Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 13, 2009

Windsor's Swinging Downtown

I don't think it has to do with golf or baseball or old Dodge Darts. Or even theatre.

If the City wins the lawsuit with the Capitol's Trustee in Bankruptcy, I think they have a new use for the space. One that will be very profitable too and will allow us to catch rats.

Eddie gave it away when he said:

  • "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.

    "It is a cultural gem we would like to preserve in some way," Francis said. "But we've lost a lot of time, so how and what type of gem it will be is still unknown.

    "It's not certain it will be maintained as a theatre. There's too much uncertainty."

I finally understand it! I should have known. There IS a secret plan for the Capitol Theatre after all. There is no doubt that we had the PLAN first and Edmonton is trying to steal the concept from us.

After all, we are Sin City!

  • Proposed swingers' club gets no love in Edmonton

    EDMONTON - It may be the only recession-proof business left, but residents of a west end Edmonton neighbourhood are up in arms at a plan to open a swingers' club in an old theatre space.

    The 4play club, described on its website as a "dance and social club for sexually open-minded couples and single women," had hoped to open this weekend in the former Jasper Cinema.

    But that plan is on hold after an appeal against the development permit was filed this week.
    While that hearing is restricted to parking concerns, the president of the Canora Community League says the proposal is wrong for a district trying to appeal to families.

    "It boggles my mind. I can't even understand the concept of why they would want to put something in our community like that," Eleanor Burke said Wednesday.

    "Do it downtown or somewhere, but not in a community where there are kids. I don't think it's morally right for the kids to see this."

    About 40 people from nearby neighbourhoods who attended a meeting Monday opposed the project, and Burke said she'd rather see something for young people such as a bowling alley or even a pool hall go into the space.

    "There's going to be rooms where they can swap their partners. I thought that only happened on CSI. I was amazed."

    Diane Kereluk, executive director of the Stony Plain Road business association, said the 4play club could lower the public perception of the district as it works on a major makeover.

    Last month, city councillors approved the Jasper Place revitalization strategy, which includes a call for bylaw restrictions to stop the creation or expansion of adult-oriented businesses.

    "The surrounding communities are not happy, and I really support their feelings on this. They're working hard to help this area to turn around its image to a place where families go," Kereluk said.

    The president of the 4play club insists opponents have nothing to fear, saying there's no tolerance for drugs, no trouble and no prostitution, because the sex is free.

    Most people who hit it off arrange to have sex somewhere else, although there is a swinger "play area" separate from the main lounge, he said.

    "We have a lounge, you come in, socialize, meet who you want to, we talk about everything," said Joe, who didn't want his last name publicized.

    "It's just your regular social club - like going in the legion."

Just like the legion eh. I can hardly wait to see what the WSO proposes for the Armouries!

You Are The Border BLOGMeister Today

Here is another of those Do-it-Yourself border BLOGs.

Every so often I just get one of those moods where I have a lot of things rattling around in my brain but I just can’t make any sense out of them. What I have done in the past and what I intend to do today is to set out all the facts for you and let you figure out if there is any rhyme or reason to all of it.

I know that there is but I just can’t put my finger on it. I’m sure that you will be able to do so and help me out. Sure it may seem that there are a lot of "facts" but I know you can do it, dear reader!

The reason I am writing this BLOG is the big article in the Windsor Star by Michael Kergin, the former Canadian Ambassador to the United States and the Premier’s envoy on the border file. He wrote a report on the border if you will recall about which the Star did an Editorial and which I Blogged about as well.

I don’t expect that the article was written merely to encourage attendance at the luncheon speech that that he is going to give at the University of Windsor towards the end of the month. I think that there is some other reason for it as I have suggested before.

He again advocated in his article “Border's future is critical” what he set out before his report
  • “When Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his meeting with President Barack Obama, he might propose the establishment of a Permanent Joint Border Commission, along the lines of the earlier PJBD.

    The PJBC, co-chaired by cabinet members reporting to the heads of government and including officials from the relevant border, security, foreign and economic departments, would recommend border policy initiatives, as well as co-ordinate the implementation of new measures to streamline our common border.”

In other words, keep it low level and under the radar so that Canada can get what it wants without the Americans being any smarter about it.

I noticed that this article “was written for the Ottawa Citizen.” Obviously then it was written for the US Embassy in Ottawa to forward to Washington before President Obama’s visit to Canada. It is yet again another way to signal to the Americans what the Canadian Government wants without the Government saying it.

I could not understand though why he was so lucky to have his report distributed so many times so I started thinking and a number of points came out that I’m just not sure how to put together properly yet. Let’s see if you can do it:

  1.  President Obama is going to make a "pit stop" in Ottawa to discuss matters of interest with Prime Minister Harper.

  2.  PM Harper tried to convince former President Bush at least twice to support a DRIC bridge but he did not

  3.  Former Transport Canada Minister and now Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon already had a shortlist of Canada-U.S. issues that matter most: "Job creation, fighting protectionism and the energy and environment ... as well as the borders."

  4.  Kergin report came out favouring amongst other things a new DRIC bridge

  5.  Carleton University’s Canada US project came out with a Report favouring a new DRIC bridge out of the blue

  6.  Kergin spoke at Carleton University at a roundtable for the Canada US project

  7.  Former US Ambassador to Canada and former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard also spoke at that roundtable

  8.  I believe that Mr. Blanchard provided consulting services for DRIC

  9.  Herb Gray is the Chancellor of Carleton University

  10.  Herb Gray was one of the strong supporters of FIRA, an Act used to try to block the ownership of the Ambassador Bridge by Matty Moroun

  11.  The International Bridges and Tunnel Act as far as I am concerned is directed right at the Ambassador Bridge and provides very onerous terms that only apply in reality to the Bridge Company

  12.  In my opinion, IBTA is nothing more than FIRA in disguise

  13.  Derek Burney just wrote an article in the Financial Post about “Saving Free Trade”

  14.  Derek Burney is a former Canadian Ambassador to the United States

  15.  Derek Burney is director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

  16.  Derek Burney is senior strategic advisor at Ogilvy Renault LLP

  17.  Brian Mulroney works for Ogilvy Renault

  18.  Former Senator and defeated Conservative candidate Michael Fortier works at Ogilvy Renault

  19.  Then Senator Fortier was intimately involved in the border file

  20.  Brian Mulroney is one of the big supporters of Stephen Harper

  21.  A former partner at Ogilvy Renault, Jacques Demers, now works at Borealis which is part of OMERS

  22.  Jacques Demers was involved as a lawyer in Canada’s first shadow tolling highway

  23.  Michael Nobrga of OMERS just opened up a London office so that they could tap into the money of various Sovereign Funds for various infrastructure projects

  24.  As Minister of Energy, Dwight Duncan worked with one of OMERS’ Companies for the Bruce nuclear plant

  25.  The Province has just announced that it wants to make the DRIC road to the border a P3 project using the expertise of Infrastructure Ontario

  26.  Len Kozachuk was a consultant in the DRIC project now works at Infrastructure Ontario

  27.  Ontario Ministry of Transport plan to finance their Windsor Essex Parkway with an availability payments or shadow toll project.

  28.  The Financial Post, Ottawa Citizen and Windsor Star are all sister newspapers owned by Canwest

  29.  The Vancouver Sun, another sister newspaper, has written stories about the Port Mann bridge and the P3 problems there because of the doubling of the cost of the bridge and the problems of financing the project, none of which stories has appeared in the Windsor Star

  30.  Derek Burney is Chairman of the Board of Canwest Global Communications Corp.

  31.  Derek Burney advocates in his article “to use diplomacy at all levels” including the White House and sympathetic members of Congress and to “to electrify the "hidden wiring" in our relationship with the United States.” ie relations at many levels -- from the state-provincial and business-to-business to nongovernmental and legislative levels.

  32.  This multifaceted approach was part of the strategy in the Ultrasecret Playbook of the Canadian Government about how to deal with the United States

  33.  Louis Ranger was Chair of the Group that prepared the Playbook and Herb Gray was a member of the committee

  34.  Louis Ranger is Deputy Minister of Transport Canada which wants to build the DRIC bridge and also is part of the process of the Environmental Assessment of the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project.

