Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 15, 2009

Border Blunder (Part 3)

It is Truth And Consequences time. It is clear to me that no one on Baird's Ministerial staff has thought through what the impact of the Government's actions will be not only in Canada but in the US as well.

They might even find that the attempted demonization of Matty Moroun may backfire as well. You see, most people already think that he has won and are tired of the stalling! The reality of the Ambassador Gateway project has a way of changing people's minds in his favour! Even on the US side, a so-called planned big protest against him this last weekend only brought out a handful of people as the Detroit press reported!

Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in Parliament should have a terrific time of it, accusing the Government of not telling the truth after the Minister's speech and Dave Wake interview. I even think that the American's Canada desk in Washington might finally understand what is going on but I expect that they have an inkling of it already. After all, isn't that why Canada is now being placed in parity with the Mexican border.

I will deal with the Ambassador Bridge border lawsuit in another BLOG but the allegations made by the Bridge Company if true are so serious and devastating that they should give IGGY a tremendous opportunity to attack how Harper is dealing with our closest neighbour and biggest trading partner. Where Harper is single-handedly antagonizing the Americans to our detriment, given his great relationship with Obama colleagues, Iggy alone can save Canada from economic destruction! No wonder the smear ads by the Conservatives against him already!

A border is a border is a border in US Homeland Security eyes these days. And there is no doubt after the standoffish Obama/Harper meeting that NAFTA-gate has not been forgotten.

Unfortunately, Baird is responsible for his Department and whatever they have done. Under our system, as Minister he takes the hit even if he is "innocent." And it will be bad for him! Let me count the ways:


Didn’t anyone warn Baird that he has to pretend to be fair or else judicial review can mean that the process may need to start over! He cannot mouth off and say what the result of the EA should be in advance. Who does he think he is---Flaherty and Duncan on P3s or Duncan, Pupatello and McGuinty on border roads!

Why his newest and bestest buddy has paid huge amounts of taxpayer money for Estrin to give the Bridge Company a case for judicial review on a silver platter too. Baird's remarks the icing on the cake!

I would think that the Bridge Company has a very easy argument about bias or even a reasonable apprehension of bias. As the Supreme Court of Canada has said:
  • “A reasonable apprehension of bias arises where there exists a reasonable probability that the judge might not act in an entirely impartial manner.”

As Dan Stamper has pointed out:

  • “The same bureaucrats in charge of the DRIC process are the people responsible for approvals of the Ambassador Bridge project. This creates a group of bureaucrats as a competitor of the Ambassador Bridge at the government-owned Sarnia-Port Huron bridge, and creates a direct conflict since they are judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to the Ambassador Bridge projects."

How can they possibly get a fair hearing considering what various Ministers have said with Baird being the latest?

It brought back memories of Ministers Cannon and Cansfield and the Schwartz Report image of 4-lane Huron Church Road and Dave Wake’s DRIC road position. It is not a surprise when Baird said

  • “We've got to reduce (truck) congestion in Windsor and Huron Church Road and do things better," Baird said."

If this is "better," then he needs "better" advisors!


Baird is now very clear that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project will not move forward.

How then can an 80 year old bridge be rehabilitated properly? Simple, it cannot be done easily and in a timely fashion. It is also more expensive but who cares. It comes out of the Bridge Company's pockets.

Keeping on closing down lanes is expensive and disruptive of traffic. Perhaps nothing will happen until the new bridge is built and then traffic can be directed there while the Ambassador Bridge is fixed up. What a way to train truck drivers and passenger cars on how to find the new bridge.

But it is more than that. As a 4-lane bridge it is also less competitive for FAST and NEXUS vehicles too.

This action, especially with the road system, is designed to keep the profitable truck traffic away from the border. Even the Minister has said about low traffic volumes now:

He is admitting that there is not enough traffic, not enough for about 20 years! I can guess now what the investment grade traffic surveys say and why they are kept hidden.

What that means is that an extra crossing without sufficient volumes will cannibalize the other ones as DRIC has already admitted saying the new Bridge will take traffic from the other crossings in Detroit and Sarnia.

In Windsor/Detroit

  • “A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative.”

