Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, June 20, 2008

BLOGbreaking News: McCain Gets It, When Will Harper

The Globe and Mail and CBC both posted Senator McCain's speech!

Here is the part that interested me:

  • "The two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor equals all American exports to Japan. That transit, and all our crossing points, must remain secure. In extending our security partnership, we can ensure continued flows of people and commerce while maintaining security on which these very flows depend. We need to do an even better job of managing the regular traffic across our border...

    Already, we cooperate in preparing for emergencies...We exchange public health officers...

    Complying with NAFTA's rules of origin can be cumbersome and costly. Border delays can pose a serious impediment to trade, the equivalent of a tariff...If I am elected president, have no doubt that America will honor its international commitments-- and we will expect the same of others. We will strengthen and extend the open and rules-based international trading system."

Obviously the McCain campaign was well aware of Detroit/Windsor given the reference to the Ambassador Bridge that was NOT specifically named in the Free Press article and the mention of public health officers (Remember the ambulance situation and nurses working in the US). The key line and the key word in the speech for this region are:

  • "We need to do an even better job of managing the regular traffic across our border."
Managing the border, not adding capacity at a cost of billions that does nothing to get "regular" vehicles through more quickly as Canada wants to do.

Border delays he understood are a concern but again there was no reference to adding capacity as a solution! The delays were in the context of "impediments" caused by NAFTA's rules of origin.

When will our Government finally learn what the Senator already knows.

McCain's Not So Gentle Slap

Take a look at John McCain's Op-Ed piece in the Detroit Free Press today. It will be interesting if his Ottawa speech is the same.

While obviously the purpose of the speech is to differentiate himself from his opponent in the Presidential election, it is also a speech directed to the Canadian Government if the US Ambassador to Canada helped arrange for the speech to be delivered in Ottawa. Is this President Bush hitting back for Harper's SPP comments?

There is a not so gentle slap at our Prime Minister for making it appear as if McCain has no chance to be the President. That is the result of Canada suggesting that they want to conclude a deal with President Bush over the new DRIC bridge by mid-July. This was suggested by the Radio-Canada news story. The strong suggestion is that McCain will not win the election. [BLOGs: May 09, 2008 "Is President George Bush Livid," Monday, May 12, 2008 "Kantor Interview Transcript"]

No wonder Harper left town and won't meet the Senator!

Note that the issue identified as a problem between Canada and the United States is "thickening" without using the word. He talked about
  • "impediments to trade or the equivalent of a tariff."

More importantly, by using the word "impediment," he just threatened the Prime Minister over the issue of oil, something that Harper raised with President Bush during the SPP meeting. Oil was mentioned twice in McCain's speech along with this comment that should give the Canadian Government pause. It will also say to the American public, and to the Canadians, that McCain is prepared to renegotiate NAFTA if needed:

  • "When we believe action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them."

Americans, and Canadians especially, should not count out the Arizona Senator so quickly!

  • U.S. shouldn't put vital ties with Canada at risk over NAFTA
    BY JOHN McCAIN • June 20, 2008

    As one end of the bridge that connects America to our neighbors to the north, Detroit knows well that a close U.S.-Canada relationship is vitally and increasingly important.

    In Michigan alone, 221,000 jobs are supported by trade with Canada. NAFTA countries comprise by far the largest export market for Michigan manufacturers. Last year, Michigan businesses sent more than $23 billion of exports to Canada, more than 20 times the total of their exports to China.

    At a time when Michigan's auto industry faces serious pressure, $11 billion of vehicles and parts were exported to Canada. The task for the next president will be to build on these ties in order to make North America more secure, more prosperous, and more open to opportunity for all our citizens.

    The North American Free Trade Agreement has provided our economy with a framework in which we can become more competitive. We will never achieve our goals by simply demanding the unilateral reopening of the treaty or threatening to unilaterally abrogate it. Such a move would be the height of economic and foreign policy irresponsibility.

    What is needed is the cooperative work of partners to reduce the burden of complying with NAFTA's rules of origin and to reduce border delays so they do not become impediments to trade or the equivalent of a tariff. Perhaps most of all, those who would lead our countries must work to ensure that the benefits of NAFTA are understood throughout our countries, and not jeopardized through "cowboy diplomacy."

    U.S. Sen. Barack Obama does not understand this. He has called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," characterizations that are out of touch with the reality of NAFTA in Michigan. What truly would be devastating is to jeopardize the trade expansion of NAFTA through a misguided, isolationist impulse that would inevitably and understandably alienate a key partner like Canada.

    Our economic ties are not all that so closely binds Canada and the United States. Whether it comes to the protection of our national security, the future of our environment, or the flows of our energy, we rely on the cooperative relations Canada and the United States have forged. We import more of our oil and more of our natural gas from Canada than any other country.

    As governments, we have made real progress in keeping our borders closed to terrorists and open to trade. In extending our security partnership with Canada, we can ensure continued flows of people and commerce while maintaining security on which these very flows depend.

    In countless areas of international security, from Afghanistan to Haiti to proliferation, our common interests require common action. Sen. Obama's take-it-or-leave-it approach to dealing with America's friends would not rebuild the alliance relationships we need.

    On my watch, America will listen to the views of our democratic allies. When we believe action is necessary, whether military, economic or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them.

    Canada and the United States have a shared destiny. We are both continental powers, nations shaped by our diverse heritage and our frontier experience. We are also both Arctic nations. And because of this common geography, we must be acutely aware of the perils posed by global warming and take immediate steps to reverse its effects.

    I was among the first in Congress to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gasses. We must also work to ensure reliable energy supplies and increase sources of renewable energy. Canada is America's largest energy supplier and not one that we need fear will pose a threat to our energy security.

    As you read this, I'm scheduled to be visiting Ottawa to demonstrate how much we value our relationship and the economic and security benefits it brings -- for Michigan and all of America. Allies and partners like Canada cannot be taken for granted. If I am elected president, they will not be.

You Never Know What You'll Find

If you look around long and hard enough you never know what you'll find. Here are a few treasures I found along the way.


An interesting story in the Globe and Mail about election financing in Quebec. It looks like Public Works Minister Senator Michael Fortier and Transport Canada Minister Lawrence Cannon, both of whom are involved in our border crossing, are doing quite well in gaining contributions.

Of course those jealous Oppostion MPs just have to take shots at them. C'est la vie:
  • Public Works Minister awash in flood of donations
    DANIEL LEBLANC, June 18, 2008

    OTTAWA -- Senator Michael Fortier hauled in almost $430,000 in donations last year in preparation for the next federal election, prompting opposition accusations that he is trading on his position as Minister of Public Works in a bid to win a seat in the House of Commons.

    Newly disclosed records show Mr. Fortier amassed more money in 2007 than the combined total of the eight Conservative MPs in Quebec who have filed their financial statements.

    The spending limit in the next election in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, the Quebec riding Mr. Fortier plans to contest, will be around $85,000. However, Mr. Fortier is using a portion of his funds for pre-electoral work, spending $195,000 last year for three employees and two offices, and another $18,000 in advertising.

    The Bloc Québécois currently holds Vaudreuil-Soulanges and is raising questions about the Harper government's efforts to remove the influence of money in politics.

    "There is a link that we'd like to clear up between Mr. Fortier's responsibility as Minister of Public Works, which hands out $20-billion a year in contracts, and almost half a million dollars in donations that he obtained," Bloc MP Réal Ménard said.

    Mr. Fortier said in an interview that the funds he received came from a "rainbow coalition" of Montrealers who want an MP from the city in the next government.

    "It's not disproportionate for someone who wants to do the job correctly," said Mr. Fortier, who is also the Conservative minister with political responsibility for Montreal...

    According to the records made public on the Elections Canada website last weekend, the Mount Royal riding association transferred in 2007 a total of $193,000 to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Conservative riding association.

    In addition, Mr. Fortier last year obtained a total of $233,000 in donations from 385 donors who all respected the maximum legal donation of $1,100, including a who's who of the business sector...

    Michael Fortier, Public Works, $428,654.92
    Lawrence Cannon, Transportation, $121,000.79


I thought there was a potential problem with liability if the arena opened early. I thought that there was to be an extra cost of $500,000 in overtime if the Arena is to be finished by September rather than January.