Do you see what I mean? This is so complicated. There are so many connections amongst the parties that it is hard to keep up. There has to be something in common that ties all of this together: Government, media, money, the academic community, lawyers.

Do you think the connecting link could be the concerted Canadian Government effort to take over and own the Ambassador Bridge, a 50 year effort so far on Canada's part, to control trade into the US by controlling all of the major Gateways and Corridors between the 2 countries?

Naw, no Canadian Government could be that dumb to antagonize our biggest customer by putting them at our mercy over trade. Why it would be just as dumb as interfering in a US Presidential election. We would never do that!

I think it has to do with Free Trade and Afghanistan somehow but I just do not know what it is.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Stories

So many stories. I literally am overwhelmed with so many things to tell you. Do not worry. I am trying to cover most of them all!


This is an older story.

Poor Windsor Star. Poor CKLW. It would appear that Daryl Newcombe is now the reporter of choice for the Mayor with respect to the Border. He gets the big scoops now. (Of course, we poor Bloggers are shut out again! We do not even get out-takes)

The Mayor told us through Eh-Channel that a “draft report he obtained contradicts DRIC's suggestion that Greenlink's longer tunnels are less safe than the parkway.”

A “draft” that contradicts a “suggestion.” Can anything be more damaging than that!

Mind you, you know what happened last time with respect to a draft letter and how Dr. Diamond destroyed Eddie’s position.

But Daryl should know that he mighted be dropped at any time so that he better ask for his bonus now.


Those CAW guys are standing tough alright. Yes sir, knuckle under or else:
  • Plant may close after workers reject concessions

    Under the current collective agreement, skilled trades workers at the plant earn an average of about $26 an hour, according to [Gerry Farnham, president of CAW Local 195], but [Randy Reaume, president and general manager of Windsor Match Plate & Tool Ltd] said wage rates are "closer to $32 and we've offered $28.

    "And unless we get an agreement on our offer, we will likely cease to exist," said Reaume.”

Just wait until the CAW goes after the Big Three. They may just teach those companies a lesson so that they can go into bankruptcy too.

Heck, with all of those new minimum wage call centre jobs coming to Windsor with the help of our friends at the Undevelopment Commission, the workers will have no problems finding new employment.

At least the workers had sense:

  • "Fear of losing their jobs prompted workers at a Windsor autoparts maker to reject their union's recommendation and vote in favour of their employer's contract offer, a CAW spokeswoman said Monday."


I just don’t understand. Eddie Francis can say this:

  • “Francis said the spending would be done on a per capita rather than job-by-job basis, allowing the city to get to work right away…

    Francis said the city has already identified $330 million in projects, including road, sewer and bridge repairs. The city is ready to kick in its one-third of the matching money, along with the one-third share already announced by the province.

    "We're ready to go," he said. "As soon as the federal government sends us the cheque we're ready to go and get the economy jolted."

Wait a minute, is the Mayor saying that we have $110 million available right now? Wow, if so, where did that money come from? More importantly, where is it showing up in the City’s Financial Statements?

I am certain however that that is not what the Mayor means. He probably calculated how much the City would get on a per capita basis and it is significantly less, or in a range that the City could probably pay for.

There is a small problem however. Remember the Tunnel Plaza Improvement agreement with the Senior Levels? Under that transaction each level of Government was to pay one third of the cost of $30 million IE the City’s portion was $10 million. My recollection is that the project is effectively on hold and will be on hold for several years.

If you will remember Eddie’s Wish List, the #1 item on that list was $10 million for the Tunnel.

What this means to me is that we do not have enough money in this City to pay for our #1 Project that has been outstanding for years yet our Mayor can find money for our one third amount for new Infrastructure projects.

Does anybody understand the City’s accounting system?


I am sure that you saw the story in the Star today but may not have understood the significance of it:

  • “Plan targets brownfield sites

    The city hopes to put the finishing touches on a plan that would provide financial incentives for redevelopment of vacant or abandoned properties.

    The plan would affect 132 properties covering more than 640 acres identified as “brownfield” properties, many of which are contaminated…

    Tasks to be completed before a draft financial incentives program can be brought to council for approval include establishing priority sites across Windsor..

    Of the 132 sites identified, a dozen are more than 10 acres. As well, 70 per cent of the sites are concentrated in four clusters — the port waterfront area of Olde Sandwich”

We are told as well:

  • “The city hopes to have a revitalization plan complete in six months.”

Accordingly, if there is a successful appeal of the Heritage Plan or the CIP or if the Bridge Company gets their Environmental Assessment approval, then the City has another weapon at its disposal.

After all, Sandwich is such an important area for this City.


In the Star the other day, we saw two interesting stories:

  1. “Funding OK’d for bridge twin”
  2. “DRIC says parkway will improve quality of life.”

Chances are that thousands of people would be working, house prices would be going up, foreclosures would be less, hotels and restaurants would be full, apartments would be rented, stores would not be closing but might actually be opening… just add to the list.


I remember that the big reason for their involvement is that the private P3 investors can finance all these fantastic programs that the Government cannot afford. That was then, here is now:


    VICTORIA – The provincial government has reached an agreement-in-principle for a public-private partnership to expand the Port Mann crossing and widen Highway 1, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

    “The Port Mann Bridge and the Highway 1 corridor is a critical transportation link that our government is expanding to meet current and future demand,” said Falcon. “This agreement means road users will benefit from safer and more efficient travel along that corridor, while taxpayers will benefit from private sector innovation and the transfer of risk for any cost overruns, construction delays or revenue shortfalls.”

    The Province will provide about one-third of the financing required for the project, standing behind a significant equity investment from the private sector partner, and on the same terms and conditions as the banks providing debt financing. "

In other words, the Australians who were supposed to finance his project cannot do so because of the economic meltdown and the significant increase in costs. I wonder if those were the same Australians who are speaking with MDOT to educate them about P3s. After this fiasco, I hope that MDOT and the Senate Republicans and Democrats have learned something.

The only private-sector innovation I see is suckering the Province to put in a third of the funds. As for transfer of risk, if the project goes broke been the Province is in for one third of the amount of the loss since they are putting up one third of the financing.

That ONE THIRD concept really gets around doesn’t it.

Speaking of construction delays, private enterprise is supposed to be able to construct better than Government. I have to congratulate MDOT on their management of the Ambassador Gateway project and wonder if private enterprise could have done better. As was stated in their recent newsletter:

  • “The real news is that the project is 70 percent complete and running well ahead of schedule,” said MDOT Metro Region Engineer Greg Johnson. “If we continue at our current pace, we may well re-open the freeway earlier than the projected December 2009 date.”


Lots of secret meetings going on at the airport. I heard that security people were scouting out the area.

Could it be that Councillor Loopy was successful in having the US President down here.

Sorry, no. I believe it was the Red Bull people checking things out before Eddie made his big announcement.

Now if we can only figure out who is putting up the millions for the sponsorship so the Province won't have to backstop it.

My Consulting Fees

Dear reader, I must beg your forgiveness in advance. I trust that you will be understanding.

This is the only time so far, and hopefully it will never happen again, where I have to keep information from you so that I can make some money.

Believe it or not, writing this BLOG takes a lot of time and effort. BLOGMeisters do not make money writing information that keeps you so up-to-date and informed so that you know the story behind the story.

I trust therefore that you will not begrudge me making a few bucks so that I may live comfortably as I get along in years. After all, I too have suffered from the stock market meltdown, the fall in the value of my house and the crushing taxes and levies and increased fees in this City.

I figured, if the Chair of the Undevelopment Commission could make $1,200 a day for helping to write brochures, creating a world-class website, traveling to the UK and searching for a CEO for 10 months, I could do somewhat better advising P3 proponents and contractors on the ins and outs of the Infrastructure Ontario process.

By my reckoning, I could charge $25,000, $50,000 or perhaps a bit more per day for my assistance. After all, the road part of the DRIC project is going to cost probably around $4 billion before it is finished. Then there is the cost of the plaza and bridge on the Canadian side. Notwithstanding that there is no P3 legislation in Michigan, they are going to have to finance their side as well. In the end, using the Manning Road example, the Port Mann example and the Big Dig, I figure we are talking about a $10 billion project by the time it is done.

