Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 16, 2008

Movers And Shakers Are Back


Well they are all back, safe and sound, in Windsor. Not even being late to arrive in Toronto by about an hour and a half nor arriving in a thunderstorm could dampen their spirits!

Wouldn't you like to know who "they" are? I sure would. However I noticed that the Star has been very deliberate in not naming names of those Windsorites who attended the big party in Toronto. That is smart. Why make enemies of those were not invited. Why let your neighbours know that you are as unimportant as I. [Double sob]

From what I have heard, and I had friends from here and in Toronto who attended the function, it was very well done. It was a credit to the people who organized the event.

However the big question is what will be the results? Will any investment or jobs actually be produced because of this? Gord Orr, to his credit, said:
  • "following up with potential new partners is essential.

    "It's incumbent upon the people who were at this event to follow up because this wasn't a one-off get-together, it's just the beginning," Gordon Orr said.

    "It would be a terrible mistake to think 'the party's over' and return to business as usual."

The interesting question is whose responsibility will it be to do so? Will it be each Windsorite himself or herself who attended who has to follow up? That does seem silly to be honest since these people would know the people that they invited to come to the function from Toronto and didn't need a party to talk to them.

Did these people make some new contacts at the party? If so, as successful businesspeople, I would expect that they would know enough that they need to develop the relationship.

However it seems to me the what was created at the function was a Rolodex of some of the top people in the City of Toronto from a business perspective. If they came and were impressed by what they saw, there is a need to follow up with them to see how Windsor can encourage them to look to this area for new investment. Who is going to do that?

Normally, one would have thought that this was the job of the Windsor Essex Development Commission but that organization is in such a mess without a leader that they seem unable to even produce a brochure for distribution. Moreover instead of going a few hours by car east of Windsor to Toronto for further promotion of Windsor, they think it is more important to go across the Atlantic for a trade show to London, England in June.

I hope someone that has a game plan to follow up. Perhaps that will turn out to be Sandra's and Dwight's function. It is a shame that Windsor Councillors were not invited to attend because if they had been there, they too could have assisted in the further promotion of our area with the individuals that they met at the party. As one of the Councillors told me:

  • "We were not given the opportunity to go although you probably already know this."

Yes I knew it. To be honest, that comment is a disgrace but totally expected from a Mayor who has constantly hogged the limelight and only uses his Council when he can point the blame at them.

As much as we think this party went well, it is more important to know what our guests thought, and are going to do , or even more importantly, what the media thought. Only several hundred came to the party but thousands more of the decision-makers will read what the media said about Windsor.

Unfortunately, the Globe and mail was not too impressed nor too kind. We came out looking like a have-not region in an about to be have-not Province. As a former Torontonian, I know that it is a huge insult to be compared with Buffalo:

  • Windsor can rebound, but not by 'talking proud'

    MURRAY CAMPBELL, May 15, 2008

    This is Windsor's situation: It is represented by two of the most powerful cabinet ministers in the Ontario government and yet it hopes an airlift of its workers to Western Canada will help stop its downward spiral in fortunes.

    These haven't been good years for the city, which has thrived and suffered on the cyclical fortunes of the auto industry. It has lost at least 10,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001 as it endures what Mayor Eddie Francis characterizes as "a harder, more intense and more difficult slowdown" than in any other Ontario city.

    The announcement this week that General Motors Co. of Canada will close its transmission plant and put 1,400 workers on the street was a cruel blow, coming as it did just six weeks after Ford Canada said it would reopen its Essex engine plant and bring back 300 workers.

    Mr. Francis, who sees challenges where others see problems, was disheartened by the GM news. "Every time we seem to be making progress by taking a few steps forward, announcements like this really, really set us back," he said.

    But the mayor said in an interview this week that he remains confident that Windsor can rebound because it recognizes that it has to deal with a structural, not merely a cyclical, situation. "We're dealing with the harsh economic realities of global competition and we're dealing with the Big Three that have their own struggles," he said, referring to the decline of the auto makers based across the Detroit River.

    The city's mantra now stresses the need for diversification away from the motor vehicle. Mr. Francis and the local MPPs, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello, mimic each other in listing local companies that prospered on automotive work but that are now serving the aerospace industry, the U.S. military or Alberta's oil sands.

    The push away from dependency on the auto has been under way for about four years, more or less the time in which the Liberals have governed. The previous Conservative government wasn't inclined to help the auto industry - and had little interest in helping a region that elected opposition Liberals - but the McGuinty government has invested about $1.5-billion in the city (including $400-million for an expansion of its casino and a $24-million medical school at the University of Windsor).

    Mr. Francis believes the city is midway through its transition to becoming what he calls "the intellectual capital of the automotive industry." The trouble is the rate of diversification can't keep up with the plant closings. And as Mr. Francis knows, about 65 older, industrial U.S. cities are attempting to remake themselves. That's a lot of competition. As Buffalo found 25 years ago, just Talkin' Proud isn't enough.

    Which brings us to the mayor's "long-distance commuting program" that is a key part of his "Jobs Today" strategy. He has been lobbying western mayors and air carriers for help in crafting a plan that would allow workers to travel weekly on subsidized, direct flights from Windsor to jobs in Alberta and Saskatchewan. This would keep families in the city until the local economy rebounds.

    Mr. Francis said he only recently found out that legions of Newfoundlanders fly to Alberta on flights paid for by labour-hungry companies in Fort McMurray. He's not fazed by the comparison.

    "That's what we want to replicate," he said. "Because, at the end of the day, it's important for us to keep the residents and families here. The last thing you want is a population decline."

We go to Toronto looking for investment and the Mayor's absurd scheme to fly people out of town for jobs (knowing they will never return) is used against us. Oh, has he yet completed the report setting out the details of this plan as he promised eons ago?

Will we provide locally-produced Screech rather than bottled water at in camera Council meetings so that a Councillor will have the excuse to use the [expletive deleted] word again? Will we call the DRIC experts from out of town Mainlanders? Will Windsorites become the butt of humour as Windsor jokes take the place of Newfie ones:

  • How many Windsorites does it take to screw in a lightbulb

  • Green-link up

Well, you get the picture

Wow (there's that WOW factor again) how can we be half way to being the intellectual capital of the auto business when the Mayor's strident opposition to the location of the Unviersity's Engineering Complex delayed the process for about a year and increased its costs as all of the auto companies are reducing their presence here.

Sure we have talked about economic diversification for years but our spanking new WEDC teminated its CEO and needed a handout to develop an investor brochure! You see saying something is starting earns a Mayoral checkmark on Eddie's Report Card and that is all that counts politically. Results do not!

I am so glad that the Mayor now sees that our issues our structural. It seems it only took the loss of so many plants and jobs for him to grasp the obvious. Why only a few months ago he was deluding himself and trying to delude us by saying:

  • "Speaking before the Windsor and Essex County Real Estate Board's annual general meeting Friday, Francis presented an economic overview of the city and region and told the 140 realtors in attendance that, once the economic cyclical wheel turns, the city will be better positioned to compete.

    "Typically, as a region, we've been through these challenges before," said Francis. "It's nothing new. And each time we go through one, we come out that much stronger."

    Standing beside a projection screen showing negative newspaper headlines dating from the early 1990s during the last recession, Francis said they illustrate how "the same types of stories keep coming up regularly every few years."

So now that the party's over....what happens next? Where's the gameplan? Where's the follow-up? How do we measure success or failure? More importantly, whose job is it to build on what was achieved? Otherwise, all that we got was a big hangover.

What The Presidential Snub Means


Deep down, those of us on the Canadian side of the river always knew that in the end the Americans would make the decision as to where the new bridge is going to go if one is going to be built at all.

There is no doubt that the Canadian team has tried very hard to keep it away from the preferred location that US DRIC initially proposed, namely right beside the Ambassador Bridge where the Americans are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Ambassador Gateway project.

It makes the most sense for the Americans to build it right there rather than to duplicate everything a mile down the road. Moreover, why would the Americans want to force out hundreds of homeowners and businesses from Delray if they do not have to do so?

There is no doubt that the DRIC teams believed, notwithstanding the letter from the US Department of State, that the President would support a new DRIC bridge in the location that they preferred.

Take a look at the slide that I found yesterday in a presentation made in March 2006 by DRIC. They must have been overjoyed to put in this comment believing that they had his seal of approval:
  • "The DRIC is mentioned in the President’s Security Action Plan three times"

If that is the case, then consider how DRIC must feel today when in effect the US President has decided that he is not supportive of a building a new DRIC bridge. Of course, the US president has not come out and said that directly. How can he when he would be accused of politicizing the DRIC process and being responsible for undermining it. He is not a that foolish. Only a desperate Canadian Prime Minister would take action like that by allowing one of his subordinates to leak a story to Radio-Canada to try to pressure the Americans!

