Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 24, 2009

Under The Weather


I have picked up my traditional "spring cold" so I won't be Blogging for a few days.


To the politicians, please no big news stories for the next week or so until I fully recover!

DRTP Paid Its Dues---But For What


I don’t like the feeling of being played or manipulated. However, that is what I think is happening in the border file. I have no idea what the truth is any more, if I ever did, nor what is really behind all of these goings-on.

What makes it worse is that those who are the so-called master puppeteers are the three levels of Government in Canada. They pull the strings and we react accordingly.

Is that how far our system of Government has deteriorated? Is there something so secret that the truth has to be hidden from us and that we as citizens have to be played like a musical instrument by politicians and bureaucrats!


I remember a couple of people who were deeply involved in STOPDRTP being so concerned about what could happen to their future that one person actually sold their family home and moved out of the area and another was seriously considering doing so to protect his investment in his family home.

I do not know how the people who live along the DRIC road corridor could take all of the ups and downs that they have lived through for so many years. This is finally going to end in their homes being expropriated. Now the concern is at what price and will it be fair without hiring a litigation lawyer? How can they bear the emotional turmoil for so long!

How would you like to be living in Schwartz’s area of mass destruction by pollutants or hearing the Mayor talk of cancer, brain tumours, asthma and disease for children who may have to wear breathing packs. Tell me which rich Toronto Senior is going to move here to die of a pollution-related illness when there are purer areas to live?

I have speculated that the Governments have joined together to scare the Bridge Company Owner into selling. I have said that DRIC was one of the tools that they used. Why would they do that you might think?

It’s simple: MONEY!

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Bridge is worth a billion dollars. We know that DRIC has cost Governments on both sides of the river about $60M so far. True, that is a lot of money, but…

What if I was right and he was so afraid that he could lose the value of the bridge if the DRIC Bridge was built so that he decided to sell out at a distress price just to be able to sell while the selling was good. He only really had one possible Purchaser, the Governments, because everyone else would have been scared off. Let us say that he sold out at $500M.

In such a case, the bureaucrats would look like geniuses---a $60M investment got them a $500M return, being the reduction in the purchase price!

Of course that tactic did not work and the Governments discovered that after the 2½ page spread in the Globe and Mail.

But let us step back to an earlier time, before DRIC. I keep asking myself whether this manipulation started much earlier. I will let you form your own opinion, dear reader, after you consider the following.

May I suggest you go back first to a BLOG I wrote just over 3 years ago. I expect that you will be as furious now as I was when I wrote it [February 22, 2006 “A Waste Of Three Years]
http://windsorcityon.blogspot.com/2006/02/waste-of-three-years.html

I could not believe what I read at that time. Effectively, a DRTP-type solution had been considered and rejected by MDOT in 1991, a decade before the latest battle, and in the strongest of terms. Yet, it was being considered seriously, I thought and so did STOPDRTP, by the Governments in 2002 and later until it was rejected! I had heard stories in fact that the Federal Government was going to buy the CP Rail lands along the rail corridor when the JMC report first came out in 2003.

If it was that serious a project, then where has DRTP been as the DRIC EA carried on? Oh sure, we had the big ad blitzes and billboard campaigns. But if they were really serious, are they going to file a lawsuit to knock out the EA because they were kicked out unfairly? Hundreds of millions of CP Rail and OMERS dollars were invested and yet have they gone off into the night so quietly? Why would they do so? It makes no sense whatsoever.

I asked 3 years ago in that BLOG
  • “Is this all part of the stall so that the border will never get fixed and Sarnia/Port Huron becomes the crossing of choice to our region's detriment?”

That still could be the reason. However, it was one of the factors that got me thinking early on as well about united Government action to force the Bridge Company to sell out. It took me some time, but then I started wondering about DRTP and what part it played in this extravaganza. As I heard more about DRTP recently replaying its strategy by working in a stealth mode primarily to gain support for its doublestack rail tunnel, I wondered if DRTP was coming back again and why.

That is when I started wondering seriously if DRTP was the Governments’ tool at first to try to force the Bridge Co. Owner to sell out. Come to think of it, I also wondered if DRTP knew what its function was or was it being used too? Did Nibrega figure it all out and was he now going to use that card against the Government?

DRTP did an effective job by getting almost everyone onside, everyone except STOPDRTP. Garry Fortune, who used to be the Riding Presdient for Herb Gray, was the name that I knew best as the DRTP spokesperson. I thought he did his job well considering all of the big names that he got onside that our citizens' group had to fight. Still, when it failed, then along came DRIC.

I started to wonder if all of us along the corridor were also being played. The Governments had to know early on that DRTP was going to be rejected based on the MDOT study but never said a thing about it for months. I do not recall any Government on either side of the river mentioning that report to date. What other reports are buried?

Were citizens being played as puppets? Were our strings being pulled? Were our concern and distress nothing more than a pressure-tactic to convince the Moroun family that they had no chance? Were our worries that there would be trucks taking 50% of the border business going on the truck expressway designed to be a message to the Bridge Company that their business was in trouble and they ought to sell out?

When you think of it, the more STOPDRTP fought, the more DRTP should have been taken seriously as a Bridge Co. competitor. I have to congratulate Matty Moroun for having the nerve not to capitulate at a time when it seemed that DRTP was going to take half of his business. Who knows, perhaps he always had the MDOT report too and knew what was being done to him!

I needed some proof to try to substantiate my position. I thought I got it after reading OMERS’s Michael Nobrega’s speech the other day but I still cannot be 100% certain. Here is what he said with a few comments added in by me in FISKing mode:

  • “OMERS must be one of the super-funds. OMERS has to date done the heavy lifting among pension plans in the area of infrastructure investing in the Province of Ontario. [Who says that infrastructure is a good investment. Given the drop in Macquarie fund valuations and the problems with the Macquarie model, should any pension plan be invested in illiquid, long-term assets that can decrease quickly in value.]

    We were first to invest in green technology. We have led the renaissance in the nuclear industry in this province that will benefit other parts of the Canada. [Except that the Ontario Auditor General slammed how the Government Minister handled the project. Just ask Dwight Duncan. He was Minister of Energy.]

    We have invested in the “bricks and mortar” of our healthcare infrastructure. [Check the Ontario Auditor General Report on the hospital deal near Toronto and see what a disaster this P3 deal was although OMERS was not involved]

    We are currently invested at the Windsor / Detroit border crossing where one of the largest infrastructure programs must take place in order to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs. [CP Rail just sold out most of their 50% interest]

    OMERS has paid its dues and will continue to invest in the Province of Ontario and the rest of Canada."

I did not see a mention of CP Rail selling in his speech. If DRTP is such a good investment in Windsor for a doublestack rail tunnel, why then did the sale take place?

