BLOGITORIAL: IT IS TIME ALREADY
Are you tired of being played and manipulated?
Don't you wish it was over already and that years ago we had started building the bridge and the road to the bridge so that our region was prospering instead of suffering?
If so, welcome to the club!
It is time that this foolishness stop and that a solution be reached!
The ending of the third shift at Chrysler is symbolic for this Region as far as I am concerned. It is an omen of much worse to come unless we start smartening up.
It is hardly a surprise. Frankly the surprise is that the Minivan plant is still operating! I am having difficulty believing that the US Government will not put pressure on Chrysler to move its operations back to the United States if they want to get more of the bailout money.
All that it did do is make absolutely clear that this City is in tremendous difficulty.
I cannot believe that this is my seventh year following the twists and turns of the border file. I happened to get involved in it by a fluke. I saw that STOPDRTP was looking for a lawyer to help them out. If I had known then what I would be be getting into, I wonder if I would have made the phone call that I did.
One day in the future, long in the future, and if the parties actually allow someone to look at their files, a Ph.D. candidate will do his/her thesis on this border crossing matter. It will be like a spy novel respecting Governments right up to the level of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada. No one will really believe what is going on… it makes no sense to me today but I do think there is some logic to all of this.
To give you an overview, I think that this border issue actually started in the early 1960s and has carried on until today. In the beginning, to some, the Ambassador Bridge represented nothing more than a symbol of American imperialism over Canada and something that needed to be ended.
Over time, that emotional reaction to the Bridge changed to an economic one, although economic nationalism is still present. The Bridge and eventually all other crossings into the United States became important to Canada especially because of Free Trade and the shift to the global economy. Canada needed to protect its access into the United States of its goods and also needed to become a main route into the United States for foreign goods as well. Accordingly, the emphasis on Corridors and Gateways.
Of course, money is a key factor as well. We can see that with the desire to P3 the new DRIC bridge and road by the Governments as well as the Blue Water Bridge. The P3 addiction of politicians is very troubling since it is clear that P3 deals are of no advantage to taxpayers whatsoever. The latest example is the Port Mann Bridge project where the financing disadvantage alone of the P3 deal would have been a $200 million hit to taxpayer wallets.
In Canada, what has been remarkable is that the border issue has crossed party lines over the last 50 years. It is “bi-partisan” as the Americans would say.
It started with a Progressive Conservative Government, was continued under a Liberal Government and now is effectively supported by the Liberals, Conservatives, and even the NDP. Each of the parties has its own reasons but they are united to take over the Ambassador Bridge one way or the other. Fortunately, Canada has a willing public service who has been prepared to and is managing this file no matter who the Government is.
To what lengths will Canada go… legislatively, Canada has introduced the Foreign Investment Review Act and now the International Bridges And Tunnel Act. The Ambassador Bridge has been raised by Prime Minister Harper with both Presidents Bush and Obama. A very direct effort to accomplish Canada’s objectives was undertaken towards the end of the Bush term that gave rise to NAFTA-gate. That is how desperate Canada was, fearing the protectionism of the new President.
The file ebbs and flows depending on what Canada sees as its strategic needs. Obviously, there are matters that we mere mortals do not understand because there are policies being directed within the bowels of Government that we will only see years later. I can explain the backing off of the Canadian Government by settling their litigation with the Bridge Company as a desire not to impact negatively what Canada’s goals were with the United States at the time rather than as a true settlement of litigation. Just like softwood lumber in our days.
There was a deliberate and conscious decision by Canada in my opinion to retreat in order to fight another day. That day started a number of years ago as part of a process that was supposed to culminate in the distress sale of the Ambassador Bridge. How else to explain the morphing of FIRA into the IBTA!
The fascinating part for me is that Matty Moroun is really not the target of all of this. Certainly, he has been demonized and vilified. Monopolist is a word that is thrown around quite often even though the DRIC studies have demonstrated that he is not one. The cloak of public versus private is also a very convenient weapon to use to stir up animosity.
However, if my theory is correct, it would not matter who owned the Bridge. Any American who was the owner, no matter how generous, no matter how kind would be in the same position. That person or company would need to be attacked viciously in order to accomplish Canadian objectives.
The underlying assumption that Canada has been going under for years was that the Governments would be able to frighten the Bridge Company Owner into selling his bridge at a low price. They expected that he, as a rational businessman only interested in making money, would understand and fear that his asset would be devalued to nothing as a result of the power of Government. In this respect, they completely misunderstood him and his son.