Take a look at my BLOGs dealing with the SPP communiqué, NACC reports and US Consul General letter. There is no doubt in my mind that the Americans have stood back and have said that they have no intention of wasting taxpayer money to satisfy Canada when they have their own real infrastructure deficiency that needs correcting now. The idea of spending billions of dollars on an unnecessary DRIC bridge has lost a considerable amount of support in the US.

Take a look at the Mickey Kantor transcript I posted again if you want to know why the US Consul General's letter was sent to the Star and so quickly! There was a message to Canada that Harper would not like.

What I conclude from all of these diplomatic niceties is that the Government of Canada better start talking to the Bridge Company immediately about a resolution of the Border issue. Canada underestimated the US Government resolve badly. If not, there will be very little for Canada to talk about at all in this matter. Canada's bargaining position is weakening.

And as Senator Kenny told us, the Americans have a "dirty little secret" that could impact us negatively and very quickly.

Next time that a Canadian Prime Minister decides to threaten the Americans with oil, perhaps he should remember this exchange between Harper and Bush at the SPP meeting:

  • PRIME MINISTER HARPER: I just said before, we'll be prepared for any possibility. The American people are going to make a decision -- the future American administration may have a different view. I can just tell you when I meet businesspeople not just from our country, but from around the continent, the benefits of our NAFTA relationship are without question. And what all the focus is in our discussions is how to make it work better -- how to make the borders thinner, how to make commerce flow more quickly, more freely. That's -- how to make our relationship more integrated and deeper -- those are the real concerns that I experience in Canada and when I deal with people who are focused on economic development in our trade partners' economies.

    But, look, as I said, we'll be prepared for any eventuality. Canada is the United States' number one supplier of energy. We are a secure and stable supplier. That is of critical importance to the future of the United States, and if we had to look at this kind of an option, I think quite frankly we would be in even stronger position now than we were 20 years ago, and we'll be in a stronger position in the future. But my preference is not to renegotiate what discussed in the past; it's to talk about the future. And I think that's what our respective -- that's what, at least, the Canadian population wants us to do.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. Good job, Stephen"

Contrary to what some Canadians believed at the time, the US President was not congratulating Harper. He was merely biding his time.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hardly Mayoral Material



There is an absolute need to audit the East End Arena project immediately due to the startling revelation in the just released Arena Agreement between the City and the Spitfires. More about that below.

It should be fascinating to watch if the Star's main Columnist still tries to save the career of Councillor Mahatma Brister or whether he drops him like a hot samosa.

You remember him don't you. He is the Councillor that thinks people will take to the streets in the DRIC/Greenlink battle. Literally. Contrast how the two Councillors who may be running for mayor reacted after the DRIC announcement as quoted on the CKLW website:
  • "Ward One's Dave Brister says there ARE people willing to lay down on Huron Church Road to draw attention to the "Greenlink" plan and protest the DRIC border access route. But Ward 4's Bill Marra thinks that members of council need to keep their emotions in check."

I guess this is Mahatma Brister's nonviolent tactic to get the Governments to change their minds. I wonder if Mahatma will be down and dirty too. Is he going to be one of those people who are willing to risk being arrested for the cause or is he just going to supervise people on the road. I imagine he will get them to form a giant "W" on the roadway as well so that if the media is taking a shot from a helicopter it will be a nice photo op.

I'm not sure if this is the most irresponsible statement that the Councillor has ever made. It is almost as foolish as him saying

  • "David Brister said the city could be forced to sue the government and tie up the border plan in the courts if route concerns are not addressed. "

The Star at least recognizes foolishness now:

  • "Coun. Dave Brister's ludicrous threat to lay down in protest on Huron Church Road."

What the heck, Mahatma, this City doesn't need 12,000 jobs.

It looks like when the going gets tough, the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget runs. I note that he has resigned from the Library Board. I guess he did not want to be there when Branches were closed down because it might impact negatively his mayoral campaign.

It is so much easier for him now to join the ranks to take shots at Councillor Halberstadt who is the only remaining Councillor on the Board. In this way he has no responsibility when he makes ridiculous suggestions about the Library.

I'm sure that the Library people are quite thrilled that he is no longer there. After all, his idea of cutting reserves is hardly the way to balance a Budget. It's a shame that they did not take up his other idea "cutting back on purchasing materials ." After all, if there are no new materials, people will stop going to the Library and the entire system can be closed down.

But at least the Councillor is consistent. He wanted the Art Gallery to sell paintings that were not in public view to balance their budget. Who needs to look at paintings after all in an art gallery.

Finally, as I have said several times before, the Councillor foolishly took on the position as Chair of the East End Arena committee. He will take the fall rather than the Mayor when it goes over budget. I'm sure that you remember back in 2005 Brister had said

  • "But city council's money guy, Dave Brister, thinks it would be a huge mistake to pour tax dollars into an arena at this time...

    Brister doesn't buy the argument that the city has already budgeted $15 million for an arena and therefore the expenditure is a non-issue.

    "That logic that it's already budgeted escapes me," said the financial analyst. Compared with real needs like deficient sewers and pothole pandemics, he said an arena would be far down on his list of priorities. "Not even my 10th or 20th choice."

    He fears the city is getting involved in a project that will cost taxpayers far more than anticipated.

    "Do I believe it's going to be limited to $15 million? No way. And if we enter into a partnership with somebody, who generally ends up entertaining the risk? We do."

Brister was set up and he's going to have to eat those words as he takes the fall that will cause his political career to suffer. It is going to cost him dearly because of his bravado expressed in Henderson's column:

  • "I knew it when I took this on," said Brister as he stood on the second floor of the sprawling complex and watched a giant crane gently lift into place one of the 25,000-kilogram precast concrete columns that form the ribs of the main bowl.

    On schedule. And on budget. Brister's eyes glitter as he delivers those words. Combative by nature, he's clearly driven by determination to deliver the goods and silence the critics, as in shove it down their whiny throats.

    "My credibility is on the line. That fact is not lost on me," said Brister. "We're watching this from every angle conceivable. To say this is under a microscope would be an understatement. And it should be, because I don't want any surprises down the road. We have 209,000 armchair quarterbacks and I've heard from a lot of them, and that's OK because it's everybody's arena." His mantra with project officials? "Tell me anything I need to know that I don't know now."

Let me give you a very small example that has now become clear after looking at the City/Spitfires contract. There is no doubt now in my mind that a major audit needs to be done on how this arena is being financed. Nevermind this nonsense on doing several audits on the Library or on the Windsor Crime Prevention Committee. We need to know the facts on where the money is going on the arena. I wrote previously a question I needed answered. Councillor Brister has never responded nor Don Sadler. You know the Don and Dave duo:

  • "I just read the Budget for the arena on the Council Communications Package. I have a challenge for the Councillor to answer some question about the arena. Let's see if he has the guts to answer them. Oh, and here is another news tip for the media:

    We know that the arena will have 31 private boxes. Did the Port Huron arena have provision for so many private boxes? If it did not, who is paying to have those boxes constructed in our arena and how much is it costing? Private boxes have to be fitted up... who is paying for those costs and how much are they? Where are all of these costs set out in the budget for the arena? Alternatively, are these costs in fact being charged to the City and if so to which Department? Where are those costs in the budget of that Department? Are those costs going to be considered to be part of the $64.9 million cost of the arena? Or has the arena cost just sky-rocketed?"

The answer as I now know is that the City is paying upfront for the fitouts at least of these Suite costs as part of the arena. The Arena agreement provides:

  • "The Team shall apply its gross revenue share from the first year's license of any suite, irrespective of when the suite is licensed, as a one time payment toward the gross cost of the suite fit-outs. The Team is not responsible for any further costs related to the suite fit-outs."

No wonder the Spits received 50% of the gross revenues of the leases of the suites. They have to help pay for the construction cost for this project. Unbelievable.

The question though is how is the City paying for these upfront costs. If it is not in the Budget for the arena, then where is the money? Shall we make the assumption that it is in the Parks and Recreation Department budget? After all, the dynamic duo are tied at the hip and the Councillor must know where the money is because after all he was a financial analyst in his former life.

If in fact I am correct and the money for the fit-outs is not in the Arena budget but has been placed somewhere else, then the question arises what other funds have been handled in a similar manner. In my opinion the City's Audit Committee must intervene immediately and have a full-fledged forensic audit take place on this project. We should demand no less.

PS. OK, OK...one more Bristerism for good measure:

  • "We can't compete when we are that high," said Coun. Dave Brister, who favours an industrial rate reduction.

    But he suggested that should happen through a new jobs development fund planned by Mayor Eddie Francis and not at the expense of residential taxpayers...

