Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, June 27, 2008

All Governments Finally Agree On Bridge/Road


I'll bet you never thought that it could happen.

Finally, the Federal Government, the Province and the City have come together and agreed on a project to build a new bridge and a new road in the City!

A new six lane bridge will be built which will help divert away from the City commercial traffic and ease connections to help the economy. As you know, six lanes will accomplish a number of objectives that have been needed no matter to which of the parties one talks.

The new road will improve air quality and obviously ease traffic congestion.

Here is one of the big shockers though of the deal that I never thought would happen:

THE CITY WILL CONTRIBUTE ALMOST 30% OF THE COST!

Yes, the City is putting its money where its mouth is and is prepared to make an investment to get what it wants.

Oh dear, I may be confusing you. You must be thinking that this is happening in the City of Windsor. I should have told you right at the beginning of this BLOG that it was happening out West, in Saskatoon.

Hey I have an idea. Perhaps when our Mayor finally develops his commuting plan to send workers out West so that they can return on weekends with all of that money in their pockets, he might be one of the people to go on that plane first.

He could use some time out West to find out how things are done in a different municipality. Perhaps he could learn something from the Mayor of Saskatoon about how to get along with the Senior Levels and actually accomplish something that is required for his City.
  • Prime Minister Harper announces new bridge to complete ring road and ease traffic congestion in Saskatoon
    20 June 2008
    Saskatoon

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, joined by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Saskatoon Mayor Donald Atchison, today announced that the three levels of government are joining together to build the South River Crossing bridge and complete the Saskatoon Circle Drive Southwest Project.

    “The Saskatoon Circle Drive Southwest Project will ease traffic congestion throughout the city and help keep the local and provincial economy growing by improving its connections to markets across the continent and around the world,” said the Prime Minister. “It will reduce fuel consumption and expense, improve city air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and shorten commute times.”

    The project includes construction of a new six-lane bridge across the South Saskatchewan River to complete the final section of the Centre City Ring Road, which will help divert commercial vehicles and other through traffic from the downtown core.

    The total eligible project cost is $242.5 million. Under a three-way cost sharing arrangement, the federal and provincial governments will each contribute up to $86 million, with the City of Saskatoon contributing $70.5 million.

    This project is a testament to what can be achieved when governments embrace the true spirit of open federalism and work together to make Canada stronger, safer, and better,” Prime Minister Harper said.

    The Saskatoon Circle Drive Southwest Project is part of the Building Canada Plan, the federal government’s strategy for renewing the country’s national economic infrastructure. The $33-billion undertaking is Canada’s largest infrastructure development program in over half a century.

Windsor Councillors




Can you imagine...What if we had a Council that understood its function. What if we had Councillors who knew what their legal responsibilities were. What if we had Councillors that did not allow the Mayor to treat them like children and who were prepared to stand up to him. What if we had a Council who did not believe as ex-Mayor Hurst once claimed:
  • "Hurst said that as mayor his mandate is to look at the overall picture that will be of most benefit to the city.

    "Councillors don't have to do that but the mayor does," said Hurst."
Because of my involvement in the border file, I have been able to get acquainted with the Councillors, some more than others. During the last few election campaigns, I have worked for a number of Members of Council to help get them elected. I also worked for some people who unfortunately lost out.

As a result of writing this BLOG, my involvement in City matters has extended beyond that of the border file. Not everything interests me at City Hall nor do I have the time to comment on all of the things that I would like to BLOG about. However, this involvement has allowed me to develop some views about our City Government.

I've had the opportunity over the last week to speak to some former Councillors. It wasn't anything planned; we just happened to be in the right place at the right time so that we could speak. I must admit I wondered what this Council would have been like if these people were still members. From their perspective, they all seemed so happy that they are not a Member of this Council. They cannot believe what is going on.

As I have written before, I like most of our Councillors personally. Several of them, I have no time for and I am sure that the feeling is mutual. Such is life.

I expect that many of them have no experience or training in handling the big files that they are working on now and that helps explain a lot about why the Council just seems to be unable to get untracked and is incapable of real action. Seriously, how many of them are able to get through reading a major contract and understanding its significance when that is NOT their life experience.

And the amounts that concern them are not insignificant: millions and billions of dollars for border crossings, fixing roads, sewers, and watermains, economic development for a City that is in serious trouble, Tunnel deals, University complexes, an arena and so on.

Liking people however is no reason to close one's eyes to their failures. And this Council has failed, miserably. I've written a couple of BLOGs talking about my own negativity and asking what is there to be positive about. I am still looking.

These last few days is absolutely typical of how bad this Council is. Let me give you a few examples:

1) Councillor Gignac has been complaining for months about the failure to deal with the downtown. For whatever reason, it appears clear to me, after the public show at Council by the Mayor about setting up a meeting to discuss the subject, that he has no interest in wanting to do so right away. Imagine therefore my surprise to see that there was a two-hour strategic session dealing with the downtown. However, what did they decide after those hours of conversation:
  • "City council has decided that stakeholders will be called and we will have a meeting," said Mayor Eddie Francis. "We will wait and see what comes out of that discussion."

A 2-hour meeting to set up another meeting. More meetings, more wait-and-see, more studies, more inaction. More time wasted.

2) More phony posturing on the DRIC road. Let me see, how many threatened lawsuits have we heard about? I have lost count.

Didn't David Estrin spend about an hour at Council publicly raking DRIC over the coals for not doing their work properly in complinac with the law? What more could he possibly say? He must have his legal options figured out by now or why would he have made that presentation to Council. But of course, here is what happened:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis says he will urge Toronto lawyer David Estrin to quickly provide legal options in dealing with the province's controversial border traffic highway planned for the Huron Church Road-Talbot Road corridor...

    "(Council) has asked me to pick up the phone, call David Estrin and tell him to hurry up his work," Francis said. "Council wants to know all their options from A to Z -- what are the benefits, pros and cons (and) what steps need to be taken.

    "The legal issues will be flushed out more and brought to council for Monday or soon after."

I know where the issues can be flushed!

Apparently Council met in camera for more than an hour to discuss the issue. Another hour wasted.

Seriously, do you mean to tell me that Estrin said all these things without a game plan and that Council did not know what their options were before he said what he said? That is incomprehensible.

