Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Border Blunder (Part 2)

Why did Minister Baird make the shocking comments he made and why now?

Why did he say that the Ambassador Bridge was not going to be allowed to be built and why did Dave Wake confirm that the DRIC bridge construction would be delayed? You don't really believe that Wake would say this on his own do you? That means for this region that there is no need for the DRIC road to be built now. And no jobs! Except for Eddie's canal and the "unprecedented investments" in municipal infrastructure designed to get him and his Councillor boot-lickers re-elected.

The truth has been there for other Ministers to state but none have done so. Was Baird so aghast at the Governmental duplicity that he is really protecting himself from criticism if he is the Minister responsible when the Auditor General does her report on this file? She just issued a damning report on federal bridges that report to his Department. Oh you barely saw mention of that in the Star!

Or is there a greater need to save the careers of many in Ottawa who are part of the 50 year Canadian Government program to take over the bridge for Canadian purposes? Did someone finally realize that Canada may never ever be able to do so if they are beaten by the Bridge Company again as they were in the FIRA litigation?

Is what Baird is doing nothing more that the result of sheer desperation that all is lost? After all, Prime Minister Harper has discussed the topic with both Presidents Bush and Obama and got nowhere. Is the new mandate from on high, since Baird would not dare act like this on his own, to do what needs to be done regardless of the consequences?

Is it "Now or Never" time? Can that be the simple explanation?

In the Schreiber/Mulroney inquiry news story recently, I read this strange comment:
  • “On Thursday, Oliphant pressed Schreiber on the issue, asking what Thyssen got for its $6.5 million. “Were you aware the understanding in principle was a meaningless document in terms of any obligation on the part of the government of Canada?” he asked…

    “I learned from Mr. Mulroney I shouldn’t care too much about this,” Schreiber said. “I had his word the project is going to happen, so what would I care what the bureaucrats did?”

    He said Thyssen officials also believed it would go ahead because they heard the same thing from the late Frank Moores and other lobbyists close to Mulroney.

    Testimony at the inquiry has shown key bureaucrats were opposed to the proposal, and that Perrin Beatty, the defence minister at the time, successfully insisted the “understanding in principle” be watered down to ensure it committed the government to nothing.”

Isn’t that the border file too? Pretend it means something but water it down so it means nothing! We believed it would go forward and be finished in 2013. If they said 2015 early on, then the demand for building the Enhancement Project bridge would have been overwhelming. Now it is ok to stall because 2013 was just a "goal."

Instead, for years, as we now know, there was no binding commitment to do anything. Remember as an example, the BIF $300M for the interim road to the border. Nothing was spent on it. We should have been the wiser. It was a phony offer since nothing was going to be done that might jeopardize DRIC.

How many times have we heard, as we did in Minister’s Baird’s speech again, that our crossing is important. Right Minister, so important that it has been delayed for 2 years out of the blue and the competitive project that is ready to go may never be built.

But that does not answer why the Minister spoke out now.

He had to do so and he had to pretend to be tough on the Bridge Company because every other excuse for trying to beat the Bridge Company has failed miserably. In other words, he had to say to the Americans that the bridge is going where Canada says it is going and hope and pray that it will work out that way. Or rather that Matty Moroun will really get scared now and sell out!

Given the failure of his Department to provide me with the investment grade surveys, I would suspect, notwithstanding Sean O’Dell’s claims, that the Government knows that traffic will be down for a long time. Even MDOT has said there is no need for a bridge until perhaps 2025 but that does not fit within Canada's timetable.

In addition, I doubt whether the P3 money is flowing in so that the project cannot be financed with all of the other calls on the Governments these days.

Security and redundancy can hardly be used as justification when the Government has backed off doing anything for 2 more years.

There is nothing else left to use as the excuse to build a DRIC bridge and what the Bridge Company wants to do is similar to what the Peace Bridge people are arguing now so how can they be legitimately stopped?

Baird’s colleague Ambassador Wilson still thought he might have a border role (why he has still not left office is beyond me, with mistake after mistake) and was Peter Van Loan making a play for his CBSA group to take charge of the border file when he talked about reverse customs in Windsor as a test? In-fighting at its finest in this incredible Conservative regime. Baird needs to act to protect his Department's role too.

So what choice did the Minister have but to slam the Bridge Company and tell the Americans that it was Canada’s way or no highway or bridge!

But it is the sheer arrogance of it all that I find so astounding. No apologies whatsoever for the phony stories over the past 7 years. No regrets for wasting $60m of taxpayer money. No sorries for stressing people and families worried over their homes and health. No consideration for people who were counting on getting some of those highly publicized, high paying infrastructure jobs.

Instead a denunciation of the people of the Bridge Company who facilitated trade by making the Bridge the #1 crossing and who solved border back-up problems after 9/11.

Baird made it clear that the power of the Government would now be used to wipe out the Bridge Company’s business.

Who dreamed up this stupidity? It does not matter. While he was at least honest, it is on Baird’s head now when this strategy falls apart. The others lucked out and won’t have to take the fall.

The poor Minister. He needs to scold his staff severely. If only he had contacted me, even informally, and he had ways to do so that were relatively obvious, he would have learned before he put his foot in his mouth how to solve the problem.

Minister Baird will learn that, in the end, it is so much easier giving out infrastructure goodies than being involved in this file that is a career ender.

Unfortunately, there are severe consequences to what will happen after the Minister's speech and the Dave Wake interview. He will have to learn the hard way now.

Did anyone think them through or was this just going to be another let's scare the Bridge Company into selling action.

To understand what will happen, and how bad this will be for the Government and for Canada, well you are just going to have to read the next chapter, dear reader.