That is why the border file is a complete mess and in utter chaos.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Governments of Canada, Ontario and Windsor have been working together to try to force the Bridge Owner to sell out. Again, as I have said before, there are family feuds because each of the parties, although in an alliance, is trying to grab as much out of the border and its proceeds as is possible.
Are the American Governments involved as well? I expect that MDOT is one of the players. I believe that they are involved more for the money that they can make on the P3 rather than on a philosophical level the way Canada is. I have not made up my mind yet about the US Federal Government although some of the people involved from that level do want to end the control of the Bridge Company for their own reasons.
However, my belief is that the Americans have been duped by Canada and really do not understand the significance of what Canada wants to do. They are just being taken, along for the ride.
That was a very long introduction. I have said it before but not as directly as I am saying it now. I believe that my view of this is reasonably accurate although it may not be 100% correct.
What is prompting this outburst today is what is happening to Windsor. And no one seems to care except for the people who are out of a job, who have no hope for getting a new job unless they move and those who are about to lose their job or their business or their home.
We have just seen the winding up of an Undevelopment Commission that achieved nothing for years even though the problems were growing and growing and becoming more and more apparent. We have seen it being taken over by two politicians.
I cannot say very much about the County Warden because I truly have not looked at the County very much. He does seem like a capable person in watching how we runs his meetings and based on the comments that I have heard as he has spoken on some of the issues when I watched a few of their meetings, especially the Joint Councils meetings.
However, I have not been impressed with the way that he has handled the WEDC matter at all. Do not forget that he was one of the apologists for the Commission at the Joint Councils meeting including not being concerned about the 10 month search for a new CEO. What prompted his big flip into agreeing that the Commission served no useful purpose I am not certain. But there he is now as one of the two Board members.
As for Eddie Francis, there is no point in me talking about him at all because if you are a reader of this BLOG, then you will already know the failure and the disappointment that I believe that he is.
Ultimately, through their dillydallying for years, including the involvement of their CAOs, they must bear responsibility for the failure for this region to diversify economically. Accordingly, what hope can anyone put on these people to lead us into a new economy. Perhaps we may have some hope with the sessions being sponsored by our four local MPPs but not with the WEDC.
Our future is tied to the Bridge. Like it or not. Our opposition to the Bridge Company and our stalling over the border road, even if it was to help the Provincial Government until they found money in 2010, has made us the laughing stock of the world. Please tell me one City or region that is turning down billions of dollars of new investment at a time of a virtual Depression, especially when this Region has the highest unemployment in Canada. And it is getting worse by the day as the Chrysler announcement makes clear.
What clearer signal is there that Windsor is Closed for Business! Sorry, that is not quite true. We are prepared to spend millions of dollars on harebrained schemes, some with foreign consultants even though some of our Council members are advocating BUY CANADIAN. We talk about building tunnels where none are needed, canals where none are wanted and transportation hubs at an airport when our neighbour across the River is building Aerotropolis!
THINK BIG and GO BIG OR GO HOME are wearisome phrases already.
Our Mayor’s performance at Council in dealing with the Bridge Company homes last Monday, his mediation demand and yesterday’s Star Editorial are so out of place that it is pathetic.
We had the luxury of games playing when we had virtually full unemployment with the car companies operating and people working. At one time, I believe that our Region had the third highest per capita income in Canada. I shudder to think what it is now with our high unemployment rate, house prices crashing and vacancy rates increasing to 15% in rental homes and who knows how much in office space.
And yet there is no recognition it seems to me that the world has changed and is passing us by as our so-called leaders in this City still plays silly games as if they counted. They are irrelevant.
There can be no true negotiations with our Mayor. He tells the Bridge Company the basis upon which he is prepared to set the terms of any arrangement with them on the Indian Road and other homes. He demands of the Premier and tells him the terms of the mediation process. There is no real compromise and none will ever happen with him.
He has been an irritant as is clear now from his $30 million demand, so far, of the Senior Levels as set out in the Estrin EA answer. Lord knows how much that will cost us on top of the millions for his fees to date along with the Tunnel deal costs.
And the Windsor Star and its role… I now understand that it is more than just being a local newspaper. I believe that there is much more involved than I thought. No wonder there has been no exposé of the Port Mann Bridge P3 disaster by this newspaper. It does not fit with the DRIC agenda to take over the Ambassador Bridge.
I assume that the Editorial was written before the newspaper knew about the Chrysler cut backs. I can only hope that this is the case. Otherwise, whoever wrote and approved the Editorial should be ashamed for supporting a failed Mayor. No one could possibly be so arrogant as to suggest the following:
- “That has not happened, and given their silence on the subject, it likely never will. Now we appeal directly to Premier Dalton McGuinty. He must come to Windsor and sit down with city officials to hear this community's concerns. He must explain why the GreenLink proposal was given such short shrift, and tell Mayor Eddie Francis and city council what stands in the way of a compromise that "everyone can live with."
