Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eddie Is Incapable Of Leadership

Generally, I do not do BLOGs on the weekend. I need some time off to rejuvenate the brain cells and you are too busy to read what I have to write anyway.

Not this weekend.

I started writing this BLOG Saturday morning getting angrier as I wrote, just after being infuriated by reading the Windsor Star, again.


I was interested the other day in seeing a Letter to the Editor by Tony Blak. He ran unsuccessfully twice in Ward 3. He wrote in his very short letter:
  • Mayor wasting taxpayer dollars on advertising

    It is time to stop the advertising and manipulation of the citizens of Windsor by our mayor and council.

    Let's get the shovel in the ground, and take the 401 all the way to the Ambassador Bridge.

    The Ambassador Bridge has been a great corporate citizen and it's time the city stopped putting roadblocks up for it.

    It's time the mayor stops wasting money on advertising and gets back to the core issues -- plow the streets, fix the potholes, and make it easier for people to earn a living in this city."

Nice election platform. It's a winner!

In a few short paragraphs, Tony has identified everything that is wrong with Eddie Francis and this Council. Waste of taxpayer money, manipulation, anti-business, stalling, need for jobs and failing to carry out the basic functions for which they were elected.

Is this a signal that Tony is going to run again, probably targeting Councillor Valentinis who to me has been a terrific disappointment while Eddie has been Mayor? Instead of sticking up for citizens as our Senior Councillor, he does nothing but act as an enforcer for our Mayor.

It would not surprise me to see others start making themselves visible. Do they smell in the air that this Mayor and Council are all vulnerable to be defeated in the next election? Is it the time that they start gearing up for the next election because it is unlikely that anyone can win against an incumbent without name recognition in this City?

It is interesting to see how many names are being bandied about for people to run as Councillors in the different Wards and as Mayor as well. It may not be the slam dunk either that Councillor Marra hopes that it is for him.

There is no doubt that someone has told the Mayor that he has personally overstepped. Attack Sandra. Attack Dwight. But for heaven’s sake, leave the Premier alone.

There is a well orchestrated campaign designed around HEALTH that is being used now as a last ditch effort to make our Mayor look like our Saviour. Of course, they forget to mention what our Champion, MOE’s Dr. Diamond said about trucks moving constantly

  • “During normal traffic movement (no delays), the average increase in particulate matter adjacent to the road was minimal.”

More importantly forget to tell us about the changes in diesel fuel and diesel engine technology which will drastically reduce emissions such that the health concern is no longer there.

As the DRIC wrote also:

  • “The fact is, getting rid of traffic lights will eliminate stop-and-go traffic and reduce emissions. New cleaner fuel rules and (truck) engine technologies are also reducing pollution from tailpipe emissions."

I just do not understand what any of this has done other than to bore people or what it is designed to accomplish. I do expect that it will scare away seniors from coming here and new investors.

All I do know is that it makes Eddie Francis look like the weakest and most irresponsible Mayor of a City. If it is true that there are such health concerns, then this City should have started a lawsuit already with our Mayor/lawyer leading the charge.

Every Henderson column mocks him. Every Editorial makes him look weaker and weaker and weaker.

His failure to act has to be deemed as “unconscionable.” After all, we were told by the Star’s Columnist that there are no other alternatives, even though he has now backed off that ridiculous position and is advocating negotiations.

We have not acted because we know better and know we are being played.

Council has not acted because they are unable to do anything.

More importantly, our Voice of Council, our Mayor, Eddie Francis. has not acted because he is afraid.


I will be very direct in this BLOG. We have no Leader in this City. A true Leader would not hide behind others to do his dirty work for him. He would stand up for our City and our citizens. He would take action not start another wasteful advertising blitz. He would lead us into battle and not hide behind us forcing us to do everything so that he does not take the blame.

Of course, our Mayor cannot do that. He knows that the factual basis upon which he is building his campaign is not strong. He is afraid. His strategy might backfire. Dwight and Sandra might be telling the truth… if there is a lawsuit, then the jobs go.

Especially the job of Mayor for Eddie Francis and for the rest of the Councillors. None of them can dare risk that, the amount that they get paid for failing us time after time is too much especially with the addition of the newest amount for the Airport Board membership.

Just take a look at the Saturday Star to see what I mean:

  • -the Henderson column does the attacking of the Premier now, not the Mayor:

    “Which carries more clout with the Dalton McGuinty regime, a Southwestern Ontario city with 216,000 citizens and two senior cabinet ministers or an obscure Toronto neighbourhood with 17,000 residents represented by a rookie Liberal MPP?

    If you guessed it was the former -- Windsor -- guess again, because a big-bucks transportation announcement by McGuinty this week made it perfectly clear where our city stands on the province's aim-to-please list -- somewhere south of nowhere…

    Talk about a tale of two cities. In early December, at a chamber of commerce luncheon at the Caboto Club, gunslinger McGuinty laid down the law, telling a defiant Windsor in no uncertain terms that it must knuckle under.”

  • -Letters to the Editor… three of them slamming Sandra and her expenses. Of course, this is not directly related to Greenlink but it is designed as a warning of what is to come unless she knuckles under

    “MPP can get her work done at less costly hotels

    Pupatello spends freely from the public purse

    Pupatello's travel tab extravagantly high”

  • -Star Editorial tells us who is to act: ie who is to be the cannon fodder. And it is not the Mayor. He is behind us all right. Waaaaaaaaaay behind, out of the line of fire.

    It is a shame also that the Editors did not read the City’s new advertisement where the word “Jobs” is prominently displayed, obviously because someone has done some polling. Health is no longer the only key concern.

    “The debate over an international truck route linking a third border crossing is not about jobs, and it's not about traffic flow -- it's about health.

    That issue, alone, has been at the forefront of the City of Windsor's refusal to bow to growing pressure exerted by the Ontario government as well as other interest groups to drop its opposition to the route being proposed by the binational Detroit River International Crossing study group…

    The public will have a chance to give its feedback until Feb. 27 -- part of a 32-week review before the assessment goes to Environment Minister John Gerretsen for approval.

    The city plans to spend an additional $60,000 on a campaign to rally the troops. Francis is encouraging all residents -- not just those living along the Huron Church Road-Talbot Road corridor -- to join the fight. "For all residents sick of our air quality, the choice is clear," said Francis. "Accept the status quo or try to stand up and get (the province) to make changes that are required to improve the quality of life for this region."

    Windsor-area residents should answer the call and fight for the health of future generations.”

  • -Finally, the Greenlink ad in the bottom left hand corner.

    “What can you do”

Do you see anything at all of Mayoral Leadership? I do not. I just see a Mayor who knows that he has lost but will keep on talking, pretending that he’s doing something. He is rallying the troops so that we can fight the battle for him.

He is not involved. Heck, he does not care what we do because he does not want to know what we do. If someone follows his advice and the battle cry and sends something into the Ministry of the Environment, does Eddie want to know about it?

No, dear reader, he does not. Copies are to be sent only to the Premier and local MPP. He does not want to see, nor does Council, what anyone has written.

Is there a mailing campaign again? I don’t see one so far. The last one was a dismal failure. If there was one again, my guess would be that the results would be even worse. How could our Mayor launch a huge campaign saying that the people are behind him if few people respond to his phony Health issues. By not knowing what is going on, then be Mayor can keep pretending that he is representing the people when he does not.

Fortunately, the Senior Levels are aware of what is taking place because they play the same games also.

There is no point in me keeping on about this matter. You know already how I feel about our Mayor. He has failed us, again and again and again on the border file. Unlike 2003, I do not see anybody on Council who can be our leader at this time. It is a shame.

All of this reminds me of the reason why I split with Eddie many years ago, or rather why he split with me. I have told you about this before but you may have forgotten.

I was one of Eddie’s backroom boys who helped him the first time around to become Mayor. I was still involved at the time with STOPDRTP when I received a call from the Mayor. He wanted me to arrange to have members of the group send out a number of letters on a particular subject. I refused for two reasons:

  • 1) I told him that it was not fair that he should expect that merely because he snapped his fingers on whatever issue he wanted that people would go out and spend time to collect letters, nevermind prepare them. It had to be vital before that would happen I told him.

  • 2) I said to him as well that this was now HIS job to do, not that of the people of Windsor. After all we had just elected him to be Mayor. He had been given the mandate to act.

I remembered this event as I was writing this BLOG. It is so interesting. Nothing has changed. Same old Eddie, same old Eddie.

A Ministry Of The Environment Dr. Diamond Is Not Forever

Hold your ears. That screaming that you are hearing from downtown is our Mayor over the telephone telling Dr. Gerald Diamond of the Ministry of the Environment that he is NOT going to be given the Keys to the City that the Mayor wanted to award him just a few days ago.
  • “Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is ecstatic over the “smoking gun” proof of DRIC’s environmental failings. “My initial reaction? Thank God. Let’s bring him down here and give him the keys to the city,” enthused Francis.

That was no smoking gun. Rather it was a pop-gun, a water pistol.

It is too late now but the Windsor Star should never have published the City’s Greenlink advertisement that appeared in the Saturday Star. That advertisement in relation to the Minister of the Environment Air Quality Analyst comments quoted therein in my opinion is misleading in the context of the ad.