    As a result of mayor's job initiative, perhaps some of the dollars from that can be allocated to reducing the industrial tax rate. What that does is enable us to keep up with other communities in attracting jobs."

    The mayor has proposed creating a fund of up to $100 million to provide financial support to companies willing to locate in Windsor. He wants the city to contribute $30 million to the fund with other levels of government contributing the rest."

Yes, absolutely. The County and the Senior Levels are going to contribute a total of $70M to help pay down our industrial taxes.

No wonder the E-machine is trying to convince Dave Cooke to run for Mayor. Eddie needs a credible candidate to be the third person in the race to split the vote with Bill Marra so he can be re-elected for a third term. Clearly, they have written off Brister!

Email Messages Scandal Material For You To Read

Please stop asking me if there are emails dealing with [Expetive Deleted] in the hundreds of emails exchanged between John Middleton and City Hall Administrators. I intend to remain silent on the subject.

I have to assume that something in those emails was so bad that he was terminated as Chair and removed as a Member of the Windsor Citizen Crime Prevention Committee. What that is however, he has not been told from what has been reported so far.

At noon the other day, he delivered all of the emails to the Clerk's Office for members of the Committee to view for themselves. The Councillors are free to look at them too I assume. Better late than never even though they voted to remove him already. Sounds like how Council does things...relies on Administration Reports rather than first hand information. Like not reading Arena agreements as an example. Presumably, if there is nothing there, he should be able to demand that he be re-instated.

If you want to know what is in there, just file a Municipal Freedom of Information Application. It will cost $5. If you want copies, then you have to pay for the photocopying as well.

Let me know what you find especially if it is scandalous. I am tired about Blogging about the border! What could be better than [Expletive deleted].

I understand that John will eventually post them so you can wait. In the meantime, the Municipal Gremlin struck again!



More News Items


There is so much to BLOG about in this City and so little time to write about everything. Here are some more shorter items of interest for you:

I WAS NOT INVITED TO TAKE THE TRAIN TO TORONTO

As you know by now, regretfully as I learned to my dismay, I am not a mover and shaker in Windsor.

  • "More than 100 of Windsor's most civic-minded and influential boosters boarded a VIA Rail train this morning, ready to take Toronto by storm."

I am still a mere, lonely Blogger after all. [SOB]

WEDC

You need to read the article in the May, 2008 edition of BIZ-X magazine written by Councillor Halberstadt about the fiasco known as the Windsor Essex Development Commission. It is now on his BLOG:

(http://www.alanhalberstadt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=8&Itemid=87 )

I was not all that wrong when I called it our municipal Senate.

If I was a Woodslee credit union member I would be furious at my Board for throwing all that money, a quarter of a million dollars, into the Commission. Who knows if they have produced a brochure yet

US SLAMS CANADA

Diplomatically of course.

I told you that would not take long for the Americans to take a shot at Canada over the embarrassing nonstory about the DRIC Bridge that someone in the Canadian Government foolishly leaked to Radio-Canada.

I'm sure that you saw the letter in today's Windsor Star from the US Consul General in Toronto. He got his letter in very quickly didn't he. Does it tell you how angry the Americans are!

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

  • "Recently, we've seen some media reports citing "unnamed sources" on plans to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge. We'd like to correct a couple of misperceptions that seem to be circulating.

    [Two paragraphs of fluff and platitudes to hide the key message and then...]

    As the public comment period south of the border is still underway in assessing the environmental impact of the project, important details such as exact location and specifications have not yet been finalized. [Translation: We haven't finalized anything so how can we agree to anything]

    One aspect of recent reporting is correct: President Bush and Prime Minister Harper did discuss the Detroit-Windsor border during the recent North American Leaders meeting in New Orleans. [Section removed by State Department in Washington: but the President did not agree to do anything or else it would have been published in the Joint Communiqué for heaven sakes! Don't your diplomatic people know how the game is played.]

    [More fluff to end the letter].
FLYING HIGH AT YQG

Several interesting things going on at the airport.

A reader directed me to the Windsor Airport website and to this comment:

  • "People routinely commute over the border to work, shop, travel and to enjoy the amenities of each other’s country. Traffic across the border exceeds 10 million vehicles annually. The Globe and Mail reports "Traffic though the Windsor tunnel has jumped 73 percent since 1993, making it the entry of choice for one in five Americans travelling to Canada by car."

I thought, after seeing that statistic, that I could not understand why Larry Horwitz of the DWBIA was so upset about downtown being so run down and lacking business. With that huge increase, there must be tourists galore clogging the streets and pumping money into our economy hand over fist!

I tried to find that quotation in the Globe but I was unable to do so. So I thought I would try independently to confirm what I thought was an absurd statement.

I must admit I wondered why 1993 was chosen until I read a DCTC SEC statement and saw the following:

  • "Since the advent of casino gambling in Windsor early in the third fiscal quarter, traffic volumes have increased over 1993 when traffic volumes were depressed due to extensive construction work at the facility. The casino opened in May, 1994 and is located in downtown Windsor near the tunnel facility. The traffic volume decreases experienced earlier in the year which were attributable to the weak Canadian dollar, the generally poor economy and the disruption due to construction have been more than offset by casino related increases. "

You see that's how you play with numbers. You start with a year with artificially low volumes so that you can show a magnificent increase.

Just so you know, my information is that the number of cars in 1993 that went through the Tunnel was about 6.1M, its peak in 1999 was about 9.3M and in 2007 was about 4.7M or about 50% less than its peak. I had no idea therefore how anybody arrived at the number 73% increase when the 2007 volume was lower than in 1993.

Then I saw the Star yesterday and that story about the new Charter airline that is going to fly out of the airport. There was a very strange number there that I saw for passengers. Even with Mexican migrant workers flying with Mexicana into Windsor, that seemed like a big increase:

  • "There are 260,000 passengers a year flying in and out of Windsor Airport on Air Canada flights to Toronto. The Sunwing charters should add 8,000 passengers, she [Ms Nazzani] said."

Only about a month ago she had said:

  • "Total number of domestic passengers increased six per cent in 2007 over the prior year."

Nazzani told us in March:

  • "Nazzani's goal is to get passenger numbers up to 400,000 annually within 10 years. They peaked at 250,000 in the late 1990s and now stand at 130,000."

I guess Ms. Nazzani must have changed the conversation to get the number of 130,000 up to 260,000. It looks like it is based on a different formula now.

Gord Henderson had told was back in November

  • "passenger traffic had tumbled from a high of 350,000 trips in 1998 to a mere 124,000 last year. "

Just so you know, Windsor airport is NOT even in the Top 50 airports in Canada according to arriving and departing flights for scheduled services and major charter services

Finally, Let me be very cynical. You know that there is more to the Sunwing Airlines deal than we have been told. After all, the guy who gives away money for leasehold improvements in Canderel, negotiates five cent parking for the Keg deal and is responsible for the Spitfires lease and the funky bus terminal negotiation with Greyhound needed to do something for the Airport.

Ms. Nazzani had already told us during her performance in front of City Council that WestJet asked her how much the City would be prepared to help them out if they decided to come back to Windsor? I am sure that Sunwing asked the same question.

I wonder what the answer was. You know that we'll never find out what the deal is. Even the Star knows that. Back in November they wrote:

  • "But when something happens and the public and press begin asking hard and specific questions, the corporate mantle is used as a shield to avoid answering those questions or to avoid releasing documents that might help provide some clarity. Even if that resistance to release information is rooted in the desire to protect the corporation, and, by extension, the city and its residents, an impression can be created that officials do not welcome public input and scrutiny. This is good for neither the public nor those dedicated people who have been appointed to serve on various boards."

Back in November, at City Council, Councillors were told

  • "a new executive board with community, business and aviation representatives will be formed to oversee YQG.

Council Dilkens keeps asking

  • "wanted to know why a new board of directors with experience in the industry has not yet been appointed to oversee Windsor Airport. "

Eddie stalled him off saying:

  • "Francis said Monday that plans had been to advertise for the positions in late March or April. "Our hope is that the ad will go out in April and then that will come back to council," Francis said."

It's May already. Now we know why Eddie did not want a new Board and why he wanted to stay in control.

  • "The airport continues to be governed by a board of city officials, with Francis as CEO and several municipal administrators as directors of a corporation established by the city after it took over control a year ago."

To be fair, Ms Nazzani has been busy. According to Gord back in November, Ms. Nazzani

  • "has been on the road repeatedly to pitch the city-formed company she runs, YQG (trademarked as Your Quick Getaway), at airline industry conferences as far away as Frankfurt, Stockholm and London."

We also know she went to Germany with Eddie to try and sell onions there as well to that startup German company. You remember, the same time that Dwight Duncan held a pre-budget meeting where Eddie snubbed him.

I can hardly wait to find out what other deals have been made and how much they are going to cost us.