This government has a duty to every citizen of Windsor, and McGuinty should be given no choice but to stay here, at the table, until a solution that is acceptable to this community is reached.”
What a nerve! Can the Star be taken seriously anymore, if it could ever be taken seriously on the border matter? I doubt it. The clear message is that the leader of the Province must bend to the will of some small town Mayor who is not even supported by his own people. How ridiculous. How absurd. What a disgrace!
It is time to come back to reality. The Governments understand well that they cannot build a new crossing near the Ambassador Bridge at this time. They do not have the money for it or the “Delrayed” DRIC road. The P3 financing world has collapsed. Traffic volumes have dropped to the point that a new crossing would not only go bankrupt itself but probably would bankrupt the other crossings. It would require massive subsidization to keep them in business.
Yet they keep pretending they are moving forward on DRIC because they do not know how to stop. I wonder how many promises have been made that cannot be kept now.
There is no doubt that there is going to be litigation unless sanity prevails. Who will start it I do not know. Eddie Francis may finally get the guts to do so but since he does not like to be cross examined that may not happen. He is trying to goad the Bridge Company into starting so that they can take the blame. After all, he has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to build up the case to kill DRIC for them.
The Bridge Company or the Governments might do so depending on their strategic needs of each at a particular time. Are they each shadow-boxing now or will someone unleash the lawyers?
That will accomplish a lot. I am being sarcastic. It will last for a decade or longer given the experience of the FIRA litigation. It will be bitter and vicious and career destroying for many people. We probably will get the true story of what has been going on for the last 50 years and it will not be pretty.
To be very cynical about it, I do not think the Governments give a damn about us anyway so why would they sue. It would be better to have the Bridge Company as the villain anyway. Much easier politically too.
Too many Ministers of the Governments at all levels have spoken the platitudes about the importance of our crossing and yet have done nothing for years. They know that the Bridge Company will keep the border operating. There is no great urgency given the drop in traffic and the problems with the automobile industry. It will take some time, decades, before traffic picks up again. They probably are not at all unhappy if there is a litigation from the Bridge Company for a decade or so. It would give them a second chance to justify DRIC where they cannot do so today.
As for the Bridge Company, they have just been quietly moving forward, watching as the Governments plans implode. They observe as the Governments are self-destructing in front of them. If you do not think that all of those cranes at the Bridge plaza on the US side and the Ambassador Gateway project itself have impressed visitors about their seriousness, then one has to be living in a world of delusions!
How many cranes are operating on the Canadian side? We were to spend $300M in Windsor to fix up the road to the Ambassador Bridge on an interim basis using BIF money remember. No wonder Canada's position is untenable.
Bureaucrats make fabulous business models upon which they plan their actions. It is a shame that Life does not act the way they have predicted. Who could have guessed about the world economy collapsing as an example or a certain message in a Globe and Mail article in advance. One only learns how to adapt when it is YOUR money at risk, not that of taxpayers!
That does not help us with respect to jobs or homes today or for our future in this Region. It will not help the economies of Canada and the United States.
What is the solution? Not going in front of a judge, that is for sure, no matter who starts. The Star is partially correct. I will give them credit for that. There needs to be a real resolution of this matter between the players: the Bridge Company and the various Governments. Eddie Francis is completely and totally irrelevant as even he conceded at the Senate. He has no role whatsoever and ought to be completely ignored. It is time that the Senior Levels write him off.
I say a “real resolution” because I hardly expect the Bridge Company to be lulled into a false sense of security the way they were with the FIRA settlement. They will not be fooled this time around as I think they were a decade or so ago. They thought they had a deal. They did not!
What the resolution will be I do not know. I have proposed before an “interim” solution that I think is completely workable especially given the reality of the decline in traffic. It is also affordable and meets the health and quality of life needs of this region given the reality of the massive decline in diesel truck pollution over the coming years. I have no idea if it is acceptable to the various parties given their agendas but at least it is a place to start.
If anyone should be locked into a room and not allowed to leave it should be the Governments and the Bridge Company. The games playing has to be over now. This region cannot afford it. Families cannot afford it.
The issues are not so difficult that people of good will cannot solve the problem. It is really a matter of wanting to do so.
Frankly, I want them to do so. And so should you. Someone needs to pick up a telephone and make the call to set up the meeting.
IT IS TIME ALREADY