While it is true that the analyst made those comments in the letter set out, the Star knew before the ad was published that the analyst also had clarified what he had said. There is no reason why they should not have brought this clarification to the attention of the advertiser, the City, and demanded their comments to justify the running of the advertisement as written before publishing it.

The Star knew because it published the Analyst’s Letter to the Editor on Friday morning, a day before the ad was run. Some of the comments that he made in fact should have been included in the advertisement to be fair if the Star was the going allow such an advocacy ad to be published:

  • Scientists still have to review final assessment

    Windsor Star, January 23, 2009

    Re: Analyst Raps DRIC, Jan. 10.

    The comments attributed to me reflect my review of a preliminary draft environmental assessment.

    They do not reflect my opinion of the final assessment submitted to the ministry and released for public comment on Jan. 9.

    I have not reviewed the final environmental assessment. It contains hundreds of additional pages of technical reports. These reports were not included in the draft environmental assessment I reviewed.

    Further to my comments on the draft, the final version contains significant additional information on air quality. It is normal process for ministry staff to provide feedback to proponents on draft documents to identify areas we believe warrant additional work. We have just begun the review of the final environmental assessment and I am one of many scientists and experts who will be involved in that detailed review.


    Air Quality Analyst Southwest Region

    Ontario Ministry of Environment”

Notice that the City's position on the 400 Building audit is so different with the Dunbar Audit which is NOT an Audit but a Report. It should not be released on its own since it is "preliminary" and more information has to be examined before the final report is issued. Why did the City take such an extreme view of Diamond but not with Dunbar.

We have to forgive Gord on this one. He would not know this. I cannot recall him writing a column on the topic of the so-called preliminary Dunbar Report and demanding its release.

That is a devastating repudiation of what the Mayor told us and wanted us to believe as outlined in the Henderson column.

Dr. Diamond’s comments were based on the draft provided by DRIC. There is significant additional information provided. All that he was doing was providing comments requiring additional work on the draft. He is not the only one involved in examining the final report but he is one of many others. He has not yet reviewed the final report.

Before anyone says that Dr. Diamond was forced to write that letter, all we need to do is read what Gord had to say about the good doctor of the Environment:

  • “integrity can still be found within the provincial civil service, at least in the environment ministry where air quality analyst Dr. Gerald Diamond chose to tell it like it is...

  • Talk about guts. Diamond, a scientist, had to know his scathing comments… would have the you-know-what hitting the fan…

  • Diamond, who didn’t budge from his written comments in an interview with A Channel’s Daryl Newcombe.”

Dr. Diamond merely stated the obvious when his letter was first written and in his reply. Eddie knows better since, after all, HE IS A LAWYER and should understand how reports are done. Perhaps he should now show us drafts of all of the Schwartz and other consultant reports on Greenlink before the final ones were submitted.

It is nothing more than another shameful episode to try to confuse the situation and get the public all worked up. For what reason, I still have no real idea.

All I do know is that the Star should be ashamed of themselves. They owe their subscribers and readers an apology.

PS. I have marked parts of the ad that I thought you might be interested in.
  • The fear of the Mayor that he is losing because of the "Jobs" issue
  • The section dealing with Dr. Diamond's initial comments on the draft
  • The section making it our job to do something as the Mayor hides
  • The Windsor "entitlement" mentality again

Friday, January 23, 2009

Me Against The World

I believe that I have done a very good job keeping up on the border file and giving you all of my insight, dear reader. Up until now at least.

I admit it. I just cannot do it on my own anymore. There is too much going on for one person to deal with.

Be fair, the MTO has about 41 people working on this file as part of their really BIIG show. Who knows how many dozens Transport Canada has working in the background. Heaven help us when we add in the other Government Departments and agencies such as Infrastructure Ontario or the Federal Finance Ministry or the P3 office or the Environmental groups. Then there are Eddie's machinations that no one can understand. I have not yet even considered the number of people working on the American side along with all of the consultants and sub consultants and sub, sub consultants.

It is overwhelming. If you think $60 million for the DRIC study is a lot of money as the total cost for both sides of the river, you have not even scratched the surface when you add in the cost of all these other people.

All I have is my trusty out-of-date PC and Internet access to help me cope.

What blew my mind is a BLOG I was going to do on some materials I read in the media and then Chris Schnurr just posted his new BLOG on the financial fallout on Macquarie and the bridge in British Columbia which they were supposed to finance.

I can tell Chris the answer to his question: “I wonder why the Windsor Star did not publish this” ie the B.C. bridge story. Their sister publication the Vancouver Sun did:
  • Port Mann Bridge financing thrown into question
    Private builders struggling to raise money, ask Victoria for more time

    Vancouver Sun, January 15, 2009

    The private consortium chosen as the best suited to twin the Port Mann Bridge is struggling to raise money for the project, and has told the B.C. government it needs more time before it can finalize a deal.

    The deal -- a public-private partnership or P3 -- was supposed to be completed earlier this month, but on Wednesday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon confirmed the deadline has been extended to early February.”

If the Star had published this story, it would have killed the DRIC project’s financial underpinnings and made it look less likely that the Governments can finance a bridge in this area. After all, they have to pay out trillions of dollars to save the banks, auto companies and who knows who else as well as giving taxpayers breaks so we’ll go out and start spending.

I certainly would not want to be the MDOT representative who has to go to the Republicans and convince them that P3 legislation is required now. Clearly, the Senate Republicans were right.

To be honest, there is too much to write about. Let me give you a few examples.

The Free Press did an Editorial saying:

  • “The state and the privately owned Ambassador Bridge would best serve Michigan's transportation and economic interests by cooperating instead of competing. Ideally, the Ambassador, with its capital and expertise, should become a partner in building a publicly owned crossing.”

I agree on the cooperation part but why would the Bridge Company want to give up their business to the Governments for free. That seems rather foolish even for a newspaper Editor to suggest. It is pretty clear that the Editor has no idea what he’s talking about:

  • “Suits that delay or stop the DRIC bridge, approved by a coalition of Ontario, Michigan, U.S. and Canadian governments, might serve the Ambassador's private business interests, but not the broader public interest.”

Yes dear Editor, they should just roll over and allow the business that they have built up that made the crossing #1 in North America and helped our region to be effectively expropriated by the Governments without receiving a penny. Not only that, the way the P3 is to be structured, the Bridge Company would have to finance a new bridge and effectively put up the money to put themselves out of business.

The Editor continued:

  • “It's time the bridge company met with the Michigan Department of Transportation to discuss how best to handle the region's long-term border crossing needs."

I agree with that sentiment. However, he should have added in the Canadian Governments who seem to be unable and unwilling to meet with the Company and the City of Windsor who throws up roadblocks to stop everything that they are trying to do.

Then there was an opinion piece in the Toledo Blade. Why is that newspaper important? A Michigan Senator on Senator Cropsey’s Committee lives right across the border from Toledo. After smearing the Bridge Company, the point of the article is set out in the following terms:

  • “Michigan should now take the lead in smoothing the way for the new bridge. Funding remains a sticking point, and those involved in the crossing project might best be encouraged to come up with a creative partnership to seek private funds for what needs to be an essentially public enterprise.”

In other words, Republican Senators pass P3 legislation in Michigan.

If the writer of the piece would have read some of the articles from our West Coast, or even some of the BLOGs from Windsor, he/she would know now how stupid his/her comments are.

What about the Jack Layton/Brian Masse story in the Windsor Star. What an embarrassment for the NDP leader. His MP believes that he is too dumb to understand the border issue so that he has to shut him up.

  • “Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton was advised in briefing notes to dodge and deflect questions on the GreenLink versus DRIC Parkway debate during a brief stop in Windsor Wednesday.”

Poor Brian, he has lost all credibility now with his supporters. He continues to support Eddie on Greenlink. However, people who don’t have a Government salary, a Government pension and who need to work think otherwise:

  • “The tension that exists between city politicians and construction workers and unions desperate for the thousands of jobs these infrastructure projects are expected to create was highlighted in each synopsis.

    "The province, the construction association and the construction unions support the 'Windsor Parkway' for the access route to the new crossing while the City Council and the Mayor support the 'Green Link' instead," said the note. "The unions have purchased radio ads attacking city council. The mayor is in a very public dispute with the provincial government. (Brian will handle this issue if it comes up.)"

Maybe Brian should just work on the Junction issue instead. Brian made his choice: Eddie not people desperate for jobs. He should be tossed out at the next election. Are you listening Joyce?

And another story in Toll Road News:

  • “A USDOT spokesman told us Michigan DOT (MDOT) is taking the lead and is expected to develop a plans for advancing the project over the next few months. Bill Shreck of MDOT said that like the Canadians they favor a private sector toll concession to build the bridge and will be moving to get supporting state legislation during the course of the year. They will want general legislation for P3s and also legislation specifically authorizing the downriver bridge.

    Canadian and US officials express some frustration at delays at MDOT, which has been promising action within the year since 2005.”

It is clear now as I have suggested that Canada is pushing this matter. It is part of a 50 year old effort to Canadianize the Ambassador Bridge.

But here is the good part. Our Transport Canada officials already know that a P3 project would not work (no investment grade traffic survey provided yet, not until June, 2009) and hid that information from the Americans. Obviously, they knew that from what is going on in British Columbia yet they allowed our Federal Minister of Finance to make a fool of himself when he advocated for Public/Private Partnerships recently at a P3 conference. Nothing like losing one’s credibility at a time of economic disaster.