If the DRIC consultants on both sides of the river can make about $60 million, then what is a paltry $50,000 per day between friends.

Moreover, don’t you find it strange that there is going to be one project for the road and a separate project for the bridge? My Constitutional Law background would be able to assist the parties involved in working their way through all of this to make it understandable. Again, considering what law firms have charged the City on border deals, my fees are a pittance!

I do feel very bad however that I am depriving you of information. Truly, I do feel sorry about it. I already know who is going to be the successful party in this matter but I am afraid I cannot share that with you or else no one would need to pay me for my work. That would be self-defeating.

I mean really, I could tell P3 proponents that they need not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a proposal when they are going to lose. I could tell them instead with whom they ought to partner. Imagine as well the fees that I could generate from the successful party by bringing them all of this cash at a time when there is a P3 meltdown because of the economic crisis.

The same for contractors. Why waste time pricing out the project and losing when I could direct them to the successful consortium with whom they ought to be dealing? It is a no-brainer.

But I do owe you something, dear reader. You have stuck by me through thick and thin and continue to read this BLOG. Accordingly, here is what I am going to do. I am going to give you some strong hints that will suggest where you should look to make your own determination about who the big winner in this contest will be. It should be obvious, with a bit of work on your part, by the time you are through what I mean. My only hope though is that you will keep this information to yourself, in confidence, and not use it to deprive me and my wife of food, clothing and accommodations in our old age.

The first hint is the obvious one that everyone should know about without me having to say it. Go and check out Henderson’s columns. He gave it away. Whether he knew it or not, or understood the significance of what he was saying, I don’t know. However there is no doubt in my mind that he signaled it to me, probably because of what he was told by his secret provincial government insider.

You may think that is presumptuous on my part but remember who was the first one who picked up in a Henderson column that he was going to retire. He knew that if he gave me a sign that I would recognize it. I would understand exactly what he was writing. Now you know why I called him the Sheriff. While some might think that he was writing for the masses and saying something positive about our Mayor as an example, his columns were really being written for me to help me know what was really going on!

And there is truly now no doubt in my mind that Don McArthur has picked up Gord’s spurs to carry on as I shall demonstrate.

Next let me talk about Brian Masse. He is Windsor’s point man on the border file. He knows everything there is to know about everything to do with the border on both sides of the river. He is a true NDPer and is not very happy with private enterprise. In the Star story that first mentioned a P3 road, I expected Brian to speak about the obvious. But he did not. Instead, here is what he said in the Star:
  • “the "Windsor Essex Parkway project would be the first large road project to be delivered using Ontario's AFP process."

    That triggers alarm bells for Windsor West MP Brian Masse.

    Masse had opposed P3s for crucial public infrastructure projects.

    "I don't think that we need to have some consortium from China, Dubai, Russia, Spain or wherever owning public infrastructure in Ontario, especially one that connects our border and is very significant for economic trade," Masse said from Ottawa.

    Masse raised the spectre of a toll road and said an international consortium might not be sensitive to local logistical issues when planning and constructing the highway…

    Masse has also been pushing to ensure there is a local worker mandate attached to the project, which is expected to create, at a minimum, 12,000 person years of direct employment over four years.”

His comments were a huge surprise to me. It was not at all what I expected so it must mean that there is a hidden purpose behind it, some subliminal message. Of course there was. To be fair to Brian, I don’t think he gets it either. I think he has been used unknowingly. Or maybe he knows the winner too.

Who wrote that story… Don McArthur! Do you get it?

Then there was the latest story about the Windsor Sounding session written by… Don McArthur. A coincidence? I think not.

Let me try at least to make it up to you, dear reader. What did it say about when the project really would be started, shovel ready? The answer was in the fall, 2010.

  • “The bulk of the jobs associated with building a border access road won't be created until the fall of 2010 — at the earliest — and it is only preparatory work that might begin later this year, provincial officials said in Windsor Tuesday.”

Thank you very much. I explained to you time and time again what Eddie’s role was ie. stall everything off until 2010 when the Province was supposed to have the money to build the road. We know that is not going to happen given the Port Mann problems.

No wonder everyone is desperate for the Ambassador Bridge to sue so that the Province can buy some time. The Bridge Company can be blamed for all of this. No wonder Eddie has presented on a silver platter all of the information needed by the Bridge Company to set aside the Environmental Assessment. Eddie does not have the nerve to do so. He is in enough trouble now with the Premier. However, the Province may force Eddie to act. I wonder if the Red Bull $3.2 million was to make life easier for Mayor if he had to sue.

Back to the Sounding story. What a bunch of noise except Don also has signaled what is going to happen, perhaps unknowingly as well:

  • “Construction companies from across Canada and as far away as Omaha, Australia, Los Angeles and Spain met at the Hilton with local companies — who they will have to engage to win the bid for the $1.6-billion project…

    Potential bidders who attended Tuesday’s session included Dragados/ACS from Spain, Kiewit from Omaha, Neb., MacQuarrie from Australia and Aecom from California. Potential Canadian bidders included Coco Paving, Aecon and SNC Lavalin.”

There was some additional information as well about how the road would be financed that was inconsistent with what the Provincial Minister of Finance said previously and of course there was the language about no tolls but nothing about levies as was hinted previously from Transport Canada.

Naturally, unless you are deeply involved in this world of P3s, you would not understand the basis upon which this project will be sold. Remember, and here is a really big hint, this is Ontario’s first major road using the P3 model. You know that horrific mistakes will be made that will cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. That would be brushed away of course by saying that it was the first project and naturally mistakes would be made.

Oh there you are mocking me again. You forgot about Bruce Nuclear and the Hospital P3 that I Blogged about. If you are so smart, explain this:

  • Field of dreams

    February 11, 2009

    Brampton, Ont. -- The real story behind the Brampton Civic Hospital is the co-operation of the public and private sectors to serve a community that is growing at twice the rate of any other area in the province (In This PPP, Taxpayers Are The Ones Who Paid - Life, Feb. 5). The Brampton community had long outgrown its aging hospital and was underserviced.

    The community's needs outstripped the ability of conventional infrastructure planning. The need was chronic and immediate, and was recognized as such by two successive governments. With our community and private-sector partners, we were able to turn a cornfield into a 608-bed hospital in seven years.

    Were there lessons learned? Sure there were, and if people look at what Infrastructure Ontario is doing now on other projects, they would see the changes that have been made. But please do not punish my hospital for being the pioneer.

    chair, William Osler Health Centre”

Accordingly, I can help the successful Consortium and their contractors make a killing on this project. Heck, I probably should provide some strategic advice to the politicians as well because I can show them how they can be made heroes even while this project in the end falls apart and costs taxpayers billions of extra dollars.

That’s it though. While there is a lot more that I could say, a lot more hints that I could give, I am giving you too much information already. I cannot jeopardize my family’s future I am afraid. I hope you can appreciate this.

I will tell you this. You need to read what you see and read what you don’t see as well to understand what I’m talking about.

In the fall of 2010, if the road project really does happen, you will understand it all if you have not figured it out already. It's right there, in front of you. Honest.


Watch the Star on Saturday. A super co-ordinated attack on all fronts:
  • a Greenlink ad will be fuming

  • if he has a column, Gord Henderson will be fuming

  • the Editorial will be fuming

  • the Editorial cartoon will be fuming

  • the Page A3 columnist will be fuming

  • the Letters to the Editors writers will be fuming

  • in Star news stories, citizens will be fuming.

On Monday night at Council, Councillor Gignac will be fuming and will be demand that a letter be written to the Premier again, this time demanding that he come in front of Windsor Council to answer Council's questions.

What's this all about:

  • "The bulk of the jobs associated with building a border access road won't be created until the fall of 2010 — at the earliest — and it is only preparatory work that might begin later this year, provincial officials said in Windsor Tuesday. "

Weren't you surprised there was nothing in the paper yesterday? I expected a denouncing of those DRIC people by City Hall. But nothing!