The other thing that I find stomach turning already is the Mayor saying that Council told him to pick up the phone. On the one hand if a Councillor dare speak out on the border file, the Mayor is quick to chastise him/her by saying that he is the Voice of Council. However when it comes to paying out legal fees, then the Voice is suddenly quieted and it is Council that makes the decision and will take the blame for the taxpayer money spent.

Doesn't anyone really care on this Council about jobs, our future, economic development and a real concern that the Senior Levels will pull out or, more likely, give us the poorest solution possible for road to the border.

3) What is Eddie's deadline on the Tunnel deal?

  • "We need to stress June 30 is Detroit's deadline," Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said Monday."

When will the Mayor instruct Cliff Sutts to close his file? How many more taxpayer dollars will have to be paid for legal and consulting fees before the Mayor calls it quits since no one seems to know his deadline date.

Councillors should be ashamed of themselves for not having answers given to questions they have asked for over a year ago as was disclosed in Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG. From what my insiders are telling me, few of them have any idea of what the transaction is all about.

I understand that the Mayor stared down Council when they had the nerve to suggest that he might not give them enough time to look at this deal if it is presented to them. He dared them to give him one instance when he did not give sufficient time. Apparently not one Councillor had the balls to talk about:
  • the arena
  • the Jobs Today fiasco and the $100M fund
  • the Engineering Complex.

These are just a few items that immediately came to my mind.

Just compare what our Councillors are doing compared with that of the Detroit Council and it makes one ashamed to be a voter in Windsor.

Apparently the newest twist in Detroit is:

  • "Council members are now saying the tunnel is a public utility, which according to the city charter, could only be leased or sold if it's approved by a referendum of city voters."

Witness number one to support that proposition is the Mayor of Windsor who stated in the past:

  • "It's complicated by having competing interests," said Francis of the tunnel's operations. "We see the tunnel as a public utility while the DCTC sees it more as a profit-generating private operation."
  • "We're a public utility and when business is down, as it is at the tunnel, the last thing you need to do is increase the price," said Francis. "Instead, we are looking first at ways of improving services by cutting down on the time it takes to cross."
  • "The tunnel should be run for a common purpose," Francis said. "They're operating it as a toll road where we're trying to operate it in the public interest."

Have our Councillors no respect for themselves to allow this to go on for so long without being told anything significant while Detroit Council is forcing their Mayor to tell them everything.

4) To be quite honest, the Tunnel deal must be so bad that no one in their right mind should ever enter into it. How else to explain the lack of detail? What are the two Mayors so afraid about?

I must admit that I have one serious question that may need some auditing down the road. If the City of Windsor pays over $75 million to Detroit and all that Detroit needs it seems is $65 million or perhaps it is now $58 million, what happens to the balance of the $10-$17,000,000? Where is it going?

Legal fees and insurance... I find that hard to believe without knowing more about it. We know that Windsor has spent so far slightly over $1 million for legal and consulting fees and I cannot believe that Detroit has paid that much more. What insurance has to be purchased for so many millions of dollars?

The question of auditing obviously brings me to the issue with respect to 400 building. Can we now agree that what we are told in the past about it being under budget needs an explanation:

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

I'll talked more about the 400 audit in another BLOG but again, it boggles my mind that the Councillors on the Audit Committee have allowed this state of affairs to go on for so long.

We need to get back to reality. We need to understand what our Councillors are obliged to do for us legally. Here are the duties of Councillors as set out in the Municipal Act

  • Section 224. It is the role of council,

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

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

    (c) to determine which services the municipality provides;

    (d) to ensure that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of council;

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

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

    (f) to carry out the duties of council under this or any other Act
I will let you look at these items and let you decide for yourself whether our Councillors are for fulfilling their mandate. It should not be very difficult for you to come to a conclusion just looking at the four recent items that I have discussed above.

I wonder what a Council with people like Charlie Hotham, Joyce Zuk, Chris Schnurr, Tony Blak, John Middleton, David Cassivi, Ed Sleiman and some others would have been like. I wonder what the City would be like if Bill Marra had decided to run for Mayor.

Always the "What Ifs"

Keep Your Kids Occupied This Summer


THEATRE COMPANY SETS THE STAGE FOR LOCAL YOUTH TO SHINE
Windsor Light Music Theatre gears up for the launch of their new Musical Theatre Summer Camp

Windsor, ON - This summer, Windsor Light Music Theatre’s rehearsal facilities will be abuzz with the sound of local youngsters singing, dancing and having fun as they participate in the premier theatre company’s brand new Summer Camp Musical.

The company, which celebrates it’s 60th anniversary this year, has been considering the possibility of running a summer day camp for years and organizers are thrilled that their vision is finally coming to fruition. They hope that the camp will attract more young people to Windsor’s arts community and aim to give campers a fun experience while preparing them for future musical theatre endeavours such as high school musicals, post-secondary dramatic arts education, and future Windsor Light shows.

“Summer Camp Musical is a new adventure for Windsor Light and its campers,” explains WLMT President Carol Crooks. “By offering this camp, Windsor Light is setting the stage for future musical theatre aficionados, members and those who just want to have some summer fun.”

Under the guidance of talented and energetic professional arts educators and performers, the campers will be engaging in skill building activities, games, and workshops to train them in the areas of movement, dance, voice, auditioning, character development, ensemble building, improvisation and more. They will also have a chance to discover the thrill of performing for an audience in a culminating performance.

Windsor Light’s staff is hard at work in preparation for the camp’s opening week. “We have a really great line up of activities planned” says instructor Robin Shugart, a fourth year Drama and Education Student at the University of Windsor. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the kids grow over the course of the sessions, and to see it demonstrated in their final performances.”

Instructor Lauren O’Neil is confident that the camp will be a success. “Musical Theatre is becoming more popular among young people right now.” O’Neil, also a student at the University of Windsor, credits films like “high school musical” and “hairspray” in part for a resurgence in musical theatre’s popularity in recent years.

“This program is great in so many ways – we’ve put a lot of thought and preparation into it.” she continues. “I know that the campers are going to have a blast and improve their performing skills, but I also think that they’re going to come out of this feeling more confident in general.”

Current research confirms that participating in dramatic arts can hold a multitude of benefits for young people including improved communication, leadership and speaking skills, social growth, raised self esteem, and heightened imagination and esthetic awareness.

