Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 24, 2008

Act III: Shakespearean Border Tragedy (Part I)

At precisely 11 a.m., the phone rang.
  • “Blogmeister. We have not spoken for quite some time. Would you be free for lunch perhaps today?”

Of course I was busy. This was the time when I am sending out my e-mail for the afternoon BLOG to my readers and doing my research for other work that I’m doing. However, no one ever says no to Deep Throat.

In exactly 30 minutes, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, I immediately recognized the three Canadian Military men in dress uniform who were my escorts previously. I remembered the big black limousine that I knew was going to take me out to the County estate of the Commander in Chief of the joint task force set up by Windsor police, OPP, RCMP and Canadian Forces. As you may recall, dear reader, the Commander also claimed to be Deep Throat’s Cousin.

When we arrived, there was my friend waiting at the front door. He immediately ushered me into the house and into the Great Hall where the Commander and his team were waiting for us.

  • “Blogmeister,” said the Commander. “I’m so glad that you were able to join us for our Elizabethan theme luncheon. Once a month, our chef does something special and for October, she decided to make us a lunch similar to one that William Shakespeare would eat. Enjoy!

    Gentleman, a toast to the Queen!”

Notwithstanding that I was completely bewildered by all this and had no idea whatsoever why I had been invited, I certainly enjoyed the meal and the several glasses of English beer. But I was getting impatient, I knew that there is a reason for all this but I had no idea what it was.

As the meal ended, Deep Throat invited me to join him in the Library for coffee and dessert.

  • “From the look on your face, I can tell that you’re wondering what this is all about,” he chuckled. “I thought I might have a little bit of fun with you.

    A horrible tragedy is taking place in Windsor over the border file. I truly cannot believe what is going on and how the people in the region are being treated. People are desperate for work, businesses are closing down and the retail market is going to suffer tremendously for the next few months. Yet no one in authority seems to care. Just the usual platitudes about the importance of this crossing to trade.

    Thousands of high-paying jobs can be created to replace those lost in the manufacturing sector and still the politicians are playing these bizarre games. It is difficult for me to stomach it much longer.”

I had never heard him speak like this before. He was almost emotional, completely out of character. He went on,

  • “As you know Shakespearean tragedies were written in a set form with 5 distinct elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The climax always came in Act III. Well my dear friend, we are now in Act III. I can only hope, as I read in one study, that ‘The climax represents the turning point of the play. From this point on, the Shakespearean hero moves to his inevitable end.’”

It was almost typical of the man. All of this theatre… the phone call, the trip to the County, the luncheon… just to make the point that we were approaching the Climax of the border file. He could have told me all of this very simply but obviously something was troubling him tremendously for him to take all this extra trouble. He wanted me to remember what he had to say.

  • “It is what is going to happen next, after the climactic moment, that is so concerning.”

It must have been the extra beer or two that I had that made me so bold, “Surely you are over-dramatizing.” A nice punning comeback I thought until I saw Deep Throat’s hand slam the table as he stood up.

  • “No,” he said in a voice that he was trying to calm down as I could see the anger leave him, “I am not overreacting. We could see this part of the region become destitute unless cooler heads finally prevail and stop this completely absurd behaviour. We can no longer tolerate nor afford this foolishness.”

I heard a noise behind me. It was a screen coming down from the ceiling. I was about to be shown a PowerPoint presentation.

  • “I don’t understand why you feel the way you do. Clearly, the Ambassador Bridge Company is moving forward to start their Enhancement Project. After all didn’t Dan Stamper say:

    “The Ambassador Bridge company claimed Friday it has all the approvals it needs to start building a six-lane twin span beginning next year.

    Legislation from the 1920s when the bridge was constructed provides the company all it needs to push forward with construction, said president Dan Stamper.

    "There are agreements and legislation out there," he said. "I think we have the necessary approvals. We are going to build a bridge because we have a right…"

    He is not someone to make an idle threat. His Company would not have spent $500 million to buy land on both sides of the river and to build the Ambassador Gateway project which was designed to accommodate a second bridge unless they had the right to do so.”

  • “That is exactly the point now isn’t it.” Deep Throat was not chuckling. “We are approaching the climax of this entire file. It is all coming down to one point as I shall show you. After that, there is the falling action and resolution. Those are the last two stages of a Shakespearean tragedy that could befall region unless decisive action is taken.”

While I was given a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, I will try and remember everything that I was told. The one sentence however that is absolutely etched in my memory was Deep Throat saying,

  • “It is precisely due to the fact that the Bridge Company has the right to build its Enhancement Project that this file is now totally out of control.”

I knew he was right. I could never figure out why the Bridge Company was having so many problems with their Environmental Assessment process. I had been told years ago by one of the senior Bureaucrats involved in the process that there was no way that the Bridge Company could be stopped and that they would get their permit. Now, in 2008, the process was still ongoing. In fact, the City of Windsor intervened in the US EA process as well. I still remember that Stamper served David Estrin with legal papers right before one of the Coast Guard hearings in Cleveland.

Someone or several someones in very high positions of authority must have made the decision that the Bridge Company had to be stopped at all costs, no matter what. Legal position be damned!

Deep Throat started

  • “This all started in the early 1990s. It did not matter that there was a resolution of the lawsuit between the Canadian Government and the Bridge Company. Certain people could never forgive the fact that the Bridge was owned by a non-Canadian. Remember, at the time of the purchase, there was no Free Trade Agreement nor NAFTA. Once those agreements were signed, traffic increased dramatically and so did revenues. People became jealous. Money does that!

    Of course, these people cannot give credit to the Bridge Company for running a good operation. They believe that the Owner of the Company is not entitled to the fruits of his labour but that everything has been handed to him on a silver platter. They also forget that the Government had the opportunity to buy him out early on but did not do so.

    As time went on, this economic nationalism morphed into something more understandable: money. The idea of public-private partnerships was born and the concept of investing in infrastructure for the long-term became very sexy. It provided an outlet for private and pension plan monies and an innovative way supposedly for governments to fund their projects. It also provided huge fees for the people who could put the deals together.

    One good example that was mentioned in the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel discussions is the toll road in Chicago that was leased for almost $2 billion, an unbelievable amount at the time. Politicians drool when those kind of amounts of money are dangled in front of them. Candy to a baby or rather a substance to an addict. They had to have it no matter what.

    Which assets in our area would be prime candidates for P3’s? None other than the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. Isn’t that really what your Mayor’s idea was all about at the beginning when he tried to do the deal with Detroit?

    Money and Canadian economic nationalism. What a great combination to use against the Owner of the Bridge Company.

He was right. I remembered the Henderson column about Herb Gray and FIRA. I also knew that the Feds' Building Canada program requires a P3 review for any project receiving more than $50 million in federal funds.

  • You, Blogmeister, were the one who found the document that should have revealed everything to everyone about why this file is a phony and should have stopped the DRIC cold.

    Someone needs to explain why DRTP was ever considered by anyone as a viable option for the border crossing. It was the 300 plus page “"Michigan-Ontario Railroad Border Crossing Infrastructure" Report. As you so correctly pointed out, it effectively destroyed in 1991 the concept of a DRTP- type project. That report pointed out all the problems with the idea of trucks using the old rail tunnels:
     it would require careful driving because of its narrowness,
     it was highly unlikely that he could capture 50% of the border crossing traffic especially since its tolls would be much higher
     it provided marginal truck only capacity at best
     it would not allow for auto use and the money might be better spent on a new bridge

    Its conclusion was very direct. As you Blogged back in February, 2006

    “It is not recommended that the tunnel conversion be considered at this time.”