I found it odd that he mentioned the Windsor project so specifically when before it was omitted:

  • “Borealis Infrastructure, a 10-year-old pioneer that has developed with other investors a portfolio of infrastructure assets with an enterprise value of over $25 billion, including a nuclear power plant, marine ports, a satellite company, oil and gas pipelines and health-care diagnostic services.”

Maybe I am reading too much into this but the way I read what he is saying is since we have “paid our dues” and since we “are currently invested at Windsor / Detroit” we, OMERS, ought to get the project “to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs” in Ontario where the economy is tanking. If it is really going to be built!

“Paid our dues.” What a strange phrase to use. Was this speech really designed for other P3 investors telling them to stay away from this project unless they were prepared to be part of the OMERS’s consortium. Was Nobrega saying it was in the bag for OMERS?

It is more than that though. Surely CP Rail knows more about the rail business than OMERS. The doublestack rail tunnel makes no sense now.

Surely the smart guys at OMERS knew about the 1991 MDOT Report

  • “There was nothing brilliant in this analysis. Our people were simply doing their day-to-day jobs … driven by the covenant we have with plan members to invest prudently.

    That meant investing in what we understand and can explain”

Why would OMERS have invested in a DRTP disaster? I don't think they did. Was DRTP just a placeholder for the future? Nobrega’s speech was very specific and for a reason in my opinion. He reminded the former Minister of Energy and now the Minister of Finance that OMERS is owed one for something that it did.

The questions remain. Is OMERS going to get the DRIC project financing or have they figured out that it is not going to move forward now? Was the speech nothing more than saying that OMERS needs its pay-back too for trying perhaps to help squeeze out Moroun. Is it as simple as Nobrega wanting OMERS to be a Super-fund and Dwight, the Windsor MPP and Cabinet Minister, better deliver!

You dear reader decide if what I Blogged makes sense or not. We all ought to be tired of these silly games already! No wonder we need CIBPA and Citizens for Jobs Now!

PS. I read this in yesterday's Globe and Mail so perhaps I am not that far off the mark. Michael should be happy. Who knows, he might get pension fund money as a Super-fund AND the DRIC financing too:

  • "Darcy McNeill, spokesman for Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, said the province has talked with the universities about merging pension plans, but that there is no move to compel them to act. "We are encouraging them," Mr. McNeill said yesterday. "We believe there are advantages to scale, so we would point that out..."

    The provinces might also dangle a carrot before Ontario universities to win their support for a merger, sources say. The schools want relief from a regulation that requires pension plans to hold enough assets to cover their obligations if they go out of business. Universities argue they should be exempt from the rule, and the government could link a merger of assets to that reform.

    Max Blouw, president of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, said he has heard that the province might link such relief to a pension merger, but that no explicit pressure is being put on universities to join the program.

    He said it might be difficult for universities to agree to common pension-fund management, but he would be more interested if he knew there would be a significant cost savings in the fees paid to manage the assets."

Of course, Gord gave us a big hint too about the financing that I will discuss in another future BLOG. I wonder if he got the information from his provincial government insider who knows so much about the border file and rides to the airport.

Windsor Red Bull Attractions

For all the out-of-town folks who will be coming to Windsor for the Red Bull Air Races, it looks like the Company has thoughtfully put up some space on their website to let people know about all of the sights and sounds of this Region
  • Red Bull Air Race---Windsor Ontario---Tickets---Flights, Hotels, Transportation--- More Info & Booking---Activities---Windsor---Activities in Windsor Ontario (Note there are other ways to get to the Windsor attractions page)



I wonder if the Tourism Chair, Councillor Dilkens, knows that one of our best attractions is Niagara Falls. He might wonder why we are not promoting it harder! Perhaps he might ask Gord Orr for an explanation. I am sure Gord can tell him when the Falls became part of our region.

Good thing a reader alerted me to this. Otherwise, all of those Americans coming here might get hopelessly lost! If that happened, just watch Eddie blaming the Bridge Co. for trying to close down Huron Church.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More US/Canada Border Woes


So many border stories taking place that it is almost impossible to keep up

OLDER SIBLING

Isn't the relationship between Canada and the US today over the border just like having an older sibling. As Norwegian researchers have pointed out:
  • "Settling nearly a century of debate, researchers in Norway have confirmed what many older siblings have thought all along -- they're smarter."

Poor Canada!

THE AMBASSADOR BRIDGE WILL BE OUR NEW SOFTWOOD LUMBER ISSUE

There are so many issues brewing between Canada and the US---border "thickening," where will cars be built, energy supply, trade surplus---that there will be the need to have a symbol of our disagreements.

The construction of a new border crossing will be that issue and it will be ugly.

Does anyone really think that the Americans, when they finally do wake up to what is going on here, will allow Canada to control the border crossings:

  • "In an interview broadcast Monday on the CBC, Ms. Napolitano attempted to justify her call for stricter border security on the premise that "suspected or known terrorists" have entered the U. S. across the Canadian border, including the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack."

The Americans no longer will allow for a weak border with Caanda no matter what the reality.

As the Secretary said:
  • "There needs to be some level of parity between the two borders. We don't want to appear to go heavy on the southern border and light on the northern border. We will have a balanced approach, consistent with effective security for our entire country. "

Just mark my words.

US HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY

On the Canada/US border, Janet Napolitano, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary said:
  • "It is a real border, and we need to address it as a real border."

There must be a competition in the White House as to which member of the Administration can terrorize Canada the most.

The President did a very good job already over renegotiating NAFTA. Oh don't you realize that this is being done now, unofficially of course.

When President Obama mused about "Buy America" and steel early on and Canadians ran to the US in horror, he knew he could get whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Why else did Canada hire two former senior Administration officials:

  • "Canada's federal government has hired two former White House spokesmen to raise Canada's profile in the United States, local media reports said on Thursday.

    The government has hired Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary to former president Bill Clinton, as well as Ari Fleischer, who held the same role under former president George W. Bush, the reports cited Kory Teneycke, the communications director for the Prime Minister's Office, as saying.

    He said both men have "unparalleled" experience working with U.S. media outlets.

    "I think it serves Canada well to have some of the basic facts of our relationship better known in the United States," Teneycke told the "Globe and Mail."

US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, is making her run for the prize with her "terrorist comments." Can you believe the visciousness of the Caandian counter-attacks against her. Those are NOT helpful at all:

  • "U.S. Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano's erroneous suggestion earlier this week that some of the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. from Canada was more than just a gaffe. It demonstrated an ignorance on the part of some top U.S. officials about what really happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • The border for dummies

    Can someone please tell us how U. S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano got her job? She appears to be about as knowledgeable about border issues as a late-night radio call-in yahoo.