EDDIE CALLS IN THE ARMY

Our Mayor fired another shot in a recent Bloomberg article:

  • "The region can't stand pat with only the Ambassador Bridge, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said in an interview.

    "From my perspective, it's an unacceptable risk," Francis said."

An interesting comment... it appears that not only does Eddie want to control the Tunnel but maybe he has an interest in a new bridge as well.

It seems that the war between the City of Windsor and the Ambassador Bridge Company is getting serious. Mayor General Francis has called in the militia to fight the City's "enemy."

The cover story, so as not to panic Ward 2 residents in the West End, is

  • "The soldiers will be taking part in the army's Battle Fitness Test, which involves marching in large numbers in full uniform, and simulated casualty carries."

Don't you find it interesting that these soldiers will be marching:

  • "The soldiers will be marching 13 kilometres along Sandwich Street and will then be performing a 100-metre simulated casualty carry.

    Similar exercises will be taking place along Huron Church Road, Russell Street and Peter Street."

Normally I would accept the story that this is a mere military exercise. However this line in the story makes it absolutely clear that Eddie is on full alert:

  • "Local reservists with the Canadian Forces will be visible on city streets in the west end tonight, tomorrow and in the coming weeks."

WOW FACTOR

  • "If council is going to give this money you want to see the 'wow factor' right away," said Francis on Monday of his orders to parks officials. "Without that, there will be very little chance for future dollars."

WOW, $1.85M for cosmetic changes to tart up the City and that is just the beginning.

WOW, $900,000 in cost every year to keep the initiative going. No more library books next year either or perhaps crossing guards are expendable:

  • "City treasurer Onorio Colucci warned council that the program will have to compete annually for city dollars with other needs."

WOW, how will we be able to afford to maintain the Greenlink parks at this kind of cost?

WOW, $50,000 of that sum is going to a private business. I wonder how this is justified:

  • "welcoming initiatives for casino patrons once its new expansion is formally opened next month."

WOW, I didn't know that people were reluctant to go to Chicago and Montréal as tourists. According to Don Sadler, their beautification program meant that

  • "people now want to go there."

WOW, up to $70,000, to determine what can be done to deal with abandoned homes. Gee, I know how to solve that problem for a few homes on Indian Road and I won't charge very much money to tell the City what to do.

WOW, don't you find it amazing how the Mayor was able to find money for this program so easily and quickly.

WOW, don't you find it tragic that the Mayor and Councillors are more concerned about trees and flowers than solving the real problems of the City.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Did Councillor Gignac Propose To Censure Eddie


I wonder if Councillor Gignac had the nerve to propose a Motion that Windsor Council censure the Mayor in the same manner as Detroit Council may do with their Mayor. And would Councillor Lewenza have had the guts to second it! What do you think?

It is a good thing that the Star reported that Councillor Lewenza was the one who use the foul and abusive language at the in camera Council meeting last week and not one of the other Councillors. The reason for that childish and immature outburst was:
  • "Marra said he believed negotiating further with the local MPPs was a better tactic than blasting them. That statement didn't sit well with some councillors, most notably Lewenza, who was said to have used profanity."

Was Councillor Gignac apoplectic before the public Council meeting on Monday? Even if she was, I strongly doubt that she would use any inappropriate or unseemly four letter words but if she was upset, she might have muttered one or two six letter ones under her breath. She was Past Chairperson of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board after all so she is quite literate.

If I remember correctly wasn't it just recently that the Mayor tried to teach her how to put her hand in the air at Council just like he tried to teach Councillor Halberstadt that technique. Even after that public embarrassment, I did not see her go ballistic so she generally knows how to control her temper.

You may wonder why she would be so upset. Now I have no idea but I have a suspicion. She must be furious at the Mayor and what he did over the weekend.

Which Councillor has stood up so many times during Council meetings and demanded a meeting with our two Ministers. It is Councillor Gignac. She was furious at Dwight Duncan as an example and that gained headlines for the Councillor.

I'm sure that you have not seen this Report that was distributed at Council showing the number of times that City Council wanted to meet with the two Ministers. After all, the Councillors probably want to give the Ministers a piece of their mind.





Can you imagine how angry the Councillor must have been when she learned, probably from this BLOG first, that the Mayor had undercut her and her colleagues by negotiating directly with the two Ministers. The meeting lasted for about 90 minutes the Mayor claimed.

What a slap in the face to Councillors. Can you think of anything that can tell us better that Eddie holds them in complete contempt. He could not care one bit what they think.

I wonder if she knows yet what they talked about or did the Mayor give to Councillors the same patronizing line that he gave to Windsorites:
  • "It was a first step in terms of opening the lines of communication. It was an opportunity for three of us to have a discussion"
She was not given the opportunity to ask questions or to make a statement to the Ministers or to listen to their explanations. She and her colleagues were denied that chance by the Mayor. I do not understand the reason for it. I guess the Mayor believes that they are unimportant in the scheme of things and that only his opinion counts because he is so much smarter than they are. They probably would have just messed it up.

I do not understand it. Why wasn't Councillor Lewenza screaming vulgarities at the Mayor? Was he chicken, afraid to open up his mouth? It seems to me that what the Mayor did was exactly the same as what Councillor Marra proposed: negotiating further with the local MPPs rather than blasting them.

The Star reported that Eddie met with them
  • "in a bid to iron out differences between the two sides."
Interesting...That is exactly what Councillor Marra recommended!

Does Councillor Lewenza have a double standard? Or perhaps he believes that it is his duty to protect the Mayor so that Eddie can be the star .

I don't get it. I mean after all... Mayor, Marra,... they both sound so similar. Didn't Councillor Lewenza go after Councillor Halberstadt over the use of the word "compromise" during the border file as well
  • "This is a billion-dollar file and he [Halberstadt] is out there saying we want a compromise," Lewenza said. "I challenged him on that."

However when the Mayor uses the "C" word, Councillor Lewenza is invisible.

Back to Councillor Gignac. I bet she was fit to be tied on Monday. I wonder if she introduced a Motion to censure the Mayor in camera. That's what a serious Councillor who understood her legal duty under the Municipal Act should have done if the Mayor did things like that behind her back on such an important file.

Who knows what he might have conceded since he is such a poor negotiator on big deals. I know I would be concerned especially after reading the Spitfires' Agreement.

Who knows what else they spoke about. If you notice, there is a running list of items being kept for matters to discuss with the Ministers. I wonder how many of those items Eddie discussed with the Ministers, again behind the backs of Councillors. The Star reported:
  • "It was an opportunity for three of us to have a discussion, the border being the primary issue."

Just the three of them. How cozy. And without those silly Councillors watching Eddie grovel and beg for assistance to save his career since has failed again on the border road.

After all of those demands for letters including communications to the Premier and standing up at Council demanding a meeting, then the Mayor goes and does it himself. Poor Councillor Gignac. She is nothing more than a tool to be used by the Mayor when convenient and then tossed away after she served her purpose.

Oh well, Councillor Gignac need not fume. She and her colleagues can grandstand and pretend to be important on Cogeco TV when the irrelevant Windsor flunkies talk to the irrelevant DRIC flunkies. Meanwhile Eddie and the two Ministers will decide everything in secret behind their backs too and they can rubberstamp it as they always do:
  • "There will be a special meeting of Windsor City Council with representatives of DRIC scheduled for: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 beginning at 6:00 p.m. Council Chambers, 3rd floor, Windsor City Hall. TV Cogeco Cable 11 has agreed to broadcast this meeting LIVE."

Numbers Dropping Like A Stone



As I Blogged before, I would really like to help out my friends in Detroit with their financial problems but I don't want to do so, to be selfish about it, if it causes me financial distress. And there is no doubt in my mind that it will.

I do not want this City to be in the same dire straights that Detroit finds itself. Our taxes, levies and other charges are high enough already in comparison with other municipalities in Ontario. We do not need more problems from entrepreneurial business deals that go sour.

I wonder if Eddie has the guts to walk away from the Tunnel transaction even if Detroit Council likes the deal because they will never get this kind of money, $75 million, from anyone if I am correct. After all, didn't Eddie and his lawyer Mr. Sutts assure us that they would not do the deal if it would cause a financial problem for Windsor. If that is the case, then it is time that Mr. Sutts pulled the plug on this risky venture:
  • "I've said all along from square one I will not recommend a deal to the city of Windsor that did not make business sense," he said. "My intention has not changed.

    "In all of these negotiations everything I've done is with that in mind."

I must admit that, if I was a Detroit Councillor, I might want to take the deal with Windsor given what is going on in Detroit these days. However, as described in the Detroit newspapers, it just seems that the deal is a loan transaction. What is the advantage to Detroit? A loan has to be repaid. Unless there is more to it than this, and I would bet that there is, I would think that the City could probably get a loan at a cheaper rate than the Province of Ontario would provide, that is assuming that someone would actually loan Detroit any money in the first place.