  • “Ontario Ministry of Transport plan to finance their Windsor Essex Parkway with an availability payments or shadow toll project. They have decided against tolls. Their procurement could begin with RFI/RFQ before the final environmental clearance in the autumn, with the RFP towards the end of the year.

    Transport Canada and Michigan DOT officials say they hope to be able to move for a toll concession procurement for the bridge and its approaches around the end of this year. But this depends on the Michigan legislature granting the necessary authority.”

I predicted this, remember and I was right!

P3’s are dead. I warned about shadow tolls in the past as Schnurr’s BLOG pointed out. If they are implemented, wait until you see the lawsuits over that. That in itself could delay any project for years given the politics involved! Softwood lumber would be child's play.

If the Australians who have been courting MDOT think they have a snowball’s chance in getting this project, then they are deluding themselves. After all, former Senator Fortier “rejoins Ogilvy Renault, the blueblood Montreal-based law firm where he got his start in 1985, as a partner specializing in mergers and acquisitions...” His former partner there has a new job too:

  • “Jacques Demers, a former senior partner with Ogilvy Renault LLP in Toronto. was recently hired by OMERS to be the president and CEO of OMERS Strategic Investments.”

Smart move on OMERS's part too but soooooooo obvious.

I’m so worn out now with all of the stories that all I can do is let you know a bit about this one:

  • Tories want to cut environmental corners: NDP

    By Juliet O'Neill, Canwest News Service January 22, 2009

    OTTAWA - The federal government is considering the elimination of environmental assessments on millions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects across the country, says a document leaked to the New Democratic Party.

    NDP environment critic Linda Duncan, an Edmonton MP, cited the document at a news conference Thursday, accusing the federal government of “gutting” environmental protection and falsely claiming the environmental assessments slow down infrastructure projects too much.

    One measure would exempt projects under $10 million from environmental assessment. Another would eliminate one level of assessment, either federal or provincial, on bigger projects…

    While those measures are described as “short-term measures to assist in the implementation of infrastructure projects,” the document also says the government wants a new law governing the assessment agency as early as March or April. That law would focus on major projects and streamline and co-ordinate assessments with the provinces.”

So much for all of that money that we have wasted on Schwartz, Estrin, Parsons Brinckerhoff and other consultants. So much for listening to their harangues and Eddie’s lullaby. It is obvious now that they are completely irrelevant as if that was not true before.

Last but not least here is the one that ices the cake. There is the Windsor Star story involving a suggestion made by Councillor Loopy. It is the perfect ending to this BLOG:

  • “With President Barack Obama set to make his first international visit to Canada next month, Coun. Percy Hatfield feels it’s a perfect time for the new leader to check out Windsor.

    He extended an official invitation during Monday’s city council meeting.”

The Councillor may not know it but the President is coming to this area along with the Prime Minister but not for the reason that he thinks. Those two top Government Officials will be coming here to cut the ribbon for the start of construction of the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project for which all permits and approvals will be obtained much sooner than anyone anticipates.

Please, dear reader, have mercy on me. I will do the best that I can but seriously, who can follow the twists and turns and make sense out of this anymore? I am exhausted!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Windsor-Essex Undevelopment Commission And Our Competition

A most bizarre way to advertise for the Joint Councils Meeting wouldn't you say. Rather than setting out the Agenda, the Notice on the City's website displays the attachments.

Oh well, I guess that meant that the number of people who might have attended the session will be less because they will not know about the Update of the Undevelopment Commission unless they click on the Agenda link.

The Star story on the 10 month and continuing search for the CEO was reasonably accurate except for not mentioning the sneering put down of other Development Commissions in the rest of the Province. You know the ones, the Development Commissions that actually do something like create jobs for their regions instead of visiting Europe, creating websites and producing brochures for a year!

Here will be the Star photo as our next CEO job search takes place when ads are placed in a paper like the Globe's career section and not just online:

After all of the praise that he received at the Joint Councils meeting after his presentation, I wonder why former WEDC VP Mike Burton was not offered the job.

Looks like the Howdy Doodies who cheer anything the Claribells do are cheering again today:
  • "Fifteen startup jobs? That would have been dismissed as chicken feed a few years ago, a mere blip in the great economic scheme of things. And no doubt, given this city's penchant for sneering and sniping, the peanut gallery will have a field day mocking Wednesday's announcement as a non-event."

Speaking of the WEUC, oooops WEDC, what I find very interesting is that the announcements of new investments here promise so much but deliver little. Remember this:

  • "Established 10 years ago in Southfield, Superior Information Technologies provides software solutions to a variety of clients in both the public and private sectors.

    While the company's local office currently has just one employee, spokes-man Hemant Rajput said Superior hopes to add between 15 and 20 employees within the next year or two...

    Kulshrestha also credited the Windsor-Essex Development Commission with being both proactive and supportive of the company's decision to locate in the area."

I raise this because of this comment in the Star story yesterday:

  • "Michigan call centre to create more jobs in Windsor

    Michigan-based call centre and software company Wizie will open a new location in Windsor eventually creating up to 120 new jobs in an announcement to be made Wednesday morning by the Windsor-Essex Development Commission, the Star has learned.

    Wizie lends support to the travel industry including airlines, hotels and car rentals by providing fare data, ticketing services and reservations.

    The company's new Windsor location will initially begin with about 15 employees focused on research and development operations on the second floor of Windsor Airport. It is expected to grow by adding support staff that will hopefully lead to a workforce of about 120 within three to fours years, according one source familiar with today's announcement."

I would have mentioned Globalive Communications' call centre except the Undevelopment Commission seemed to have no role in bringing them here and it looks like they actually will have jobs brought here right away:

  • "Globalive approached the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, which suggested Windsor and which will provide a few thousand dollars of annual funding for 30 to 40 per cent of employees."

Of course, who could forget:

  • "WEDC has close to 20 projects in the pipeline… Details on potential projects must necessarily be held in confidence."

I happened to see this announcement on the Internet:

  • "These Canadian communities are ranked amongst world's brightest.

    An impressive four Canadian cities are in the running this year [for the the honour of being named the world's most intelligent community - a prize awarded annually by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF)]- Kenora, Edmonton, Fredericton, and Moncton. Each community has faced down the challenge of a traditional economy in decline by transforming the way business is down. By using technology as a focus for democratizing the population, attracting outside investment, and creating new jobs, they are jumping the hurdles of the 21st century.

    But before they can boast the title of smartest city, they'll have to withstand an intensive vetting process from the forum. This year's winner will be the city that does the best job of providing broadband Internet access, has shown an ability to innovate, and has created a citizen workforce of knowledge workers.

Remember the stuff we were fed before we learned that Sutherland was just a call centre:

  • "The source said people are mistaken if they assume this is just another minimum wage call centre involving "those people who call you at 6 p.m. while you're having dinner to try to sell you merchandise."

    He said the operation will involve starting wages in the $12 to $15 range and those hired will require extensive training so they know "the ins-and-outs of every item manufactured" and can offer immediate assistance when a client's customers call...

    What's exciting about this, said the source, is that the thousand jobs could be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. If all goes well here and certain contracts are landed, the workforce could explode. He likened it to the modest beginnings of the car industry in Windsor.

How about this in November, 2006:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said he knows for a fact that other IT companies will follow this industry pattern setter to Windsor. "We just catapulted ahead of any other jurisdiction trying to enter the knowledge-based economy," said Francis."

I am not knocking call centres nor the companies who are moving here. The more the merrier as far as I am concerned because there will be a segment of the population who can work there.

However, these are hardly the high paying IT jobs of the future that will lead to economic diversification of our City and lead us to the technology promised land. This is not the knowledge-based industry some would have us believe we were going to get but rather low-level call center and tech support jobs.

If you want to understand who Windsor is competing against, here are descriptions of the four Canadian cities who are in the running for the ICF prize and how each of them are described:

  • Edmonton, Alberta

    The capital of Alberta, Edmonton is also the staging point for booming oilsand projects and diamond mining. Challenged to diversify an economy founded on resources and government, Edmonton (a 2008 Smart21) is partnering with its top universities, investing in wireless and fiber, and promoting knowledge transfer to power business growth. Its partnership with the University of Alberta has spun out more than 70 active companies, while a robust health industry has opened a state-of-the-art nursing school and cardiac institute. New provincial and national institutes are also making Edmonton a leader in nanotech research and manufacturing.

  • Fredericton, New Brunswick

    For most of its history, government and education were the economic mainstays of Fredericton, capital of New Brunswick Province and a 2008 Top Seven. The downsizing of government in the 1980s pushed public servants into the market, who unexpectedly formed a well-educated entrepreneurial class. When it could not get broadband from the private sector to meet their needs, Fredericton founded the e-Novations coop, which deployed a fiber ring that spurred competition, giving the city a 70% penetration rate at speeds of up to 18 Mbps. The next step was the Fred-eZone wireless network, which provides free WiFi service across 65% of the city. The combination of broadband, entrepreneurship and Fredericton's universities has powered the creation of over 12,000 jobs in science parks, research centers and incubators, and engendered a strong culture of use for broadband in daily life.