  • Border gaffe

    Napolitano doesn't get it

  • Harper must deal with border blather

  • Close the border to U.S. baloney

    Alas, in office, she's been sounding distressingly like a clueless first-term congressman fishing for attention and votes with a jingoistic spinner."

She must be sitting in her office in Washington just breaking up in laughter over the storm of panic that she caused with just an off-hand remark. Imagine if she said something as part of a speech as her prepared remarks.

Here is why Ottawa MUST be so concerned:

  • "However, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan downplayed the comments and said that Napolitano is well aware that Canada was not the source of the 9-11 terrorists.

    "We spoke about it back in March, and we were sharing a chuckle at the fact that the urban myth does circulate," he told CTV's Power Play.

    "Ms. Napolitano understood quite clearly, then and now, that none of the September 11 terrorists came through Canada, as the 9-11 Commission found."

In other words, she knew the truth and yet still made the remark. She knew exactly what she was saying and said it on purpose. Has someone in Ottawa or in our DC Embassy figured out that the US is teaching us a lesson about who runs the world?

In other words, no more anti-Obama NAFTA-gates, no more energy threats and do not think at all that Canada will control the border! And sending troops to Afghanistan to die won't help either.

Some people in Ottawa forgot that when the U.S. sneezes, Canada gets pneumonia!

TIME FOR MICHAEL WILSON TO RESIGN

The people in Transport Canada must be fit to be tied right now. The Canadian Ambassador keeps putting his foot in his mouth. Considering that he is well aware of the settlement between the Bridge Company and Canada after the FIRA lawsuit, his latest remark is absurd and specifically goes against what Transport Canada said in the Senate:

  • "On other border issues, Wilson reiterated the Canadian government's position that it doesn't want the private owner of the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, to build a second span. Instead, Canadian, Ontario, U.S. and Michigan officials back efforts to build a publicly financed bridge about a mile downstream from the current bridge. "

Absolutely amazing...the Canadian Ambassador to the US slamming an American citizen and telling the world that Canada is trying to put him out of business! Is the guy so out of touch with reality? He personally and his strategy are destroying our relationship with the US!

Wait until Secretary Napolitano gets through with him!

Oh, and perhaps our Mayor might send him a roadmap of Windsor to since he is so clueless:

  • "Wilson said the new bridge would take bridge traffic out of downtown Windsor and be more secure. "

DUH!

GREENLINK WAR IS OVER FOR EDDIE

He has conceded. He has given up finally. Perhaps now we can get a road solution:

  • "The provincial Environment Ministry on Tuesday ordered the city to remove a growing hill of illegally dumped garbage on the street outside at a waste drop off station as a strike by city outside workers continues.

    "We have to comply with the ministry of the environment," said Mayor Eddie Francis."

So when the Minister of the Environment makes his decision on the border road, Eddie has effectively said that he must comply!

$100 MILLION DIFFERENCE

I still cannot figure out Eddie's number as to the difference in cost between Greenlink and the DRIC road. Greenlink has always been so much higher in price. Assuming it is correct, I do know now where a big part of the difference in cost comes from.
Read on!

If Eddie really wanted to cut the costs down dramatically, it can be easily done alhtough we might lose the raves!

There is no doubt now but that the acres of new parkland for Greenlink were to be covered in artificial turf:

  • "The grass is always greener with fake turf, city finds

    The city has installed fake grass on Dougall Avenue medians as part of a $1-million gateway beautification program and is considering laying down the bright green turf near other key arteries.

    "We put it there as an experiment just to see the reaction of everybody in the community and what we're getting right now is rave reviews," said city parks and facilities director Don Sadler. "Everybody loves it."

The cost is almost like getting excellent quality carpeting for a home: $8 to $9 per square foot installed.

In total, we are told that the Modified GreenLink provides approximately 350 acres of of potential recreational area.

In an acre there are 43,560 square feet. Accordingly, in 350 acres there are 15,246,000 square feet.

To cover all of that parkland in artificial turf would cost at $8.50 per sq ft (the mid-point) $129,591,000!

There's the difference. I am sure that we can find enough acreage we can leave as "naturalized" to bring that number down to Eddie's $100M!

The Bridge Smear Game


I underestimated what was going on when I wrote this the other day:
  • “Matty Moroun has become a Motown Rock Star! His picture and name have appeared in the media more over the past few weeks than during this entire border file. He is even becoming an election issue for the Detroit Mayoral election.”

Rock Star……no way. Celebrity is much more like it. Pretty soon they will not be able to put “reclusive” in front of his name every time he is mentioned with this kind of extensive coverage.

It must mean that he is getting closer to getting his permits on both sides of the river and has to be stopped somehow so smears are the new order of the day. If you cannot beat him on the merits, then demonize him.

To be direct, I am surprised at where the attacks are taking place. One would have thought that they should be coming from this side but they are not. In fact, Eddie loves the Bridge Company these days.

The Detroit media really needs to keep up and not say any longer that he is against the Bridge company since he states:

  • “Francis said the city does not oppose the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge, which must win federal approval on both sides of the border, only that the company must assure councillors their concerns will be properly handled.

    "What the city wants is to ensure that the Ambassador Bridge addresses all the issues that you and I would be subject to," Francis said.

    "There are going to be impacts so we want to minimize those impacts."

All that Francis is concerned about is mitigation and that is no big deal to resolve. More than that, there really is just one major issue:

  • “On his CBC interview, he said as his only issue:

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

A Road sign saying “To Downtown” solves that easily.

The latest incident is the story in the Free Press concerning the Coast Guard. I do not know how hard the reporter tried to get the Bridge Company side of the story when he first wrote it. However, in his update he wrote:

  • “The president of the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says the Coast Guard is being fed disinformation and that concerns a second international span is being built without government approval are unfounded.”

Perhaps if he had that quote, the story would not have circulated as it did. Or this:

  • “But Stamper said today – and in his letter responding to Coast Guard administrator Hala Elgaaly’s concerns – that the pier and the ramp are part of the $230-million Gateway Project already well underway, which was originally designed to improve access to the Ambassador Bridge and accommodate a second span to the existing bridge.

    “We’re saying they’re mistaken, this is not part of the bridge proper,” said Stamper, who added that it’s “disheartening” that misinformation is being given to the Coast Guard.”

Strangely, Channel 7 had the same story the night before and they were able to get this quote:

  • “He says he has responded to the letter from the Coast Guard which he says is based on misinformation provided by M-DOT which is now involved in another bridge project.”

You know, dear reader, that there are going to be more smears but what is the objective and why in the US primarily.

The answer should be clear. It is viewed I am certain by those who have planned this campaign that the Bridge Company’s biggest supporters politically are in the Michigan Senate. The objective then is to categorize Moroun as “evil” or whatever other adjective you want to use so that it would become impossible for any politician to support him.