I still cannot believe that the Province may be serious about loaning money to Windsor that it can loan to Detroit. I still think that several Ministers would be crucified politically if they did so but then again, what do I know.

Yes I am conflicted. I want to help Detroit but I don't want to see Windsor hurt.

What is prompting my concern... the traffic volume numbers year to date for the Tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge and the Blue Water Bridge compared with last year.

They are horrible. How anyone can think that the numbers will increase the way that the DRIC and the Canadian Government think that they will is beyond comprehension. People are staying away from this area in droves. The question is whether they will ever come back and if so, when!

The Sarnia crossing is doing the best of the three with virtually the same traffic numbers as last year. The Tunnel is doing better than before with only a relatively small drop in both cars and trucks (The drop in trucks is smaller than the reduction in cars yet is significant because the revenue per truck is quite good for them). It is however the Ambassador Bridge who is suffering from their Gateway project with very substantial losses in car traffic and slightly less of a decrease in truck traffic but large nevertheless. What is also disturbing at all the crossings is the big decrease in bus traffic.

It is only natural for the Ambassador Bridge to lose traffic because of the chaos due to the big construction project for the Ambassador Gateway that resulted in the closure of I-75 for 18 months. I absolutely agree with that. If that was the only concern, then I would not be writing this BLOG.

The scary fact for this part of the country is that the drop in traffic at the Ambassador Bridge is NOT being captured by the Blue Water Bridge as far as trucks go and is certainly not being captured at the Tunnel for cars and trucks. In other words, the vehicles reduction represents vehicles that are not coming over at all. The drop in the number of buses for example is huge when you consider that a bus can hold 40 people. So much for the marketing prowess and business acumen of the Tunnel.

It is very difficult for me to tell but my expectation is that a lot of the car traffic being lost is tourist traffic, especially daytrippers, because I would expect that the commuter numbers would not change much. For whatever reason, tourists are just not coming over here. Whether it is the increase in the dollar, fear of being caught in a traffic jam or something else, we have lost hundreds of thousands of visitors when one combines car and bus traffic numbers. Just watch the Casino to see if that is reflected in a decrease in revenue and profits.


With respect to truck traffic, much of it I am sure has to be Big Three automobile industry related and the closure of the GM plant is not going to make things better. There are a number of reasons why trucks are not going across the border and again there is no reason to expect it to get any better in the foreseeable future. If the gossip is right, one might even see Ford pulling out of this area as well. If that happens, will Chrysler be close behind?

Obviously, this is another reason to question whether this area can afford to have a new crossing built that will cannibalize traffic from existing crossings. Who will subsidize the existing border points if the DRIC bridge is successful or are they to be driven into complete bankruptcy to protect the financial interest of a P3 investor? If you are a Bureaucrat in Toronto or Ottawa and have your own agenda, this issue probably would not have been factored into your business model.

That brings me again to the Tunnel deal. If I was a Detroit Councillor, I would probably run and not walk to conclude a transaction with Windsor. If I am correct, $75 million in the hand is better than some unknown amount in the bush with an asset that is declining day by day by day.

From the Windsor side of the river, I will not understand how our Councillors can even think of approving such a transaction because I believe it to be virtually impossible to create a business case for one. How can we possibly pay back the loan to Ontario? What if the Detroit Tunnel Authority defaults because of lack of traffic volume? How do Windsor Taxpayers pay then?

All I know is what the numbers boys will do with their spreadsheets to try to justify the borrowing of the money to pay for this deal but I have also read the Danish Professor's book on Megaprojects and know how numbers can be manipulated.

Can you imagine if you were an investor and had accepted the traffic projections that the experts had given you around the 1999/2000 time period for what the future would hold. You have seen the charts I have presented before about the real numbers compared with the projected numbers at the border crossings. You would be in severe financial distress I would suggest at this time.

If the Tunnel cannot capture cross-border business with all the advertising that they have been doing and with the Ambassador Gateway project disrupting traffic, then they never will.

I imagine that the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge cannot be very happy with his reduction in traffic either. The question for our Mayor/Chair/CEO of the Tunnel Commission/Corporation is what will he do to get his numbers back up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More News

More items of interest for you

ARE YOU A VIP IN WINDSOR

Probably not, sorry.

I hear that there are lots of angry people in the City these days. The reason why... they did not receive an invitation to go to Toronto on Sandra's choo-choo train to meet the Toronto bigwigs.

Imagine explaining to your friends in town that you did not make the top 100 list of movers and shakers in Windsor. Sure you may have been #101 but that doesn't help you does it. You are a NOBODY! Hang your head in shame.

Poor Sandra and Dwight. Can you imagine them knocking on the door of #101 and asking for a donation to help them out in the next Provincial election. I can just imagine the kind of reception that they would receive.

I know, I know... you are wondering if the Blogmeister received an invitation to go on the train given that I am such a powerful media presence in this City and was originally born in Toronto and worked in key organizations there so I have many well-connected friends.

I will keep you guessing. Will you or will you not see a BLOG from me tomorrow. That will answer your question.

WHICH WINDSOR ROAD TOOK THE LONGEST TO COMPLETE

Of course you said the E C Row Expressway. But of course you are wrong. That dubious honour will now apply to the Downtown. As Pam Anderson's best buddy said in his DWBIA Annual General Meeting speech:
  • "During the course of the past year, the DWBIA and the City of Windsor partnered to complete three blocks of Streetscaping. The next four blocks on Ouellette, Pelissier, and Maiden Lane are scheduled for completion in the next five to six years in line with the City of Windsor's budgeting schedule."

Four blocks in 6 years. Incredible. Is he kidding????

That world record may not actually happen, Gord Henderson told us that $1.6M will be spent:

  • "If council gives the go-ahead, parks department boss Don Sadler is ready to roll with more than 700 self-watering planters and hanging baskets for the city's commercial districts and head-turning new looks by mid-summer for the grubby Dougall and Howard corridors."

It's an old re-hashed story that is being brought out again as something new. I wrote in March, 2006:

  • "Here is what Councillor Halberstadt had to say in Saturday's Star after attending a forum that involved brainstorming ideas to improve the look of the designated civic streets like Howard and Dougall:

    "The issue of money was not addressed at the design forum, but several councillors attended the session to get a sense of what people wanted. Some of them said they're willing to start loosening the purse strings because the beautification of the two roadways is a priority.

    "I think we're going to have to find the money somewhere," said Coun. Alan Halberstadt. "But it's difficult. There's just so many bucks out there."

Remember this BLOG even earlier [Friday, October 07, 2005 "$150,000 For A Report Card Check Mark"]:

  • "It is almost time for the Mayor's annual report to start being prepared. I wonder if panic set in.

    One of the few items left undone in the Mayor's last report was streetscaping, especially at the entrance-ways to the City. Well the project is really five years off and will cost lots of money.

    Mere facts and lack of money never deterred a creative bureaucracy. Someone must have come up with the brilliant idea of calling the interim measure of planting 64 trees on Dougall and Howard PHASE 1 of the program.

    Perfect! Check mark added"
GM CLOSING BUZZ

There was a federal money available I will bet for the Ford deal.

We can probably guess now that the reason that the Federal Government and Ford did not do a deal with the Windsor plant is because Ford would not agree to some of the terms that the Government wanted inserted before any monies would be paid over. My understanding is that there were some conditions put into the GM project Beacon deal that Ford could not live with.

The Federal Government put in
  • "a contribution of $200 million toward the innovative Beacon Project being undertaken by General Motors of Canada"

I saw this cryptic note as well:
  • "The Government of Canada contribution, which is conditionally repayable"

One of my automotive insiders tells me that GM put out a backgrounder about the closing of the Windsor plant. He claims that when you cut through all of the PR nonsense the reason that the plant is closing is because the CAW rates are the highest in the world... something like a $27 an hour difference between Canada and the United States.

Obviously, the Union disputed that amount saying that Canadian workers are much more productive so that the difference per hour should be reduced. Whether that is right or wrong really doesn't matter. It is what GM thinks that matters and now we know what they think.

COSMETIC UPGRADES

When I saw the headline in the Star, it made my stomach turn since it happened when the GM plant is going to close putting all those people out of work.

I would have preferred this headline to be honest... "Tarting Up Windsor" because that is all it is.

So we're going to get an expensive Botox treatment or plastic surgery to make us look better while everything is decaying underneath. I think that someone at City Hall has been watching too many "staging" programs on how to sell your house. You know, slap on a couple of coats of paint to make it look better.

I am sorry but I had this weird thought as I read the Star story. We have all of these people out of work who would like to do something and what are we putting in "self-watering planters and hanging baskets in several BIA areas across the city."

