Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Is the CP DRTP Sale Another April 1 Joke

I hope that the sale of a significant portion of CP’s interest in the DRTP Tunnel is not another April fool’s day joke like the juvenile one played by CKLW with respect to the East End Arena. That stunt probably will cost Eddie Francis 500 votes in the next election from people who still do not realize that it was all fun and games, for the CKLW staff anyway.

There is interestingly a lot of similarity between the DRTP and the CKLW jokes. They both were set up by people who believe that they are a lot smarter than Windsorites and that they can manipulate us. I bet they had a terrific time thinking about it and carrying out their agenda as we fell for it.

I am happy that DRTP seems to be dead. But who knows if it really is since CP still maintains an interest in the Partnership. However from some of the news reports, it seems that CP needs the cash and $100 million isn’t too shoddy a number to help fix their balance sheet. And OMERS can pretend that this is a sound investment in infrastructure to people who don’t know any better as part of their shift away from the equity markets. Who knows as well from an accounting perspective whether it defers writing down the asset for another few years.

I have always felt very angry in this border file. I know that I and others in the City are being manipulated and played. I feel like a puppet with someone pulling my strings. Something is done here and I react in an expected fashion. Something is done there and I react accordingly. It is all a big game. I can just picture these people sitting around, laughing and having a good time at my expense, and yours.

All I can do, to be blunt about it, is to sit back and react to what is going on around me without really understanding the big picture. I do try, as you can tell from the various theories that I express either directly or through Deep Throat. I’m getting better at it I think and getting closer to the truth as this file is starting to unwind. Still, it is disappointing that those in positions of power have to act in such an underhanded manner. It is eye-opening and sad at the same time.

Who are these people? I have my suspicions. Obviously, a number of them are bureaucrats. Clearly, there are politicians and ex-politicians. Undoubtedly there are some big money boys who can see the huge profits to be made in P3 deals, or rather even the newly redefined P3 deals that are now said to be just like home mortgages. There is no doubt whatsoever that media people are involved as well and academics.

This started as an economic nationalist idea with the Ambassador Bridge being a symbol of American Imperialism in Canada that had to be destroyed by having Canada take it over. Added on to this over the years was the understanding that the Bridge was a key trade link between Canada and the United States. It became vital for Canada to control it in order to ensure that our goods and goods imported from Asia through our ports had a readily accessible market into the United States. Canada had to ensure that it controlled corridors and gateways so that even if the US became protectionist, as it now seems to be under President Obama, Canada nevertheless had a way around any rules that the Americans might apply to the rest of the world. Finally, added onto all of this was money, the huge profits to be made in P3 deals, especially in management fees.

This is a Canadian–run file that has gone on for 50 years as I have Blogged before. That means at the least that there are Ottawa people involved i.e. the Canadian Federal Government. There are some people in Ontario who are part of this but they are really bit players, not the big stars. At the local level too, I suspect so.

In the end though, an international border crossing is a federal matter and the Federal Government has ultimate control and the ultimate interest. Accordingly, the Feds have to be running this operation. It is hardly a small matter either. Prime Minister Harper has discussed our border crossing at least twice in face-to-face meetings with President Bush and once with President Obama. Our little Windsor/Detroit crossing has risen to that height!

As far as the Americans are concerned, my belief is that it is more at the State level than Federal. I believe that they have been duped. They have been fooled into believing that they can achieve their goals by bringing in a pot of gold from P3 investors because the State does not have the money to accomplish certain objectives. Moreover, if the project is handled by nongovernmental people, then it is a way around controls by the State Legislature. MDOT I am sure would rather avoid having to deal with Senate Republicans. Once the deal is structured, they never have to see the Legislators again!

Of course I have a biased point of view because of my position as General Counsel of STOPDRTP. I believed that it was a bad project when I first got involved in early 2003. I thought that it would destroy Windsor. It did not make any sense to me to put a truck highway right through the middle of a City and have a golf course sized Customs Plaza that would spew pollution in the heart of Windsor. I had lived through Bill Davis stopping the Allen Expressway when I resided in Toronto before it ruined that City. I thought the same thing here. Only it was worse because of the trucks only.

You may find this a surprise given how much time I have devoted to the border file but I honestly do not believe that there ever was any intention of building the DRTP truck tunnel using the existing crossing. It took me a long time to come to that conclusion.

I believe that DRTP and STOPDRTP as a reaction to it were completely expected and had an ulterior purpose. That purpose was part of an effort designed to frighten the Owner of the Bridge Company into selling the Ambassador Bridge to the Canadian Government.

I have said that before with respect to DRIC but I believe now that it started even earlier than that with DRTP. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Government people involved were very pleased to see this project moving forward even though they knew in the end that it would never be approved.

To be blunt, the DRTP people did a terrific job in convincing so many people and groups that it was a fabulous project that should be supported. Their supporters were many and were powerful. I must admit that if I was the Bridge Owner I would have been quite worried. But then again I am not and he probably was not concerned.

In fact, the rise of STOPDRTP actually helped those behind the initiative initially. The more vociferous we became and the more outspoken, the more likely it would terrorize the Owner into believing that DRTP really was an entity that could take away half of his business almost immediately. Heck, Mike Hurst when he was Mayor was so concerned about DRTP that he hired David Estrin!

After all, if you remember the Rail Lands Bylaw Issue, it was only by a fluke that I discovered that the rezoning probably would have allowed a DRTP road to be built. If they had achieved the rezoning, it did not matter about all of our protests. DRTP could have started on its project and that would have put terrific pressure on the Owner to sell out rather than lose half of his business.