Whatever the smear, it does not matter. Even if it has nothing to do with the border crossing, who cares. In fact, so much the better. Even if it may be wrong as with the Depot, just keep on piling them up. The plan is to ensure that no politician will have the guts to provide any support for the Bridge Company no matter how meritorious their position on an issue.

It is hardly rocket science to figure out who the masterminds are behind this negative campaign. It should be obvious who are giving out the leaks.

While this negativity may be the norm now in the world of politics, one does not allow the game to be played this way when one’s own money is at stake, when almost a billion dollars of family money has been tied up on a project that has taken place over a decade so far and is near completion.

It is a very dangerous game that some bureaucrats are playing. But then again, I would expect that the file is in such a mess and their careers are in jeopardy because they totally miscalculated about the Bridge Company Owners selling out cheaply.

I am afraid that they are miscalculating again if they think that this will cause difficulties. In fact, on the contrary, I suspect that it is just emboldening certain Legislators who now have confirmation that they were right in trying to kill the DRIC waste!

Earth Day 1990 and 2009

How times change

From a Reader's Facebook album from 1990



"Another look at the Join Hands puppets in front of the Detroit skyline."


Garbage photo from a Reader from 2009


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who Needs Councillors


Short and sweet.

There is no need for a Ward boundary review. Save the consultant fees, save the time, save the Councillor salaries. There is no need for Councillors! They are irrelevant

The Mayor and Administration do not take them seriously so why should we. We already have a single Voice of Council so who needs 10 more! And some Councillors agree too:
  • "Some (councillors) were arguing against access to information."

What my inside moles tell me that was not reported was that this matter was debated in camera after the Council meeting. A proposal was put forward to put the binder online with Councillors being given a password in order to see it and to keep it confidential.

Thus a Councillor was given a choice to look at it or not.

Apparently there was a huge outburst against even doing that and a Motion was introduced NOT to do so.

One Councillor vehemently opposed doing so and her position triumphed in a 5-4 vote. One Councillor was not at the session.

Interestingly, if the Mayor had voted to make it a 5-5 tie, the Motion would have been defeated. Now only he knows the PLANs amongst the elected officials even though
  • "There are about 30 copies of the plan circulated among the city's executive directors, general managers and few others, including the mayor, Reidel said."
I believe that Councillors should let us know who introduced the anti-Democratic Motion and who was the Councillor who spoke so strongly against releasing a document that Councillors should have seen already and who voted which way.

Anyway, who needs Council. Get rid of it! And if anyone dares speak out, the Principal will make them stay after Council and write lines:
  • "If you got a problem with one person and think someone is a leak, then deal with that person. But don't put the whole group on detention."

What Is DRTP Really Worth


No, I am not being nosey. I believe that DRTP's Howard Ave office closing and CP Rail's sale of a significant chunk of its interest are very telling. One wonders if the doublestack rail Tunnel concept makes any sense now. DRTP's valuation and how it is arrived at would tell us whether Michael Nobrega’s new plan for OMERS should concern us or not.

The ideas that people can put forward in times of crisis to get what they want. Take a look at what Michael Nobrega of OMERS said in a speech the other day to prove my point:

  • "We are all going through the most difficult markets in our careers. No one knows when credit will flow freely again …when economic recovery will take a firm hold … when equity markets will recoup last year’s huge losses … when pension funding deficiencies will disappear. In the meantime, employers and workers fear major increases in contribution rates as actuarial valuations are filed.

    This is the right time to bring about major change in the pension system so that we have the capital size… the shared professional expertise, the governance rigor and risk management disciplines to better handle future crises."

It troubled me when I saw this from OMERS in October, 2008:

  • "I read this comment on Marketwatch about the investments made by Borealis in infrastructure assets:

     “Borealis Infrastructure, a 10-year-old pioneer that has developed with other investors a portfolio of infrastructure assets with an enterprise value of over $25 billion, including a nuclear power plant, marine ports, a satellite company, oil and gas pipelines and health-care diagnostic services.”

    Yes, yes, yes I noticed the omission of DRTP too.”

To be fair, Nobrega discussed the DRTP investment in his speech that I will be commenting on. I will be dealing with it in another BLOG.

Remember when OMERS lost $600M in write-downs a few years ago, including assets in areas for which Nobrega had responsibility, and how it impacted negatively almost every municipality and taxpayer across the Province for several years since we had to make up the deficiency though our taxes. What will happen now that it lost $8 BILLION last year? How much will our municipal taxes increase to cover that gigantic loss? What municipal services will be cut-back?

But that is not what concerns me frankly in this BLOG. Here is what I have Blogged before from a Nobrega speech delivered in 2007:

  • “But our story is about much more than acquiring equity ownership of infrastructure assets. Creating Borealis Infrastructure as a separate investment entity of OMERS protects the plan from material risks. It also does something else that is vitally important. It enables us to create a corporate culture where we can attract investment specialists motivated by pay-for-performance incentives comparable to many private sector merchant banks...

    Few pension funds or merchant banks in the world match the depth and breadth of expertise that we have assembled at Borealis Infrastructure. In the next stage of Borealis Infrastructure’s evolution, we will partner with other like-minded pension funds in the pursuit and acquisition of trophy infrastructure assets around the world.

    The nature of this partnership could take several forms:

    • Creation of a North American infrastructure fund, managed by Borealis Infrastructure, in which OMERS would be the lead and largest investor; this fund structure is particularly attractive to smaller pension funds without the resources to pursue and manage an in-house infrastructure program.

    • Borealis Infrastructure and OMERS would also consider expanding their reach of co-investment partners to include other major capital pools around the world."

He is being absolutely consistent and moving forward on his ideas. As an example dealing with the latter point, he set up an office in London, England to go after Sovereign funds:

  • “OMERS, one of Canada's largest pension funds with a track record of exceptional performance, is weathering the current credit crisis and is taking its secret of success global. OMERS now has a presence in London UK.

    To accelerate its expansion into private market investments and to take the next step in establishing a global footprint, a new London office has been established under the OMERS Worldwide brand.”

    OMERS Worldwide will leverage the depth and breadth of OMERS active asset management expertise. "Pension funds and sovereign wealth funds that share our prudent and responsible investment philosophy want access to our management teams and assets," he continued. "We want access to large-scale opportunities and co-investment capital around the world.”

It is the first point--- Creation of a North American infrastructure fund, managed by Borealis Infrastructure---that makes me shiver.

I truly have to wonder if Nobrega is now trying to become the Canadian equivalent of Macquarie Bank with all of its infrastructure investing. Given the problems that are impacting the Australians, one has to ask if OMERS should be following a model that no longer seems to be working!

Here is what has said been said only a few weeks ago in relation to OMERS:

  • "In the near future, pension payments will exceed contributions and we will rely increasingly on investment income to pay benefits. In readiness for this change in a more difficult investment world, we have developed, in collaboration with the AC Board, a bold strategy to drive OMERS investment returns and create surplus wealth for our members.