Well those problems magically disappeared

  • "The three community rinks inside the new Windsor Family Credit Union Centre will open early this fall."

As I wrote before, the rinks had to be opened or else the Arena might have been empty for a good part of the year costing the City a ton of money because the various users had to book their rinks well in advance:

  • "This would coincide with the ice users' schedules, so we are working towards having them open."


Well maybe, if you pay a half million in overtime.

Well maybe, after I read this in the Arena Steering Committee Minutes, there is a neat way that they're playing with numbers so that there will not be any cost overruns.

As you can tell, $1.5 million will not be charged to the Arena but rather to the City's operating budget. Why this is done I have no idea. All I know is that the Committee just gave themselves another 1 1/2 million dollars to play with to pretend there were no overruns. Add in $500,000 for "over time" get the picture don't you.


In case you do not understand what the pay-as-you-go philosophy means, here it is spelled out in black and white with respect to the 400 building:
In effect, you and I, dear reader/taxpayer, are the City's bank and we don't charge any interest to the City. You see, we don't loan the City any money, they just take it from us in taxes so that the City can be fiscally responsible while we taxpayers go down the tubes.

Aren't you thrilled that the City has saved $16 million in interest but that you are having trouble paying for the 86% increase in WUC charges. The life of the building is considerable and normally would have been paid off over 20 years. Instead it is paid for almost immediately out of our pockets.

We pay, they go on spending is what the philosophy really means.

But here's the neat trick that is used to keep the cost of the building "ON BUDGET." There is a half million dollars in post-construction interest charges. Instead of charging it to the Project, it is buried in City operating expenses. Just like at the arena.

In case you're wondering also how a "Debt Reduction Plan" could fund this project when there is no debt for the building let me explain. You see the money that is being taken from you as a taxpayer to be used you thought to reduce City debt actually can't be used to reduce City debt. Interest charges on debt outstanding are like your mortgage: they are payable at certain predetermined times according to the terms of the financing and cannot be prepaid.

So some genius decided that we would take money from taxpayers supposedly to reduce debt but actually we're not reducing debt. In the terms of City Hall we are: avoiding debt. Your money is not being paid to reduce debt; it is being paid into a Debt Avoidance Fund so we won't have City debt in the first place.

Now just because YOU have to incur debt so that the City does not have to incur debt, is not too encouraging is it. That does not concern City Hall. After all, they have Standard and Poor's to impress, not you.


Almost 18 months ago, in February 2007, the City's Audit Committee said that the Arena Project should have a Charter that identifies goals and budget resource allocations.

As was stated

What that means I guess is that they make it up as they go along.

The interesting question is where was the Audit Committee to ensure that the Charter was created a long time ago. Frankly, what does the Audit Committee do? They were invisible in the WUC matter, allowed lengthy delays on the fleet audit and now on the 400 building.


I'll let Sam Schwartz make the argument to justify why private enterprise tolls may seem higher at first blush but may be a bargain in the end:

  • "Panelist Sam Schwartz, principal of Sam Schwartz Engineering and leader of a forensics team studying the Minneapolis disaster, recalled that as New York City’s traffic commissioner in the 1980s, he nearly had to permanently close the Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges. Upkeep on both heavily traveled spans had been neglected for years, Schwartz said.

    "By being penny-wise, we’re saddling future generations with enormous costs," Schwartz said, adding that committing funds to maintaining a state of good repair could reduce the need for expensive remedial action. "If you invest in children early, you don’t have to invest in jails later."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

So Many More

You will not believe it. More stories for your information


I thought I read in the Star:
  • "City officials will also boycott the open houses."
Then today I read:
  • "Hundreds drawn to DRIC open house...Citizens tell Dilkens to push GreenLink"
Now I remember that Drew had to leave Council early on Monday. Perhaps his Wardmate, Councillor Brister, forgot to give him the Memo.

Or perhaps unlike some of his colleagues, Councillor Dilkens actually wants to know what residents think. What a strange concept for this Council.

I hope that he is not confronted with swear words and an Integrity Commissioner threat at the next in camera Council meeting.


All that Parkland that needs to be looked after. If it is not done, then which of the following excuses will be used:
  • "According to Councillor Valentinis, the reason why "Grass cutting at city parks [is] falling short" is "with global warming, grass appears to be growing earlier and faster every spring"
  • we are waiting for the University students to join the Parks Department before the grass would be cut
  • it a nature preserve so that the grass never needs cutting
  • a mild May followed by lots of rain and warm weather has sent vegetation growth at city parks out of control and staff are having trouble keeping up with it
  • we are waiting for Dave Wake to get an answer from the Premier with respect to funding
  • let the County pay for it if they have the majority of the roadway
  • all of the above


A famous Windsor celebrity just sold his house.

I am concerned since he lives in the DRTP corridor area and given his connections at City Hall perhaps he knows something and is getting out now while the getting is good.

I expect that he may be retiring since he hinted at it before.

Is he downsizing his house or moving into a condo or merely just moving? Or perish the thought, will he be moving out West to get a new, higher-paying job to take advantage of the Eddie Francis personnel agency recruitment relationship with Western mayors. Perhaps he is going to Oakville to be near a relative.


Even though the Star's Dave Battagello stopped writing BLOGs, his old ones used to be available on the Star online. Not any more:

"Not Found: Forum Not Found
The forum you requested does not exist."


Someone should be looking at the Blue Water Bridge plaza project and the DRIC project together and not let the Governments treat them as unrelated projects.

Here's why:

  • If the DRIC project will take away a good chunk of the BWB business since it has to cannibalize their traffic to make their bridge pay, then why spend $400M+ for a plaza and destroy a good part of Port Huron
  • If they spend money to fix up the plaza in Port Huron so traffic is attracted there, then who needs the DRIC bridge.

See what I mean about Government logic!


Does the Customs officers union think that this comment will excuse their responsibility:

  • "Our members are discontented enough to start a slowdown," Coupal said. "We have no control -- that's the problem. They may take some of these things into their own hands."

Nothing like preparing an excuse and a defence to a possible lawsuit in advance:

  • "My estimation is that it's going to get very ugly," Leibel said. "I think you're going to see small pockets of rebellion from our members, not instructed by the union, but taking it upon themselves. Several people will maybe muster together the troops and say, 'Let's do something about this'."
Rebellion, mustering the troops. Are they declaring war? Oh my goodness, they carry guns now too and they may take things into their own hands. Scary thought!

Wow, nothing like signalling to your members what they might be able to do but saying that the union is not involved.

I wonder if the almost daily drug seizure stories are a mere co-incidence to demonstrate how well the Customs officers are performing.

In passing, one has to wonder why we have such backups at the border so many times given these stats:
  • "Since 1999, when Windsor and Essex County saw a peak of 7.9 million visits from the U.S., the numbers have tumbled to 3.3 million in 2005, the latest figures available from the convention and visitors bureau."


It seems that not only the conversation will be changed in Windsor but the roads as well. Here is a note I received from a reader about the reduction in width of Huron Church Road to two lanes as shown in the Schwartz diagram:

  • "I had an in-depth discussion with one of Schwartz's traffic engineers after closely inspecting their proposal at Willistead last year... I was told that under Greenlink, Huron Church would become a 2-lane secondary road (think Jefferson Ave. between Tecumseh Rd. & Wyandotte) barely wide enough for a truck to travel on."

If true, this has to be an agreed to plan by all three levels of Government to squeeze away business from the Bridge Co. if all else fails in order to allow the new bridge to prosper. Clearly, that is also why the Schwartz/Greenlink road never went past E C Row. Eddie does not want to be part of a lawsuit on his own for destroying the Bridge Co. business.


I saw a comment recently about the Ambassador Bridge:
  • "the busiest international border in North America is owned by a private for-profit-company. Currently, the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America, handling 20 percent more trucks than its closest competitor and almost double the commercial traffic of the next busiest crossing on the Canadian border. In all, almost 30 percent of all U.S./Canada trade and over 25 percent of the truck traffic between the U.S. and Canada passes through the Detroit-Windsor gateway. This U.S.-Canadian trade directly supports 7.1 million U.S. jobs, 221,500 Michigan jobs, and one in three Canadian jobs. More than $1 billon in trade crosses the bridge everyday.