Unfortunately for those behind this initiative, they did not understand that STOPDRTP was not going to go away but was going to stick around for much longer than they ever expected that it would. Our success in scaring politicians at all levels probably hurt what these people thought that they would achieve with the DRTP project and resulted in the need for DRIC to move forward as a pressure point to force out the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

You ought to go back and read my BLOG “February 22, 2006 A Waste Of Three Years.” That to me was probably the most important BLOG that I have written. I discovered that:
  • “A Report on the "Michigan-Ontario Railroad Border Crossing Infrastructure" was completed in December 1991… I am shocked that MDOT has been sitting on a document that effectively killed a DRTP-type project in 1991! If this kind of a project made no sense, then why was this not brought forward right away. Why did DRTP have to be examined and only now eliminated?”

    …Frankly, if I were the Mayor and Council of Detroit, I would demand to see a copy of it and then go and visit the Governor and State Legislators in Lansing. I would want the answer from MDOT why my City was being discriminated against!

    The Canadian Governments should be outraged that MDOT did not give them this Report or did they have it also hidden away somewhere?

    The Governor and Prime Minister need to reconsider immediately the value of DRIC while the Michigan legislators need to start their hearings immediately and ask what else is there that has not been revealed.

    On top of all of that, the border crossing traffic projections in the Report are of considerable interest. Actual facts prove that they are absolutely wrong!’

The only explanation that I had for this non-disclosure of a key report that was around for a decade and more was that DRTP had a purpose and it was not to be a border crossing. My belief became that it was a terror tactic as DRIC is also and such supplementary actions as the passing of Bill C-3, the International Bridges and Tunnels Act.

This completely changed my perspective on the border file. That report plus some other things that I learned confirmed to me that we have never been told the truth in this file and that it is being hidden from us. There is much more behind all of this than we will ever know.

I came to the conclusion that the Canadian Governments were working together as one to beat the Bridge Company. I viewed the so-called fighting and animosity amongst the three Governments in Canada as nothing more than squabbling over who gets what piece of East Europe as they were fighting Eddie’s “enemy.”

I understood what the Schwartz Report and Greenlink were really all about. The DRIC Road that would never be built to the Ambassador Bridge was designed to squeeze traffic away from the Bridge. The City’s Heritage actions in Sandwich and with the Interim Control and Demolition bylaws were nothing more than pressure tactics. Canada has still never yet approved the Enhancement Project Environmental Assessment. We still see it today with silly articles like those in the Free Press that discuss “security” and Eddie’s rants about health since the fundamental basis for the DRIC project supposedly, traffic volumes, has collapsed.

Do you not see the irony in all of this. If we really were concerned about security then we would have allowed the Enhancement Project bridge to be built already.

Each of the Governments had a role to play within their Constitutional jurisdiction. The Feds over the Bridge, the Province over the road and the City with respect to social issues dealing specifically with respect to Sandwich.

The whole planning was a beauty to behold by brilliant people who are prepared to spend $60 million and more of taxpayer money to accomplish their objectives, who are prepared to risk the relationship between Canada and the United States to achieve their goals and whose mission has completely been destroyed because they underestimated their opponent and did not understand his and his family’s desire to maintain the ownership of the Bridge.

Back to DRTP. In my opinion, biased as it is, DRTP divided our community in a way that never should have happened. It never should have been promoted because it was never going to take place. It stayed around longer than it should have and kept morphing into whatever it seemed was trendy at the time. It was a long-term solution, then the short-term one. Initially it was aboveground and then it was to be tunneled with Greenspace on top. It did not matter. Whatever you wanted it to be, DRTP became.

I am not unhappy to see it go if it really is gone. It is a sad chapter in the history of Windsor.

But it is more. It is a symbol of deception by those in power. It is despicable. It is criminal in the way people have been treated. We are nothing more than pawns to be used just like the people in Delray who have been shafted by their Governments who promised them the world.

I know people who sold their homes or who thought seriously about selling their homes because of the DRTP Truck Expressway. They worried about their investment, their health and that of their children. Businesses suffered because of their proximity to what was going to be a major truck expressway. Can anyone appreciate the anguish and the pressure that some people were put under because this plan was put forward so seriously and with the spending of so much money?

Think about it though from Windsor’s perspective. We have been playing this game since late 2002. Our economy is collapsing in this region. Supposedly money is available, billions of dollars of it for infrastructure from Government and from the Bridge Company who wants to move forward on a project. Not a penny has been spent and there is no likelihood in the near term that much of it will be spent to create thousands of high-paying jobs that will tide over this City until such time as we are able to diversify our economy.

The CIBPA meeting was nothing more than a reflection of our anger, our worry and our frustration. Jobs are disappearing, house values are crashing and businesses are going bankrupt.

Do the Governments care? Hardly. All we get are the usual platitudes about how important this crossing is to the economies of Canada and United States but no action. Instead money is spent in Sarnia and in Fort Erie.

Was DRTP used as a tool by these people as well? I think so. For that, they should be upset as well because it cost them a lot of money.

We do not need a lawsuit to stop the border crossing being completed. Given the experience with the decade long FIRA matter, it will take a generation to be resolved. If we do have to have one, and I truly hope we do not for the sake of Windsorites, I hope Matty Moroun does it. It would be nasty and bitter and eye-opening. I hope that he takes these people to Court and forces them to open up their files so we can learn the truth. Examination for discovery with excellent litigators will put a lot of people at risk personally and will disclose what we only merely suspect.

I want to know who these people are and you ought to as well. I want to learn how much money they have cost taxpayers. I want to know how they have tried to destroy a business. I want to know how they have tried to destroy our Community. I want them dealt with too and in the most severe fashion.

Where is the Auditor General of Canada? Where is the Auditor General of Ontario? Why aren’t they working together on this most disturbing of files, probably for the first time in their histories, since it is a joint matter involving two levels of Government? It is time someone took an interest.

Goodbye DRTP. I really am glad to see you going.