Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Contractor Tear Down This Wall

Wow, I bet the Premier is relieved. He looked so tense in media shots recently. Lack of sleep perhaps. He must have been tossing and turning at night wondering what his colleagues would say.

Fortunately, the Cabinet approved the DRIC road project. I am sure that none of them felt intimidated by what the Premier said previously about it. He would have been so embarrassed if they had decided otherwise. He might have had to resign since that would be a vote of non-confidence in him.
  • "Premier endorses parkway plan; 'Eager' to move on it

    Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the Windsor Essex Parkway proposal "strikes the right balance" and didn't mention the city's rival GreenLink plan during a quick swing though Windsor Friday.

    "I recognize that not everybody is going to be absolutely ebullient and enthusiastic about this proposal and I understand that," said McGuinty following a lunch-time speech to about 400 people at the Caboto Club. "But our responsibility at some point in time is to make a call and we stand by that and we will be judged on that. I understand that and I accept that, but that's the responsibility of leadership."

Whether the courts feel the same, who knows. They might listen to our Mayor on this one when he litigates as he must now do to save us and future generations:

  • MAYOR FRANCIS: anyways, back to your point in terms of the Premier. I fundamentally disagree with the Premier. The Premier’s comments that it’s the responsibility of leadership to make decisions. Okay. It’s the responsibility of leadership to make the right decision in difficult circumstances…When other cities are adopting GreenLink concepts and putting them into place to become economic competitiveness, doesn’t the Premier have a responsibility to sit back and say shouldn’t we look at doing things differently? And that’s where the Premier’s responsibility lies. More importantly, the Premier has an obligation to ensure that the integrity of the Environmental Assessment is not compromised. And that he put this process in place. He agreed to this process. This process…

    JOHN FAIRLEY: Do you think he crossed a line with his comments?

    MAYOR FRANCIS: Well I think his comments…

    JOHN FAIRLEY: You’re a lawyer?

    MAYOR FRANCIS: I, I believe his comments are very prejudicial because basically, and I don’t need, you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand this or appreciate it. DRIC is in the City of Windsor and DRIC is saying we have until December the 12th to respond to the current proposal. The Premier’s coming down on December the 5th, seven days before submission deadline and says don’t even bother. There’s an inconsistency and they can only answer it."

Someone in Dwight Duncan's office, whoever wrote his speech, is a TV-aholic but with a sense of humour.

How else to describe Dwight's take-off of the line on the Extreme Make-over Home Edition TV show when he asked for the symbolic tearing down of the building beside the Railway tracks to start the construction of the Howard Avenue grade separation. What this has to do with DRIC I am not sure but it's a great photo-op.

That project we were told was won by Jenny Coco's company so presumably it should have lots of local content and local jobs.

It is a significant project for the area, one that we have wanted apparently for "generations" like the Walker road one. It is all part of the $300M BIF money although a good chunk if it was supposed to have gone to build an interim road to the Ambassador Bridge. Not a penny was spent on that.

There are 4 other interesting aspects to the story:

1) It signals in this area the start of the next Provincial election campaign. As you will remember after the $500M Gong Show fiasco with Dwight and after former Ontario Transport Minister Cansfield's 2010 reamark, we knew that nothing was going to happen until after 2010 and right before the next provincial election. The world economic meltdown, especially the negative employment impact in Windsor where 2 Ministers reside, and the need for jobs moved up the announcements time-table but not necessarily the real project one.

2) The Provincial Liberals may feel that there could be a fall federal election. They could NOT allow the Conservatives to get all the job-creation glory for Jeff Watson and perhaps Eddie too. The announcement pre-empted the Feds. Isn't a near-Depression fun to get votes by spending taxpayer money?

3) Now we know why Dwight and Sandra followed by the Star had a recent flurry of bridge stories and Greenlink stories. They needed the Feds to commit to be on the hook for major spending to help the Province pay for the DRIC road. World-class bridge, world-class Greenlink---awwww come on Stephen, you can part with a few extra bucks to help out have-not Ontario with their major project too!

4) This announcement really had nothing to do with the road or engineering or getting trucks and passenger cars across the border. It all had to do with jobs, jobs, jobs or at least the appearance of creating thousands of them, which to a politician is the same thing

  • Today, the McGuinty government is announcing the completion of the Windsor-Essex Parkway Environmental Assessment. Once full construction begins on the parkway the creation of 12,000 jobs is anticipated.