    In passing, I also found it very amusing about their traffic projections in 1991:

     Ambassador Bridge system could reach capacity in some of its elements such as inspection booth numbers by 1996
     Ambassador Bridge's roadbed capacity will be adequate until 2005.

    Here we are in 2008 with virtually no traffic backups on Huron Church since the Bridge Company opened up for talk booths and what the bridge at between 50 to 60% of capacity and volumes decreasing.

    Then you found on the Michigan website “"Construction History of the Blue Water Bridges" with this quote that sounds exactly to me what should be taking place in Windsor/Detroit:

    “After holding public meetings and studying several alternative locations for a second bridge, the team members recommended that a second bridge be constructed just to the south of the existing bridge...

    A new bridge to the south of the existing one would require less displacement of property and homes than one to the north. The southern location would also accommodate the expansion of the bridge plazas on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the bridge...

    Both countries completed major freeways leading to the bridge. I-69 in Michigan and Highway 402 in Canada.”

As I listened to Deep Throat speak, my mind was racing. Why would smart organizations like CP Rail and Borealis want to spend $6-700 million on a rail tunnel conversion that did not make sense a decade before? Why would they spend so much time and money trying to convince everyone that it was such a wonderful transaction? Why did they spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising blitzes and glossy brochures?

Clearly, from what was being said, the ideal location for a new bridge was right beside the existing bridge, especially since the Ambassador Gateway project was already being built to accommodate a second bridge. What about DRTP? Was its purpose not to be built but to be used as a tool to convince the Bridge Company Owner to sell out? Obviously, the bridge had value and its value would be decreased if DRTP was built or so the theory went, so it made sense for the Owner to sell out while the selling was good.

Who would buy the bridge? Obviously the Government. However, the Government would not put up the money but rather a P3 operator would. I remembered that DRTP had claimed that they had a number of pension funds already lined up to help pay for itse project. It was not going to be just OMERS money paying for it. Why, Michael Nobrega has now just set up an office in London England looking for money:

  • “We want access to large-scale opportunities and co-investment capital around the world. Locating in London expedites the process…

    One key prize in the expansion for OMERS would be major deals with sovereign wealth funds, the powerful government capital pools that will control an estimated $12.5-trillion (U.S.) by 2015…

    "Our pivotal point is to be able to find some way of collaborating with them, so we can get pieces of these large, strategic assets, and have some influence over their management.”

Given their need to justify DRTP, helping to finance a P3 would be a natural for Borealis. Is there a competition with them and the MDOT Australians to see who will front the deal or are they working together already? Is that why Alinda now operates the Tunnel? If the Canadian Government opposed the Bridge Company operating the Tunnel how could they allow an Australian company to operate the Tunnel and a bridge? Obviously, the bridge deal is the bigger one and it always could include the Tunnel as part of it eventually.

  • “I see that you are caught up in your own thoughts Blogmeister. I am sure that you are way ahead of me but bear with me please. I will catch up,” as he smiled.

    “Back in 2002, the Joint Management Committee people were absolutely shocked by the negative reaction they received from the City when they finished their report because they thought that they had reflected reasonably accurately what the City wanted.

    Here is where it gets interesting. Councillor Francis as he then was introduced this Motion that talks about upgrading EC Row and building a Lauzon extension to Highway 401.

    In 2003, he also was on the side that approved

    “That City Council ENDORSE upgrades and improvements of #3 Highway/Huron Church from the 401 to the entrance of the Ambassador Bridge.”

    I am sure that most people have forgotten all this. The question that does need asking however is why he changed. Why was he so strongly opposed to trucks on EC Row and fixing up Huron Church? Why has he fought the battle against that for so many years when he was in favour of it before?

    Lets jump ahead a little bit to the Bi–National’s Planning and Feasibility Study in 2004. What is fascinating to me about it when one compares the various alternatives set out in the report is how poorly DRTP does and that the central crossing and the Twin bridge location are virtually identical as far as the site for a new bridge is concerned.

    You have said many times Blogmeister that the purpose of DRIC as far as you were concerned was to force the Ambassador Bridge Company to sell out as cheaply as possible. If DRTP was there to try to make the Bridge Company Owner sell out and the 2004 Study said that the Twinned Bridge location was satisfactory, wouldn’t one logically be able to conclude that this is where a new bridge should be built. One should consider that especially given the $250 million to be spent on the Ambassador Gateway project in Michigan that was to accommodate a second bridge. It was right beside the existing bridge just like in Sarnia.

    Of course, that did not happen and the Bi-national group morphed into DRIC. You have written enough about the DRIC failures and how they have changed their position so many times that I don’t have to repeat it. What is interesting to me however is that the underlying assumption that the Bridge Company owner would sellout was dashed in the Globe and Mail newspaper article about him.

I had to interrupt him here. I just felt that he was coming to the reason why we were meeting, to explain the Shakespearean “Climax” about the border file. I needed to ask him some questions to see what his response would be.

  • “Before you continue, let me ask you this. Do you understand the relationship between the three levels of Government on our side of the River? I have always assumed that they are working together against their common enemy, the Bridge Company, but the stalling, the animosity, the snubbing by our City Government has always troubled me.”

That question seemed to relieve some of the tension. Deep Throat must have had some kind of secret button that he pushed since just at that moment one of the military men came in with a fresh pot of coffee and some biscuits that I assumed were from an Elizabethan recipe to keep the mood.

“Let’s take a break for a few minutes. We have been going at it for quite a long time.”


Imagine That

Unless you saw it for yourself, you just would not believe it. Here are some more interesting items for you to consider.


Is one of the editorial writers at the Star looking to be fired? Is he daring them to try to get rid of him hoping for a big severance payment so that he can go out West and get a high paying job with one of the newspapers there?

That was my first reaction when I read his BLOG. Combine that with his story “Watchdog demands audit's release” and he might be attacked as a Naysayer, heaven forbid.

It would appear to me that Don has a few more than seven readers considering the number of people who contacted me asking if I had read his Windsor Star BLOG about the Mayor. You can read it at

The last reporters of the Star wrote BLOGs similar to that no longer do so. In fact if you go to the website where one of them used to be found you would read:

  • “Not Found: Resource Not Found. The resource you requested does not exist.”

If you think I am brutal in my conversations about our Mayor, then read this

  • "When Francis told you in his State of the City address that he wanted to "change the conversation," I didn't think he meant he was going to start swearing like a sailor. It is unbecoming of his office reflects poorly on the city. Could you imagine, say, Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling the nation during the recent leaders' debate that Canada was in "deep ***." Not even the opposition leaders, who were trying to stoke fear in a shameless bid for votes, resorted to the profanity of panic.

    The worst of it is that Francis doesn't know any more about the global financial crisis than you or any other person on the street. He doesn't have some red phone in his office connecting him to Wall Street or Bay Street. He reads the same stories in the same newspapers at the same time that you do. He's certainly not a financial analyst. Heck, he's hardly even a lawyer. He just plays one on TV.”

Some of my readers wondered whether or not this signalled that the Star was going to be changing its position with respect to the Mayor. I hardly think so.

As long as Eddie maintains his opposition to the Bridge Company, the Star will still support him.

Why then is McArthur doing what he is doing? I have no idea. It is too cynical even for me to suggest that he has been allowed to write this way just so that the Star can demonstrate that they are presenting an evenhanded approach to the Mayor if someone tried to criticize them. Seriously though, they can hardly make that argument when MacArthur only has "seven" readers. Mind you, the way things are going in Windsor, the Star may only have seven readers before long.

