Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Wake-Up Call (Part 1)

Because we are getting down to the short strokes in the DRIC file, it is necessary sometimes to give you a lot of information because it is important for you to understand the context in which decisions are being made by politicians and bureaucrats.

I can hear the groans already. Let me apologize in advance. It’s another one of my extra long BLOGs. It is so long that I am breaking it up again into two parts. Still, what else do you have to read on what may be a cold rainy and even snowy weekend!

I really would like to make them shorter but I don’t think I should. I assume that, if you have been reading my BLOGs for a while, then you know that they are somewhat lengthy. Yet, my readership numbers are pretty consistent. You must have a pretty good idea what you are getting into when you start reading one of my items.

What I believe is that it is my job not only to give you my perspective as to what is happening but to give you the facts behind my reasoning. In that way you will understand why I have reached the conclusions that I have. What I am suggesting as my answer is based on the facts that I believe are important and how I have brought those facts together.

I think that it is important for you to understand all of this when you read what I have to say. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes space and takes time to read.

Whether you agree or disagree with my thesis is then up to you. However, at least I am giving you an informed commentary.

This BLOG is a good example. Today, I will be writing about the siren call of infrastructure and how I believe taxpayers will pay out so much money that other Governmental boondoggles will appear miniscule in comparison years from now when the Auditor General does a report on the Infrastructure fiasco.

DRIC obviously will be the focus of this discussion because we know all about it and because in my opinion it is a classic Megaproject running amuk. It will be the first of many since it seems to be the poster child for P3 infrastructure investments in Canada.

In the subsequent BLOG, I will Blog about financing and P3s to demonstrate that this project does not make sense and that all that will happen is that billions of taxpayer dollars that can be used for more important things will be wasted over the P3 life of this project. If that happens here, it will happen elsewhere. It is inevitable.

Frankly, I as a taxpayer no longer have the desire to fund all of these boondoggles to help keep politicians being elected by bribing me with my own money. If there is some mathematical wizard out there who is good with numbers, I’m hoping that he/she can figure out how much money will be wasted on this DRIC project and let me know.

I am hoping that my BLOG will be a wake-up call before this infrastructure waste gets totally out of control. There will be winners all right but it will be not be the taxpayers of Canada. Enough of the introduction and apology.

Taxpayers of Ontario and Canada are about to be fleeced of billions of dollars.

Do you remember the Scientific Research Tax Credit fiasco? Here is how one commentator described it:
  • “The government's biggest attempt to build our high-tech industry was the Scientific Research Tax Credit back in the '80s. It was well intended, but the big Bay Street firms and the accountants and lawyers and investment dealers poured through the thing, found the loopholes, and turned it into a farce. It cost the taxpayer about $5 billion and it was probably the single biggest scam ever in Canada.”

Forget that. Forget the billion dollar HRDC boondoggle or the Gun Registry. Adscam…mere peanuts. Wait until the Infrastructure bubble will burst. We will see taxpayers on the hook for the kinds of billions due to the subprime mortgage melt-down. Already, the Government has sunk in $75 billion to help our banks.

Windsor has become the text-book template for what will happen across this country as politicians look to infrastructure expenditures as their salvation prodded on by those who will gain magnificently from Government largesse during a time of crisis.

The rallying cry of jobs, jobs, jobs will eliminate any due diligence. One job is vital: the politicians’ main job is to get re-elected. That is all that counts. Who cares what it costs us as taxpayers especially if it can be buried as line-items in Government accounts! It was breath-taking to me how the US Government as an example could find $700 billion to save its financial system and how quickly legislation was passed by legislators who really have no clue what is going on.

Forget about the cost of the DRIC project. Notwithstanding that it will cost billions of dollars to construct (probably double what has been said so far), that is mere chicken feed in the scheme of things.

We are being seduced by the call for infrastructure projects to solve all of our economic woes. Let's spend today to get people back to work on whatever scheme is being proposed is the idea and who cares about whether the project makes sense or not. Rational thinking and protecting taxpayer interests do not seem to be requirements. Hop on the bandwagon or else

Last Friday,

  • "Liberal Leader Stephane Dion pressed Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday to unblock promised multibillion-dollar infrastructure spending to create jobs as the two consulted face to face about the post-election session of Parliament amid a new wave of bad economic news...

    His comments to Harper came one day after Transport Minister John Baird, who is responsible for infrastructure, said the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had made "a powerful case" to get $8.8 billion in infrastructure funds from 2007 flowing."

At the PM/Premiers meeting:

  • “All premiers are asking Ottawa to accelerate infrastructure spending plans to create jobs as the downturn erodes existing employment.

    “There's never a bad time to invest in infrastructure. It always creates jobs and always enhances your long-term productivity. But there's never been a better time than now,” Mr. McGuinty said.”

I am talking about taxpayers losing billions and billions and billions of dollars and not being the wiser. If I am right, there are going to have to be gigantic subsidies to cover the P3 investment costs and return on investment for the new DRIC Bridge, Plaza and DRIC Road for decades to come. Is that what we want?

I cannot see how an investor could make money otherwise using Highway 407 as the example I shall use in this BLOG. In addition there will have to be huge subsidies for the other border crossings if the DRIC Bridge will take away a huge chunk of everyone else’s business as the US DEIS suggests. Otherwise, they cannot afford to stay in business and will have to close down thereby jeopardizing trade in other areas.

Read on, dear reader, and gasp. My suspicions about the real purpose of DRIC may well be true after all. That is, it was designed to force the Bridge Company to sell out cheaply.

Until I did this BLOG, I really did not understand the financial implications of what could happen. Not only is it mind-boggling, it is effectively hidden because Governments will certainly not make a point of saying how much they are subsidizing the border crossings every year. The gap between actual revenues that can be collected from users and what a P3 investor requires to even consider being involved is about as big as the Grand Canyon.

By mid-2000 the Canadian Government already knew that the Bridge Company was going to expand its Canadian plaza and by 2012 was going to build a second bridge adjacent to its existing bridge. It was hardly a surprise frankly since the Bridge Company had announced that in 1998.

I have suggested on many occasions in my BLOGs that I have always suspected that our three Levels of Government in Canada are working together against the Ambassador Bridge Company notwithstanding the occasional squabbles amongst themselves. The DRIC Road brouhaha is the best example of the family feud.

Let us assume that I am right and that they agreed years ago to pretend that they were going to build a new crossing a mile away from the existing bridge using some kind of financing using the public-private partnership model. The purpose was to use the DRIC EA exercise as a threat to convince the Bridge Company to sell out cheaply.

Can you understand this? If I am right, then this is completely contrary to what we were told about DRIC and its decision-making. DRIC was not independently arriving at a conclusion but rather was justifying a conclusion that had already been reached. If you will recall one of my other BLOGs dealing with the border file and experts, then what I am saying is not so far-fetched.

Here are some of the multi-billion taxpayer dollar questions that need answering:

  • Why was DRIC needed?
  • Why would the Governments need to do anything when the Bridge Company was going to provide up to eight lanes of new traffic making 12 in total at its expense and the Governments knew it?
  • Why would Governments continually talk about building additional capacity when none was needed, especially now with the economic melt-down in the auto industry that will take forever to recover if it ever does?
  • If the purpose of a new crossing was traffic, why is the project going forward today when traffic volumes have tanked and a new bridge may not be needed for decades even forgetting how smoothly traffic will flow with the improvements in technology.
  • Is DRIC nothing more than a farce designed to justify conclusions that had already been reached?
  • Why are Government Ministers claiming to respect the process when they are actually discrediting it?
  • Who will benefit from all of this if in fact the project really moves forward in spite of everything?