The camp will take place during two separate two week sessions at WLMT’s well equipped rehearsal facilities from 9:00am – 4:00pm, Monday - Friday. Session one will run from July 7-18th for campers aged 9-12 and session two will run from July 21-Aug 1 for ages 13 – 17. Both sessions will feature workshops provided by professional arts educators and performers, the use of WLMT costumes, props and makeup, a free camp T-Shirt, a complimentary lunch, and will commence with a final performance on the last day of the camp session.

For more information or to register please call Windsor Light Music Theatre’s box office at 519-974-6593 or visit www.windsorlight.com

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Is A Police Investigation Next


Or is action required to be taken under the Municipal Affairs Act to make an inquiry into the affairs of Windsor.

Or both!

The audit of the 400 Building is getting stranger and uglier the more it goes on. It cannot be allowed to continue. The Audit Committee has known for some time that that there are serious matters that need investigation and that could give rise to litigation. It is inexcusable that they have sat on the report for so long with these matters outstanding. I'm disappointed in our Councillors who are members of the Audit Committee that they have not yet released the report a long time ago.


What I find the most troubling is this talk of litigation:
  • "If you are talking about possible litigation and individuals that's very serious."

    It was suggested by Zalev that once the final audit report is released -- in November or December at the earliest -- there will be two versions.

    Due to litigation fears, an in-camera report -- not to be made public -- will be provided to the committee, while the public version is likely not to include potential litigious references or names of certain individuals, he said."

Back in April we already learned:

  • "I [Skorobohacz] know the audit committee requested a legal opinion with respect to certain issues and that was presented (behind closed doors) to the committee today."

Clearly, the Dunbar audit that was handed to Administration in 2006 has to be dynamite. A legal opinion was required in April, 2008 and because of litigation fears, the audit has still not yet been released.

We know that information was given to the Audit group in April as well

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

And now there's a further delay because of the need supposedly for a peer review. It appears frankly that not all that much has changed from the Dunbar audit since it is not clear how much work the City Audit group has actually done since April, 2008. If a considerable amount of work has been done and if the litigation risk is still there, then it should cause Taxpayers a great deal of distress. It means that any issues with respect to what was reported in 2006 are still there and may not have been clarified even with new information that came from Administration!

No matter what however there is a real concern about lawsuits. But what kind of lawsuits. Is it a civil matter? Was there gross negligence in the running of the job... but how could that be when

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

Were there terrible mistakes made in paying for the cost of operations i.e. is there a deficit if the building has not been leased out completely.

Were there shenanigans in how costs were charged to the building so that it was grossly overbudget. Were mistakes made so that matters that should have been budgetted were forgotten so the City has to pick up the tab now? Was Council misled when the project was approved? I already wrote about interest charges that were not charged to the project. Is there something worse?

The Star reported today that:

  • "The final construction cost for the 400 building in City Hall Square is $33.4 million, $6.1 million more than originally budgeted in 2003."
That represents "a 22 per cent increase from the $27.3-million original pricetag." Does that make it the 488 Building now!

I wonder if the $1M the Treasurer talked about in savings from the sale of surplus properties was the "sale of social services sites" that was already factored into the cost price to arrive at the $27.3M cost originally. If so, the Treasurer is playing with numbers. I would be interested to know why the Federal Government put in $2.4M. Was it for leasehold improvements and if so, were those costs in the original cost figures or were they extras? Of course, no amounts were added in for post completion interest costs which would have increased costs.

Or is criminal activity involved requiring the involvement of the police, probably the OPP? Were there thefts, kickbacks, improper contracting or who knows what that the audit uncovered. If so, why hasn't this been revealed immediately?
Councillor Hatfield seems to know something when he said:
  • "I don't think there was an skullduggery going on. I don't think somebody walked off with funds."
How can he be that confident since he is not a member of the Audit Committee? Has he already been given inside information? If he has, then why not give that information to Taxpayers!

There is one way we can be assured of that isn't there...release the Report!

I do not understand this need to protect people if the facts are there. Let the facts speak for themselves and the consequences fall from what is revealed. Right now, anyone who has ever worked on this job is tainted by the actions of the Audit Committee. Telling the truth is not actionable.

Don't you find it extremely troubling that the City's auditors KPMG are now being brought in. The Audit Committee seemed to have no trouble bringing in an outside firm in a matter such as this yet where were they with the fiasco involving the Windsor Utilities Commission. Where was the Audit Committee at that time, invisible?

Why would the Audit Committee hire a firm who audited the City's books who might themselves be negligent in what they did with respect to the audit of the financial statements? Shouldn't an auditing firm be retained who is independent so that they could examine everything including the role of the Outside Auditors? It seems to me that KPMG is in a conflict of interest position and was put there by the Audit Committee.

If there was such a concern, then why wasn't an outside firm contacted in April? Why did it take so long to figure out that there was a need for independent eyes to look at this matter. Even now we have to wait until mid-July before KPMG can act.

Hasn't the Audit Committee in fact issued a vote of no confidence in the City's Audit group and its employees. How can anyone rely on this group to look after the affairs of the City? There is nothing to suggest that this group is not doing their work properly such that outside auditors had to be retained.

What is the need for a peer review? Why does Ms. Berry need oversight? Does she not know how to do her job? What an insult.

As I have explained in several other BLOGs, the concern that I have is with with respect to the East End Arena not just this building. Since it appears that there are problems with respect to 400 City Hall Square, then what assurance do we have that the Arena project is being run properly. The Audit Committee should immediately retain an outside firm to examine the books and records of the Arena so that we can have some comfort that it is being managed properly and that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted.

Using the 22% figure as the extra cost percentage...does it mean that the Arena is at $79.1M and counting?

Can The Government Be Trusted


I really wonder how the Bridge Co. people feel. They have a serious dilemma facing them that they have to deal with almost immediately

Oh, I don't think that they are too concerned about what the Federal Government said in Windsor about where the location of the new bridge and plaza is going to be. It was to be expected. After all, the Government has to play through as well their charade of trying to force them out of business. This was just another step in the comedy.

I am sure that they will expect as well attacks such as the following to increase over the next few months:

  • "there may be self-interests who will want to try and delay construction through legal action."

A person who says something like that obviously does not run his/her own business and is not concerned about having government compete with him/her and take away what he/she has achieved through his/her own money and efforts. That person has a different self-interest that somehow is commendable.

