Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CIBPA/Francis CBC Interview

Poor Councillor Valentinis. Eddie has put him right between a rock and a hard place.

Frankly, Eddie disrespected the procedure at the CIBPA meeting by talking for so long. His attempt to try to end run the Chair who told him that this meeting was not the appropriate place for a Presentation was uncalled for. His insulting behaviour of the Association President during the radio interview was rather shocking to me.

This will make life difficult for the Councillor. He now has to choose between continuing to support a Mayor who has become even more unpopular with the group of people who provide the main base of support for the Councillor or separating himself away from Eddie if he wants to have a hope of being re-elected. Tony Blak is smiling today!

What an arrogant young man our Mayor is.

If members of CIBPA or the public want to know why Windsor is having difficulties negotiating deals with the Senior Levels or the Ambassador Bridge Company, then read the transcript below of the interview between the CIBPA President and our Mayor on CBC Radio. Could you deal with him?

Better yet, if you have speakers, listen along with the audio so you can hear the tone of what is being said.

I truly have difficulty believing that our Mayor, a lawyer who almost immediately after being called to the Bar announced that he was running for office and who has not practiced law as a full-time professional for any significant period of time as far as I know, would be so condescending to a fellow lawyer in town, one who has been in practice for almost 30 year.

Remember that nasty crack about Eddie by Don McArthur of the Star in his BLOG:
  • "Heck, he's hardly even a lawyer. He just plays one on TV."
Eddie takes himself much too seriously as this video clip demonstrates to me anyway

If he is that good, then why did we need our legal weapon of mass destruction and a US lawyer to file submissions on the City's behalf against the Bridge Company in the US at a cost of $30,000? Why didn't he do it himself?

Why would Eddie want to antagonize the President of a very influential group of people in Windsor? These are exactly the people that you want on your side to help you out when you are dealing with the Senior Levels or the Bridge Company.

It should be clear by now that Eddie went to the CIBPA meeting the other day for two reasons. First, he wanted them to put pressure on our Liberal MPPs/Cabinet Ministers to force them to have the Premier come down here on bended knee, bow down to Eddie and agree to everything that he wants. Second, he wanted to ensure that if something drastic happened on the file, such as the Senior Levels walking away, that he could not be blamed. Thus, he tried to finger other people as the cause of the problem.

Just to have some fun again, I decided that I was going to"Fisk" or comment on some of Eddie's remarks. Follow along with the recording and the transcript now.

CBC Radio Windsor - March 26, 2009

Host: As you've been hearing on our local news coverage this morning, a town hall meeting was held last night to talk about the economic crisis facing this area. It was organized by the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association as a way of mobilizing the community to push for action on government projects, projects that would provide jobs and stimulate our economy. The biggest and most contentious is that route to a new international bridge. DRIC is pushing for its Windsor Essex Parkway plan; Windsor City Council wants Greenlink. John Corrent organized last night's event. He's president of the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Associating. He's on the telephone. Mr. Corrent good morning.

John Corrent (President, Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association): Good morning. How are you today?

Host: I'm well. Thank you for joining us. Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has agreed to join us as well. Mayor Francis good of you to make some time available for us. Thank you so much.

Eddie Francis: Thanks for having me.

Host: Mr. Corrent I'd like to start with you. What came out of last night's meeting?

Corrent: What was very impressive about last night was the turnout. We had a wonderful turnout. That was itself a message to the politicians that the community has some urgency in getting these projects started and underway. The support was fantastic.

Host: We talked about the border access route. What other major projects are you looking at here?

Corrent: The Ambassador Bridge for sure. Those are the two mega-projects that are worth over $1.6 billion dollars each and we believe from that they'll be spin-offs. There is infrastructure money that's available from the federal government and from the provincial government. I think that should be a complimentary package to those. So we're looking to the local politicians to get together with the senior levels of government and to get what they can get.

Host: So you blame the politicians for the inaction.

Corrent: It's not that they haven't acted. I think that they have. There's just been too much posturing. There's been too much stagnation. There's been double-talk and the community is confused. Why isn't there action now? We believe agreements should be forged. There should be no further delay. There shouldn't be litigation and that's what we've started.

Host: Mayor Francis you thought this meeting important enough that you attended and you spoke while you were there. Your response to this?

Eddie: Well I agree. I believe that, as City Council has expressed over the past several years and as the community members over the course of the DRIC process have expressed, they want a better solution. I agree that there's been double-talk. I agree that there's a time and a need for action and I welcome CIBPA's help to try to bring the province to the table.
  • [That is our Eddie. I guess he does not realize that the Bridge and Plaza are federal matters while the road is a provincial matter. It is only by their good graces that he is allowed to have any voice whatsoever at the table. At any time, they can pull the chair out from under him. That he should be so hostile to the Premier who provided backstopping of $3.2 million for Red Bull as just one example is beyond me. I can hardly wait to see how much infrastructure money we get in Windsor with an attitude like his]

As I expressed yesterday evening, Cty Council several weeks ago called on the Province of Ontario to come to the table with mediation so that we can find a solution. All we're asking for is a better solution and I don't think there's anybody in this community that wouldn't want a better solution in terms of a solution that protects the health.

  • [Eddie wants mediation provided it is on his terms only:

    "It calls for immediate mediation to be completed within 21 days after an agreed-upon mediator is appointed.

    The focus of the mediator, according to the city, would be to mitigate access road deficiencies through strategic tunnelling with an understanding the cost of doing so be no greater than $200 million more than the parkway’s current estimated $1.6-billion construction cost.”

    As I Blogged at the time:

    The arrogance and air of
    entitlement of the City leaders help explain why nothing ever gets done and why no one listens to Windsor.

    What right does Windsor have to “demand?” Moreover, what right does Windsor have to set out the rules unilaterally about what the mediation is all about? It is nothing more than a mediation ploy designed never to be accepted by the Province to accomplish some objective of the Mayor.]

As I said last night Tony, it's not an issue of jobs versus health. I think we can have both. We deserve both.

  • [Windsor "entitlement" mentality again.]

In a city that suffers with significant issues as it relates to health related diseases - cardiovascular disease, asthma rates, bronchial rates, cancer rates - this is an opportunity for us not only to build new infrastructure, but build infrastructure taking into consideration that they can protect the community. And I welcome CIBPA to join the other community members in terms of trying to bring the Province to the table.

  • [Considering that most of our pollution comes from the United States and that issues with respect to truck pollution will virtually disappear with new diesel fuel and engine technology, the health issue is nothing more than a scare tactic.]

  • [Note also the second time he talked about bringing the Province to the table]

Host: And this CIBPA that you mentioned, that is Mr. Corrent's political action group which they have formed. Mayor Francis, what about suggestions that you are hindering Windsor's economy by refusing to compromise on Greenlink?

Eddie: That's not true with regards to not willing to compromise. We have compromised significantly. If you can recall, Greenlink was for a total of close to 3,600 metres or 3.6 kilometres in tunnelling. We brought that down considerably to 2.6 so that we protect the residents.

  • [Eddie seems to forget that DRIC compromised as well. Wasn’t their first choice going to be an at grade-road and look at where they are now? One could make the argument that Eddie’s original position of full tunnelling was never serious so that he has never really compromised at all.]

Every step of the way we've compromised and all we're trying to do is achieve a better solution.

  • [Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. You have been inhaling too much Tunnel exhaust that is coming out of the Heritage Tunnel Ventilation Building. Junior is going to come after you now just the way he did Councillor Halberstadt when you use the C-word.

    “Lewenza said Tuesday the use of the word "compromise" suggests the city is poised to settle with DRIC for something less than its official stance -- that the route must be tunnelled.

    "This is a billion-dollar file and he is out there saying we want a compromise," Lewenza said. "I challenged him on that."

    Let us agree that the amnesia disease has hit again and that Eddie is not trying to be misleading with people who are not very familiar with the border file. I’m sure that Eddie has probably forgotten some of these comments given his heavy workload:

     "the new Schwartz plan.. is not negotiable. "This is it. This is the city of Windsor's position"

     we are engaged in a very aggressive process right now where you have senior orders of government that want to impose a cheap solution on us. We have private interests that want to see their position is advanced and all those proposals compromise the city' s position.

    And all of those proposals will saddle the city with a position that is unacceptable so members of city council are very astutely, very prudently wanting to make sure that we follow the best course of action and they we do not sell out the city and that we do not prejudice the city's interest…

    the issue is that on one of his, on one of his writings he, Councillor Halberstadt indicated that the city was looking to compromise its position. I noticed that he has since then changed that but the issue is that some councillors have taken some serious, serious {inaudible} that the city is willing to compromise.