This border file is a complete mess since the underlying assumption of the Governments is that the Bridge Company would see the necessity to sellout. The Bridge Company caused the problem when they did not follow the script. When that didn’t happen, my view is that the Governments did not have a contingency to deal with that and now are doing anything they possibly can no matter how ridiculous.

The classic is the FHWA rep at the Cropsey hearings saying that the real purpose for the new DRIC Plaza is to provide redundancy for the Ambassador Gateway Plaza. If that is the case, then in both Port Huron and in Buffalo, new plazas need to be built to destroy totally other parts of those cities. That will be even worse for those cities than is being proposed today. There would be a riot in those cities if what was said in Michigan was really true.

I suspect also that the American Governments have been duped by the Canadians and became part of the solution without knowing they were fooled! The Americans bought into Canada’s Gateways and Corridors policy and were none the wiser for it and are still not! Canada had to react quickly to some American border initiatives to prevent our economy from suffering and did so.

As I said before, that is the main focus of why the Ambassador Bridge has importance to Canada but not the only reason for trying to beat up the Bridge Company. The other reason is strictly financial.

And money, the root of all evil, will be the subject of Part 2.


More Items Of Interest


Here are some items you may find interesting and enlightening! I just had to clear them out to make way for the new ones coming in.

SECURITY AND REDUNDANCY

I’m sure that you saw this headline:
  • “B.C. pipeline still leaking after latest attack”

This is the third attack along the route of sour gas pipelines in British Columbia.

This clearly shows the risk to the pipeline system in Canada yet I don’t hear anybody demanding that we duplicate the oil and gas pipelines for security and redundancy purposes.

I just saw the story:

  • Ont. government opposes two possible new nuclear reactors from Bruce Power

    TORONTO — Proposed plans by Bruce Power to build two new nuclear reactors on the shores of Lake Erie met with strong opposition from the Ontario government Friday.

    The only private nuclear generating company in Canada will conduct an environmental assessment as it considers building two reactors at the former Stelco lands in Nanticoke in southwestern Ontario…

    After a luncheon speech in Toronto on Friday, Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman made it clear the province is not behind Bruce Power's plans.

    "It does not have government support in any form," he said…

    "Hawthorne called it "disappointing" that the government did not view his announcement as positive. He said in a world of financial turbulence, his company should be commended for laying out proposed future projects."

I have no idea why the Government is opposing this project. It would seem to me that it provides good security and redundancy in case there’s a problem at the Bruce nuclear plant.

No. It is only with respect to the Ambassador Bridge that security and redundancy become an issue.

LOOPY COUNCILLORS

According to Councillor Postma in her interview with John Fairley, the only Councillors who attend on a regular basis with the Mayor in his bullpen sessions on Fridays are herself, Councillor Jones and Councillor Lewenza. Councillor Halberstadt attends on occasion and sometimes Councillor Valentinis.

However, there is a real question whether the Mayor takes these sessions seriously or not. For example in October, one was cancelled because the Mayor had a Windsor Utilities negotiation meeting scheduled and another was cancelled because the Mayor was in Toronto for the Provincial Municipal Review Report and Press Conference. We know the Mayor was there because didn’t he get a quote in the newspaper.

The Bull Sessions were not rescheduled either.

QUICK CALL THE PARAMEDICS

Dr. Allen Heimann, the Medical Officer of Health, may be focusing on the wrong diseases I am afraid. He is so worried about SARS, West Nile disease and flu pandemics that he has missed the fact that there is an amnesia disease sweeping through City Hall again.

The cause may well be due to all of those fumes being exhausted from the Ventilation building for the Windsor Tunnel near City Hall since there are no scrubbers on the exhaust. I would hate to think that such a concentration of fumes would cause the amnesia around the residences from the exhaust of the Greenlink Schwunnels.

Here is a video rom the EH News report:

  • Mayor's Office Out Of Touch With Automotive R & D Future: Analyst

    “Canada's leading auto industry analyst -- with a reputation for frank talk -- says the mayor's office is slowing Windsor's shift from blue collar automotive jobs to the industry's
    future -- research and development.

    Tonight on A-News at Six, Daryl Newcombe reported on Dennis Desrosier's comments and how Mayor Eddie Francis responded.”

As is very clear, the Mayor cannot stand to be blamed for anything that may be going wrong. Listen as he lashes out but more importantly listen to what he says about the proposal that the City made to the University.



video


Now I do not know whom to believe. Here is what Councillor Halberstadt said months before on his BLOG about a so-called proposal.

  • "On January 25, at an in camera meeting, Mayor Eddie Francis received approval from City Council, in an 8-2 vote, to concoct a business case to offer free city land, $25-million in cash, plus expropriation costs, to convince the University of Windsor to build its new $110,000,000 engineering school on the western anchor site.

    Two days later, details of this closed meeting were leaked all over the pages of the Windsor Star in the wake of a January 26 decision by the university board of governors to reject the downtown site and locate the new faculty on campus.

    Columnist Gord Henderson told us that Mayor Francis was to come back to Council in three weeks with a business plan, a rapid timeline I do not recall being pinpointed to Councillors.

    I am not sure what the mayor communicated to university President Ross Paul regarding Council’s closed-door decision prior to the board of governors meeting. As one of the two Councillors who opposed the resolution, it offends me that it is now taken for granted that Council gave the green light on the $40-million package.

    In fact, all the Council majority did was to give the mayor permission to develop a business plan. Once that came back, I would certainly presume that it would be vetted in full public view, including details of the obvious hit to the property tax base, the city’s financial plan and the much-acclaimed debt-reduction policy.”

I sure would like to know what the City’s proposal was. I find it interesting that the Mayor never made that proposal public.

In case you are suffering from the amnesia disease as well, dear reader, here’s how the Mayor tried to help the University. Here is what I wrote before:

  • "Together, we are working to build the new, state-of-the-art Centre for Engineering Innovation. And, it needs to be downtown."

    Of course he “ad-libbed” so it would NOT be in writing when Eddie threatened saying if it was not going to be downtown, do not expect a City contribution.

    The City would play a role "if and only if the campus was brought downtown."

With help like that...


OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ


A spoof of our Mayor from his Law School. Check it out here

http://www.scribd.com/doc/7971803/Law-School-spoof

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Engineering The Perfect Border Trifecta

Fate works in mysterious ways. The people who are geniuses are not necessarily very smart or very clever but they have the unique ability to understand where events are going and have the sense to take advantage of the situation. The Eminence Greasie is one of those people.

The Eminence had determined what was to be achieved. The problem was how to accomplish it. The circumstances of the economic meltdown, border infighting, infrastructure spending being sexy and the Liberal loss in the federal election to most people have no connection whatsoever. To the Eminence, it was the perfect storm that came together to accomplish the objective.

Watch the triple political play take place and acknowledge with awe the brilliance of the Master's strokes
  1. Dwight Duncan as Federal Liberal Leader? Even though Dwight has learned how to speak French that is not what is really going to happen short-term and Greasie knows it. The word might go out that Dwight is interested but in the end, he will take a senior position with one of the front-runners’ leadership campaigns so that when the Liberals are elected to form the Government, he will get a senior cabinet position as his reward. The PM position can come later.