How many times has the Windsor Star stated in news stories the expectation that the Bridge Company will litigate in the last few weeks. Make them the bad guys. I must admit that our Mayor has threatened litigation a lot more than they have but no one seems to take him to task for that.

I think that their real question has to be how one can trust the Government of Canada.

I know that this is a very serious statement to make but this has to be what is in their minds right now. Minister Cannon disclosed what you and I, dear reader, already suspected, that Senator Fortier is now the lead guy on the border file and he has been down here speaking to the Mayor and now we learn, to the Ambassador Bridge Company.

One would think that, unless they have already had lots of conversations, the discussions between the Bridge Company and the Senator have been fairly preliminary, feeling each other out one might say to understand each other's position. I am sure if it is in the normal course of how negotiations are carried out either the Bridge Company or the Senator would be coming to the other party soon with a proposition for resolving the dispute. Both sides would expect that the other side is going to be acting in good faith in doing so.

It is interesting to me that the Federal Government needed to make its announcement about the DRIC bridge and plaza at this time, before the Americans had made their final decision. Whatever happened to acting in a coordinated fashion? Why would they make the announcement when presumably they are still negotiating with the Bridge Company? That does not make too much sense to me.

Clearly, Canada must feel threatened. Someone has identified that there is the need to act immediately and to arrange something with the US president over the Border before Senator Obama is elected President. If that is true, and given the Radio-Canada news story it would appear to be, then there is a need to get a decision out of the Bridge Company as soon as possible.

And the only way to get them to back off is to try and scare them. Or so some in Ottawa must think. When one lives in a rarefied atmosphere, with indexed pensions, one tends to think that way. They are after all the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!

If you were the Bridge Company, what would you think about the Government today? Would you think that the Government is acting in good faith? Would you consider this to be fair dealing or would you consider this to be a pressure ploy to force you to sell out cheaply:

  • "And Cannon vowed nothing will stand in the way of the federal government completing the project - not finances, legal challenges or constructability.

    Discussions involving federal government authorities have been taking place with Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, who has threatened to derail the DRIC effort, claiming that it will steal much of his truck traffic revenues.

    "I don't want to make statements in terms of discussions with Mr. Moroun's group, but I do want to assure you those discussions are taking place," Cannon said.

    He indicated the door is open for the bridge company to be among those considered for private sector investment of the new bridge."

The Transport Minister's statement is really quite laughable. But it is also very sad. He's going to have that bridge built in that location no matter how many salt mines and brine wells there may be or how many power plants are around the Bridge on both sides of the river or how many families and businesses have to be uprooted. It doesn't matter to him either if that DRIC bridge bankrupts itself because there is no traffic and the other crossings as well. He wants to be there for the ribbon cutting ceremony no matter what.

Now we did hear the Transport Minister say that Canada was "committed" to building the new DRIC bridge. Even though he is the messenger of the Senator, presumably so that he and his comments can be dismissed out of hand if needed as a negotiating tactic, it seems to me that effectively the Government is saying that they have no intention of dealing in good faith with the Bridge Company anymore. How can they be when they are going to move forward regardless. What is there to negotiate?

One would have thought, at the minimum, that one way to try to structure a deal with the Bridge Company is to promise them that they could run the new DRIC bridge as the P3 operator. I am certain that our Mayor could explain to Senator Fortier all about single source agreements. After all, the Government, according to US DRIC, will be taking away the vast majority of their business. I must admit that I don't remember Transport Canada saying that in front of the Senate during the hearings on Bill C-3 but that is a whole other issue.

Now the best of the Government will do is to "consider" them. Would that make you feel comfortable? To me, that is hardly an inducement not to litigate. Rather, to me, that is an invitation to litigate so that Brian Hicks can finally do something in his new job.

Here is what the Government is saying:

  • We know that you have spent a half billion dollars of your own money over the last decade getting ready to build your Enhancement Project. We know that Governments on both sides of the river have led you to believe that they were in favour of you moving forward...the Ambassador Gateway project being the prime example on the US side and the $300 million Border Infrastructure Fund to build a road to your bridge being the obvious example on the Canadian side.

    It does not matter now. We have decided to build a new crossing a mile away from you for reasons that do not stand up if scrutinized but who cares. We intend to take away the vast majority of your business and not pay for it but we will graciously allow you to bid in competition with other companies around the world to try to get it back!

If I am the Bridge Company Owner, I would throw my hands up in the air and say I cannot figure out what this Government is doing at all. And then go back and continue to move forward on my Enhancement Project bridge and forget about this childishness.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Mail


Here are some more interesting notes I have received:

1) Good morning Ed

I hope Senator Cropsey of Michigan has this report [State's already poorly maintained roads will crumble further as money dries up] in hand when MDOT and U.S. DRIC appear in front of his investigation. I skimmed quickly this morning and there is no way the Michigan can afford now or in the future to build a downriver bridge! The 34 million that MDOT has already spent could go a long way for freeway repair work!

2) The work being done on the EC Row is bridge rehab work only, they are in terrible shape. Approximately 6 million for the south half of the bridges. The work on the roadways are to allow traffic to be shifted all to the north lanes. As far as the overtime [re the arena] is concerned, just hire more workers on a daily basis and their would be no need for overtime. It's not like we have a shortage of experienced workers that would love the work.

3) Just finished watching the A Channel 6 o clock news. They mentioned someting about an almost "secret" annual meeting of the [Development] Commission tonight which very few knew was to take place. A meeting which in the past has been open to the public. More to follow on the 11 pm news tonight.

You have got to do a blog on this BS !

.... why am I not surprised!!

4) Hhmmmmm – City money to Grand Prix, city money to Super Bowl, city money to Red Bull Air Race (did Red Bull really pay the full-up rental fees for all that waterfront, to say nothing of the time, which translates to our money, spent by Parks & Rec management and staff setting up and managing this thing, police overtime guarding the roads, and on and on).

Meanwhile, the only two “business” festivals (read: for-profit), Bluesfest and Epicure, get nothing but a hard time.

Hard economic times have revealed two things: Businesses forced to try to protect their turf, and government in businesses they shouldn’t be in.

5) Greenlink no added value over Parkway. What is the tax impact of Greenlink parks and trails on W-EC taxpayers? Adding cost w/o value makes the region less attractive to new investors while imposing a higher burden on existing companies struggling to compete in the global economy.