What a coincidence that a private operator is the number one border operator in North America. Or is it?

Don't you find it fascinating that the prosperity the economies of the United States and Canada is partly due to the fact that private money has been used to make the Windsor/Detroit crossing so successful.

Now the Governments want to take away the business created by the private enterprise party from that private enterprise party. The funny part is the Governments are then going to turn around and give the private enterprise business developed by the private enterprise party to another private enterprise party.

Only the same Governments that treat the Blue Water Bridge project and the DRIC project as unrelated could have this logic!


You think so do you.

$1.6 billion, 10 times the amount of any other road project in Ontario, the Province paying itself for the costs of expropriation with the Federal Government only paying 50% of the "eligible capital costs" whatever that means.

Naturally, the road will be built because DRIC is out there right now buying up properties. Oh ye of little faith. There will be work done on Huron Church Road but it won't be the DRIC Road or the even more costly Greenlink THINK BIG stall road.

And what about the properties then? They will do what MDOT did in the Port Huron area:

  • "MDOT plans to sell homes

    The Michigan Department of Transportation has acquired property it no longer needs for the expansion of the Blue Water Bridge Plaza.

    Matt Webb, who is handling the project for MDOT, said 26 parcels, mostly residential, have been bought in advance of the project. Of those, a search of county property shows two homes no longer are needed since MDOT announced plans Thursday to reduce the size of the project.

    The project has been scaled back by 8 acres, from 65 to 57, and will spare 21 homes and four businesses initially slated for demolition.

    When the 26 parcels were bought, MDOT was "looking at making protective purchases," Webb said. "Since that's changed, those (two houses) will be put back on the market at fair market value."

    The two homes were "hardship cases," Webb said without elaborating on the specifics."

Who knows, DRIC might even make a profit on the sale too to help pay for their fees!

The high-rollers get Billy Joel. The peasants get a free toll!

I read in Crains Detroit that, to draw gamblers to Windsor:
  • "[Caesars Windsor] will pay for tolls in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel from 3 p.m-8 p.m. on Sunday... The gaming company did impose a cap on the generosity: 4,000 cars. At $3.75 U.S. per trip, the afternoon will cost $15,000. Don’t expect the same treatment on the way home — the promotion is only one-way."

If they are targetting US residents, then my question...isn't that the time when most Canadians come home after shopping in the US? Aren't Americans returning home then too so they get no advantage?

I guess the theory must be that Canadians have saved so much money by shopping in the US that we may try our luck at the Casino too.

One question: how many American high-rollers will be stopped by US Customs when exiting the US because they did not declare all of the cash they are carrying so they can make $50K bets at the Casino!

  • "Failure to provide all or any part of the requested information may subject the currency or monetary instruments to seizure and forfeiture, as well as subject the individual to civil and criminal liabilities."

Will The Detroit River Survive a New DRIC Bridge

A secret video of tests undertaken by DRIC have now been uncovered during a covert operation undertaken by a team of dedicated Blogmeister moles.

The concern has been raised that, notwithstanding the DRIC peer review by experts, if an error has been made in the calculations for the location of the DRIC bridge, a catastrophe of immense proportions could take place in the region because of the salt mines and brine wells.

Here is the hidden until now DRIC video of the results of the tests that have been kept out of the public record until this time.

Those of you with homes near the river and the various waterways in the region have beeen warned!

This is definitely a matter that our NDP MP, Brian Masse, needs to raise immediately in Parliament along with the Truck Ferry land access issue.

Seriously, I could NOT write a BLOG on the DRIC Announcement again. So thanks to a reader I was pointed to this video.

From a comment on Google Earth to explain what happened:
  • "Lake Pelgneur home of Rip Van Winkle's Gardens and a large salt dome, which up until 1980 was mined by Diamon Crystal inc. On a peaceful November morning in1980 the lake was accidently drained into the salt mine located directly under the lake. A well known gas and oil company was prospecting for crude oil, when the interor of the mine was penetrated. As all the water from the lake drained into the mine a tugboat, a string of barges, and two oil rigs got swallowed into the hole.

    Normally, water from the lake flowed out through the Delcambre Canal to Vermilion Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.With the emptying of the lake, however, the water was flowing from the Delcambre Canal into the crater. This reverse flow continued for the next two days until the lake was once again filled with water, and the normal flow out into the canal recommenced.

    As this happened, nine or ten barges that had been sucked into the sink hole, popped to the surface, one-by-one, like giant corks that had been held at the bottom of a pail."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Last Border BLOG Ever

It may be my Last Dance with you, dear reader.

There hardly seems to be a point in writing anymore about the border since the announcement of the DRIC road and the new bridge and plaza locations today should end the entire debate. Accordingly, if there is nothing to write about with respect to the border, why should I bother?

And that is what today’s Announcement is supposed to be all about isn’t it. It was all a political announcement designed to achieve a political objective. It had nothing to do with what is really going to happen at the border.

We are supposed to believe that the Governments on our side and eventually on the US side will approve what the DRIC people are putting forward, meaning that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project is finished.

However, dear reader, do you and I believe that? Naw…we know better. This is just another step in the process designed by the Governments to force the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out cheaply. They have to play the game right to the end or their bluff will have been called. It is all a game of high-stakes poker with the future of Canada at risk. This is something that the Harper Government has still not yet understood about NAFTA, especially if Obama wins.

Now I know how the uninvited Billy Joel fans think about the Casino people. I have to tell you that I’m very annoyed. I thought as a member of the media, since Transport Canada and the MTO have both accredited me, that I would be invited to the press conference today. It did not happen in spite of phone calls to the media representative of Transport Canada and e-mails to him as well. I did not even get the courtesy of a response. Not only that, I am on MDOT’s list for mailings in the United States and I did not get a note from them about the special meeting tonight that they called so urgently this morning.

I guess the problem is that if one does not follow the party line the way some people do then one is cut off from access. I assume I am being punished for saying some nasty things about what the Governments are doing and how the Canadian Government in particular is jeopardizing the country for some petty little reasons that they have with respect to this one particular border crossing. They are prepared to sacrifice free trade between Canada and the United States, for what?

Anyway, if you want to swallow what the Government wants you to hear, there are enough media outlets in town that will feed you the Government line. If you want some insight, them you might want to check with what some of the BLOGGERS in town write with which you may agree or disagree.

I have no intention of going through the details of what was said at the Presentation today. You can read about that online or in the Star or listen to it or watch it on the news over the next day or two. Rather I would like to give you my impressions of what took place at the Presentation today.

My thoughts are random and in no particular order. It is just what struck me after listening to this for several hours this morning. I do want to congratulate CKLW for having the courtesy to run the entire Presentation live and on air so that those of us who were not invited could hear what was going on.

Here is the total and complete absurdity of what was said this morning. Believe it or not, I have to thank Brian Masse for it. Thanks to Brian, we know that the Governments are almost in a state of desperation about border crossings not only at the Ambassador Bridge but at the Tunnel and at the Blue Water Bridge as well. At the Tunnel, Detroit Mayor is so desperate he is threatening 1300 job cuts if the deal with Eddie, whatever that is, is not approved by Detroit Council. He does not seem to be concerned that Eddie doesn’t have the money but that is something else. In Port Huron, the Plaza is being reconfigured supposedly to quiet down opposition to it.

I won’t even get into what is going on at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie/Buffalo.

However it is the Truck Ferry where everything is falling apart. Brian was trying but was not successful to find out what was going on with respect to the acquisition of the land there so that the Ferry Operator is allowed to have trucks cross over that property so that they can use the Ferry. As you may recall, for 18 years trucks have been trespassing over land owned by another in order to use the Ferry.

There is no doubt that Brian was trying to embarrass the Federal Government for not having control of the land around a border crossing. However, it was hilarious how each level of Government was pointing the finger at another as to who is responsible for dealing with the landowner. It looks as if it is the City of Windsor who is supposed to do that ultimately, probably because Eddie, although in attendance, was not on the platform to point the finger to someone else to take the blame.

Be serious, if three levels of Government in Canada cannot deal with this silly little piece of land dealing with the Ferry, then how are they going to deal with the Ambassador Bridge Company and with the management there that is not afraid of them and is prepared to take the appropriate steps to protect their business interests. It just boggles the mind that Canada thinks they can do anything.