  2. With Dwight’s seat provincially open, who better to take it and get a cabinet position but our Mayor. In fact, if you see Eddie getting along with the Mayor of Tecumseh, then you can bet on it since Tecumseh is part of that riding and Mayor McNamara might have his own ambitions to run.

  3. And with the Mayor’s position becoming available, the gold ring is being held out to Bill Marra to be appointed to the posiiton as long as he stays on the Team and supports the Mayor. There is no need for an election. Of course, Bill will be shafted!

It is the perfect Trifecta.

Obviously, one of the biggest infrastructure jobs in Ontario with billions of dollars being spent for a road and bridge for the economic good of Canada's and Ontario's economic trade, expenditures that in normal times would make no sense whatsoever but in an economic downturn can be justified, will be claims to fame for all three of these individuals. They can take the glory in it.

Whether it gets built or not does not matter in reality. For Dwight, the timing is perfect for the Liberal leadership campaign in the spring. It would be his project and the jobs promised to be created through it. Eddie claims victory as well for his next campaign and Bill goes along with it all.

If only they can get the Bridge Company to sue, then it is perfect. The Company can then be demonized and vilified as the project is postponed rather than the Politicians who know they cannot afford it.

But that is for another time. I will explain it more in another Blog when I talk about the waste of money in this project.

Believe it or not, another urban legend has been created so we know we are coming to the end of the DRIC Road/Greenlink saga. Who thinks up this stuff? Is there someone on the City payroll who stays up at night dreaming up these myths for the Mayor so that Henderson can write about them in his column?

How many urban legends have we been fed so far that we are supposed to believe? I think I’m losing track. I remember Eddie walking through Devonshire Mall and then a Youth Committee was the result. Then there was the lobster pot story at the Rotary event where Eddie and the President of St. Clair College spoke and the next thing we knew the Cleary was gone. Oh I forgot, wasn’t a Tim Horton’s doughnut somewhere in the Cleary story too. Who can forget the wedding in London where Eddie met Mr. Farhi and next thing we knew our downtown arena was located at an old industrial site in the East End.

Now we have the Eddie/Dwight Duncan tête-à-tête in a car going to the airport in Toronto. As an aside, I may file a Freedom of Information Application to find out who paid for the taxi fare if they went by cab or did they ride in a Government limousine. If it was Dwight’s car, did Eddie pay for the gas as his share?

If you believe that story, dear reader, then you will believe the story before the Federal Election that our banks are in terrific shape notwithstanding that the Minister of Finance has just pumped $75 billion into them after the election. Where he found that money is beyond me just as it is beyond me that the US Government can throw over $100B into AIG, an Insurance Company who speculated and lost, and yet not find a paltry $25B for the automobile industry.

Who the heck is this provincial insider who gives Gord all of this great material? It is always so convenient isn’t it? Unfortunately however, both Gord and the insider may well be witnesses in the lawsuit to set aside the Environmental Assessment process. The Column makes it absolutely clear that this has always been a political exercise and not an engineering one.

This column is just another step of the “disrespect” of the DRIC process that would make it so easy that even I could start a lawsuit to stop this process cold and win. Please do not tell me that Dwight and Eddie, and perhaps even the Federal Government, are not making it easy to sue to stop the EA. How many more things wrong do they have to commit?

Give me a break. The DRIC/Greenlink war ended when Dwight said

“THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG.”

When Eddie stopped talking lawsuits or even threatening lawsuits and talked about making submissions to the Minister of the Environment, then everyone knew that he had been given his marching orders. He was not getting anything anymore. He was told specifically by the leak in Schnurr’s BLOG by Sandra and I will bet in Dwight’s car that there was no more and that he had better back off. Eddie was also facing a Councillor revolution that he could not deal with. And if the story is true about polling, then Eddie would understand that citizens of Windsor were not going to put up with his bravado any longer about Greenlink when 15,000 jobs were at stake.

Really, how could Eddie possibly expect anything more given that the DRIC Draft EA has been published. To expect long tunnels at this time would cause a major problem that could require DRIC to go back and start again with respect to the tunnels. It is not going to be allowed to happen. Not when Dwight’s political future is at stake.

There is no doubt that in the drive to the airport, and before, that Eddie would have said that he needed something in order to be our Hero and Saviour. I am sure that Eddie’s supposed Government friend from Ontario and even Dwight would have said that he would get a few tweaks to make him look good. After all, they probably understand the Buzz/Ken Sr. method of claiming total victory when they have an absolute loss.

And Eddie really does not need anything more when people like Gord will rewrite history and claim that Eddie is a master negotiator instead of a failure:

  • “This mayor and council have moved the province an enormous distance over five years, from the almost criminally reckless plan to convert the E.C. Row into a gridlock-choked truck route, to a Parkway that's a pale imitation of the city's world-class GreenLink proposal.

    But when's the right time to fold 'em? When do you decide you've squeezed every last bit of gain out of the province and it's time to move on? It takes a canny negotiator to make that call.”

As an aside, Gord’s comment is very interesting to me. Effectively, he is saying that this entire process with the City was nothing more than a gigantic game that probably only Eddie and David Estrin knew was going on. Even the Councillors were not in on it and were made to like look like fools.

The Schwartz report, full tunneling and Greenlink were nothing more than negotiating ploys to get stuff out of the Senior Level, as much as possible. As I Blogged previously, this was nothing more than Estrin’s approach in Hamilton except this time the lawsuit was not started, because Eddie does not have the guts to do so, but the stalling technique was applied.

Do you feel like a sucker yet with the way that your emotions have been played? Does your pocketbook feel emptier with that $5M gone? Is this an acceptable way for a Mayor to function? It is the way for an amateur to do things not a “canny negotiator,” not a professional!

Everyone who was a decision maker in this matter knew what Eddie was doing. He fooled no one except the people who voted for him. He could have accomplished what he did years ago. We could have had people working instead of losing their homes or being forced to leave town to work. That is the Francis legacy as a “canny negotiator.”

There is no doubt that our Minister of Finance thought that he had a deal with Eddie after the airport jaunt. He had a bit of insurance, or so he thought. If Eddie got too clever or tried to renege or thought that he might even grab a little bit more of the spoils, the comments about jobs, jobs, jobs in the Star story today meant that Eddie’s bargaining position was just about over. After all how can anyone fight “a glut of jobs?”

Why else did Infrastructure Ontario come down here far in advance of the approval given by the Minister of the Environment. It was designed to pressure Council, the Construction Association, citizens and more importantly, the Mayor. The province had won. It was over.

Dwight kept up his end of the bargain with the wonderful comments about the Mayor and Council as set out in the EH News story last night:

  • “We’ve had some differences over the course of last year and those have not been easy on anybody. But I have enormous respect for this Mayor, enormous respect for City Council. We, they, because of their work, their action, we've gone from one additional truck lane in each direction on the EC Row Expressway to a proposal now that I think is a giant step forward.”

How gracious. Did Eddie respond in kind? Oh do not be silly:

  • “But Mayor Eddie Francis remains unsatisfied with the design, promising to continue to push for longer tunnelled sections proposed in the city's GreenLink design.