     I can assure you, and anyone who knows the council and knows our position on this file is that we have been consistent and we are not prepared to compromise on anything and we want the best solution for the city.”

    "Francis said details of the Schwartz plan, such as service roads and landscaping, can be tweaked, but the city will not negotiate the proposed tunnels with DRIC.

    "That last thing we want is for the province to come back and say: 'OK, we'll give you one tunnel,'" he said. "The amount of tunnelling and the connectivity of neighbourhoods is not negotiable."

     Eddie might be afraid that Gord would turn on him too as he did with his good buddy in the Three Blind Mice column:

    "Halberstadt and Marra don't have the excuse of being rookies. Halberstadt has been waving the white flag for some time, mouthing off about compromises and trade-offs. This isn't a rummage sale, Al. This is Windsor's fate for the next century and beyond and you sound like someone prepared to auction it to the highest bidder. Not a becoming role."]

As I've indicated, when this, and I said this last night Tony, this started back in 2002 when the Governments announced $300 million dollars of funding. That's all they were prepared to invest was $300 million dollars in the City for a border solution. Because of the City of Windsor in part with the others, we were able to take that $300 and bring it to $1.6 billion. But today you've got study after study - not our study. Report after report - not our report. And expert after expert - not our experts, but their experts, the Province's experts saying what they are proposing to build will be damaging to the health of the residents of the city of Windsor. So we have an opportunity to correct that.

  • [Eddie is trying to confuse everybody again. He ought to know better than that.

    The $300 million that he talked about was part of the short and interim Border Infrastructure Fund money which should have built a road to the Ambassador Bridge.

    The $1.6 billion was for the long-term solution, something completely and totally different. That is the DRIC program money.

    Eddie never was able to get the $300 million increased to $1.6 billion. They are two separate and distinct programs and he knows it].

Having said that Tony, one last point. It's not our process. There still is another nine months left in this process by admission of DRIC. They cannot get a shovel in the ground and they have that written in their documents. Unfortunately, the political people in Toronto, the Ministers, are communicating a different message and are misleading the public to believe it's shovel ready. Even if we were to agree with the Province 100 percent with their Parkway proposal, even if we were to sign off on it today, it could not be shovel ready until the earliest 2010.

  • [I just find it so coincidental that everything is now going to start in 2010 if the Mayor is correct. Look at how much time has been wasted reviewing all of the City’s proposals: the Schwartz report, full tunneling, Greenlink, Son of Greenlink and their various permutations. Wasn’t 2010 the year that Ministers Duncan and Caplan said that money was really going to be available after their Gong Show performance in Windsor. I remember then Transport Minister Cansfield saying the same thing about money being available after 2010 in one of her pre-election comments.]

Host: Let's bring John Corrent back in. Your thoughts on this sir?

Corrent: Well I think first of all it's got to be clear. We're waiting now for the Environmental Assessment decision. That decision is going to come down in April. In April there's only three decisions that that Minister can make. It's approval, approval with conditions, or denied. If it's going to be approved and if it's approved with conditions, it can be taken right to the Cabinet, the Provincial Cabinet and shortcut those conditions or comes with some solution to that. There's methods by which we can get this thing done before 2010. The Mayor knows that. The Provincial Ministers know that. It's a matter of getting these two parties in a room and forging that agreement and cutting the double-talk and the posturing that we're seeing and hearing even now this morning.

Eddie: John -

  • [Poor Eddie. No "kill button" available for his use. No Procedural By-law he can wave around]

Corrent: Mayor you last night said there's only $100 million dollars between the province and this city. $100 million dollars over $1.6 billion dollar project? That's miniscule. There's got to be a solution out of $100 million dollars. Even if all the surrounding communities and Windsor contribute that sum.

Host: John -

Corrent: $100 million dollars shouldn't hold up a $1.6 billion dollar project. Last night you said that you didn't want to hold back the Ambassador Bridge. You would welcome the Ambassador Bridge for its construction. Well if you do, why did you commence a lawsuit across the river costing us $30,000 dollars to tell the Americans that we don't want this unless we got conditions attached to the agreement that promotes the City of Windsor?

  • [What a remarkable transformation in the Mayor. Remember when he called the Bridge Company the "enemy" and said that the Owner of the Bridge Company might put cement in the Tunnel to close it down if he got control of it.]

Host: Mr. Corrent I -

Corrent: There's a better way of handling that.

Host: Mr. Corrent excuse me. Let's allow the Mayor the opportunity to respond.

Eddie: Mr. Corrent first and foremost I work for the residents of the City of Windsor. I'm not here to represent the Province nor the Ambassador Bridge.

  • [A typical debating trick to create a strawman that doesn’t exist otherwise]

As a lawyer you should know the difference between a lawsuit and comments to the Coast Guard. As it relates to the Ambassador Bridge, let me tell you why the City of Windsor is making comments. The Ambassador Bridge expansion requires the closure of Huron Church Road to the river. We believe it's important for the Coast Guard to ask the Ambassador Bridge how they are going to re-establish that connection to our downtown once their expansion takes place.

  • [I know a way . Put up a big road sign just as American vehicles are exiting from the Bridge that says in big bold White Letters on a Green Background with an arrow pointing to the east saying "TO DOWNTOWN."]

So there's a very difference in terms of asking and putting submissions forward than commencing a lawsuit and as a lawyer you know that difference. So I would respectfully ask let's not further confuse the issue.

  • [The Mayor is well aware that what he is attempting to do is the equivalent of being successful in a lawsuit. He wants to convince the Coast Guard to change their decision with respect to the Bridge Company’s Project of "no significant impact."

    It is just that he does not have the guts to start a lawsuit because he knows that the Bridge Company would take action against him if he does. As I said before, I would sell tickets and fill up the East End Arena by showing a video of his cross- examination by a tough American litigator.

    I hardly believe that our Mayor/lawyer should be lecturing someone who has been in practice for 30 years about how to practise law.

    It is no wonder that Mr. Corrent’s Community is outraged at the Mayor’s insulting comments as are other members of the Windsor Community.]

As it relates to the Province of Ontario, are you serious?! You want the City and you want the towns to contribute to this project? In Toronto: $17.9 billion dollars, all Federal and Provincial dollars.

  • [I have no idea what the $17.9 billion represents but it is a big number and very impressive]

We have paid the price. We have paid the price to be the national and provincial artery to the global supply chain. We accept that responsibility. They have an obligation. The investment that they make here will be an investment for the next 100years.

  • [We have also received a price too. The border crossing has been the basis of our prosperity. Moreover, our future, if it is to be a transportation hub given that quarter million dollars that the Mayor is spending on a Foreign Consultant, also relies on our location at the border and having a proper border crossing.]

And with regards to the Environmental Assessment, as a lawyer you should also know this sir. The Environmental Assessment was a DRIC Environmental Assessment. You read the American documents; the American documents have clearly outlined a timetable. In the American documents as partners with the Canadian agencies, they say very clearly in black and white, the only thing that can take place in 2010 - utilities relocates with construction beginning in 2011 and construction completing 2015. That's in black and white. In fact, the Ministry of the Environment themselves in the recently released memo went after DRIC and went after the Province of Ontario asking them where your timelines are? It's not our process. It's their process.

  • [Again, another strawman with respect to the process being DRIC’s. Everybody knows it so what is he trying to accomplish? The point that he is overlooking, and that was the whole point of the CIBPA meeting, is to try and figure out a way to reduce that time by cooperating with the Senior Levels and with the Bridge Company.]

If I am correct in my view of what the Mayor wishes to accomplish by his stalling Road projects, then he has no interest whatsoever in moving forward quickly. He would only do so if the Senior Levels and the Bridge Company cave in to his demands, demands he is never told us about to date as far as I know.]

Host: Mister Francis, Mayor Francis forgive me. I'll have to break in. We're quickly running out of time. Last word to you Mr. Corrent.

Corrent: Yes. We could go on with this debate and I can rebut those statements, but all I'm saying is that I'm urging the politicians to get together and do a deal. Get these agreements done. We can go on and debate forever. It's not necessary to do that. The Mayor says we're not far apart. When we're not far apart, we should be sitting down and getting the job done and agreements forged. That's the message we want to send.

Host: Gentlemen sadly we have to leave it right there. I do appreciate your time this morning. John Corrent thank you so much.

Corrent: Thank you.

Host: Mayor Francis we appreciate your time sir. Thank you.

Eddie: Thank you to both of you. All the best.