Will the other crossings be subsidized? It is now abundantly clear that the Government ones will be since the Government taxpayer purse is bottomless but not the private enterprise one. Let IT go bankrupt and then take it over. What a change from what the Senate was told:

  • “Ms. Marcoux: The intent of this bill is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge.’.

    The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge…

    It is not the intent of the government to penalize. If we were to penalize or drive the business away from the Ambassador Bridge today, we would create problems with respect to other bridges. Why would we want to do that?

    It serves a purpose, and it is an important purpose. The government is giving itself that tool to be able to intervene in case a problem arises and there is a need to intervene. Right now, it has absolutely no tools or power to do so.

    Senator Phalen: I understand that. I have no problem with oversight. I have no problem with that at all. I think the government should have it. That is not my issue.

    Is there anything in this bill that guarantees traffic? If the volume of traffic on the Ambassador Bridge last year was so many cars, is there anything in this bill that would guarantee that? If you build another bridge, do you reduce the amount of traffic? Will everyone lose?

    Ms. Marcoux: Market forces are what will make these bridges survive, period.

    There is a need to have an additional crossing. It has been recognized by everyone involved in these files. The crossings that are in existence, including the new one, will survive by market forces. We do not have any intention to intervene in that process, other than if there is an emergency or it is necessary.

It would be clearly necessary for the Government to step in and protect its new bridge and other ones won’t it! But not the old and out-of-date private bridge.


Since the PM wants to change fundamentally its nature, there is no need to take it seriously. Pack the Senate with people who agree in advance to support the PM's point of view and then introduce legislation to change it.

No need to worry what you tell them and who cares what they say. Remember in their Observations to the passing of Bill C-3, the Senate said:

  • “In response to questions about this concern, federal officials unequivocally stated that the Minister of Transport would divert traffic only to avoid congestion. To quote one official, “redirecting traffic would only be used where there is a need to allow free movement of goods and people.” Your Committee supports the Minister of Transport’s use of this provision to alleviate traffic problems if and when required, but not to interfere otherwise.”

Sure, build a DRIC road that will take away most of the Bridge Company traffic! Is that “redirecting” and “diverting?”

  • “On the question of the federal government’s potential involvement in future international crossing projects, your Committee heard suggestions that the provisions in the bill that allow the Minister of Transport to recommend to the Governor in Council whether or not to approve a project would lead to a substantial conflict of interest for the Minister…Therefore, given the autonomous ownership and operational arrangements established for existing federal structures, your Committee is confident that the Minister of Transport will not be in a position of conflict of interest in the future. However, the Minister of Transport should be particularly sensitive to any situation where the federal government is in a situation where there is an appearance of conflict, especially when the interests of a private enterprise are at stake.”

After Minister Baird’s Windsor comments, he has some explaining to do! However, given that he has trouble with Commons committees and appearing as the National Post outlined, I doubt that he will take the Liberal Senate Observations too seriously.


Let’s see now how the Governments operate to help out competitors of the Bridge Company, public and private. You will understand then how easy it would be to subsidize its competitors too:

  •  A half a billion dollars and more for the plaza for the public bridges in Port Huron/Sarnia

  •  Money for the Buffalo/Fort Erie/Niagara area bridges

  •  Preventing the Bridge Company from doing a Tunnel deal in Detroit and offering money to the City but not enough unfortunately for Eddie

  •  $20M for Tunnel Plaza improvements

  •  Money for the truck ferry

It gets even better now too:

  • “John Baird, Canada's Transport and Infrastructure Minister, announced today that as a result of collaboration by the governments of Canada and the United States, as well as Canadian Pacific (CP), rail cargo security at North America's busiest commercial border crossing has been further enhanced by a joint investment of $8 million to secure a 7.5-km stretch of the CP rail corridor.”

And CP/OMERS are not ashamed to ask for money either. I assume that OMERS needs some big infrastrucutre projects if it is to be a Superfund:

  • “The Canadian Pacific Railway is seeking funding from the federal government to build a new tunnel under the Detroit River that can accommodate taller trains, a senior company official said Wednesday.

    The $400-million border-crossing tunnel would run parallel to the current one, Christopher Jones, CP Rail's manager of infrastructure, told the Hub '09 International Multimodal Conference in Windsor.

    "We need government support through the (Ontario-Quebec Continental) Gateway initiative to make it happen," he said.”