  • Kenora, Ontario

    Kenora is in "cottage country," where seasonal residents double the population in the summer. But the decline of forestry decimated the non-tourism economy, causing Kenora's best and brightest young people to leave town. In response, Kenora launched a Web portal strategy to leverage its 80% penetration rate for wired and wireless broadband. The goals were to make Kenora even more attractive to part-timers and visitors by providing anytime-anywhere access to services, while also supporting local business and building a broadband culture of use. Through the portal, visitors and seasonal residents can reserve facility, apply for permits and learn what's going on in town. Businesses create their own Web sites with e-commerce capabilities and promote tourism through GIS-enabled interactive search. Community groups build Web sites, recruit volunteers, solicit donations and collaborate online.

  • Moncton, New Brunswick

    Twenty years ago, the Moncton region was a former railroad and industrial hub facing a doubtful future. Strong leadership in the municipalities of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview focused on information and communications technology as key to the future. Since then, this bilingual community has become a major Canadian customer contact and back office center, and built a "near-shore" IT outsourcing industry. Private-sector carriers have collaborated in the city's growth as a telecom-centric economy, and helped power the addition of 20,000 new jobs since the early 1990s, largely in management, finance, health services, technology and education. Moncton is now leveraging this success with a Vision 2010 plan. It calls for partnership with regional universities to deepen the region's knowledge economy, diversifying its IT economy into new sectors, and actively promoting tech-based entrepreneurship.

Given that the song and dance given by the Commission at the session with respect to their 10 month unsuccessful journey to find a CEO and their next trip which will take at least three or four more months at least, does anyone really believe that we ought to be looking to them for leadership for anything.

There is another reason for the cheerleading for THIS failed Undevelopment Commission. What it is, I am not certain yet. However, I suspect it has to do with Eddie's $100M now reduced to $60M Investment Fund that he wants them to control. But who knows with this most secretive of cities.

Windsor's I-696 Is Coming

Chris Schnurr wrote a very interesting BLOG that you might want to take a look at. “Air quality, traffic projections and emissions standards”

The gist of what he points out is that government imposed emission standards both for diesel fuel and diesel engines as well as using new techniques for highway construction mean:
  • “Greenlink is unnecessary to deal with air quality issues. Highway design as well tough new regulations deal with this issue more than adequately.

    The question is, why hasn’t this been prominently discussed by either the Province or the City of Windsor?”

Not only is Greenlink unnecessary but so is the DRIC road. They are virtually the same anyway.

Hours and hours and hours of listening to the City consultants and lawyers yapping on at Council, deliberately scary stories put out into the media about death and children and volumes of materials from DRIC, Francis lullabies and what Chris points out seems to be ignored.

Of course, what that means is there really is no need for DRIC tunnels or Greenlink Schwunnels and it may even mean that a “cheap” at grade solution is not only feasible but is practical. Why spend billions supposedly to protect us from truck emissions when there will be few emissions within the foreseeable future. That makes no sense to me in a time of economic restraint.

I have Blogged about this subject before as has Schnurr. The information that we have talked about is easily found on the Internet and the answer is hardly startling.

I am no air quality expert but the people retained by DRIC and the City are. Don’t you find it strange that these experts are not discussing this matter? I would have thought that DRIC could easily dismiss Greenlink out of hand by talking about the drastic reduction in particulate emissions. However, they did not do so until a recent Press Release and even then the information provided was minimal.

The question that needs asking is why not? Why isn’t this information being distributed to citizens rather than scare stories about children dying? Why isn’t DRIC taking a much more aggressive position with respect to the City?

Could it be that the Senior Levels and the City are working together in one giant charade? Could it be that this is an agreed-to action of the three Government partners in their alliance against the Bridge Company?

The answer has to be: YES. We are being DELRAY-ed.

We are being promised one thing to make us happy and keep us quiet but when the time is right, we will be given something else, something completely unexpected. It will be too late then.

You may wonder how I can make this allegation. We have the nastiness between our Mayor and the Province, the fight over money between the Province and the Feds involving the split as to who should pay what with respect to the border crossing, and the on-again off-again “friendship” between the City and the Federal Government.

You cannot take these squabbles seriously. That is all that they are, family feuds. The three Governments have to be in an alliance against their common enemy, the Bridge Company, and all that they are doing is trying to obtain for themselves the biggest share of the spoils.

There is more to it than that. Of course there are animosities but they have to be buried for the common good after all. I believe that Eddie is causing problems with respect to his relationship with both Dwight and Sandra. His negative comments and that of his cheerleaders and sycophants have enraged the Minister of Finance and, before the provincial election, terrified the MITI Minister. They are starting to beat up on her again since she is viewed as the one at risk. The Province folded before when she was put in jeopardy. Try it again and see what happens seems to be one approach.

Note some on the Star have to be concerned that this is a dumb strategy that could backfire since she can bring new investments here. How else to explain the kiss-up Editorial in her defence the other day re expenses.

There is no doubt that Eddie is pushing the envelope when he starts accusing the Premier of biasing the DRIC project. That could be the most dangerous move of all that could hurt this City badly.

To me, the clearest example of letting the Mayor get away with abusing was when the DRIC people were at City Council and they took all the harrassment from the Mayor and Councillors and said nothing. I can recall seeing MTO’s Fausto Natarelli seething at some of the remarks but he followed his orders from on high and did not do anything about it. However, when they made a similar presentation at the County right afterwards, they were quite strong in their response to questions. The contrast between the two sessions was quite remarkable. Clearly, the DRIC people were told to allow our Council to look like the protectors of the City of Windsor residents.

You have to remember one other matter. It is very clear that the Province had no money for the project until after 2010. You can remember the $500M Gong Show comments by the Provincial Ministers that confirmed that and also the comment by the former Transport Minister Cansfield before the last election that made that abundantly clear. No money would come until 2010 at the earliest.

Why else do you think that our WEAK-LING Mayor is only threatening lawsuits and not starting one! He talks about the 30 week timeframe in which he can make representations to the Minister of the Environment and talks about nothing happening until 2010 in reality. Don’t you find the year 2010 interesting as well.

I can remember speaking with the DRIC consultants early on in this matter and wondering why they did not rely upon a Court of Appeal decision that would have allowed them to reduce significantly the scope of the work that they had to do. The answer should be obvious by now… nothing was to be done in the short term but to stretch DRIC out as long as possible.

Even now, there has to be some concern about whether this project can move forward because of the economic meltdown. Do you want to know what is hilarious… in the magazine Renew Canada, they reviewed the Top 100 Infrastructure projects in Canada. Where was the Windsor border project ranked? #1, in the top 10, in the top 25%… nope. It ranked #81 at a cost of only $128 million. Where did the billions go?

It certainly appears clear to me that all of this stalling with respect to the Schwartz Reports, tunnelling and Schwunnelling fits in beautifully by extending the time period for which a decision should have been reached by years. Do you really believe that the Minister of Finance would risk an attack under the Members’ Integrity Act by meeting with the Mayor in a car to the airport whereby they discussed the road to the border? It is all part of an urban legend that was leaked and deliberately spread.

Seriously, what is the argument about over the road to the border. Not the route as it once was. It is all about parklands, greenspace, linking communities. Should we have almost 4 km of green space over the road or only about 2 km. No conversation about who will look after all this new parkland or who will police it. We are well past the issue as to whether the road should be at grade or below grade. We have not heard any input by the Security people as to whether tunnels or Schwunnels are a huge security risk as they are.

If you are a resident of Delray, Michigan this would all sound very familiar. They were shown artists renditions of what their community would look like with a new DRIC bridge. They spent many hours talking about the parks and marinas and the new housing as well as the Community Benefits programs.

Of course, as I Blogged before, they may have been taken aback when they were told:

  • “C. Another community member asked about the surrounding neighborhoods and revitalization of those neighborhoods.

    R. Joe Corradino spoke about the conceptual plans to revitalize the area. He noted such plans need a partnership among government agencies and the private sector to succeed.

    C. Bob Benson noted revitalization of the community is not MDOT’s responsibility. MDOT will make recommendations; it will be someone else’s responsibility to implement those plans. Some people may have the impression that MDOT is going to lead the revitalization of the area.

    R. Mohammed Alghurabi noted MDOT is responsible for the DRIC study. And MDOT will be responsible to build the new bridge, plaza and interchange, if the project is approved. He noted MDOT will need partners to revitalize Delray.

    Q. What will it take to implement the conceptual land use plan for Delray that the DRIC Study Team proposed?

    A. It will take a partnership among many units of government, including the City of Detroit, and the private sector. MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration can serve as a catalyst and make some but not all the investments. And, the DRIC Study Team believes it will take 20 to 25 years to fully revitalize Delray as portrayed in the conceptual land use plans.

    Q. Are there funds allocated/budgeted to make the plan a reality?

    A. No. Action on the plan, even by MDOT and FHWA, requires that it be approved. That is not scheduled to happen, if it happens, until the latter part of 2008."

Finally, it appears that reality has hit. Members of the Delray community made these startling comments in a recent Local Advisory/Local Agency Group meeting:

  • “He said he was disappointed with the lack of progress on the Community Benefits Program (CBP) requests. He felt that many of the benefits were items for which he already paid taxes. He said he had hoped the future in Delray would be made better by the DRIC, but now felt Delray would go down with or without the DRIC. Of the 62 items submitted by the Community Benefits Coalition, almost all had come back “no.” He does not consider that MDOT working together with the community. He prefers to be disappointed without a bridge than with a bridge.