And that, dear reader, is the reality about why the Announcement today is absolutely meaningless in the scheme of things.

Here are my other thoughts:

  •  The Announcement today was really designed to undercut the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project with Michigan legislators. The Canadian Government keeps saying that they are going to treat the Bridge Company fairly with respect to their Environmental Assessment. Of course, that is not in their interest but don’t dare say it or else there would be a huge damages claim against them. What the announcement today will allow the Bridge Company enemies in Lansing to say is that the Canadian Government has effectively killed the Bridge Co. project and the DRIC the bridge is the only solution that Canada will allow to go forward.
  •  Not only is Canada trying to discredit federal politicians in the United States who are running for President, Canada is now taking a shot at the Michigan Republicans in the Senate and Senator Cropsey in particular just before their hearings are to take place. Can Conservatives in Ottawa really be this stupid? I wonder what would happen if Senator Cropsey issued a subpoena to have some Canadian Federal and Provincial Ministers attend his hearings.
  •  Just to put it a different way, Canada is telling the United States and Michigan that the bridge is going where they want it to go, PERIOD. It does not matter nor does the Canadian Government care what the Americans think
  •  The amount of money that will be required to complete this project is $200 million each for the plazas on both sides of the border and about $800 million for the bridge. The comment was made that the bridge will be owned by the Government of Canada. Does that mean that Canada will pay for all of it, or rather their P3 partner will? What about the Americans, what will they own… will they have any interest in the new bridge? Is there going to be another Homeland Security scandal involving this bridge before it is built? If the bridge is a P3 bridge, how does Michigan get involved when they have no legislation to permit it? This appears to be Canada’s way to completely control the most important border crossing between Canada and the United States.
  •  Of course, the $1.2 billion cost makes this crossing completely uncompetitive with the Ambassador Bridge. So who is going to invest in it? It was interesting when the Government was given the opportunity to say that P3 companies have been banging on their door looking to be involved. They did not do so. In fact, the Government even refused to say what criteria they were looking for in a P3 partner even though they have been involved in other P3 deals.
  •  I was disappointed that our Mayor was not interviewed. However, Patty Handysides got to speak to him and unknowingly, he revealed all. Schwartz Report #1, full tunneling and Greenlink were, as I suspected, nothing more than stall tactics. The Mayor claimed that the City has $100 million worth of projects that need to be started and he hopes that the workers will not be taken for the DRIC project so that the City projects will be put on the back burner. Silly me, if he has all of these jobs, then why does he want to chase workers of Windsor to commute out West? Why doesn’t he just start them? Instead, he wants the DRIC project to start after the City works have been completed. What the Mayor has just said is that he will ask for at least $100 million from the Senior Levels for Brighton Beach, since it cost the City around $20 million in the 1990s for that land. He is telling them that he wants the money for his projects so that he can use this as his excuse to be reelected for a third term. Eddie is not going to litigate but rather is using all of this as his negotiating tactic.
  •  Confirmation was given by Minister Cannon that Senator Fortier, as you read here, was the Minister who came down to talk to the City presumably about both Brighton Beach and I would guess, the Tunnel. No wonder Kwame is going all out for the Tunnel deal now. It would not surprise me if he has learned that the Feds might be his investor and not the Province.
  •  As well, the Senator came down here to speak with the Ambassador Bridge Company also. It was interesting at the Presentation with the lack of a reference to the Bridge Company. The Ministers did not want to get involved in a hypothetical conversation about litigation but they did get into conversation about whether the Bridge Company might be the P3 operator for the Federal Government. Is that what the good Senator is going to offer to the Bridge Company i.e. to take away their business that they developed and built up at their private cost and expense and then allow them to bid to get it back!
  •  Did someone in the Senator’s office leak the story to Radio-Canada about the Americans being on-side with respect to the new bridge?
  •  It was interesting who was not present at the Announcement. I did not hear about anybody from MDOT or the Michigan Government being there. They would not dare given Senator Cropsey’s hearings. Who was the spokesperson for the American Government? It was someone about as low on the totem pole as possible and so unconnected with the file as possible that he could not say anything. It was the US Consul General out of Toronto. To me, that speaks volumes about the Americans not having made a decision and that this process was designed by Canada to try to force them to go along with what Canada wanted. It reconfirms as well what happened between President Bush and Prime Minister Harper at the SPP meeting and between US Secretary Peters and Minister Cannon at the mini-SPP. Canada lost.
  •  After the problem that closed down the Expressway today in both directions, look for terrific pressure being put on the City to allow the Expressway to be used while the road to the border is being built. There is a need for an alternate route. Of course, the City will agree provided that the Mayor gets the kind of extra money that he wants. After all, if the DRIC projects are done after his projects are completed then he does not care about timing does he.
  •  The guys laughing the most today have to be ex-Mayor Hurst and John Tofflemire.
  •  Again the Ministers were pretending that there is no traffic issue and that the volumes will be there to necessitate a new bridge. Of course, that is not what US DRIC said since they have to cannibalize traffic from other crossings but who cares about facts. They confirmed that Wilbur Smith is doing a traffic analysis for the possible investors. Of course, I am certain that the criteria under which they are operating means that the result wanted by the Government is inevitable.
  •  I wonder why Minister Fortier was not present since he is a key guy on this crossing.
  •  No wonder MP Jeff Watson was smiling from ear to ear. He thinks this Announcement and its 25,000 jobs will mean that Susan Whelan has no chance of beating him. He is also praying that this number of jobs means that everyone will forget that the Federal Government refused to invest in Ford. I think that he or someone else threw in the word “high-paying” in relation to the jobs.
  •  25,000 represents the number of jobs on both sides of the border. It is a lot more than anyone has predicted so far but what the heck, numbers don’t mean anything anyway.
  •  The absurdity of the situation for a new bridge was pointed out again by Patty Handysides. She stated that we do not have enough Customs agents now and that the officers at the border must work overtime. How is Canada going to staff 29 more booths when they have said that six new booths at the existing Ambassador Bridge are not needed and therefore will not be staffed. The cost of running the DRIC bridge would take up a good chunk of the $75 million that the Federal Government set aside for Customs agents for the entire country.
  •  It was no mere coincidence that the announcements for the bridge will be made at separate times between Canada and the United States. It is no mere coincidence that MDOT is having a Special Meeting tonight and that they stated:

    “This morning, our Canadian partners issued a media release announcing the technically and environmentally preferred location of the new Canadian inspection plaza and bridge crossing between Windsor and Detroit. The U.S. is aware of this identification, and it is consistent with the technical and environmental analysis we have undertaken on the U.S. side to-date. The purpose of the meeting tonight is to make the U.S. study team available to you for any questions you may have, and continue to provide you with details and information on results of the study process being followed.”

A couple of other interesting matters that you may want to consider. Why was the Government afraid to mention the number of homes that would have to be taken. The Star claimed that it was 30 homes and some businesses while mention was made of only “a handful” at the Presentation.

I must admit that this was quite a surprise to me since I was unaware of the necessity to take any property in Canada. The focus was always on Delray and the hundreds of families and businesses that would be uprooted there. What other surprises does DRIC have for Sandwich that we have not yet been told as the road, plaza and bridge are being designed? How many of the surprises does Eddie know already? If he does know of some, will he overlook them for the money that he is to receive from the Senior Levels?

Did you notice this on the Star online that was removed this morning in the published Star:

  • “Another source close to the border debate said Tuesday Moroun has to weigh his options because a lengthy legal battle against DRIC would also likely hold off approvals for his own bridge proposal. That could be problematic since the 79-year-old Ambassador Bridge may be moving close to requiring some major repairs.

    The U.S. Federal Highway Administration is said to have hired a consultant which recently studied the bridge's condition as part of the ongoing $230-million Gateway project in Detroit -- a two-year effort that involves several Detroit freeways, including I-75, being reconstructed to better link with Moroun's bridge.

    "He has the ability to tie this up for many years," said the U.S. source. "How serious is his maintenance issue -- that's the unknown."