Host: John Corrent is president of the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association in Windsor. Eddie Francis is of course Windsor's Mayor.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Deep Throat And The Return Of DRTP (Part 1)

It had been a very long day so far and it was only 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon. I was exhausted already. I had gone out to buy some hardware supplies. What with getting up before the crack of dawn to check my Internet online sources, then to talk to the inside moles, write a new BLOG and send it out by e-mail to all my readers and then doing all of the usual household chores, I had missed my lunch.

Here I was at one of the local restaurants looking over the luncheon specials and hoping that the waitress wouldn’t shout at me because I was too late when I heard a voice say “The Spanish omelette is a very good choice.”

I knew immediately who it was without having to look up.

“What a remarkable coincidence that we both happened to choose the same restaurant at the same time to have a meal,” Deep Throat said.

Coincidence? I hardly think so. Obviously, I had been followed but did not know it until the appropriate time for Deep Throat to make his presence known. As I looked up, I thought I saw the shadow of a military man walking outside of the restaurant window.

“May I join you,” he said as he was already sitting down. As the waitress passed by, he called out “Two luncheon specials please along with rye toast and coffee. Cream and one sugar isn't it? One cheque would be fine.”

I knew that I was going to get stuck with the tab. I always was.

My last meeting with Deep Throat was a very unusual one. I had never seen him so pessimistic before probably because he was so uncertain about what was going to happen. He even complimented me on some of my BLOGs, again, something very unusual.

As we left each other, I remember what he said to me, “It is up to you and your fellow Bloggers to let the public know what is going on. Citizens of Windsor need to be involved in this process and only the Bloggers are letting people know what is really going on with the odd traditional media exception.”

The waitress came with our coffee and, before she brought our lunches, Deep Throat looked at me with the usual twinkle in his eye. It always unnerved me because I was not sure whether he was mocking me or having fun with me or was just happy that he could share a conversation with someone outside of his normal realm of activities, “Tell me Blogmeister, have you been confused about anything to do with the border file over the past few weeks? Or maybe, something to do with other files that just do not seem right?”

“Of course,” I said. “You obviously have read the BLOG that I wrote about Minister Van Loan. His comment made absolutely no sense to me:
  • "Under a proposal favoured by Ottawa, American officials would check U.S.-bound trucks on the Canadian side of the border and vice versa, easing trade bottlenecks.

    Van Loan said he suggested a pilot project at the Windsor-Detroit border but nothing was settled.”

Reverse customs? Something that the Ambassador Bridge Company has been advocating for years. Why were they proposing that it be done here and not at Fort Erie, for example, where they were working on Shared Border Management for years so that parts of Buffalo would not have to be destroyed with an expanded truck Plaza?

Was it a quid pro quo? We give you reverse customs or SBM and you give us the DRIC bridge?

Were they on the other hand offering this up as a peace token to the Bridge Company and now another Minister was going to get involved. Someone who had a reputation of being tough and aggressive. His nickname was Mr. Van Ogre!”

“Yes I noticed that BLOG of yours. I was quite impressed that you picked it up.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere with me,” I said laughingly. “But there is more.

Then there was the bizarre statement about what would happen at our Mayor's transportation hub:

  • “The Star, however, has learned that the city's strategy would include a centre consolidating U.S. and Canadian inspection and security agencies. "Concentration of all inspection and border processes would be located under one roof, including the Canada Border Service Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, Transport Canada" and other U.S. and Canadian authorities, according to city documents.”

It is ludicrous to believe that all of this would take place just for one big Russian cargo jet that might land here once or twice a week. I just cannot believe that Windsor would be a cargo centre given Aerotropolis in Detroit.

How about the College Avenue Bridge:

  • “Another top priority is replacing the College Avenue bridge -- a symbol of Windsor's infrastructure decay and in such disrepair Palanacki had it shut down as a safety hazard. A new bridge would cost $11.3 million.”

That had a funny smell about it to me:

  • “We inspect our bridges on a regular basis. We have been closely monitoring this bridge for 15 years and we know it's near the end of its lifespan," said Palanacki of the bridge built in 1927.

    It is expected the bridge will be closed to traffic for at least a year -- and likely much longer -- while the city irons out plans for the corridor with CP Railway which travels under the bridge, Palanacki said.

    City administrators decided to hold off on replacement of the bridge since the railway line -- which leads into the entrance of the Detroit River rail tunnel -- has for years been caught up in the border truck debate.

    There was talk starting seven years ago by a group known as Detroit River Tunnel Partnership of the rail tunnel corridor being converted for truck traffic, but recently the group has shifted focus to instead build a new CP high-stack rail tunnel linking with Detroit.

    "Administration has not been in position to recommend reconstruction if there were going to be changes to the rail line either with DRTP or the rail tunnel, so we kept deferring it," Palanacki said.”

Our lunch special was served and I started gobbling it down because I was famished by then. In between mouthfuls, I said, “There is even more. There are so many things that I find surprising that I just cannot explain. Take for instance Transport Canada Minister Baird coming to town, meeting with the Mayor and hardly a word in the Star about it until some days later and even then not much of a discussion about it at all.

How about what DRIC was proposing with respect to the E C Row West of Huron Church Road? As you said to me before:

  • “Instead of building a truck highway that would run parallel to E.C. Row, 50 metres to the south, it [DRIC] now wants to put international truck traffic in the centre portion of a new 10-lane E.C. Row, separated from local traffic running on either side.”

    A 10 lane Expressway! Can you believe it and not a word of opposition from the Mayor. He is thrilled with it and applauds it.

    The Mayor has told us enough times recently that he is not opposed to what the County wants with respect to Manning Road but that he is just concerned about sequencing…

    As you can see now, in both the East and West ends of the Expressway, we are going to see major upgrades. Can the centre, the part that runs through the City, be far behind? I hardly think so.

    There are some of us who are cynical enough to believe that the changes being made to the Expressway today are nothing more than a precursor to the construction that will take place in a few years when that road is upgraded completely to as many as 10 lanes. There would be five lanes in each direction with two lanes dedicated for trucks only to allow them to have a direct connection from Highway 401 to the border.”

As usual, my food started getting stuck in my throat as I started talking about all this stuff. I was getting myself all worked up over it and getting indigestion. It really bothered me that I could not figure out what was going on.

Deep Throat almost burst out laughing and would have sprayed me with the coffee that he was drinking just like in the movies. “My goodness Blogmeister. You are getting much better now than ever. My teachings must have rubbed off on you. You have identified just about everything that is confusing everyone.”

“Everyone but you, I assume dear friend,” I said to Deep Throat. “I know that you are not going to tell me the obvious answer but that you are going to let me figure it out myself. Your Socratic method of teaching me things reminds me of law school. Okay, okay. What is the hint that is going to make me look foolish because I couldn’t figure out the obvious?”

Deep Throat stared at me with a funny look on his face and said in a very low voice "DRTP."

Turning Confused

I should hang out my shingle again for truck drivers. I could make a fortune defending truck drivers who were supposedly making an improper left turn who were ticketed by the Windsor police.

I wonder if I should ask OTA's David Bradley for a reference for all of those truck drivers who may get caught making a so-called illegal left turn at Dougall and E C Row. Should I buy an ad in Today's Trucking Magazine?

I think I found the legal loophole! English grammar to the rescue.

Let’s be fair. Truckers have to make instantaneous decisions when they read road signs. When you are driving one of these big rigs you just do not have the opportunity to make quick movements by trying to guess what a road sign says.

Moreover, from a conviction perspective, if there is any ambiguity in a sign such that there may be two explanations or meanings for what the sign says, a Court would have to quash any ticket that was issued. There could be no conviction.

Take a look at the road sign that was issued for northbound truckers to tell them that they cannot make a left hand turn from Dougall to get on to the Expressway.

However, is that what the sign really says? I don’t think so. It would have been so much easier just to say No Left Turns For Trucks at EC Row. Instead, the way I could read the sign is the following:

  •  No trucks on Dougall

  •  Trucks, make a left hand turn at the Expressway to get off Dougall NOW!

It is completely contrary to what the City intended! It forces drivers to make a left hand turn in my opinion.

Just pity the poor trucker now. The Trucker is now in the inside lane ready to get off of Dougall by going on to the Expressway. After all, the sign appears to say no trucks on Dougall. If you will recall, there is a sign further north at Tecumseh that has been there for years saying that no trucks are allowed on Ouellette at certain times.

As the trucker pulls into the left turn lane, he/she then sees this sign:

What is he/she to make of it? It does not say in big bold letters NO LEFT TURN. It just says get out of this lane because you are not supposed to be here.

Again, the trucker must make an instantaneous decision and it is even more difficult because the left turn lane is so short at this point. The trucker has two choices.