  • The announcement took place at the site of the Howard Avenue CPR Grade Separation. This project will create some 400 local jobs and is a part of the joint Canada-Ontario $300 million Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy

  • Taken together with the Howard Ave project, this year’s investment in the Parkway will be more than $125 million and create approximately 1,300 jobs here in Windsor.

  • The Parkway will create thousands of jobs for our local workers. It is proof of how communities and local governments can work together to create something that will benefit us now in the present and for future generations.

Here are some impressions I had of the big, significant Detroit River International Crossing Study Announcement:

  • Classiest moment: when Dwight Duncan ensured that the very visibly expecting Sacha Long of Eh-Channel News had a chair to sit down on while the politicians droned on for 20 or so minutes in the warm sun. I told you that Dwight was Honourable

  • Greenlink is now dead. Oh there were the ususal Greenlink platitudes as it was rejected out of hand by DRIC. I guess we will know that Eddie has given up finally once the banner comes down at Council Chambers.

  • Amazing...the Detroit Free Press posted their story of the announcment at 10:45 AM while the politicos were still talking. They beat CKLW by 8 minutes and the Star by an eternity. Who gave them the details well in advance?

  • Whoever writes the politician's stuff needs to stop living in the past. I thought I heard the number 14M vehicle crossings a year and about truck backups which have not happened for eons, especially after the Bridge Company built their new booths. If this is what is believed, along with Sean O'Dell's traffic comments, it is no wonder that the DRIC project is a Mega-Project run amuk. The press release did talk about "Each year more than 12 million cars, trucks and buses... flow between Canada and the U.S. through the Windsor-Detroit corridor alone." It is playing with numbers. It is now the "corridor." That has to include both the Bridge and Tunnel. I would bet the 2009 number is much lower. Interesting, for only the Bridge, the total for cars and trucks in 1999 was around 12M! Just look at the huge drop since then when the combined total is that number.

  • The Provincial cabinet granted approval of the DRIC road EA subject to a few expected conditions. Yes, a completely unbiased perspective

  • No politicians from the City were there although Halberstadt came half-way through the press conference (Norma Coleman, Dev Tyagi and Mark Galvin were there though). Let the drama begin now between Eddie and our Cabinet Ministers or will Eddie be told there is nothing to discuss since he had his chance. What about our poor kids and the death and destruction to be caused by the DRIC road? Will Eddie unleash now our legal weapon of DRIC EA destruction, David Estrin, after spending all of that money on him to attack the DRIC approach? Or will his failure to act be called "unconscionable?"

  • A number of county politicians were there including Mayor Baxter and Warden Nelson Santos the recently acclaimed Liberal Federal candidate.

  • No federal politicians were there although Transport Canada spokesperson Mark Butler was there. I find that rather insulting considering the Feds are paying half the costs

  • Mohammed Alghurabi was there from MDOT. How would half a bridge look if Michigan does not allow their side to move forward?

  • Was it all last-minute? Certain people must have known in advance so as to clear their schedules. Linda Smith from the Chamber was there as were people from the Heavy Construction and Windsor Construction Association, an OTA rep and a Union rep. I wonder when Eddie was told. I guess he had time to make up an excuse for this snub.

  • There was nothing particularly new but I am sure that people will enjoy the photo op of the building being torn down

  • DRIC is the biggest project in Ontario's History and a North American pacesetter... as Sandra took a swipe at Gord over this and his Saturday column

  • DRIC road is still a P3 (AFP in Ontario terms). Qualifications period ended last week with tenders going out by year-end. Considering that the market for P3s is dead and that the costs will be substantially higher than the "guidelines" estimate of $1.6B, then taxpayers will be ripped off since we will be virtually guaranteeing a P3 operator a no-risk mega-profit the way the deal seems to be structured. Guess who will be the successful parties in the winning consortium. Gord gave it all away. I wonder if his provincial government insider told him.

  • Here's a real hoot after our CUPE/City strike: "The Windsor-Essex Parkway is unprecedented in its community enhancement features for any highway, anywhere in Ontario with: more than 300 acres of green space; 20 kilometres of recreational trails; extensive landscaping throughout the corridor." Who is going to pay to look after all of that? Will we need new CUPE hires without PRBs of course?

Did anything good come out of the Cabinet approval? Maybe. Dwight, Sandra and the Premier no longer have an excuse NOT to talk to the Bridge Company so they can now work out a solution about how to get traffic to the Ambassador Bridge's new Enhancement Bridge. We need the jobs today, not in decades after litigation.

The Honourable Dwight owes it to them and to us doesn't he!