LEON PAROIAN

What a mean-spirited initial story that the Star published online about Leon. Such poor taste given his career. I'm glad to see that someone changed it to reflect properly his life's work.

I met him several times over the past few years. I'll tell you one thing... I would have hated to have been one of his opponents when he was in his prime. It would have been a real challenge to confront him in a courtroom. He was one of those old-time litigators who had a presence that would have been unbeatable in front of a judge!

I note that the Mayor said in a scrum that he would not be going to Toronto on the train but rather would be attending Leon's funeral on Wednesday. That is quite an honour for Leon's important role in the City's history.

LEWENZA APOLOGY REQUIRED

Junior should be required to apologize to his fellow Councillor Bill Marra whether Bill wants it or not. Junior's behaviour is inexcusable and would not be tolerated at Queen's Park or in Parliament. He would have been escorted out of the Chamber if he dared speak that way.

It is the Mayor's function to control meetings. It seems that he is incapable of doing so or maybe he likes to let other people to do his dirty work for him.

No matter. Lewenza should not be allowed to participate again in a Council meeting until he formally apologizes.

TORONTO STAR STORY

Watch for one coming in the next few days about Windsor. A perfect time for the story to be run would be on Wednesday just as the VIA train arrives in Toronto.

BORDER MEETING

I wonder how much time was spent on the weekend meeting between the Mayor and the Ministers dealing with Eddie's failing Tunnel deal with Detroit. How much pressure did he put on the Ministers to ensure that the Province was going to provide $75 million to Detroit, errrr I mean to Windsor.

PLANTING FLOWERS WHILE WINDSOR BURNS

I'm sorry, I just cannot believe this Mayor and Council. Worrying about plants and trees and ignoring infrastructure and what it can do for this devastated City economy.

Here are some excerpts from a Globe and Mail story on a bridge infrastructure project. Can you imagine the impact that the Enhancement Project along with building the DRIC Road would achieve for the City. I have given up on the Mayor achieving anything except if it serves his own personal agenda but what disgusts me the most is the sheep-like mentality of our Councillors:

  • A new bridge can never go too far

    Infrastructure investment not only fixes a local headache but affects development, as a Kelowna project shows

    Indeed, long before the hoopla planned for May 25, anticipation of the new bridge's impact on the Kelowna region has spurred residential and commercial real estate development, said Mr. Fine, who is executive director of central Okanagan region's Economic Development Commission (EDC) when he's not singing in his band.

    The Bennett bridge is an example of how investing in infrastructure not only can ease an acute, local issue, but can influence development patterns and expectations. And infrastructure is expected to become a front-burner issue in the coming years as governments consider what to do about aging or outdated roads, bridges, sewers and the like across the country...

    As the official opening draw nears, the bridge is a tangible example of the competitive advantages of transportation infrastructure renewal in Canada – the theme of a conference this evening in Toronto organized by the Urban Land Institute.

    “Infrastructure fuels economies and enables prosperity,” according to a recent report by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Ernst & Young. “In fact, only countries that manage to invest heavily in infrastructure have attained and can sustain global leadership.”

    The report characterizes the economies of Canada, the U.S. and Australia as “coasting on prosperity” when it comes to investing in infrastructure. It adds that, in Canada, road systems built in the 1960s and 1970s, are now showing signs of wear and that, over all, $240-billion will be needed for maintenance and upgrades to infrastructure to meet expected population growth.

    In Ontario, infrastructure improvement is a key in the government's five-point plan to deal with the challenges posed by a weakening economy, said David Caplan, Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal.

    “We've been sprawling across a great land mass in the province of Ontario, but we if use our investments in transit much more strategically and effectively we can channel the growth to the places where we can handle it a lot better,” he said in an interview last week.

    Some current areas of focus include helping the City of Ottawa with systems to handle its growth and development, better transit to aid with the urban revitalization in the Region of Waterloo, and addressing congestion in the Golden Horseshoe area.

    The “wonderful, twofold benefits” to investing in transportation, Mr. Caplan said, is that it gets people working right away, while laying the foundation for moving goods and people over the long term. Ontario is focused on improving other types of infrastructure, including health care and water systems, he said.

    One of the biggest stumbling blocks to undertaking such projects is the time it takes to get everything in place, including land acquisitions, consultations and environmental assessments, said Mr. Caplan, who will speak at the ULI conference this evening. For this reason, the government has capped environmental assessments for transportation projects at six months, which he said is enough time to get the work done."

And that by the way is how E C Row is going to be upgraded...starting after a 6 month EA that is going to be rammed down our throats saving the Senior Levels hundreds of millions of dollars by not building the full DRIC road! Oh, and the fully completed road to the border is going right to the foot of the Enhancement Project bridge too as we all know.

Naming The Unnamed Cabinet Minister

So you are a wannabe Sherlock Holmes are you. Well get your sleuthing gear on because you and I have some mysteries to solve. If we are right in what we're saying then the Press Gallery and the Opposition in Ottawa, especially our own Joe Comartin, will have some fun with the Government and who knows whether a Minister or two might fall in the process. Except if we are correct, it may be difficult to get a certain Minister to answer any questions as you shall soon see.

Of course, a big caveat. I cannot be sure that what I am saying does solve the mysteries. How can I? Unless there is a smoking gun, and there will not be, it will be difficult to find any concrete evidence that will prove beyond a reasonable doubt who the mystery party is. However, I can make a very educated guess and then let investigative journalists and the Opposition do their job to find out if what I have said is correct.

And it is absolutely essential that they do so. In my opinion what has been done by this party could jeopardize the future of Canada and our economic relations with the United States. We already have the Democrats mad at us because of the intervention over NAFTA, and now they will be furious because it appears that we are trying to endrun them by signing a deal before a Democrat might become the new President. Moreover, by embarrassing President Bush and effectively saying McCain has no chance, we are not winning any friends with the Republicans.

Now obviously, this is not the work of just one person...a committee of bureaucrats and politicians from many Departments have to be involved. Ultimately though, someone will have to take the fall for it if there is a failure just like someone would have taken the credit if it had been a success. We have to try and identify who that person is.

We have some work to do to solve some mysteries. Here they are:

  1. Mystery number one: who set up the story with Radio-Canada that suggested that the United States and Canada were about to do a deal on a new bridge in the Brighton Beach area.

  2. Mystery number two: who is the unnamed Cabinet Minister in the Windsor Star story:

    "Francis said he met recently with an unnamed federal cabinet minister to discuss the availability of a 110-acre property the city owns in Brighton Beach.

    “We look forward to working together on this,” he said. “The plaza and crossing are exactly where we would like it to be. It’s the most removed from Sandwich. We’d rather have the plaza in Brighton Beach, so we offered it (the property) up.”

  3. I have a suspicion dear reader Watson, that we are dealing with one person only in that if we find the answer to one mystery, then we will find the answer to the other one.

Just a bit of background. Prime Minister Harper failed to convince US President Bush to go along with him at the SPP meeting to construct a new bridge in the Windsor/Detroit area. In fact, it appears that the President has no interest whatsoever.

That decision was totally unexpected by the Government of Canada since Ministers by the planeload had been flying into Washington trying to convince the Americans to go along with their plans. They must have been using Transport Canada's Deputy Minister Louis Ranger's handbook on how to lobby the Americans without them knowing it. Time to revise that literary work I think!

The Government regrouped and thought that they would pressure the President into going along with their plan. Step one was a speech by Minister Prentice at the at the 38th Conference on the Americas respecting the border. Then the coup de grace was the Radio-Canada story about Brighton Beach.

Frankly, as we know now, that was a gross miscalculation by a number of politicians and bureaucrats about what the Americans were going to do. Their finely-tuned bureaucratic business model completely failed. They had not built into their model that the President would actually say NO and mean it. They may have thought that he would be coy and might want to do a bit of bargaining, say over our oil and water, but in the end they expected him to fold.

They figured that they would soften up the President at the SPP meeting and Prentice's speech would be "much more pointed than those Prime Minister Stephen Harper" forcing the President to cave in. He did not and in fact ignored Canada in his subsequent speech.

Unfortunately for the Canadians, they had already put in place, as the culmination of their business plan, the Radio-Canada story which was really designed to put additional pressure on the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge. If he thought that the President was not going to support him, then he would be more likely to be more interested in selling out while the selling out was good. The Government people expected that they would receive a phone call from him very quickly to set up a meeting to talk about surrendering.

At the same time conversations were starting with the Mayor about the "purchase" of Brighton Beach from the City. I put purchased in quotation marks because I believe that the Government still has no intention of buying anything since they intend to build their second bridge right next to the Ambassador Bridge as was done in Sarnia. An unnamed Cabinet minister according to our Mayor has been talking to him about that purchase. In my opinion, he came down here to talk as well about the Tunnel deal with Detroit to get the price down as I have previously Blogged.