The first, which makes no sense and is very dangerous, is to turn back into the lane on the right immediately. That could cause a horrific accident if cars are going northbound in that lane at the same time or a backup while the trucker was waiting to enter the lane. The trucker would then continue north on Dougall and risk getting a ticket because he/she thought that he/she was not supposed to be going north on Dougall in the first place.

The second choice is to make the left turn because there is no sign that says no left turn. In effect, the trucker is being led to believe that the sign is telling the trucker to make a turn and to get out of this lane as soon as possible. That is the only logical explanation given the first sign.

This City is so bizarre. Nothing is easy here. We cannot even inform truckers properly what they must do.

One other matter. I hope that the Parks Department or whoever is responsible for the grass and tree planting on that stretch of Dougall takes a good look at that area next time there is a heavy storm. It would not appear that there is proper drainage because the water seems to run off quickly into the roadway causing huge puddles after a heavy rain storm like we had a week or so ago. That area also iced up quickly when the temperature dropped during the wintertime because of the water on the road.

Action needs to be taken immediately before there is a serious accident.

DRIC Road In Ontario Budget

Now we know the reason for the Gong Show comment, the Cansfield Statement and the Stall. Oh so predictable.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why CIBPA Could Not Succeed Last Night

I attended the CIBPA meeting last night and I am glad that I did. It was an interesting evening for me at least and an upsetting one too. I trust that it was eye-opening as well to some people in attendance who have not been very close to this matter.

I do not know how the Organizers feel this morning but they should be furious. Their hearts were in the right place. They were trying to do the right thing for Windsor. However, the Eminence Greasie and the E-Team out-manoeuvered them politically. They should be furious not only at the Mayor and Council but at the Windsor Star as well who ignored them. In fact, as you will see, there was no point in having the session at all.

For the 200 to 250 people who were at the Caboto Club, they now have a good understanding about why the border file is a mess. We were all used last night by a Mayor who has no interest whatsoever in having a solution unless it is on his terms and on his terms alone. Or unless it is finally imposed on him so that he personally cannot be blamed for his failure to achieve and waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money after all of this time.

That was abundantly obvious as I shall describe below. His desire to force others to meet with him is real and he will use groups like CIBPA to do so. However, there is an agenda that he has, and what it is I have no idea. Until that has been achieved or the Councillors finally get some balls as they did in 2003 when Mike Hurst was Mayor and take back this City, Windsor will continue suffering as we are now.

Unfortunately, the rest of the City will not know about it unless they happened to see the EH-News clip around 11:30 last night or the audio snippets on CKLW News this morning. I do not know if the Windsor Star had a reporter at the session but there was nothing in the newspaper today about it. Accordingly, it was a “non-event,” not worthy of consideration.

I expect that City Hall believed last night would be a bitch session against them. The Mayor and Council would have been so upset if all that had been reported in our leading media outlet. They totally misunderstood what last night’s meeting was all about. They need not have worried so much. The Star reporters were busy elsewhere it seems. The Star was more interested in running a story about massage parlours than about the future of our City.

Last night was intended to be a love-in by the Organizers. They did not want to blame anyone. They did not want to take sides. They were in favour of every project in order to deliver the message to the rest of Canada that Windsor is open for business so come here and invest. All they wanted to do was to try to ensure that deals are “cut,” in their terms as businesspeople, between the various parties involved: the City, the Senior Levels, the Bridge Company and even DRTP for the doublestack rail tunnel. Why the Chair even threw in the airport transportation hub to make this even more palatable for our Council.

CIBPA in effect wants to be the facilitator to make these deals happen even if they keep people locked up in rooms until deals are done. In that way, they believe that the City would start prospering again.

The Mayor did not have to worry. He was there last night surrounded by a number of his Councillors. I guess he figured that there was strength in numbers. To be honest, I was surprised that any of them were there because I had been told earlier in the week that it was unlikely that anyone from City Hall was going to come other than perhaps Council Marra who is a member of the Association and probably Councillor Valentinis also. The session had been dismissed out of hand.

Eddie did admit, as I had been told, that he asked to make a presentation but given the nature of the session the Organizers turned him down. I heard that it was supposed to be at least a 20 minute talk that would have a bored everyone I am certain.

Nevertheless, the Mayor did speak last night. I should have timed him but he certainly spoke much longer than the one minute that the Chair said that everyone would be allowed to speak. In fact, the Mayor disrespected everyone in the room and the Chair by speaking for so long. I guess he thought that he could do so because only he controls a “kill button.” It was necessary for the Chair to interrupt him finally and to ask him to stop speaking. He agreed to do so but then spoke for another couple of minutes.

I think that I will use the Mayor’s precedent when I speak at Council next time. I will ignore the Chair and the Procedural Bylaw at Council the way that the Mayor disrespected the Chair and the rules last night.

CIBPA’s basic position as expressed by the Chair was that there is an URGENCY to forging agreements to expedite the construction of the international crossings in Windsor. He also said that there should be INTOLERANCE over any additional studies or threats of litigation or acts of delay. Finally he said that there is an IMMEDIATE NEED for economic initiatives to stimulate the local economy to create new jobs to the attraction of new industry and commerce.

There were probably about a dozen people or so who spoke and within the time constraint imposed by the Chair. The feeling in the room as far as I was concerned was frustration, anger, and fear. No one really understood what was going on in this City other than they felt it sinking and that no one was doing anything about it. The most telling comment was by the gentleman who is unemployed and said that he just wanted to find a job.

I wonder if the Mayor and Councillors will get it considering that Dan Stamper of the Bridge Company got a longer and louder round of applause than the Mayor!

No offense to the Organizers but they are politically naïve. The Mayor and his fellow Councilors were probably laughing themselves silly after they left the session. Nothing was going to be accomplished. There was no pressure on them. The Mayor was allowed to present his revision of the Border history as if it actually took place.

CIBPA want to set up a political action group and that makes sense. However they need to understand the purpose of the group is to take action against politicians and not try to make love with them. After listening to the Mayor, they should understand that. He has no interest in making what they want to do work unless it helps them achieve his Agenda whatever that is.

The most dramatic moment of the meeting and the one that explained why the hopes of the Organizers will never take place unless they are politically active occurred when the Mayor gave his diatribe and was then followed by Dan Stamper of the Bridge Company.

The Mayor was there not for the purposes of the Organizers but rather to blame everyone else for the fact that there is no border deal.

Well not quite everyone, he did say that there was something that was going to be announced in a few weeks between the City and the Federal Government. I assume that means that when Minister Baird came down here he negotiated the purchase price for the Brighton Beach property with the City. You know Brighton Beach… that is the place that the Mayor pretended that he wanted to put the jail in order to put pressure on the Senior Levels. Speaking of the Jail, I did not see a story about that in the Star either. I guess Eddie really does believe now what he was told that if the location of the jail is opposed it will be moved out of Windsor.

The Mayor was there to protect himself from having the finger of blame pointed at him if in fact the Senior Levels decide that they have had enough of Windsor. His purpose for being at the session was to try to have CIBPA pressure the Premier to bow down to Eddie’s demands respecting Greenlink, as if that is ever going to happen. The Mayor wanted to appear so conciliatory by saying that in fact that the City wanted mediation… of course he forgot to tell people that the terms of mediation are his and his alone and that the Province must agree to his terms if that is to happen.

I was interested as well that he threw in health problems of children and of cancer and of all of the horrors that you can think as if that was supposed to impress anyone. It is a shame though that he did not mention the reason why he forgot to release the DRIC response to the MoE memo about health issues.

I am not going to get fully into what the Mayor said because he rewrote what happened in the past. There’s no point trying to correct him because the amnesia disease at City Hall has affected what he remembers.

I will give you one instance where he talked about the Border Infrastructure Fund of $300 million and then had it turn into his huge success of getting that amount increased to $1.6 billion. Of course, the two programs are completely different, BIF and DRIC, but not in the world of Eddie Francis when it comes to his glory.

For another, as the person who created the expression "Montréal-to-Tijuana trucks," I believe that I can recall a lot more clearly why citizens opposed trucks on E C Row than the Mayor. It was not keep trucks off of the Expressway but rather to prevent it being a precursor to the DRTP truck road.

The Mayor spoke for much too long. If he really wanted to help CIBPA achieve its objective, all he had to do was turn to the left from the microphone where he was speaking and look at Dan Stamper who is probably sitting three or 4 feet away. All that the Mayor had to do was invite Dan to come to his office today to resolve the differences between the City and the Bridge Company. Stamper said that he was there to do so. The Mayor issued no such invitation. Why not if he meant what he said.

