Francis Failures (Part 1)
No, no, no… I am not talking about what he has put us through with respect to the automobile industry and jobs before he finally decided to provide billions of dollars to the industry. I’m talking about something much more important.
He had the opportunity to save this region by giving our Mayor a new job and he blew it. When he had that 10 minute “personal” phone call with the Mayor, I am certain that the “reassurance” part of that call took all of about 30 seconds. The remainder of the time was in effect a job interview.
You still do not get it do you. Harper had 18 Senate appointments and he did not give one to Eddie Francis. If he had, then Francis would no longer be our Mayor. Instead we have to put up with him for another two years.
Oh I know, you think I am being nasty. It is the beginning of the new year and some of you may have hoped that perhaps I might be a little bit more gentle towards our Mayor. How can I be? It is a good thing that I have not written anything for a few days because after reading the Toronto Star articles on Windsor on Christmas Eve morning, and some others that I read, I was literally sick.
You know already that I believe that our Mayor has failed us especially on the Border file. I do not take seriously anything that he says with respect to Greenlink anymore after this quotation which I have posted several times already but is worthwhile to post one more time:
- "City council and the city of Windsor and myself would be the first to stand in support of this project if the province of Ontario guarantees 20,000 jobs will be in this community at the beginning of 2009."
This nonsense about quality of life is nothing more than nonsense after reading this quotation.
Our new Jewel, the arena… if it were not for Project Ice Track proposing to move to Tecumseh, it would still not be built. That may not be such a bad idea after reading this recently in the Star at a time when this City needs every penny it can get:
- “It has already been determined the capital budget of nearly $100 million -- separate from its operations budget -- will be consumed by a massive $31-million chunk designed to pay off much of the new $71.6-million east-end arena.”
Who needs roads and sewers in this City to be fixed up when we have an arena to pay for and perhaps a new canal system too? Imagine people wanting to move here and seeing the above photo that came out of the Star’s sister newspaper, the Vancouver Sun.
I'm going to take it easy on you today. There is a lot to read but it is mostly news articles that were reported about Windsor over the last couple of weeks during the holidays.You may have missed them. I will take an in-depth look at them in a second BLOG.
Take a look at these Toronto Star articles and read them for yourself. I am not being nasty. All I am doing is setting out exactly what our Mayor said. What it tells me is that he has absolutely no plan for this City and that all we will be doing for the next two years will move from crisis to crisis with no hope with him as our Leader.
That money for the glossy advertising booklet that was distributed across Canada extolling the virtues of Windsor was wasted. When someone does a search on the Internet about Windsor, they will not find references to the advertising booklet but rather references to the news articles. Who would want to come here after reading stories like these?
- “No light at the end of the tunnel for Windsor
City staggers under weight of auto industry's collapse but some still cling to hope
"It's pretty bleak."
Painful words but ones that describe how this proud industrial city has been ravaged by the loss of thousands of auto-related jobs.
People are walking away from their homes, foods banks are rushing to meet the ever-increasing demand and personal bankruptcies are on the rise…
Many fear the situation is only going to get worse over the next year as the employment insurance benefits and buyout packages run their course. The unemployment rate is about 10 per cent, the highest in Ontario, but still nowhere near the 18.2 per cent high during the recession of the early 1980s…
Decision-makers are seriously talking publicly about marketing Windsor, with its moderate climate and easy access to the U.S., as a retirement destination. An added attraction is property prices, which are among the lowest in the country, second only to New Brunswick…
But even the normally upbeat Eddie Francis, mayor of Canada's most southerly city, seems a bit darkened by events. He fears the global downturn, combined with the struggling auto industry, could deliver a death blow to Windsor.
This city of almost 200,000 has felt the satisfaction of boom and the sting of bust before. There were always better days ahead…
For years, people warned Windsor to diversify and not rely so heavily on this cyclical industry, but that's easier said than done when plants are working at full capacity and workers, making $30-plus an hour, can't put in enough overtime.”
- “Windsor looks at ways to reinvent itself
WINDSOR, Ont.–Saskatchewan needs workers and Windsor says don't look any further.
A regular air shuttle between the booming prairie province and this auto town is just one of the many ideas being bounced around by Mayor Eddie Francis and others here to try to cope with a very iffy manufacturing future…
"That will allow them to keep their families here and the kids can stay in school and the dollars stay here in the economy," Francis said, adding that, "We have been working with Saskatchewan and we're close to finalizing a program."
Windsor also appears serious about marketing itself as a retirement location offering cheap housing, water recreation and a moderate climate.
With a little seed money from the private sector, a group of business and community-minded folks are now working on a plan to convince Torontonians, among others, to sell their homes and transplant themselves and their bundles of cash to Canada's most southerly city, where a decent home sells for $150,000…
The mayor is also talking about working with Essex County and the agricultural sector to make Windsor an international hub for distributing perishables throughout North America, similar to how Frankfurt, Germany became the hub for the European market.