    In order to generate long-term, stable investment returns, one priority of the strategy is to increase “direct drive” active management of investments from less than 70 per cent today to 90 per cent. This strategy has already resulted in the introduction of the OMERS Worldwide brand and the opening of our first regional office in London, UK in order to actively manage OMERS investments in Western Europe.

    A second priority is to form international alliances with like-minded investors to acquire large-scale infrastructure and real estate assets. These are asset classes where we have consistently achieved above-average investment returns as a result of our significant expertise.

    A third priority is to be prepared for pension reform and consolidation opportunities. Our pension administration expertise, coupled with our investment expertise, makes OMERS an attractive choice for Canadian pension plans seeking to strengthen their collective investment returns by being part of a multi-employer pension organization.

    Our strategy gives us the tools to find long-term opportunities in the midst of the current global financial crisis. By being alert and innovative, we will continue to secure the pension promise and build surplus wealth for our plan members.”

Wow, who comes up with these slogans---“direct drive” active management. Now that is action oriented.

Here is what OMERS wants to invest in:

  • “We would like to get a little bit more involved in the transportation sector,” Nobrega said in an interview in Toronto after the pension fund’s annual meeting. “Rail would be a big one, and airports would be another one…”

    Omers will consider rail assets in North America, with a focus on Canada, and airports in North America or Europe, Nobrega said. The fund manager is also interested in water assets outside Canada…

    “In order for the pension funds to get stable long-term returns, they have to invest in the big assets, whether they’re global real estate assets, global infrastructure,” Nobrega said. “They have to have a critical mass to get premium returns.”

I wonder if toll roads, truck highways and bridges fall under the generalized head of “Transportation” since they were not mentioned specifically. You know, multi-billion dollar projects like the DRIC Bridge and road as a far-fetched possibility! It would be a "trophy" infrastructure asset.

Oh my....I may not be far off my suggestion of billions of dollars to be made by a P3 investor in fees and excess profits---if the rate of return was 20% per year--at taxpayer expense over the life of a DRIC project P3 deal. That sounds like a very big "premium" to me compared with the Government financing it alone as with the Port Mann Bridge.

I will let you check out Macquarie Infrastructure Funds with your stock broker to see how poorly they have done and now it seems that OMERS wants to get into those areas. Here is just one example:

  • Macquarie puts Bristol International airport up for sale

    MACQUARIE has put Bristol International airport up for sale as the embattled Australian infrastructure giant scrambles to raise cash.

    The group is understood to have sounded out potential buyers for the airport, which carried more than 6m passengers in 2008…

    The airport was valued at around €320m (£283m) in 2006, but interested bidders are likely to offer much less now.

    During the boom, Macquarie paid huge prices for infrastructure assets, often with big debt packages, that have since values plummet. Many of its funds are now dumping assets at depressed prices to meet refinancing payments and return money to investors.”

The Port Mann bridge financing fiasco is another example.

Who knows, perhaps the OMERS strategy is to pick up infrastructure assets at bargain-basement pricing in the hopes that the assets will increase in value as time goes on.

Great strategy if it works. But what if it does not. What if infrastructure investing is a complete disaster. Remember funds have to be locked into an asset for a long term. The assets are generally illiquid and they would have a limited market of potential buyers if one wanted to dispose of an asset---unlike a stock postion that can be sold easily. In such a case, it won’t just be OMERS pensioners who will be hurt if Nobrega gets his way. As he said in his speech:

  • "Our pension funds need much larger capital bases. Only two… the CPP Investment Board and Ontario Teachers … rank among the top 20 in the world.

    OMERS … while a large pension fund at 44 billion dollars...is way back in 46th place on the global list.

    OMERS cannot compete against the global giants as a small player. Nor can other plans. The Ontario industry is highly fragmented with many thousands of small plans…

    We need some form of consolidation in both the public and private sectors because our pension funds are simply too small

    Many people are surprised that our big banks and insurance companies, for example, typically have their own pension funds with assets of only $3 billion to $6 billion. Universities are even smaller at $1 billion or less. Thousands of pension funds have assets less than $100 million … that’s millions not billions … and as small as two or three million dollars…

    The next step is for Ontario to mandate through legislation the consolidation of private and public sector pension funds into super-funds comparable in size to Teachers.

    "OMERS must be one of the super-funds. OMERS has to date done the heavy lifting among pension plans in the area of infrastructure investing in the Province of Ontario...

    We are currently invested at the Windsor / Detroit border crossing where one of the largest infrastructure programs must take place in order to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs.

    OMERS has paid its dues and will continue to invest in the Province of Ontario and the rest of Canada."

Now I can feel more confident in my speculation about DRTP. It now seems that DRTP's truck expressway may not have been a serious investment, just dues paying to allow OMERS to be a “super-fund.” A DRTP-type concept had been dismissed years before by MDOT.

One wonders how well OMERS’s efforts at raising Sovereign Funds money were in this time of economic chaos. Was consolidating all of these acorn pension plans into a giant OMERS Oak fund Noberga’s real intention or his fall-back position?

In fact, it is more than that. Nobrega wants:

  • “Ontario to introduce legislation to advance pension coverage for the 65 per cent of Ontario workers without such coverage.

    We believe that joining a provincial plan should be mandatory for all employers and workers not currently covered.”

My goodness gracious, how much money would that bring in every year! How many people would be impacted whether they wanted it or not! It is a breath-taking concept worth billions of dollars each and every year to invest. Just like with Macquarie in Australia!

What is very troubling is this view that OMERS is so smart that other plans have to be legislated into becoming part of it whether they want to or not and that he should be allowed to play entrepreneur with pensioners money. Why that should sound familiar to Windsorites.

For myself, I am not sure that I would want OMERS to be my only choice as manager of my money. But then again Mr. Nobrega disagrees with me. He wants to be my manager whether I want him or not.

It is this arrogance that concerns me, this entitlement mentality:

  • “Why am I calling on the Ontario government to mandate consolidation?…None of us is going to consolidate willingly with anyone else … no matter how compelling the arguments.”

Nobrega can claim:

  • "Our credit team struggled to understand what OMERS was being asked to buy. They tried to assess how these CDOs would hold up if markets changed. They were concerned about the lack of transparency offered by people promoting these products.

    They examined forms of credit enhancement … quality of reporting … and liquidity lines. Our credit team looked at the yields being offered for the risk involved…

    There was nothing brilliant in this analysis. Our people were simply doing their day-to-day jobs … driven by the covenant we have with plan members to invest prudently.

    That meant investing in what we understand and can explain…

    By being skeptical, doing our homework and saying no, we avoided losses.”

