Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 Items Of Interest

No, do not worry. I do not have 2009 stories for you to read. Rather these are interesting items that I have seen in the new year that you may have missed.


I as a Windsor taxpayer am NOT prepared to see my City go broke or to be forced perhaps to sell our half of the Tunnel to save Detroit. Let the Detroit taxpayers, American banks or Michigan or the US Federal Government do it. Sorry neighbours!

We have never been shown a financial case nor a business case by our Mayor that shows this deal works for us. Enough of this bogeyman stuff. It does not play well any more:
  • "Windsor wants to prevent ownership of the U.S. side of the tunnel from falling into private hands — such as Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun or a private investment fund, Sutts said. "
Before the Mayor spends one cent again on legal fees for the Tunnel deal, he needs to explain satisfactorily now, and if he will not, Councillors and Tunnel Commissioners need to force him to tell us now:

1) at a time when we need $350M for immediate "shovel ready" projects, how can we justify spending $75M on a Tunnel deal
2) the Mayor needs to tell us today how much Infrastructure Ontario offered because it is NOT $75M I would suggest
3) the Mayor needs to tell us today how he is going to finance the deal
4) why would Windsor make a loan to a near-bankrupt city, Detroit, with junk-bond status or buy a revenue stream of an asset that could lose 25% of its traffic
5) How will buying a revenue stream protect us if someone wants to buy the Tunnel since the deal will be non-recourse I am sure.

Our Cabinet ministers need to tell us how Infrastructure Ontario can fund a deal like this when we need every penny for Ontario projects.

More importantly--what is the business/finance case already!


Detroit News, Monday, January 26, 2009
  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said Friday that he has had no formal talks with Cockrel's staff. Detroit officials did tell Windsor last week that they aren't in talks with any other entity on a tunnel deal, Francis said."

Windsor Star January 29, 2009

  • Lawyer Cliff Sutts, who has been the lead on tunnel negotiations for Windsor, said he heard from Detroit officials a couple of weeks ago about reviving discussions.

    He received assurances Windsor is the sole entity for any discussions about the fate of the U.S. side of the tunnel. Windsor owns the Canadian side.

So Councillors Marra or Halberstadt, when you ask a question about the deal at Council on Monday, the Mayor can tell you that HE has had no FORMAL talks and he would be accurate but perhaps narrow.

Remember to ask about conversations with Mr. Sutts, about "informal" talks, about people NOT on Cockrel's staff, about talks with Cockrel himself, about the "officials" and about everything they discussed.

If it is such a wonderful asset, why else is no one talking to Detroit and why isn't Detroit talking to others such as Alinda! The answer should be obvious in this time of economic collapse.


The City and its subsidiaries and agencies being secretive is hardly news any more. It is completely predictable how the City responds in FOI applications.

The key paragraph however in the Star story is this one:

  • "These were public meetings which any member of the community could have attended," said Marty Beneteau, editor of the Star. "Censoring in this case looks not only wrong, but arrogant and spiteful."
The big guy, the Star Editor, is involved . He is quoted right at the end of the story where key facts are always placed knowing Windsorites cannot read and comprehend that much. About time I would have thought.

Why is the question important? Is the Star tired of Eddie finally? Are they giving him one more chance before they turn on him? Is this their last warning? Have Star Editors finally started reading their Forums?

Note the Star specifically said in the story:
  • "Four of Enwin’s original six board members are still in charge today, including Mayor Eddie Francis, who did not return phone calls for comment."

Or does it have to do with Canwest? Maybe they got annoyed at Councillor Loopy and are taking it out on Eddie!

The Star contract is to be discussed at Council again on Monday.


I did not remember seeing this in the Business Section of the Windsor Star but rather on Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG first:

  • "recent decision by Air America to close its doors at Your Quck Getaway, reducing the number of tenants by one, and air traffic volumes and landing revenues by an undetermined amount."

I expect that the Company was hurt badly by the slowdown in the automotive industry as well as the high prices of fuel which would increase air freight transportation costs.

A year ago, we read this

  • "A major stakeholder helping keep Windsor Airport afloat is celebrating its 10th anniversary in business.

    Air America Logistics produces more landing fees -- about $200,000 annually -- than all airlines combined at the airport, with the exception of Air Canada...

    Much of the airport's finances remain largely dependent on Air America's business."

We will see if Ms Nazzani is correct when she says:

  • "The recent closure of Air America's local operations will have no financial impact on Windsor Airport, says the airport's general manager."