    R. It is important to note that the combined cost of community benefits for the DIFT and DRIC projects is almost $40 million. There is no housing in this, because MDOT cannot do housing…

    She had particular concerns: … 3) though MDOT is spending $40 million on enhancements on the two projects, other projects in the nation are spending up to 15 percent.

    R. Comment acknowledged.

    C. Scott Briggs said to put the $40 million in perspective, the study cost is $33 million…

    R. Comment acknowledged.”

The point I am making is that we are being fooled in this Cty by the three levels of Government. In my opinion they are working together and have worked together for years. It is nice to talk about a road costing 10 times as much as any other road in Ontario but we are not going to get it. Just as the people in Delray were used until reality hit home, so too our members of the Windsor community.

Whether it is a lawsuit for judicial review that kills the DRIC Road or whether it is done by agreement or whether it is due to the economic meltdown or who knows how, at the appropriate time we too will see the end of our so-called DRIC/Greenlink dream. Reality will come home and we will be lucky if we get the equivalent of an Interstate 696 road.

Don’t be surprised. If Government Representatives can claim that traffic volumes are sufficient to fund a DRIC project in the face of numbers showing huge declines, then they expect that they can tell us anything and we will believe them.

All of these distractions have focused our attention on the wrong issue. We are not talking about the BRIDGE and the BRIDGE COMPANY. But that is the point isn’t it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Video And A Lullaby...

...are worth a million words!



Here are additional links:

Hint, hint----be watching carefully around the 1:20 mark.

What Remarkable Timing

Fortune smiles on the Undevelopment Commission a few hours before their interrogation by City/County Councils today.
  • "Michigan call centre to create more jobs in Windsor

    Michigan-based call centre and software company Wizie will open a new location in Windsor eventually creating up to 120 new jobs in an announcement to be made Wednesday morning by the Windsor-Essex Development Commission, the Star has learned."

Always "eventually" though.

Here is what is strange though:

  • "The company's new Windsor location will initially begin with about 15 employees focused on research and development operations on the second floor of Windsor Airport."

Why at the airport? Is the City competing with private landlords for office space now? Is this a way to boost airport revenues since Air America folded, the big airport revenue generator?

Or has space been given away at a reduced rental or for free just to get the jobs? Is this a charge to Airport reserves too?

Perhaps someone could ask the questions today at the Joint Councils meeting.

In addition, our new Councillor/Board members ought to do something too to earn their nice new Board fees!

Police Stories

Time to take a look at the Windsor Police Department given the number of stories in the media about them recently.


An interesting story:
  • “Windsor police Chief Gary Smith has asked supervisors to look at who's writing tickets -- and who's not -- as part of an effort to engage front-line officers and identify future leaders…

    While the number of traffic tickets issued by Windsor police has risen by about 79 per cent over the past decade, the number of provincial offence tickets issued has flat-lined, bucking a trend in other Ontario jurisdictions, where municipal coffers have benefited from increased ticket revenues…

    "We've virtually flat-lined from 1999 to 2007," said [Victor Lipnicki, the city's director of provincial offences]. "I, personally, would like to see more law enforcement, quite frankly."

    Smith told staff three months ago to "look for efficiencies and see where we could save some money" but cautioned Wednesday that linking municipal revenues with the issuing of tickets was a dodgy proposition. "We don't tie our enforcement to revenues. We never have and I don't think we ever will," he said. "It's a dangerous thing to get into."

I don’t know what you get out of this story but all I know is that I had better be careful driving through the streets of Windsor.


Congratulations to Windsor Police for this act:

  • “Windsor police came to the rescue of a wheelchair-bound woman who waited more than two hours in vain for an accessible cab…

    But when they called from Wal-Mart at midnight for the ride home, they were told Checker had no idea when one would arrive. Fortunately for the two women, the store is open 24 hours at this time of year.

    Andrea's husband Larry, 56, was at home and got on the phone several times to Checker Cab -- to no avail.

    Finally, in desperation, Larry called Windsor police…

    Smith said the staff sergeant on duty decided that circumstances warranted officers transporting Andrea's chair home from Wal-Mart.”

It would not surprise me if we heard down the road that someone was scolded for this step because after all there were liability concerns and it could set a precedent. Frankly who cares. Someone at the time made a caring decision and should be congratulated for it.


  • “Windsor police have the highest per capita costs in the county, and the second highest in Ontario among populations with 100,000 people or more…

    Chief Gary Smith said Windsor police are saddled with some big expenses that many other services don't have, including higher benefit and overtime costs.

    "A lot of these people don't have the same benefits package we have," he said.

    "The last I heard, across Ontario we had one of the better overtime plans."

    Smith said part of the cost comes from Windsor's location between Detroit and the rest of the county, which results in a large "transient" population including partiers.

    "We put six or eight extra police a night on overtime every Friday and Saturday in the summer. That all comes with a cost."

    He said another big expense is transportation. Windsor police spend about $3 million a year on vehicles. They also have on-staff mechanics. In many other areas, he said, municipal budgets cover that.”

I must admit that I do not understand what the Chief is saying with respect to overtime. If there is a need for all those officers on the weekends in summer, then why aren’t they scheduled? Why does the work have to be overtime or is that part of the union contract?

Even if we reduce the budget by the transportation costs of three million dollars, the total Police budget is about $65 million or about $294 per person. London is at $210, Waterloo is at $204 and Hamilton is at $228. However, when one looks at the tables, the transportation charges in general for the larger cities in Ontario are virtually all the same.

We have more Police officers in municipal police services per 100,000 population than any other City in Ontario. We have 215 while Toronto only has 209. London has 157, Waterloo has 143 and Hamilton has 153.

I am glad however that the new Chief learned from his predecessor how to justify his force’s expenses. As Chief Stannard used to say

  • “it was unfair to compare Windsor with other jurisdictions because of border issues, the casino and drunk American teenagers in the downtown core.”

I wonder if there is a Windsor Police Chief quotation book that is passed on from Chief to Chief.


  • “Sixty-two police officers made the City of Windsor's list of municipal employees with salaries above the $100,000 mark in 2007. And that number will only rise next year, said [new police Chief Gary Smith]…

    Now-retired police chief Glenn Stannard was the highest-paid city employee, making $218,934.81, including taxable benefits.

    Smith said Stannard's salary likely included some retroactive pay, which would explain why it went up from $189,659.73 in 2006.”

In other words, about 14% of Windsor’s police officers made over $100,000. Most of those officers are staff sergeants or above whose new salaries by contract are going up

The Chief’s solution is not looking at ways of reducing salaries where possible or cutting the number of officers but rather “the salary reporting threshold should be raised.”


Give me a break. It was well-known that the number of parking spots at the new Arena is substantially less than is required, especially if there is a sellout as there would be on opening night.

  • “Police and other local officials are scrambling to find solutions to alleviate pre-game traffic gridlock for Windsor Spitfires games at the new WFCU Centre.

    Hundreds of vehicles were slowed to a crawl attempting to enter the parking lot at the new east-end arena last Thursday, forcing the delay of opening-night ceremonies by about 10 minutes.

    Police Chief Gary Smith vowed additional officers would be deployed to assist with traffic flow for Saturday’s night game against London and an afternoon matinee matchup Sunday against Erie.

    There were four officers assigned to traffic for the two games, said Staff Sgt. Karl Belanger on Sunday, largely on Lauzon Parkway, which has been identified as the choke point.

    “(Traffic) was funnelled to get people in,” he said. “It has been a little more improved. It’s a learning experience for everyone because it’s a new facility.”

    Another aspect of the traffic trouble revolves around the three community rinks at the new WFCU Centre, which are open during Spitfires games, with users taking up a chunk of the available 1,950 parking spaces.”

Our well-trained, well-paid, experienced and fully staffed Police Department is not that dumb. I just do not believe it. I thought that it was a nice touch in the Star story saying that the Police Chief was stuck in gridlocked traffic as well.

Can the problem be solved?

  • “We have more police now to direct traffic and we’ve started to shut down roads (in two directions) to allow traffic in before the game and out afterward,” said Rich Trella, the WFCU Centre’s general manager of events.

    “I think parking might always be a bit of a problem, but we’re trying to do our best.”

I guess that there is only one thing that the City can do. We’re going to have to buy many more acres of land for parking at a much higher price per acre than before from the gentleman from London. I would assume the cost is higher since this is where Windsor’s new downtown is supposed to go.

Naturally, this cost will not be charged to the Arena Project itself because that project is finished. Good thing that this was discovered afterwards or else the cost of the Arena Project would have been over budget. This will just be a charge to general revenues.

Older Windsor Bridge Closed For Safety Reasons

In light of this shocking news, are Governments acting irresponsibly with respect to the Ambassador Bridge?

One however should not be too concerned about a bridge where tolls are paid, provided that they are adequate, based on the comments that I have Blogged previously about what the City's traffic guru, Sam Schwartz, said. Mind you, his comments were not made in Windsor for some strange reason:

  • "government officials should be taking care of these bridges...we neglected our infrastructure. We didn’t do the very basic things...That’s what we’ve done with our bridges...If you pay a toll, by the way, on a bridge, your bridge is safe. They, they’re taking care of it; they’re doing the daily maintenance."

I wonder if the Greenlink advertising monies could be used now for a slightly more important purpose: safety of Windsorites!