So let us take it for what it is. Another person in Windsor disappointed by our Mayor and letting the world know about it in the strongest possible terms. How many times have we seen that before?

Welcome to the phone booth, Don.


I have BLOGGED this before. And I will probably keep on doing it.

The real risk to a border crossing in Windsor is not an attack on the bridge but rather, if Greenlink is built, an attack on one of the kilometre long Schwunnels that Eddie wants built or probably on all of them at the same time.

A major accident in any one of the Schwunnels could disrupt trade between Canada and the United States for hours or days or more.

How can an accident happen? Who knows. They just do.

Here is one story from the Windsor Star that I saw recently:

  • “The westbound Highway 401 was shut down for hours and traffic screeched to a halt Monday afternoon after one broken-down transport truck caused a chain reaction collision involving three other trucks.”

    During the Thanksgiving weekend, a truck

    “jumped a barrier and drove up an embankment at the side of the road.

    At one point, westbound traffic was backed up about 20 kilometres on Highway 401 while police tried to determined how to remove the truck.”

Here's another:

  • "Crash, big rig fire block Calif. highway

    OAKLAND (AP) — Commuters who usually take Interstate 880 through Oakland should probably avoid the area after a crash involving a big rig and several cars.

    The California Highway Patrol says both sides of the freeway near downtown Oakland are blocked as flames from the big rig shoot into the air."

Can you imagine the disaster not only to people in the Schwunnel but also to those using the parkland innocently above it if there was an explosion!

I expect that the DRIC people will stand firm and not give in to the childishness of the Mayor on this particular issue.


That is something that the Peace Bridge calls themselves. Accordingly,

  • "Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority, said Thursday that in certain private and confidential matters his organization also is exempt from the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and the Dominion of Canada Access to Information Act, a policy that has been endorsed by the New York State comptroller's office."

I wonder if our City Council should consider using this concept too. Well why bother, they can just say that they want several hundred thousand dollars to produce documents. It accomplishes the same thing.


I read this comment on Marketwatch about the investments made by Borealis in infrastructure assets:

  • “Borealis Infrastructure, a 10-year-old pioneer that has developed with other investors a portfolio of infrastructure assets with an enterprise value of over $25 billion, including a nuclear power plant, marine ports, a satellite company, oil and gas pipelines and health-care diagnostic services.”

Yes, yes, yes I noticed the omission of DRTP too. But just so that you do not think that Mr. Nobrega has forgotten about all the money that he has spent in Windsor, he does refer to joint ownership of the Detroit River Rail Tunnel in a Globe and Mail article.


It is really difficult being a member of the Windsor Essex Development Commission. All of that oversees travel can just be so tiring.

I saw in the latest WEDC newsletter that the Chair, Remo Mancini and Tracy Pringle will be going to Germany to attend the International Suppliers Fair in Wolfsburg. I hope they find some time to meet the onion importers too to solidify the relationship.

Darn, they just missed out on Oktoberfest. Oh well, they can always visit Autostadt instead. The town has a very interesting history that you can read about here

How many trips is this that WEDC members have taken overseas so far? Thank goodness the Credit Union and the area Councils can afford all of this. Perhaps they might take a lesson from the Finance Minister and reduce this kind of travel until some results are actually achieved. Toronto is much closer if they want to take a trip. Wasn't that where this area held its big soiree to bring Golden Horseshoe money here.

If Sandra can help out Fort Erie to try to get a NASCAR track when she visited Dubai, then Remo should ask her to help out Windsor when she goes overseas again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Helping Out Ontario's Minister Of Finance

Take that Gord Henderson. If you don’t think that Spanky takes care of his good friend and colleague Sandra then you are sadly mistaken.

Gord had the nerve in one of his columns to suggest that Sandra’s role in the Provincial Government wasn’t important and that she had been moved out of a position of power.

Wow, was he ever wrong! He owes her a huge apology and freedom from columnist attacks until the new year.

She is after all the Mighty MITI Minister whose function it will be to save the Ontario economy.

Think I am joking? To let everybody know about it, and clearly the Premier had to give his seal of approval as well, the following statement was made in the materials distributed by the Ministry of Finance after Dwight's Fall Economic Statement. In the section dealing with “Forming key partnerships,” Sandra’s important role was spelled out for everyone to read:
  • “A new Minister of International Trade and Investment will work on promoting Ontario to the world and attracting new investment and trade opportunities.”

Grammatically, it probably should have been written "the" rather than "a" but that is a quibble.

Sandra ought to thank Dwight for that mention except for one thing. Dwight is smart enough to make sure that he remains Numero Uno in Windsor. Unfortunately for Sandra, while she has the job to promote our Province around the world, Dwight has made it a bit more difficult for her to succeed. If Sandra does travel, it looks like she will have to go by herself. Moreover, just like her friend Remo, she may not have any brochures to hand out to prospective investors in the Province.

As part of his cost-cutting, the areas where spending will be reduced include “Reducing government staff travel costs” and “Reducing government printing, photocopying and fax costs.” At least she can still use the telephone or perhaps Dwight wants her to use SKYPE via the Internet since its long-distance rates are very low and she can even have a video camera attached so that investors can see her.

To be serious, one area where I think the Minister of Finances was absolutely wrong in cutting costs was with respect to “Delaying the addition of 50 Family Health Teams by one year” to save $3 million. While that sum is a lot of money to you and me, dear reader, in the scheme of things in the Ontario Budget, it is nothing. The health of thousands of Ontario residents who do not have a family doctor should not be put at risk to save such a small amount of money. As a person who uses the Windsor Health Team, I know its value.

I do not know why the Minister did not phone me for assistance in advance. I would have been able to have helped him solve the financial problems of the Province simply. He would not have had to have whined and cried and begged the Federal Government to send him money nor would he have had to have eaten into the Province’s reserves to keep the deficit under $1 billion.

He could have achieved a terrific result and no one in this City as an example would have attacked him at all. He had the perfect person whom he could have blamed. We would have known immediately if during his speech he said “THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG.” We would have known exactly what he meant and would have said that if our Mayor had acted in the past while money was available we would not have had a problem at all.

The Minister did say that infrastructure money would be used to help create jobs. However, he was not very specific about what he was going to do. He did say that the Province would continue investing in infrastructure. He talked about:

 “The Investing in Ontario Act, 2008 (IOA) will provide $1.1 billion to Ontario municipalities this year to improve roads and bridges, expand public transit and build other municipal projects throughout the province
 The IOA investment is expected to create 11,000 full-time jobs during the construction period and will make Ontario’s economy more competitive in the long term
 ReNew Ontario’s five-year, $30 billion infrastructure investment is building new roads, schools, hospitals, bridges and transit across Ontario
 Today, more than 100 major construction projects have been initiated as a result of ReNew Ontario
 We have invested a total of $9.9 billion in infrastructure in 2007-08, creating 109,000 full-time equivalent jobs during the construction phase of the projects.

Now that is pretty impressive I must say.

If you look at the Statement made by the Minister, the Province is short about $1 billion. If the Minister had asked me what to do, I would have said to give Windsor the “cheap solution” and not the DRIC road IE the at grade solution from Highway 401 to the Ambassador Bridge. Call it an interim solution so that the Border Infrastructure Fund monies can be used and the Feds would have to contribute 50% of the amount. People would still have high-paying infrastructure jobs but we would not be wasting money. Heck he could upgrade E C Row for a paltry few hundred million dollars more.