    Eddie Francis: ..on May 1st, when they all told us to take a hike and stop providing comments. And you saw what happened several weeks ago with regard to the significant concession that they made…

    All members of city council, myself, will be in attendance [at the Public Open houses of DRIC]. We have cancelled the 24th council meeting.”

In the Star:

  • “There's a principle of equity and fairness here that they have to apply to those areas," said Francis. "The City of Windsor is fighting desperately for more coverage for those residential areas."

Why should Dwight be surprised? He should understand Eddie by now. Eddie cannot lose. Ever. Eddie runs Windsor, not Dwight. As Gord said for the second time in his column, the Province must bow down to our Mayor:

  • “The gap between the city and province -- GreenLink versus Parkway -- involves about 1,000 metres of tunnelling, about 10 Canadian football fields in combined length, and $150 million in additional costs.

Dwight has to be absolutely furious today. I wonder if I should contact my provincial insider and find out how mad he is. There is no point in bothering. Dwight is a big boy and understands the game that is being played by our Mayor. After all, he has been there before with the Mayor.

There must have been a deal over the recent provincial and municipal elections previously as demonstrated by the letter sent by Eddie as support for Sandra’s nomination and that Councillor Marra decided not to run for Mayor although he would have won in a landslide.

Now you know the score, dear reader. What I have been trying to do in my BLOGs is to identify the game and the steps being played. Come on now, none of this is really a big surprise to my loyal readers.

It is a funny thing though about Fate. Fate can never be controlled no matter how smart the genius. Something unexpected can always happen that was never contemplated so that no contingency plan was developed. Even if everything seems to be working out perfectly according to plan, Fate can again intervene in the most unanticipated way to ruin everything. Even the best laid plans of an Eminence Greasie can go off the tracks if one of the participants has an ego as big as all outdoors.

People have asked me if the Eminence Greasie is real and if so, who he/she is. I just smile when asked and say nothing.

If however you want to know if that person exists and who he/she might be, I suggest that you go to the Caesars Windsor Casino, Legends Sports Lounge. If you see a distinguished person betting on trifectas and that persaon has a bald spot as if some hair had been pulled out of that person’s head because of annoyance and worry, then go up to that person say in a low voice:

  • “Your Eminence, I know how HE is too.”

If you get a smile back, then you will know the answer.

The Newest Tunnel Deal

More on the Tunnel. It is getting so tedious already because we are kept in the dark about everything.

Here is the form of a new Tunnel deal purcolating in the mind of the Detroit Mayor and staff. Why anyone would think that this makes any sense for Windsor taxpayers is beyond me. We risk a major economic crisis if we borrow $50 million (or will it be still US$75 million) to do this deal:
  • "[Joe Harris, the city's former auditor general and new chief financial officer] said that selling part of the city's revenue from Detroit's half of the Detroit-Windsor, Ontario international tunnel could bring in up to $50 million.

    The Detroit City Council had shot down a similar tunnel plan by Kilpatrick due to missed deadlines and unanswered questions about the deal."

I do not remember that kind of a deal ever being discussed seriously previously. Why would anyone be interested in buying a revenue stream, especially in the amount of $50 million, in an asset that will lose a substantial part of its business if the DRIC Bridge is ever built, up to 25% of it. The revenues at the Tunnel are hardly booming now.

What is completely absurd is that, according to the latest update in the Communications Package respecting the Tunnel Plaza Improvements, nothing is being done of any significance for that. All that we know is that the costs of the Project have increased dramatically for reasons unknown and that there is no agreement amongst the Governments involved as to who will pick up the excess costs. And Tunnel volumes are still falling.

Could it be that nothing is being at the Tunnel at this time since Governments do NOT want a solution. If there was one, then one of the DRIC issues---congestion on the road system---would have been solved! We cannot have that now can we! Keep those traffic tie-ups going.

If Detroit wants to do the same kind of transaction as we had heard about before, Windsor would be required to buy the revenue stream and if there was a deficiency, then Detroit would not be on the hook. Presumably, it would be Windsor's risk. I did not see anything that would suggest that the City could take over Detroit's half of the Tunnel if there was a default.

If Eddie's reason for getting involved in the Tunnel is to prevent private interests from controlling it, this does not achieve his objectives. The City of Detroit could always sell its interest in the Tunnel to someone. Granted, the purchase price would not be significant because of the revenue stream deal, but in the end the Tunnel would not be owned by Detroit any longer.

I would expect that the new purchaser would be looking for ways to find the City of Windsor in default in the deal. It would not be a happy relationship

It would be a terrific transaction for Detroit given the meltdown in the financial system but a horrible one for Windsor if in fact anyone would finance his transaction for us in the first place.

I know that Windsor taxpayers are a friendly Bank for our politicians---giving them our money whenever they ask at a Zero rate interest so they can squander it on arenas, legal fees and canal visions but I do not remember us agreeing to be one for Detroit too!

Just so you don't forget, here are some facts that have been reported in the press over the last few years that scare me when someone talks about the City buying Detroit's revenue stream:

  1. The City's former budget chair, Councillor Bristling Brister said to Gord Henderson some time ago that he cannot provide any details but there are major issues pending involving the Windsor-Detroit tunnel that will consume "a significant amount of taxpayer resources." All such "issues" have never yet been revealed publicly by this open and transparent Council.
  2. We know that the Tunnel Ventilation Building had a cost over-run of $7 million. What other issues does the Tunnel have due to its age.
  3. A US magazine article calls the Tunnel "a unique security risk, which makes Customs and Border Protection officials nervous. For those of you who take the Tunnel, the concern should be obvious.
  4. That same article states that US Customs has said that the Tunnel doesn’t meet their requirements.
  5. The City's $30 million Tunnel Plaza Improvement proposal creates a giant parking lot to get cars off of City streets but does not move one single vehicle though the Tunnel any quicker. Who knows when or if the public will ever see the final plans.
  6. Why would anyone use the Tunnel to cross the border once the Bridge Company's Ambassador Gateway project is finished. The Bridge Company has added new lanes at the Border that almost equal the number of lanes that the Tunnel has now.

The situation is not a happy one at the border either with the passport issue, the no smoking by-law, the strength of the Canadian dollar, price of gas and strong Casino competition from Detroit. Tunnel volumes and revenues have had problems over the past few years. Here is a fascinating quote that was published on February 23, 2005 in the Star:

  • Mayor Eddie Francis plans to ask at Thursday's tunnel commission meeting that consideration of a recommended toll increase be put over until next month.

    Francis, who is chairman of the commission, said that two councillors are unable to attend and "out of respect for their opinions, I expect to request a deferral."

    With tunnel traffic down by about 10 per cent in 2004 and showing no signs of rebounding, the proposed hike from $3.50 to $3.75 and from $2.50 US to $2.75 US are expected to generate an additional $600,000 annually.

    The commission will be presented with three options when they deal with the issue:

    - If no toll increase is implemented, it will require a $4.45- million transfer from capital reserves to fund an expected deficit in 2005 and $1 million annually in future years.

    - If the recommended increase is approved, it will still require a $3.8-million transfer in 2005 and between $400,000 and $600,000 in future years.

    - And if tolls were increased to match those on the Detroit side, it will require a $2.5-million transfer this year and between $500,000 and $900,000 from 2006 to 2010.

    No matter which option is chosen, it will mean a reduction in the annual dividend paid to the city which is $6.6 million."