I would really like to know why those several paragraphs were removed. My guess is a very easy one. If it is true, which I doubt, that the bridge is in need of major repairs, then who would dare stop the Enhancement Project for moving forward. If there was a catastrophe then the Government officials who prevented the replacement from being built would be in serious difficulty and could perhaps be charged criminally if someone got hurt. Moreover, it would certainly end the DRIC project or put it seriously at risk financially since there would be a competitor to the new bridge with no guarantee that the new bridge would even be able to pay its own way.

Regretfully, dear reader, you will be stuck with me for some time longer. Nothing changed today of importance. The fun and games are continuing. Trust me, I’ll have a lot more to write about for you to read with your coffee.

Would you care to dance?

Thickening And The Ambassador Bridge

When historians look back and see why Canada's economy suffered after the renegotiation of NAFTA by US President Obama, the finger of blame will be pointed at both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson.

Some of the actions taken by them are so incomprehensible that one has to wonder what they were thinking or were they so completely fooled by their bureaucrats that they had no idea what they were doing.

Several readers sent me a link to a Toronto Star opinion piece by Michael Geist who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. The title of the story was:
  • "How the U.S. got its Canadian copyright bill"

The gist of the story is that the Americans got the kind of copyright law that they wanted in Canada even though it seemed to be opposed to that which most Canadians desired. Here though is the part that I found most interesting

  • "The public campaign was obvious. U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins was outspoken on the copyright issue, characterizing Canadian copyright law as the weakest in the G7...

    The private campaign was even more important. Sources say that U.S. officials, emboldened by the successful campaign for anti-camcording legislation, upped the ante at the Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting in Quebec last summer. Canadian officials arrived ready to talk about a series of economic concerns but were quickly rebuffed by their U.S. counterparts, who indicated that progress on other issues would depend upon action on the copyright file.

    Those demands were echoed earlier by the USTR, which, according to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, made veiled threats about "thickening the border" between Canada and the U.S. if Canada refused to put copyright reform on the legislative agenda."

There is that "thickening" word that I've talked about before. That is what the border file is all about as I've written so many times as far as Canada is concerned. It really has nothing to do with the Ambassador Bridge.

But that is exactly why our Government has acted so stupidly. They are making the Ambassador Bridge an issue that the Americans are going to have to deal with to our detriment. Rather, our Government should be protecting us in the NAFTA debate. The silly 2 KM that could connect the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge as an "intermediate solution" under the terms of the Border Infrastructure Fund will instead become the catalyst that may lead to a border war.

Just wait until Michigan demands completion of the connection for the sake of their economy under the Michigan/Ontario MoU and lobbies the US President to help out. Then what will Canada do? A precedent already has been set when Ontario signed an ITS MOU with Michigan in order to:

  • "exchange information to help keep traffic moving across the border through the use of a variety of technologies, including sensors, computers, telecommunications and electronics."

The issue is really free trade, whether NAFTA will renegotiated and how does Canada protect access to the American market for our goods. It is NOT who owns the Ambassador Bridge or how to force the Owner to sell out cheaply.

What does our Government do...NAFTA-gate. We tried to boost Hillary Clinton's chances by interfering in the US Presidential primaries by embarrassing Barack Obama. I guess someone in Ottawa made a mistake about who would win that race since Obama became the Democratic Party nominee and he may well become the next President of the United States. I wonder if that person bet on Big Brown to win in the Belmont race too for the Triple Crown.

Then came the ridiculous Radio-Canada story that not only tried to pressure the President but did an end run around Obama and dismissed McCain's chances of winning the presidency.

Why stop there... now John McCain wants to come to Ottawa to give a speech on NAFTA. As Bob Rae said:

  • "McCain's speech suggests Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is playing favorites in the U.S. presidential contest.

    "It's hard not to wonder what this is all about given the previous history of this story, and I'm sure he would not have come unless he was told by the government of the day that it was a good idea," Rae said. "It does put Canada in the middle of the campaign."

Insult Obama some more and effectively bet that he will lose. Mind you, Harper and the Conservatives will have something in common with the Chinese state-run People's Daily newspaper which said the other day:

  • "The paper also questioned Mr. Obama's plans to end the Iraq war and fix the failing U.S. economy, while focusing in on his inexperience.

    "To borrow a phrase used in Clinton and Obama's campaigns, maybe one can describe the feelings that voters might encounter: Everyone imagine for a moment the person who picks up the red phone at 3 a.m. in the White House - if it's McCain, they will be at ease," the paper argued.

All of which brings me back to the Ambassador Bridge. Is this file that important to Canada's economic future just so that, as Gord Henderson wrote:

  • "we surely understand now why Herb Gray moved heaven and earth, as Liberal minister responsible for FIRA (Foreign Investment Review Agency) in the early 1980s, in a failed effort to prevent Moroun's trucking empire from acquiring the Canadian half of the bridge. That battle was lost in the federal courts and ended with an out-of-court settlement following a marathon legal struggle."

Is it the economic nationalists or the money boys in investment houses or pension funds or P3 firms who think that they are going to make a fortune on the crossing who are running this file to the detriment of Canada.

Canada is forgetting about the real purpose of the Transport Canada Corridors and Gateways policy initiative which is truly important for our country. It is using that initiative as the excuse for trying to put the Owner of the Bridge Company out of business so that Canada or its monied friends can take it over.

Once the Americans finally figure out what Canada is doing, then it will not be too much longer before we see what real pressure is if we still want NAFTA.

By allowing McCain to come to Canada to make a speech, Canada is effectively making NAFTA a US election issue and picking sides. For what purpose? So that we can huff and puff and show the Americans how strong we are by threatening to cut off oil to them unless they knuckle under. Harper foolishly brought that subject up with Bush publicly at the SPP meeting as his threat.

I really wonder how important NAFTA is to Senator Obama other then to pick up some Electoral College votes in the rust-belt states that Senator Clinton won during the primaries.

By our Government's actions, we are giving it more visibility than it is worth. We aremaking it an election issue. It may become very easy for the Americans to make the Ambassador Bridge an easily understandable symbol for renegotiation of NAFTA if we are not careful. It could become our next softwood lumber trade issue with the Americans.

If that becomes the case, after the various Canadian insults, then unlike Copyright, do not expect the threats to be veiled. As Mickey Kantor said in his interview on WJR:

  • "The Canadian government bless their souls are going to try and push this and push this for one because they don’t like a private bridge that’s been there for 80 years, they would like a public bridge that’s probably a philosophical position the Canadians take.

    And the second is their bureaucrats have committed themselves emotionally to this thing but we shouldn’t be pushed around by the Canadians.

    I’ve negotiated over the years when I was the United States treasurer in dealing with Canadians, you got to stand up once in awhile for our country and say this in not in our interests."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Public Authorities And Archeological digs

They sure DO NOT make a big fuss about Archeological digs when a Public Authority such as the Peace Bridge Authority does one. Compare the reaction with the hysteria in Windsor when a private border operator seeks to take action.

    Archeological dig reveals more ancient artifacts

    Jane Davies, Fort Erie Museum Services administrator, displays a flint spearhead at the Mewinzha exhibit located in the PBA administration building.

    It's a well-known fact that the land surrounding the Peace Bridge has been an important location for millennia.

    Dr. Ron Williamson of Archeological Services Inc. (ASI) has been a part of numerous excavations in Fort Erie over the past 20 years.

    Recently, while digging at the Queen Street construction site, Williamson and his team found even more evidence of a prehistoric First Nations culture.

    Williamson's team was watching as Town of Fort Erie and Peace Bridge Authority (PBA) workcrews did sidewalk and sewer replacement along the road to the north of the Peace Bridge.

    "What we found in those excavations and in working with the construction crews were what we call features - round holes that were dug sometime during the past, most of them probably around 4,000 or 3,000 years ago," Williamson said this week from his Toronto office.

    ASI has found literally thousands of these "features" during their more than two decades of archeological work on the Peace Bridge site.

    Williamson said these holes were important to the First Nations people who lived here at the time and probably had something to do with fishing or the flint quarries that are located along the river and lakeshore.

    The ASI team also found many pieces of ceramic vessels and a large number of projectile points, which were likely used as spearheads for catching fish. Some of the vessels had incised designs on them.