Then how does he explain the OMERS loss of $8B last year in areas that they should know so well or the big losses of the past.

Mr. Nobrega’s goal is:

  • “to actively manage pension assets. The days of passive investing … of leaving investment decisions to fee-motivated outsiders … must come to an end.”

Is that what a pension plan fiducuary should be doing, being an active investment manager? Is there an unacceptable risk that is being taken on that should cause concern? These are serious questions that need answering since people's financial well-being after retirement is at stake.

Why is Mr. Nobrega advocating for this so strongly? In my opinion, he can see the handwriting on the wall. With the failures in the pension system about to hit if major companies go broke, funds for plans may dry up. Employers may also be looking for alternatives where they will not be on the hook for pension shortfalls like group RRSPs instead. Employees may demand them so they can control their own financial future and not leave it to the "experts."

He knows he better get the money while he can.

Just like the Governments spending our money by creating deficits to get re-elected, sometimes a crisis can be a beautiful thing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Garbage Shots

From a reader!








More Letters


More letters from readers:

1) Sorry to say but that Left Hand Turn Sign will not work!
The College avenue bridge is out. Oh me oh my!
Eddie's worst nightmare! The road is closed so Americans cannot get
to the downtown core. It has been Eddie's plan all along to stop the
bridge from twinning.
Shut down College Avenue so the ONLY other road is Huron Line to the downtown.
Let's forget the tunnel and any other roads. This is about bridges and how they totally stop traffic
due to construction, no matter what.
The Americans will end up in Niagara Falls because the roads in Windsor are impassable.

2) Message from Sender:
thought you might like to check this out
http://www.nowpublic.com/world/windsor-ontario-going-waste

Windsor Ontario Going to Waste

Topographically challenged Windsor, Ontario, thought to be flatter than a pancake, now has its very own mountain – Mt. Francis – named for City of Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. And this isn't any old mountain... this mountain is actually growing on a daily basis and is serving as kind of a Mount Rushmore for the perceived mismanagement, wasteful spending and a two-tier pension plan (the haves get more, the have nots pay for the haves) by Mayor Francis and the other top dogs at City Hall.

Every day over the last week, the citizens of this fair city have been bringing offerings to Mt. Francis, located at the city's landfill and waste station, which are being welcomed with open arms by Sherpas, aka, the striking outside City of Windsor workers.

With no one to pick up their garbage or recycling, no where else to put it, (although the mayor has helpfully suggested that his citizens keep it in their basements) and negotiations at a standstill, Mt. Francis is destined to become a tourist attraction and could be a boon for this auto city, hit hard by the global economic crisis and years of wasteful city spending.

3) Such a shame...........

The Mayor was hoping that the new access road would be the "Francis Freeway" and then the canal as the "Francis Canal". Now it seems that the only naming will be "Mount Francis"

4) No, Ed. I am not personally a member of one of the locals. In fact, I have traditionally been anti-union. I am a person who can look at the issues and find the side of right. It is right to bargain in good faith, it is right to negotiate to a common end. It is not right to refuse to negotiate with the locals when they continually put forth the effort to resolve the issues. In these economic times, it is not right to threaten the livelihoods of the workers and the security of their families.

5) They are using the indoor/outdoor fake turf on the boulevards along
the section of Dougall north of EC Row. I saw it this morning.

6) Have you seen the Missisauga Mayor.... Oh why them and not us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY79KbCptTo

You however ARE a Godsend.

7) Susan Boyle did rock us. What a find! Amazingly enough she said she comes from a collection of villages called Westlothian. If you go to the "village's" website you will find that it is remarkably similar to Windsor in size. Some interesting comparisons to ponder. Take a look here: http://www.westlothian.gov.uk/

If the powers that be in this city were smart they would contact her immediately, offer her free airfare and accomodations and book her for a week of shows in the new WFCU center. Windsor would rock in her slipstream.

8) Sandra and Dwight used the power of their offices to subsidize Red Bull to the tune of $4.25 per person.

Red Bull will be walking away with millions from this area.

It is good for the local economy yet Windsor Essex has numerous festivals with dedicated volunteers that get shafted by deals like this. Festivals in Essex draw collectively a lot more than Red Bull ever could and the money stays in this area.

I like Red Bull but using taxpayer money to fund it is wrong on way too many levels.

9) (a) [Several notes from this reader]

Ed, excellent as usual, but it is sad to hear the maestro may be leaving. Assume he is tired of a city with a focus only on activities and not results. Certainly it will be another feather in Eddie’s campaign to rid the city of culture and its downtown core. He has done so well with the Capitol and the arena.

On another matter, wonder if you noticed the big announcement on the Detroit TV channels on Easter weekend. Global Wind is searching for 250 people to man its new wind turbine plant in Detroit. Quite a result. Windsor, no results, only activities like a seminar to talk about green energy. Now, this I did not think about, hopefully Global was there at the Windsor activity to capture all the wind the seminar produced to fire up its windmills.

(b) Over the past two years in the most extreme economic situations, Detroit has still chalked up billions, that is billions, of investment. WindsorEssex Undevelopment Commission: well you know.

While you discovered that the Commission does not know the difference between model and modal, if you want to have more fun, have a grammar teacher read its newsletter and be prepared for a sea of red markings, it is written by illiterates which leaves me hard pressed to understand how that reflects well on our region.

Now that I have said these things, I have become a card carrying member of the naysayers. Mind you, if you asked me I could show you at least ten potential areas of possible investment that the Undevelopment Commission has not a clue about. Justice for all I say.

(c) [RE WEDC] There is absolutely no quality or standards to measure their work which is why they focus on useless activities. This works well when they are managed by people with no economic development experience.

Were VPs hired without competitions? How is that explained? Without a competition how are we as taxpayers given any confidence that vice-presidents are hired for capabilities and not connections? Very strange.

Imagine the horror if the community knew exactly what is going on.

(d) Ed a few more comments then I will get back to work and leave you alone. Another good blog, I saw the clips on the news, remarkable.

Did you see the blockbuster announcements yesterday on Detroit TV – four battery plants coming to Michigan, the Gov says 8,000 jobs. How many jobs coming to WindsorEssex: 0 How many jobless creating activities by the Undevelopment Commission can we bear, like Rub09, as they rub it into our consciousness that we are important cause trucks cross our path all day long.

Also the Detroit News commented on the new movie studio in Allen Park and the many jobs to be created. How many jobs: in the 1,000s. How many jobs coming to WindsorEssex: -1. Does Windsor have a movie industry development officer?

Now the good news, the rain is expected to stop in about an hour.

10) [Re The Internet And Eddie Francis] Unfortunately, all of this stuff has long ago lost its comedic value.

11) Okay, how in the hell are you pouring out so much in the past few days? I can appreciate your output - it's amazing what anger can do for the writer's soul. We are all angry too.