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as I am concerned about the Tunnel. As I said before, we ought not to be focusing only on the Ambassador Bridge when looking at the border. The Tunnel, while not as visible or as controversial so far, has many more stories still to be told.

It is time that the Mayor and Council drop this deal and start solving the many problems that the City has. If, according to Council Postma, we don't have enough money for the Sandwich Community Improvement Plan which has dominated this Council for so long, then we don't have enough money to help get Detroit out of its financial woes. Let's solve our problems first.

Our Mayor was not elected to be a border operator but to administer this City properly. I know that it is not as much fun as playing with $75 million of taxpayer money but he was the one who decided to take on the job. If he cannot handle it because it is too difficult a job for him, he always has the option to resign and let someone else do it.

It is time for this young entrepreneurial foolishness to end already.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fighting City Hall


The big front page story "Yes, you can fight City Hall" and the large colour photo just did not happen out of chance. Someone at the Star made the decision to run it that way.

It was meant as a warning to Council, and especially the Mayor, to get out of this mess while the getting out is good. Fighting civil lawsuits in situations such as this can turn out in ways that can never be anticipated and with potentially dire consequences.

Do you think that someone also had a hand in the Editorial re the 400 Building that said today:
  • "Frankly, we are not interested in reviewing this partial audit sometime next month.

    We, like all residents of Windsor, want to see the draft audit that was prepared and submitted by Dunbar in December 2006. That's the gift residents want before Dec. 25. It is our right and the city's responsibility."

Do you think that the Star has finally had enough after all of these years!

Congratulations to George Sofos and Chuck Faubert, and to Frank Miller their lawyer, on their victory to get the Junction “grandfathered” under the City’s entertainment by-law.

I trust that the City will not be vindictive and try to delay their re-opening by filing an appeal. To be direct, it would not surprise me if the City does that given the way at this matter has been handled.

It would seem to me, although I have not seen the reasons for judgment, that an appeal would be futile since the Judge must have made the decision based on the “facts.” Generally, unless the Judge totally missed the point, matters cannot be appealled successfully on questions of fact alone. Do City taxpayers need to pay more legal costs for something like this when the Junction Owners want to re-start their business and start hiring people?

I am glad to read how Councillor Jones reacted and hopefully, the rest of Council:
  • "Coun. Ron jones, who represents the west end, said the city must abide by the court decision."
Someone has been teaching him what Black Letter Law means.

It would not surprise me to see the City threaten to appeal unless George and Chuck drop entirely their civil action against the City as well. As the Star story stated
  • “Meanwhile, the city faces a $1.5-million lawsuit filed by the owners after council rejected their bid for a business licence.

    Sofos and Faubert claimed $750,000 in damages for negligent representation, $500,000 for bad faith, and $250,000 for punitive and exemplary damages in a statement of claim filed May 5 in Superior Court by their lawyer Claudio Martini.”

I know both of these gentlemen and that tactic will not work. If they carried on this long, then they will carry on even if the City appeals. And if the City does appeal in a frivolous and vexatious manner, then all it does is increase the claim for bad faith and punitive damages.

Let me be blunt. If decisions are being made in this matter, then the Mayor should NOT be involved at all. There is a reason why he left the Chair at the Council meeting and participated in the Junction debate, an action I have never seen him take before or after, unless one wants to consider his WUC Whiteboard presentation to be something similar. I have no idea what that reason is but we would find out during his cross-examination in front of the Trial Judge in the civil action.

Now that might make for some compelling news stories for the media if it went that far. We would hear from certain City Hall staffers as well and who knows, perhaps an MP from Windsor West who lives behind the Junction and a Councillor or two. We might even learn who took the inflammatory photos that were used against the Junction, how they were used and why.

Only those Members of Council who have no “reason” should be instructing counsel in this matter. The best decision that they could make is not to appeal, pay George and Chuck as little money as they can to settle and let them get on with life.

Anything else is a waste of taxpayer money.

The $131 Million Tunnel Deal


It was as I suspected could happen in the Tunnel deal with Detroit. The $75 million loan from Windsor to Detroit could have really turned out to be a $131 million transaction. How would that ever have been paid back!

More importantly, the tragedy in this entire transaction is that there did not seem to be any realization on Windsor’s side that if the new DRIC bridge was built, and if DRIC was correct, the Tunnel could lose 25% of its business. How then, could this transaction work, especially if the Detroit Mayor claimed that the City of Detroit was not on the hook if there was a default.

Now we know why Kwame said that the loan was 5% when that did not seem to be the amount that Infrastructure Ontario was going to charge according to their website. Another confusing piece of the puzzle in this transaction.

I had to file a Freedom of Information Application with Infrastructure Ontario to try and get the data on the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal. You see, it was such a fantastic transaction that our Mayor would not let the Public know what it was all about nor, it seems, members of the Tunnel Commission or Councillors. I assume that these people have not yet received answers to their questions or else they would have told us.

The secret is now out as you shall see in this BLOG! I can now understand why this has never been revealed and why questions have never been answered.

Our Mayor is a very clever young man. It is very clear right now to me that in certain circumstances there is no financial case to be made for this transaction. But Eddie never said that there was did he. He always talked about a “business case.” He was being “accurate but narrow” again. It is not his fault if we made assumptions that were not true. As I Blogged before

  • “Eddie’s continued use of the words “business case” in relation to the Tunnel deal bothered me. It was too deliberate a choice of language that obviously could mean anything to anyone. What the heck could it mean I thought? I assumed that no one would spend $75 million for half the tunnel unless one expected to make a profit on the transaction. I did not know how that could be done so I made the assumption that the deal would never take place.

    It was really another “gotcha” because I did not understand what was being said. I had not been listening carefully enough. It is starting to fall into place for me.

    Nowhere did Eddie say that the transaction had to make financial sense. Nowhere did he say that we had to make a profit. I realized finally, in fact, that the transaction could result in a Detroit default thereby costing the City money and he could still claim that it met the terms of his business case.”

In this respect, the Mayor could almost never be wrong. Even if this deal made no financial sense whatsoever and cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars, the Mayor could claim a victory. The business case is the public interest in keeping the Tunnel out of the hands of some dastardly private enterprise group that would cement up the entranceway to the Tunnel to keep away paying customers. Moreover, 5,000 commuters had to be protected, from what I am not sure.

However, the Mayor did slip up once when it was reported:

  • "But Sutts and Francis said Tuesday they are being careful not to complete any tunnel deal that could prove costly in the years to come."

Speaking of Mr. Sutts, he and his law partners may still have a concern however because

  • “Sutts said previously: "the deal will not be completed until he is fully assured local taxpayers will not be hurt. “We will be extraordinarily cautious so costs of the acquisition will be self-supporting of the project itself. That there will be no need to go to the well of the city to support this transaction."

If the numbers do not prove to be accurate and there’s a shortfall, then are Mr. Sutts and his colleagues liable based on his comment?

Of course, as is usual with Government, I did not get everything I asked for. Accordingly I have had to file an appeal to a waste a few more months of time before I get more information. However where there is a will, there is a way.

I have been able to get my hands on certain documentation that I believe shows this deal to be a bad one for Windsor Taxpayers. It never made sense to me before and it still does not make sense to me now that I have seen more of it.