If the City and Bridge Company formed an alliance by working out a deal, do you truly believe that the Senior Levels would dare oppose them? Immediately we would have jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that would force the Senior Levels to build a proper road to the Ambassador Bridge. That would create even more high-paying jobs for years, thousands of them.
  • "Transport and Infrastructure Minister John Baird assured the gathering [just yesterday in Washington DC] that a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit, through which one-quarter of all Canada-U.S. trade flows, "has been and will continue to be the number one infrastructure project for Canada."

Of course, the Mayor did not do so. The Bridge Company is the City’s “enemy.” That is what the Mayor called them before. I guess he forgot that last night when he claimed that he has no bad feelings against them and was not trying to hurt them.

I talked to Stamper just after he arrived at the Club and asked him whether he was going to speak. He said to me that it was not his intention to do so. However, after the Mayor spoke, he did and he did so immediately.

He effectively called the Mayor’s bluff. The Mayor claimed that he was prepared to talk to other parties. Stamper acknowledged that this was true. He reminded the crowd that the Mayor and Council were prepared to listen to his Company’s billion dollar proposal for all of 10 minutes at Council. When he asked for an extension of five minutes, he was unanimously refused by Council. No one would dare put up their hand to allow him to do so.

He made a mockery of the Mayor’s suggestion that he was not opposing his Company. Remember, that the Star has not reported this story either for reasons that only the Star knows.

Stamper told the attendees that the City passed a Resolution (in a vote of six to three in camera at Council last Monday I am told, with Council MOM not being there,) to hire another lawyer, a US one this time, to oppose the Coast Guard decision that the Bridge Company Enhancement Project was of “no significant impact.” In other words, the Mayor is trying to put another roadblock in front of the Company, this time in United States as Mr. Estrin tried to do before in Cleveland. Dan was generous enough not to talk about the Interim Control and Anti-Demolition By-laws, the Heritage study and the Sandwich CIP as well.

Finally, and this was the ultimate insult to the Mayor, Stamper asked any of the contractors who were present if they were demolition contractors as well. He said that he had some homes to tear down and, as everyone laughed when he said that because of the Indian Road fiasco, he just said to the Mayor that he was “just kidding Mayor.”

I give the Organizers credit for at least starting something. It is about time that major organizations in this City banded together to take this City back from a Mayor and Council that are so out of touch with reality that it is sickening.

The one mistake that they made last night was not involving the Community at large. It is fine to involve business organizations and labour unions but that will not impress this Mayor and Council. They are viewed as nothing more than troublemaking pressure groups who are working for the Senior Levels and others with a vested interest. In fact, I hope none of the Organizers have to appear in front of City Council in the next little while for any kind of approval or a favourable decision from Council.

The Citizens of Windsor who are sick and tired of what is going on here must be involved. If the Organizers do not understand this and do not understand it quickly then they are wasting their time. When this City had the Senior Levels and the Americans eating out of their hands, it was not something achieved because of what the Mayor and Council did or any pressure group. It was accomplished by the power that was given to our civic leaders by the Citizens of Windsor uniting together for the good of the City.

I was there. I was involved. I saw it happen. No politician dared oppose what the Citizens of Windsor wanted if they had any hope of being reelected. We understood it and so did the politicians. I know several of them who changed their positions dramatically because they knew they would not be reelected unless they did so immediately.

That kind of feeling must be achieved again. Citizens of Windsor are tired of all of this but must be called upon one more time to take back this City from politicians who do not understand what we want. If CIBPA can forge an alliance between the groups they have talked so far and the Citizens of Windsor, then we will truly have a situation where this City will prosper again in spite of the politicians who claim that they are working on our behalf.

With Prices Like These, Who Needs PR Campaigns To Promote Windsor

Ah yes. People will be flocking here soon.

It is so unfortunate that the Mayor revealed at Council on Monday that our Canal Vision will be at least 2 months late coming out---some problems I heard. It will not be here until some time in April now or maybe even later, who knows. Quite a setback for us.

While that could have been a huge inducement to encourage people to move here, this story that I saw on the Sympatico website will draw people here like flies! This kind of publicity is fabulous for us and cost taxpayers nothing. We no longer need to give out taxpayer money to the Star to print and distribute glossy magazines for us when this type of publicity is invaluable for us.

I wanted to BLOG it for you and also show you the kind of homes available at the price mentioned from the Real Estate website that I am certain will draw rich Toronto seniors here and those entrepreneurs in the knowldege industry.

Heck, I may go out and buy a bunch of these homes myself now while the prices are so low so that I can make a bundle when the good times roll. And I promise, I will NOT rent them out to students in the meantime. I do not want to bring down the value of other homes in the area or destroy the Community.

For those of you from out of town who are reading this BLOG and want to snap up a bargain now either to live here or to invest in until you are ready to retire and move here, you should contact a Windsor Realtor right away. These bargains are going fast and will not last forever!

Where $35,000 can buy you a house
Most Canadians never thought they'd see the day when $35,000 could buy them a house, but the seemingly impossible has happened in Windsor, Ont.

By Kerry Gold
March 24, 2009

For what it costs to purchase the average car, you can now purchase a home in this Southern Ontario border town -- and yes, that includes the 30 x 90 foot lot.

"It's just amazing," says Mark Imeson, president of the Windsor Essex County Real Estate Board. "For a lot I used to say you're starting at $35,000, and now you can get a house and a lot for $35,000."

Imeson believes his market offers the cheapest residential real estate deals in Canada.

In his 23 years selling real estate, Windsor born-and-raised Imeson says he's never seen the market bottom out this low. And with its auto industry still in upheaval and the world economy still unstable, there's no telling how far prices could fall in Windsor, which is a four-hour drive from Toronto.

"I would like to be optimistic and say we have hit bottom but I don't know if we have," says Imeson. "I don't know how much lower it can go.

"The thing is, we realize that we have to work together to get out of this, and every aspect of the community is working together to do that."

That $35,000 home is the bottom line for the Windsor house market right now, according to Imeson. Houses are more often priced around the $60,000 mark, and up, which is still a fantastic bargain for the rest of the country. For people in an expensive real estate city like Vancouver, it's still virtually unheard of to find a house for less than $400,000.

"Interest rates are really favourable. You can get a 4.1 per cent rate for a five-year fixed term mortgage," says Imeson. "If you bought that $60,000 house it would cost $250 a month for the mortgage, plus taxes. Where can you live for that? In Toronto they are renting places for $1,500 a month. Why do that? Here in Windsor, why rent you can own for same price?"

Windsor, says Imeson, is the hardest hit market in the country. On the bright side, he hopes that anyone looking for a deal will look to his city.

In an effort to make lemonade out of a lemon, Imeson is trying to position Windsor as a retirement community because of its river waterfront. He is working with business people and others in the community to push for better bridge access to nearby Detroit, hospital upgrades, and the development of other industries in order to attract newcomers.

"I think the people of Windsor have to give themselves a shake. I was born and raised here and you see what's here and you take it for granted. You don't appreciate the waterfront. As a retirement centre, that would be great."

Imeson points to retirees from other cities that sold their homes and are looking to move somewhere quieter. They are people who might have lost as much as 40 to 50 per cent of their portfolio worth, and who can make up the difference by buying into cheap Windsor property. Through research he's discovered retirees want to live in an area that has good places to walk, which is why Windsor's waterfront could be an enticement.

"I'm thinking of the ones that have the big bucks properties, who can come down here and buy something, and still have a nest egg to go with it."

As well, says Imeson, it's time to think outside the box that has been the Windsor automotive industry for so long.

"We were heavily dependent on the automotive industry, and now we are trying to get computer based companies, other things of that nature," he says.

"We are five years behind in terms of diversifying, at looking at other prospects."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Investigation Into The MoE Fiasco Demanded

It may turn out to be another Windsor black-eye and disgrace depending on the true facts. Windsorites should be demanding an independent investigation to uncover the truth immediately! It goes right to the heart of our Democracy in this City.

I am going to give myself a big pat on the back today and one to Chris Schnurr as well. We deserve it and earned it by our own hard work and digging.

Do you really believe that there would have been the big Page 3 story in the Star today revealing that DRIC had prepared a 33 page response to the Ministry of the Environment memorandum but for Windsor Bloggers? The Mayor released the MoE document and it was splashed over the front page of the Windsor Star in an effort that seemed designed to discredit DRIC.

It became, as I suggested before, another MoE "Dr. Diamond" bombshell that turned out to be a huge dud. It is another embarrassment for this City and its leadership. Where the Diamond document was merely a response to the draft DRIC EA, in this case there actually was a DRIC response to the MoE document that was not disclosed to Windsorites in a timely fashion.

Why not is the big question that needs answering. If lonely Bloggers could get the answer and Blog it within hours, so could our leaders and the biggest media outlet in town!