The perfect out for the Minister is the economic difficulties that we are having that have resulted in a drastic fall in truck traffic from what DRIC projected. Moreover, the Minister need only refer to his American colleague, the Director of MDOT, who said that we may not need a new bridge until perhaps 2035.

In the circumstances, why spend $1.6 billion on a road that costs 10 times as much as other Ontario roads, which amount will probably escalate to significantly more than that, when you can spend a few hundred million dollars on an “interim” road. There, Minister, I just saved you $1 billion or so and balanced Ontario’s budget.

I wonder if Dwight will thank me for my brilliant suggestion by re-adding me as a friend on his Facebook site. I used to be on it but someone removed me after I BLOGGED something that may have offended the Minister. I trust that I made it up to him now.

The Minister need not worry. This tactic has been used before in Australia as I have BLOGGED previously. When the media ask the Minister how he came up with this wonderful idea to save $1 billion, all that he needs to say is that a little kangaroo told him. Here’s the reference: BLOG, Wednesday, April 11, 2007, “How A Kangaroo Can Save Canada's Economy."

Council Vote Paves Way For Ambassador Bridge Upgrades

You are never going to see a headline like the above nor a story similar to this in the Windsor Star unless Council starts a March, 2003 revolution against the Mayor. This is a take off on the Star’s Truck Ferry story:
  • “City council approved recommendations Tuesday to spur over $2 billion worth of improvements to the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project and the DRIC road to the Bridge..

    The project would employ 15,000 workers.

    The work was supposed to begin a long time ago, but was put on hold amid months of stalling by the Mayor and his taxpayer paid lawyers and consultants.”

The Truck Ferry story is fascinating for number reasons not even including the inability of the Government people involved to do a deal in a timely fashion.

It is of course an anti-competitive action by the Governments with respect to the Bridge Company. Here you have all three levels of Government assisting a private enterprise company compete against the Bridge Company. It is very similar to the monies that they have also offered the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel for their plaza improvements to help the Tunnel compete as well.

The Governments can pay money to build an access road and make terminal and dock improvements for the Ferry or for Tunnel plaza improvments but not for the Bridge Company. Seems strange to me that one private enterprise operator should be favoured over another, especially when the other is prepared to spend its own money.

Adding insult to injury, I think the money being used to finance the work is BIF money as part of the Let's Hope We Can Get Windsor-Essex Moving One Day Soon strategy. Yet not one penny has been used to build the road to the Bridge, an existing crossing, as the BIF program was supposed to do.

More interestingly, I don’t understand why all of this money is being wasted since the new DRIC bridge will be able to handle hazardous loads thereby putting the Truck Ferry completely out of business. Why make millions of dollars worth of changes when the future of the business is limited to a few more years. Are the Governments going to pay Mr. Ward when he is forced to close down because of their actions? I wonder how much money they will offer him.

I suspect that the land deal is not yet completed. I would also think that the amount of money required to buy that small piece of land, 30-metre stretch of Maplewood Drive, will be substantially higher than most people would think.

If I was the owner, I would want a separate fee for the thousands of trucks that improperly used the property over a good number of years. Aren't they trespassing? At say, $20 per vehicle, that would be a nice sum of money for starters. After all he ought to be able to charge the equivalent of a “toll” for the use of his roadway. In my opinion, that amount ought not to be paid by the Governments since that was an error made by the owner of the Ferry. Why should taxpayers have to bail him out for that?

In addition, I might think twice if I was the owner about selling the property at all. I might just want to sell the right to use that property for truck access for a period of time at $X per truck. Alternatively, I might calculate how many trucks might use that property for the next 50 or so years, the amount of time that the Governments will be in litigation with the Bridge Company over the border crossing, and say that this is the purchase price for my road.

Of course, it might be possible for the Governments to expropriate the land although I think they might have some legal trouble justifying doing so. But that won’t be so bad except for taxpayers. They will wind up paying him even more money once his lawyers get through with them!

He does have some clout after all. If he closes the road down, then all of the hazardous materials trucks and the oversized trucks will have to use the Blue Water Bridge. The fuss that they would raise over the delays in going over the border and the extra distance travelled would force the Governments back to the negotiating table immediately.

It should be fun watching this one being played out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


So you think the Internet is not a powerful tool, especially for politicians. Think again.

Many major candidates for office in the United States receive huge amounts of money via their e-commerce site on their websites. A hundred or two hundred dollars from a million people in a month makes a very big campaign pot for advertising.

I’m sure that you know that more people watched the Saturday Night Live spoof of the Republican Vice President on the Internet then watched it live on television.

Well it seems that a few of my readers in United States decided that they wanted to have some fun. Unbeknownst to me, they were trying to arrange to have my name added to some of the ballots in several states. Apparently, the US electoral system permits write-ins even on presidential ballots provided that there is a sufficient number of people who are prepared to support the write-in.

These jokesters decided that they would set up a site on the Internet to support my running for office. Apparently they have been unbelievably successful. It must show that the American public is looking for someone to run other than the major party candidates.

Unfortunately for my readers, they don’t even understand their own Constitution. If they did, they would know that a foreign-born person could not be an American President.

Accordingly, I’m going to have to spend some time trying to ensure that my name does not get on the ballot or else the entire vote might be deemed to be illegal. I would hardly want to be the one to be responsible for another Florida-type situation that might result in a US Supreme Court case.

Just to let you know how far this story has gone, here is the website. Click on the video to see the story from the Channel 3 news broadcast in the United States.

Mind you, it was quite a rush seeing my name up there in lights and thinking that some people might actually vote for me. I don’t have the ambition to run for a Senior Level office but maybe a municipal one might be interesting for me.

I know that I could beat Eddie Francis easily if he ran for a third term but I wouldn’t want to take away votes from Bill Marra because clearly he is much more qualified that I am given his background. Moreover, I would not want to split the vote so that Eddie can get back in through the middle.

Dave Cooke....the canal project should sink him while his University experience is no help given the long University strike. Perhaps I should contact Pammie to get her on my side to neutralize Larry Horwitz. After all, I wanted her to have her ceremony on the Ambassador Bridge when she married that Detroit rock star! You know, it would be symbolic: the merging of a Canadian and an American right at the border point.

Hmmm being Mayor, that might be too much work. Perhaps I should consider Ward 1 where I live. After the East End arena fiasco, it would not be too difficult to run against Councillor bristling Brister and win.

What is the name of that campaign manager who’s looking for some work…

PS. In case you have not figured it out, this is all a joke. Thanks to a reader for pointing me to the website.

We Pay And Pay For Their Mistakes

One of the problems in trying to stay topical with this BLOG is that often interesting articles get "lost" because I try to deal with events as they break. Moreover, there is only so much that I can give you to read in a day.

Here is a case in point and a break from the Tunnel, border, arena etc.

This is a fascinating article in the Globe and Mail about business models going bad since they have no relationship to reality and the role of "grey hair."

I experienced something similar when I worked in the oil industry and the Bureaucrats under the Government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau enacted the National Energy Program. That program which was anti-foreign oil companies just about destroyed the Canadian oil industry and a bank or two at the time. That result obviously was totally unexpected and not contemplated by the geniuses who drafted the program.

My own view is that the Government bureaucracies are doing the same thing today with the border as I have related. What looks good on paper bears no relationship to the real world. Look at how Bill C-3 can hurt Windsor as an example. Brian Masse should take the full blame for that if he also demands credit for its passing!

All that will happen is economic devastation since these people have no real world experience. The mess at the Blue Water Bridge plaza is just one example of what I mean. Same thing with Eddie's multi-million Horseshoe Road and now the billion dollar plus Greenlink extravaganza. What the Bridge Co. spends a few million on and makes work, Governments would spend billions and see fail!