    Finding the features and the artifacts in Fort Erie is nothing new for Williamson, who revealed some of his first finds to the Fort Erie Times-Review back in the summer of 1994. Those included arrowheads, scrapers, net weights and grinding tools, as well as a stone hearth.

    "It's one of the richest archeological sites in northeastern North's a very large, very rich site. You have to imagine a town below a town," Williamson said.

    Many of the artifacts will find their way into the PBA's First Nations archeological display located in the authority's administration building. The exhibit, named Mewinzha, is open to the public and is a collaborative effort between the PBA, the Town, the Native Friendship Centre and Fort Erie Museum Services.

    Jane Davies, the museum's head administrator, said the findings are consistent with the recommendations in Fort Erie's archeological master plan.

    "These findings are important because they add to our knowledge about Fort Erie's past and more importantly this adds to the world's knowledge about life (in the past)," Davies said, adding it's interesting to draw conclusions about the similarities between local life now and thousands of years ago.

    While most of Fort Erie's archeological finds stretch too far back to be able to identify what tribe they come from, Williamson said the artifacts provide a great deal of detail on how Fort Erie's ancient inhabitants lived.

    "We're certainly learning about what their economic activities were...who they were interacting with," he said, adding Fort Erie flint has been found in dig sites as far away as northern Ontario.

The Last Mile But The Longest Yards

The tension waiting for the June 18 bridge and plaza announcement is unbelievable. NOT!

But wait until I tell you what I think really has to be done that may solve the border mess and gives everyone a way out. It all has to do with a 2 KM road.

Let me be direct. Does anyone really care about what is said on Wednesday?

We are going to get an announcement finally about where Canadian DRIC believes the new bridge and plaza should go. It is such a momentous announcement that it has to be buried since it is taking place at the same time as the Public Information Open Houses for the DRIC road.

Oh a couple of Cabinet Ministers are supposed come down here but not the guy who counts, Senator Michael Fortier, if the Star is to be believed. He cannot be bothered coming down here for this silliness. Instead, he has to worry about such important matters as female friends of his staff and how to ensure that he is not implicated in the Bernier affair.

Apparently, Ms. Couillard according to the Quebec media "sought access to Public Works Minister Michael Fortier in order to land herself a contract" since "the Minister who was looking for a building in Quebec to house 700 federal civil servants, according to La Presse's investigation."

A little Parliamentary Hill gossip for you concerning the Senator. Remember Ian Brodie and the NAFTA affair. It is said that "Mr. Brodie will be leaving his post as chief of staff to the prime minister in early July." He has a brother, Neil. Guess for whom he works as senior policy adviser: Senator Fortier.

The interesting part in all of this is that I have not heard anything about an announcement on the same date on the American side for their decision. I thought we were supposed to have an end to end solution. So are the Americans in favour of what we are doing or have they not yet made a decision? Can you imagine if they don't pick the same location as our side does! Then what happens.

Let me try to explain what I think is going on. What we are really seeing is a continuation of the move by the Governments, and the Canadian one in particular, to try to get the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out. They have to have a new bridge and plaza location announced don't they if they are to be taken seriously.

It is pretty obvious that there was a gross miscalculation by a number of politicians and bureaucrats on both sides of the border. First, they never expected that the Ambassador Bridge Company was ever going to build a second span. How someone could think that after the Bridge Company spent half a billion dollars is beyond me. Second, they expected that they would be able to terrorize the Owner into begging them to buy him out. Bill C-3 was merely one example of that to teach the Owner that the Government could punish him anytime they wanted.

Small things like the construction of the Ambassador Gateway project that resulted in the closure of an Interstate highway for almost two years may have changed their mind. It became necessary for the Governments to escalate the battle to make it appear as if they are prepared to spend billions of taxpayer dollars by going down river by about a mile and duplicating everything on the American side. Never mind that they are destroying hundreds of homes and businesses in Delray and uprooting families.

Hmmmm, I thought that both sides of the border were supposed to share the pain equally. Does that mean the Governments will have to destroy part of Sandwich too? Just wait and see if that happens.

In the end however, the final tactic to be used is the last mile connection between the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge. That is what Dan Stamper was talking about in the clip above when he talks about the 2 km that Canada should fix.

It has to be extremely disheartening to the Bridge Company when they look at the DRIC road and see that it is nothing more than the road that they engineered based on the City of Windsor's WALTS Road. Remember the opposition to them and what they were proposing? Yet Gridlock Sam and DRIC effectively chose the same way to get to the border. I do not remember hearing very much opposition to this route, especially from the City of Windsor, probably because it makes the most sense and is the City's idea in the first place.

Whatever happened to the $300 million Border Infrastructure Fund money that was supposed to be used to provide access on an intermediate basis to existing border crossings. We saw activity at the Tunnel where the Senior Levels were going to pay two thirds of the cost of the Tunnel Plaza Improvements (except now the costs have escalated upwards and the Senior Levels are refusing to contribute any more money). But we saw no activity on fixing up the road to the Ambassador Bridge even on an intermediate basis. Why not even though the Joint Management Committee talked about doing so:

  • "Make operational improvements to Highway 3/Huron Church Road, on an urgent basis, by building grade-separated intersections and pedestrian crossings at various locations to be determined."

More ammunition for a Bridge Co. lawsuit? No action on something so urgent for 5 years PLUS?

The tactic now is to make it clear to the Bridge Company that they will get no traffic at all. The Canadians don't have the guts to say this so they let the US DRIC in their Draft Environmental Impact Statement say how much of the Bridge Co. traffic would be lost to the new DRIC bridge, up to about 80% of truck traffic! It would be more than enough to put them out of business.

How could Transport Canada say this after the nice things they said about the Ambassador Bridge at the Senate hearings. They didn't. They let the Americans do the dirty work first to see what the reaction would be. Otherwise, one might accuse them of fibbing or perhaps even being deliberately deceptive if this was what was being planned all the way along!

And then we had MTO's Dave Wake at Council telling us that DRIC was not looking into any connections to the Ambassador Bridge north of EC Row. The Bridge Co. is supposed to be thrilled that there will be an exit at the Expressway so that trucks can go north on Huron Church to the Bridge since there will be such an improvement in traffic flow for them.

Except for one thing that I have pointed out many times already.

Unfortunately, Dave Wake forgot to mention a tiny matter with respect to Huron Church North of EC Row. He forgot to remind us that we had Ministers Cansfield and Cannon tell us previously that they are not happy about truck traffic on Huron Church Road. Exhibit number one in the big border lawsuit will be the Schwartz Report drawing showing one lane being reduced in each direction on that road so that it becomes a two-lane road only. Oh, I wish Dave had remembered this so that he could explain how trucks would even consider exiting with such a road to the border.

If that is not a direct threat to the Bridge Company business, then I don't know what is. No wonder Eddie did not have the guts with Greenlink to go north of EC Row. He did not want to be the person who would be deposed first by the Ambassador Bridge lawyers as the person who signalled in the first Schwartz Report what the Governments would do in the end if it was required.

If I am right in what I am saying, then the Governments have planned this action for years. In fact, it makes a mockery of the entire DRIC process. It makes it abundantly clear that there was a predetermined solution for which $60 million of taxpayer money were wasted on this so-called impartial process. The argument will be that the DRIC process was nothing more than a joke designed to justify what had already been decided.

If this is true, then the Danish Professor has a whole new chapter to add in his book on Megaprojects! And the Auditor General of Canada and the Legislators in Michigan will have a field day!

Dan Stamper just called the Governments' bluff at the Michigan House subcommittee hearings. If one looks at the proposed DRIC road, as it approaches the river there is a spot where it can make a turn to the right and connect to the Ambassador Bridge and where it can also turn to the left to go to the proposed DRIC bridge. That spot is about 2 km away from the Ambassador Bridge.

One would have thought, to be blunt about it, that since traffic has decreased so much in volume, that traffic would be directed first to the Ambassador Bridge location as the intermediate solution. Then, when the traffic increased years in the future, as even MDOT's Director conceded, one could look to building a new bridge at the DRIC location and completing the road to that location.