I am certain that the Star would have run another story because DRIC would have complained but it certainly in my opinion would not have been the size of the story in the Star today but for Schnurr and my BLOGs yesterday and today. The size and placement in my opinion only took place because both Schnurr and I posted the 33 page DRIC response online for Windsorites to read.

Now you will understand why there is a concern about EH-News closing!

As I said before, I have no idea from a technical point of view which document is correct. What I am concerned about is how this story got out there and why.

In my opinion, Jim Venney, the Publisher of the Star, is not off the hook to explain exactly what happened with this story merely because of the Page 3 story today. Is the Star guilty of shoddy journalism, was the Star misled and if so by whom or was the Star complicit in a plot to mislead or deceive the public?

These are important questions of trust and integrity of our leading media outlet that demand an answer. Venney, as Publisher, owes it to the Star’s paying subscribers, its readers and its advertisers to give us the truth. We need to understand whether the Star is acting responsibly as a newspaper or if it is nothing more than a mouthpiece for certain interests that have their own agenda that may not necessarily be in the best interests of the City of Windsor and its citizens.

But there is more. And this is the part that troubles me greatly. Can Windsorites trust our Mayor and Council? Who knew what at City Hall? That must be disclosed as well immediately. I need to know as do other citizens that what we are being told is true and accurate by our leadership. The issue is not winning and losing a case but what is in the best interest of the City of Windsor.

Clearly, I disagree with the Mayor and Council on their approach with respect to the border file. That should not bother anyone because in a democracy people are free to form their own opinions and to advocate their point of view to try to convince others of their correctness of their position. That is what my BLOG is really all about.

If the Mayor and his counsel did not have the information about the DRIC response and had no reason to believe that there was one when the Mayor released the MoE document that is one thing.

However, I do expect the Leader of my City to present to me the facts, good and bad, no matter what they are, so that I can make an informed decision. It is not acceptable to me to be lied to or to be given half-truths or to have information hidden from me so that I am put in a position where I do not have all the data available in order to make a reasonable choice as a citizen. It is not acceptable to me to be led into taking a position based on nondisclosure of relevant information for whatever reason.

What are the true facts in this case, who knew what and when? In my opinion, Council has an absolute duty now to conduct its own investigation in this matter to determine what the facts are and to report to the citizens of Windsor what the results of its investigation are.

In my opinion, Council is now in the position where it must retain the services of an outside organization that is completely unrelated to the City to determine what has happened and what role the Mayor and the City’s outside counsel have played.

This section of the Star story today is very instructive:
  • Health study valid, DRIC says
    Project leader says concerns over research methods addressed

    Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan said at least some of DRIC's response would have likely been in the file when it was retrieved by Estrin. "Whether he saw it or not I don't know," said Jordan.

    "It is important to note that this is part of the normal process for the ministry to seek additional information. It is part of the approval process."

    Mayor Eddie Francis said it is not the city's job to put forth DRIC's positions.

    "It's not the City of Windsor's job to do DRIC's job," said Francis.

    "Our lawyers are bringing these memos forward to us. Why didn't they (DRIC) release these memos?"

    "…DRIC's responses to this community continue to be a slap in the face because they ignore the facts," said Francis.

    "We would welcome them to come to this community and explain themselves. There are a number of issues they are not responding to and they continue to run away."

I challenge the Mayor to ask Council to undertake a full and complete investigation into this matter with the proper Terms of Reference and not to ignore the facts. Otherwise it is a slap in the face of citizens.

Clearly, an important question is how did Mr. Estrin get a hold of the MoE document and when. Was the DRIC response in the MoE file at the time and did Mr. Estrin see it? If he did not see it, then this gives rise to some very troubling concerns. If he did see it, did he give a copy of it to the Mayor or tell him about it considering that he gave the Mayor a copy of the MoE document? If not, why not? If Eddie received the MoE document from our legal weapon of mass destruction did Eddie ask the obvious question whether DRIC responded? What was the answer? If he did not ask, why not? Was there a “wink wink, nudge nudge” not to ask? If the Mayor had a copy or knew about the response, then why did he not reveal it and disclose it at the same time as he disclosed the MoE document?

If one reads between the lines, the strong suggestion by the Star is that they were not told about the DRIC response. However, it is interesting to note that the Star, even in this story, has not asked some of the tough questions that I have posed above. Does this mean that the Star acted in an unprofessional manner in its reporting or editing and is trying to cover it up or that it knowingly acted as a mouthpiece for certain interests? What is Mr. Venney's response?

It is more urgent to get answers to these questions because the Star also did an Editorial on the same day demanding that the Premier come to Windsor to bow down to our Mayor. Moreover the Story and Editorial were placed in the paper the day before the CIBPA meeting that one can conclude will denounce the position of the Mayor and Council.

To be direct, I am disgusted with our Mayor’s position as outlined in the story. I think that it is time that he forget that he is a lawyer and start remembering that he is a Mayor of a City. He ought not to be trying to win a case but rather to do what is best for this City.

No one is asking Eddie “to do DRIC's job.” It is however his “Job” to act as the Mayor of Windsor. It is his obligation to present the facts to us in an open and honest manner. If he is wrong, he ought to admit it and move on and do what is right for us.

The facts must come out and Council has the obligation to investigate immediately. Once we know the true situation then decisions can be made.

As you can tell, I am very troubled by this entire situation. To offer some assistance respecting how this matter might to be looked at by you, I offer to you, dear reader, one of the Rules of the Law Society and its Commentary.

  • 4.01 (1) When acting as an advocate, a lawyer shall represent the client resolutely and honourably within the limits of the law while treating the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy, and respect.

    The lawyer has a duty to the client to raise fearlessly every issue, advance every argument, and ask every question, however distasteful, which the lawyer thinks will help the client's case and to endeavour to obtain for the client the benefit of every remedy and defence authorized by law. The lawyer must discharge this duty by fair and honourable means, without illegality and in a manner that is consistent with the lawyer's duty to treat the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy and respect and in a way that promotes the parties' right to a fair hearing where justice can be done

    This rule applies to the lawyer as advocate, and therefore extends not only to court proceedings but also to appearances and proceedings before boards, administrative tribunals, arbitrators, mediators, and others who resolve disputes, regardless of their function or the informality of their procedures.

    Role in Adversary Proceedings - In adversary proceedings the lawyer's function as advocate is openly and necessarily partisan. Accordingly, the lawyer is not obliged (save as required by law or under these rules and subject to the duties of a prosecutor set out below) to assist an adversary or advance matters derogatory to the client's case.

    When opposing interests are not represented, for example, in without notice or uncontested matters or in other situations where the full proof and argument inherent in the adversary system cannot be achieved, the lawyer must take particular care to be accurate, candid, and comprehensive in presenting the client's case so as to ensure that the tribunal is not misled.

    In civil proceedings, the lawyer has a duty not to mislead the tribunal about the position of the client in the adversary process.

Windsor Star Publisher Jim Venney Must Explain

It is the integrity of the Windsor Star that is at stake now, not that of DRIC or the Ministry of the Environment. There is a much bigger issue now than another DRIC/Greenlink story or the CIBPA meeting coverage.

The question that needs to be asked is whether the Windsor Star is a responsible newspaper which understands that its duty is to report the news to its readers fully, fairly and honourably or is it nothing more than an apologist for certain forces in the border battle to help further their agenda.

Here are some conclusions from an interesting article that was referred to me by one of my readers. The timing seemed so appropriate given what the Windsor Start did, or rather what it did not do:

“What Happens When a Town Loses Its Newspaper?”,8599,1886826,00.html
  • "To the extent that we can extrapolate, we can say that local coverage is something the newspapers uniquely provide," he says, "and when people don't have it, they're much less engaged."
  • “But since papers are the primary source for most other news outlets, a major link will be missing from the news ecosystem. If a paper does not cover a story, it is unlikely to be covered in the broadcast media, whose reporting staffs tend to be even smaller.”

Clearly, newspapers play an important role in our society. However, perhaps Time Magazine should do a further story about

  • “What happens when a Town has a newspaper like the Windsor Star”

What conclusions could be drawn?

Should we conclude that readers will only get part of the story, the part that the Star wants us to know about and chooses to tell us?

Or, should we conclude that there are forces at play who think that they are so powerful and so untouchable that they can do whatever they want with impunity to anyone and everyone to get what they want, even our leading media outlet.

Take a look at the BLOGs I wrote yesterday.

