take hazardous material, Butler confirmed.

    “So it’s possible traffic from the Blue Water Bridge could go to the new bridge,” he said. “It’s also possible some trucking firms currently use the Blue Water Bridge because they don’t want to travel through city streets to get to the Ambassador Bridge, but they will use the new bridge when it is built.”

    The proposed Detroit River International Crossing is going through the Environmental Assessment process and is expected to file EA documentation later this year.

    Pending Environmental Assessment approval, construction could start by 2010 and be complete three years later.

    Three plaza locations on the Canadian side are under consideration two to three kilometres west of the Ambassador Bridge, Butler said. The exact location will be determined this spring but all are in an industrialized area.

    Concern has been expressed by Ambassador Bridge officials about their loss of business. The Ambassador is privately owned and some estimates suggest as much as 76 per cent of its traffic may be diverted to the new crossing.

    However, Butler said he’s never seen any documentation to support that claim.

    From a market perspective, there’s room for another crossing,” he said."

This one newspaper article to me demonstrates just about everything that is wrong with DRIC in one place. It shows complete desperation on the part of the Government to build a new crossing, or rather to force the Ambassador Bridge Company out of business, than anything else I have ever seen. They will say whatever is required to try to convince someone to pay for their agenda no matter what!

Do you remember when this all started an eternity ago? At that time, the DRIC traffic projections, which have proven to be completely incorrect, estimated that traffic volumes would double here. Even with rail, marine and with vehicles going through Sarnia, the volumes were still so high here that we needed a new bridge. Part of the object of the exercise as well was to make other crossing alternatives attractive to reduce the number of trucks coming here as well.


We need as many trucks here as possible to try to justify financially why someone would finance the DRIC bonndoggle bridge. Gee, aren't issues of redundancy and security enough to convince some private investor to put a big chunk of money here? I'm sure that you will remember how DRIC "changed the conversation" to these issues when its traffic numbers were proven to be ridiculous. I guess they discovered that private investors aren't that stupid to put in money into a project that would not get them a return on their investment.

Now we know that the traffic projections are phony. Why else are surveys being done but to demonstrate to possible P3 investors that there is sufficient volume to add a new bridge to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars that they will need to put into the project.

Perhaps one day the Windsor Star will actually quote the numbers from the US DRIC report that state that in effect the new bridge will bankrupt the other crossings by taking away their traffic. I wonder if it is because they want a new public bridge in the Windsor area that they have not taken the time to read the US DRIC EIS report and reported on it.

That is the only way that the new bridge can justify the money that is to be put into it. How much will that cost in taxpayer subsidies to keep the other crossings operating? The US report states that the new bridge will control up to 80% of the truck traffic and 60% of the car traffic thereby taking a big part of the business of the Ambassador Bridge and that it will take away 26% of the Detroit Tunnel's traffic and about 18% of the Blue Water Bridge truck traffic.

Remember, we were supposed to keep away truck traffic as much as possible. Now DRIC wants to bring it to us. Not just any traffic mind you but hazardous material traffic that can go through the Green Link Schwunnels if Eddie is successful. Wait a minute though, can that kind of truck traffic go through a tunnel? I guess that is how Greenlink is killed too. And of course, those drivers who don't like stoplights will come here as well.

What we are seeing is what I have said. No one in their right mind would invest in a new crossing here with the Ambassador Bridge competing for the traffic. The new bridge tolls would have to be about three to four times higher in order to pay off their indebtedness. It would mean the bankruptcy of the new crossing in a very short period of time so that no one would invest here in the first place.

Why else do you think the story about the marshalling yard was floated like a trial balloon. The only way a new bridge can be successful is if trucks are told exactly which crossing they are allowed to use.

Next Mr. Butler tells us that a decision has been made about building a P3 bridge. When did that story come out? It is interesting that revenue projections are being made. Does that mean that Wibur Smith's preliminary investment grade survey on traffic has demonstrated that the crossing will go broke without traffic being taken away from all the other crossings in South West Ontario?

Is the Government trying to fix the result to sucker some investor into putting money into something that the Governments would never do themselves? If I am right about the precarious financial position that the other crossings will be put into, then it will be the Governments who will have to subsidize them for years and years and years. All this just to put the Ambassador Bridge out of business!