Here is part of the Globe story. As well here is one involving Borealis that scared me since as taxpayers, dear reader, you and I have to pay for their mistakes through increased pension plan contributions. We have gone through that once already after huge write-downs there that impacted just about every municipality in Ontario. The story is about their network but I note their reliance on models as well. I hope that their systems are a lot better now and that there is more grey hair in their shop too.

  • Miscalculating the risks

    Statistical geniuses of finance at the banks and hedge funds got it wrong. They were lulled into a false sense of security by their spreadsheets and risk models. Meanwhile, the old-fashioned wisdom of contrarians like Prem Watsa saw trouble. And profited.

...Fairfax this week disclosed an annual profit of $1.1-billion (U.S.) for 2007, nearly four times what the insurance and investment company had earned in its best year the year before. Much of that was the result of a single, contrarian bet the firm made that the world had got it wrong about risk.

Starting in 2003, and continuing through early 2007, Fairfax began to buy credit default swaps on U.S. companies. The buyer of such a derivative is essentially betting that the company's debt is overpriced – that the market has underestimated the odds of a financial failure.

Some of Fairfax's swaps were against the debt of so-called monoline insurers, companies like MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc., that guaranteed U.S. municipal bonds but had massive exposure to subprime mortgages and other risky debt.

“All you had to do was take a prospectus or you take their 10-K and you open it up and you say, ‘Let me look at the risk factors,'” Mr. Watsa said. “It's all there. And what's amazing is that when you read it, you can't believe that these guys did what they did.

“They never worried about risk.”

Neither did a lot of other people, until the credit crunch exposed tens of billions in toxic consumer debt, high-risk business loans, and complex, structured investment products. Some have called the U.S. mortgage crisis the biggest risk-management failure in financial history. Soothed by triple-A credit ratings, a strong economy and intricate risk-management plans, financial institutions and investors took on far more risk, and paid a much higher price, than they realized at the time.

The cause of their complacency, Mr. Watsa said, was the low volatility that prevailed between 2003 and 2006. “The only way that that could happen is we have to have a long period of stability – a long period where there wasn't any accidents. You'd never take that risk otherwise.”

It also happened because too many banks, insurers, hedge funds and rating agencies were given a false sense of security by statistical models that told them the probability of a financial “accident” was low. Where they used spreadsheets and algebra, aging investors like Mr. Watsa, 57, relied on their instincts and decades of experience to tell them something was amiss. And the grey-hairs won.

“We were shocked at how low the risk premiums went,” Mr. Watsa said...

Until last summer, as the economy and credit markets boomed, investors were clamouring for risk, taking on more and more for less in return. Optimism ruled.

The most tangible result was that market interest rates dove to record lows relative to government bonds, with even risky products such as junk bonds earning investors a scant premium to “risk-free” debt such as Treasury bills.

Fairfax won its bet when that trend reversed, starting last summer, as investors spooked by U.S. mortgage defaults once again demanded more compensation for taking chances...

Many of the answers lie in the uncertain science of risk management, which banks depend on to avoid pitfalls.

As markets flourished, financial institutions poured vast intellectual and electronic resources into creating fancy new products such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). At the same time, in a parallel universe also populated by PhDs and supercomputers, risk managers used statistical models in hopes of simulating what sudden market moves would do to the value of those securities and derivatives.

In all financial institutions, there is a daily battle between the risk takers and the risk managers. The takers push for bigger positions to make bigger profits, while the managers push for prudence and caution.

But as their warnings of potential loss were proved false each day by the soaring financial markets, many risk managers lost the ear of management teams focused on the vast profits generated by the people in the business of creating the structures. That led banks to take bigger and bigger bets.

“In a lot of these organizations that have had difficulties, the chief risk officer's role wasn't that meaningful or the business lines had more power and authority than the risk function did,” said Brian Porter, 50, chief risk officer at Bank of Nova Scotia, which has largely avoided the financial mess.

But some of the fault also lies with risk managers who relied too much on their tools, the statistical models, which were rapidly eclipsed by the rapid innovation in financial markets that begat complicated structures such as CDOs, so-called CDO squareds and structured investment vehicles (SIVs).

“Risk management tools are blunt instruments, which calls for prudence,” said Louis Gagnon, a former Royal Bank of Canada risk-management executive who now teaches business at Queen's University. “If you know you are driving your car on a foggy evening, you are supposed to go easy on the gas, but it's not necessarily what happens.”

Banks reeling from the massive losses are coming to realize that two of their key tenets of risk management – diversification and dependence on the so-called “normal distribution of events” – have been weighed in the balance of the credit crisis and found wanting.

Diversification has proved illusory because of a greater degree of correlation between asset classes and world markets than almost anybody expected.

The concept of avoiding correlation through diversification stems from the world of insurance. If you're going to insure homes, you have a greater chance of a big loss if all the houses you protect are on one street, or even in one town. There's too much risk of correlation, because a single hurricane or big fire could wipe them all out. One answer is to seek wider geographic diversification to cut correlation. Another is to insure in different markets, perhaps adding life or auto coverage to reduce the chance that all your customers will make claims at once.

In investing, money managers and risk officers seek to spread their risks over different geographies and markets for precisely the same reason.

The problem is, what works in insurance doesn't necessarily work in financial markets, because markets are prone to contagion.

A house fire in Saskatoon won't spark a conflagration in Tokyo, or any reaction at all, for that matter. But faced with something that shocks the financial world, such as falling U.S. home prices, investors on all continents and in all markets tend to react in a similar manner. Stocks, bonds, fancy CDOs and credit default swaps – the knee-jerk reaction is to sell them all, whether they trade in Toronto or New York or Tokyo.

In statistical terms, markets that don't show much correlation on good days can be very correlated in bad times, and there are no current models that reflect that fact.

“Historically, you see correlation between markets is not that high,” said John Hull, a risk-management specialist who teaches at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. “But it's dangerous to base your risk management on those correlations because when things start to go wrong, the correlations start to go up.”

Along with correlation, another term has come to haunt risk managers: “tail risk.”

It's an odd name for the statistical chance that returns on any given investment will fall outside the normal probability of events. (When plotted on a graph, the statistically probable events are grouped in a bell curve, but there's a long tail of improbable events that trails off to one side, hence the name.)

In other words, most of the times markets behave normally. But every so often they don't. Those abnormal events fall in the “tail” of the risk curve.

Many risk managers, especially those at banks, use the normal probability concept to develop a yardstick called Value-at-Risk (VaR), which measures the amount a position taken by traders could lose on any statistically “normal” day. Normal is defined as a move of less than three standard deviations from the mean, and the assumption is that normalcy will reign for all but one day in a hundred, or even a thousand. That's when the tail comes into play.

Most banks look back three or four years to determine the likelihood of loss – meaning that just before last summer's blowup they were looking only at years of unnatural calm. Markets fooled the models.

“The tail events happen far more often than we would predict,” Mr. Gagnon said. “But what are the predictions based upon? The normal distribution of events.”

As a result, VaR failed investors. For example, CIBC had a daily VaR in the third quarter of 2007 that averaged $9.9-million, according to the bank's quarterly investor presentations. Yet three times in that quarter, as the credit crunch picked up steam and the bank booked writedowns, it lost more than that in a single day, including one loss of $120-million.

“The tails are always fatter than you think and the correlations are always higher than you expected,” Mr. Hull said.

