Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 08, 2009

Will Minister Baird Ever Come Back To Windsor

I would be holding my stomach too and grimacing if I was the Minister after my Windsor visit.

I am sure that Transport Canada Minister John Baird is a very nice man who wants to do the right thing. But is he in big trouble now.

The poor fellow is so tied up in playing Santa Claus in giving out infrastructure money to communities across the country so the Conservatives can be re-elected errrrr for our economic recovery that he has had to rely on his officials for what is going on in Windsor.

Does he get any thanks for what he is doing----Here is what those nasty Liberals are saying about him:
  • Baird fails to create jobs with economic stimulus and infrastructure funds

    OTTAWA – Transport Minister John Baird has yet to provide any job creation details for infrastructure and economic stimulus funds, Liberal Infrastructure Critic Gerard Kennedy and Public Works Critic Martha Hall Findlay said today.

    Mr. Baird has failed to explain how the $4-billion economic stimulus fund will be spent, and has been unable to answer any questions about the stimulus fund’s central job creation objective throughout the spring session of Parliament – including how many jobs have been created or even how many the fund is expected to create.

    In a departmental briefing yesterday, Infrastructure Canada officials admitted that they do not track job creation, even though the government has promised to create 190,000 jobs.”

As for relying on public servants for what is happening in Windsor, oh what a mistake that is! What was his Ministerial staff thinking? Windsor may well be his downfall. Provided the City of Ottawa trial does not hurt him first:

  • Judge's ruling in influence-peddling case of Ottawa politician will allow for instant news

    The trial is expected to be closely followed in Ottawa, but it will also have national repercussions. The charges against Mr. O'Brien are related to an alleged offer of a federal position to entice a political adversary to drop out of an election, and the opposition parties will be watching for testimony from Conservative officials.

    Transport Minister John Baird and the director of appointments in the Prime Minister's Office, Dave Penner, are expected to be called as witnesses.”

Or this strange story in the National Post the other day:

  • “David Akin: What's John Baird hiding from?

    Update: Baird's office offers an explanation

    The House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (known on the Hill as OGGO) asked that John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities, to appear for before it. Yesterday, some odd e-mail correspondence was distributed to reporters by the press relations people in Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's office. "

You know what happened in Windsor that has just continued on the canal saga past the point of interest. Why is he helping out Eddie so much or is it to salvage Jeff Watson's political career? Doesn't his staff read the papers or brief him before he comes down here?

Whatever happened to: "No comment." Or "That is a local matter for Council to deal with."

They still have not answered my questions that I Blogged the other day since I suspect the answers will be embarrassing. Heck, they should read my BLOG if they want information. I could have helped the poor Minister out but no one contacted me.

There was a landmine waiting for the Minister and he stepped on it. I hope it is not fatal to his Ministerial career if the Opposition parties play it properly:

  • Canal can get federal cash
    Not too late, minister says

    The deadline has passed, but Windsor still has an opportunity to receive federal funding for a $48-million downtown canal project, Canada's transportation and infrastructure minster said Wednesday.

    City council declined on Friday to place the canal on a list of federal stimulus projects, missing a May 1 deadline.

    But John Baird suggested Wednesday the project could be included when Ottawa reveals its infrastructure allocation to the city.

    "The deadline was Friday, but we hope to come forward in short order on further economic stimulus for Windsor which badly needs it," said the minister, in Windsor for a border transportation conference at Caesars Windsor.”

Oh my goodness. Did he ever step in the doo-doo. As Councillor Marra stated:

  • “This (Baird's statement) is surprising because part of the pressure last week there was this May 1 deadline."

Now the NDP and then Iggy have a terrific opportunity to blow him out of the water in Question Period over what Joe and Brian wrote to him about. As I Blogged the other day:

  • Political interference---the involvement of individual members of parliament interfering in the determination of federal spending.