For a guy who pontificates about the importance of economic development, eddie's words and actions do more harm than good. He is a big liability to the region.

6) I'd just like to quickly point out how much I originally disliked Stockwell Day, and now reading in your blog at how he thinks that Nexus cards will solve all border crossing delays and problems, I have moved from dislike to pure derision.

I have a Nexus pass for commuting daily to and from work in Michigan. Most of the time, I cannot figure out why I even bothered with it. The processing time is never consistently quick, and most times is about as cumbersome as crossing through normal customs. The lines for Nexus are always long, so any gains you make in processing times are lost in waiting to be processed! Also, recently the card-readers on the American side were broken (and have since been fixed), so when you got up to the booth, they asked for your passport anyway and scanned that through their readers. Great big WTF.

Anyway, Stockwell Day doesn't know what he's talking about.

7) It looks like the conspiracy boys have it right again. That brand new military base [Fort Drum] has only been there in one form or another for about 199 years and a training base for 100 years. It is an army base. They train combat troops. Not Wal-Mart door greeters or Boy Scouts.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/fort-drum.htm

These are probably some of the same people who don't like the idea that our own JTF2 Special Forces are among the best in the world and that one of them has the world record sniper kill in action in Afghanistan.

8) I wonder how long that burned out house will sit in that condition? Considering how many houses in the poorer neighbourhoods that have caught fire in the past and still remain boarded up I would say a very long time.

I have to wonder though, would those houses have been torn down if they were in Eddie's neighbourhood?

Even though I have little love for former Mayor Hurst at least he had these houses demolished within a short time frame after they caught fire. Compare that to Eddie's term which has seen boarded up vacant houses sit for over 1.5 years! Eddie not only wants to be like Detroit (Grand Prix, Wrestlemania, "Two Nation" Destination...) he wants us to look like it too!

Fireworks In Windsor

Forget the debates over the downtown, the new border crossing, the Tunnel, the arena and so on and so on.

Here is a video of the real fireworks in Windsor taken by my daughter, Melissa!

video

Examining The DRIC Plaza


The Bridge Company people really have to be laughing themselves silly at the shenanigans of the Federal Government to try and force them to sell out cheaply.


The DRIC Bridge location at a cost of $1.2B makes its tolls uncompetitive while it only hooks up to one Interstate in the US. It uproots hundreds of families and businesses in Delray and now in Sandwich too, even though it is a mere "handful" on our side. Tell that to the 30 or so families!

But let me focus on the Plaza in this BLOG.

What seems to have been designed seems so foolish to a layman like me. The people at the Bridge Co. who actually develop and operate plazas must be shaking their heads in wonderment.

In case you have forgotten, the Government hired a consulting firm, Wilbur Smith, to do an investment grade traffic analysis of the border. My bet will be that the criteria for the study will be such that the consultant will confirm the overly-optimistic traffic numbers used by DRIC. I remember one of the Ministers at the DRIC Press Conference talking about capacity being reached in the 2015 time period as DRIC predicted. Obviously then, the end result of that consultant's report is totally predictable.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that this is correct and that the final traffic numbers will be what DRIC predicts so that P3 investors will be falling over themselves to bid for the new crossing.

In passing, I know that this will be difficult for you to do, dear reader, since Minister Stockwell Day gave examples of how the traffic would be moved through the border more quickly. One way is through the use of Nexus cards (he used the American Express line of "Don't leave home without it") and then there is e-Manifests (e-Manifests "will require the pre-arrival transmission of cargo, crew and conveyance information for all modes of transportation.)

In other words, thickening of the border and backups should be minimized within a few years, four years for e-Manifests, since it will be easier for Customs to pre-clear the vast majority of daily commuters and truck traffic through the use of technology.

Even now, the BridgeCompany preprocessing Centre in Detroit has reduced significantly the number of secondary Customs inspections at the Bridge. Presumably, that should mean that we do not need a whole bunch of new lanes across the River since capacity will not be a problem any longer. Vehicles, especially trucks, will in effect be pre-cleared through Customs away from the border and therefore only a few vehicles will be stopped.

However, let us forget about this illogical position being put forward by the Government. Let us also assume that Wilbur Smith will confirm a huge increase in traffic that DRIC has presented to us so far notwithstanding that they have actually reduced their volume projections several times and that the actual traffic bears no relationship to what they have said.

If one looks at the photographic rendering above of and reads the material with respect to the new DRIC Plaza, several things jump out:

  • when one looks at its location, it is surrounded by the Brighton Beach power station, the Hydro One transformer station, the West Windsor power plant and the Nemak automotive plant as well as parkland. It must mean that all of this Plaza is capable of handling all of the traffic that all of these expert consultants can foresee

  • how easily can the plaza be expanded

  • who in their right mind would build a bridge and plaza surrounded by these obvious security risks when there is another location that does not have these risks. Are they just inviting trouble. Do they want another "unique" security risk like the Tunnel?

  • there are 29 Customs booths for cars and trucks in the new plaza

  • as laid out, the 29 booths completely fill out the width of the Plaza so that it appears that more booths cannot be added

  • the new plaza has 132 acres, slightly larger than that required, according to DRIC, that would have wiped out a good part of Sandwich if a new bridge was built at the Ambassador Bridge location where they said 100-120 acres was needed. What a remarkable co-incidence.

  • Of that 132 acres, 43 are buffer and 5 are for stormwater management. Space taken for secondary truck inspection is huge, about equivalent to half of the Incoming Customs area it seems even though fewer trucks will be inspected in future with the new technology (The Bridge Co.'s pre-processing area in Detroit has already cut dramatically the number of vehicles going to secondary insopection)

  • I would be shocked if the actual space required for Customs' purposes in the new plaza is substantially more than what is needed now at the bridge.

  • if the plaza is designed for traffic volumes for the next 30 years or so, is the plaza too small for future growth beyond 30 years? If so, then what?

The conclusion that I draw from all of this is pretty simple. The huge volume of traffic as predicted by DRIC and which will be confirmed by Wilbur Smith can be handled in a Plaza with 29 Customs booths that cannot be expanded in future easily and which seems to be unable to accommodate additional Customs booths and has unacceptable risks nearby that invite trouble.

