Blameless In Windsor
Can the border file become even more of a mess than it is now. One day someone will sit down and write the history of the last five or six years in Windsor but the problem is no one will ever believe what is being said. Mind you, no one could ever make this stuff up since it has become so bizarre.
By the way, why is it whenever there is a screwup on this file, when the answer seems to be spend more of taxpayer money, it is always "in our interest" to do so ie in the taxpayer interest to pay out more and more and more? I wish for once the responsible party would take on the responsibility to solve the problem at their cost, not ours.
- "a small road section in front of the [Detroit/Windsor Ferry's] only access point is privately owned.
Ferry operator Gregg Ward is concerned what the sudden revelation -- after 18 years of being in business -- will mean for the project and the ferry's future."
But you see is not Mr. Ward's fault that for 18 years he did not know that the trucks that were accessing his site were trespassing over the property of someone else. For 18 years! It seems that it is not his job to solve the problem either:
- "Ward has asked Windsor city council to help expedite necessary approvals and paperwork that would allow Ontario's transportation ministry to buy a 30-metre stretch of Maplewood Drive."
Nope, it is up to taxpayers to solve this problem so that he can stay in business and to pay for the costs too. I didn't see anything in the story that said that he would be willing to make a financial contribution. Never mind that it allows him to continue to make money, it has to be resolved since
- "It's for the betterment of the city."
And then we have the Mayor and the City's retained lawyer Mr. Sutts. It looks like the Tunnel deal is dead at a cost of well over $1 million for legal and other fees with no payback to the City. It may be that the transaction can still be salvaged but right now it does not appear to be a go. Check the Detroit papers' websites if you want the latest news.
Of course, the finger of blame has to be pointed at someone for all that wasted time, money and effort. After all, this project has been going on for years with a team of lawyers working so hard in our interest. Whose fault is the failure?
I am sure that you have figured out who it is after reading so many Star stories saying the same thing over the last several days. They have to protect Eddie from another one of his failures. Why it is none other than the owner of the Bridge Company. Blame him. He is the City's so-called "enemy" isn't he. He is an easy target for the Star to cast as the villain. I can hardly wait to see Gord's column too:
- "Cliff Sutts, who has been leading the tunnel negotiations for the city, strongly believes both Moroun and Alinda are still lurking and poised to make a deal with Detroit, should talks with Windsor fall apart."
It is not Eddie's fault that:
- the Tunnel is a unique security risk and nothing has been done to solve the problem
- the City cannot afford the Tunnel Plaza Improvements even though the Senior Levels agreed to pay two thirds of the $30 million costs
- the costs of the Project have risen dramatically in amounts that we have not been told and for reasons that we have not been told
- he waited so long that the value of the Canadian side of the Tunnel dropped from around $2-$300M to what it is now...just over $100M as disclosed in the roll-over transaction
- the Tunnel volumes have been dropping like a stone and the dividends were reduced to zero dollars while he was Chair of the Tunnel Commission
- he could not find financing for this project for over a year now
- the deal with Detroit has been changed so many times that one really doesn't know whether this is a loan, a lease, a sale or some combination thereof
- Windsor Councillors may not approve the transaction in the last minute even if it was to go forward since they have never been provided with sufficient information by him to know what this deal is all about and whether a proper business case can be made for it
- Windsor citizens, at least as reflected in the Windsor Star Forums on the subject, are almost unanimously against the transaction.
It is because of all of these private operators... the Bridge Company, Alinda, Macquarie Bank... who want to raise tolls skyhigh that Eddie was forced to act even if it made no business sense to do so. He is the commuters' friend and the Michigan tourists salvation. It is his role to spend our taxpayer money to induce Detroit to keep the Tunnel public. Never mind that he uses a private operator to run the Tunnel and has for years.
Of course, if you wrap the deal in the flag of public interest and not Eddie's agenda, then you can drag the Senior Levels into this mess too:
- "I don't believe there is any question an important facility such as this located in the largest traffic (border crossing) point in all of North America should be in public ownership," Sutts said.
He is disappointed the federal and provincial governments haven't done more to stop the private sector from gaining greater control of the tunnel.
He believes private-sector control would lead to a focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term sustainability.
"The City of Windsor has been saddled with the responsibility of attempting to ensure (it remains public)," Sutts said.
"The assistance of federal or provincial governments should be freely offered to get that completed because it's in the best interest of all Canadians."
Again, we should be so grateful to Mr. Sutts for not charging us legal fees that he would charge to one of his private enterprise clients. As I wrote before:
- "The other point that I thought was interesting is that I assume that Mr. Sutts is charging a fee to the City for his services that is bordering on pro bono! After all he was the one who talked about private enterprise jamming up their charges as high as possible. Clearly, he only wants to charge "reasonable" fees.
Finally and on a different subject, I thought that Dan Stamper of the Bridge Company has a really good sense of humour. He can afford to have one since he, personally, lives in the US and is not a taxpayer in Windsor. It won't come off his property taxes to pay for a $75 million Tunnel deal after all, especially if there is a default by the Detroit side.
I thought that it was very generous of his Company not to try to outbid Windsor's offer. After all, why would they want to pay about three times more than they originally did for an asset that is aging, declining in value, is losing market share especially if the new DRIC Bridge takes away 25% of their traffic and may require during the term of the deal major capital investment. It is no wonder that he can state:
- "It doesn't bother me if it goes forward."
He can do the math as well as we can, dear reader, and knows that to pay back the interest and principal of a $75 million loan means that the tolls at the Tunnel have to be increased dramatically so that users of the Tunnel may think twice about crossing over using the Tunnel and use his Bridge instead! And once the Ambassador Gateway project is finished with its new highway connections, imagine how hard it will be for the Tunnel to compete.
I wonder if the "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" considered that in his Business Plan. Ooops I forgot, there is no need for a business case for this from Eddie. It is in our interest to keep the Tunnel public.
I can hardly wait for the next chapter in this border story. What startling event will take place that no one would ever have expected and how much more will it cost us because it is "in our interest!"