Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CIBPA/Francis CBC Interview

Poor Councillor Valentinis. Eddie has put him right between a rock and a hard place.

Frankly, Eddie disrespected the procedure at the CIBPA meeting by talking for so long. His attempt to try to end run the Chair who told him that this meeting was not the appropriate place for a Presentation was uncalled for. His insulting behaviour of the Association President during the radio interview was rather shocking to me.

This will make life difficult for the Councillor. He now has to choose between continuing to support a Mayor who has become even more unpopular with the group of people who provide the main base of support for the Councillor or separating himself away from Eddie if he wants to have a hope of being re-elected. Tony Blak is smiling today!

What an arrogant young man our Mayor is.

If members of CIBPA or the public want to know why Windsor is having difficulties negotiating deals with the Senior Levels or the Ambassador Bridge Company, then read the transcript below of the interview between the CIBPA President and our Mayor on CBC Radio. Could you deal with him?

Better yet, if you have speakers, listen along with the audio so you can hear the tone of what is being said.

I truly have difficulty believing that our Mayor, a lawyer who almost immediately after being called to the Bar announced that he was running for office and who has not practiced law as a full-time professional for any significant period of time as far as I know, would be so condescending to a fellow lawyer in town, one who has been in practice for almost 30 year.

Remember that nasty crack about Eddie by Don McArthur of the Star in his BLOG:
  • "Heck, he's hardly even a lawyer. He just plays one on TV."
Eddie takes himself much too seriously as this video clip demonstrates to me anyway

If he is that good, then why did we need our legal weapon of mass destruction and a US lawyer to file submissions on the City's behalf against the Bridge Company in the US at a cost of $30,000? Why didn't he do it himself?

Why would Eddie want to antagonize the President of a very influential group of people in Windsor? These are exactly the people that you want on your side to help you out when you are dealing with the Senior Levels or the Bridge Company.

It should be clear by now that Eddie went to the CIBPA meeting the other day for two reasons. First, he wanted them to put pressure on our Liberal MPPs/Cabinet Ministers to force them to have the Premier come down here on bended knee, bow down to Eddie and agree to everything that he wants. Second, he wanted to ensure that if something drastic happened on the file, such as the Senior Levels walking away, that he could not be blamed. Thus, he tried to finger other people as the cause of the problem.

Just to have some fun again, I decided that I was going to"Fisk" or comment on some of Eddie's remarks. Follow along with the recording and the transcript now.

CBC Radio Windsor - March 26, 2009

Host: As you've been hearing on our local news coverage this morning, a town hall meeting was held last night to talk about the economic crisis facing this area. It was organized by the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association as a way of mobilizing the community to push for action on government projects, projects that would provide jobs and stimulate our economy. The biggest and most contentious is that route to a new international bridge. DRIC is pushing for its Windsor Essex Parkway plan; Windsor City Council wants Greenlink. John Corrent organized last night's event. He's president of the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Associating. He's on the telephone. Mr. Corrent good morning.

John Corrent (President, Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association): Good morning. How are you today?

Host: I'm well. Thank you for joining us. Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has agreed to join us as well. Mayor Francis good of you to make some time available for us. Thank you so much.

Eddie Francis: Thanks for having me.

Host: Mr. Corrent I'd like to start with you. What came out of last night's meeting?

Corrent: What was very impressive about last night was the turnout. We had a wonderful turnout. That was itself a message to the politicians that the community has some urgency in getting these projects started and underway. The support was fantastic.

Host: We talked about the border access route. What other major projects are you looking at here?

Corrent: The Ambassador Bridge for sure. Those are the two mega-projects that are worth over $1.6 billion dollars each and we believe from that they'll be spin-offs. There is infrastructure money that's available from the federal government and from the provincial government. I think that should be a complimentary package to those. So we're looking to the local politicians to get together with the senior levels of government and to get what they can get.

Host: So you blame the politicians for the inaction.

Corrent: It's not that they haven't acted. I think that they have. There's just been too much posturing. There's been too much stagnation. There's been double-talk and the community is confused. Why isn't there action now? We believe agreements should be forged. There should be no further delay. There shouldn't be litigation and that's what we've started.