In the end, we all know that the new bridge will really be the Enhancement Project bridge and that the road will go to the Ambassador Bridge site. That was always going to happen if one looks at the experience in Sarnia and in Fort Erie. The only question that really is remaining, and has always been the one that has been outstanding in this file, is who the owner of that bridge will be. Will it remain in private hands or will the Governments take it over (and then ironically give it to private enterprise to construct, finance and operate for up to 100 years!) ?

One interesting fact that some Michigan Legislators may have forgotten or even not known about or did not want to remember. And the same for Ontario MPPs and local Liberal Cabinet Ministers. Did the bureaucracies in both jurisdictions suffer an amnesia attack too?

Both Michigan and Ontario have no choice but must have the road to the Bridge built now. They may even have to lobby the Federal Governments in both countries to help out the Bridge Company! If that happens, the border wars are over.

For your information

  • "the Province of Ontario and the State of Michigan are economically interdependent and represent the largest trading relationship between any Province and State, and rank within the top fifteen trading partnerships in the world"

Accordingly, Michigan and Ontario (under the previous Conservative Government) agreed in June, 2002 in a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation (with Jim Flaherty who is now Canada's Minister of Finance participating as Ontario's Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation so he knows all about it)

  • " In order to promote prosperity and economic development in the State of Michigan and the Province of Ontario the parties shall:

    -Encourage and solicit private sector involvement and support for economic development activities...

    - Continue to work together to identify, solve and/or alleviate border and customs difficulties encountered by both traded goods and services, including traveling persons. The two jurisdictions will inform each other of problems and opportunities as they arise and undertake, where practical, joint lobbying of federal authorities;

    -Promoting transportation infrastructure improvements and other strategies for improving safety and efficiency at the U.S.- Canada border crossings located along the Michigan-Ontario border; [Note the use of the word "improvement" and past tense for the word "located."]

What choice now does Michigan have but to tell Ontario and Canada to fix those 2 km to the Bridge! It falls exactly under the Ontario/Canada Border Infrastructure Fund program now doesn't it that was announced on September 25, 2002, just months after the Ontario/Michigan MoU. It was to improve existing border crossings:


    WINDSOR, Ontario - Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Ontario Premier Ernie Eves signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years as part of a joint investment to upgrade existing infrastructure on the Ontario approaches to the Windsor-Detroit border crossings...

    "Our border crossings are the life-line of economic growth and prosperity in Ontario, and we must ensure that goods, services and people flow smoothly between Michigan and Ontario," Eves said. "We will continue to work with our federal and municipal partners and the private sector to develop a plan that will reduce traffic congestion and facilitate cross-border trade through this gateway."

If she can kill the downriver alternatives for bridge locations for political reasons on her own, it is time for Governor Granholm to make the phone call to the politicians in the country where she was born since the Memorandum provides the legal requirement for her to do so! Get them to finish the road or Michigan will suffer economically

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Price Of Eddie Francis

How does one judge if the Mayor is doing a good job or a bad one?

If you have been reading my BLOG, then you know what I think of the Mayor's lack of accomplishment. On the other hand, the cheerleaders and sycophants would have you believe that Eddie has been doing a marvelous job and that he should be applauded for his efforts.

Which one of us is right? I'm sure that is an issue that cannot be resolved easily since it is so subjective.

However, is there an objective way of making that decision? For example, certain people will argue that the Tunnel deal if it is completed is a great boon for Windsor. I would argue, depending on the terms which I will probably never see, that it could well be a disaster for Windsor in more ways than one.

Look at Eddie's commuter plan. I think it is a joke on which he has spent little thought while the Star Editorial today states:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis's idea of providing an air-shuttle service to booming economies in Western Canada makes sense."

See what I mean. Who is right?

I was watching television and happened to see a MasterCard commercial. That gave me a great idea about the approach I should take. Let me know what you think:

Tunnel Deal: Cost of $100-200 Million

If Eddie had done the Tunnel deal when he first said the Tunnel was worth $200-$300 million, then we would not be doing a deal priced supposedly in June, 2007 at $111 million. As I argued in a different BLOG, given that the new DRIC bridge will take about a quarter of Tunnel traffic, the valuation will be substantially less today.

That assumes of course that the valuation is accurate the first place.

And if the deal with Detroit goes through and there is a default with Windsor on the hook for the repayment of the loan...I don't even want to think about it!

Tunnel Dividends lost: cost of millions per year

Under the Mayor's leadership the dividend of the Tunnel has sunk from $6.6 million at least from the time of the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit to $0 today.

MFP loss: cost of $68 million

I love how the Mayor put it to justify the disastrous results:

  • "Taxpayers will save millions of dollars and hopefully this is not one of those situations people ever forget about."

I have not forgotten! Nor has my pocketbook. Who could!

There is no doubt that a good settlement is better than a bad Court decision. Nevertheless, the failure of the City in the Court of Appeal to be able to keep confidential a key Windsor document proved our undoing. Someone made a mess and a damaging forensic accountant report lost its legal privilege thereby allowing the other side see all of our dirty linen.

Windsor Utilities Commission fiasco: cost of 86% water rate increase so far

Never mind the cost of a whitewash audit, we have the Mayor saying in May, 2005 that he believed water rates were too high. When the rates were increased so dramatically, he had the nerve to try and blame it on past administrations of the Commission. Francis accused them

  • "of playing politics by keeping a lid on rates even as the city's watermains deteriorated."

What is the cost of watermain replacement---somewhat over $800M.

East End Arena: cost of $50 million and counting

Remember what the Mayor ran on in his platform. He wanted a public/private partnership in downtown Windsor with the City's maximum exposure at $15 million. Now we have an arena in a location that does not help the downtown with the City bearing many of the risks. Who knows what the total amount will be. And if it loses money every year in operating costs given the nice deal the Spits received...?

Lack of infrastructure and spinoff jobs: cost of 10 to 15,000 jobs

We know that the Ambassador Gateway project in Detroit will be responsible for about 2800 jobs in itself. The contribution rebuilding some infrastructure in Windsor by the Province recently will create over hundred jobs. My estimate, based on what the Construction Association has said in the past, is that the Enhancement Project and building the road to the bridge would produce between 10 to 15,000 high-paying infrastructure and spinoff jobs. Even the Mayor has finally admitted that 19,000 man-years of work would be created and Dwight Duncan tossed out the number of 7500 jobs. DRIC mentioned 12,000.

How many have actually been created in Windsor... well actually, the Mayor is trying to send people out of the City for work as he continually stalls the border process for years now, ever since the first Schwartz report right up to Greenlink.

Canderel lease, Mady parking garage, funky bus terminal, Keg parking, Cleary, Capitol, lawyers and consultants and ad blitzes etc., etc., etc: Cost of too many millions to even think about

Look at all these transactions that have been undertaken that have cost us money for a variety of different reasons. If the naming rights for the arena are any indication, I had a good idea of what the release of the Spitfires' agreements with the City would look like. I was not wrong.

Heaven help us on the recent airport and proposed Tunnel deals.

Slightly less than 2 1/2 years before Eddie's term is over: Cost to taxpayers will be priceless!

Destroying Cities For Border Plazas

There is something very strange going on.

Is it all part of a deliberate plan being carried out covertly by the Government of Canada? Is it part of some NAFTA initiative by our Government to preserve that Agreement in the face of possible US renegotiation after the US Presidential election? Is it designed to ensure access to the American market for Canadian produced goods no matter what?

What do Port Huron, Buffalo and Detroit all have in common? Obviously, they are American cities that are host communities for international bridges. However, there is more. It appears that US authorities for some reason are prepared to see destroyed parts of these cities by building an expanded Bridge Plaza in each of them. I find it very bizarre that they seemingly are prepared to cause damage to the local community.

We certainly know about the issue in Delray, Michigan where hundreds of homes and businesses will have to be destroyed and families uprooted if the new DRIC bridge is built there at the expense of US and Michigan taxpayers.

We are well aware of the controversy in Port Huron where greatly expanded plaza will cause significant disruption to that city at the expense of US and Michigan taxpayers.
  • "The Michigan Department of Transportation's preferred plan calls for the plaza's $433 million expansion, funded by federal dollars. The 129 homes, 30 businesses and a Methodist church the project will force from Port Huron's north end confirm the city will suffer."