By the way, the bridge should go from #3 on the Eddie Wish List to #1 I would have thought. Replacement of the bridge would cost over $11 million. There goes the canal project.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DRIC And The Symphony

I am going to do a helpful BLOG today. I want to demonstrate that I can be extremely positive and provide a helping hand to those in complete distress.

As I am sure you will appreciate, because of the border file, I speak to a lot of people at the Federal and Provincial Governments. We speak about a number of issues, not just the border file. I assume that I am just another one of their contacts with whom they speak in Windsor as they develop policy. Presumably, I provide a different perspective on what is going on in this City.

The one thing that is very common amongst these officials is their lack of understanding of our Mayor. They cannot figure him out. They do not understand how a City with the highest unemployment rate in the country and with its main industry dying can turn down billions of dollars of new investment on issues that make no sense. I am not going to get into the fact again about truck emissions being virtually eliminated with changes in technology because I have talked about that before. However, that is what they just do not understand.

Now, I can explain to them with a specific example how our Mayor works. I am doing so to make life easier for them so that they can follow his model in order to get what they want.

It is a "you scratch my back and I will scratch yours" mentality, ably assisted by the friendly folk at the Windsor Star. It will explain again why Eddie had to make his $60,000 ad blitz presentation at Council and why he will continue being an irritant until they knuckle under and give him what he wants or get some nerve and tell him to [expletive deleted].

As I Blogged about the other day, I did not understand the story about the Capitol Theatre and this comment by the Mayor:
  • Doubt cast on Capitol's future as a theatre

    Because of a prolonged legal battle for ownership of the Capitol Theatre, Mayor Eddie Francis said Friday he can no longer guarantee the 89-year-old playhouse will be used as a theatre in the future.”

What did not make sense before is now understood. Eddie never says anything without thinking it all through. We just need to put the hints together to figure out what he is really doing.

Check out this story from the Windsor Star today:

  • Windsor Symphony venue in jeopardy

    The Windsor StarSt. Clair College president John Strasser said Monday the Chrysler Theatre is losing money and that if the losses continue, the school will stop renting the waterfront facility to the symphony and other community groups which have performed there for decades.

    “If you were to tell me that in three years we would be losing a significant amount, we would not be operating a theatre,” Strasser said in an interview. “That’s for sure.

    “The theatre would simply then become the practice place for our theatre arts and entertainment technology programs. There would be no formal productions put on there other than what St. Clair put on for its students.”

    Strasser would not divulge costs to run the Chrysler Theatre, but noted that he still believes the business can be turned around so that the school can at least break even.

    St. Clair bought the former Cleary International Centre for $1 from the city, which had been losing money for years.

    Mayor Eddie Francis officially turned the keys over to Strasser March 11, 2007. St. Clair has since spent about $4 million to renovate the place to accommodate 600 of its almost 7,000 students in the downtown facility now called the St. Clair Centre for the Arts — which Strasser said is working out well academically…

    Jeth Mill, executive director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra — which has performed at the Chrysler Theatre since 1960 — said times are already difficult. St. Clair raised its rental rates 13 per cent at the start of the season in October, and plans to raise them more next season.

    “It was an increase of an extremely large magnitude,” Mill said.

    “It was difficult because we had no recourse.”

    Mill said the symphony will stage 23 events at the St. Clair facility this season and that if the theatre was no longer available without a new concert venue to take its place, it would hurt the WSO.

    “We would have to scramble to find alternative venues,” Mill said. “It would be difficult. I’m not saying it would be the end of the world — but you could it see it from there.”

    WSO conductor John Morris Russell said the issue makes the argument stronger for renovating the former Windsor Armouries into a concert hall, as symphony officials propose.”

The key line in that story is:

  • “It was difficult because we had no recourse.”

I am sure that you get it now.

President Strasser helped out Eddie by taking the Cleary off his hands and thereby eliminated a possible Casino competitor. Now Eddie is helping him out by assisting him to get increased rents for the theatre.

Moreover, since the Cleary is losing money, who would object if the City gives the Capitol to St. Clair for a dollar to take it off our hands so that taxpayers will not lose money. That assumes of course that the City continues to be successful in its lawsuit against the Capitol's Trustee in Bankruptcy. Eddie and Strasser have the precedent of that amount for the Cleary don’t they.

It is as simple as that.

The WSO is stuck and they know it. The dream of the Armouries as a concert hall is not going to happen for years given this economy, if it ever does. Even if it did happen, where would the Symphony go in the interim?

I am sure that they could go to some high school to play but that certainly would not be a suitable venue. The only other place that I can think of offhand would be the Capitol although some changes would have to be made to the seating.

Eddie’s comment just destroyed that. Because of the lawsuit he cannot guarantee its future use as a theatre. Of course, his comment is absurd but if you are the Executive Director of the Symphony looking for location then he has just put a dagger into your heart.

The Symphony won’t be able to go to the Arena because the City controls that and the Casino is too large. So they have no choice. They have to go to the Cleary and pay whatever price St. Clair wants so that the President can tell his Board that they are making money and that he did not enter into a dumb transaction. He has to keep his job too.

Do not feel too bad for the Symphony however because they will be saved. Their first alternative is to increase the price of tickets by a dollar or two. They will do so probably but unfortunately their attendance will drop because of the increased amount.

However, if our Mayor has other political ambitions, he cannot afford to annoy the movers and shakers in town who support the Symphony and would be the people to whom he looks for political donations as well. Accordingly, expect that when the Symphony comes to Council begging for Arts money, Council will be very understanding and will help out.

I trust that the Senior Levels understand now how to deal with our Mayor. Oh, one other tip. Eddie does not want Greenlink. He wants cash, unencumbered cash, to do with as he so desires as he and FCM have stated about Federal Infrastructure money.

Now they know who is leading the band here and what his favourite tune is.

You are most welcome.

Political Decisions: Do Dollars And Bodies Equal A DRIC Bridge

Are they all crazy?

You may literally be sick after you read this BLOG. That was my reaction when I read the articles that I will outline below.

First of all, I need you to read again, very slowly, the quotation that I have Blogged before from Margaret Thatcher’s speechwriter:
  • "The decisions that really matter to political leaders are those to do with the getting and holding of power. Other decisions may turn out well or ill. They may cost billions of pounds or hundreds of lives, but for enlisted politicians those decisions are secondary. What matters to them is: will I still be here after this?"

Please read it again, slowly, and keep it in your mind as you read the rest of this BLOG.

Can you believe the hundreds of billions of dollars that governments around the world are throwing at financial institutions? AIG, because it was too big to be allowed to fail and notwithstanding the disastrous activities of a few of their employees, was given first $85 billion by the US Government and then another $40 billion.

In Canada alone we have given $75 billion for the mortgage meltdown. I know we have given the money but I am not sure to whom we have given those dollars and what they are supposed to do with them. Did our Government get anything in return for this taxpayer largesse, say a piece of the receiving institutions or a promise to pay back? What a nice holiday present.

Compare that with the automobile companies and look at how they have been raked over the coals for their failures. Not only did the US Senate not give the money but if they were to do so, they demanded the scalps of their chief executives. So it was up to President Bush to figure out some way to give a few dollars between then and the time that the President-elect enters office.

One could argue that this is nothing more than Senate Republicans being very cynical. Let the new President inherit the mess and see if it blows up in his face. That is bad enough to play politics with this matter but it is probably a lot more than that. Take a look at this article and be disgusted if it is true:

  • "If the UAW, which is perceived as one of the strongest unions in the country, can be put under control, that may send a message across the whole country," said Michigan State University professor Richard Block, a labor relations expert.

    Handing a defeat to labor and its Democratic allies in Congress was also seen as a preemptive strike in what is expected to be a major legislative battle when the new Congress convenes in January: the unions' bid for a so-called "card check" law that would make it easier for them to organize workers, potentially reversing decades of declining power. The measure is strongly opposed by business groups."

Is that what this is all about? Is this nothing more than union-busting/union-bashing activity by the Republicans and business groups? Putting potentially millions of people out of work at a time of economic crisis, being responsible for the closing down of businesses across the United States (never mind Canada and many other countries around the world), weakening America’s manufacturing ability and putting at risk its defence capabilities did not seem to matter to some of these people.

Who cares if cities die? Who cares if states become bankrupt? We have to kill those unions and here’s the best time to do so. Let’s make the wages of Americans similar to that of Mexicans or other Third World countries. Of course, nobody will be able to buy anything with low wages but that’s another issue.

I am no great advocate for unions but this is hardly the time to abuse them.

Think that is bad. Just you wait. That only deals with billions of dollars. How about dead bodies? Would that concern you?

Take a look at this story and wonder how anyone could think what is being proposed or say it publicly:

  • "Blueprint for getting Obama's ear: Keep our troops in Afghanistan

    Supporting U.S. in spreading global democracy will be a key to a better relationship, a policy paper says

    Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service

    Canada's laundry list for Barack Obama's arrival in the White House next month is ambitious: boosting trade across a dysfunctional border, a continental energy and climate-change accord, and halting the economic meltdown.

    But if Ottawa has any hope of getting the ear of the world's most popular politician, it will have to think big and act even bigger. And that means dumping plans for the large-scale withdrawal of Canadian Forces from Afghanistan in 2011.

    That was the underlying message this past week when dozens of senior bureaucrats, diplomats and analysts from Canada and the U.S. met in Ottawa to discuss a "blueprint" for getting the Canadian government on the radar of the incoming Obama administration.