Oh I get it....our Leaders were taken by surprise. Wait for the massive retaliation after they regroup the troops for the final days of the battle. Already the Teshuba Tunnel forces are lining up with the City Hall Communications Group, whoever they are:

  • "Hi, (bccing selected)

    Just to follow-up with the recent announcement about Feb 17th, we are having a venue planning meeting on Wednesday Feb 11th at 3:30 pm with City Communications officers, at South Windsor Arena. (sorry for the short notice, as it only recently became confirmed, and we are working with a tight timeline)

    Your input and assistance in sharing ideas for the set-up and agenda would be appreciated if you are able to attend."

Their rallying cry will be that the process is contaminated...get those letters Eddie!

A new reason to stall and to threaten litigation. Will it ever end.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Undevelopment News

So much going on. So much news. So little focus on Economic Development. Someone must think that our economy is so good such that we can be involved in such distractions.

These lyrics from the Music Man musical seem very appropriate:
  • "Well, either you're closing your eyes
    To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
    Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated...
    Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
    I say, trouble right here in River City."

Will we be seeing a new Chair soon for the WEDC?

Remo Mancini is one very shrewd person. I do NOT mean it in any negative connotation whatsoever. It is a compliment and I do not give out compliments easily.

There is no doubt at all however, and he knows it better than I do, that he has overstayed his welcome at the Undevelopment Commission. The focus has turned to him and not business development. That will also hurt the Region as long as he is involved as the political fighting between City and County is starting. It will also hurt his career if he wants to be a Director on the Boards of various companies.

On one level, I really have trouble understanding Grace Macaluso’s Column today. Read the introductory paragraphs to her column:

  • “For the record, Remo Mancini, himself, disclosed his $1,200-a-day remuneration as acting chief executive officer of the Windsor Essex Development Commission.

    I didn't have to pry the information out of him when I interviewed him last week about the commission's failed, 10-month search for a permanent CEO. I asked the question, he answered.

    What Mancini, who also serves as commission chairman, may not have anticipated was the fallout from his disclosure. Some local politicians complain that his role on the search committee constitutes a potential conflict of interest.

    These days, in the wake of multibillion-dollar government bailouts, CEO compensation has become a touchy subject on both sides of the border. In this economically stressed town, nerves are raw. Any suggestion of wrongdoing -- real or imagined -- can touch off a firestorm. And, that is exactly what the commission's 11 directors are facing.”

Then read her conclusion:

  • “If Santos and Francis hope to head off a full-frontal attack on the commission, they, as board members, should insist on Mancini's removal from the hiring committee. The optics are terrible, and will continue to serve as a distraction.“


Surely, she cannot be serious. There has to be more to what she is saying than this. Is she trying to do the Henderson double entendre too. Let me explain.

Mr. Mancini is not that dumb not to understand what is going on in the business world with respect to CEO salaries. One of his claims to fame is that he is a graduate of a Corporate Governance program. He ought to know everything that there is to know about being a Director.

To be blunt about it, if Grace is correct and Mancini “may not have anticipated was the fallout from his disclosure” than he ought not to be in the position of Chair at all. He cannot be that insensitive and remain in that position. After the Big Three private jet fiasco, no one in his position would not understand the consequences of the revelation of his consulting fee.

The penalty that Grace suggested is so miniscule for lack of judgment that it is almost laughable.

The Undevelopment Commission is a mess. For whatever reason, and there’s no point in getting into it now. Someone else can do the autopsy on it later.

What I see is a very shrewd move by Mr. Mancini to get out of the Commission without being blamed for its failures. What I see is Mancini reestablishing his credibility in Grace’s column which allows him to say that he had nothing to hide. He revealed everything. He got not to be condemned for being honest.

The next step obviously is for him to take the usual way out and say that he does not want to be the focus of all of this negative attention in this time of economic distress for the Region because it could hurt the Commission. While he could remove himself as a member of the search committee, in his opinion, he can say, that this would not end the controversy. Accordingly for the good of the Commission and for the Region, he will submit his resignation as Chair and Member of the Board.

Let us see how this plays out.

The only hope that Eddie Francis has now is that Nelson Santos decides not to be a Member of the Board. I just hope that the Warden takes the hint. The last thing that both of them need at this time is to be involved in this mess and to try and salvage it.

Bite the bullet. Wind it up. And start all over again.

One more comment that is even more troubling than the CEO search. It really does impact jobs and what this Commission is or is not doing.

What is Joe Mikhail talking about. He cannot remain silent now. He has to tell us everything:

  • "Mikhail said his dissatisfaction was fanned in recent months when he was attempting to lure Rogers Communications to Windsor and potentially thousands of new jobs.

    While he was aggressively chasing Rogers in competition with London, the commission was basically telling him to take it easy, Mikhail said. "That's not the way you do business," Mikhail said. "It's cutthroat."

    Mikhail said it pained him to speak out and it may hurt his own business, but he could no longer be silent about what he saw as an ineffective organization today."

I do not understand this at all. I thought that the Rogers business was a major coup if we could get it with many jobs to become available. I agree with Mikhail, why would anyone go easy?

Was Mikhail being told to be quiet because HE personally was not going to get the business but someone else in town was? Was he in in effect being told to be quiet because he was jeopardizing that other project? We saw Joe in action with respect to the TD project in downtown. As far as he is concerned, it is not over until it is over.

Perhaps he was being told that Windsor lost the transaction and that another nearby community was going to get it so that he should be quiet. That would be strange if true given what happened with Sutherland:

  • "A source close to the negotiations says Mayor Eddie Francis, with help from Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello, pulled off a "Hail Mary" in persuading a big-league information technology firm to locate 1,000 jobs in Windsor instead of Mexico.

    "Mexico was a 100 per cent done deal. It was gone. They had a site ready to go near the Texas border."

It is all so troubling. Can it get any worse?

Tunnel Tunes

In my opinion, the Mayor is petrified that information about the Tunnel deal will come out that shows that money was wasted on a transaction that never made sense financially. That is my explanation about what happened at Council last night.

It seems to me that there is no "financial" case for the transaction. Maybe there was initially but not as time went on.

Here is what was said by Administration in bold type and underlined for the attention of Councillors so they will know the party line and will follow it:
  • "For the City of Windsor, the objective of the discussions with Detroit has been and continues to be to ensure that this significant international border crossing remain in public control and to allow it to be operated as a unitary and integrated tunnel."
Nothing here about making a profit is there! No wonder it is merely a "business" case. It could run a loss and Eddie could still claim that his business case was being met. It was "no lose" for him!

I apologize to my readers. I should be more timely about some of the comments I make about City Council but I cannot. I truly cannot stomach watching what goes on at Council live. It is an incredible waste of time to watch what takes place there. Rather, I videotape it and play it back the next day so that I can skip all of the useless parts.

I tried again last Monday. I did watch live on Monday the ridiculous debate about putting the Mayor on the Undevelopment Commission Board. I watched the conversation about perhaps imposing an Interim Control Bylaw in the West End merely because one developer wants to put up a four-plex I believe that he is legally entitled to construct. During this debate, there was a serious allegation made against a City employee who went nameless made by one of the Councillors.

That was shocking and disgusting and never should have been allowed to be said. The Mayor as Chair of the meeting should have ruled it out of order immediately. In fact, it had to be made clear that the Councillor was not talking about certain people who were involved in the process.

What a great way to hold a meeting. I turned off my TV set because I just could not stand watching the immaturity any longer. Had I not done so, I probably would have thrown my shoe at my TV set because of the issue that was brought up at the end with respect to the Tunnel deal.

We got a taste of it from Craig Pearson, in the Star A3 column:
  • "We have thus far learned most from across the river about a possible tunnel deal with Detroit. In an unprecedented move, according to Coun. Alan Halberstadt, city administration has asked that questions from he and Coun. Bill Marra -- who want details of a 2006 outside report on the tunnel -- be stricken from the books. It's a closed-door discussion, not about answering questions, but about zapping them from existence, like they had never even been asked."

In passing, if Craig and Grace keep this up, someone may demand a recount about Don getting Henderson’s job.

What happened was that there was an in camera meeting with respect to the Tunnel. The subject matter was

  • “Windsor Detroit Tunnel – Property Matter – Negotiations.”

I believe that Councillors Halberstadt and Marra demanded that the matter go into the public agenda. Since it really had nothing to do with Negotiations, I do not understand why it was in the in camera session in the first place.