    No money for crucial projects, just for VISIONS---projects submitted would not meet the criteria of the federal spending program even though they are for essential infrastructure needs taken from the capital budget the city had in place

    Pork politics---insinuation that infrastructure decisions are not being made by professionals at the department using clear and objective standards but rather by individual members of parliament in the government's caucus.”

Baird could ignore them except that they are setting out the Auditor General’s concerns:

  • “Auditor General wants clear rules before stimulus billions

    OTTAWA — Auditor General Sheila Fraser says the federal government should be prepared to defend its ‘rationale’ for changing any rules or processes and spell out who is accountable in its race to get stimulus money out the door.

    Canada’s best-known spending watchdog laid out her expectations for the management of stimulus money in a recent letter to Treasury Board Secretary Wayne Wouters as her office prepares for a sweeping and unprecedented audit into the expected spending frenzy of the next two years.”

Can you imagine the mess that Minister Baird could be in over the canal fiasco now if money is given out improperly. It can be a career ender! I would suggest that Baird and his minions read Chris Schnurr’s BLOG “An Infrastructure Boondoggle in the making.”

However, it is the border file where the Minister’s aides did him in! All of this time Transport Canada was going to be fair to the Ambassador Bridge's application to build its Enhancement Project. Not any more:

  • Minister links new bridge, jobs
    Rival proposal for twin span dismissed

    Federal Transportation minister John Baird said Wednesday his government is committed to building a downriver bridge in Windsor and dismissed the Ambassador Bridge's twin span proposal…

    Asked about the Ambassador Bridge's twin span proposal, Baird responded: "I don't think it works for the community's best interests or environmentally."

Nothing like biasing the process. I know that the Canadian Government wants the Bridge Company to sue them for whatever purpose but did they have to make it so easy. I guess it was not enough that Eddie had Estrin give them their legal case twice with his multi-hour talks at Council. Baird now was convinced that he should do it too.

Now restarting DRIC can be blamed on him by everyone---a terrific career booster for him.

I found his comments on DRIC very persuasive, and I am sure that Matty Moroun was shaking, except for one small, tiny detail:

  • “This bridge will be built," said Baird in a keynote address at the International Multimodal Conference at Caesars Windsor.

    Baird said the federal government is "committed to move full speed ahead on getting a new Detroit-Windsor bridge built and will do everything we can to move forward quickly…"

    “We are committed to it. We've got the money, the plan and in short order the approvals we need."

That little detail: the time-period changed. It is now 2015 for completion, 2 years later. Maybe. You see, 2013 was never the real deadline for the end of construction; 2013 was merely a convenient way to fool the public for years errrrr “goal to focus on” according to DRIC’s Dave Wake.

It is not a big surprise with no traffic justification and no P3 money around and with Michigan saying a new bridge might not be needed for decades.

Nevertheless, nothing like having a DRIC subordinate, and one who works for the Ontario Liberal Government, cut him off at the knees. Dalton, Dwight and Sandra must be laughing themselves silly. As is Matty!

I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the Minister at the least. I certainly do because he has confirmed everything I have Blogged about. This is nothing more than an anti-Moroun crusade for which Governments have wasted $60M in unnecessary DRIC studies on both sides of the border. $60M!!! What we could have done in Windsor with that!

I heard that Baird was a pretty tough guy with his Department as a Cabinet Minister. I wonder whose fiefdom he has ruffled at Transport. They just left him hung out to dry with Parliament by his speech. Oh my goodness, when the Opposition gets through with him, the poor Prime Minister’s plans will be shot down. We in Canada will be grateful to people whom the Government least expects. Stephen will NOT be amused.

I would tell you what he has done to US/Canada relations and how he has set that back but that might be too upsetting to him and his staff once they understand what his speech has done as well. I certainly hope that his PR people will be able to salvage this since they are doing such a fantastic job for him. Needless to say, Ambasssador Wilson is probably pleased that he has someone now with whom to share the blame as our exports get cut off.

I will Blog some more about this later on and fill in the details. Infrastructure failure, Ottawa trial, National Post, Windsor. Which one may hurt the Minister the most. Who knows. It is all relative after all.