Financial institutions augment VaR with stress tests, in which a range of possible outcomes are run through the models to see what happens. What if interest rates rose three percentage points in two months and the price of oil doubled?

Scotiabank, for example, can run 75 stress tests a day on its balance sheet. In fact, if Mr. Porter, the chief risk officer, thinks of a potential situation that worries him, he can have a test turned around by his team in as little as 24 hours.

But even stress testing fell short at many institutions during the credit crisis.

“VaR, stress tests and other risk measures significantly underestimated the magnitude of actual loss from the unprecedented credit market environment,” Merrill Lynch said in its third-quarter earnings filing, which revealed a writedown $8.4-billion of CDOs, mortgages and loans.

The problem, risk managers now say, is that there were no models that could accurately predict how the products would react because of the way that innovation had outpaced risk controls. In such a situation, there was no hope of coming up with an accurate estimate of the losses.

“When you're dealing with an opaque structure, there's no amount of stress scenarios that will reveal the true exposures you're putting on the balance sheet,” Mr. Gagnon said. “It all becomes a theoretical exercise. There's just no model.”

The problem, however, is not just with the models. It's also with the human brain. Because of the way humans think, they are unlikely to dream up the kinds of havoc that markets can wreak. People are just too programmed to think within the box, Mr. Hull said.

“The unfortunate thing is that human beings have this tendency to latch on to the most likely scenario, and as soon as they start thinking about that scenario they convince themselves that's what's actually going to happen,” Mr. Hull said. “That's the danger, that you become complacent, and you don't think about the range of alternative outcomes.”

The answer, then, may be a renewed deference to grey hair. The same experience that helped Mr. Watsa make his winning bet may help keep financial institutions on the right side of the risk curve.

The result is a renaissance for the credit officers who came of age in an era when banks largely only needed to focus on the risk of a client skipping out on a loan, only to be eclipsed by youngsters versed in the markets and slicing, dicing and repackaging loans for trading.

Those experienced managers were around to see the crash of 1987, the Russian debt crisis and, in many cases, the sky-high interest rates of the early 1980s. In other words, they have been around long enough to have seen markets move irrationally. That makes them invaluable for their ability to dream up scenarios to test the balance sheet, because they are unlikely to say: “That could never happen.”

“We have about a dozen PhDs in mathematics,” says Scotiabank chief executive officer Rick Waugh, 60. “We probably need about another dozen PhDs in human behaviour. And we probably need at least 12 risk officers with grey hair, because you need this balance.”

The result of the newfound respect for grey hair is that risk managers are starting to win the fight on at least one front – the cultural battle. Headhunters report that top risk managers have become one of the hottest commodities in the financial world.

Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain reached out to a veteran of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., home to perhaps the top risk culture, making him co-chief risk officer. The new risk czar, a 20-year veteran of markets named Noel Donohoe, will report directly to Mr. Thain, giving him the clout that risk managers need.

The pendulum is swinging back from the risk takers to the risk managers.

“If we eliminate risk, we eliminate the bank,” Mr. Waugh said. “We have to make money. But they [risk managers] have to have an independent voice. They have to call it the way they see it.”

A Case Study In Growth and Efficiency –
And Big Numbers

Borealis Capital Corporation, a Toronto-based private merchant bank, is managed by Michael Nobrega and Ian Collier, two prominent names in Canadian finance. Collectively, the group has completed over $110 billion of equity, debt and mezzanine financings worldwide.

From Zero To 100 In No Time Flat
When Borealis was established two years ago, there were only six workstations. Today, there are nearly 100.

“In a financial service firm, downtime is lost time and lost money,”


“Our user base is demanding but not necessarily high tech in nature,” said Darren Soanes, an associate with Borealis Capital. “There is a great deal of information sharing, including rather sophisticated financial analyses and models, which are often sent back and forth internally and externally. The virtual private network that the LAN Shoppe installed accomplishes this quite well.”

Borealis’ Divisional Controller Jenny Hay explains, “Because the number of transactions we handle are small and yet the amounts are so high, the reliability of the system and the relationship with the network architect is critical.”

In addition, Borealis partners travel widely to the worlds’ capital markets and to their clients’ projects. So, high on their wish list was secure, reliable remote access to analyze multi million-dollar financing deals from other locations.

“You don’t want to reconstruct data. The information is too crucial. Cost-cutting in this area is not advised.”

Ms. Hay estimated the cost of downtime to the firm as reaching $200 per hour per user in productivity alone – and far more than that if it affects a major financing. “Our return on IT investment is in the continued functioning of the firm in case of a problem – and in the rapidity of response time from our network supplier.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Councillor Contempt

And you still wonder why I am so critical of Councillors after you read this note.

It was sent to me by a reader, a response to his email to Councillor Gignac about the cancellation of the Special Council meeting.

I am terribly disappointed in what she said. She appeared willing to stand up to the Mayor publicly at Council, sort of, on several issues especially about the downtown. One could see her biting her tongue wanting to lash back, frustrated at some of the Mayor's comments to her but not doing so. Obviously, well-trained in good manners.

Here are excerpts from exchange:
  • "Apparently the Mayor has taken over all aspects of running Windsor. The recent setting and cancellation of a special council meeting re: the border issues an example of this. Why is there so much silence from the ward representatives about matters of this import?

    No one can be the most correct every time, and likely the contrary is also the case. Maybe this is a reason why some would play it safe to avoid criticism or embarrassment. I would rather see a Councilor be active and if they are off the mark occasionally it should not be a major event if the record is one of integrity and service..."

And the reply:

  • "You identified in your opening remarks an issue regarding the Mayor calling a special meeting then cancelling the same. The Mayor is the official "head of Council" and as such has the authority to call meetings, which he did. He has a tough time co-ordinating all councillors time tables then he must ensure the people presenting issues at these meetings can be in attendance. In the instance of this meeting we are told that was not possible. I have no reason to disbelieve that and appreciate not being called out for a meeting that isn't productive. The meeting is to be RE-SCHEDULED."
The first thing that I thought of upon reading Councillor Gignac's reply was the incident at Council where she objected to the non-scheduling of a strategic session on the downtown. The Mayor interrupted the meeting and wasted several minutes of valuable Council time putting on a big show of trying to coordinate schedules of all the Councillors but failing. I thought that was extremely petty on his part but the typical reaction when he is blamed for doing something wrong. He has to hit back a la the pesky environmentalist.

What is sad for me is that the Councillor does not seem to recognize how contemptuous the Mayor is of her and her colleagues.

What was the urgent need for the Special meeting? Why couldn't the presentation or whatever was to take place at this meeting not have taken place at a regular Council meeting? It has been done before with respect to the border.

I am certain that my reader was pleased to get the outline of how the Procedural Bylaw works on Special meetings from the Councillor. I would have thought however that the Mayor could have circulated a note to his colleagues saying that he is proposing to schedule a Special meeting on such and such a date to find out their availability BEFORE he announced it publicly. Isn't that how meetings are normally set up?

It is clear from her response that the Councillor had no idea that the meeting was going to be set up. It is also clear from her response that she also had no idea why it was cancelled or even what was on the agenda. She makes a big deal about it being "RESCHEDULED" but again has no idea when the meeting is going to take place again if it ever will be.

Clearly, there is no need for any meeting now since the Mayor held his Press Conference in which he was the star and in which no Councillor had a role. There is no need for a border meeting at this time because the DRIC Spring Garden issue has been revealed and the Mayor has been able to give his point of view without getting any direction from Council. After all, he is the sole Voice of Council remember.

I know that the Councillor feels the need to be supportive of the Mayor to maintain the façade of unity especially with respect to the border file. One has to support the "Team" after all by being a good team player.