"We have one of the largest agricultural businesses, exporting $1.5 billion annually from Windsor-Essex to North America ... and there is no reason we can't build the facilities at our airport so it becomes the clearing point for all food products destined for the U.S.," Francis said.
The University of Windsor is also proving to be a bright spot. It now has a satellite medical school and will soon have a new engineering school. It is host for the Network of Centres of Excellence for the Automobile of the 21st Century or AUTO21, funded by universities, industry and government.
Francis says "the research and development capacity that we have in the city is one of the best kept secrets in the country...."
Here is some more for you to read, this time from our Star:
- “Alberta bound
Laid-off workers head west for greener pastures
These days, a fuzzy image on a computer monitor is the only way seven-month-old Madison Freeland-Main gets to see her dad, Bill…
The Freeland-Main's dilemma -- continue living apart or uproot the entire family -- is facing a growing number of jobless Windsorites desperately seeking work in the healthier economies of Western Canada.
Alberta isn't the only destination for job seekers. Other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, are attracting the growing ranks of Windsor's unemployed -- a trend that is depleting the local economy's pool of skilled workers and reversing several years of population growth…
The troubling trend prompted Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis to propose a commuter service that would shuttle workers to and from Western Canada.
After talks with politicians from Saskatchewan, Francis's office launched a survey to determine the number of residents already travelling to work out of province and who else might be interested, as well as their job skills. "The preliminary results are confirming what we expected," says Francis. "There are a number of people in the automotive industry and manufacturing that have skills that companies are looking for. Most have indicated that the shuttle was a good way for them to keep their family here. The interesting thing -- most recognized it was a way to get through the transition."
Adelle Ferguson, a senior research and policy adviser entrusted with the task of getting the shuttle service off the ground, says the survey drew about 69 responses. "It's not a huge number," she admits. "But there was consistent interest in the possibility of the service. We're working with Saskatchewan officials on how we can make it happen. We're still at the very beginning."
"We have all of our family here. There's nothing out west for us besides work," says Freeland-Main. "If the mayor gets his air shuttle service off the ground, I'd be the first in line to commute…"
Francis describes his plan as a temporary measure designed to ease both the city and workers through an economic slump that isn't going to turn around anytime soon.
"It's only one element of a broader perspective in terms of economic development here," he says. "Obviously, we need to continue to focus our efforts on creating jobs here, but we also need to be realistic in our assessment of the economic situation and challenges we are facing. The economic challenge we are facing clearly indicates that we are going through a transition. So, we either lose these people for good, as we know is happening. They're moving out west. They're relocating their entire families. Or, we provide this program and keep these people and their skill set."
An air shuttle makes sense for residents who face steeper housing costs out west while trying to sell their homes here, says Francis.”
Take a look at this interesting Canadian Press story:
- “Many auto workers looking to leave increasingly uncertain sector once and for all
TORONTO — After 30 years of working in the manufacturing and auto parts industries, John Knelsen has seen the situation go from bad to worse.
Now that Knelsen has been laid off for a sixth time due to plant closures and slowdowns, the 48-year-old just feels lost.
"What they're telling me is I have to go out and find where there are jobs, but where do I begin?" he said from his home in St. Catharines, Ont.
"I've worked in a plant since 1978. I don't know any different…"
At the southern tip of Ontario, Windsor is no stranger to auto industry malaise. As the so-called Automotive Capital of Canada, the city has a presence from Chrysler, Ford and GM (though that plant is slated for closure).
In the region of 350,000 people, about 43,000 of them are employed by the auto industry.
"Four or five years ago when manufacturing and automotive started to decline, we felt the impact immediately," Mayor Eddie Francis said.
"We as a city generally tend to set the trend for the rest of the country. Excuse the adage, but we're well known to be the canary in a coal mine."
If true, the example of Windsor holds some promise for other auto communities.
The city has started to diversify its economy, with the building of a new convention centre, casino and arena. There is also an attempt to transition existing automotive infrastructure to meet changing market demands.
"What we're trying to do now is ensure that the automotive footprint is maintained," Francis said.
"Parts suppliers that once used to supply strictly 100 per cent the automotive industry ... those parts suppliers are now transitioned and are now supplying the aerospace industry."
That is enough for now. Did you become as disgusted as I did? It should get you in the mood about what we have to look forward to in 2009. In the next blog I will analyze what the stories say.
For those of you who have been loyal readers of this BLOG, a lot of what was written about should sound eerily familiar. Needless to say, the one common theme amongst all of the stories is a lack of leadership role at the top.
More about that next time.