Host: Mayor Francis you thought this meeting important enough that you attended and you spoke while you were there. Your response to this?

Eddie: Well I agree. I believe that, as City Council has expressed over the past several years and as the community members over the course of the DRIC process have expressed, they want a better solution. I agree that there's been double-talk. I agree that there's a time and a need for action and I welcome CIBPA's help to try to bring the province to the table.
  • [That is our Eddie. I guess he does not realize that the Bridge and Plaza are federal matters while the road is a provincial matter. It is only by their good graces that he is allowed to have any voice whatsoever at the table. At any time, they can pull the chair out from under him. That he should be so hostile to the Premier who provided backstopping of $3.2 million for Red Bull as just one example is beyond me. I can hardly wait to see how much infrastructure money we get in Windsor with an attitude like his]

As I expressed yesterday evening, Cty Council several weeks ago called on the Province of Ontario to come to the table with mediation so that we can find a solution. All we're asking for is a better solution and I don't think there's anybody in this community that wouldn't want a better solution in terms of a solution that protects the health.

  • [Eddie wants mediation provided it is on his terms only:

    "It calls for immediate mediation to be completed within 21 days after an agreed-upon mediator is appointed.

    The focus of the mediator, according to the city, would be to mitigate access road deficiencies through strategic tunnelling with an understanding the cost of doing so be no greater than $200 million more than the parkway’s current estimated $1.6-billion construction cost.”

    As I Blogged at the time:

    The arrogance and air of
    entitlement of the City leaders help explain why nothing ever gets done and why no one listens to Windsor.

    What right does Windsor have to “demand?” Moreover, what right does Windsor have to set out the rules unilaterally about what the mediation is all about? It is nothing more than a mediation ploy designed never to be accepted by the Province to accomplish some objective of the Mayor.]

As I said last night Tony, it's not an issue of jobs versus health. I think we can have both. We deserve both.

  • [Windsor "entitlement" mentality again.]

In a city that suffers with significant issues as it relates to health related diseases - cardiovascular disease, asthma rates, bronchial rates, cancer rates - this is an opportunity for us not only to build new infrastructure, but build infrastructure taking into consideration that they can protect the community. And I welcome CIBPA to join the other community members in terms of trying to bring the Province to the table.

  • [Considering that most of our pollution comes from the United States and that issues with respect to truck pollution will virtually disappear with new diesel fuel and engine technology, the health issue is nothing more than a scare tactic.]

  • [Note also the second time he talked about bringing the Province to the table]

Host: And this CIBPA that you mentioned, that is Mr. Corrent's political action group which they have formed. Mayor Francis, what about suggestions that you are hindering Windsor's economy by refusing to compromise on Greenlink?

Eddie: That's not true with regards to not willing to compromise. We have compromised significantly. If you can recall, Greenlink was for a total of close to 3,600 metres or 3.6 kilometres in tunnelling. We brought that down considerably to 2.6 so that we protect the residents.

  • [Eddie seems to forget that DRIC compromised as well. Wasn’t their first choice going to be an at grade-road and look at where they are now? One could make the argument that Eddie’s original position of full tunnelling was never serious so that he has never really compromised at all.]

Every step of the way we've compromised and all we're trying to do is achieve a better solution.

  • [Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. You have been inhaling too much Tunnel exhaust that is coming out of the Heritage Tunnel Ventilation Building. Junior is going to come after you now just the way he did Councillor Halberstadt when you use the C-word.

    “Lewenza said Tuesday the use of the word "compromise" suggests the city is poised to settle with DRIC for something less than its official stance -- that the route must be tunnelled.

    "This is a billion-dollar file and he is out there saying we want a compromise," Lewenza said. "I challenged him on that."

    Let us agree that the amnesia disease has hit again and that Eddie is not trying to be misleading with people who are not very familiar with the border file. I’m sure that Eddie has probably forgotten some of these comments given his heavy workload:

     "the new Schwartz plan.. is not negotiable. "This is it. This is the city of Windsor's position"

     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.”

    "Francis said details of the Schwartz plan, such as service roads and landscaping, can be tweaked, but the city will not negotiate the proposed tunnels with DRIC.