I think if we can figure out who is involved in the Radio-Canada story, then we can figure out who that Cabinet Minister was as well. Or vice versa. You see dear reader Watson the plot thickens.

Clearly there have been oodles of Federal Government politicians involved in this file that could be the one that we are looking for. Choices include the Prime Minister himself, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson, Transport Minister Cannon, Industry Minister Prentice and even Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day.

There is no doubt that the plan was hatched by a number of the Senior Politicians and Deputy Ministers but there was one Minister who was the driving force behind this botched scheme. The likelihood of it being the P.M. is minimal and Ambassador Wilson is in enough trouble with the US. Stockwell Day has really not said very much on the file so I doubt if he would have had a big role. As for Mr. Prentice he has been saying too much on the file, a lot of it incorrect, so he would want to keep a low profile.

The only one left therefore is Transport Minister Cannon. At first blush, he is the likely candidate. Why do I say this... the reporter who broke the story was from the French network of the CBC, Radio-Canada, not the English network. Minister Cannon has responsibility for the Conservatives in Québec. He is after all be Minister of the Department that has carriage for this file, Transport Canada with its Corridors and Gateways policy.

Next, I am advised that the reporter involved is a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and probably would have gone with the Prime Minister to the SPP meeting as part of the press pool. He therefore would have known about the new bridge in Windsor since it would have been made a big deal for the Canadian reporters since the Government was expecting success. It is likely as well that this is when the arrangements were made to have him come to Windsor to do his story.

Like any spy novel, the Reporter must have had a cover story about why he came down here. The obvious one was that US Secretary of Transportation, The Honorable Mary E. Peters, was being hosted by the Detroit Economic Club for a speech she was going to deliver in Detroit on Monday, May 5, 2008. That would be something about which Transport Canada would be well aware.

It was all set up then that the reporter would come down here to look around and to do a few interviews but would be really here to do a story on the big deal between Canada and the United States. The only problem was that there was no deal but no one had the nerve to tell that to the reporter because then the Canadian Government would look foolish. I have to assume that the decision was made to let him come expecting that the story would only be played in Québec. It would be buried and no one would hear about it.

Another bad decision. These people are ridiculous if they think a $5 billion infrastructure transaction, supposedly the largest between Canada and the United States, that would create 25,000 jobs for a bridge to be built alongside the Ambassador Bridge could be kept quiet. (In passing, another indication that a bridge will not be built downriver. The word "alongside" must have been a Freudian slip.)

The story broke and was covered unexpectedly by the English language press across Canada and obviously made it to the White House since the NSA, CIA and State Department know everything instantaneously.

Now it is damage control time and who is to be sacrificed. I expect that the Opposition will start hammering at the Government once they realize the incredible stupidity of the Government's actions that jeopardize the future of our relationship with our biggest trading partner, the United States. The Transport Minister will be put on the defensive won't he.

The problem is he is not the one who is at fault. He is not that foolish to risk killing the DRIC Environmental Assessment process by making a statement at this time that undercuts the entire five-year effort to date at a cost of millions of dollars on both sides of the river. Moreover, he really has no interest in this file, since it is being run by the Deputy Minister, Louis Ranger, since his real job is to elect Conservatives in Québec. Oh sure, he was interviewed in the news story but that is another reason why he would not be involved. That would just be asking for trouble if something blew up. He would not put himself personally at risk.

Moreover, Transport Canada spokesperson in Windsor, Mark Butler saved his Minister's neck by saying:

  • "We still have not made a decision for a site or plaza," said spokesman Mark Butler.

    "We anticipate making an announcement over the next few weeks -- certainly between now and July."

Well, have you figured it out yet, dear reader Watson. Who seems to be the responsible party?

Probably not. It is not that obvious I am afraid. You will need a few hints.

Obviously, he must have a Quebec connection to have Radio-Canada involved. Otherwise it would have been CBC breaking the story. So much for Mike Duffy's importance!

Another hint. Whoever the person is has to be well versed in finance because he was talking with our Mayor about the purchase of Brighton Beach. He would not have come down here just for one single purchase transaction but rather he would have to be down here for the financing of the entire project, a public-private partnership that the Government is trying to force down the throats of taxpayers.

He is probably also down here as I said before to talk about the Tunnel. The Federal Government expects to scoop it up at a very low price because there's no one else interested in taking it off the hands of the Cities of Detroit and Windsor. He will use the City of Windsor as his front so that the American Government will not get upset about Canada controlling the Tunnel and probably the new bridge crossing as well.

Accordingly, he would also have to be someone who is very experienced in the Government in contracting and would be knowledgeable in P3's.

Another clue. Which Government department "buys more goods and services than any other public organization in the country — buying everything from the flu vaccine to security systems to aircraft. "

Finally, here is the Radio-Canada news clip. Even if you do not speak French, you will hear the name of the Minister. Just listen carefully.


video


Now you know who it is. Put everything together.

He is a Minister from Québec given the Radio-Canada story who would not have to answer any questions in the House. It will be extremely difficult to pin him down. How can that be...he has never been elected as an MP but is a Senator and became a Minister through that route. He has worked in the legal and banking fields with a major Montréal law firm and with a major investment firm and bank. His Ministry is the one that does most of the contracting for the Federal Government and he would be very familiar with sophisticated financial transactions.

The clincher... his name was mentioned right at the end of the news story, right out of the blue! I do not recall him being involved publicly in this file before.

Accordingly, by a process of deductive reasoning, I believe it is elementary, dear reader Watson, that the person whom I believe is the one responsible for what could turn out to be a disastrous situation for Canada is Senator and Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Michael Fortier!

Remember my caveat at the beginning. We cannot know the real answer, at least not yet. By a process of elimination and by making certain deductions we have arrived at a solution. It is now up to others to discover the true answer with the leads that we have given to them.

Remember, I told you that these bureaucrats are brilliant in devising their plans. They think about everything don't they! Oh why couldn't the President of the United States just have done what they expected him to do and agreed with the Prime Minister. Then everything would have been just absolutely perfect.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy MotherF***** Day, Councillor Marra


Ooooooo. Things are getting hot and heavy at some of the Council in camera meetings dealing with the border road. Thank goodness they are keeping all of the sessions secret and not allowing Councillors to speak publicly on Cogeco. Can you imagine the fines that would be imposed on our Mayor and Council. It would make the penalty for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction look like peanuts.

The meetings are strange ones too. Personal attacks, no finality on an approach I am told, just keep the Greenlink ad blitz going for a few more weeks. Remember, it was a 60 day campaign at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars. Why?

Don't take it out on me. The language in the BLOG title...That's the kind of language that was used in an in camera meeting by one of the colleagues of Councillor Marra a few days ago I was told. That Councillor must have known that it was Mother's Day this past weekend and just wanted to give Bill a variation of the greeting to let him know exactly how Bill was viewed by some of his colleagues.

I am told that Bill did NOT back off either.

What was the cause of this outburst, Bill's crime... poor Councillor Marra dared to suggest that perhaps a consensus could be arrived at between the City and DRIC on the border road since, to most objective people, their plans seem to be reasonably close.

But our Mayor could not allow that to continue. Only Eddie can be the Voice of Council and Council had to reconfirm that. If Eddie allowed others to speak, obviously he would not get the credit for the settlement that is about to be achieved and it would go to his Councillor rival if Eddie decides to run for a third term. It is very similar to the attack on Councillor Halberstadt when he dared used the "C" word, compromise.

You see, Eddie is under the gun right now. He knows he's in big trouble from a number of fronts. How else to explain his huge waste of taxpayer money on Greenlink advertisements. There was another wrapper around the newspaper on Saturday. Eddie needs to pretend that all of this advertising has gained so much citizen support that it will force the Senior Levels into changing the DRIC road plans to make them closer to Greenlink even if they are not.

His friends however at the Star are very pleased. The Sales and Marketing Manager at The Windsor Star must be overjoyed at the influx of City dollars. And don't forget all of the Economic Development Commission ad dollars too now that they have received a vote of confidence from the Council. I wonder if employees get bonuses at the Star if they exceed their advertising quota.

The business interests in Windsor are furious at the delays that are costing this economy dearly. They have finally decided to open up their mouths after all this time and let the Mayor know what they think. It's a shame they didn't do so before. We might not be in this mess if they had but then again it is hard to confront a Mayor in a small town when you do business here.

Gord tells us that:

  • "This week some of the city's top movers and shakers were leaning hard on local politicians to capitulate so contracts can be tendered and the bulldozers can get moving."

I have heard similar comments from insiders.

