Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Main Event: Matty and Stephen

Here is what has really been achieved so far: an over-inflated price for a Brighton Beach plaza, a suggested border crossing a mile downriver from the existing bridge, the prime location, after the Americans spent a quarter of a billion dollars to fix it up and to accommodate a second bridge and a hugely expensive DRIC road to nowhere.

Notice I did not write "versus" in my Subject Line but "and" instead.

I wish that Stephen Harper would read my BLOG “Canada Got It All A** backwards” rather than the position papers from his NAFTA-gate flunkies: diplomatic, bureaucratic, political, corporate and Think-tankic. He might finally understand that it really has all come down to this.

Resolution now or decades of litigation hell.

There ought to be no reason why the 2 sides cannot work together rather than fight. It is amazing to me how much both sides have in common except no one seems to want to think about that.

“The Speech That Gave It All Away” will make certain that the lives of certain people on both sides of the border will be hell during cross-examination, if this goes further, to the benefit of no one. It will merely confirm my theories.

That was my thought the day that I decided to get involved in the border file with STOPDRTP and it is still my opinion today. It has NOT changed one bit since.

That is the theme that has run through the many hundreds of BLOGs I have written on the border since I started doing this. It has nothing to do with personalities although obviously I talk about people in charge at the time.

It all has to do with making the border work for this Region and the prosperity it can bring us! A reasonable resolution acceptable to everyone is absolutely required to avoid litigation and bring us economic diversity.

That should not be too hard to understand.

If one wants to make Windsor great, not with pie in the skies airport visions or imitation Venice canal concepts, then build on what has made us the #1 border crossing in North America for our future. As I Blogged almost 4 years ago after I read a story in the Wall Street Journal:
  • "[I] found a story about Northern New Jersey. The region's median income was $73,973, the highest of any state, home prices have increased, about double the national average, and the area's shopping malls are busy. It described "the solid if dull warehouse sector [as the] driver of the area's commercial real estate… Its central location on the eastern seaboard along with its excellent highway, air, rail and seaport access make it a hub of choice."

The preliminaries or rather the qualifying rounds are over and the result is 7 years, $60M plus and terrible tension, heartache, and even fear caused to thousands of people. We were all pawns in the game.

For what?

Initially it was to terrorize Matty Moroun to sell out cheaply before the value of his bridge dropped due to the fear of possible Government punitive actions. Then it was the expectation that his son would convince his father to sell out “in a New York minute” when the time was ripe so the family would take the money and run.

Stephen's subordinates had their chances but accomplished little. The Morouns did not blink. The bureaucratic assumptions were wrong, as they often are in business matters with people who are not personally at a financial risk.

When both assumptions proved wrong, it had to come to this. The only two men that count in this file, Matty Moroun and Stephen Harper or whoever is Prime Minister of Canada at the time, have to meet to agree or agree to disagree. The almost 50 year attempt by Canada to take over the Bridge is coming to another climax, one of several during the period.

Just look at how strange the border file has become. Read what the Messenger is saying these days and not just the Messenger of City Hall either:

  • The border An 8-year assessment:

    Now, eight years later, we haven't reached the point that the Canada-U.S. border has become a wall, but it is not the same border it was before 9-11, and it isn't operating in the best interest of either country.

    The days when you could count on hassle-free travel across the border are mostly over. The last-minute decisions to cross the border for dinner or a night-on-the-town aren't being made as often…

    But the real worry is trade… The border must work efficiently to preserve those economic benefits…

    Where is the focus on shoring up the perimeter border -- like to the Europeans have done -- to reduce the need for the overwrought security that often dominates at the Canada-U.S. border? Where is the drive to reduce the myriad rules and regulations that unnecessarily impede the flow of trade?”

Not a word about a DRIC bridge as a solution. Has reality sunk in?

Take a look at this---no mention of Greenlink either since our high unemployment numbers have caused reality to sink in too

  • Border jobs Co-operation still the foundation

    With the unemployment rate at 15 per cent and stimulus projects not yet tendered, it's no wonder people in Windsor are growing impatient. We want jobs, and the sooner we get them the better…

    With a $1.6-billion border access road and a $900-million bridge on the horizon, there will be plenty of jobs to go around."

Our real issue and how Canada’s idiotic actions over the Ambassador Bridge could lead to another softwood lumber dispute:

  • Buy American' President Obama's mixed message

    Earlier this summer, President Barack Obama agreed to try and calm the "buy American" frenzy that was being fuelled by U.S. legislators. It's now clear that isn't going to happen.

    Obama's latest position is that he doesn't agree with "buy American" procurement policies -- which are hurting Canadian businesses -- but he's not going to do anything to directly counter them. In fact, the president said it would be for the best if Canadians don't overreact to the controversial provisions in the US$800 million stimulus bill…

    The best that Obama could offer Harper during their meeting was a rather vague statement that "there may be mechanisms whereby states and local jurisdictions can work with the provinces to allow for cross-border procurement practices that expand the trading relationship."

    At best, Obama's recommendation of state-provincial co-operation is a long way from Harper's hope of an iron-clad guarantee that would exempt Canadian businesses from the "buy American" measures.”