    The message couldn't be any more timely, given the musings last week by U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates about keeping Canadian troops in Kandahar past their 2011 pullout date.

    Canada's overtures to Obama will have to be as big as the larger-than-life U.S. president-elect himself, and will only grab his attention if they are bold and daring, and promise to take the Canada-U.S. relationship to new highs.

    That means playing the Afghanistan card.

    Against the backdrop of recession, Obama comes to power facing weighty world problems with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a provocative and nuclear-minded Iran, and carnage in Haiti and Sudan's Darfur region.

    "It's not wait times at the Ambassador Bridge," a senior Bush administration official said.

    The official was referring to the bottleneck at the two countries' busiest land crossing at Detroit and Windsor -- a major focal point of Canada's irritation with its "thickening" border with the U.S., which it believes slows trade and is economically harmful.

    What the U.S. wants from its northern neighbour, the official said, is help on the world stage to help solve big world problems.

    "You did that with Afghanistan," the official said, and that translated into face time for Canada with the U.S. to solve bilateral irritants, such as the softwood lumber dispute.

    Bruce Jentleson, a Duke University political scientist and a foreign policy adviser to former Democratic vice-president Al Gore, said Canada should extend the Afghanistan mission beyond the withdrawal date set by Parliament…

    David Bercuson, the director of the Calgary-based Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, said the U.S. does not expect Canada to behave like a superpower, but it does want it to contribute to the defence of democratic values on the world stage.

    "Obama will want the same from Canada. If his administration is disappointed, it will not go out of its way to accommodate Canadian needs in other areas," Bercuson wrote.

    Derek Burney, a former Canadian envoy to Washington and the chief of Harper's transition team, co-chaired the Carleton project. In an interview, Burney said Ottawa must overcome the indifference in Washington by showing the "intestinal fortitude" to explore big ideas."

Big ideas!!! Can you truly believe what you are reading? Is this what is known as Realpolitik? If you want to get somewhere with the United States, go fight a few battles with them or for them even if some soldiers are killed.

So what is it now, 100 or so Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan? That’s okay though, it got us a resolution of the softwood lumber dispute.

Using that logic, how many people have to die in order to get us a DRIC bridge?

It should not be too difficult to calculate. In the softwood lumber dispute, $4 billion was returned to Canadian exporters due to the revocation of the U.S. countervailing and anti dumping duty orders. That amount is fairly close to what the DRIC road, plazas on both sides of the border and the bridge would cost by the time everything is done.

125 more lives to be lost! That is proportional since DRIC will cost around $5B. I guess that is an acceptable trade-off given the precedent of Afghanistan.

Yes, I like it. It works for me. I think this is what Mr. Burney meant so that Canada can get some more face time with the new US President. We’ve got guts in this country. We are not afraid. We know how to THINK BIG. Why, it would not surprise me if Stephen Harper learned that expression when he talked to our Mayor for 10 minutes the other day.

Yes, this blueprint is bold and daring. I wonder which political party will make this a key plank in their platform for the next election. Die for the DRIC Bridge! They might just be swept into power based on it. Majority government here we come.

It will get us to new highs all right as we are told. One would have to be "high" in order to make such statements.

Is the world mad!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bees, Honey, Vinegar & The Wish List

I have a very direct negotiating style. I don't like playing games, especially poker. I like to resolve problems quickly and easily and hopefully to the advantage of both sides. I learned that approach from the Senior Partner of the law firm that I first worked for.

I do not understand why we have all of this drama in Windsor with respect to the border file. I do not understand why everybody has to hold their cards so closely to their vest. I do not understand the reason for all of this bluffing especially when one does not have a good bargaining position.

A good playwright could write a play about all the twists and turns that have taken place so far that would have filled the Capitol Theatre for years. It could be written as a comedy, a tragedy or a mystery or a combination of all of them.

Why can't the Mayor simply say to be Senior Levels that Windsor is prepared to be the "host community" for the DRIC road and the Ambassador Bridge project provided that the City gets certain benefits.

There would not be the need for much negotiations especially since the value of the DRIC project would have been reduced significantly to something that would take into account the reality of the emissions issue. The difference between the price of the DRIC road and/or Greenlink and the final "cheap" road project would more than pay for the Wish List of items. It is like a Community Benefits program that could have been achieved.

Had I been the Mayor, I would have created my Wish List of items and I would have presented it to the Premier when he was in town recently and to the Minister of Finance as we were travelling in the Minister's car to Toronto Airport. Moreover, when I had the personal, 10 minute phone call with the Prime Minister, I would have asked him to stay on the line for an extra five minutes and told him about my Wish List and then faxed it to him.

I posted above what seems to be Eddie's list of items that he wants with the number of jobs created in the last column. I could have worked with that list too. The list comes from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Report which listed all of the shovel ready projects that municipalities across the country desired to have financed. We taxpayers are going to be very busy paying for all this for generations.

Just add the number of jobs that the DRIC Road and Enhancement Project would add to the Wish List and consider the prosperity that they would bring to the region at this time when we are in serious trouble. The stupidity of the City's approach is too mind-boggling to grasp.

But it's OK...I hear that the Mayor has been talking to people recently about the canal vision. We are saved!

Unfortunately, the way that the Mayor and City Council are pursuing this matter seems to me that all we are feeding to those with money at the Senior Levels is vinegar, not honey. No wonder we can't catch a few extra bucks or two down this way.

Perhaps now Council Valentinis will understand why no one is listening to Windsor and what can be done to change it. He knows as well as anyone else what is needed but refuses to act. He was one of the ring-leaders that stood up to ex-Mayor Hurst in 2003 but he won't do anything similar now.

Windsor desperately needs a new Voice of Council. It is a shame that there is no one with nerve on Council who is prepared to stand up publicly for Citizens. Want a good example: we will have unanimous approval at Council to waste $60,000 for the useless, new Greenlink ad blitz designed to save Eddie's failing political career.

More Letters

I get mail from my readers about matters that interest them including one that takes me to task and my reply:

1) [Re WEDC] WE DuCk our responsibility to be accountable or do any real work

2) Let's think about Windsor's progress on the border issue under the leadership of our mayor and council. If you remember we were told prior to the first Schwartz report in January 2005 that a new border crossing and access roads would be in place by 2013. We are now at the halfway point. After four years the progress has been staggering! Let's go down the list.

  • Schwartz Report January 2005 calling for a bypass to nowhere through the Ojibway forest (scrubbed) and converting Huron Church Road into the Champs Elysees of Canada (a tongue in cheek joke)
  • City of Windsor's push for full tunneling from Highway 401 to the EC Row Expressway (an absurd pipe dream)
  • City of Windsor's Greenlink, tunnels and schwunnels and make believe parkland on top (tossed aside)
  • Son of Greenlink (dumped)

Of course, the city made sure trucks stayed off the EC Row Expressway even though it its original design included a dedicated truck lane. Meanwhile millions in Ontario government dollars were refused by the City to fix up the roadbed.

Now for the Ambassador Bridge. No city permits. Not for replacement of the 70 year old structure and no permission for tearing down of abandoned house eyesores on Indian Road. Lots more taxpayer dollars wasted on lawyers.

But, all is not gloom and doom. Let's look at the positives over the past four years.

The DRIC road was recently adopted by the province despite loud protests and threats from the city. What will Windsor do? Maybe the mayor will pay hundreds of thousands to carpetbagging legalists to litigate and delay construction. Such a surprise. An additional problem: despite the huge expense of this road (1.2 billion) it would only bring trucks from Highway 401 to the EC Row Expressway. Nothing for reducing pollution on Huron Church Road as trucks continue starting and stopping for the many traffic lights. The mayor doesn't seem to much care what happens between the expressway and the present bridge entrance. Let the locals enjoy breathing vehicle emissions. They're used to it.

As for the DRIC road, what has happened up to now? Well, the Ontario Government bought a church on Talbot Road. Everything else, including the crossing location, its surrounding road infrastructure and the highway leading to it are nothing but lines on a map.

Which means there's lots to do over the next four years. Let's get cracking! If the senior governments can stop laughing at Windsor long enough, something might happen. Will everything be completed by 2013? That's a bigger joke than the Schwartz bypass.

As the past four years indicate, Windsor will likely do its best to make sure little gets done between now and 2013. It took 30 years for the EC Row to be finished. If the mayor and council can stall, litigate and deny long enough maybe they can break the EC Row 30 year record for delay and frustration. Would anyone be surprised?

3) [RE Family Business BLOG] Apropos the content of the blog of this AM, isn't it interesting that the Canadian Nationalism/Anti-Americanism phenomenon seems to pertain only to the Bridge but not to the American-owned and operated Truck Ferry which, apparently, is not held to the same standard. In fact the MOT is in the middle of improving the access to the ferry as well as to the ferry dock itself at the cost of several million dollars while the company’s owners whine incessantly about the unfairness of Customs charges, ice-breaking fees and those mean and hard-hearted bastards at Morterm.

4) Kenny Lewensa is now up against a rock and a hard place. George Bush just gave the industry about $14 billion under the condition that they file a viable business restructuring by March 1 and one of the conditions is that the UAW be competitive with Japanese compensation in the auto sector in North America. With the UAW that means they have to come down by about $10 bucks per hour maybe $15 buck an hour.