I have seen what I believe to be the Application to Infrastructure Ontario. It was dated April 30, 2008. Remember that the deal was put on hold by the City. It does not appear that Infrastructure Ontario made a decision whether they would loan the money or not. My suspicion is that they would not do so. I suspect that they have told the City how much they were prepared to loan to the Tunnel Subsidiary. Again, if you recall, I speculated that the amount was in the range of $15-$20M. A far distance from $75M if I am correct.

If what I have seen is true, I can now Blog that the amount of the loan transaction was supposed to be in the amount of $75 million with Infrastructure Ontario. The borrower is the Windsor–Detroit Tunnel Corporation, the City’s subsidiary. The City expected that this deal would be concluded on July 2, 2008. The length of the transaction was 40 years.

The documentation disclosed that there is litigation going on with the Tunnel. I believe it is the litigation that I have described previously where funds are being held back by the operator but I don’t do not know if that is the answer because it is not disclosed in the Application Form by the City. That litigation however is very serious because it is stated that it could impact the ability to pay back the loan. Again, something that the Public has never been told.

The transaction is really for the acquisition of the Canadian half of the tunnel. Effectively, this is allowing our Tunnel Subsidiary to pay part of the purchase price for the Tunnel that was sold to it by the City.

As you may recall the purchase price for that was determined to be slightly over $111 million. There is some kind of note receivable available for about $36.5 million leaving the balance of $75 million for which the loan application was made. It may have been structured this way so that the Province would not be accused of allowing the City to use its money for a US asset directly. There may also be a constitutional reason why it has to be done this way as well. Who knows.

All I know is that it gets into the hands of the City $75 million which they can then turn around and loan to the City of Detroit. There is no guarantee by the City of repayment to Infrastructure Ontario as set out in the Application.

One interesting comment made is that the lifespan of the Tunnel is 200 years. If the Tunnel can last that long, then why was Sam Schwartz complaining about the Ambassador Bridge's health!

The Document that I have posted up above is a Summary of the Financial Analysis regarding the transaction with Detroit. I am not certain who prepared this document ie whether someone from the Administration in Windsor or Detroit. I have to tell you as well that I am not certain how some of these calculations are made, especially with respect to Peak Amount and Peak Year.

There is a concern however that in certain cases the Detroit loan and the loan to Windsor would not be paid off until after 2082 which is approximately the term of the deal with Detroit. In one case the loan with Detroit and Windsor might never be paid off.

Below are the schedules of cash flows for various scenarios. I will let you try and figure them out for yourself. I know that they are very difficult to read. Again I do not know who prepared the tables. Note that in 2 cases, the $0 payments reflect that there is an existing lease with DCTC, or is it Alinda now, for a dozen more years.

Here is the more interesting part of the materials in my possession. The Fiscal Analysis Division of Detroit City Council took a look at the documents and analysed them too. Here are some of their comments:
  • 1) the more realistic model of repayment shows that the Detroit loan is paid off in at least 75 years but mostly longer.

  • 2) Detroit had a concern because the Tunnel might never ever be free of debt and could be on the hook for collateral and not be an asset free and clear on the books of the Detroit Tunnel Authority

  • 3) If the interest rate was above 5%, as it probably would be based on the Infrastructure Ontario website rate at the time, then the $75 million principal amount would increase because there was an existing lease agreement with the Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation. There would not be enough money to meet the debt service obligations such that the shortfalls will be added to the principal

  • 4) According to Goldman Sachs, the amount of the loan could increase from $75 million to $131 million by 2023.

  • 5) There was concern about the economic viability of this transaction for the City of Detroit.

If there was concern on the Detroit side that this transaction did not make sense for them, then why would we enter into it if the other side might default. If that happened then where would the taxpayers of Windsor be in that case? This was supposed to be a great deal for Detroit. If they were nervous about it, then I, as a citizen of Windsor who is the lender, ought to be scared [expletive deleted]....well you can guess the last word if you remember Eddie's choice of language. This is a G-rated BLOG!

Let me be clear. I have no idea what this transaction is really all about or what the final terms were supposed to be or if there were to be guarantees and so on since it has changed so many times. I do not know what happens in the event of a default. Would the City of Windsor take over the Tunnel completely as an example. All that I have are the sketchiest of details, some of which I am sharing with you now.

And that is what troubles me. This is not an insignificant transaction. There are legitimate and serious questions raised on the other side about the economic viability of this transaction that make me very, very nervous.

Who is analysing the transaction here to protect us and to warn us if there are problems? The Mayor? Our Councillors or Tunnel Commissioners? The Audit Committee? Administration? Our outside lawyers? Or is the reality that we have NO ONE and that there are no checks and balances? Are we stuck so that we have to take it on faith that our leaders know what they are doing!

The deal has been hidden from us for reasons unknown by our Mayor. When were we going to see the transaction? After it was signed when it was too late? Were we going to have to file another Municipal Freedom of Information Application as with the Arena Deal and have to launch Privacy Commission appeals? If it is such a terrific transaction for us, then why isn’t the Mayor broadcasting it throughout the entire City so that we can applaud his financial genius.

I’m tired of this. I am tired of him playing entrepreneur with my taxpayer money. I have seen what he did on the East End Arena deal with the Spitfires and the naming rights and I am not happy with that. I know what he did on the Mady Garage deal and the Greyhound deal with respect to the Bus Terminal. Who can forget the cheap parking garage rates either for the Keg. And here is the $75 million Tunnel loan deal, or is it a $131 million deal, that may never ever get repaid.

Where is Council? Why are they ignoring their legal obligations? Why are they not demanding full information from the Mayor? Why are they permitting him to make proposals to the University with respect to their Engineering Complex that are not proposals? Why are they permitting him to waste money on Canal visions when we cannot pay for the Sandwich CIP? Why are they not outraged at his Jobs program in which he wants $100 million to be provided to a Development Commission that has achieved little other than wasting taxpayer money on trips overseas?

Is it any wonder that this City is out of control? Is it any wonder that we have a Council that has been fighting the Senior Levels for years with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment that could potentially be lost? Is it any wonder that the Citizens of Windsor have lost confidence in this Mayor and this Council? We are the laughing stock of Canada!

The person that I blame for all of this is the Premier. He has allowed City politicians to stay in office for an extra year without allowing the Citizens a way of getting rid of them! If only we had the right of recall now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget


Voice of Council


It is really very remarkable when a whole bunch of different stories on different topics all come together under one theme. Here is a good example of what I mean.


WHERE WERE THE COUNCILLORS

I noticed in the coverage by the TV stations of the Walker Road ribbon cutting ceremony that there were no Windsor Councillors present. Or at least they weren’t visible in the video to me.

I wonder if they were invited to attend the ceremony. After all it was a multi-million dollar project that closed that road down for over a year. I am sure that a number of them took abuse for the road closing so one would have thought that they should get some credit when the road reopened.

In case you are interested, they were invited. Why weren’t they visible in the video? It may be because of scheduling difficulties. Many of them probably could not attend because they were only given notice of the 2 p.m. ceremony on Friday only a few hours before it took place.

It’s Ok though. I do not want people thinking that the Councillors boycotted the session. There was no snubbing of the Senior Levels. Eddie was there, front and centre. Didn’t you see him on TV being interviewed? We heard his Voice.