Notwithstanding the reduction in revenue at the airport, the Councillor also disclosed that:

  • "Councilors Drew Dilkens and Ken Lewenza were appointed to the board, joining Mayor Eddie Francis, who has been the unpaid chair of the temporary board, now to be replaced by the three paid members of Council plus six citizen members. The chair of the new board is scheduled to receive $6,000 plus $300 per diem. If the board elects the mayor to stay on as chair, his unpooled salary will increase by at least $10,100 annually. Added to his stipends as chair of Enwin Canada, the Police Services Board and the Tunnel Commission, the Mayor's combined salaries will continue to gravitate towards $200,000 per year."

The Councillors will also receive Board payments which will be divided up amongst their colleagues.

A pretty big Board with significant Board fees for an entity that seems so insignificant at this time.


We have to believe Dr. Gerald Diamond. Eddie and Gord told us so.

He blew up the myth that there would be a 50/50 split in traffic so that Sean O'Dell could argue:

  • "Moroun will lose some traffic, but there's more than enough business to go around."

It was clear from what Eddie wanted to do on Huron Church when Schwartz did his Champs-Élysées drawing back in 2005 showing the reduction in lanes from 6 to 4.


Don't tell me that he does not!

He wrote in his column about this terrific letter from Nancy Campana who slammed all of the naysaying obviously coming from City Hall. After all, she condemned:

  • "Chicken Littles and other purveyors of doom who would rain on her parade."

Who else could she be referring to other than the negatives stories about Windsor's bad reputation that have come out in the Star recently due to actions at City Hall.

She did complain about the media too but not about BLOGGERs:

  • "The continual negative messages blasted by you and your paper and many others in your (media) industry daily about the economy and the future of the economy play tricks on the brains of your readers,"

What did she say that would help save us:

  • "We're really not doing all that bad. There's just so much opportunity to me right now. And we've got to be ready for it," insisted Campana.

    No Pollyanna, she backed that claim up by listing positive things that are happening or could happen here in 2009-10:


    "Possible development of three call centres creating over 2,700 jobs as announced in your own paper just last week, a new bank complex being built on Ouellette at Chatham, St. Clair College under major construction to expand and improve, the John McGivney Centre under demolition to make way for a larger and improved centre for kids with disabilities, LaSalle town hall sold to an unnamed developer for new retail growth and its town centre to be moved and constructed at the Vollmer Complex.

    "One of the largest wind farms in Ontario will be built just outside Windsor and a second is waiting for approval. The Port Alma Wind Farm that had its grand opening in November is waiting for approval to double its size."

    Campana rolled on, citing a new mental health facility at Windsor Regional Hospital that will create an additional 200 jobs, the Ambassador Bridge company's proposed new span and a new superhighway link which she believes could be fast-tracked to produce thousands of jobs "if responsible leaders would just sit down and hammer it out fast."

Gord did not say it. No one can get angry at him. Campana did. The Sheriff strikes again!


Just in case he missed the story

  • "US-Canada trucks decline

    January 9, 2009, The JOURNAL of COMMERCE ONLINE

    The busiest U.S.-Canada truck crossing suffered a sharp decline in traffic in December, and for all of 2008.

    The Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, had 181,938 truck crossings in December, down 17.9 percent on-year, the Public Border Operators Association reported.

    Crossings totaled 2,885,047 for all of 2008, off 15.1 percent from 2007.

    The second-busiest link, the Blue Water Bridge, 60 miles downriver from Detroit-Windsor, had 98,449 crossings in December, a decrease of 11.87 percent from a year ago. For the year, traffic fell 2.45 percent to 1.57 million trucks.

    The third-ranked Peace Bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont., saw trucks decline 3.2 percent in December to 88,756 and by 1.9 percent for the year to 1.3 million.

    At the Lewiston, N.Y.-Queenston, Ont., bridge, traffic was 9.9-percent lighter in December at 55,120 trucks, and off 11.6 percent to 789,740 for all of 2008.

    The PBOA tracks statistics on crossings between Ontario, Michigan and New York, including four of the six commercial crossings between the two countries."


We are being told that the new canal vision for downtown will probably not involve a marina:

  • "Cooke said the study indicates a marina in the Caron Avenue cut might be prohibitively expensive. "It's feasible. It can be done. But would it be cost-effective?" He explained that an extremely deep excavation would be needed to accommodate boats and that would entail either steep, concrete-reinforced walls along the cut or gradual slopes that would gobble up significant amounts of adjacent land."