Oh it did discuss Negotiations in passing, but the purpose of the report was

  • “That the City Clerk be directed TO REMOVE CQ 59 – 2007 and CQ 79 – 2008 from the monthly reporting of outstanding CQ’s.”

Those are the embarrassing questions that Councillors Halberstadt and Marra have asked about the Tunnel deal that have not yet been answered.

If you did happen to listen to the Council meeting you would have no idea what the Councillors were talking about because the Administration Report was never posted. Remember, it was supposed to be dealt with in camera and those Reports are never posted.

There was a request to defer the matter for one week because Councillor Marra was not there (he had to leave after the in camera session) but it was defeated. In my opinion, once a matter is taken out of the in camera session and put into the public session it should not be heard on that night but rather at least one week later. In this way, the public has an opportunity to read the Report and to decide whether or not to attend as delegations.

I might well have decided to come and talk about this report and demand that the Mayor provide the answers. However because of the way the process was run, I and everyone else in this City was deprived of the opportunity to do so.

That Procedural By-law does need amending!

A copy of the Administration report is posted here. Do read it please.

I think you might want to take a look to see the kind of information that the Councillors wanted to know. I would have thought that it was the kind of information that a Councillor would be entitled to, certainly a Councillor who was also a Tunnel Commissioner like Councillor Mara. Instead they have not been given an answer for quite some time and after the meeting last night, it appears they will never get it. And neither will we as taxpayers.

Take a look just for fun on page 4 and the italicized typing towards the middle of the page. There are some blanks there. Try and figure out which names should be within those blanks. I believe that one of them could be the bogeyman whose name has been mentioned many times as a possible party that wants to get possession of the Tunnel and perhaps cement it up! Such a fixation on that Compnay if true!

I did not know that Public Reports could have information removed like this.

What was said at Council to prevent any information from being disclosed?

First the City Clerk claimed that it might take an excessive amount of effort for Administration to provide what Council Halberstadt wanted. The Councillor clarified that by saying that all he wanted was one report. I hardly believe that that would take much time to find and produce

Then we had the City Solicitor and Councillor Valentinis duo try and stonewall things by throwing up solicitor-client privilege. That’s always a good one to use.

Fulvio the Enforcer in effect then said that no information should ever be given out until the transaction closes because it could prejudice the City’s position. I guess he forgot the news story that said that Detroit was not going to be dealing with us. Moreover in the Administration Report it was stated:

  • “At this time, there are no active negotiations with the city of Detroit and none have taken place since the summer of 2008.”

Following the logic of the Councillor, even if a transaction was completed between Detroit and some third-party and it was to last a hundred years in the future, this information should still not be made available because in a hundred years we might try and do another deal with Detroit. Releasing the information today could somehow be prejudicial to us if we were to negotiate again in the future.

It seems strange. One should look at this as auditing a transaction. I know that there was a report done initially on the 400 building because we wanted to learn from that transaction how we should run other construction projects. My recollection is that the report was very positive about what happened. Can’t we use the same logic and say that we should audit the way this file was handled so that we could learn in the future?

Ooooops, I forgot. There is another audit that the City’s Audit group undertook that has not been disclosed for a very long period of time. Who knows why? Perhaps the lesson learned in the 400 building audit is the precedent being followed with the Tunnel deal now.

Of course, our Mayor has waived solicitor-client privilege in my opinion and has let the cat out of the bag with respect to the value of the Tunnel. Accordingly what is there left to hide:

  • “Mayor Eddie Francis questioned how Detroit arrived at a $100-million price tag for control of the U.S. side of the tunnel.

    Windsor has gone through an "exhaustive process" to arrive last year at a $75-million value, he said.

    "That was the number we were prepared to pay back then, but economic conditions have changed considerably and are very different than five or six months ago."

    The mayor said 2010 toll revenues for the Detroit side are projected at about US$11.5 million, but the city has no way of knowing exactly since it is controlled by Alinda, a private company which holds a lease until 2020.

    "Does the tunnel have revenues to support $100 million on the American side? I'd be interested in looking at their numbers," Francis said.”

The Mayor no longer is in a position to prevent the disclosure of the Appraisal in my view. He cannot come out and say that they did a “exhaustive process” and arrived at a $75 million valuation and at the same time keep that information from us. It up to him to demonstrate what he has done and he can only do that by providing us with a copy of the Appraisal.

Let us cut through all of the nonsense. Council Halberstadt asked for the appraisal report that was prepared by Price Waterhouse. With all due respect, that is not the key piece of information that we need. The information that is fundamental to this transaction is in the letter that I posted above. It is the amount of money that Infrastructure Ontario would provide. It is clearly not $75 million. It is a sum of money in a range of amounts. Obviously, the amount is less than $75 million. I wish I could tell you what that amount is but some "third party" is opposing that release under my Infrastructure Ontario FOI application.

This entire exercise of wiping out those Councillor questions may well be nothing more than an exercise in damage control in my opinion to prevent Detroit from knowing that Windsor cannot do this transaction and probably could not do the transaction in the past. It may be an attempt as well in my opinion to hide from taxpayers in Windsor that we have spent over $1 million on a transaction that was never going to be concluded. In other words we have wasted money and Eddie cannot bear being blamed for it.

Eddie probably thought he could do the deal initially. He probably thought that he could get the money from Transport Canada. When they backed out, he was in a jam. What he should have done then was blame it all on them, walked away from the deal and then demanded that Transport Canada pay the legal fees.

That seems pretty logical to me and very reasonable as well. But what if our Mayor had done something such that Transport Canada had legitimate grounds to refuse to do so. That meant that the City would be stuck with the fees and that the finger could be pointed possibly at the Mayor. You know how he is with respect to being “blamed.”

Perhaps he felt then that he could sweet-talk the Province into doing the transaction. Heck, he just got over $3 million as a backstop for Red Bull. I have already revealed some of the letters that made that strategy seem doubtful. However, it would have put additional pressure on the Mayor.

Think of it, what if the amount was $15 million or $25 million or $40 million. Why would Detroit have continued to negotiate with us when they needed $75 million? I thought that DCTC, or perhaps it was Alinda, offered substantially more than those amounts and perhaps could have been convinced to pay $75 million. I would think that Detroit would be pretty angry at us now if ultimately they would get less.

What about Windsor taxpayers… how long have we been paying for a deal that could not be completed if Infrastructure Ontario was not providing $75 million? How much money was wasted and why? If the transaction was never going to be completed, then why didn’t we just find an excuse and walk away from it?

I do not know the answers to any of these questions.

It seems to me that Councillor Halberstadt ought to re-ask his questions just to make a point. Moreover, Council Marra at the next Tunnel Commission meeting has no choice but to ask for the information and ask for it to be disclosed immediately to him as a Tunnel Commissioner. That is his legal obligation in my opinion.

There is one other person who should be very interested in knowing the answer to how much Infrastructure Ontario was prepared to pay because of the grave consequences to him personally because of this file. If there was no hope of getting $75 million, then I would think that he would be a very angry man today if he found out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

There Is A New Sheriff In Town

One Sheriff goes; another one comes to take his place! I'll tell you all about the Grandson of Greenlink as well.

Take it from me, the competition amongst the Star reporters to take over from Gord Henderson is finished. A winner has been chosen but has not yet been announced.

Yes, yes I know the suspense is killing you, dear reader, but you will just have to read through the rest of the BLOG before you get that answer. It all fits in together. Trust me!

The most arrogant move of the year so far comes in this letter. Is it any wonder that the Premier’s Office was so mad at the Mayor over Red Bull?

They invited him to attend. How nice. I can just imagine Junior cross-examining him. Or the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget bristling as the Premier spoke. No doubt Councillor Black Letter Law would ask some tough legal questions about the Environmental Assessment process. Well, you get my drift.

The Premier neatly but politely told the City to buzz off. Perhaps if our Mayor had attended his function, the Premier might have reciprocated.

What is interesting is that the letter to the Premier was signed by the City’s Deputy Clerk while the Premier signed his letter back (or more probably, the letter was signed using the latest technology to make it appear as if the Premier signed the letter).

Then, to confirm that Windsor must be deserving of our 27th Place ranking out of 27 cities in Canada as far as literacy goes, I received a note from Mr. Tunnel, Al Teshuba, about a Residents’ OPEN HOUSE Assembly & Workshop regarding the Proposed Border Access Route.