By doing so, however, she not only makes a fool of herself and but also makes a mockery of her obligations under the Municipal Act.

Basically, if this is the attitude of one of the Councillors who at least tries on occasion and in public to maintain an independent position, then one has to write off this Council and hope for the best two years from now. The Mayor cannot be any more pleased.

It's Story Time

Gather around. It's time for some more stories


I don’t care what any politician says but none of them give a damn about what happens to this region. And by that, I am including our Mayor and Council who have stalled a border solution for years and put off the creation of 15,000 jobs.

I expect that I have some idea about what our Mayor's plans were with respect to the border but the problem is he should have acted on them a long time ago. His problem has always been lack of execution because he is terrified of failure and being criticized and blamed. Perhaps he has learned that sometimes real world events overtake even the most brilliant of PLANs. One can never deal with every possible contingency in a business model.

Stephen Harper… when he came down here to generously provide money to Ford, said nothing about the border file. He did not even say as politicians usually do that it is one of the most important priorities for the economy. He was supposed to come here during the Thanksgiving weekend but did not.

Jack Layton came. Not a word out of the mouth of the NDP leader about the border. He talked about jobs alright but not how to create 15,000 jobs immediately by building the DRIC road now and allowing the Enhancement Project to go forward so that private enterprise would risk their funds not taxpayer dollars.

And the Liberal leader....what is his name again?

The only ones doing anything about our border is the Bridge Company. And they are vilified for doing so by certain people, not thanked. I found this comment of Gord Henderson amusing:
  • “I like Susan Whelan. I really do. But I couldn't vote for a Liberal candidate who, in my view, has been too closely aligned with the Ambassador Bridge company and its all-powerful, billionaire owner, Matty Maroun.”

To be blunt about it, we are fortunate that Mr. Moroun has money in the bank and that he is prepared to risk his money to build the Enhancement Project. With the meltdown in the Canadian economy that will be disclosed after the election and with the financial problems in the United States, do you really think that with traffic down the DRIC bridge will be built?


Do not blame the Mayor and City Council for this one. Believe it or not, it won’t be their fault.

As I have told you before, we have an unofficial taxing Authority in this Province that is all-powerful and against whom no one can appeal. This Authority can touch almost every resident in this Province and yet their actions are taken in secret and none of their members are elected by taxpayers.

Of course, I’m talking about OMERS, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. This is the pension plan for “local government employees across Ontario.”

As we know, a good chunk of the OMERS money is in the stock market as is common with most pension plans. These huge drops in the market means that there are going to be some problems in the overall financial health of these plans. There will be shortfalls unless the market increases dramatically:

  • “The latest evaluation of the plan’s funded status showed a small surplus ($82 million) at year-end 2007.”

I’m not trying to bash OMERS. Here is what was said about the automotive plans:

  • “The worldwide collapse of stock markets and automotive sales have emerged as a double blow to Big Three retirees, who this week watched the destruction of their RSP values while worry mounts that Detroit bankruptcies could slash their pensions.

    The retirement plans of GM and Ford each also own more than 10 per cent of the shares of both companies, and the shares lost billions in value this week. That means that both pension plans took a beating, too.

    "A lot of us are scared to death," said Pete Middlemore, a 70-year-old Windsor resident who retired from GM's former Windsor Trim Plant 11 years ago.”

  • “The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says recent volatility on the stock markets has ebbed away the fund's assets…

    Board spokesman Ian Dale acknowledged the fund's assets have waned amid a worldwide financial crisis that threatens to kneecap the Canadian economy.

    Dale declined to say how much the CPP has lost since the summer, when it last reported the value of its investments.”

Take a look at the change in the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan:

  • “The partners decided to modify the fully indexed pensions after it became clear that increasing contributions could not keep the pension fund out of the red. Despite raising contributions in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the new $6.1-billion infusion was simply used to wipe out OTPP's 2005 shortfall. The hike did not make a dent in the current deficit, which is estimated at $12.7 billion.

    "The current state of the market had nothing to do with this," said Jim Leech, president and chief executive of OTPP.”

That Plan has even more interesting problems with its $52 billion purchase of Bell Canada!

To be extremely cynical about it all, I was disgusted with this comment

  • “Officials with the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System said Thursday their plans are designed to weather market declines and they will not make any rash moves during a period of volatility.

    "Good pension plans are built to endure market cycles, so staying the course is a very rational and appropriate response," said Deborah Allen, spokeswoman for the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

    "Pension plans are designed to deliver incomes over many years."

How are they able to do so? Here’s a hint from OMERS:

  • “Several years ago, there was major volatility in the market and OMERS was equipped to weather the storm. OMERS is prepared for the long-term.”

What OMERS did not say was that one of the ways that they were able to “weather the storm” was to demand a contributions increase from their members and from every municipality in Ontario. That translated into tax increases for everyone for a number of years.

As I wrote previously:

  • “I am glad that Standard and Poor's and Dominion Bond Rating Services have ranked OMERS "AAA." You will remember how the contribution rate for municipaliites and their employees rose dramatically over the past few years to cover the OMERS deficit.

    It's a nice position to be in isn't it? Make some investment mistakes and no worries---the taxpayer pocketbook is there to bail you out. No wonder the ranking is so high.”


Remember the fuss that was made when $10,000 was spent to create some artists’ drawings of the Mayor’s Canal vision.

The CAO has done it again. This time he has approved an increase in an amount of over $22,000 to the consulting agreement with respect to the Sandwich Community Improvement Plan. There are some unexplained extra tasks necessary to complete the Plan.

The amount of the original contract was around $65,000. It was a CAO approval too.

I wonder why this increase was never brought to the attention of the public or Councillors in a Council Meeting. Oh, what a silly comment to make. It is obvious why that was not done. Taxpayer money is no object when it comes to trying to stop the Bridge Company.


I don't claim to understand this one but here it is to suggest another reason why a long-term deal financed by Windsor Taxpayers makes no sense:
  • "Lake Erie and Lake Ontario water levels will become largely dependent on the rainfall they pick up from additional hurricanes and tropical storms. More violent weather is anticipated as the climate warms. Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron are too far north to pick up substantial amounts of rain from storms, the report stated.

    Every inch lake levels fall affects the shipping industry and its economy by millions of dollars a year. That's especially true in Toledo, the most heavily dredged harbor in the Great Lakes.

    "I don't think there has been much thought put into it by anybody," said Scott Thieme, chief of the U.S. Corps of Engineers' Great Lakes hydraulics and hydrology office.

    He said he's aware of forecasts for water-level declines and perplexed why the government hasn't taken the issue more seriously, given what's at stake.

    A big enough drop in water could even affect the future of the U.S.-Canada tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, he said."

I think it has to do with dredging and lower water levels:

  • "Even now, the Corps of Engineers spends $20 million a year to dredge 4 million cubic yards of sediment from all Great Lakes harbors and channels, the equivalent of 400,000 truckloads of soil...

    The solution isn't simply more dredging.

    The Corps of Engineers is struggling to find places to put dredged silt from the Toledo shipping channel...

    There is a bigger problem in the Detroit River, where only so much more dredging can occur before hitting bedrock. The river bottom was blasted in the 1920s and 1930s for a shipping channel. Blasting it deeper today would be a multibillion dollar project.

    Toledo is one of several harbors with pipelines beneath their shipping channels. The lines carry chemical products, natural gas, as well as electrical, phone, and fiber optic cables. The cost of relocating those would be astronomical.