You're on a roll but slow down a bit there Buddy, you are going to blow a gasket. Us faithful readers (at least I) can barely keep up. After I gather some thoughts and re-read the latest blog and watch that completely asinine video with Percy and Ed again (ughhhhh), I'd like to comment on a few things. Wow, this childish city fiasco has me so flustered, I can't even think anymore. I guess that is exactly what they want. Keep the populace confused with B.S. I'm still fuming over Gord's Editorial on Saturday. I hate being played as a fool by his articles.

12) Wanted to put my 2 cents worth in.

I believe the worm has turned. Council can feel the anger and the closer we get to election time the faster they’ll internally fight/implode and sparks will fly. Not a good scenario. The ice jam has started it’s spring break courtesy of the Italian community (the only community group with the balls to step up and try to force hands).

My agenda is I’m not an Eddy supporter. In fact I’d have to say he could have been a contender but I fear will go down in flames. Human nature being what it is the herd will need their Lee Harvey Oswald to blame and most likely it will be Eddy.

Eddy’s personality flaw – everything has to be 100% his way or no deal seems to be a new Windsor way of thinking.

I fear the CIBPA agenda, which started our pure with the only goal - not pick sides but pressure all sides to get to the table and get er done may morph into an Eddy hate on. If that happens all those Eddy busters will cause much more damage than what they think Eddy has. Everyone has to bury the Eddy hatchet NOW. He’s taken on a huge undertaking and its 90% complete. Let’s not pollute the process and get sucked into a mob mentality. As painful as it may be for the Eddy haters to admit let’s give credit where it’s due.

Green Link was and is BRILLIANT. Swartz is the best and the plan is the best. The problem now is all personal – Eddy making the Prime Minister wait 15 minutes and fighting with our two Ministers is a dumb rookie move but so what. That was then now is now. Let’s suck it up and let the rookie take the lead – he is and was after all voted in twice so let’s all stop being hypocrites. The deal’s close, let’s keep all sides’ feet to the fire.

The Ambassador Bridge issue will play out. Matty is a heavyweight, Eddie a feather weight – Matty will get his bridge.

The canal – a red herring – a diversionary tactic – timing is everything and the only 3 real words that matter in the Windsor dictionary today are Fiat, Cerberus and plant Three. If plant three closes the ripple effect will be unstoppable - no Prime Minister, no Premiere and no Mayor on earth can stop that kind of economic carnage.

We’re on the Titanic, yelling at the iceberg is futile. Time to bail together.

More Stories


Here are some news stories that you may have miseed. I hope that you find them of interest!

GPS DEVICES BEING STOLEN

There is no doubt in my mind about it. You will think me unfair. So be it. I know what is the cause of these devices being stolen: our Mayor’s comments.

What, you must be thinking. How can this be so? Remember what the Mayor said on the CBC/CIBPA interview show:
  • “The Ambassador Bridge expansion requires the closure of Huron Church Road to the river. We believe it's important for the Coast Guard to ask the Ambassador Bridge how they are going to re-establish that connection to our downtown once their expansion takes place.”

Thieves are way ahead of everyone. They know that Americans will never find their way downtown from the Bridge and will get hopelessly lost in Windsor. Accordingly, they will have to buy GPS devices in order to find their way to downtown and back home. Stocks will dwindle at the reputable retailers quickly. Accordingly, thieves will then be able to sell at excess prices the stolen GPS units to poor, unsuspecting, bewildered Americans!

IS SENATOR BASHAM LOSING OUT ON BILLIONS

Michigan Senator Basham is one of the big oponents of the Bridge Company Enhancement Project. I happened to see his newsletter where he stated:

  • “Senator Basham Announces Federal Transportation Funding for Job Creation, Infrastructure Improvements

    Senator Basham joined his Senate colleagues in recently approving a plan that will invest $635 million in the state’s economy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including more than $10 million for projects in his district. These federal funds will put Michigan workers back on the job, making improvements to roads, bridges, and highways and pouring money back into the state’s struggling economy.”

Too bad that he won’t support the Bridge Company who want to spend their own money on their new bridge and not taxpayer money. The DRIC bridge will cost taxpayers billions.

Moreover, the State also will give up billions in federal matching grants.

How many jobs could have been created with that, Senator?

STAR EDITORIAL IS HYPER-INSULTING

Do the Editors think that their readers are really that stupid? Is their opinion that low of the people who subscribe to or read their newspaper? Let’s see now:

 Dwight not talking to Windsorites
 Relying on the Integrity Act
 Letter from the Integrity Commissioner
 Dwight giving an ultimatum
 Dwight being frustrated with a City Committee
 “nothing to be gained by suggesting people are putting major, much-needed construction at risk by daring to dissent”
 Questions about the impact on safety and quality of life
 Bullying Windsorites
 Police (headed by the Mayor who was unnamed) disagree
 “If there's any room for compromise in this situation, it should start with a discussion about those additional costs”
 “ by adopting a "take it or leave it" attitude, the province has done everything possible to alienate everyone.”
 Dwight should “engage the community in a frank and meaningful discussion and find common ground

This Editorial was about the jail. If I had not told you that, I bet that you would have thought it was another one to do Eddie’s dirty work and to save his career over the Greenlink/DRIC Road fiasco

DUH!!!

OLD BUS DEPOT

Wasn't that building to have been sold to help pay for the new Bus Terminal?

Weren't some arenas to have been sold to help pay for the East End Arena?

Weren't two properties to have been sold to help pay for the 400 building?

Perhaps we can turn those all of those properties into farmers' markets too. Hey, I even have names for them:

  • the one at the small arenas can be the Eastern End Markets based on the name of the one in Detroit
  • the 400 buildings one would be the Pickyourown Market so you could choose amongst the original Dunbar Audit, the Dunbar Report, the Phase 1 400 audit and the Phase 2 400 Audit and the sanitized audit reports. It would be a highend market too considering the costs of the products produced by expensive accountants and Toronto lawyers.
  • the old bus terminal one would be the Big Mac Attack market! Why we could offer hamburgers there since the City wanted Burger King to move to that site but they chose not to go there.

IT'S DOABLE

Let me see now. They said this about an Art Gallery loan:

  • "We can't afford to throw money at this," said Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac. "Our industrial tax base is disappearing, our residential taxpayers are losing their jobs. At the same time, we have a stream of people saying help us. Where are we going to get the money?"

  • "People are speaking loud and clear that times are tough and we need to be prudent with our resources," he[Councillor Dilkens] said."

Let us see how they twist and turn and fall over themselves to justify and then approve Eddie's Canal Vision, never daring to say "NO" to another Eddie Vision.

Want to know what is really scary:

  • "If council gives the go-ahead we could get a shovel in the ground this year," said Francis."