There is a recent precedent about errors in plaza design: the Blue Water Bridge US plaza. In fact over $400M has to be spent to fix it up. Of course, another change was made in the new design proposed:
  • "MDOT presents new plan for plaza

    By NICHOLAS DESHAIS, Times Herald, June 23, 2008

    A representative from the Michigan Department of Transportation will present the newly revised plan for the Blue Water Bridge Plaza expansion before many Blue Water Area elected officials tonight...

    The "footprint" of the project recently was reduced from 65 to 57 acres, sparing more than 20 houses from demolition but relegating them to an "island" surrounded by heavy traffic and a fortified port of entry."

If I am the Bridge Company Owner, I am sitting in my office scratching my head and wondering what is going on. You see, dear reader, the Ambassador Bridge already has 29 incoming Customs booths on the Canadian side, the same number as the new Plaza is supposed to have! The numbers for actual traffic seem to be significantly less than the DRIC projections based on actual results and the existing Plaza can handle even more Customs booths.

Seriously, who needs a new plaza and a new bridge?

Moreover, he has to be trying to figure out what these people are thinking with respect to traffic when the complaints are due to border "thickening" which has nothing to do with his operations. Rather they are the concerns of Customs of both the US and Canadian Governments and which will be dealt with programs such as e-Manifest, FAST and Nexus.

A suggestion: if you are a Government person whose object is to terrify the Bridge Company, don't make them laugh first!

Produce The Tunnel Letter

video


According to the news clip, Windsor Council is very serious. I guess we must not have been serious before eh!

Council fired over a letter to Detroit saying that we were in this all the way ie the Tunnel deal.

Wouldn't you like to know what it said? I sure would.

I know from reading the Detroit media reports that Detroit Councillors seem to be aware of some of the transaction details. Moreover:

  • "Council members, who have resisted the deal for months because they contend it lacks specifics, have asked more questions. The administration is getting answers.

    "We don't know what the council will do," said Denise Tolliver, Kilpatrick's spokeswoman.

    Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel, whose committee has been working with the administration, said that while her committee is against the deal, members can wait until Monday for a final vote so council staffers could review the latest proposal."

Heck Detroit Council staffers may know more about the deal than our Councillors by the 30th. Oh and didn't you like this quite from Eddie which I thought suggested that nothing was final:

  • "We need to stress June 30 is Detroit's deadline," Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said Monday. "We are not going to get involved in issues between the mayor's office and Detroit city council. From our end, a number of things need to be resolved, but right now nothing is scheduled to come to our desk."

It would not appear that the same level of information sharing is taking place in Windsor. Why not?

Is Detroit Council going to know the facts and then our Council is going to be surprised in the last minute and not read the documents but be forced to approve it:

  • "I [Councillor Halberstadt] would remind you again of my still outstanding Council question, presented on June 25, 2007, almost a year ago now, asking for an acturarial study, a detailed financial prospective, a risk assessment, a traffic volulme/revenue/expenditure analysis since Sept. 11, 2001, and a projection of the lifespan of the facility.

    Counc. Bill Marra has asked for a similar analysis as a member of the Tunnel Commission, and is also cooling his heels waiting for answers, in his case for nine months.

    Since the proposed deal has been re-arranged from an outright purchase to a double-barreled loan, I now have further questions."

So who sent the letter, what did it say and who on Council approved it?

My inside moles are unaware of any recent correspondence approved by Council.

Simple request to the two Mayors: Produce the letter.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Tunnel Fingerpointing



I thought that I heard the fat lady singing with respect to the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal. Or perhaps she won't be after this Channel 4 story:
  • "Kilpatrick: Council Is Opening Up To Tunnel Sale

    DETROIT -- The Detroit City Council rejected Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's proposal to sell the city's half of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel last week, but the mayor said Monday the council may be rethinking their decision.

    While at a youth event, Kilpatrick said, "The council members are much more receptive now."

    Kilpatrick said that once the council members knew more about the details, the amount of work that went into the proposal, and just how serious the City of Windsor is, they become more receptive to the idea."

In fact the Detroit Mayor claimed that Windsor City Council sent over a letter saying they were serious re doing the transaction. That must mean that our Mayor has let our Councillors into the details. When will Windsor citizens know? Or is this another deal with a confidentiality term or will it be hidden behind a "private company" curtain?

There is no doubt in my mind that having a newly appointed Minister in the Infrastructure portfolio means that nothing is going to happen between now and the end of June to a have a decision reached by the Province to loan Detroit, errrrrr, Windsor $75 million or more. Do you think that the new Minister, George Smitherman, is that dumb to make his first deal to help out the Mayor of Detroit, errrrrr, Mayor of Windsor when Ontario cities are desperate for money.

The focus of his Department is on building "the schools, public transit, hospitals and energy generation that will help power Ontario's economy." I did not see mention for money for an international border crossing that has declined in value during the watch of Eddie Francis.

I'd really like to know the amount of the loan that Eddie has asked for. More importantly, I would like to see the business case from a financial perspective that has been laid out to justify the loan and to know if the taxpayers or our assets are on the hook if there is a default.

I cannot see the Province paying out one single penny unless this is the way for them to shut the Mayor up on Greenlink. In that case, this is a political matter, not a business one!

So let us assume that the deal is dead. Whose fault is it? Who takes the blame for the failure?

Frankly, if there never was a possibility of this deal moving forward or if it became clear at some time in the past that the deal was likely to have difficulties, then why did the Mayor spend, and why did Council allow him to spend, over $1 million trying to get the transaction to be completed. How many Library books would that sum have purchased?

Look at the language used in Detroit by Councillor Sheila Cockrel about this deal:

  • "It was, in my opinion, malfeasance to put this deal in a budget when you didn't even have it done," Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel told the mayor's staff."

    She also "called the deal "reprehensible."

Too bad none of our Councillors can open their mouths without fear. We learned that

  • "Counc. Bill Marra has asked for a similar analysis as a member of the Tunnel Commission, and is also cooling his heels waiting for answers, in his case for nine months."

When he dared say something:

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

It appears that even the Mayor's allies voted against setting up a Corporation in Detroit to which the Tunnel assets would be transferred:

  • "Chairwoman Sheila Cockrel, Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers and Councilwoman Alberta Tinsley-Talabi – two council members that tend to side with the Kilpatrick administration – called for the rejection of the deal."