You see, the Mayor and Council have no respect for the Citizens of Windsor. They think we are stupid. In their last Greenlink ad, they had to show us the four easy steps so that we could write a letter supporting Greenlink. Apparently, they did not think that we had the intelligence to write a letter on our own.

Of course, in their In camera meeting, someone may have said that Windsorites probably cannot count to four either so we need help. Lo and behold, Mr. Teshuba and some of his colleagues happened to approach the City about an idea that they had to speak with DRIC about their concerns.

My understanding is that the DRIC people had been invited to meet with some citizens but by the time these people finished putting conditions on how the meeting was going to take place, DRIC decided that it was not worth their effort.

I don't know all the gory details but I understand that the residents wanted the City to help advertise their session in a Greenlink ad but that was viewed as unacceptable by the City because it could taint what the City was doing.

The long and the short of it is that a letter writing session will be held. At the least, the Mayor will be pleased because there will be a few letters sent out by citizens to justify his $60,000 advertising blitz.

Now Citizens can come to the Teshuba meeting and learn how to write a letter. It would be so much easier if City Hall just wrote the letters in advance and people could come there and sign them with their "X" and then just go home.

I do have to warn the City’s Communications group, whoever they are, to make sure that they put in a lot of misspellings and grammatical errors. We want the Province to believe that these letters were written by “Citizens.” If everything was perfectly written, then the Province would know that they were phony.

Finally, the Windsor Star and Gord's replacement.

Take a look at the Don McArthur A3 column on Monday. He has to be the winner of the replace Henderson contest.

I was quite surprised at what he wrote to be honest because it seemed to me to be a flip-flop from some of the strong BLOGs he has written against the Mayor over the last few months.

That was a strong indication that he had won the contest before it really started.

I was going to quote some of his comments but when I went to the Star’s BLOG page there was no link to his BLOGsite. In fact, his name and BLOG had been removed as if it never existed! Get real, one could not have the new Columnist of the Star having his nasty words about the Mayor thrown back in his face when he seemingly was so supportive.

But, that is not what gave it all away. Don is smart and wants everyone to think he is an E-Team Player!

Of course, there was the exhortation to write letters that fits in with the Greenlink ad campaign and the Teshuba session.

  • “I'm going to pen a letter to the province decrying the Windsor-Essex Parkway…

    I'm going to fire off a sharply worded missive to Toronto because a stamp costs less than a lawyer. If you want any sort of return on all the tax dollars you've invested in the city's GreenLink campaign, I'd encourage you to do the same…

    Stand up for your interests by sitting down and writing a letter.”

Wow, from saving our children’s lives, the new Greenlink approach is not to spend any more money on lawyers. Brilliant, that should get us writing. A Pocket-book issue!

  • “Francis has staked his legacy on GreenLink. He's likely to open the vault and let loose the hounds if a compromise isn't reached, which means we'll keep on paying through the nose while the lawyers keep getting rich.”

That is a unique approach that will certainly win kudos for him from his Editors. Moreover, it supposedly helps Eddie because clearly very few letters have been sent until now.

Naturally, of course, Don sets out the Windsor arrogance as set out in the Deputy Clerk letter and our entitlement mentality. Eddie, the small-town Mayor, does not bow down to the Premier:

  • “unless the province is pressured to make improvements to its deficient Parkway plan...

    I understand why Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello don't want to build a road that will serve as a monument to Eddie Francis…

    Even if you don't like Francis and even if you think GreenLink has been a wasteful folly, it's in your best interest to lobby hard for a compromise…

    Francis has staked his legacy on GreenLink…

    A compromise solution incorporating more elements of GreenLink”

The compromise is giving in to Eddie not the other way around.

Of course, I’m sure that you saw the scoop that has never been reported before except in my BLOG. That is how I read what Don wrote. Just like Henderson, he gets the really big scoops already. It is all about the up until now secret Grandson of Greenlink:

  • “This arrogance and intransigence rankles because the city has signalled a desire to make a deal. A few tweaks to the Parkway -- longer tunnels around schools and key subdivisions -- could be enough to win community and council support.”

A new "signal." Why can't they just come out openly? Geeez. When did that happen and how---smoke signals? What are the exact details, the tweaks? Does Council know about it? Why weren’t Citizens told too. Why all of this latest secrecy? Were there any other changes like Schwunnel omissions or reductions and if so, where?

However, the Star Editors had better be careful. McArthur is clearly a member of the Posse. Henderson has passed over his spurs to him to carry on with what he started. His Column is a damning indictment of our Mayor but of course you can’t prove it by reading the Column. Just like with Gord.

Let me explain why:

  •  Obviously, we know that the latest advertising blitz has failed because McArthur is saying that we should be sending letters

  •  He mocks Francis by telling us about the Grandson of Greenlink. More secrecy and less open and transparent government

  •  Which Greenlink are we supposed to write about, Greenlink I, Son of Greenlink or Grandson of Greenlink

  •  So much for quality of life, or rather the latest buzzword “health.” Eddie is prepared to compromise again to get a solution that will save his career.

  •  Henderson wrote in columns twice that Eddie should compromise but Eddie refused. McArthur mocks that again by suggesting a compromise. He knows that Eddie cannot do it

  •  Talking about lawyers merely reminds everyone how much Estrin has spent on this file and Mr. Sutts on the Tunnel file.

  •  He makes fun of the first Greenlink advertising blitz by telling everyone that that money was wasted with people tossing out their postcard

  •  Naturally of course, the Province will not listen, especially after the dumb Deputy Clerk letter to the Premier. Just like Henderson, McArthur has given Francis no way out but to sue, an action that MacArthur/Henderson know Eddie will never start.

McArthur has started off his new career telling us what we already know but in a way that no one can pin on him:

Eddie is a WEAK-LING!

Welcome to our ever expanding phone booth, Pardner. Shhhh Don, I will never tell your secret.

Windsor Sounding

The Terms one learns when dealing with Government. Now we get "Soundings." I am not certain however if this is to replace community consultation or dialogue.

One dictionary meaning of sounding I read was:
  • "A probe of the environment for scientific observation."

That sounded pretty good to me until I read another definition:

  • "Noisy but with little significance."
Pretty much like what has taken place with the DRIC up to now. Let the people speak, pretend to listen, talk about the hundreds of meetings with the Community and stakeholders and then ignore all of it and do what you were going to do anyway.

I doubt I am going to attend the session errrr Sounding but thought I might contribute this to all those people who think that we are really going to get a P3 road in this area.
  • Drivers steered clear of Greenway in 2008
    Loudoun Times-Mirror, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9 2009

    As the nation's economy continues to sink, some consumers are not only avoiding pricey stores and restaurants, but also toll roads.

    Dulles Greenway officials told the Times-Mirror that the number of vehicles that accessed the privately owned highway in 2008 declined 4.4 percent from the previous year.

    Opened since 1995, the 14-mile-long Greenway is owned by Toll Road Investors Partnership II, a subsidiary of the Australia-based Macquarie Group.

    Toll Road News recently reported that traffic on Macquarie's Indiana Toll Road was down 16.4 percent the last quarter of 2008 compared to 2007, while traffic on its Chicago Skyway dropped 9.2 percent. This month, Macquarie reported that because of challenging economic conditions, it is forecasting its 2009 profits to be half of its 2008 profits.

    Over the past two years, Macquarie has been widely criticized for raising tolls. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) has been one of the harshest critics of the Greenway's owners, urging state lawmakers on several occasions to limit toll increases on the Greenway. On Jan. 1, tolls went up by 40 cents to $3.40 for most vehicles. By 2012, a one-way trip will run nearly $5.

    One reason for the toll hikes, Greenway owners have said, is that the road has not been a money-making venture. The increase was needed to fund road improvements and future expansion.

    When asked if the drop in motorists has Greenway owners worried about revenues, Greenway spokeswoman Ann Huggins-Lawler said, "I don't think there is reason for concern." She said roads across the country saw fewer drivers last year.

    According to the Federal Highway Administration, 112 billion fewer miles were driven on the nation's highways from the beginning of November 2007 through the end of November 2008 than during the previous 13 months.