It appears as if the plaza is now going to be reduced by several acres to save a few homes there after outrage by the local community. However:

  • "The footprint of the expanded plaza has been reduced from 65 to 57 acres, still more than three times the size of the existing plaza."

I am posting below an article with respect to what damage will be caused to Buffalo by a new Peace Bridge at the expense of US and New York taxpayers.

Hmmmmm I wonder if this sentence buried in the article is a key issue that has not yet come out and may tell us what Canada is really trying to do with the border i.e. have all of the border crossing facilities on our side of the border. They will all be paid f0r by Canadians instead of by Americans. We are so generous that way:

  • "Peace Bridge officials were left with the expanded plaza plan last year after U. S. and Canadian officials failed to come to an agreement on “shared border management,” a proposal to move many of the plaza operations to the Canadian side of the bridge."

In that area:

  • "All of this work was completed in anticipation of the relocation of the U.S. Customs and PBA Tolls and Administration to Canadian soil."

Let's see now on the Canadian side: a big plaza in Brighton Beach to be proposed so nothing is necessary in Detroit, a plaza in Sarnia to handle traffic and one in Fort Erie for shared border management.

Do you know what I recall as well? Wasn't DRTP going to have this gigantic, golf-course sized Customs area for both US and Canadian Customs in the heart of Windsor? The Tunnel Plaza Improvement Project was going to take over a good chunk of the downtown to expand facilities there as well since we know that there is very little space for expansion in the US.

Wow are we ever nice to help out our American neighbours so their cities will not have to suffer. Is all of this building, proposed construction and space being made available here on the Canadian side in different areas of the country pure coincidence... I think not.

Perhaps that is what Transport Canada's Corridors and Gateways policy is really about... controlling the border crossing points so that the Americans cannot discriminate against our goods and so that they will have free access into United States.

Just watch for Transport Canada to generously agree to build these facilities in Canada so that our American friends won't have all of these nasty problems caused by trucks in their communities. Once that happens, then you will know what the game is all about.

Why the "thickening" of the border has become so bad that in a recent CP story it was written:
  • "Canada is also eager to resurrect plans to ease congestion by moving American customs operations to the Canadian side.

    Homeland Security nixed a pilot project last year at the Peace Bridge linking New York and Ontario."
Isn't it just amazing how so many recent stories about the border discuss the latest "thickening" buzz-word. It is almost sickening how obvious it has become!

One would almost think that there was a well-orchestrated campaign by the same people who published the "Ultra Secret" American Playbook on how to lobby the Americans--- "Advancing Canadian Interests in the United States."

Here's the Buffalo story. You judge for yourself what is going on:

  • Plans for bridge staggering over new concerns
    Bigger truck plaza targeted as danger
    By Jerry Zremski
    Updated: 05/14/08

    WASHINGTON — The common tern may be the least of the problems facing plans for a “signature” bridge across the Niagara River between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont.

    In letters to the federal agency that can approve or disapprove the project, a vast array of interest groups, government agencies and citizens have raised questions that go far beyond whether the soaring, cable- stayed bridge design would mean death to the birds that fly near it.

    Many are more concerned that the Peace Bridge Authority’s plan for a vastly expanded truck plaza on Buffalo’s West Side would mean death to a neighborhood and its historic treasures.

    “The project is pretty staggering in terms of its negative impact on Buffalo,” said Roberta Lane, an attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a Washington-based advocacy group.

    The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New Millennium Group and the Buffalo Olmstead Parks Conservancy are among others that sharply criticized the project’s draft environmental review. They say it downplays the project’s negative impact while failing to consider other options.

    “We believe that other reasonable alternatives having fewer environmental impacts than the preferred alternative should be analyzed,” wrote John Filippelli, chief of strategic planning in the EPA’s Multi- Media Programs Branch.

    The Federal Highway Administration, which has the final say on the project, will take all these comments seriously as it reviews whether the bridge expansion complies with federal historic preservation and environmental laws, said Doug Hecox, an agency spokesman.

    “Ultimately these concerns need to be addressed,” said Hecox, who added that hopes for a 2009 construction date for the bridge should be viewed as “a ballpark estimate, at best.”

    “Whenever possible we are going to cut red tape without cutting corners,” he said. “We’re going to do this right.”

    In response to all the criticism, the Peace Bridge Authority has modified the plaza plan.

    It has shrunk the number of residential and other properties it would need to acquire from 120 to 102, saving five historic homes. The agency also changed ramp designs and proposed a buffer of berms and trees between the plaza and the nearby Columbus Parkway neighborhood.

    “We have made significant changes to address each of the concerns that have come in,” said Ron Rienas, the Peace Bridge’s general manager. “This is pretty normal,” Rienas said of the critical comments and the agency’s response.

    Yet the plaza changes have not placated critics such as Lane.

    “These changes are not responsive to the concerns of preservation organizations, agencies, or other stakeholders, but this and similar announcements serve PBA by forcing the project’s critics to deal with a moving target,” she said.

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s concerns echo those of neighborhood groups in Buffalo, which worry that the plan for a 38-acre truck plaza calls for the taking of 83 homes.

    “The Peace Bridge Authority wants this to be just one big truck stop because that’s how they’re going to make their money,” said Kathy Mecca, who heads the Niagara Gateway Columbus Park Association, who also is concerned about the project’s potential health impacts.

    Meanwhile, the New Millennium Group — which spearheaded the calls for a signature bridge — now fears that the accompanying plaza will do too much damage to the city.

    “The good neighbors of this wonderful community want to ensure that this project is done properly, with consideration to Buffalo’s image, sensitivity to human health and the environment and respect for historic properties,” wrote Patrick McNichol, a spokesman for the group.

    Hispanics United of Buffalo was one of several groups to focus on the potential health impacts on neighbors who would be breathing in fumes from the trucks at the plaza.

    “With the asthma rates as high as they are, what makes us think they will not continue to increase?” wrote Lourdes T. Iglesias, the group’s executive director.

    And the Olmstead Parks Conservancy worries that the plaza plan would further isolate and pollute Front Park — and that the Peace Bridge Authority is rushing to complete a long-delayed project.

    “They think the getting-it-done sword is going to beat off all challengers,” said David Colligan, the group’s chairman-elect.

    The project’s timetable calls for the environmental impact statement to be finalized this year and construction to begin by the end of 2009. Local political and business leaders, frustrated that the effort to expand the existing bridge has stretched for more than a decade, stressed that they want to stick to that schedule.

    “We are focused on pushing federal bureaucracies and the state to iron out their concerns and rapidly develop a mitigation strategy that will get a world-class signature bridge for Buffalo back on track and constructed as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N. Y.

    But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, warned that the planning of the plaza won’t make everyone happy.

    “You’re never going to have 100 percent consensus,” he said.

    And Mayor Byron W. Brown noted that he wants the project to go forward, even though his former planning director, Timothy E. Wanamaker, raised numerous concerns about it in a letter to federal officials last fall.

    Brown said he wanted many of those concerns to be addressed as the plan evolves, but he also noted a cold, hard fact for residents of the Peace Bridge neighborhood.

    “I don’t think there is any way to build the plaza without some takings” of nearby properties, Brown said. “We certainly want to reduce the takings.”

    Peace Bridge officials were left with the expanded plaza plan last year after U. S. and Canadian officials failed to come to an agreement on “shared border management,” a proposal to move many of the plaza operations to the Canadian side of the bridge.

    The trouble is, the EPA and numerous other organizations noted that draft environmental impact statements for such projects are supposed to include alternatives.

    The environmental review is part of a process in which the Federal Highway Administration will decide whether the project complies with the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and laws.

    If the highway agency allows the project to move forward, that would not necessarily quell the controversy.

    “There’s certainly the basis for legal redress,” said James B. Kane, regional director for Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge Group, which wants to build an alternative bridge mainly for trucks linking Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood with the Bridgeburg section of Fort Erie, Ont.

    Many of the written comments made no mention of the common tern. The Audubon Society, however, warned that the bridge design chosen by a design jury was the one that posed the greatest threat to birds.

    And Kate Cody, a neighborhood resident who is critical of the plaza plan, wondered why the common tern controversy erupted so late in the process.

    Mention of the potential problem “was in an attachment to an appendix of an addendum to Appendix F of the draft environmental impact statement,” she said.