The Obama snub of Harper at the Three Amigos summit spoke volumes about our reality of our dependence on the US except the Canadian media seemed not to listen and kept silent.

Then the strange outbursts by Dwight and Sandra over the new bridge, a matter in which they as Provincial politicans have no say whatsoever followed by this:

  • Pupatello's advice Hopefully, cabinet will listen

    While some people might have a hard time comparing a new border crossing to something as architecturally significant as the Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower, we fully agree with MPP Sandra Pupatello's point about thinking big…

    It's good to know Pupatello is so keenly aware of how important it is to create something that is modern, attractive and forward-thinking, because while it's true the bridge construction will be decided by others, the province will decide what the access route to that "iconic" destination looks like.

    It, too, must be spectacular, stylish and classy, and the opportunity to make it visually attractive and environmentally friendly is something that falls squarely on the shoulders of the province…

    When cabinet gathers to consider the environmental and esthetic impact of the border access road, we hope members at the table heed Pupatello's advice.”

This lack of mention of the word “Greenlink” again—there is Sam’s “think big” but in small type now--- means that there is a new reality and that Eddie’s stall vision road is dead. Oh sure there is the Prentice story to pretend that Eddie still cares and to prepare us for the big Compromise and another of Eddie’s snubs and a proposed meeting with Sandra and Dwight but the road fight is done.

The common word I used in describing each of the Editorials is “reality.” The Reality with the Bridge Company is resolution or litigation. There is nothing in between. A short–term pause such as the one after FIRA will not make sense for either side after what has taken place over the last number of years. Moroun was fooled once already by Canada. He will not allow it to happen to him again.

The DRIC bridge has been downplayed probably because of the recognition finally that traffic is down and P3 money is unavailable. It is not needed for many years to come. The comments on its design----the Ambassador Bridge Project in Buffalo/Fort Erie is called the “Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge” so the Bridge Company gets it!

The DRIC road—forget Greenlink---do you really think that it is going to come in at $1.6 Billion when the Ferry project came in at more than one third more than its estimated cost? The real question is how it is going to be downsized and how that would be justified now since the Province would be incapable of financing a P3 road and the Feds clearly have a maximum amount they are prepared to sink in.

I read this remark in the Daily Commercial News the other day:

  • “On the Canadian side of the border, a massive highway project hinges on the construction of the bridge.”

One cannot build a road to the bridge until one knows where the road is going. And if there is no bridge because of lawsuits for decades, there will be no road and there will not be “plenty of jobs to go around.”

The Ambassador Bridge issue needs to be resolved before the brilliant NAFTA-gate diplomats in DC with their hangerson in Ottawa and in certain boardrooms destroy our relationship with the US forever by continuing to advocate for bilateral solutions with an American President who publicly snubbed our PM. If we get concerned about the screws being turned over steel imports and purchases by States and municipalities, imagine what woud happen to us over full protectionism.

Does anyone with half a brain believe that the Americans are so dumb that they do not understand clearly now that Canada wants to control their border entrances and exits? Does anyone really think that they will allow Canada to put an American firm out of business just to give the business to a Canadian firm or one over which Canada has influence in a P3 deal?

Canada needs friends in high places in the US and we have to change our approach to them before it is too late.

We are getting now what Mickey Kantor prophesied:

  • “The Canadian government bless their souls are going to try and push this and push this for one because they don’t like a private bridge that’s been there for 80 years, they would like a public bridge that’s probably a philosophical position the Canadians take.

    And the second is their bureaucrats have committed themselves emotionally to this thing but we shouldn’t be pushed around by the Canadians.

    I’ve negotiated over the years when I was the United States treasurer in dealing with Canadians, you got to stand up once in awhile for our country and say this in not in our interests.”

Our new reality ought to be as I have BLOGGED before: Canada needs Moroun’s help. Someone needs to wake up and figure out that he is our best friend these days and can help us more than hurt us with the Americans.

  • “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. Get a grip, man. That was a waste of money! You need a “vested” interest in the border file, someone whose interests match yours to help you out with the Americans. You cannot do it alone. You need a fighter. Of course you know who I mean: Matty Moroun.

    Instead of vilifying the man through smears in the US and trying to put him out of business, you ought to be working with him. For heaven’s sake PM, all of the negative things you say about him are exactly what helps out Canada! The attacks are: a**backwards!”

To summarize what I BLOGGED before

  • Canada needs peace with Moroun so that all the Central Canada corridors and gateways can be made workable
  • He has made the border work here to make our crossing #1 without Canada’s help and in spite of Canada imposing roadblocks
  • He has a real “vested interest,” his own money, to make the border work and to have traffic increase and run smoothly as do all of the Governments
  • His interest is that of the Governments: keep the economy moving and tourists coming
  • He does not need taxpayer money from any Government so all Governments can use the billions elsewhere for other uses
  • He is not afraid of any Government who impedes the proper operation of the Bridge as his litigation record shows. Please, Canada suing the US…give me a break
  • He has more friends in high places than Canada will ever have in these NAFTA-gate days.

It shall be interesting. Will it be "versus" or "and?"