I wonder if it has more to do with this:

  • "A'burg to sell marina

    Amherstburg is moving ahead with the sale of the K. Walter Ranta Marina...

    The marina has 104 boat wells and 59 were rented last year. Marina usage has dwindled the past five years because of tighter border security, a strong Canadian dollar and high gasoline prices...

    Coun. John Sutton said in October the marina was appraised at $450,000 and had $950,000 in debt. He said in the fall the town would be willing to sell the marina for the appraised value and write off the debt."


No, I am not interested in how Borealis structures deals although some might. No I am not here to say that other cities can make dumb deals too. I just want to show what a mayor who has been around for awhile does to allow public input on a major deal.

  • "Battle line drawn over Enersource

    Mayor Hazel McCallion can call all the public meetings she wants, but Ward 6 Councillor Carolyn Parrish, for one, isn’t going to change her mind on gaining total control of Enersource.

    “This has been discussed in-camera numerous times. We paid two sets of consultants $427,000, and their advice was that if we want to take control of Enersource we will have to buy back Borealis’ portion. It’s unacceptable the agreement we made gave a 10 per cent shareholder 100 per cent control,” Parrish said.

    Parrish was responding to McCallion’s announcement today that she’ll be hosting a public meeting on Jan. 22 “to fulfill” requests from a ratepayer group and the Mississauga Board of Trade for additional information regarding Enersource, particularly the direction of Council to buy out Borealis.

    Back on Dec. 10, McCallion was on the wrong side of the 7-4 vote, following which she vowed to get residents involved.

    Our city is known for calling meetings at a drop of a hat,” McCallion reiterated to The News today. “This is one of the most serious decisions Council can make, and my duty as mayor is for me to call a public meeting. At Council, MIRANET (Mississauga Residents’ Associations Network) didn’t say they agreed or disagreed with the vote. They were very professional. They said they needed more information. The Mississauga Board of Trade said the same thing in writing. It’s important to let residents know what we’re doing with their money.”

    What a novel concept.


Many attack the Ambassador Bridge for being old. YET, no one will let the Bridge Company rehabilitate it as they propose to do. Strange.

Well here is something stranger:

  • Government of Canada Invests in Improvements to Montreal Bridges

    The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, today announced that the Government of Canada is making important investments in Montreal bridges to enhance the safety of commuters and stimulate the local economy.

    "Many Quebecers rely on these bridges daily to commute to work and return home to their families," said Canada's Transport Minister, John Baird. "This investment allows for faster commute times, promotes trade and tourism, and boosts Quebec's economy."

    Minister Paradis announced that the federal government will contribute $50 million to redeck the Honoré Mercier Bridge and $11 million to reconfigure the access roads and ramps to the Champlain Bridge. The contribution for the Honoré Mercier Bridge is added to $85 million granted to the project in 2006."

    "The Government of Canada is delivering real results to improve Canada's infrastructure," said Minister Paradis. "This investment will help put people to work, improve road safety and fuel economic growth."

    Rehabilitation of the Honoré Mercier Bridge is needed to ensure the continued safety of users. Construction began this year and is scheduled to be complete in 2010. Approximately 28 million vehicles use the bridge each year.

    The roads and ramps providing access to the Champlain Bridge interconnect with the City of Montreal's road system. This project is being coordinated and scheduled with the City of Montreal to ensure that work on one section is complete before beginning the next. Work is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2009. The Champlain Bridge is the busiest in Canada, with an estimated 58 million vehicles using it every year."


    The Government of Canada is investing in redecking the Honoré Mercier Bridge to ensure continued safety of users. The other project is the reconfiguration of the Nuns' Island access to the Champlain Bridge to reduce traffic congestion on existing access roads...

    Infrastructure is a good public policy for both the short and long term. Investing in these two proposed projects is in line with the current government priorities of repairing the country's infrastructure and stimulating the economy. Public investments like this can boost job creation now and help advance productivity in the future. These projects are expected to employ thousands of construction workers, stimulate demand for steel and other materials, and boost local economies. The resulting economic stimulus would be geographically widespread."

The Ambassador Bridge is about 80 years old. The Honoré Mercier Bridge was opened to traffic on June 22, 1934. The Champlain Bridge was opened on June 28,1962.

Seems to me that Eddie now has a big problem with his Brdge Company opposition because of the College St. Bridge too. It is about the age of the Ambasssador Bridge.