THE VOICE DEFINED


If any of the Councillors do complain about not being given enough notice so that they could attend the ceremony, ignore them. They knew when they passed the Resolution giving Eddie the right to be the Voice of Council that they no longer had any significant involvement in the border file.

In going through my archives, I found a comment by the Mayor about what his interpretation is of him being the Voice of Council:

Here is something from a CKLW interview in May, 2007 where the Mayor explained what this meant. This was taken in the context of Councillor Halberstadt walking out of an in camera Council meeting where it was alleged he leaked confidential on his internet Blog. Just look at the funny comment at the end as well.
  • “members of council by resolution have authorized myself to be the only person to be the lead spokesperson on the border as well as the lead negotiator on the border. And implied in that is that all members of city council through resolution will certainly allow myself to act in the best interests of the corporation and follow their instructions and their directions.

    Each and every one of them would like to speak on the border, each and every one of them have different opinions on the border, but given the nature of these issues and the significance of these issues, each and every one of them has certainly through resolution put their confidence in the whole, the collective whole, the collective majority...

    And the issue was if we all agree to a resolution, if we all agree to a course of action and you vote for that course of action, implied in that is that you are going to support that course of action…

    And that is an issue that we deal with all the time, not just this council but any council. When a council passes a resolution you expect the councillors to abide by that resolution…

    we are engaged in a very aggressive process right now where you have senior orders of government that want to impose a cheap solution on us. We have private interests that want to see their position is advanced and all those proposals compromise the city' s position.

    And all of those proposals will saddle the city with a position that is unacceptable so members of city council are very astutely, very prudently wanting to make sure that we follow the best course of action and they we do not sell out the city and that we do not prejudice the city's interest…

    the issue is that on one of his, on one of his writings he, Councillor Halberstadt indicated that the city was looking to compromise its position. I noticed that he has since then changed that but the issue is that some councillors have taken some serious, serious {inaudible} that the city is willing to compromise.

    I can assure you, and anyone who knows the council and knows our position on this file is that we have been consistent and we are not prepared to compromise on anything and we want the best solution for the city.’

It seems that it is now possible for the “C-word” to be uttered in that the Mayor is prepared to compromise. Perhaps therefore it is time to revoke that Resolution since time has clearly changed dramatically.

COUNCILLOR POSTMA’S LAMENT

The poor Councillor. All these people in Ward 2 slamming her for the Interim Control By-law and the permanent anti-Demolition By-law. You remember those by-laws don’t you. They prevented that gentleman in Sandwich from tearing down his garage and building a new one and also prevented some derelict homes from being torn down for the longest time.

She is getting a lot of flak for that and she wants to change things around. You see, some people believe that the real purpose of those by-laws was to prevent the Ambassador Bridge Company from tearing down their homes on Indian Road and on a couple of other streets near their bridge.

We have seen recently both the Councillor and perhaps her Wardmate relax their position somewhat. She appeared to be ready to allow the Bridge Company to tear down their homes. Councillor Jones said:

  • “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.”

If I was the Owner of the Bridge Company, I would graciously decline the enticement by the Councillors. I do believe that the Bridge Company would be surprised but not in the way that they would have expected after the kind invitation to come to Council.

It is no wonder that Councillor bristling Brister is terrified to appear on John Fairley’s interview show. He was able to get from Councillor Postma what would happen if the Bridge Company came to Council.

The answer is: nothing.

The Councillor at least was honest in saying that she was not sure that her Wardmate, Councillor Jones was in favour, nor was she certain what a majority of Council would do. With respect to the Mayor, she said that his position was that the Bridge Company should bring a proposal to Council to have it discussed.

They have already tried to do that but no Councillor had the decency to extend their presentation period for more than 10 minutes and accordingly they were not able to show their plans prepared by the University’s Green Corridor Group. What makes anyone believe that anything would change?

It seems to me that this is just an attempt by the Councillor to placate her Ward residents by telling them that she is trying to do something. However, when the Majority of Council turns it down, she is off the hook. It did not appear from what she said on Face-to-Face that she had done any lobbying with the other Councillors to gain their support for what she wanted to do.

In any event, if it is so important for the area, then it is up to the Mayor to contact the Bridge Company. After all, my recollection is that the City Planner has said that Administration would turn down their request for a demolition permit until after the CIP was completed.

No disrespect intended to the Councillor but what she is offering to do is meaningless. After all, who is she to speak? It is the Mayor who is the Voice of Council!

One other note of interest with respect to Heritage. She is now convinced that there is no Heritage value whatsoever in those homes. She said twice in fact that the homes on Indian were similar to the vintage of her house and obviously from her comments she did not think that her home was of any Heritage value. On that basis as well, she is not opposed to tearing down the homes

WHERE IS COUNCIL'S VOICE NOW

There is a new calamity that may have to be faced by West Enders it seems. However, the silence is deafening. Why isn’t anyone speaking out on their behalf?

Here are three recent news headlines from CKLW.

I can understand Councillor Postma’s concern. After all of the millions of dollars spent by DRIC, one would have expected them to find out that the area where they want to put their Bridge and Plaza is not contaminated. Yet, the Province will not put their jail there because of pollution fears because of heavy industrialization.

What is going on? Why isn’t the Voice of Council demanding immediate clarification? Why isn’t he demanding studies? How can he in all good conscience suggest that a jail or a bridge and Plaza be built in that area without knowing the full facts?

One needs to ask what our Mayor knows about that area with respect to pollution. After all, it is City property which was purchased by the City. I know that Eddie wants to sell the property owned by the City in that area to the Senior Levels. In fact, one of the reasons that I’ve heard that the jail did not go there was because the City wanted substantially more for the property than the Province thought it was worth.

That is beside the point. I cannot believe that Mayor would offer polluted property where people would have to reside if they were jailed or work whether it was at the jail or at the border crossing. On the other hand, perhaps the Mayor felt that this could be a good example of Brownfield redevelopment and this entire area would make a good test case. Of course if it was heavily polluted, the cost of cleanup could be horrific.

Now that the one hand of the Province has made such a serious allegation about the area, I expect that the other hand of the Province through DRIC will have to make a full investigation of the lands, probably including drilling more bore holes at a cost of millions of dollars, to ensure that this area is suitable. That should cause a major change in the the DRIC timetable, increasing the time for final resolution for many months.

Dwight will not be happy for that delay after giving his vow of the start date just the other day. Even for a Provincial Liberal Government Minister, that is breaking a promise very quickly!

If they choose not to investigate then isn’t the entire Environmental Assessment flawed such that the Minister of Environment will be forced to throw it out.

It seems to me that the Enhancement Project is looking better and better after one DRIC mess after another is discovered.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Real Border War Has Started


When the Greenlink banner at the front of the City Hall Chambers comes down, will that be the sign that Eddie has surrendered completely? Will the Voice of Council then be silenced forever? Will it be total capitulation or will the Senior Levels be gracious in victory and allow the Mayor to save face?

The phony war is over and the first shot of the real war has begun. What will the Mayor of our small town do now? He asked for it and now he’s going to get it.

Instead of being a participant in the process, he has squandered all of the goodwill that the public generated at the time that he was first elected. I am certain that you remember when the Premier and Prime Minister were eating out of his hand in the good old days. Do you remember when the US Ambassador was so cooperative?

Look at us now, squabbling with everybody and achieving little of what the Mayor has spent millions of dollars trying to accomplish:

  • Schwartz report—failed
  • Full tunneling—failed
  • Greenlink—failed
  • Son of Greenlink—another failure.