Canada is at least $5 buck an hour higher than in the US today so in Canada to be competitive they have to find about $15 bucks and hour on the low side and possibly as much as $20 bucks an hour. There is no ties between the US money and Canada but our Governments would be crazy to not force the same condition on the D3 in Canada for them to receive the $3.4 billion promise up here in the north. And indeed the D3 themselves would be crazy not to force the CAW into matching the US agreement.

Can you imagine what would happen to our assembly plants if Canadian compensation were allowed to stay in the $70 per hour range and the US and the new domestics were all under $45 per hour. We already are the highest compensated auto workers anywhere in the world for the D3 ... with this new US agreement forced on them by the Bush Administration they would be $20 to $25 per hour higher in Canada.

Meanwhile Kenny has been holding town hall meetings to rally his troops to hold firm and to toughen the stance of the CAW against compensation concessions ... He should have been softening up the troops...

If the CAW doesn't move then bye bye to all the D3 assembly plants in Canada. The CAW appears to be more interested in taking NO compensation than a reduced compensation. So Kenny must be real happy these days .. he's getting exactly what he's asked for ... no compensation.

5) Eddie spent another $1.2 million refurbishing the [airport] terminal. Did you notice that there wasn't as single person in that shot other than him and [the Airport GM]?

Keep the blog going!

6) Eddie could use the go kart track at the airport and call that the Windsor Grand Prix!

7) The feds are going to get real tired of the province and Eddie on this border file and if this border is as vital to Canada and the US as they say, one day soon we could have the federal boot right on our necks and there will nothing that Eddie or Dalton can do. It would be an excellent showpiece for the Feds in a stimulus package.

8) Good Day Ed:

Today I did a drive through on Indian Road since there has been mention of it in the media again. The boarded up houses while lacking beauty do seem to be secured well to prevent squatters and vandals from having easy access to the properties. There are many signs up on the homes with the "Support Green Corridor" message and enough art work to make it appear that the end result would be a positive development. Especially interesting was the large fleet of Windsor Police vehicles of many different descriptions in the area. There was a sign up for them as well "Police Services Training Exercise". I agree with the neighbours living on the street that it would be a better impression to the community to have the buildings removed and the green space completed. In the meantime having police exercises is a wonderful deterrent to having any criminal activity take place and a chance for our uniformed officers to practice in an urban setting for those rare events like hostage taking, weapons and bomb threats, and other kinds of situations that when they arise require a response whether there has been practice or not. The media and community spokespersons are giving us less than a full disclosure of what is happening in the area.

9) I was on and found this article about the jobless rate in Canada for December. There is a video on this link where they interviewed Windsor mayor Eddie Francis who talked about how Windsor is recovering and young people are NOT moving away now according to him and the crap he talked about in the toronto star about how auto suppliers are now in the aerospace industry. I heard most people are leaving or planning on leaving because of lack of jobs here including myself.

10) Due to the nature of our companies, we have often worked closely with previous regimes at the WEDC in efforts to develop business and industry in Windsor/Essex.

Aside from a couple of conversations concerning matters from past administrations and a couple of enquiries from the current folks, there is very little contact now and I am very interested in what they are doing or, more likely, not doing.

11) With the new bridge tolls will have to double to make any money.The bridge can raise theirs a dollar shy and make more money with less traffic.

P3's are a difficult scenario right now.Look at the long term facility they just cancelled because of cash flow issues. The Province now has to start again.

Who in their right mind would invest in a bridge that would have major competitionin a slumping market?

12) RE: Who needs THIS Development Commission

WE DO! This region does and so do you.

You know, I take offense to people who just bitch to bitch and who clearly don’t know what they are talking about. If you think there are doing such a bad job why don’t you step up and show us by action and results how you can do a better job. The WEDC is doing a good job and your opinion for once is not appreciated.


Thanks for your comment. I think you missed my point.

There is a desperate need for "A" Development Commission if this region is to survive. My objection is to "THIS" Development Commission that has achieved little and spent a fortune in doing so. The need for economic diversification has been recognized for years and what has been done? And yes, I am aware of the trade show in November that you attended so do not blast me on that one.

The Development Commission has been leaderless for a year now with no CEO hired and one wonders what kind of conflict there was before the last CEO was terminated that stunted growth. I object to being told that after 24 months "the new WEDC is still taking shape, growing and changing to effectively serve the needs of our Region.”

I saw that your company is involved in aerospace by going to your website. As you know, according to our Mayor, our shops have transitioned to this industry already.

When I searched under that word on the WEDC website, unfortunately nothing showed up that you were involved in that business when I did a search on the word "aerospace." Only 4 company names show up. If I was looking for a partner, then you would be out of luck.

I don't just bitch to bitch. You may have forgotten what I wrote about a year ago that you may want to reread: Weekend reading: Windsor's Future

Thanks for reading my BLOGs. I appreciate your comments.

13) [RE Pushing Eddie's Button] Well done Ed for providing a clearer evidence based portrait of our mayor.

We now have a failed Mayor who talks ad nauseum but everything he touches goes to stop while triggering questionable and exorbitant consulting costs

The mayor has created a real problem here. He could have shown true leadership, admitted he ordered the change and provided his reasons. The issue might have died right there, and the veracity of his explanation never arisen. His decision to blame others exposes his personality. Is this really the calibre of person we want for Mayor?

He cannot expect greater positions of power if he cannot succeed as mayor. He is building too many enemies and too many failures. The comments section of the Windsor star and the blogs show that he is not fooling everybody .

There is a growing body of evidence that Eddie F is not the mayor he claims to be. Converse to conventional wisdom, he banks on the premise that words will speak louder than actions. Ironically, in the case of how he chose to handle the button issue, they certainly did! However, it is ever more apparent that his inactions speak louder than his words.

Not much there on his record to show he has earned the the trust of taxpayers to be re-elected for a third term. In fact, it is unfortunate there is no recall legislation in Ontario.

Stay vigilant Ed since a free press is vital to transparent, honest and accountable government!

14) Ed your Windsor city blog does what a good investigative newspaper should do every day. Alas newspapers do not do this anymore. Also we have evolved into a Canadian culture of happy talk, do not upset anyone, mediocrity instead of meritocracy and a lack of innovative thinking. This has led to the decline of what could have become a leading nation. Have you noticed if we need something done or need money we look to immigrants or foreign investors. Can’t we do anything? Furthermore I believe there was a recent report from Simon Fraser University that suggests that we have lost 18 billion dollars over the last twenty years because of our misconceived immigration policy.

Our politicians have learned that the electorate is dazed and can easily be manipulated. This syndrome exists to various degrees across Canada but seems to be severely lodged in Windsor and its’ institutions. As a former resident and university faculty member I recall many suggestions made for implementation by the university/community. Suggestions such as the establishment of a second pharmacy school. It wasn’t possible here in Windsor but Waterloo-Kitchener has recently done this as part of their downtown renewal. Other examples include the lack of any meaningful action when Windsor had three federal cabinet ministers. By this I mean they could have worked with the community to bring in new innovative private and public institutions to diversify the economy.

It seems that the leadership within Windsor as in much of modern Canada is about what can one do for oneself rather than the community. The inability to discern good people and place them in powers of responsibility such as the development commission is a major concern. I could go on. I hope you keep up your good work. If a thousand Windsorites did what you are doing then there would be hope at the end of the tunnel.

I find many of the same problems in my Wife’s home province of Nova Scotia where the Federal and Provincial politicians do not say we can do it but instead suggest let us study this over and over and over or it is not possible. I believe that politicians are not interested in hard work but more in easily attainable tasks such as announcing over and over the same public projects, attending receptions, birthday greetings and so on.

15) Ed, we all know that the Bridge was going to go forward with this lawsuit. Windsor has been holding up progress for years now so why shouldn't they sue. If only we had a Mayor that would work for the good of the community instead of his own ego. God he ticks me off every time he opens his mouth.

16) [John Fairley and Eddie on Face to Face] Thanks Ed for posting that for me (and the ex-pats from Windsor) John sure knows how to shake a guy out of his chair. I could actually visualize Eddie squirming. Good one!

17) Ed, you are not being nasty. Calling it as you (we) see it is your opinion and dead on as I see it also. 2009 is going to be rough. That BS phone (y) call from Harper was only a gratis call. You think ANYONE will do business with the Mayor after the turmoil that has been created with his Administration. You are right - scan any search engine on Windsor and you get gloom and doom. It's too bad for all of us to have to endure him and his bantering the next few years. I think he should hang it up and head out on one of those non existent flights to Calgary or Saskatoon. "Windsor is a wasteland" is the consensus and the entire country is now aware of it.

18) Good for Bruce. The cost of the ad was worth it to him. I saw he was present at the September 12th Audit Committee Meeting.

19) [Re Tales from Two Cities] Good read and WOW it sounds like Windsor. These are times when we have to sit back and realize that we are not the only City that is trying to recover after many years of great living. What we need is some positive and realistic leadership and some insightful entrepreneurs to guide us through this transition. We will all get through this mess - just probably not as fast as we would like to. Tough on us BabyBoomers but you know what, we all need to slow down and reflect sometimes. That time is now whether we like it or not.

20) Tsk, tsk…Ed, certainly you should know that the Governor General is the Head of State – not Government. [Change made.]

21) ED, money is not the root of all evil, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil!