Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 10, 2009

Harper And The Destruction Of Canada/US Relations



I thought I would post a BLOG this holiday weekend to give you something different to read and to listen to as well if you have a few minutes of free time.

Here is a "foreword" I have written to another WJR interview that you should find of interest. You need to listen to it to understand how Canada is going to make a mess with its relationship with the US over a bridge!

I want to put the interview into a context for you so read on.

Truly, can the Government of Canada be any more stupid in its relations with the US. There are consequences for this stupidity as the softwood lumber matter coming back again demonstrates:
  • "Canada PM Says Disappointed With US Lumber Duty

    OTTAWA (Dow Jones)--Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday he was disappointed with the U.S. decision to impose duties on softwood lumber exports from four provinces.

    "Obviously, we were very disappointed - first of all disappointed with the tribunal decision, also disappointed with the decision of the government of the United States to impose a duty," Harper said in a televised news conference in Moncton, N.B.

    As reported, the U.S. government said Tuesday it would impose punitive duties of 10% on softwood lumber from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan from April 15, until it has collected US$54.8 million...

    Harper said the government isn't disputing the tribunal's decision.

    "What's at issue is, what is the appropriate remedy, the appropriate penalty," he said."

Is it really any surprise why the northern border is thickening when we try to threaten the US with oil and energy as the PM tried with President Bush or we have NAFTA-gate for the new President or our PM makes an insulting speech like this in July 17, 2007 in Santiago, Chile? Does he think no one in the US State Department saw it:

  • "Looking at the region as a whole, and some countries in particular, we have seen some phenomenal success stories of political, economic and social development over the past generation, of which Chile is a shining example.

    In certain other countries, however, we are witnessing cases of regressive economic policy, dangerous political conflict and persistent poverty, social inequality and insecurity.

    While most nations are turning toward economic reform and political openness, too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices are - if I can be so bold to say - to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become “just like the United States.”

    This is, of course, utter nonsense. Canada’s very existence demonstrates that the choice is a false one.

    Canada is an open, free and democratic society with the strongest economy in the G8 today, while also being a proud and independent country with our own way-of-life.

    Canada’s political structures differ substantially from those in the United States. Our cultural values and social models have also been shaped by unique forces and we've made our own policy choices to meet our own needs.

    We want our role in the hemisphere to reflect these differences while emphasizing the economic and political fundamentals necessary for progress.

    In other words, we want a role that reflects our commitment to open markets and free trade, to democratic values and accountable institutions, but also to our national identity, and our traditions of order and community values.

    But for Canada to play this role, we need partners.

    It is not in our past, nor within our power, to conquer or to dominate.

    What we can do is bring forward our resources and goodwill, in concert with those with whom we have historical links as well as significant interests, to build a more democratic, prosperous and secure hemisphere for all of its citizens.

    With a new model of partnership at the heart of Canada’s approach to the Americas, we know we can strengthen hemispheric cooperation in support of peace, security and development.

    There is no better place for Canada to pursue a partnership than by building on the shared success of our relationship with Chile and on our common values of political democracy, economic freedom and social cohesion.

    Chile and Canada can show the way forward."

Hey we are Canadians after all, right. Come on, be honest. Did you silently cheer Gord when he said:

  • “We didn't make much of it at the time. But we surely understand now why Herb Gray moved heaven and earth, as Liberal minister responsible for FIRA (Foreign Investment Review Agency) in the early 1980s, in a failed effort to prevent Moroun's trucking empire from acquiring the Canadian half of the bridge. That battle was lost in the federal courts and ended with an out-of-court settlement following a marathon legal struggle.

    Gray understood what was at stake. An economic nationalist, he recognized that having the nation's most critical border crossing owned and operated by a private company, a foreign controlled one at that, would not be in Canada's best interests. He knew that real countries, serious countries, don't let private companies run their borders.”

How about when the only Conservative MP in our region, Jeff Watson, said:

  • "In my corridor, a private bridge operator is threatening the binational process for moving forward. This private interest is moving very quickly to twin the span there which really threatens to undermine a process that we are a partner in.

    It is important that we get this bill through in a very timely fashion without holding up too many add-ons because the clock is ticking with respect to this private interest moving forward. It is a project that, in my humble opinion, is not in the national interest, certainly not in the community interest.

    It is important that all members in the House support this legislation and get it through quickly, so that we can avert this type of situation or at least have some oversight over what is happening. This is a necessary piece of legislation."

How about this comment from another Conservative. Perhaps we are not Mexico North but we should be named after a Caribbean Island just off the coast of Florida instead:

  • "Conservative MP Russ Hiebert has thrown support behind a plan to nationalize security, maintenance and use of border infrastructure. Bill C-3, known as the Bridges and Tunnels Act, will give the federal government exclusive authority over 29 bridges and tunnels to the U.S....This bill will allow us to fully manage trade and security at all border points, and is especially timely as the Detroit-Windsor trade corridor is growing desperate for additional border transit capacity,” the MP said."

I swear, I would have thought they were NDP members saying things as only Brian Masse could say:

  • "Given the importance of the corridor and the fact that 40% of Canada's trade goes along the corridor and adding another bridge is very essential, not only just to Ontario and Quebec but the rest of the country with our GDP so tightly wound around basically a private American operator that owns the current bridge"
  • "The fact of the matter is that we have to deal with the most important border crossing between Windsor and Detroit which is owned and operated by a private American citizen. We have to ensure that Canada's interests are represented."
  • "When a border crossing facility is owned by a private American citizen we have to be accountable to our own citizens to make sure that the border crossing is inspected properly, invested in properly and is run for the benefit of not only individual Canadians crossing there but also the businesses that we represent. That should be the primary interest of any infrastructure that we have connecting ourselves and the commerce that is so important for the vitality of Ontario and other regions."

What will the Canadian Government do when there is a reaction to this blatant anti-Americanism or when the US figures out that Canada is trying to control the corridors and gateways with "Shared Border Management" on the Canadian side. Deny it?

Remember that the Prime Minister has tried 3 times at least with 2 Presidents to get the Americans to buy into whatever he wants to do with the Ambassador Bridge and its Owner. I can hardly wait for another "ports" brouhaha by certain members of Congress when they wake up! Where over Canada will the US drones fly then?

I truly cannot believe that the Ambassador Bridge is that significant to Canada that such an effort has been made to force its Owner out of business. Yet, look at what has been done to try to do so as I have Blogged---endrunning the President, Government actions including Ministerial visits to the US, media stories, Bill C-3 legislation, $60M DRIC process, academic papers, tying it in with troops in Afghanistan. Think of how many hundreds of people are involved from the Canadian side.

For what---traffic volume capacity increase, security, redundancy, new road network, plaza redundancy, to be ready when the economy improves. I do not think so. They are merely the excuses to cover Canada's real agenda whatever it is.

Remember, the US is the elephant. Do you remember what the former US Ambassador to Canada said:

  • "David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, fired a salvo at the prime minister, saying Martin is risking one of the world’s best relationships by playing politics. Martin has repeatedly criticized the U.S. over softwood lumber and environmental policies during the election campaign...

    Those comments drew a stern warning from Wilkins to back off the election rhetoric.

    “It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly,” he warned. “But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn’t have a long-term impact on the relationship.”

Former US Secretary of Commerce in a DEMOCRATIC Administration, Mickey Kantor, in another WJR interview said:

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

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

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

Now that you have finished cheering for kicking the Americans, do not be surprised if they kick back. Watch the Ambassador Bridge become a symbol of the deterioration of our economy thanks to our foolish Government's 50 year attempt to take over the Bridge.

Take a listen to this interview. I expect that it will make waves quickly in American Government circles both State and Federal after it has been heard. The irony of what Dan Stamper says though is that he is not angry at Canada---he understands what we are doing although he obviously does not like it since it hurts his Company---He is angry at his own Government for ignoring everything!

Heaven help the Prime Minister, and Canada, when the Americans wake up, especially after the Mexican border is cleaned up! Then the focus will be directly on our border. It is NOT going to be pretty if Canada continues to carry on this way. Do not forget about Congressional action about steel to understand what I mean.

I would expect that the surprising Bridge Company Appropriations Committee Earmark action to deny DRIC further funding for the DRIC project, something that has caught everyone by surprise by its novelty, is a big nudge in the ribs!



video

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hub-bub


A contest for readers.

Please read this Press Release from the Undevelopment Commission and then the description of one of the sessions and tell me which key player in the area is not participating. So far. And then ask why not:
  • CREATING JOBS: Growing a key industry in Windsor-Essex

    Windsor, Ontario - HUB ’09, an International Multimodal Conference was officially launched today by the WindsorEssex Development Commission and host partners at a media conference held at Windsor International Airport.

    This informative 2-day international multi-modal conference is being held at Caesars Windsor beginning with a conference dinner on May 5th and will feature a keynote presentation by Jeremy Rifkin, the bestselling author of 17 books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. Mr. Rifkin is the President of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Bethesda, Maryland.

    This conference will bring together over 300 industry experts, business leaders, and community stakeholders to focus on showcasing the region’s key multi-modal assets and will feature presentations on border infrastructure and transportation security issues, the role of transportation in the new economy, and will link the role that transportation plays in helping organizations gain entrance into new, high-performance manufacturing sectors like alternative energy and aerospace. The conference will also include a synthesizing of these important issues facilitated by Dr. Bill Anderson, Ontario Research Chair in Cross-Border Transportation Policy at the University of Windsor.

    “Throughout its long history of industrial development, the Windsor-Essex region has achieved a level of excellence in the rapid, reliable and efficient movement of goods by road, rail, water and air. This is a key asset for the region as we face the challenges of economic transformation in the coming decades,” commented Dr. Anderson.

    “Among the many factors which enhance the attractiveness of the Windsor-Essex Region for economic investment is the competitive advantage afforded by our region’s location. In addition to the globally recognized manufacturing and engineering capabilities in Windsor-Essex, our ability to leverage geography, as well as our multi modal assets and infrastructure uniquely positions the Region ahead of many other jurisdictions for future economic investment,” said Patrick Persichilli, Vice President, WindsorEssex Development Commission.

    Key to the success of continuing to grow this important industry in the Windsor-Essex region is the involvement by regional stakeholders. HUB ’09 is being coordinated by the WEDC in partnership with the City of Windsor, County of Essex, Windsor Port Authority, Windsor International Airport Your Quick Gateway (Windsor) Inc, University of Windsor, Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, the South East Michigan Council of Governments, and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

  • 10:30am - 11:45am – Session #2:
    Beyond Boundaries – Creating a Better Border

    Being the busiest Canada/US border provides a uniquely informed perspective on the challenges of international logistics. Explore forward-looking solutions with panelists from Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, representatives from local Border Crossing Operators, and representatives from the customs brokerage industry.
I wonder now if the WEDC has become politicized and only "acceptable" parties are allowed to present. If so, then WEDC has no value whatsoever.

If, on the other hand, the WEDC was free to invite anyone it chose, then the Organization has no common sense. If the obvious party was not invited to attend as a speaker, then WEDC has no value whatsoever.

Oh and in case you wonder why I am Blogging this before 10 AM, the answer is easy. I have no respect for any organization that ignores and will not take the trouble to send out Press Releases to local Bloggers. Believe it or not, we are media too.

If the organization will not respect us, then I will not respect them.

Putting The Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces Together


I should try to put together jigsaw puzzles for relaxation in my spare time. Except I have very little of it these days with all of the interesting events that are taking place in this City. I do like to follow the news closely and to try to understand what everything means.

Mind you, when I look at what I do, I think that I am putting pieces of the puzzle together when I write my BLOGs. The problem is I have no idea what the puzzle looks like in the first place so I have no idea if the pieces are fitting together properly.

Let me give an example of what I mean. There have been a number of very interesting news stories over the past few weeks that may explain much of what is taking place. Taken individually they do not mean a whole lot but if you put them together, they are very significant. The problem is, and this is a terrible play on words, I do not have a roadmap to help guide me. See if you draw the same conclusions that I do after reading excerpts from these stories from different news sources in different parts of the Province:


Environmental

  •  “in a bid to streamline regulations around development of renewable energy the province has promised to establish standardized setbacks and shorten environmental assessment times that would favour developers and speed up the approval process while reducing local control.”
  •  “the Federal Government announced changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to exempt various projects funded under the Building Canada Plan from federal environmental assessment ("EA") requirements. Such projects include…highways and bridges.
  •  “Ontario’s environmental assessment process does not apply to private sector projects, only to public sector projects. Even public sector projects such as nuclear power plants are so frequently exempted from environmental assessment that Ontario’s law has long been referred to as the Environmental Exemption Act

Tiresome local politicians

  •  Ontario’s plan to consolidate Metrolinx and GO Transit in order to expand regional transit infrastructure quickly includes removing political turf wars from the mix.

    The new Metrolinx will be created under the yet to be passed the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Transit Implementation Act 2009. The Ontario government will appoint up to 15 members to the provincial transit planning agency’s new board. The new members will include planning, finance and development experts but politicians have been left out of the mix.

    Some municipal councillors have voiced opposition to the move but Dalton McGuinty, Ontario’s premier, says the time has come for such an evolution in the region’s transit planning.
  •  In response to local concerns, many municipal governments have tried to enact regulations that find a balance in local communities.

    Recently, Premier Dalton McGuinty has dismissed those concerned about the impact of large-scale, megaproject wind production, or taking up large amounts of valuable farm land for solar farms as simply ‘Nimbyism” (or not in my backyard)…

    To address local concerns, the McGuinty government is simply going to legislate that municipalities have no power to create local rules for local communities. It will be mandated that projects be given their permits within six months of applying. For those who cheer these rules they need to step back and consider the very dangerous precedent this will set.

    It is not a stretch to think that this might mean many projects given fast-tracking without local control. Today it is green energy projects. Tomorrow it will be something else that you will want to question and you won’t be able to because we have now set this precedent.”

Do it or else

  •  Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan warned Friday that Windsor could lose the proposed jail to another community if it does not approve rezoning of the province's preferred site near Highway 401.

    "If the city doesn't want it, we're not going to drag this out," Duncan told reporters following a speech to the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Other communities want it, other communities nearby."

    City council could ignore the committee's recommendation and approve changing the land's zoning from agricultural to major institutional. If council doesn't approve the change, the province won't bother appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board, Duncan said.

    He said the province will just move on to another site.

Finally getting the message

  •  There's time to find a better solution, and GreenLink provides the blueprint.
  •  Francis, taking the high road, argues that the massive Toronto investment is good news for Windsor because it sets an infrastructure standard that will surely, out of fairness, be followed here.

    "I welcome this. It sets a precedent they have to apply down here. I view this as a positive, a great opportunity for Dwight, Sandra and Bruce Crozier.

    They can be heroes and deliver a wonderful legacy for the next 100 years."

Toronto is being Delrayed too for the next election

  •  Coming just a week after the provincial budget Mr. McGuinty said the transit investments [in Toronto] are part of his economic stimulus package to create jobs and investment, while leaving an infrastructure legacy for cities.

    But ground is not expected to be broken on any of the projects until next year. ‘‘If we could start them any earlier I’d love to,” the Premier said.
  •  Despite Premier Dalton McGuinty's decision to fund a $7.2-billion chunk of Mayor David Miller's light-rail vision, the ambitious plan still faces questions about how the lines will be built and how much they will cost…

    Toronto Transit Commission staff have been hard at work on the details, but some questions remain, including the final alignment of the lines, traffic problems, concerns from some along the routes about construction and the final costs…

    The approximately 30-kilometre Eglinton line, for example, was originally projected to cost $2.2-billion when first proposed in 2007. Now, its estimated cost - which includes a 10-kilometre tunnel - has risen to $4.6-billion. The new figure is based on estimates from Metrolinx, the province's regional transportation agency.

The Jigsaw puzzle put together

The first thing is very clear is that the Governments have just about had enough of Environmental Assessments. Public input is terrific except when the Government really wants to do something. The EA process in Windsor for example has been a terrific boon for the Governments by having the process stalled for years to allow DRIC to catch up with the Enhancement Project and also for the Governments to buy time in order to find the cash for these projects.

Now while it may seem that the Governments can move forward, the Government can be held hostage by the Mayor of some insignificant, little town in Southwest Ontario and his legal weapon of mass destruction by questioning the entire process by judicial review.

Next, in significant areas, we can see Senior Levels centralizing the process because they of course know better than the local yokels. I must admit that our Mayor must take some credit for this, or is it the blame, because of the actions that he has taken so far with the DRIC process. What the Province has discovered is that by giving in to one small town Mayor they may well have prejudiced themselves in other parts of the Province.

That cannot be allowed to happen again.

Just in case the locals don’t understand this, they have to be hit between the eyes with a sledgehammer. That brings us to the next point.

Can Councillor Valentinis really keep asking the question of why Windsor is ignored after the way that this Mayor and Council have acted. The snubbing alone is disgraceful. Really, when the Mayor has to fly to Europe or has to cancel a meeting because of a readathon it is somewhat disturbing.

There is no doubt that the failure of our Mayor to be grateful for the backup sponsorship money for Red Bull was probably the last straw for the Premier. It was up to $3.2 million after all. There is no doubt that the Minister of Finance is furious as well because it is clear that he thought that he had a deal with our Mayor. The Henderson column where the provincial insider spoke is clear evidence of that. It would appear since the deal has not been announced that someone reneged.

I can just see the pleasure that Spanky is taking by telling the Mayor that in fact he no longer has a “Get out of jail free” Card. Either the Jail will go where the Province wants it or it will go outside of Windsor. It is simple as that. Chances are, the jail will go to another part of Dwight’s riding. Giving it to Mayor McNamara would give both of them great pleasure I am sure.

The final point is that the Mayor must finally understand that he had better shut up or his future is at stake in more ways than one. Why else is Gord doing his dirty work? Why else is the Mayor talking to a group like CIBPA but to ask THEM to put the pressure on the Premier to bow down to his will?

Greenlink is no longer Windsor’s solution; rather it is now a mere blueprint.

Eddie understands that it is highly unlikely that the Province will pull the DRIC Road from Windsor. The Government does have two cabinet ministers that have to be protected after all. But all that they need to do is to mitigate the effects of the roadway. They do not have to build a $1.6 billion road. Even with a cheaper solution, at grade or below grade, there will still be jobs but not as many as would be needed for a DRIC road. However, Eddie could not take the heat if that happened. The finger of blame would be pointed right at him. He could not allow that to happen nor could he take the public pressure.

So if we put all the jigsaw puzzle pieces together, then we can see a very coordinated approach to what is going to happen in Toronto and also in Windsor. The old rules no longer apply and it is wonderful for Governments that they can use an economic decline as justification for what they are doing.

The Senior Governments rule and what they say goes when it is important to them. If a local politician doesn’t get it, then a Cabinet Minister will let them know in the clearest possible terms until he/she signals that he/she does.

Just think about it a little bit. All this excitement about these massive projects in Toronto. All these enormous sums to be spent to help out in these dire economic times. All of the public benefits that Torontonians are to get, especially to protect their health. Please do not tell me that it will not help a Mayor who will be running for reelection in Toronto in 2010 and a Provincial Government who will be running for reelection in the next year.

Of course there are going to be huge problems and threats of lawsuits that may delay the start of construction until....maybe the next Provincial election! Or perhaps the federal election if the Feds have to put in funds. Seriously, what is better than Minister Baird going around the country dropping off millions of dollars in every City in Canada, taking along with him the local Conservative MPs or potential candidates for a photo-op.

This near depression could not have come around at a better time politically. The Senior Level Governments can run up huge deficits that will help them get re-elected and no one will complain because they are saving our economy and saving our jobs.

Why if I did not know any better, I would have thought that what is happening in Windsor respecting the DRIC is the precedent for what the Government is doing in Toronto respecting their huge transit plans. It is working well here so why not have it work well there too.

It is just like a new Broadway show that goes to the boonies first to make sure everything works before it hits the Big Apple stage.

What is truly remarkable if one goes back in history is the Gong Show performance and the Cansfield announcement before the last election that nothing can happen until after 2010. Remarkably, the Premier has said the same thing about the transit projects in Toronto.

I think I did it. I think I put all of the jigsaw puzzle pieces together. It makes a very pretty picture too don’t you think.

Eddie, Eddie, Eddie (Part 2)


Eddie, how could you do this? You are so much smarter than this!

Please tell me you were confused. Please tell me that it was not really you who said this. Please tell me that the transcription is incorrect.

If you do not do it, then there will be only one explanation for what you are saying
:
  • "Announcer: Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is ticked. He says a letter from the DRIC team confirms his worst fears about the Province, that it's not concerned about the health and well-being of Windsor residents.

    The letter says the $144 million difference between Greenlink and the Windsor-Essex Parkway could be used elsewhere, like a massive tunnel project in Toronto.

    Eddie: Toronto gets 13 kilometres of covered space and by virtue of doing the math per kilometre that is now the most expensive road construction project in the history of the Province. They seem to have an appetite to do these type of projects to protect residents elsewhere, but they continue to avoid doing the right thing here. I just point that out.

    Announcer: Francis says he'll be sure to complain to the Ministry of the Environment which is currently evaluating the Parkway's environmental assessment."

Eddie, Eddie, Eddie... I know you are angry because you think you will not be in the Guiness Book of World Records as Mayor of the town that has the most expensive road in Ontario. You think that honour will now go to the Toronto Mayor.

But you are wrong. Oh Eddie, don't you get it yet. You will still hold the Guiness record. You will still be #1! Those 13 Kms are not for a "road" but for a light "SUBway." You know the difference don't you Eddie.

Wait a minute. Perhaps he does not. He is a Windsor boy and we do not have subways here, just roads. I am sure he does not use the subway in Toronto when he has Dwight to chauffeur him around. And in New York, Sam is there to show him the sights and a good time.

That is it. He is not misleading us. He just does not know the difference.

I feel so much better now!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Internet And Eddie Francis


Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. You have got to try and stop yourself. You are losing your credibility.

You are forgetting that with the Internet it is so easy to check out what you are saying anywhere and to find research that either supports you or knocks you down.

Sure, we Bloggers do not have the reach of the traditional media but you would be surprised whom we do influence because they read us. Sometimes it is quality not quantity that is important.


You looked foolish on the Diamond “draft MoE memo and your failure to release the DRIC answer to the other MoE memo. It made you look silly and so poorly prepared. And more…it made it seem as if you were trying to fool Windsorites or worse.

Your actions designed to inflame the public did not work either---the area of mass destruction, the need for tunnels, children with backpacks, cancer, death and destruction. You should be ashamed.

I do not know where you got your figures but you started again at the CIBPA meeting on 30,000 trucks a day on E C Row. Puhleeeeaze. When will that happen with the economy going into the toilet, especially the auto industry.

But your latest at the CIBPA meeting---the $100M difference between the Greenlink and DRIC road---and then your attack on the Toronto tunnel for a SUBway, give it a rest Eddie before you make a complete joke of yourself.

Here is why I am giving you this advice. I read this on CHYR news. Yes it is Leamington but I get around:
  • Tunnel Blues Wed Apr 8th, 2009

    Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is livid!

    He says a letter from the DRIC team confirms his worst fears about the province, that it's not concerned about the health and well being of Windsor residents.

    The letter says... the 144-million dollar difference between Green Link and the Windsor Essex Parkway could be used elsewhere, like a massive tunnel project in Toronto.

    Francis says, he'll be sure to complain to the Ministry of the Environment, which is currently evaluating the Parkway's environmental assessment.”

What a whiny baby! Complain to the Ministry that you have already dismissed the other day too!

You have got to stop being so livid. It is not good for the digestion. You have got to learn to read better too. Sure Windsor is at the bottom of the literacy tables in Canada but you are a lawyer after all.

I found the letter you are referring to and I am posting it here for others to read. DRIC posted it publicly too http://www.scribd.com/doc/14074590/urscostmemo

Gosh, I found some interesting stuff in it too:

  • ---The cost estimate presented by the City was not comparable to the estimates prepared by the DRIC study team for the practical alternatives
  • ---Using this approach, the DRIC study team estimated the cost of the GreenLink proposal at $2.3 to $2.5 billion – about $700 to $900 million more than the estimate of $1.6 billion that was developed for the Windsor-Essex Parkway alternative in the spring of 2008.
  • ---The City has confirmed that the GreenLink cost estimate it provided does not extend to the same limits as the DRIC access road, nor is the cost expressed in the same base year (2011). The Parkway cost estimates include engineering costs, an allowance for inflation, full left and right shoulders and address the complete access road, whereas the GreenLink proposal does not include these items.
  • ---Accordingly, once the cost estimates for GreenLink are revised to include these items, an “apples-to-apples” comparison could be done, which revealed that the GreenLink proposal is $700 to $900 million more expensive to construct than the Parkway.
  • ---Additionally, the GreenLink number presented is a 2007 construction cost estimate, whereas the estimate for the Windsor-Essex Parkway is corrected for inflation to a 2011 construction year.
  • ---This significant and continuing misrepresentation of the cost of GreenLink as compared to the Windsor-Essex Parkway, by the City, is seen elsewhere in the City’s submission and has been used by the City to garner public support for its preferred alternative.
  • ---The City did discuss a modified GreenLink proposal with the DRIC team in the summer of 2008. This modified proposal included 2.8 km of tunnels as opposed to 3.8 km in the original GreenLink and 1.86 km in the Windsor-Essex Parkway.
    Cost estimates done by their consultants conclude the modified GreenLink proposal would cost $144 million more than the Windsor-Essex Parkway.

Here is the key point that the Mayor is ranting about:

  • “Based on discussions with City representatives in the summer of 2008, the DRIC study team believes the actual cost differential would be more than $144 million as reported by the City.

    As a point of reference, the additional expenditure of $144 million reported by the City could be used to construct almost half of the 6-lane freeway between Windsor and Tilbury. It could, of course, be used for other programs as well.”

Gee it states the obvious doesn’t it. If you have an extra $144M, you would use it elsewhere. In the same way, Toronto could complain that more of their SUBway could be put underground but for the money being given to Windsor.

It has nothing to do with health which is another phony issue as I have discussed before. Why would one waste money, $144M, on Eddie’s political career if there are no health concerns and when there are better uses for the money.

Eddie better be careful. He may fool Windsorites until they learn the facts but his Big City Mayor colleagues will not like it if he takes legitimate infrastructure dollars out of their pockets.

I do not think that the Premier will like it too much either OR the Minister of Finance.

PS. The Province has already hit back with a response! Second time in a few weeks they acted so quickly. Can you spell P-*-*-*-*-d!

Short Stuff


A few short news items of interest:

CANALS AND CIBPA

Hmmmm. Strange way that the canal vision was released. It almost came out too quickly without the pomp that will take place weeks from now. Explanations:
  1. Bloggers have been mocking the Mayor about the delay in releasing the Report

  2. The Mayor wants to hear all of the negatives now so that he has an answer for everything when the Report is officially released and he also needs to keep Council onside

  3. He needed a way to divert attention from his failure on the border file that the creation of CIBPA pointed out so clearly.

BORDER SHOCK AND AWE

Undoubtedly, a number of the DRIC people have to be in shock after the Free Press story yesterday:

  • "Moroun tries to sink rival bridge -- with help from Detroit congresswoman

    WASHINGTON — In his latest bid to block a rival span from being built across the Detroit River, Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun wants to forbid federal spending on the project — and he wants the ban written into next year's federal budget.

    The Detroit International Bridge Co. he controls asked U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a Detroit Democrat who is the state’s sole member on the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, to block funding for a proposed bridge near Zug Island that federal transportation officials, the State of Michigan and supporters in Canada are backing…

    Kilpatrick posted the request on her Web site on Monday, one of dozens of requests for earmarks submitted to her — items that go into the federal budget, are introduced by individual members of Congress and typically call for spending on projects, not prohibiting it.”

If there is something to be done that is “untypical on the border file, guess who will do it. That is why Gord wrote:

  • “I'm in awe of Moroun and his hired hands. These folks are the masters. They're always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players in what amounts to a high-stakes border chess match."

I wonder what comes next?

FINAL FOUR

Back in March, we read:

  • “The wildly popular Final Four college basketball extravaganza in Detroit next month is shaping up as a slam-dunk for Windsor, too.

    Most of Motown’s 5,000 downtown hotel rooms are booked for the April 4 to 6 tournament, as are the majority of Windsor’s 1,800 downtown hotel rooms.

    “This is fantastic,” Gordon Orr, managing director of the local convention and visitors bureau, said Monday. “This is a nice piece of business for the Windsor area to pick up in April. And there’s more benefit than just for hotels when the tourism dollars come over to this side.”

    Orr said he expects $1.3 million in direct spending in this area in the span of just a few days, which translates into $2.9 million in economic benefit — once those who make money locally treat themselves to something extra.”

That seems a pretty low amount considering that Super Bowl was going to bring in between $80 to $100 million to Windsor according to Eddie. There were all kinds of parties here during Super Bowl including “transformation of the Windsor Armoury into a ski chalet for the private NFL International Party” that must have generated that extra $97M or so.

We should run a pool about what the economic benefit of Red Bull will be said to be. It has to cover the $3.2M of City/Province sponsorship money doesn’t it! I wonder how much Eddie has raised so far and from whom.

MORE NEGATIVE TUNNEL PUBLICITY

I guess the Tunnel lived up to its reputation as a poor crossing point during the Final Four:

  • Illinois' Bruce Weber had a tough time through Windsor tunnel
    BY MARK SNYDER • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • April 4, 2009

    Illinois coach Bruce Weber was on Fox Sports Radio Saturday afternoon, sharing his displeasure with the logistics of the Final Four in Detroit.

    He said he loved Ford Field, but likely won't soon forget the border crossing from his Windsor hotel to the stadium for a NABC all-star game practice this week, where he was a coach.

    The way he told the story, he and Purdue coach Matt Painter had a grueling experience waiting through the tunnel line and, once they emerged and faced customs, they were asked to step out of the car so it could be searched.

    There was at least one moment of levity, though. He said the border guard told him he was a Michigan fan.”

They should have taken a taxi and crossed at the Bridge. Ooooops, that could have been a problem with Veteran Cab on strike. I wonder if that increased the number of Tunnel Bus customers.

RIP TUNNEL DEAL

I wonder who would want it at $100M!

  • Cockrel to delay action on plan to eliminate Detroit's deficit
    Ideas to plug $300-million hole to be in budget


    Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. will delay action on his plan to eliminate the city's $300-million deficit, holding it back until he submits the 2009-10 budget to the City Council next month.

    A mayoral spokesman said there has been so much focus on preparing the new budget, which under city law must be presented by April 12, that it made sense to wrap the deficit-elimination plan into the regular budget instead of trying to approve it separately.

    However, the change means delaying the formal cuts until the council wraps up budget work in late May -- after the May 5 special mayoral election in which Cockrel will face businessman Dave Bing.

    Anthony Neely, Cockrel's deputy press secretary, said it has taken longer than expected to win union support for a proposed 10% wage cut, projected to save the city $48 million. But Cockrel still wants the concessions and other proposals in his deficit plan, such as 57 layoffs, consolidating towing contracts and selling the rights to the profit generated by the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the lighting and parking systems, in exchange for $250 million in lump-sum payments….

    Neely denied that Cockrel is putting off tough decisions until after the election. "The mayor's going to present a solid budget several weeks before the election," he said. "There's going to be lots of hard choices referenced."

And hope is given to the electorate before the election that the Budget deficit will end too so finances are not an issue."

HELLO BARACK, STEPHEN I HAVE A NOISE IN MY ENGINE.

Would you buy a used car from these politicians or a new one from a bankrupt company?

Now that the US will guarantee auto warranties, Canada followed along.

Obama's guarantee:

  • “If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always,” President Obama said during a speech from the White House. “Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it’s ever been, because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.”

And the Canadian one

  • Ministers Clement and Day Announce New Measures to Help Boost Consumer Confidence in Auto Industry

    OTTAWA, April 7, 2009 — The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, today announced a pair of new measures to help boost consumer confidence in the auto industry.

    The Government of Canada has created the Canadian Warranty Commitment Program for new vehicles purchased from General Motors of Canada Limited (GMCL) and Chrysler Canada Inc., and added $700 million to Export Development Canada's (EDC) Accounts Receivable Insurance (ARI) program available to auto parts suppliers.

    “By back-stopping new vehicle warranties for General Motors and Chrysler in Canada, and putting our auto suppliers on a more stable footing, our goal is to increase consumer confidence and encourage Canadians to buy new cars,” said Minister Clement. “Accounts receivable can be one of the largest assets on a parts supplier's balance sheet, and the recent global credit crunch has put a strain on companies' cash flow. To that end, the ARI program is a significant tool at the disposal of auto suppliers.”

    “These measures, along with other measures announced by our government, will help achieve a viable industry that maintains Canada's share of Canada–U.S. production going forward,” said Minister Day.

    Under the Canadian Warranty Commitment Program, the federal government is committed to honouring consumer warranties on new vehicles purchased from GMCL or Chrysler Canada for a limited period while improved restructuring plans are put in place.

    The Canadian warranty program parallels the U.S. warranty program announced by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009.

A LOOPY MORNING SHOW

Councillor Hatfield must be missing the electronic media game. How else to explain the lob he pitched at Mayor Eddie about the tunnels in Toronto at Council that Chris Schnurr recorded.





I guess he was auditioning for a job at CKLW for the Tuesday interview show! This would never have worked on Percy's Panel.

Windsor's Jobs Position

My new attitude is showing.

Billions from the Senior Levels and a billion from the Bridge Company to create thousands of high paying jobs.... No way. Council is protecting us. Tell CIBPA to chill!

Hey, who says we cannot afford canals, airports, Tunnel deals, transportation hubs and so on.

We are in no hurry to find an Undevelopment Commission CEO. Let's search the world for one while we plan the inter-modal conference.

Don't worry, the minivan plant is safe; Dwight told us so. Who needs economic diversification now.

Has Eddie's charter service started to Regina yet?

Here are some scary jobs numbers but why worry. Everything is under control, under control, under control......




Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mail Call


More letters from readers. I have still not received yours yet:

1) Come on, Ed, you're a big boy. You know perfectly well why Thomas Sowell and Jack Lessenberry appear instead of local writers. Those guys provide cheap copy. At one time the Star actually did investigative reporting. Not any more. Why pay local people to write columns about Windsor when you can pull stuff off the wire on the cheap about places and events that Windsorites couldn't care less about? Fewer scribes, lower cost. [Note: I was told to expect the Page 3 columns to start again in the next few days]

2) compromise is changing a six-lane, at-grade facility costing about $160 million dollars to a partially tunnelled, $1.6 billion dollar facility.

3) Councillor "X" won't talk to me, Councillor "Y" tells me to ask staffer "Z", "Z" won't reply to my E-Mail : so much for the City motto of working with the public !

4) Do you think Windsor is ever going to learn the lessons like Toronto!!! STOP BITCHING AND STOP RUNNING THE BIG GUYS AND GAL DOWN EVERY TIME IN TORONTO AND OTTAWA JUST BECAUSE IT DID NOT GO YOUR WAY. TORONTO PULLS IN 6-8 BILLION FOR A SUBWAY AND ALL THESE CLOWNS DO HERE IN WINDSOR IS BITCH......MARK MY WORDS THE JAIL WILL BE RELOCATED TO LAKESHORE OR CHATHAM KENT MAYBE PUCE. TALK ABOUT BEING OUTRIGHT STUPID I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BULL CRAP...IN ALL THE YEARS I HAVE BEEN IN WINDSOR (I CAME HERE IN THE 50's) IT IS BEYOND BELIEF...

YOU DO NOT NEED EXPENSIVE LAWYERS JUST SOME COMMON SENSE.

THOUGHT GORD HENDERSON HAD SEEN THE LIGHT BUT AFTER SATURDAYS WINDSOR STAR I WAS WRONG. SAME OLD SAME OLD... HE RETIRES FROM THE STAR GOD!!WHY DID HE NOT STAY RETIRED

5) Thanks Ed for posting the CIBPA meeting. This initiative should start some accountability within the sectors involved. I pray CIBPA gets this committee formed and moving quickly.

Your interview was impressive - you are a natural. Are you sure you don't want to run for Mayor? Come on, just one term? You have more knowledge on this border file than anyone else. Windsor/Essex needs you.

6) I was down in New Orleans in January - my first time there - little
did i know that i would find post-katrina new orleans in better shape
than Windsor. Check out this story to find out why:

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/new-orleans-now-0

7) Seems to me Eddie has zero experience in difficult times.
He's trying to come up with mega projects that will make the
public think he is accomplishing something.
He's falling apart...

By the way I went across the bridge yesterday on the new section on the
US side.
How long before the Canadian side realizes the twin bridge is happening?

8) As a HOME OWNER on [Name of street] where I have spent over $40,000 RESTORING my house and one who was promised by Ron Jon[Name of councillor] that an urban village was going to be built in the CCW lands ( I went to various meetings before I purchased the house).

I thought that the small village of original homes (where little crime and a tight-knit community exists) was going to be a part of the new urban village and thus thought I would be a pioneer of sorts to start to transform our downtown neighbourhoods and our downtown into a place where people would want to live and shop.

Never did I think that I may one day lose my house because of some hair-brained scheme by a pathetic mayor who only, once again, wants to leave yet another "legacy" project as a testament to his mayoral past.

I will say one thing. There are a few home owners that live in their houses, like me in the area that are willing to stand up to this (some of the landlords may not because it is $$$ for them). The city is going to have to have a fight on their hands! If the Eddie thinks that Canderel was a pain wait until he see's the fight over a city taking a good neighbourhood, levelling it all It is a PR campaign he will not win and it is going to cost the city a lot not including the cost of this idiotic idea.

By the way, check out Oklahom's canal and the Riverwalk in San Antonio that Eddie is comparing this to. Both are much longer. Some are over 8kms long, and most have century old buildings that were restored to give it character.

This is my house! My house that I bought, that I wanted to restore, where I could raise a family in an urban environmnet and a place where I could retire and die. So much for following our elected officials. So much for believing that a city would protect a neighbourhood or invest in one. Never would I thought I would have to defend my property (and trust me I will) from the very city that I live in!

Welcome to the gulag!

9) "X" be assured that all of US are behind you 100%...
We will NOT let the Canal happen!
Eddie's Pipe Dream is never going to get any support if:
- reality has anything to do with it;
- we can start right off building some opposition to this scheme.
He apparently was talking about "only $60 Million"
-ya, right - Just to draw-up the plans and hire a few lawyers!
We cannot let X's neighbourhood just disappear..

We have a starry-eyed dreamer leading this Council and what we need right now is a tough-minded LEADER (not a dreamer)to get the City through the next 5 or 6 tough years that are coming!

10) The best explanation comes from Horwitz.
It can't be rinky dink.
Somehow that just fits.
I really want to see how the engineer plans to get water from the river to
street level as depicted in the cute PDF files.
The water level would be at least 50-60 feet below the street.
There must be something else ready to break loose in the city. This
release may be a diversion from some other big story disaster ready to happen
at city hall.

11) OK folks here I am the hypothetical Canal Lot home buyer. I watched the CBC already and I know that property taxes are lower in Southern Florida than in Windsor. The climate is warmer. The water saltier. The clincher, well the executive quality previously $400K+ canal homes are being short sold by the banks under power of sale or foreclosure for less than $100K in US dollars. Can Eddy beat that? So unless I am so bad I cannot get a passport or a pardon if I did something stupid in the past I see the benefit a lot more attractive in the land of the hurricane than in the land of WUC.

12) Gary Cunliffe, managing editor of CBC Windsor, which is also facing layoffs, said traditional methods of news delivery were being challenged by citizen journalists or the "one-man bands operating in Windsor's basements, Windsor's highrises and Windsor's streets."

I wasn't insulted by this at all. I actually got quite a chuckle out of it. It tells us that the traditional media still don't know whats happening to them.

13) If Eddie is so damn keen to get whatever version of Greenslink built, why doesn't he go whole hog and bury EC Row from one end to to the other and build on top of it. If truck pollution is bad for the west end, then truck pollution for a larger population has to be badder/baddest. Now if can only get aircraft using Windsor's cargo hub into tunnels!

14) I knew DRTP would again be seen in Windsor. Perhaps my having saved flags and bumper stickers was not for naught after all.

15) Thought you might be interested. If the province can do it in the GTA, they can do it anywhere....Windsor? In a bid to speed up transit improvements in the Toronto region, the province has evicted all municipal politicians from the board of Metrolinx and merged the transportation planning agency with GO Transit. Integrating GO with the planning expertise at Metrolinx will help get "shovels in the ground" faster on projects, Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said. "All you have to do is get on our roadways at the present time and crawl along to see what it's like to understand the need for these projects moving forward," Bradley told reporters.

16) Now we know where so much of our tax dollars go; to the head of departments at city hall. The same ones who are driving this city into the ground...literally.

As for the Windsor Police Services, shame on them for such reckless spending of tax payers dollars. How about cutting some of those salaries and hiring more police? Nah! Instead they want SUV's so that criminals aren't cramped in the back of the cruisers. What a shame!

17) {Re Francis going to Toronto to hear Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan deliver the Ontario budget) I find it amazing he had to go to Toronto to hear the speech.

18) My investment advisor told me today about his very recent dinner conversation with an engineer employed by a company retained by Chrysler. The engineer has been devoting all his time to estimating the costs involved in removing everything from Windsor’s van plant and then moving it to St. Louis. To say the least, everyone at the table was chilled.

Detroit Schools Can Teach Us A Lesson



Fiscal irresponsibility. That’s the name of the game. I’m tired of being frugal and watching my pennies. Let us spend, spend, spend!

Let's get with it. There's a new economy out there. Why are we living in the past?
  • "it has to be world class and in such a way to make other cities envious about Windsor”

Sit down and take a deep breath before you read this BLOG. I do not want you to be shocked at what I have to say since it is a huge departure from what you would expect me to Blog. I do not want you to spill coffee on yourself and get scalded so that I get the blame for it.

Back in my law firm days, one of my areas of expertise was bankruptcy law. I remember handling a file for a client. It was clear that their customer knew that he was going bankrupt and did not care. What he did was “max out” every single one of his credit cards including VISA, Master Card, American Express and so on as well as every Department Store Credit card that he had including some very high end ones in Toronto. He ran up huge debts buying all kinds of luxury items, taking trips and going to the finest restaurants. Then he declared bankruptcy. When I got the file, he was seeking to be discharged from bankruptcy and, of course, I recommended to my client that he oppose it just out of principle.

He enjoyed the good life, suffered a minor set-back and was ready to start all over again.

I thought about this because of two news stories that came out of Detroit that bothered me given the size of the deficits:

Here is one:

  • Detroit schools plan new round of closings, layoffs

    The Detroit Public School District's "emergency financial manager" has announced that up to a third of the city's schools will be shut down over the next two years, with thousands of layoffs of teachers and staff.

    Robert Bobb was appointed by Michigan's Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm in January to impose massive cuts in order to balance the school district's budget deficit. In a report released on Wednesday, Bobb said that the district will face a $300 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year.”

As you know also, the City of Detroit has a deficit of several hundred million dollars and its bonds have a junk bond rating such that the City is close to bankruptcy and is one of the few Cities in the United States in such dire financial straits.

The second story I heard was on the radio early Friday morning where the news reporter remarked at how clean Downtown Detroit was with not one single piece of paper lying around in the streets and the grass starting to turn green. All of her comments were to celebrate the Final Four NCAA basketball tournament that took place in Detroit last weekend. This is such a huge event and people in Detroit are celebrating it.

I got to thinking. Detroit has major problems with schools being shut down, teachers being laid off, perhaps being unable to provide all of the services that a municipality should offer to its citizens and what are they concerned about… some basketball games.

I wondered, if it was good enough for Detroit, why not for Windsor too!

Take a look at the front page of the Star on Friday. Look at what is being talked about:

  • 1) The Spitfires or rather the East End Arena
    2) The Canal
    3) The Cargo Hub at the airport
    4) Eddie’s side trip to New York to be part of receiving an award for Greenlink.

The only things really missing are the Tunnel deal and Tunnel Plaza Improvements.

Just think about it. So what if our City is a town of only 200,000 people. Our Mayor is a high flying, wheeler-dealing, world traveler, municipal entrepreneur playing with tax-payer dollars who wants to negotiate all of these fantastic deals for us to make us a world-class City I guess.

For heaven’s sake, do not look behind the curtain and ask the Wizard about jobs, roads, sewers basement flooding and utility costs… how small town-ish. Honestly, a guy with his talents did not get elected to worry about bikes on riverfront city streets or no left turns for trucks or solving taxi strikes or being concerned that City workers might walk off the job.

The arena costs supposedly 70 odd million dollars but we really suspect it costs more and will cost more because of parking problems. Effectively, this transaction has meant that we don’t have any money for years to do anything, especially if a catastrophe strikes such as businesses closing down, homes being foreclosed so that the tax base decreases.

The canal project initially costed out at around $60 million but will probably be less. Right. Oh you think it is a gamble just because the Mayor said

  • “Then we are off to the races,”

Hardly.

The airport transportation hub will cost so much money that all that can be said about it is

  • “Federica Nazzani also said it would take “a considerable amount of capital investment to enable us to take advantage of the opportunities that exist.”

Since she talked about a Fortune 500 company, we have to be talking a minimum of $100 million or it won’t even get off the ground. I thought the Mayor had mentioned numbers even higher than that at one time.

As for Greenlink, while I know that Eddie wants the Senior Levels to pay for it, we are only a few hundred million dollars apart in costs between it and the DRIC road.

The Tunnel deal is a now US$100 million to protect those 5,000 commuters from the big bad private interests who may want to cement up the Tunnel while the Tunnel Plaza Improvements will cost more than $30 million of which the City’s share is a third.

I am sure that I am close to three quarters of $1 billion by now without even trying. How about throwing in $100 million for the WSO Symphony Hall and giving the Art Gallery a few bucks. I would imagine there’s a need for a million or two dollars to refurbish the Capitol. A few more pieces of sculpture for the riverfront would be nice. We need to have a thriving Arts community if you want to bring in all of those rich Toronto Seniors and convince knowledge-based captains of industry to relocate here.

Forget those puny infrastructure dollars from the Senior Levels. Too many strings attached and too time-consuming to get. Who cares about shovel ready when money is no object.

That’s my point. We ought to be spending as if there is no tomorrow. We ought to be doing everything and not worrying about it. We ought to be enjoying the rush of success.

I really don’t see anyone in Detroit getting all upset so why should we. They have basketball, we have the Red Bull air races to divert our attention from reality. Heck, our Mayor gives us a vision a week so that we can strut around as the biggest small town in Canada. After all, we already have bragging rights that we are the only City in Canada that is south of the US.

Seriously what’s the worst thing that can happen to us… bankruptcy. As if that matters these days. If AIG, the banks and GM and Chrysler are verging on going broke, why can't we. We can have a "surgical" structured bankruptcy just like the one that President Obama may force GM to accept.

  • "What's good for General Motors is good for America, and Windsor too."

There is a hotly contested election for Mayor in Detroit right now and I don’t see anybody being overly concerned that the City might have to call in a Trustee.

Let’s be blunt about it. This City is in miserable shape. and it is not getting any better right now. Which City has the highest unemployment, the lowest house prices, and one of the highest vacancy rates in the country. Yet which other City in North America is fighting NOT to get $2 billion from the Senior Levels and $1 billion from private industry. In fact, we still don’t have a CEO for our Development Commission and who knows if we will ever get one to diversify our economy away from the collapsing automobile industry.

Let’s spend that money folks. Let’s pile on the debt. It does not matter. In fact, the worse things get here, the better it is for us. Let me remind you of the following piece of legislation:

  • Municipal Affairs Act

    9. (1) The Ministry, upon its own initiative or whenever requested by any municipality expressed by resolution of its council, or on a petition in writing signed by not less than fifty ratepayers assessed as owners and resident in a municipality, may direct a provincial municipal audit of the financial affairs of the municipality.

    10. The Ministry upon its own initiative may make an inquiry into any of the affairs of a municipality.

    Powers of Ministry as a result of an audit or inquiry

    14. The Ministry, as a result of an audit of the affairs of a municipality made under this Part, or as a result of an investigation or inquiry made under any general or special Act, may make such orders as it sees fit requiring the municipality to carry out, put into effect, observe, perform or enforce such matters or things as the audit, investigation or inquiry has disclosed as being necessary or desirable in the interests of the municipality or with respect to the due accounting for, collection or payment of any of its assets, liabilities, revenues, expenditures, funds or money or otherwise in any respect as the order of the Ministry may provide.

    SPECIAL JURISDICTION OVER DEFAULTING MUNICIPALITIES

    Special municipal jurisdiction of Board

    20. (1) The Board has and may exercise the special jurisdiction and powers conferred by this Part, whenever, upon request of the Ministry or of a municipality expressed by resolution of its council, or upon request of the creditors of a municipality having claims representing not less than 20 per cent of its indebtedness, including debenture debt, it is satisfied upon inquiry that the municipality,

    (a) has failed to meet and pay any of its debentures or interest thereon when due and after payment thereof has been duly demanded;

    (b) has failed to meet and pay any of its other debts or liabilities when due and default in payment is occasioned from financial difficulties affecting the municipality; or

    (c) has or may become financially involved or embarrassed so that default or unusual difficulty in meeting debts or obligations or in providing adequate funds to meet current expenditures may ensue, or has failed to levy the necessary rates to meet current expenditures.

    Power of Board to vest control over municipal administration in Ministry

    21. (1) If upon inquiry the Board is of opinion that the circumstances so warrant or appear to render desirable, it may make such order as it considers proper or necessary to vest in the Ministry control and charge over the administration of all the affairs of the municipality as set forth in the order and to declare that thereafter and until the Board otherwise determines and orders such municipality is subject to this Part.

    Control exercisable by Ministry

    27. The Ministry with respect to the municipality and every local board thereof has control and charge over the exercise by any of them of any of their powers and over the performance by any of them of any of their duties and obligations

    Powers of Board with respect to debt

    28. (1) Where a municipality has become subject to this Part, the Board, with respect to the debenture debt and debentures of the municipality and interest thereon and with respect to any other indebtedness thereof, has power to authorize or direct,

    (a) the consolidation of the whole or any portion thereof;

    (b) the issue…of debentures … in substitution and exchange for any outstanding debentures … and compulsory acceptance of such debentures

    ((f) the postponement of or variation in the terms, times and places for payment of the whole or any portion of the debenture debt and outstanding debentures and other indebtedness and interest thereon and variation in the rates of such interest;

    (l) an interim plan, pending a final order or plan with respect thereto, which may cancel all or any portion of interest in arrear and may alter, modify or compromise the rights of debenture holders or other creditors during any period of time between the date of default and the end of the fifth year following the date of the order of the Board.

In other words folks, when we become the Canadian equivalent of Detroit with junk bond status, the Province will come in here and run this place properly. We won’t have our amateur politicians anymore pretending that they are running our City like a properly managed business.

In effect, the City will be filing a US style Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proposal wiping out most of our debt. Even though Creditors have to approve everything, what choice do they have but to accept whatever it is that is proposed.

We will have it all and will get it for only a few pennies on the dollar. It is sheer genius.

Look at that Star photo of Pamela Anderson’s friend. I bet that Larry has told our alien visitors that we do not want any rinky-dink, extra-Galactical UFO hub in Windsor. Only the best. He’ll take them to our Leader and we can show them what we can do in Windsor.

  • "Anything is feasible — if you can send people to the moon, obviously you can do this."

Stick with me, dear reader. I think this concept has legs. It will be out of this world. Bankruptcy is the new trend. We can lead Canada in something if we keep on going this way.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Building An ABOVEground SUBway


I wonder if anyone reads Gord Henderson’s column anymore. I wonder as well if anyone will ever be appointed to be the Page 3 columnist to take his place. Or has the Star decided that there is no point in doing so.

I know for myself I generally skip the Columnists on the Editorial pages of the Star. A lot of the Columnists are not local and I find their topics uninteresting. Why the Star has to get a column from Jack Lessenberry as an example to tell us about Michigan I am not sure. I sometimes miss good local columns that way.

Like most readers of the Star, I generally look for a Page 3 column because I expect it to be there and then have to remind myself that Gord has left. I guess I have not yet been trained to remember that Henderson has a column on Saturdays on the Editorial Page because I have almost missed it as well several times now. To be honest, they have not been all that interesting anyway. Some of the sparkle seems to have gone with the transition.

The one good thing I guess is that only have to get angry once a week instead of three times a week.

I truly cannot believe that Gord has given a free pass to our Mayor for so long even though I sometimes call him the Sheriff. It is too bad because if there had been some critical comments from the Star and from Gord on the important matters, we might have had a different kind of leadership in this City, one at least that pretended to care what its citizens thought.

Saturday’s Henderson Column was another freebie for the Mayor with Gord doing Eddie’s job. It is becoming clearer that our Mayor has been told to keep his mouth shut and so is relying on others to do his dirty work.

I found this comment hilarious when talking about the DRIC road:
  • “half-assed border fix”

Yup, a road that will probably cost over $2 billion if it is ever built, that is probably 10 times more expensive than the cost of any other road in Ontario and which, according to our Mayor, is only $100 million more than his beloved and award-winning Greenlink is a piece of junk.

Ridiculous statements such as this that have been part of our Leadership’s verbal strategy are really not very helpful anymore. No one accepts them but for a few diehards.

The tactic really doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did. All it does is get the Senior Levels madder at our City. All it does as well is make the citizenry madder at the Mayor and Council. More confrontation with the Senior Levels as the situation gets worse here with job losses and home foreclosures makes no sense any more. We do not have that luxury as we did years before.

The main reason in my opinion why the Premier has not washed his hands of Windsor completely is because he would lose two Cabinet Ministers in the next election.

It is a surprise to me that it took so long for a group like CIBPA to organize. Now that it has, and if they can maintain their momentum, then we will have a true group of citizens who are worried about our City and who will be able to apply the appropriate pressure so that a settlement is finally achieved.

Henderson’s column on Saturday really does not help matters at all. The continued attacks on Toronto are an easy target but hardly makes sense when this City requires Senior Levels to put in infrastructure money that is the only thing that we have going for us.

I do think that it is time for these type of columns to stop the in the same way that it is time now for Eddie to stop with the health scares about children. You could almost hear the groans when he started on that subject at the CIBPA Caboto Club session. It is enough already.

Until I read the Henderson column, I really did not know very much about what was being offered in Toronto. I did some checking and was disgusted. The nonsense about tunnels is despicable because it is misleading:

  • “You want tunnels with that? Lots of tunnels? No problem.You got 'em

    Real tunnels on the most important trade artery between Canada and the U.S.were too costly for the province, too difficult to build and much too good for the like of Windsorites.

    But when it comes to Torontonians getting to work on time and not having their vastly more important neighbourhoods disrupted by noise and pollution, that's a different story.

    The loot delivered by McGuinty included $4.6 billion for a 32.5-km light rail line extending from Pearson International Airport to Toronto's east end, a line that will boast no fewer than 13 km of tunnelling.

    That's more than triple the tunnelling proposed in the original Green- Link plan for the six-km corridor from E.C. Row to Howard Avenue, and more than six times what DRIC's lame and toxic Parkway plan (a bunch of overpasses masquerading as tunnels) would involve.

    So why is tunnelling OK now? Because these are Torontonians and their travel time, not to mention their health and well-being, is hugely important to the McGuinty government.”

This type of comment is an insult to the readers of the Star, especially to those Windsorites who who do not know that part of Toronto. It is NOT on the usual tourist circuit for visits in Toronto. It should never have been allowed in the newspaper in the first place.

Here’s the reality from the Star’s sister newspaper, the National Post. Why couldn't Gord easily research the point as I did:

  • “Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty today handed Toronto $4.6 billion to build a light-rail line along Eglinton Avenue, stretching from Pearson Airport to Scarborough.

    The 30-kilometre crosstown line, to be buried through the city’s dense core

    The Eglinton line will extend some 30 kilometres from the airport to the Kennedy subway stop in Scarborough. It will be buried for 13 kilometres roughly from Keele to Leslie streets, but it will be an underground light-rail line rather than a full subway. It is set to be fully operational in 2016.

    Toronto city councillor Karen Stintz (Eglinton Lawrence) said she was “pleased” with the announcement.

    “My preference would have been a subway, that being said I appreciate that this is going to go forward,” she said.”

Here is how the Toronto Star explained the need for putting the light-rail system underground:

  • “Q. Then why is about one-third of the Eglinton line being tunnelled between Leslie and Keele Sts.?

    The street isn't wide enough to accommodate the streetcar right-of-way and two lanes of traffic travelling in both directions.”

Here is a comment about Finch Avenue:

  • "TTC engineers have determined that a 36-metre-wide road is ideal when putting two light-rail tracks down the middle of a city street, separated from the traffic.

    But from Bathurst to Yonge Street, Finch is just 30 metres wide, forcing the TTC and city staff to devise other designs, including considering widening the road "over time" to avoid snarling traffic"

In other words, it is only going UNDERground where the road is too narrow. Using Henderson’s logic, the entire 30 km should have gone UNDERground. They are not.

DUH…an analogy for Windsorites who have never been to Toronto is putting a streetcar line down the middle of Ouellette Avenue from Tecumseh to the River. It could not happen. It is just like the Bloor subway line and the Yonge Street subway line in Toronto that are UNDERground as well. There is not enough room on the street for traffic and a light rail system.

I happened to live about a half a block away from Eglinton Avenue in a house when I lived in Toronto where the SUBway would go UNDERground. I know exactly the reason why a line has to go UNDERground. There is no room for it on the surface. It is a cheaper “SUBway” type system.

As far as I know, generally SUBways are built UNDERground

  • Q. Why isn't the city building a subway along Eglinton Ave.?

    Anticipated ridership for the line doesn't justify a subway, according to the TTC. It expects a demand for 5,400 passengers per hour in one direction by 2031. About 10,000 people per hour is considered the threshold for a subway; 8,000 people per hour is the level at which the TTC considers the technology used by Scarborough Rapid Transit.

Spreading misinformation like this is not at all helpful. It might be fun to work up the locals so that the Mayor has a bargaining position but it gives people an expectation that will never happen. All it does is cause more distress. That is what is so reprehensible about what is taking place here and the debate so far.

One would have thought given the true facts that the Star would be more careful in what is written on its Editorial pages. I will at least give credit to the Star Editorial a few days ago where it said:

  • “And obviously there's big difference between a subway-bus system and a border access road.”

That is a huge difference which Henderson chose to ignore completely. Why that distinction was not forced to be revealed in the Henderson story is beyond me. But then again, that Editorial was designed to help out our Mayor as well.

The Star’s mission has to be to pressure Sandra and Dwight to make the Premier come to Windsor and bow down to our Mayor’s genius.

  • “Perhaps we can now conclude that the premier finally understands why this community has been fighting tooth and nail…

    So why is it, Premier McGuinty, that in Toronto it's OK to want to improve the air we breathe and make the air cleaner, but not here?”

That is the new Eddie-defined strategy that he has been preaching so many times over the past little while. Force the Premier to come here to talk to Council and to be cross examined by our Black Letter Law expert and by our Perry Mason. Allow the Enforcer to finally get an answer to his question about why no one listens to Windsor.

Oh sure, force the Province to mediate but only under the terms and conditions dictated by our Mayor. Those one-sided terms would determine the results wouldn’t they.

In fact, if one actually can read to the end of the Star Editorial, one can see total capitulation by Eddie:

  • “There's time to find a better solution, and GreenLink provides the blueprint.”

Now we know the truth. The "no-compromise" City solutions....BS!

Greenlink was nothing more than a negotiating tool for our Mayor. It is exactly the same for which we spent millions on the Schwartz Report and for the debate over a full tunneling. Can you imagine, our millions of taxpayer dollars paid Foreign Consultant generated “no compromise” position is nothing more now than a “blueprint.” What a joke!

The Province does not have to negotiate; Eddie is negotiating himself downwards.

However, do not be fooled. Do not get carried away with all this stuff. Do not get all upset. This is merely theatre and drama. All that the Premier and our Mayor are doing is arguing about who gets how much of the spoils after their alliance with the Federal Government forces the Owner of the Bridge Company to sell out.

If you want an analogy that explains this all so clearly, it is the following. It is nothing more than the Allies fighting about who gets what in East Europe after defeating the “enemy.”

Sam's Garden Of Eden Does Not Win The BIG Award

Congratulations are due to Sam Schwartz for winning a Diamond Award for his Greenlink project. Mind you, I am not sure which version of Greenlink was presented--the original, Son of Greenlink or some other variation or compromise solution. But that is a quibble.

Unfortunately, Sam did not win the Empire Award but it seems that his project may not have been eligible since it looks like a New York State award only.

I mention this because good old Gord talked about the award when discussing Greenlink.
  • "The irony, from Windsor's perspective, is that Mayor Eddie Francis will be in Manhattan tonight to join the Sam Schwartz firm at a black-tie gala of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York where Green- Link will be given a Diamond award for its innovative design.

    Good enough to win awards in New York State. But not good enough for the folks in charge of laying asphalt in Ontario, the ones who can't figure out how to keep service centres open on our most important highway."

The suggestion is that Sam's project design was better than DRIC's. Maybe it was and maybe it was not. You see the DRIC Road was not eligible for the award since only FOREIGN HIRED consultants from New York State were eligible to apply.