Backing off, backing off and compromising. The “C” word was always the City’s position. Councillor Valentinis has in effect told us so on Face-to-Face recently. That is why Councillor Halberstadt was dumped on for revealing the Mayor’s strategy inadvertently. Now Eddie is not compromising; he is pleading.

That is what happens when one bluffs and loses. It is the immature way to negotiate. Demand everything and then back off to what you really want. That only works when one is in a position of power, which this City was never in. It only works when the other side does not understand your game.

I am certain that you saw the ad in today’s Windsor Star run by the DRIC team. Unless there is something in there that caves in to the demands of the Mayor with respect to Schwunnels, then Eddie has lost. Just to be blunt about it, the DRIC Road had 1.8 km of “coverage” previously. It still has 1.8 km of tunnels today. If that is not a slap in the face to our Mayor, then nothing is.

Of course, we can assume that there have been secret negotiations going on between the Senior Levels and the Mayor that even Council does not know about. How else to explain the conciliatory tone by the Mayor over the past few weeks.

Expect of course that Eddie will declare a victory at the appropriate time, no matter what happens. How else can he justify the waste so far of almost $5 million of taxpayer money? He will explain it in the same terms that he did about public interest with respect to the waste of the money over the Tunnel deal.

It was not a waste of money. He was keeping the Tunnel in public hands at a cost of over $1.2 million.

Just like with the DRIC Road, there was a nonexistent enemy against which the Mayor had to protect us. Or at least that is his justification for another failed transaction in which he was involved.

I can just hear it now. The Mayor will gloat and say that because of him, Windsor is getting the most expensive road in Ontario with parkland and quality-of-life solutions that no one else in the Province has been able to achieve. He will claim that he knew that he could not get full tunnelling or Greenlink but that he used them as a negotiating tools. He will say that he will press to get back all the money that the City has spent on legal and consulting fees as part of his settlement.

This is the CAW approach to negotiating. Claim a victory when you have absolutely lost. He has learned so well from his role models, Buzz and Ken Sr.

Of course, what will have been achieved, if in fact this most expensive road is ever built, is commendable. The problem is that it should have started by now so that the thousands of infrastructure jobs would have been created already and so that people would not be losing their homes or thinking about moving out West as the automobile industry is dying here.

We would have started our transition to our new economy with the sign that Windsor is open for business if the Mayor had not stalled for so many years. With someone who actually knew what he/she was doing and how to negotiate properly, this road to the border could have been negotiated years ago and probably be almost completed by now.

Instead, we have become the laughingstock of this country. We are the City in Canada who told the Senior Levels and a private investor to get lost even though they wanted to inject billions of dollars into our devastated economy.

In my opinion, this will be Eddie’s legacy as Mayor no matter what he does or does not do until his term ends. He has made our City a joke.

For Eddie to claim that what he achieved would be a victory for Windsor would be a disgrace. However, watch the cheerleaders and sycophants claim otherwise!

So, what is our Mayor going to now? Threaten a lawsuit again or actually start one using our weapon of mass destruction, David Estrin? I doubt it. If Sandra is right, the start of a lawsuit means the end of 15,000 jobs.

I do not believe that our Mayor has the guts to even try that. Certainly from what I am hearing, our Councillors would be against it. The March, 2003 revolution would become public. Our Mayor cannot afford that.

I even heard that some polling was undertaken to see what the attitude of people in Windsor is. I have no idea if this is true or not. However, given the Mayor’s change in his aggressive position, it would seem pretty clear that residents of this City are worried more about the economy and jobs than about Greenlink or the DRIC road. So much for failed advertising blitzes.

I hardly believe, as I have Blogged before, that the Minister of the Environment will reverse what DRIC is doing given the fact that the Minister of Finance and the MITI Minister seemed to be so in favour of what is going on with this “outstanding project.” After all, the Finance Minister has said that “it's time to start." Infrastructure Ontario is here starting already.

If Eddie wants us to believe that his submissions to the Environment Minister will protect our position then he is deluding himself, not us any longer. He is no longer believable on the border file.

The homes on Indian Road, the Interim Control and Demolition By-laws, Councillor Postma's revelation re the Sandwich CIP and Greg Heil's recent "Heritage" resignation just compound his difficulties in that part of the City too.

The Province is calling Eddie’s bluff in the most public fashion possible. They are rubbing his face in the DRIC road. They are daring him to take the step after “threatening.”

It is put up or shut up time for our Mayor. It is payback time for Dwight and Sandra.

How long will Eddie’s real war last? It will be over on Wednesday when the DRIC Draft EA Report is published.

When Fate is against you, then one has no chance of success any longer. Imagine, the Estrin legal fees report coming out at tonight's Council meeting at the same time as the DRIC ad is published. What a remarkable co-incidence!

Border Legal and Consulting Fees


Darn. Buried in the Communications Package again, Item #9 out of 11.

If only there had been a few more days in the last quarter, the fees could have totalled $5 million or more.

Don't worry though. At over $300K in the last quarter, they will top that amount in the next quarter easily. I am sure of it.

Rumour has it that Eddie is well aware now that we are getting the DRIC Road and that Greenlink is dead. One could ask therefore what have we achieved for all of the spending of that money other than the waste of time due to the stalling.

Oh there may be a tweak here and there so that our Mayor can claim a huge victory but in reality the Schwunnels have all been shot down.

What I do expect is that the Senior Levels will pay us some money for being the host community for this project and Eddie will claim victory for that. I expect that the way we will get the money is by overpayment by the Senior Levels on the value of the Brighton Beach lands.

After all, isn't that really the reason why Eddie wants the jail to locate there. If he can convince the Province to pay an excess amount for that land, then that amount would be the precedent for the land that would be used for the DRIC bridge and the Plaza.

Here is what would be fun for the Senior Levels to use as a counter to our Mayor if he gets too greedy. Someone would have to justify why the hundred acres or so at Brighton Beach are worth more than the hundred acres or so that Mr. Fahri bought at the Lear plant where the East End Arena is now being built. That land was purchased for about $8 million. Does anyone believe that Eddie would be satisfied with that amount? I think not.

If you want to ask how I can make the statement about the Greenlink Road, then take a look at Henderson's Saturday column. Most of it is spent justifying the need for having a world-class firm running the DRIC road project. It was only at the end, by the time most people stopped reading the Column, when Gord brings in Greenlink again and in the usual pro forma fashion:
  • "Let's not take our eye off the ball. The real issue isn't which company snares those juicy contracts. The real issue is whether the province will come to its senses, put pride and personality aside, and roll out a final design this month that comes close to matching the city's global-calibre, landscape-altering GreenLink plan."

Do you think that Eddie will have the nerve to ask the Senior Levels to re-imburse the City for these costs? Let me see. Eddie can abuse the Senior Levels by playing Perry Mason with their experts, spending money by coming up with ridiculous schemes designed to stall, achieving little, snubbing them and calling them all kinds of names and then expect to be paid back for doing so? Surely the Senior Levels have some principles!

I wonder when Council will ask what the total is for Mr. Sutts' fees and those of consultants to date on the Tunnel deal. It certainly has to be much more than the $1.2 million quoted sometime ago with all the work that has been undertaken.

So far actually this deal has been a success. We don't have the Tunnel!