    Even if relocating pipelines and blasting deeper through the Detroit River bedrock became viable, there "would be an awful lot of concern and resistance for environmental issues that there weren't years ago," Mr. Thieme said.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Mountain Must Come To Eddie

In the words of ex-Mayor Mike Hurst when speaking about himself, Eddie Francis is the Mayor of a small town. He has no authority; he has no clout.

Eddie has already conceded Federal paramountcy to the Feds re the immediate vicinity of the border and knows that the Province can upload City roads like Huron Church and E C Row any time they want. He has absolutely no bargaining position.

However, Eddie is incapable of being wrong. He never makes a mistake. He can never be blamed. He thinks he is something special.

But what if he is clearly wrong? What if he is doing something that is clearly bad for a part of the City or for the City itself? Would Eddie finally grow up and admit he was wrong.

Not a chance.

Others must fall on their sword and do the dirty work for him. Just as Jane Boyd did for ex-Mayor Hurst publicly during one of the border debates that I can recall. That action must be taken to preserve whatever plans are for Eddie's future. He must be deemed infallible. He must be shown as the Victor over the enemy forces. No matter what.

How else to explain what Councillor Ron Jones said in the Star in the strange story about the Indiain Road homes on Saturday.
  • "Councillor Ron Jones, who pushed for the heritage study that could be complete early in the new year, said he wants to work with the bridge on beautifying the neighbourhood.

    "I would like to see the bridge company come to city council and say here are our plans," Jones said. "They might be surprised at the help they would get from the people who represent this area.

    "But how can we, as the City of Windsor, say yes to a plan that we have no idea what it might be?"

Of course, he knows as well as we do that the Bridge Company has a relationship with the University's Green Corridor group to fix up the area. Didn't they get a few minutes at Council to present their plan before it was summarily dismissed!

  • "Ambassador Bridge spokesman Skip McMahon said the city is preventing his company from beautifying the neighbourhood.

    "We have shared our plans with the city," he said, noting that he has yet to hear from a resident who doesn't want the homes demolished. "We're prepared to sit down with anybody who wants to talk about beautifying that area and getting those homes torn down."

Why should the Bridge Company come to Council when the City Planner has already said to Council that Adminstration would object to the destruction of the homes while the CIP process was underway. Coming to Council would be a waste of time for them.

Councillor Jones is funny. Why doesn't he work with them instead of offering them "surprises." One could make the argument that he and his Wardmate are feeling the heat from residents so he wants the Bridge Company to come to Council so his other 8 colleagues could turn them down so he and Councillor Postma are off the hook.

Yet, they are supposedly being begged to come to Council. Desperately. How can I claim this...look at the words of praise for the Bridge Company in a Star story for once:

  • "But I give the bridge credit, because they make sure they take away garbage. And they keep the grass cut...

    Indian Road resident Erik Lobzun said he believes the homes should be torn down before a major fire occurs.

    "The homes are just rotting away anyhow," said Lobzun. "This is just dangerous, for us and for the firefighters," he said."

Interestingly that language is very similar to what the Bridge Company said in a letter to the Mayor dated July 9. Remarkable isn't it?

Obviously, Councillor Jones is falling on the sword for Eddie as he begs the Bridge Company to come and talk to Council but only of course to genuflect in front of our Mayor:

  • "Councillor Ron Jones, who pushed for the heritage study that could be complete early in the new year, said he wants to work with the bridge on beautifying the neighbourhood.

    "I would like to see the bridge company come to city council and say here are our plans," Jones said. "They might be surprised at the help they would get from the people who represent this area."

Yes that is the study where the Report was prepared that Greg Heil condemned isn't it and for which he resigned as the Heritage Committee Chair claiming it was a political tool directed towards the Bridge Company! He did not want to be sued over it.

Obviously, Councillor Postma did not achieve the results Eddie wanted.

  • "The bottom line is homes have to come down," she said. "Bring you applications forward. It's the dawn of a new day."

Now it's Councillor Jones' turn to see if he can make the sun rise. Now both Ward 2 Councillors appear to be on the Bridge Company's side for this one small issue.

Don't believe me about the sword falling for Eddie.... take a look at the Star Editorial on Saturday as well.

  • "Second, this precedent-setting decision can become the catalyst to move closer to the city's favoured GreenLink proposal, ensuring that all communities along the corridor are given the same consideration...

    Francis is correct. From the beginning, GreenLink has been the most fair and equitable proposal for our citizens...

    Now Premier Dalton McGuinty must take the reins, instructing bureaucrats to continue refining the Parkway plan until this community is given the superior solution it deserves."

So the Province with the ultimate power over the roads has to come and bow down to our Mayor's ridiculous plan. Why? To waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in a time of economic restraint to make Eddie a star so that he can run against Dwight? I don't think that Dwight is that dumb politically.

The whole thing smells of Eddie trying to make it appear that he is not offering concessions and compromise all over the place when he really is. Why else would Eddie have called a Special Council meeting the day after the DRIC Spring Garden meeting. He obviously knew about it. Eddie orchestrated the meeting and expected to go on TV Cogeco to show us his brilliance. Unfortunately, he had his bluff called by residents who were going to appear at Council and denounce his lack of action so he cancelled the meeting and had a press copnference instead where no one could attack him. He had his captive media friends there who would not ask the tough questions.

Eddie knows he has lost. The Eminence Greasie is forcing him to back-track as quickly as possible to make it appear that he has won publicly. After all, when the Bridge Company tears down their homes and the Province builds E C Row notwithstanding what Eddie wants, then who would ever pay homage to him again? Even the Councillors might discover that he never had any power to their chagrin.

The old Eddie Francis would have fumed that the Province held a residents' meeting right before the Special Council meeting to end-run Council and that they never told the City what they were planning. He would have threatened litigation again and called David Estrin to do another litigation strategy opinion for Council. (Whatever happened to the one he was to do months before and for which taxpayers must have been charged?)

For the new Eddie Francis, the headlines scream:

  • "Mayor thrilled with changes in border route boundaries"
  • "Border route altered
    City applauds move away from Spring Garden Rd."

Wow just days after a Henderson column telling the Province that they had better be more like the Feds:

  • "They listen and they work with us. And some day we hope to replicate that on the provincial level," said Francis...

    In other words, the Harper regime, which has no stake in Windsor but sees the big picture on trade corridors, has been a true partner. Meanwhile, the City of Windsor and a provincial government with two prominent Windsor cabinet ministers are at war over a project that this city will have to coexist with well into the 22nd century. So much for easy assumptions about who our real friends are."

The Province really knuckled under so quickly and easily!

Eddie learned well from the CAW's Buzz and Ken Sr. Grab a victory any way you can even when you have lost everything. He has learned that the Senior Levels are not fooling around any more since we are coming to the end of the road so to speak. Time for him to back off now.

The Senior Levels are prepared to give him one last chance. If not, they will act as Chrysler just did with their Local 444 Union negotiator over layoffs:

  • "Yesterday this was not in the plan and today it became the plan," said Ed Saenz, spokesman for Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler's Executive Vice President in charge of manufacturing...

    Rick Laporte, president of Local 444, said he was deeply frustrated by the layoff and the way it was announced to him and his members. "I had a sit-down meeting with them at 1 o'clock (in Auburn Hills) and they told me the layoff was cancelled. They told me everything was OK, as a matter of fact.

    "And lo and behold, by the time I got back to my office it was back on again," Laporte said."

How to explain this drastic change for Francis....Eddie has already gone to the Mountain and been told the facts of life. It's just that he has not told us about it nor does he dare.