  • "An ACEC New York hallmark is the annual Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) Program. EEA recognizes and celebrates engineering achievements that demonstrate the highest degree of skill and ingenuity among member firms."
And member firms are
  • "firms registered to practice engineering in New York State"

Sorry Gord, that tactic does not work either!

P3s, Government Bonds And Your Mortgage


Nice to see Brian Masse in the news again jumping head first into someone else's story! I was getting worried. Where was he for so long? He was so invisible? He may be happy to know that he and I may be on the same side on a border crossing matter for the first time over the P3 battle with the Federal and Provincial Governments.

I certainly could use his help in denouncing the concept before taxpayers get ripped off for hundreds of millions of dollars. That almost happened in British Colombia with the Port Mann Bridge where the financing costs alone were $200 million more than if the Government did it itself.

He has had a terrific opportunity to slam the P3 concept for the road and the Bridge to the border in Windsor but he has not said a word lately. Has someone told him to be quiet perhaps? Has he been threatened? Who wants him muzzled?

This is not like Brian who normally grabs an issue that taxpayers will love. And what could be better these days than greed and waste as issues?

Come on Brian, get talking. Compare Brian with his NDP colleague in British Colombia where the Port Mann Bridge P3 Project collapsed:
  • Port Mann P3 Deal Blows Up In Liberals’ Face

    VICTORIA – The Gordon Campbell government’s only defence for its costly and embarrassing financing fiasco of the Port Mann Bridge is to spread false distortions about the opposition, charged the NDP.

    “Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon staked his political reputation on building the Port Mann Bridge as a private project that would be on time and on budget,” said New Democrat Transportation critic Maurine Karagianis. “Now the private financing scheme has blown up in his face. The bridge is late, more than double the original cost estimate, and millions of dollars have been wasted pursuing a failed financing scheme.

    “The Campbell government is so embarrassed by this fiasco that instead of coming clean on the cost of their delays they are trying to attack the opposition for asking important questions.”

    A Campbell government press release this morning quoted Karagianis as saying that the Port Mann Bridge project was a “colossal waste.”

    In fact, Karagianis called the Campbell government’s obsession with a failed private financing scheme a colossal waste.

    “New Democrats know that a new bridge is part of the solution for the horrible traffic congestion that plagues commuters,” said Karagianis. “But Kevin Falcon and the Campbell government have generated nothing but delays and dramatically expanded costs.”

Brian had spoken out with respect to the P3 for the DRIC Road:

  • “Masse had opposed P3s for crucial public infrastructure projects.

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

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

Of course, his comment totally missed the point with respect to the evils of P3s. I was shocked that he did not talk about the rip off of taxpayer money by the private P3 operators. That was what I would have expected a member of the NDP to talk about.

I can remember Brian being so aggressive in Parliament over P3s when he grilled the Minister:

  • “Mr. Brian Masse:

    Why have you departed from, for example, the Blue Water experience? Maybe you can provide that. Why is it you have decided to depart from that historic, successful venture that hasn't cost public taxpayers and that has lower fares than in many other spots? Why are you departing from that? Is it based upon ideology? Is it based upon serious research? What is the reason you're departing from a practice historic to Canada?

    …My concern is whether or not this government has done its due diligence to study whether or not the most important border crossing, which you're hoisting up on the P3 platform for at least two years prior, runs counter to the minister's statements here today that there would be a due diligence process to see whether it's viable or not. You've been putting that out there.

    So what's driving this? Has there been hard research done to determine whether this crossing, the most important one for our economy, is actually going to be more successful, have lower toll rates, and be more accountable as a private entity? Because that's not the case with the current private operator. It basically holds much of our economy right now at risk…

    But your press release says you were in Toronto today “to seek a partnership with the private sector in the building of a new Windsor border crossing”. So your press release indicates that you are actually out seeking that, yet your comments today say it's going to be going through some vetted process. I'm concerned about that contradiction.”

There’s our Brian taking a dig at the Bridge Company. It would not be a Brian diatribe on the border without it. Yet he pointed out the contradiction and does not seem to have done much about it since then. This is not at all typical Brian. Something is very strange to me.

The concept of Public Private Partnership really isn’t all that well known. It is not all that hard to accomplish in a new project. But in an already built one, as in Windsor, the matter is much more difficult to achieve when someone already owns the property.

In fact you ought to be scratching your head right now and wondering why the Governments want to replace one private operator, the Bridge Company, with another private operator. I have been wondering about that for a long time too. As Brian said, the Governments have been seeking a private sector partner for our crossing.

Clearly, there is an agenda behind all of this which the Governments have seen fit not to tell us. Now you understand exactly why it will be so difficult to get a border solution.

Why would the Bridge Company give up ownership of their bridge just because the Governments want to be the new owners? It is not as if the Company has done a bad job. The Bridge Company can rightfully say that they are the ones that made Windsor/Detroit the #1 border crossing in North America. It was their money that did it, not Government money. And what did they get as thanks from the Governments for doing all of this… an effort to drive them out of business so that the Governments can buy the Bridge at a cheap price and give it to another private operator to run for anywhere from 40 to 99 years.

It would just be like the Governments threatening to build a new DRIC bakery a block away from the bakery of Mary Ann Cuderman in Sandwich if she did not sell out cheaply. If she did decide to sell out because they were much more powerful than she, then the Government would replace her with someone else who makes chocolate brownies because the Government does not want to be in the bakery business. That wouldn’t seem fair, especially because I like what she bakes.

Let us leave that for a minute and talk about the P3 for the road. The concept is the same but the way of justifying it is different now.

Those Infrastructure Ontario guys are pretty smart. Look at how they describe their taxpayer ripoff using their version of P3s. This is part of the press release for a hospital project:

  • “The Niagara Health System project will be delivered using an alternative financing and procurement model. Plenary Health Niagara will receive annual payments from Niagara Health System over a 30 year period. Payments cover construction, building maintenance, lifecycle repair and renewal and project financing. Lifecycle refers to ensuring that heating and cooling systems, windows, floors and roofing structures, for example, are kept in excellent working condition over the 30 year period. The payments are like a fixed-rate mortgage with maintenance and repair expenses included and will total approximately $1.42 billion after 30 years. In today's dollars this is equivalent to approximately $759 million…

    The annual payments are like a fixed-rate mortgage with maintenance and repair expenses included. For example, if a homeowner signs a mortgage agreement today, he commits to the cost of the house in today's dollars (this is known as the net present value). However, over the lifetime of the mortgage, the homeowner pays monthly mortgage payments plus the costs of updating and maintaining the house during that period. This cumulative cost is called the nominal cost. In the case of the NHS project, while the cost of the contract in today's dollars is equivalent to $759 million, after 30 years, this will total approximately $1.42 billion.”

There, isn’t that easy to understand. Just like your house mortgage now.

What they fail to tell you is that P3 operators generally want a 20% rate of return on their money for toll road deals. I did the calculation in a previous BLOG outlining the many billions of dollars that taxpayers will overpay if a P3 is done for the road.

Presumably those billions are the amounts necessary for “updating and maintaining the house.” If you believe that this amount that I calculated is the cost for looking after a highway for 30 years, then you believe that Greenlink make sense.

At this time, Brian and I should be shoulder to shoulder denouncing what is being proposed. Never mind doing a P3 deal that is like a mortgage. We should be doing a deal that is a mortgage! In other words, the Government ought to be issuing bonds to pay for the cost of the road and paying it down every year in the same way that a homeowner does.. There is no need to pay a superpremium of billions of dollars for maintenance to a P3 operator who probably requires the Government to help finance the deal in the first place just like in British Colombia.

Let us assume that Brian and I are successful. I think that this is where our alliance would fall apart unless we could come to an understanding. Brian would want the Governments to go out and borrow money to build the DRIC roads, plazas and the bridge or use taxpayer dollars to do it. (Doesn't that mean that we would have to give up on some other programs that might be more essential because there was no money for them?). We know that the project costs would be horrific just like in Port Huron where costs have increased 30% in only a few years to almost $600M.

My perspective would be slightly different. I would take a look at the partnership between the Bridge Company and the Governments over the last 80 years. It seems to have worked relatively well. I would suggest that the Governments do their job and build the roads while the Bridge Company does its job and be responsible for the plazas and the bridge itself.

Each of them would be responsible for financing their part of the deal. The Governments would spend less on a government financed project for the road than if it was a P3 project. The Governments would not have to waste another billion or so dollars on building a bridge and updating plazas because that would be the Bridge Company costs.

Yes I know that money is being thrown around for infrastructure these days as if deficits don’t matter. However, wouldn’t it make more sense to use that billion dollars for infrastructure projects where money ought really to be spent.

After all, Governments still have to be prudent with taxpayer money. They still have their Standard and Poor's ratings to be concerned about. There is a point beyond which they ought not to go for the sake of our children and grandchildren who will have to pay for all of this infrastructure deficit spending.

If only Brian and I could agree on that, we might be able to push forward a border solution together!