  • "Another Star Non-News MOE/DRIC Story"
  • "BREAKINGBLOGNEWS: DRIC Answers Star Article"
  • "CIBPA Meeting Is Wednesday"

Please explain to me why the Star did not refer to the 33 page DRIC document that answered what the MOE alleged. Whether that document is correct or not, I do not have the faintest idea. Fairness however demanded that the Star let readers know about it. Read it for yourself here:

Was the original story printed too close to the Newspaper’s deadline and a decision had to be made whether to print it or not? If so, why was there no immediate follow-up story talking about the DRIC Response? Oh yes, the Star did print the Press Release that DRIC issued, after I BLOGGED it. But why didn’t the Star follow-up to see if there was a further response and then report it?

Was the Reporter too lazy to pick up the phone and make a quick call to DRIC? That does not seem to be the Reporter’s style as I know it. Did the Editor make the decision not to include any of the DRIC response? In other words, did the Reporter report the full story and then saw his story edited? If so, why?

Was the Reporter misled? Was he told for example that there was no such response? If so, who are the parties who misled him?

The story as printed showed that our Council was right and that DRIC was wrong. It would inflame passions before the CIBPA meeting. If a political action group was set up, it could not take action against Council but against the Senior Levels.

The significance of what is going on has nothing to do with the MOE report or the DRIC response. In my opinion, this is such a flagrant abuse that the Publisher of the Star, Jim Venney, owes it to his readers to explain what happened, to tell us exactly what went on.

Was this just an aberration or the result of shoddy journalism? Was it a reporting error or an editorial one? Was there a tight deadline that had to be met and a decision made but if so, why was no follow-up story reported? Was the Star misled or pressured and if so by whom and why?

The Press Council of Ontario is very clear about the responsibility and obligation of one of its members:

  • “A newspaper has an inescapable obligation to vigorously pursue comment from any person about whom it plans to publish derogatory accusations and if possible to print it at the same time. It should check, preferably before publication, damaging statements one person attributes to another. When dealing with a sensitive issue, it should endeavour to see that the public is fully and fairly informed, either by giving fair treatment to differing views within the same article or in two articles published simultaneously.”

For some reason, the Star let its readership down badly. The Star owes it to us to give us the explanation.

REPOST: Another Star Non-News MOE/DRIC Story

I am disgusted with the Star.

No, I take that back. It is what I expect of the Star on the border file!

Here is the MOE report

Here is the DRIC 33 page response

If I could get the DRIC response, why couldn't the Star?

Why couldn't the Star ask Mr. Estrin if he saw a response and if so, ask for a copy?

Why couldn't the Star ask DRIC if they had responded and if so, ask for a copy?

When will the Star tell its readers what DRIC said?

Do you understand now why we need an alternative news source in Windsor!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another Star Non-News MOE/DRIC Story

I am disgusted with the Star.

No, I take that back. It is what I expect of the Star on the border file!

Here is the MOE report

Here is the DRIC 33 page response

If I could get the DRIC response, why couldn't the Star?

Why couldn't the Star ask Mr. Estrin if he saw a response and if so, ask for a copy?

Why couldn't the Star ask DRIC if they had responded and if so, ask for a copy?

When will the Star tell its readers what DRIC said?

Do you understand now why we need an alternative news source in Windsor!


For Release
March 24, 2009


Windsor—The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study team has received the memo outlining the comments of the Standards Development Branch of the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). We have provided MOE with a detailed response to the comments identified in the March 5th memo. We trust that this will aid in their review. Additional documentation is being prepared to specifically address the comments of MOE. This is a normal part of an environment assessment process.

The DRIC study team is confident in the work completed and we stand by the recommendations and conclusions of the most comprehensive and consultative EA ever undertaken by MTO,including the findings of the Human Health Risk Assessment.

The Human Health Risk Assessment undertaken by the DRIC study team determined that:
  • •There are no additional short or long term human health risks for sulphur dioxide.
    • For NOx and PM2.5, the Recommended Plan results in a lower health risk in comparison to
    the Future No Build scenario.
    • The increased traffic from the Recommended Plan is offset by the decrease in idling from
    the future No Build scenario.
    • The Recommended Plan does not increase incremental cancer risk in comparison to the
    background risk.

We stand by the study team’s findings that The Windsor-Essex Parkway in no way contributes to any increased human health risk factors that would worsen existing conditions. In the case of fine particulate, the future risk to the health of people who live adjacent to The Windsor-Essex Parkway is lower for the Recommended Plan than for the No Build alternative.

The Ministry of the Environment has provided us with all of the comments they received during the public comment period for the DRIC EA study which closed on February 27, 2009. Where there are comments requiring a response, the DRIC study team is providing a response to MOE.

The Ministry of Transportation would like to thank the public, stakeholders and agencies for providing input on the study.

CIBPA Meeting Is Wednesday

It is too bad that Windsor does not have political leadership at the local level that has any sense the way another border community does.

Instead, we have a version of the Hamilton litigation strategy that was created by our legal weapon of mass destruction to get money out of the Senior Levels but without litigation. Eddie does not have the guts to sue the Senior Levels because he understands the consequences if the Senior Levels pulled out of town. Windsor's strategy calls for full tunnelling, Greenlink, oppose the Ambassador Bridge and stalling.

Keep reading right to the end and you will understand why I make my comment

What is the matter with the CIBPA? Do they really think that the Mayor and Council care what they have to think about the border issue? They don’t. They don’t even care what citizens think. They have their opinion and that is all that matters.

It should be interesting to see how many people show up tomorrow night to attend their session. It should also be interesting to see what people talk about. Will it be just in relation to the border file or will it turn into people denouncing Council for their inaction? I do not envy the Chair’s position if the crowd starts getting angry.

It should also be interesting to see if any Member of Council makes an appearance.

I expect that there will be attempts made to “disrupt” the meeting to ensure that nothing is done, especially the setting up of a political action group. That would terrify our politicians.

The Association’s message really is rather straightforward… this City is dying so let’s get together and figure out a way to get the border file moving without the threat of litigation. I do not find that message so very threatening.

But City Hall does because it does not fit into their agenda of getting money from the Senior Levels.

How else can one explain the front-page story in the Star, the Star Editorial and the lack of mention of a story about the Ambassador Bridge.

Such perfect timing. I find it remarkable that the day before the Meeting the Star headline screams out:
  • MoE scientist slams DRIC

    Certain health risks of border route not assessed, toxicologist says

    A government team overseeing construction of a $1.6-billion highway to a new border crossing failed to properly conduct its human health risk assessment, according to a scathing 16-page internal report by a toxicologist for the province's environment ministry.”

Eddie is always right. Every opponent is always wrong. Why can’t the business and professional people understand that and back off?

  • “The toxicologist's memo confirms the city's position that DRIC has failed to meet its obligations under the environmental assessment for the highway, Francis said. "It shows a number of deficiencies and concerns," he said.”

Is this just like the Dr. Diamond MoE bombshell that turned out to be a dud?

Again, the day before the Meeting, the Star demands that the Premier come down to Windsor and bow down to our Mayor. Why can’t the business and professional people understand that Eddie rules as well and back off:

  • “As we've said, since our MPPs have removed themselves from actively representing the city's best interests due to conflict-of-interest concerns, it's time for Premier Dalton McGuinty to come to town.

    It's time for the premier to explain why the GreenLink proposal -- a better, greener alternative -- has been given such short shrift. The time has come for McGuinty to work with city council to find a solution that's acceptable to this community.”

Do not worry about jobs. We have months more to threaten:

  • “In February, provincial officials also confirmed that the bulk of the jobs and work associated with building the border access road won't be created until the fall of 2010, at the earliest.

    Preparatory work, such as utility relocation and demolition of properties, might begin later this year. But those jobs aren't contingent on what the eventual project will look like.

    That was confirmed by Infrastructure Ontario spokesman Steve Dyck last week: "It doesn't matter what consortium gets the project, or how it will be designed, that (preparatory) work has to be done."

Let us remain shortsighted. Let us maintain the reputation of being the only City in North America that is fighting its Senior Level Governments and private industry who want to pour billions of dollars into this City. Let us instead come up with slogans, send out glossy magazines produced by the Star and re-organize our Undevelopment Commission for the umpteenth time!

Now about the Ambassador Bridge. According to CKLW, and not the Windsor Star, the City will be retaining an American lawyer to fight the US Coast Guard decision that the Ambassador Bridge Company project has “no significant impact.” I wonder how much more money that will cost taxpayers. I also wonder why the Star did not cover the story. Perhaps because it would infuriate some people?

In case you wanted to read about that story on the CKLW website, do not bother going there. Nothing is posted. I guess that story isn’t all that important even though that is one of the issues that the business and professional people are concerned about

  • “INTOLERANCE over…acts of delay.”