While Baird can say it is not high on his priority list, we’ll see about it tomorrow:

  • “CP is in discussions with the government over how much it might contribute to build the proposed new tunnel, Jones said. CP was told the earliest funds will be granted through the gateway initiative is 2010, he said.”

Gee, 2010 is only 7 months away!


I have spoken already about Ambassador Wilson’s ridiculous strategy about how to deal with the US. Now Minister Baird completely destroys our relationship.

MDOT’s spokesperson states:

  • “We need to be competitive against other border crossings. Right now, we need a modern, fully functioning Ambassador Bridge. We need a DRIC bridge ... all that to be in place when the economy recovers."

Baird is telling Michigan that they cannot have that kind of an Ambassador Bridge, only what Canada wants and where.

Canada’s position re the impact of a bridge in Canada means that the US will be hurt more than Canada. After all, a bridge at the Ambassador Bridge site would hurt neither country. One of the underlying principles of the DRIC project is that neither Country should bear an unfair burden as a result of the construction of the international crossing. In practice however, the overwhelming burden has been placed on United States and in the Delray community in Southwest Detroit in particular which will be wiped out.

Canada’s actions are designed to cost the US hundreds of millions of dollars right after after they built the Ambassador Gateway project which cost a quarter of a billion dollars. After all, it was designed to accommodate a second bridge.

Why would the Americans go along with it and build a new plaza and bridge a mile or so away unless they had some undrstanding that a P3 firm would finance most of it anyway. A firm I am sure that will finance the Canadian side and the ultra-expensive DRIC road.

No one would do so without a guarantee and I am sure that Canada would supply one. And then when the new DRIC Bridge goes broke and Canada is forced to take it over under its guarantee, guess who is in control of the most important border crossing in North America!

No one would be any wiser. There would be no outrage or complaints of a foreign country taking over an important access road into the US since it was a mere “financial” issue caused by the world-wide economic crisis. Why it almost sounds like what could happen at the Tunnel too if Windsor had taken it over and defaulted so that Infrastructure Ontario would have had to be the border operator. The US was not concerned about that. A nice test for the bridge.

How convenient. No one would think that it was part of Canada’s Corridors and Gateways policy. No one except the Americans who are responsible for:

  • US. begins beefing up Canadian border security

    High above the rugged border, an unmanned Predator B drone equipped with night-vision cameras and cloud-piercing radar scanned the landscape for signs of smugglers, illegal immigrants or terrorists.

    Armed agents checked the identification of border crossers while radiation sensors and other devices monitored vehicles entering by road. Soon, a new network of telescopic and infrared video cameras mounted atop 80-foot-tall metal towers will rise above critical locations.

    The beefed-up border security is not taking place along America's chaotic southern border - riven by drug smuggling, gun running and illegal immigration - but, rather, its traditionally boring northern boundary with Canada.

    The changes have jarred communities along the 3,987-mile border - the longest undefended border in the world.”

No wonder the orchestrated smear campaign against Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano!

Now you will understand how awful Baird's and Wake's actions are. Actually, if Daryl Newcombe of Eh-Channel had not done the interviews, we might not have been the wiser.

Canada's actions are fraught with danger since we are taking on the Americans and even acting in an unacceptable manner with our own institutions of governmental responsibility.

I wish I knew what was really going on. There is no doubt that Baird's actions were deliberate and approved at the highest levels. This is a micro-managed Government after all.

However, I expect the whole truth is not yet out. We still have to get confirmation that the DRIC bridge is not going to be built. Ever! Rather, another bridge will really be built beside the Ambassador Bridge. There are lots of ways that can be explained away, the unfair destruction of Delray being the most obvious.

So what is this all about? Not too hard to understand. It is a continuation of the terrorize the Bridge Company because they will think we are really going to build the DRIC Bridge campaign. However, is it more than that, a new plan designed to provoke a lawsuit from the Bridge Ccompany to demonize them further so that punitive Government action can be taken.

That sounds about right. A two-country co-ordinated attack on a private enterprise company. What the heck, if Governments can take over banks and insurance companies using trillions of dollars of taxpayer money and force auto companies into bankruptcy with the resulting loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in plants and dealerships, what is a mere bridge company!