    John Townsend is manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which opposed the Greenway's recent toll hike. He blamed high gas prices in the summer and the deepening recession for causing motorists to steer clear of the Greenway and of driving in general in 2008.

    "People pared back on everything," he said, "including discretionary driving and paying expensive tolls."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Government P3 Addiction

It was inevitable. It was preordained. I have been warning you, dear reader, about this for so many years. It is coming true now so it should not be a big surprise to you.

Premier Dalton McGuinty is at fault. No one else. You cannot blame the Minister. He could not help himself even if he tried. He was hooked and clearly could not escape.

The Premier cannot pass the buck to anyone else. He was insenitive. His colleague needed help. He did not have to appoint him to the position that he did. He knew about his…errrrrrr “problem.” He did not care. For that, he should be ashamed.

You know how it is with people who have addictions. It is cruelty to put them in a position where they deal every day with the substance that has abused them.

An addiction is
  • "a state in which the body relies on a substance for normal functioning and develops physical dependence"

You know exactly what I mean. Yes, dear reader, there was no reason why the Premier had to appoint Dwight Duncan as Minister of Finance. Of all the Government Ministries, the Premier put him into the position where it was most likely that he would fall back into his old habits again. And he did.

You see, Dwight has a problem, a very serious one that he is not yet prepared to admit to. Our local MPP/Cabinet Minister is an addict, a P3 addict.

It is even worse as I explained before at the Federal Level where every deal over $50M with federal funding must consider a P3. Why we even have now PPP Canada Inc. if you can believe it.

It is so clear: the body politic relies on private money now from P3 operators for normal functioning and has developed a dependence on that money no matter how bad a deal for taxpayers!

In his previous job, as Minister of Energy, Dwight was involved with a public-private partnership at the Bruce nuclear plant. The Toronto Star Headlines screamed:

  • “Nuclear deal too costly: Auditor”

Yet Dwight, poor Dwight was quoted as saying:

  • “Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said he would sign the same deal all over again.

    "The trade-off is what you pay for power," said Duncan, who was energy minister when the deal was negotiated, before becoming finance minister in October 2005 for seven months and then returning to the energy job.”

He obviously could not bring himself to admit that Departments errors might have been made. Notwithstanding the criticism, he would say:

  • “In the end, this deal is fair for both sides," Duncan told a news conference”

It was so sad to see that he could not recognize that he had a problem, or rather the Taxpayers did because they were paying too much money. Here are excerpts from the Star article:

  • Nuclear deal too costly: Auditor
    Apr 06, 2007, Rob Ferguson, Queen's Park Bureau

    Ontarians would have saved $1.5 billion on their hydro bills over the next 25 years had the government negotiated a smarter deal to refurbish the Bruce Power nuclear station, the provincial auditor general says.

    A review also found the government had "only partial success" in reaching its goal of protecting electricity ratepayers from cost overruns that have plagued past nuclear projects.

    Among other concerns, the $4.25-billion pact to modernize four reactors at the Lake Huron plant included a "mechanical error" that cost ratepayers an estimated $88 million, and $514 million for pricey enriched fuel.

    "It's not clear cut it's a good deal," Auditor General Jim McCarter said yesterday after completing a government-ordered review of the pact.

    However, he did find it "successfully" limits ratepayer exposure to most of the financial risks Bruce Power faces in operating – if not refurbishing – the nuclear power plant.

    "It was a bit of a mixed bag..."

    The review found the actual price of electricity from Bruce is 7.1 cents per kilowatt-hour and is poised to rise depending on construction costs and other factors.

    "That is significantly higher than what we're paying," he added, noting the average market price for electricity from all sources in Ontario over the last five years is 4.9 cents per kilowatt-hour…

    Still, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said he would sign the same deal all over again.

    "The trade-off is what you pay for power," said Duncan, who was energy minister when the deal was negotiated, before becoming finance minister in October 2005 for seven months and then returning to the energy job.

    But Hampton and other critics pounced on the findings, charging that some of the costs were hidden in the deal through measures like accepting lower payments for the plant leased to Bruce Power by Crown-owned Ontario Power Generation.

    "The government's reputation as a defender of the ratepayer has suffered a serious blow here," said analyst Tom Adams of Energy Probe.

    He said the report found the deal was structured so that prices will rise at a higher rate in later years of the agreement, an arrangement politically advantageous to the government, which is facing an election in October.

    "They created an artificially low price at the beginning."

    The auditor also found the Liberal government went into the talks two years ago at a disadvantage because of the Liberals' election promise to close coal-fired power plants by 2007.

    That promise – later broken with no firm closing date in mind for several more years – left nuclear as the only practical alternative to meet Ontario's growing power needs.

    "After this deal was signed, the government started to get flexible on coal, so it was a political mismanagement of the negotiations," Adams said…

    Duncan said the alternative to this deal was exposing ratepayers to more risks than the government was willing to take given massive cost overruns like the ones that plagued the Darlington and Pickering nuclear plants years ago.

    "In the end, this deal is fair for both sides," Duncan told a news conference…

    The auditor's review, a complicated 29-page document, was critical of the way government negotiators handled a number of elements in the deal.

    "We thought these were all reasonable things we thought they could have put on the table. ... They could have done better," McCarter said.

    Some examples:

    The review questioned why ratepayers are paying for the Bruce reactors to use enriched fuel, which boosts electricity output, but not getting a price cut in return. Enriched fuel costs two to three times as much as regular fuel.

    A "mechanical error" in calculations saw the government double-count the net effect of tax savings on some interest expenses to the advantage of Bruce Power.

    The goof was discovered two days before the deal was signed but not corrected because government negotiators found errors elsewhere that favoured the government.

    However, McCarter found "the documentation that the ministry provided to us did not support its assessment of the errors it cited as offsetting."

    In terms of cost overruns, ratepayers are more protected from major ones than minor ones and there was not enough evidence to agree to pay a $250 million addition to the total cost of the project in the final days before it was signed, McCarter said in an interview.

    Bruce Power will get full market price for the electricity it would normally produce if the province fails to build enough transmission lines to get it to customers.

    "Our concern is that Bruce will have a higher profit margin when the plants are not operating than when the plants are operating," the review said, arguing a better arrangement for ratepayers would have been to negotiate a lower "floor price" instead. "

Just so that you know, dear reader, Bruce Power

  • “is Canada’s first private nuclear generating company and the source of more than 20% of Ontario’s electricity.”

One of the partners is:

  • “BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust, a trust established by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.”

You remember OMERS don’t you…..the DRTP co-owner.

Do not try and make excuses for the Premier. He knew what he was doing. He knew what he wanted.

Here is what one commentator said about the 2005 Ontario Budget that was introduced by Dwight’s predecessor, Greg Sorbara:

  • “the Ontario budget has sent a clear indication that the government is opening the door to so-called public-privatepartnership (P3s) investments to fund much needed infrastructure improvements in the province… Leading up to the Budget, the Finance Minister met with some leading would-be investors, such the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and OMERS, who both make substantial infrastructure investments outside Canada. Both indicated this is a positive sign, but are waiting for details. By including this so prominently in the Budget, the Finance Minister has clearly indicated that he is willing put the public policy framework in place to make private investing in infrastructure more attractive.”

When Sorbara shockingly stepped down as the Finance Minister in 2007, a kinder, gentler Premier would have not put a person with Dwight’s errrrr “problem” in the job. The alarm bells should have gone off with the Premier when the Auditor General came out with the devastating report on the Brampton Civic Hospital Public-Private Partnership Project in 2008 that I Blogged about previously.

Of course, Infrastructure Ontario, who refuse to call themselves P3 addicts but are instead AFP addicts also refused to recognize their errrrr “problem.” They claimed:

  • “Infrastructure Ontario, the Crown agency now responsible for managing most government infrastructure projects, and its ministry partners indicated that most of the issues we raised are now being handled differently to better ensure the cost-effectiveness of current P3 projects.”

Of course, the reason for me being so critical of the Premier is the announcement in the Star:

  • “Border access road will be public-private partnership

    The province will embrace a public-private partnership to build a border access road and could begin engaging construction consortiums as soon as the spring, according to Infrastructure Ontario.