Eddie is also well aware of the threat that the Senior Levels may pull out of Windsor. Dwight Duncan mentioned that for the first time in an interview a few days ago. Can you imagine being Mayor and being blamed for that calamity if that happened. Windsorites would run him out of town.

Finally, Eddie is desperately afraid that the Bill Marra will be Windsor's next mayor especially if Eddie chooses to run again. Where else can one get a $2o0K per year job for continually failing on key tasks! No wonder that pressure is being put on Dave Cooke to run so that Dave can be the third candidate allowing Eddie to sneak up through the middle. The Star probably figured out that Mahatma Brister is not credible as a mayoral candidate any longer after his Huron Church foolishness.

No wonder Gord still feels the need to attack Marra as he did over the weekend. Bill is a very credible candidate who could easily have defeated Francis the last time out:

  • "Perhaps that explains why Ward 4 councillor and future mayoral aspirant Bill Marra went all wobbly on his council colleagues for a few hours. Maybe the heat from on high in Gritville was getting to him."

But don't be harsh on the Sheriff. He's been telling us now for several weeks Eddie's plan is. Eddie intends to cave in to the Senior Levels; he has no choice. He overplayed his hand and Dwight Duncan's polling demonstrated that. No wonder Dwight could say with impunity

  • "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG."

I thought for sure that Eddie was going to give in on the day of the DRIC announcement and declare victory. After all, Gord's column in which he suggested that the CAW help Eddie--Buzz Hargrove and Ken Lewenza Sr.-- was hilarious. Gord stated that Buzz and Ken were:

  • "sniffing out a possible compromise between DRIC and GreenLink."

Don't be silly... they were teaching Eddie to follow the practice of the Union and learn how to claim a victory even though the other side has completely destroyed you. The CAW are experts at doing that and have been for years!

The recent Ford agreement is classic... it allows Buzz to claim victory while giving Ford labour peace and permitting Ford to move most of their production into the United States over the next several years. Buzz will be long gone before the next negotiations in his new role as Senator if the Liberals when the next federal election. Let the next CAW leader worry about the future rounds of negotiations.

I have to admit that Gord's Column on May 1 fooled me. I thought that he was signalling that the Mayor was going to capitulate. Can you blame me after reading this:

  • "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find. You get what you need."

    He wasn't born when the music came out. But that line from the Rolling Stones' 1969 Let It Bleed album, along with some Kenny Rogers wisdom about knowing when to hold 'em and fold 'em, should be dancing in the cerebral cortex of Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis this morning as he contemplates how to respond to the latest and supposedly final border plan being rolled out by the province."

In fact what he was telling us is that Eddie is going to do so, but not quite yet, and also warning Eddie that he is in trouble with the Windsor Star. Again, I'm sure you recall this Editorial where the Star finally figured out what Eddie was really doing and made a suggestion for a solution:

  • "It seems clear Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan aren’t the best of friends. While not ideal, the strained relationship would be acceptable if it wasn’t influencing their politics and undermining their constituents’ interests.

    But Francis and Duncan, the two principals in negotiations over a border access road, are barely on speaking terms, with Francis levelling accusations the province left Windsor in the dark about its preferred border plan while enlightening county politicians, automakers and the chamber of commerce.

    Francis called this “divide-and-conquer” tactic “dirty pool,” but he’s been wielding a big cue of his own recently, with an advertising blitz promoting GreenLink and targeting Duncan and cabinet mate Sandra Pupatello. By default or design, the campaign has also bolstered the image of Francis, laying the foundation for a third mayoral term or a run for a provincial or federal seat...

    These differences are not insignificant but they can be bridged if both sides check their egos and resolve to find a compromise that ensures the road to a new border crossing doesn’t pass through a courtroom. Litigation would waste time and resources and delay a project promising to yield thousands of jobs. That doesn’t mean litigation should be avoided at all costs, but it means litigation comes with a steep cost best avoided."

And he cannot afford to lose the support of the Star or frankly his career is over. He's been protected so long by the Paper that it is shameful. This Star has a lot of making up to do with its subscribers.

In passing, the Star has to end the blood feud between these two since they are both needed by the Star to keep on opposing the Bridge Co. Dwight especially is their champion and the Star cannot afford to have his credibility undermined!

There is no doubt that Eddie is desperate for compromise. He has to get one, no matter what it is. As we have seen, he is a crummy negotiator and will do what he has to do to get a deal that he can pretend is a victory for the City no matter how foolish it. He is the perfect middle-management type who is clawing to get ahead. We saw his poor negotiating prowess with the Mady garage, the Cleary deal, the MFP settlement, the Keg 5 cent parking deal, the Spitfires lease, the Canderel giveaway and I am sure with the Tunnel deal. Why should the Border road be any different.

It is almost a given that there will be a compromise announcement after, or even perhaps during, the train trip to Toronto. You know the one with the Windsor business types meeting their colleagues in Toronto to promote business for this area. One can hardly sell Windsor when the City is threatening to sue the Province. That doesn't make any sense to business types. So there is an urgency to create a deal that works.

There will be another urban legend to create spread by you know who. It will be along the lines of the three politicians huddling together for four hours on the train to Toronto with maps in hand to hammer out a deal as the other Windsor business people party on around them. When the deal is announced, on-board of course, as they pull into Union Station (with the Star photographer nearby taking pictures of the historic moment in our City's history) , the cheers of the participants erupting will bring a tear to one's eye!

Hmmm I expect it will be claimed that Eddie threatened that the VIA train would be quarantined like the one recently unless a deal was reached and that forced a resolution.

How it really will happen is a lot different if it happens at all. We saw in the Star that
  • "Windsor’s two provincial cabinet ministers said Friday they are now ready and willing to meet with city councillors over border issues...

    Pupatello said there may be scheduling problems in arranging a meeting with council and it may have to be a weekend session.

    “I’m looking forward to it,” Mayor Eddie Francis said, adding council had requested a meeting as recently as last Friday after the DRIC proposal was released.

    “I think members of city council have a lot of questions to ask of them and I don’t know if anyone can sit back and really predict what we expect the result will be.

    “What it would be is the first opportunity that city council’s had in a long time to sit down face to face with the ministers and to have a real discussion on the border,” Francis said."

Unfortunately for Council, Eddie scooped them on that. They will not get a chance to ask any questions of the Ministers. He has no interest in having them talk with Council because then someone else might get the credit.

They may not know this. My sources informed me that Eddie was to meet with the two Ministers this weekend and in secret. That's a nice way to undercut your Council. They obviously had no opportunity to give him any kind of negotiating instructions either. What was the purpose of the meeting other than Eddie's career since he is desperate. Sandra and Dwight are just laughing at him since they know that they have him by the short and curlies.

Even the game that Henderson is playing by trying to boost the Federal Conservatives thereby scaring the Provincial Liberals isn't working. No one really believes that Henderson saying nice things about the Conservative Government will change anything:

  • "And now, miracle of twisted miracles, the Harper team has turned itself into Windsor's new best pal -- the straight shooters in the white hats --

    Freed of all the Windsor baggage that weighs down the Dalton McGuinty government, they can simply get on with fixing the country's most important border crossing and doing it in the most expeditious manner possible. And if that means doing precisely what the city and its experts, especially New York traffic guru Sam Schwartz recommended, so be it."

The Province knows that the Federal Transport Minister has only committed $400 million to the road project. The Province also knows that it desperately needs the Federal Government to commit more because they can't do so. We are on the brink after all of becoming a have-not province!

That is why the Provincial Budget has never set out a specific sum of money. That would tie up the negotiating position of the Province to try to get more cash or to at least get the Federal Government to provide a bigger percentage of the money required.

The Feds are running out of money as well with their $2.1 billion fund needed for the next Federal Election. It is not going to go into NDP Windsor. That is for sure no matter what Gord pretends. We'll be lucky if we get the at grade road. After all, the DRIC Road is nothing more than an artist rendition similar to the way that US DRIC is fooling the people of Delray with all of their conceptual drawings.

In the end, Bill Marra did not go "wobbly." And given his Provincial Government political connections he understands exactly what the risks are to Windsor in a way that I believe the Mayor does not.

We will see if Marra is intimidated by Francis and Gord Henderson or whether he will continue to speak out to get a proper solution for Windsor before it is too late. For our sake, Bill better keep speaking because that is the only thing that will push Francis into a real settlement. He does have a legal responsibility under the Municipal Act that he must not forget about.

In my view, Bill needs to distance himself from theMayor's absurd stance if he wants a shot at the position next time around. He has to position himself now and very publicly as the Voice of Reason and Consensus while the Mayor continues to be the Voice of hollow threats, divisiveness and taxpayer waste. It would be helpful if some other Councillors started acting as Councillors as well and not as sheep for once. If Bill remains quiet, then one has to ask if he has the stuff to be a leader in this City! The issue is that important.