Here's something that perhaps Mr. Butler misssed. It is what his Minister said only a few months ago:

  • "Last week, he [Brian Masse] challenged the federal transport minister on whether the feds have done due diligence to determine if a private sector partner is the right model to use in the construction of a new crossing...

    During questioning by Masse last Thursday at the standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities, Cannon backpedalled, saying a process will be launched early in the new year to determine whether a P3 is appropriate for Windsor.

    "From the indications we have up to now, it's an interesting avenue to pursue," Cannon told the committee. "But if at the end of the day it's determined that it isn't in the public's interest or it's not something that is going to fly, I can assure you we are not going to go forward."

Strange, I have not yet seen the justification for spending taxpayer money when the Owner of the Bridge Company is prepared to spend his money to build his Enhancement Project.

If I am right about traffic projections, then it is clear that Mr. Butler may have failed his economics course. If the existing crossings have lost volumes dramatically as the Ambassador Bridge showed at the Senate Hearings, then how can Mr. Butler state

  • "From a market perspective, there’s room for another crossing,” he said."

The Tunnel has been unable to pay a dividend to the City so what will losing a quarter of its business do to them as an example? Perhaps Mr. Butler should remember what was said in the United States about market perspectives:

  • "Nonetheless, it is believed (by Joe Corradino the US DRIC consultant) that the market won’t support three bridges."

Wouldn't it be nice if the 2 sides said the same thing. But how can you do that if the message doesn't fit within your agenda!

Mr. Corradino also said about a decade ago that the Ambassador Gateway project which is being built now is capable of handling on its own 5.4 million trucks, about 2 million more trucks across the border today. That is without a new bridge!

It also appears that the infamous City Hall amnesia disease is spreading like wildfire to other branches of the Government and has now struck Federal Government officials. For Mr. Butler to state with a straight face that he has never seen anything that supported what the Ambassador Ridge said about their loss of traffic is inconceivable to me. Here is the Letter to the Editor that I sent to the Sarnia Observer since I was so angry"

  • "You will have to explain to me why the Governments on both sides of the river are so intent to spend up to a half a billion dollars in the Sarnia/Port Huron area to fix up a problem that may not exist in your area any longer if a new Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge is built in Windsor/Detroit.

    Transport Canada’s Mark Butler was quoted in the Sarnia Observer saying that many trucks that might otherwise use the Blue Water Bridge might choose instead to use the Windsor crossing.

    The draft DRIC US Environmental Impact Statement states that depending on which crossing alternative is chosen:

    "..the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of 75 percent of its truck traffic…A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges."

    More importantly, the new DRIC bridge could cause severe financial problems to the Blue Water bridge and to your region including loss of tourist dollars:

    "Providing a new border crossing would cause travel shifts over a wide area. For example, a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could attract travelers from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron, Michigan. At the same time, the proposed border crossing would reduce traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel."

    Your bridge could lose 7% in overall auto traffic and a 16 to 18 percent decline in overall truck traffic.

    Clearly, Governments do NOT want the people of your region and mine to compare notes. If we did, we would demand that they stop their huge waste of taxpayer money!"

That quotation came right from the US draft Environmental Impact Statement that is published on the US DRIC website. The report quotes specific numbers that effectively puts the Ambassador Bridge out of business.

Selective rememberance is absolutely essential for Transport Canada these days it seems so that people will forget about what its representative said in the Senate hearings:

  • "Ms. Marcoux: The intent of this bill is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge. The intent of this bill is to ensure that the government fulfills its constitutional obligation and that it has the tools to do so.

    The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge."

The games continue. The only reality is that there are 11 cranes and 2,800 people with jobs on the other side of the river building this massive Ambassador Gateway project that is designed and always has been to accommodate another span across the river. This project, assuming that the Enhancement Project Bridge is allowed to be built as well, will not result in the destruction of two communities... Sandwich and Delray as the DRIC bridge will.

Perhaps one day some Government official will recognize a DRIC Megaproject running amok and will stop it. We can only hope.