Therefore, it looks like it is the Detroit Mayor's fault if the deal dies.

Wait a minute, not so fast. What does Kwame say:

  • "But Kerwin Wimberley, Kilpatrick's liaison to the council, told members Ontario is waiting to see some progress from the Detroit council before moving ahead with the loan.

    "They need to see some movement," Wimberley said."

So if the only movement is rejection on the part of the Detroit Council, then it is their fault if the deal fell apart.

But Windsor's lawyer Cliff Sutts is smarter than that when he has to protect our Mayor...he blames both of them

  • "until council and Mayor Kilpatrick's office can reconcile on proceeding and the process, Windsor is unable to proceed further.

    "I don't know where we are going. We are reluctant to get involved in any problems Detroit may have internally. We are very interested spectators at the moment."

Eddie almost got away with it. Unfortunately for him, Councillor Cockrel did figure out:

  • "Where is the financing for the tunnel deal?" she asked. "If this is such a great deal, why hasn't the province of Ontario just said, 'Windsor, here is the money."

Other than that remark, it seems that few remember that Eddie has been unable so far to get the $75M financing for the deal and has not got Federal Government approval for the transfer of ownership to the new Windsor Company. If people remember, then perhaps he might be blamed for the waste of time, effort and money.

Never fear though. The cheerleaders and sycophants have been hanging around City Hall too long too. They have the amnesia disease now. He won't be blamed.

We will just have to wait until Detroit Council decides if this deal goes forward or not. Hopefully, they will protect Windsor citizens from this farce since our Councillors seem irrelevant!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Few Thoughts



I wonder if you have considered the following matters. It is a very competitive world out there isn't it:

NEVER BET AGAINST A CASINO

The battle for the customer dollar between the Casinos on both sides of the river is heating up with the opening of Caesars Windsor.

I happened to be near the Tunnel around 5:30 P.M. on Sunday evening. Traffic going north on Goyeau into the Tunnel was almost nonexistent. More troubling however was that traffic at the Canadian Customs area was pretty light as well. It would be interesting to know how many cars actually came over during the period 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. when the Casino was paying for the Tunnel tolls.

To be blunt about it, it was a good deal for the Casino. Look at the terrific free advertising they got about the promotion in the first place. Moreover, do the math. There was little chance that they would ever have to pay for 4000 tolls.

4000 tolls represent 800 vehicles per hour. There are nine Customs booths for cars at the Tunnel. That means each booth would have to clear about 90 cars per hour. That means each vehicle would be examined for about a 40 seconds by a Customs officer to clear 4000 in five hours. That is something I'd like to see happen!

No wonder Casinos make money. The odds are always in their favour.

EAST END HOTEL

From the Fairfield Inn Windsor website:



Remember this in the City's Summer 2007 Newsletter after the fight over the arena:
  • "Economic spin-off is already evident. Fairfield Inn by Marriott will open a 103-room and suite hotel with attached commercial and retail space in the same neighbourhood. This will be the first major hotel chain in the city’s east end."

I wonder what has happened to that hotel. Will it be finished in mid-20o8?

CKLW AWARDS

Congratulations to the Radio Station CKLW for winning 2 RADIO-TELEVISION NEWS DIRECTORS' ASSOCIATION OF CANADA awards in the competition against stations across Canada.

It is unfortunate for listeners in this area that they did not win the awards for In-depth/Investigative or for Editorial/Commentary but then again, it is hard to do that kind of work with a "W" weighing down your chest.

PREPARING FOR THE INVASION OF CANADA

The choice of language by Prime Minister Harper at the SPP meeting was quite unfortunate. Effectively, he threatened President Bush with the cutting off of oil if the US wanted to renegotiate NAFTA to the detriment of Canada.

  • "But, look, as I said, we'll be prepared for any eventuality. Canada is the United States' number one supplier of energy. We are a secure and stable supplier. That is of critical importance to the future of the United States, and if we had to look at this kind of an option, I think quite frankly we would be in even stronger position now than we were 20 years ago, and we'll be in a stronger position in the future."

Energy was one of the issues that Senator McCain talked about in Ottawa during his NAFTA speech so clearly the subject is on the mind of a person who could be the next President of United States.

Here is what one of my readers wrote to me with respect to my BLOG on the the border plazas. Too far-fetched? You be the judge of that:

Email #1

"Just another conspiracy theory on the real reason for the expansion of the bridge plazas at Buffalo, Detroit, and Port Huron. About ten years ago the U.S. Army built a very large army base in up state New York, called Fort Drum, not far from the Canadian border. It was then mentioned that it was quite possibily could be used for the invasion of Canada but the U.S. poohed, poohed that idea.

Now with the expansion of the plazas or planned expansion of the three plazas can only be future military staging areas for the invasion of Canada. Secure Ontario and Ottawa and you got the country!

One more political interference in U.S. elections or governing from Canada and the Americans will just decide that they would be better off with ten new states and three territories! And our oil will be theirs!"

EMAIL#2

"The new plazas on the American side could be used as military staging grounds for the invasion of Canada! Just like I pointed out to you the other day!

From McCains speech (on your blog):

"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."

And the use of their military is not out of the option!"

For more commentary on this subject, take a look at "Bordering on Agression" http://archive.peacemagazine.org/v09n2p20.htm

BLOGexclusive-- Bridge Company Home Damaged By Fire




It is hardly a surprise. The surprise is that it has not happened before.

One of the homes owned by the Ambassador Bridge Company on Indian Road was damaged by a fire the other night. Ironically, it happened after DRIC announced the location for the new bridge and plaza.


Was it a mere accident and coincidence or was it a deliberate act of arson? Was someone trying to deliver a message to the Company? After all, wasn't the Company identified as the "enemy" of the City?

The cause of the fire is under investigation along with the extent of the damage.

There is no doubt now that the fun and games at City Hall have got to stop and permission to demolish these homes has to be granted immediately. It is not only these homes that are at risk. As I mentioned in a previous BLOG, DRIC also is buying homes that I am told are abandoned.

The problem that the Bridge Company has is that the City Planner has already said at Council that if they brought an application to demolish the homes there would be opposition for the demolition by Administration for at least several more months until such time as the CIP Report was completed.

It will be interesting to see what the next step will be.