    "That last thing we want is for the province to come back and say: 'OK, we'll give you one tunnel,'" he said. "The amount of tunnelling and the connectivity of neighbourhoods is not negotiable."

     Eddie might be afraid that Gord would turn on him too as he did with his good buddy in the Three Blind Mice column:

    "Halberstadt and Marra don't have the excuse of being rookies. Halberstadt has been waving the white flag for some time, mouthing off about compromises and trade-offs. This isn't a rummage sale, Al. This is Windsor's fate for the next century and beyond and you sound like someone prepared to auction it to the highest bidder. Not a becoming role."]

As I've indicated, when this, and I said this last night Tony, this started back in 2002 when the Governments announced $300 million dollars of funding. That's all they were prepared to invest was $300 million dollars in the City for a border solution. Because of the City of Windsor in part with the others, we were able to take that $300 and bring it to $1.6 billion. But today you've got study after study - not our study. Report after report - not our report. And expert after expert - not our experts, but their experts, the Province's experts saying what they are proposing to build will be damaging to the health of the residents of the city of Windsor. So we have an opportunity to correct that.

  • [Eddie is trying to confuse everybody again. He ought to know better than that.

    The $300 million that he talked about was part of the short and interim Border Infrastructure Fund money which should have built a road to the Ambassador Bridge.

    The $1.6 billion was for the long-term solution, something completely and totally different. That is the DRIC program money.

    Eddie never was able to get the $300 million increased to $1.6 billion. They are two separate and distinct programs and he knows it].

Having said that Tony, one last point. It's not our process. There still is another nine months left in this process by admission of DRIC. They cannot get a shovel in the ground and they have that written in their documents. Unfortunately, the political people in Toronto, the Ministers, are communicating a different message and are misleading the public to believe it's shovel ready. Even if we were to agree with the Province 100 percent with their Parkway proposal, even if we were to sign off on it today, it could not be shovel ready until the earliest 2010.

  • [I just find it so coincidental that everything is now going to start in 2010 if the Mayor is correct. Look at how much time has been wasted reviewing all of the City’s proposals: the Schwartz report, full tunneling, Greenlink, Son of Greenlink and their various permutations. Wasn’t 2010 the year that Ministers Duncan and Caplan said that money was really going to be available after their Gong Show performance in Windsor. I remember then Transport Minister Cansfield saying the same thing about money being available after 2010 in one of her pre-election comments.]

Host: Let's bring John Corrent back in. Your thoughts on this sir?

Corrent: Well I think first of all it's got to be clear. We're waiting now for the Environmental Assessment decision. That decision is going to come down in April. In April there's only three decisions that that Minister can make. It's approval, approval with conditions, or denied. If it's going to be approved and if it's approved with conditions, it can be taken right to the Cabinet, the Provincial Cabinet and shortcut those conditions or comes with some solution to that. There's methods by which we can get this thing done before 2010. The Mayor knows that. The Provincial Ministers know that. It's a matter of getting these two parties in a room and forging that agreement and cutting the double-talk and the posturing that we're seeing and hearing even now this morning.

Eddie: John -

  • [Poor Eddie. No "kill button" available for his use. No Procedural By-law he can wave around]

Corrent: Mayor you last night said there's only $100 million dollars between the province and this city. $100 million dollars over $1.6 billion dollar project? That's miniscule. There's got to be a solution out of $100 million dollars. Even if all the surrounding communities and Windsor contribute that sum.

Host: John -

Corrent: $100 million dollars shouldn't hold up a $1.6 billion dollar project. Last night you said that you didn't want to hold back the Ambassador Bridge. You would welcome the Ambassador Bridge for its construction. Well if you do, why did you commence a lawsuit across the river costing us $30,000 dollars to tell the Americans that we don't want this unless we got conditions attached to the agreement that promotes the City of Windsor?

  • [What a remarkable transformation in the Mayor. Remember when he called the Bridge Company the "enemy" and said that the Owner of the Bridge Company might put cement in the Tunnel to close it down if he got control of it.]

Host: Mr. Corrent I -

Corrent: There's a better way of handling that.

Host: Mr. Corrent excuse me. Let's allow the Mayor the opportunity to respond.