The effect of the Star’s action is disgraceful and a complete disservice to this community. It is time that they stopped giving the Mayor and Council a free pass. Effectively the Star is saying that we have months more before anything needs to be done so back off CIBPA and let Eddie do his thing:

  • “For a start, a 32-week review of DRIC's environmental assessment for the Parkway proposal began in January. That puts completion at around the start of September…

    it would seem there is plenty of time left for the province to sit down with city officials to hear this community's concerns.”

I trust that people will not be sucked in by this shameful approach by the Star. I will be Blogging about this more later on but compare what is going on in Windsor with what took place in Port Huron:

  • “During nine meetings between February and November of last year, state transportation officials and local leaders met to hammer out mitigation and project enhancements for the Blue Water Bridge Plaza…

    The Project Enhancement and Mitigation Group included representatives from Port Huron, St. Clair County, Port Huron Township, the Michigan Department of Transportation and several other groups.

    Details of the mitigation efforts are in Chapter 5 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, a document released today. The efforts aim to ease the burden on local communities for enduring and sacrificing for such a massive project.

    St. Clair County Administrator Shaun Groden described the relationship between local officials and MDOT as a "rough marriage" until about a year and a half ago, when the meetings started. He said all involved came to the realization that the two sides must work together to make the best of the project.

    So, instead of fighting the project -- which is slated to start in 2011 and end in 2016 or 2017 -- Groden said local officials adopted a new strategy: to try to make it as beneficial as possible.”

    Groden said while "I'm still wary about it," the project has evolved from one that threatened to make Port Huron a "cavity" in St. Clair County, to one that will benefit the area in many ways.

    "When you look back even 18 months ... I think there has been considerable movement," Groden said.

    "I think we accomplished much"

That I expect is what the CIBPA meeting is all about. It is a shame though that no one from Windsor’s increasingly isolated City Hall bunker will listen.

Why We Do Not Need P3 Taxpayer Rip-offs

It's another anti-P3 diatribe. Sorry but this whole concept bugs me because in the end, taxpayers get ripped off and actually bear the risk of a project failing contrary to what is being claimed:
  • "Macquarie's dead-parrot model

    If the Macquarie model's not dead, it's surely comatose and dangling upside-down with its claws super-glued to the perch.

    Despite touting a glamorous 14% yield, the latest stapled infrastructure float, BrisConnections, has tanked 60% on its sharemarket debut. The chief reason is that people have twigged to the financial engineer's lurk of the manufactured yield.

    That is, they now understand they are simply being given back their own money after the Macquarie machine had slapped the structure together, raised debt with their equity and stripped out the fees up-front."

I still cannot understand why the Windsor Star refuses to publish any significant information about the P3 fiasco in British Colombia involving the Port Mann Bridge. It is not that they have to do very much research. All they have to do is reprint the news stories from their sister publication, the Vancouver Sun.

Could it be that the Star does not want us to know this information because then it could mean that there is no possibility of a P3 DRIC project, road or bridge? Oh yes, I forgot

  • "We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change."

Yes, like ignoring relevant news stories because it might mean that the Bridge Company might now be able to build their Enhancement Project out of their own pocket book and not taxpayers'.

They have had a true public-private partnership with the Government for almost 80 years. They do their job and look after the bridge while the Governments do theirs and looks after the roads.

With an $18 billion deficit staring us in the face, the last thing that Ontario taxpayers need to hear is that our Government is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars more by entering into overexpensive P3 deals when traditional approaches work better.

Why do we need P3s? Better financing, better project management, assumption of risk are some of the justifications given. However, the Port Mann Bridge P3 failure blows up the myth of the need for this kind of structure.

The story below from the Journal of Commerce makes it clear that taxpayers will save money because Government can get better financing terms than can private industry if private industy can even get money these days. Fixed price construction contracts eliminate risk on the cost of the project. Interestingly, the same contractors who were going to build the P3 bridge project are going to build the Government project now.

What if the traffic decreases such that there is a revenue risk? Somehow having it in a P3 means that the risk is borne by private industry people think. I hate to break the news to people but if that happens, tolls increase. DUH!

  • "Private-sector companies that operate a handful of toll roads in North America have stayed profitable despite significant declines in traffic. It would not have been possible without toll increases, company officials say..."

    Macquarie and partner Cintra Concesiones of Spain formed a consortium to operate the 407 Express Toll Route in Toronto, Canada, along with the Indiana Toll Road and the Chicago Skyway.

    The consortium is guaranteed toll increases at or above the rate of inflation for decades to come as part of its long-term leases for those roadways.

    The 407 ETR did not see significant traffic growth in 2008, but the consortium has countered with a toll increase that took effect Feb. 1 of this year.

    Traffic counts in December 2008 on the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway were down 8 to 10 percent when compared with December 2007.

    A 20 percent toll increase on the Indiana Toll Road and a 27 percent toll increase on the Chicago Skyway have kept those roads profitable for the Cintra-Macquarie group."

And if the losses get too big, then bankruptcy is not unheard of such that the project has to be taken over by Government anyway.

The P3 apologists have no basis now for their business model. In another story from British Columbia the Government financing savings approached $200 million. That money goes into the taxpayer wallets to be used for other projects.

It seems to me that if the City of Windsor wants to create a new industry then we need to open up a rehabilitation centre for P3 politician addicts. They need to be cured of their P3 addiction immediately. We can only hope that we are in time to save them, and us.

  • Port Mann P3 deal falls through as province turns to design-build contract

    The B.C. government made a huge policy u-turn on the new Port Mann Bridge project by changing from a public-private partnership to a more traditional procurement model.

    The province will now fully finance the design-build construction contract for the 10-lane super bridge.

    The decision was announced after the government failed to finalize a deal with the lead proponent for the P3 contract.

    For several months, Macquarie Group was having difficulties securing financing.

    The global economic slowdown was behind the financing difficulties.

    The government expected to reach a deal, but was forced to announce last week that negotiations between the province and MacQuarie collapsed.

    The MacQuarie group was part of the Connect BC Development Group, which also included Transtoll Inc., Peter Kiewit Sons Co. and Flatiron Constructors Canada Limited.

    “Over the past several weeks, negotiations continued in good faith with Connect BC Development Group,” said Larry Blain, Partnerships BC CEO in a letter dated Feb. 24 to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon.

    “Despite these proceedings, a mutually satisfactory agreement could not be reached and more time will not alter this. Therefore, I recommend that this negotiation be concluded.”

    The government announced on Feb 27 that it is entering into a fixed-price contract with a joint venture of Peter Kiewit Sons Co. and Flatiron Constructors Canada Limited.

    The group will design and build the new, 10-lane Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 widening at the previously agreed upon cost of $2.46 billion.

    “The Port Mann/Highway 1 project has always been a certainty, but what was to be confirmed was the best way to finance it,” said Falcon.

    “We have determined that a traditionally financed arrangement is the better way to proceed at the current time.

    The B.C. government reached an agreement-in-principle with Connect BC Development Group on Jan. 28, for construction of the project.

    A few weeks before this, Macquarie was granted a one month extension to get their financing finalized.

    The deal and final costs for the project should have been finalized in March.

    The financial arrangements for the project, which were supposed to take the form of a public-private partnership, were originally scheduled for completion in early January.

    Despite this, the government insists that the financial arrangements were not the problem and the negotiations broke down due to a lack of agreement on final terms.

    “We said from the beginning that this was a very challenging capital market environment and that executing the project would involve complex negotiations,” said Falcon.

    “Unfortunately, the parties could not agree on final terms. Partnerships BC recommended not to proceed, and the province and Connect BC have mutually agreed to end the P3 procurement process.”

    Even though the parties were unable to agree on final terms, the government has retained Macquarie to provide advisory services including financing and tolling operations.

    Despite the lack of arranged financing, an official ceremony unveiled the bridge’s new design and marked the start of construction. Earlier plans had called for the twinning of the existing bridge.

    During the ceremony Falcon and Campbell talked about the benefits of using a private public partnership, such as the transfer of risk, innovative design, financing and the maintenance of the project over its life.

    The project was supposed to be financed entirely by Macquarie, which is Australia’s largest investment bank.

    However, construction on the new bridge actually started in August with geotechnical work, drilling, planning, detailed design, utility works and environmental permitting.

    The fixed-price contract with Kiewit-Flatiron is designed to ensure cost overruns or construction delays are the responsibility of the contractor.

    The 40 kilometre Port Mann Highway 1 project consists of the construction of a new Port Mann Bridge and widening Highway 1, as well as upgrading interchanges and improving safety and access between McGill Street in Vancouver and 216th Street in Langley.

    The project should be complete by 2013 and is expected to create 8,000 jobs.