What Is Really Behind Greenlink


I must admit I did not think it was in good taste for the City to run a Greenlink advertisement on the same day that the Senior Levels were going to announce their bridge and plaza. But then again when have we ever seen courtesy and politeness amongst the Governmental players in the border file?

I still could not understand this fascination with a project that is not going to happen at a cost of at least $1 billion more than the DRIC road which probably also won’t happen either. To be honest, the DRIC road doesn’t look all that bad in the scheme of things but the likelihood is that we’re going to get exactly what the Joint Management Committee wanted almost 5 ½ years ago.

I found this fixation on Greenlink even more perplexing considering that the numbers of postcards received were significantly less than the Mayor expected in spite of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive advertising. It appeared to me as if the Mayor did not get the support that he wanted such that the Province can ignore anything that he has to say.

Moreover, the buzz around City Hall that I have heard for quite some time is that it is known that there is no expectation that the Province will consider Greenlink.


So why are we spending money on ads, why is the Greenlink banner still the front of the Council Chambers, why is the Mayor is still pushing for it?

In my opinion, the recent comments on CKLW by Patty Handysides and then the quotes by the Mayor on the radio followed by the Star Editorial gave it all away. All of this so called Greenlink support is nothing more than the Mayor’s way to try and get money out of the Senior Levels to accomplish who knows what that is in his own agenda. No wonder he is on such good terms with the Federal Government these days since he believes that Senator Fortier is going to provide him a ton of cash for Brighton Beach.

Listening to CKLW, what the Mayor effectively said is give me a whole bunch of money now so that I can complete projects before you take all of our workers for the DRIC project. All of a sudden, we have a shortage of workers where just days ago the Mayor was again taking credit for trying to figure out how to send them out of town. He wants the Province to pay him upfront monies that we might not receive at all over the next few years so he will go away quietly on Greenlink.

What the Mayor is saying is if you want me to back off on Greenlink and not start a lawsuit claiming that your Environmental Assessment is defective---why else was David Estrin at Council giving his one-hour dissertation on environmental law--- then you better pay me money now and big amounts of money or else.

Think I’m being cynical. Just take a look at the Star editorial the other day “A new bridge…Make a deal on access road.”
  • "Issues surrounding the access road to that new border crossing, however, are threatening to derail this momentum, with the city and province at loggerheads over how much of the route should be out of sight and covered with green space…

    The city maintains GreenLink costs about the same as the Parkway but the DRIC team counters it would cost $700 million more.

    The city…has hinted it might pursue legal action to ensure the city’s interests are protected. Legal action would be an unfortunate development as it would likely delay construction of the bridge and road, which federal officials estimate could create 25,000 person years of employment and economic spinoff benefits of between $3-$4 billion...

    “Let’s not talk about war or battles, but peace and the solutions we can work out together if everybody puts their mind to it,” said Hrastovec…

    Egos and petty politics need to be set aside for the good of this region and the good of a national economy heavily dependent on trade.

    The Windsor-Detroit corridor handles an estimated $500 million in trade every day and the city and province can’t sit down and hammer out a compromise between two projects separated by only $700 million and two kilometres?

    …But that development won’t proceed smoothly and quickly until the city and province bridge differences that are hardly insurmountable given the massive and long-lasting benefits of this crucial project.”

There you have it. That is what the issue is all about. Windsorites have been used again as pawns. Our emotions have been played again by our elected officials.

How much money can Eddie get from the Province. He is negotiating from the maximum being $700 million or the difference between the cost of Greenlink and the DRIC Road.

Now we know that this has nothing to do with quality of life of Windsorites or future generations or more parkland or connecting Communitities or keeping trucks off of City streets or any other of the feel-good statements that have come out of our City Council for so long. It all has to do with money.

That is the message delivered by the Star Editorial to Ministers Duncan and Pupatello which they are to convey to the Premier.

Is there anything wrong in trying to get more for the City? Absolutely not. As far as I’m concerned, the more the better. However I have no confidence in a Mayor who is, as far as I’m concerned, out of his league when it comes to negotiations on anything significant. The latest example being the deal with the Spitfires.

I’m also concerned that the Mayor’s sense of timing leaves a lot to be desired. The Tunnel deal is a prime example of that where we have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars because he is incapable of doing a deal when the Tunnel actually had some value, or rather perceived value.

If I am right, then I do not like to be used either or treated as a fool or not trusted by my Mayor and Council. I don't like things being kept from me either when the future of this City is at stake. I do not like that Taxpayer money is being used, and wasted, in such a manner as well.

I do not think that I'm that far off the mark in what I think about the Mayor's campaign for Greenlink. I happened to recall something that I read about a controversy in Hamilton where that City sued the Federal Government over an Environmental Assessment. I found a few references on the Internet. After you read this, then you judge whether I am right or wrong in what I have just Blogged:

  • "the Hamilton municipal government is accusing 65 federal government staff of "deliberately and unlawfully" using their public office to harm the city by participating in an environmental assessment of a controversial city expressway. The city is suing the civil servants and four former federal cabinet ministers for $75 million, charging the public servants illegally used the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) in 1999 to stop or delay the Red Hill Creek Expressway.

    The lawsuit says "the defendants abused their public office by engaging in targeted malice towards the City's completion of the Expressway" and utilized environmental assessment "in an unprecedented, illegal and unconstitutional manner in order to achieve that objective."

    The formal statement of claim filed in court by David Estrin of Gowling Lafleur Henderson also says "the defendants knew, when they determined to use their public office to stop the City completing the Expressway, that the City would be harmed in the result..."

    The city openly admits that its aim is to achieve an out-of-court settlement which would transfer tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to municipal coffers."

I saw in a news story in March, 2008 that:

  • "Councillors have voted to continue a controversial lawsuit against Ottawa involving the building of the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

    It has also removed a cap on legal costs plus decided to keep the costs from public view until the suit's end...

    Councillor Brad Clark, who supported keeping the lawsuit going, called it "the right thing to do" as an effort to keep pressure on Ottawa to settle. He wasn't bothered by removal of the cap or keeping costs from the public until the suit was over. Legal costs have been estimated at $243,000 since 2004."

It's an interesting strategy. The trouble is the Mayor is playing with the future of this Community. If he is wrong, and if the Senior Levels pull out all of their money, and don't forget that there is a federal election coming up and the Conservatives have better places to spend $1 billion, then what happens?