Eddie: Mr. Corrent first and foremost I work for the residents of the City of Windsor. I'm not here to represent the Province nor the Ambassador Bridge.

  • [A typical debating trick to create a strawman that doesn’t exist otherwise]

As a lawyer you should know the difference between a lawsuit and comments to the Coast Guard. As it relates to the Ambassador Bridge, let me tell you why the City of Windsor is making comments. The Ambassador Bridge expansion requires the closure of Huron Church Road to the river. We believe it's important for the Coast Guard to ask the Ambassador Bridge how they are going to re-establish that connection to our downtown once their expansion takes place.

  • [I know a way . Put up a big road sign just as American vehicles are exiting from the Bridge that says in big bold White Letters on a Green Background with an arrow pointing to the east saying "TO DOWNTOWN."]

So there's a very difference in terms of asking and putting submissions forward than commencing a lawsuit and as a lawyer you know that difference. So I would respectfully ask let's not further confuse the issue.

  • [The Mayor is well aware that what he is attempting to do is the equivalent of being successful in a lawsuit. He wants to convince the Coast Guard to change their decision with respect to the Bridge Company’s Project of "no significant impact."

    It is just that he does not have the guts to start a lawsuit because he knows that the Bridge Company would take action against him if he does. As I said before, I would sell tickets and fill up the East End Arena by showing a video of his cross- examination by a tough American litigator.

    I hardly believe that our Mayor/lawyer should be lecturing someone who has been in practice for 30 years about how to practise law.

    It is no wonder that Mr. Corrent’s Community is outraged at the Mayor’s insulting comments as are other members of the Windsor Community.]

As it relates to the Province of Ontario, are you serious?! You want the City and you want the towns to contribute to this project? In Toronto: $17.9 billion dollars, all Federal and Provincial dollars.

  • [I have no idea what the $17.9 billion represents but it is a big number and very impressive]

We have paid the price. We have paid the price to be the national and provincial artery to the global supply chain. We accept that responsibility. They have an obligation. The investment that they make here will be an investment for the next 100years.

  • [We have also received a price too. The border crossing has been the basis of our prosperity. Moreover, our future, if it is to be a transportation hub given that quarter million dollars that the Mayor is spending on a Foreign Consultant, also relies on our location at the border and having a proper border crossing.]

And with regards to the Environmental Assessment, as a lawyer you should also know this sir. The Environmental Assessment was a DRIC Environmental Assessment. You read the American documents; the American documents have clearly outlined a timetable. In the American documents as partners with the Canadian agencies, they say very clearly in black and white, the only thing that can take place in 2010 - utilities relocates with construction beginning in 2011 and construction completing 2015. That's in black and white. In fact, the Ministry of the Environment themselves in the recently released memo went after DRIC and went after the Province of Ontario asking them where your timelines are? It's not our process. It's their process.

  • [Again, another strawman with respect to the process being DRIC’s. Everybody knows it so what is he trying to accomplish? The point that he is overlooking, and that was the whole point of the CIBPA meeting, is to try and figure out a way to reduce that time by cooperating with the Senior Levels and with the Bridge Company.]

If I am correct in my view of what the Mayor wishes to accomplish by his stalling Road projects, then he has no interest whatsoever in moving forward quickly. He would only do so if the Senior Levels and the Bridge Company cave in to his demands, demands he is never told us about to date as far as I know.]

Host: Mister Francis, Mayor Francis forgive me. I'll have to break in. We're quickly running out of time. Last word to you Mr. Corrent.

Corrent: Yes. We could go on with this debate and I can rebut those statements, but all I'm saying is that I'm urging the politicians to get together and do a deal. Get these agreements done. We can go on and debate forever. It's not necessary to do that. The Mayor says we're not far apart. When we're not far apart, we should be sitting down and getting the job done and agreements forged. That's the message we want to send.

Host: Gentlemen sadly we have to leave it right there. I do appreciate your time this morning. John Corrent thank you so much.

Corrent: Thank you.

Host: Mayor Francis we appreciate your time sir. Thank you.

Eddie: Thank you to both of you. All the best.

Host: John Corrent is president of the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association in Windsor. Eddie Francis is of course Windsor's Mayor.