    The road to a new crossing will be taken on by the arm’s length Crown corporation as an alternative financing and procurement, or AFP, project, which means the private sector could finance, construct and even maintain the road.”

Since it is an AFP, Infrastructure Ontario is involved. Who was the Minister of Infrastructure from 2003 until mid-2008? David Caplan. Oh my, does Minister Caplan have the errrr “problem” too? Naturally, since money is involved The Ministry of Finance is involved whose Minister is our own Spanky.

Wait a minute… Caplan, Duncan. Oh no, it’s the Gong Show boys. Premier, don’t you remember:

  • "Minister sorry for speaking too soon:
    Border cash news catches mayor, Pupatello off guard; 05-27-2005

    Ontario infrastructure minister David Caplan apologized Thursday for revealing a closed-door government decision to spend $500 million beyond 2010 for new infrastructure to fix Windsor's border problems.

    The funding was announced by Caplan and MPP Dwight Duncan (L -- Windsor-Tecumseh) late Wednesday in a hastily arranged news conference inside Duncan's cramped constituency office...

    Caplan was on a plane Thursday headed for Vancouver to visit family, but his spokesman admitted the error.

    Wilson Lee said the minister's intention to reveal the funding commitment was done to show provincial government support for the city's $1-billion border traffic solution created by New York traffic expert Sam Schwartz.

    "We wanted to show a full commitment to the Schwartz Report," said Lee. "I suppose we should have held it back, but good news is good news at any time..."

    Meanwhile, stakeholders in the border traffic debate levelled criticism at the province, questioning why the $500-million announcement for funding to alleviate local border traffic woes was not in writing, done with little fanfare and will not start flowing until after 2010.”

Oh my goodness, it is almost 2010 now. They supposedly supported the Schwartz plan in that story but they never really did. That allowed the Mayor to fight for full tunneling, Greenlink ONE, Greenlink TWO, and maybe even GRANDSON of Greenlink.

I cannot believe it. Eddie has been able to stall everything until just about the time when money was supposed to start flowing. What an amazing and remarkable coincidence that is!

Do you think that this was a deliberate ploy by the Premier? Did he knowingly take advantage of their errrr “problem?” If so, for shame!

There is one slight little fly in the ointment as we say in Windsor. Our Mayor is against P3s. I am certain that he will stand shoulder to shoulder with his friend Brian Masse, the NDP MP, to fight this Provincial Liberal ploy to take money from taxpayers no matter what money they throw at him for more Air Races. After all, as our Mayor told us about the border file before he was first elected, he is consistent in his approach. Accordingly, he will never change his position:

  • “He reiterated his concern that investors such as… private infrastructure funds could make a bid to take control of the Detroit side of the tunnel."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Circling Round The Undevelopment Commission

No, no, no. You thought I was talking about circling the wagons. I'm talking about the vultures circling overhead because they know what is about to happen with this Commission.

It’s been a good week for Grace Macaluso of the Star. Two Page A3 columns for her.

I really chuckled at the last line of her first Column about the breast-feeding episode with respect to Facebook:
  • “Facebook execs should rethink rules that could only be conceived by a bunch of boobs.”

Then she did the column about the Windsor Essex Undevelopment Commission and the fees charged to WEUC by the Chair. She missed a perfect opportunity for a punchline:

  • “the Development Commission is bust-ed!”

Have you ever seen such a farce in your life about the group that is supposed to convince outsiders to come to this area? Here are a number of points that I want to raise for you to consider:

1) It would appear that a 10 month CEO search is “horrible” according to the Professor from the Business School who was quoted in the Star article. While Mr. Mancini as the Chair would deserve a good part of the blame for that, unfortunately he ought not to receive all of it. He has made the point several times that other members of the Board are members of the search committee as well

  • “But anyone taking issue with his role on the search committee or his salary should remember there are four other strong voices on the search committee and several others among the 12-member board, Mancini said.”

Nice, spread the blame around. Just like someone else would do if the finger was pointed directly at him!

It seems to me therefore that there may well be the need to replace the entire Board of Directors of the Commission if they all participated in this horrible transaction.

2) I wonder who chose Patrick Persichilli as the new Vice President of the Undevelopment Commission. That search seemed to be carried out very quickly and without much fuss or muss. I wonder if the Vancouver headhunter was involved in this process as well. If he was not involved, then why aren't we using the same process to try to find a CEO.

Was there a Board search committee involved, was it done by the Chair himself or by another member of the Board. I do not remember reading how that process worked.

Congratulations to Patrick in his new position. Perhaps!

I did notice an omission from his background history as outlined in the Commission press release. It failed to mention as I saw on his Blogsite:

  • "He is also the President of the Windsor-West Provincial Liberal riding association."

I am certain that he and Sandra can work together very closely.

And you thought that there was a real fight between the City and Province over Greenlink/DRIC Road. Don't be silly. That is just drama for the masses.

3) The Undevelopment Commission has failed us more than anyone knows. The Mayor stated

  • “There are four or five economic opportunities or investors in the wings where “a negative attack on the commission would be hurtful to attract those prospects,” he said.”

Yet in their advertisement the Undevelopment Commission said:

  • “the WEDC has close to 20 projects in the pipeline”

Clearly, in a matter of a few weeks, this farce involving the Undevelopment Commission has cost us 15 or 16 possible new business ventures in this City. How many more can we afford to lose? If this is true, and how can I disbelieve our Mayor, why would anyone want to have an Undevelopment Commission like this around at all.

4) Mayor McNamara of Tecumseh must be furious. He had difficulty getting any information about who was on the CEO search committee and yet our Mayor knows exactly how many economic opportunities there are in the wings. Did our Mayor sign a confidentiality agreement? Does he know who these investors are? If he knows, then why doesn’t Mayor McNamara know everything as well?

By the way, aren’t you sick and tired of the “confidentiality” defence being used every time someone on Council does not want citizens to know something.

5) There is the negativity word being used again. Thank goodness Bloggers and naysayers are not responsible this time:

  • “we cannot afford negative perceptions or publicity.”
  • “a negative attack on the commission would be hurtful to attract those prospects,”

The Mayor must live in a bubble away from the real world. The Commission has created this mess, no one else. If the Mayor does not believe that the Economic Development Commissions of our competitors have not put these negative stories in their scrapbooks already to show potential investors then he has no concept of how will the real world works.

Circle the wagons. Pretend that this mess has not happened. Keep on wasting taxpayer and Credit Union money.

6) I wonder if someone is going to ask for an audit of the books of the Undevelopment Commission to see how they spent their money. After how many trips to Europe and other locations, expenses for legal fees and severance payments, cost for the creation of the prize-winning website and creation of the brochure plus their mammoth $350,000 promotional and advertising campaign, I wonder how much money there was actually left to do development work.

7) The guy with the best timing of all is clearly Councillor Marra. I am sure that you saw this small story in the Star a few days ago and wondered what will it was all about:

  • Councillor urges forum on economic development

    Coun. Bill Marra asked city administration Monday to work out the details of a public economic development forum within the next month or so that would gather leaders from the region's various sectors.

    While short on details, Marra said he feels the session would be a good first step in developing long-term plans to get the community on the right economic path.”

I am not clear about his purpose but it seems much broader than what the Undevelopment Commission has been doing so far. I suspect that the Councillor is really reflecting the concerns of the business community expressed to him about the lack of action. It is probably a good venting session at the least to demonstrate discontent! Who knows however, may come out of it!

I wonder if our Mayor will consider this an attack on the Undevelopment Commission and will try to kill it. For our sake and for the economic well-being of our region, the Councillor cannot allow that to happen.

8) I do not know the gentleman at all because I do not really follow County news closely but poor Warden Santos. I am surprised at his strong defence of an Undevelopment Commission that seems to be going nowhere. He has been made to look very foolish by events.

9) Don’t you just love the comment of Councillor Halberstadt:

  • “It's becoming an autocratic situation.”

I can hardly wait for the Mayor’s counteroffensive. It certainly will be.

10) The best line of all in the Battagello story has to be this one that came from the Chair:

  • “the board and commission are striving to move away from “a CEO-centric organization,” he said.”

I agree. We are trying a new model in Windsor… no CEO at all. How many CEOs have we lost in the last few years either through resignation or termination. I have lost count.