OOOOOPS SCRAP THAT EDITORIAL

The Star wrote one "The border; A reality check is in order"

I guess the Star missed the story about the US coaches delayed in the Tunnel when it wrote:

  • "About 1,000 U.S. college coaches were housed in hotel rooms in Windsor, were transported to the games stateside in relatively short order"

The gist of what the Star was saying is:

  • "In fact, she [U.S. Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano] seems to see little difference between our border and the Mexican border. The implication being that security issues should be addressed the same way on both frontiers."

Well, after the big drug busts, the shots at the car going through the Bridge, fear of an explosive at the Blue Water Bridge, the Windsor police take-down and the stolen plane going into the US, I think she is not going to listen!

Note as well that the Star is following the "Let's not worry about how many soldiers are killed in Afghanistan if we can get what we want at the border" line that is Canada's mantra these days:

  • "In the wake of 9-11, Canada has taken the threat of terrorism seriously, and that's reflected at the border, and also by the presence of our troops in Afghanistan."

Sickening!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Council Loves The Bridge Company Now

So many people falsely believe still that the City of Windsor is opposed to the the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project. While that may have been the case once, that certainly does not seem to be the City's position today.

It is merely a failure to communicate!

In fact, the two parties are so close to total agreement that I think I can suggest a way that the Bridge Co. and the City can "Do the Deal!" as CIBPA would advocate over the only outstanding major City concern.

I wish that the Mayor would only call me when he needs a solution to a problem. That was my big strength when I was acting as a lawyer. I could solve difficult problems quite often for my clients quickly and easily.

Seriously, CIBPA is right. With good-will on all sides, the border file is a snap to resolve. Perhaps there is movement now. Consider the following and the easy answer!

What a change in attitude!

Even Members of Council are becoming nicer to the Bridge Company these days. Why take a look at Councillor MOM’s BLOG. The Bridge is located in her Ward:
  • “Take a look at this email below sent to me from a resident.

    FYI ANYONE who sides with the bridge CO..concerning the west end is NOT working for the WEST END RESIDENTS... JUST AS SIMPLE AS THAT ...TALK ABOUT OFFENSIVE !!!!

    Message here – don’t vote opposite your ward mate when it comes to the Ambassador Bridge…! I am not in any fight with Councillor Jones. I actually am perplexed as to why someone thinks I am. We actually agree on most issues on the Ward. We simply have a different view of the Bridge Company properties. It is normal for partners within a Ward to have different opinions and views - it's healthy and part of our jobs to express our views. In fact when it comes to the Bridge Company the Ward Councillors disagreements are reflective of the community - some people agree with the homes being torn down, some don't. Besides I would love to know what has the Bridge Company done in the past to cause such distain? I don't understand why simpy talking with them is such a bad thing to some people or considered offensive. “

  • “What is wrong with me meeting with the Bridge Company? Nothing! I have since met with a representative from their company a few times to openly discuss a greening plan for Indian, Edison, Felix, Mill and community gardens along Bloomfield…

    Meeting with the Ambassador Bridge Company to bring together a community plan that goes beyond Indian Road, encompassing all of the properties they own does not make me unfriendly to Sandwich!”

Our Mayor now seems to have miniscule issues with the Bridge Co. that I think can be easily solved! Perhaps because he has sold off Brighton Beach to the Feds, he does not care any more. If the Enhancement Project was going forward, then I am sure his fear was that there was no need for Brighton Beach since there would not be a need for a DRIC Bridge.

So stall off the Bridge Co., delay them, cost them huge amounts of money due to lost time, it did not matter as long as Eddie could sell the City’s land.

Heck, he did not need to do that and put everyone through the misery. He could have sold all of it to the Province for a jail instead!

My recollection of what he said at the CIBPA meeting included:

  •  City of Windsor has “no jurisdiction” over the Ambassador Bridge proposal since it comes under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada and the Federal Government.

  •  in 2006 the City of Windsor worked with the Ambassador Bridge to build new booths.

  •  He wants to clear up whether the City of Windsor is against or doesn’t want the Ambassador Bridge proposal – “it is not our issue”.

  •  His big concern was making sure in effect that Americans coming over the Bridge could find their way downtown.

He said in the Star:

  • “One issue we would raise is that in order to build another span, the Ambassador Bridge would have to expand the plaza, and to do that they would have to close down Huron Church Road, which is the only access to downtown.”

He also said:

  • “Francis said the city does not oppose the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge, which must win federal approval on both sides of the border, only that the company must assure councillors their concerns will be properly handled.

    "What the city wants is to ensure that the Ambassador Bridge addresses all the issues that you and I would be subject to," Francis said.

    "There are going to be impacts so we want to minimize those impacts."

Issues now deal with mitigation, not opposition. Here it is shown very clearly

On CBC, John Corrent said to Eddie:

  • “Last night you said that you didn't want to hold back the Ambassador Bridge. You would welcome the Ambassador Bridge for its construction.

The Mayor responded by saying:

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

I have the answer. If that is the Mayor's only concern that prevents him from endorsing the Enhancement Project 100%, I can solve the border issue right now with the Ambassador Bridge and it will NOT take millions of dollars, Foreign consultants and lawsuits.

Eddie forgot about College Avenue!

Here is what can be done for Americans who come off of the Bridge and want to find their way to our exciting Downtown without getting lost. Here is how to re-establish the connection to Downtown.

PUT UP THIS ROAD SIGN AT COLLEGE:




There, that was easy wasn't it!

Whew, problem solved.

Chrysler Letter To Employees



A reader sent to me a copy of the letter that was sent to Chrsler employees

Dear Employees,

Today, we are at a crossroads in the history of Chrysler. Let’s take a look at what’s happened in the past few weeks.

On February 17 and February 20, Chrysler submitted its Viability Plan to the U.S. Treasury and U. S. Administration; and to the Canadian governments, respectively.

On March 30, U.S. President Barack Obama stated that Chrysler’s Viability Plan was unacceptable. “It's with deep reluctance but also a clear-eyed recognition of the facts that we've determined, after careful review, that Chrysler needs a partner to remain viable.”

He went on to state: “I'm committed to doing all I can to see if a deal can be struck in a way that upholds the interests of American taxpayers. And that's why we'll give Chrysler and Fiat 30 days to overcome these hurdles and reach a final agreement -- and we will provide Chrysler with adequate capital to continue operating during that time. If they are able to come to a sound agreement that protects American taxpayers, we will consider lending up to $6 billion to help their plan succeed. But if they and their stakeholders are unable to reach such an agreement, and in the absence of any other viable partnership, we will not be able to justify investing additional tax dollars to keep Chrysler in business.”

U.S. President Obama has made it clear that our company must attain competitive labour rates: “Now, what we’re asking for is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to do more … It will require efforts from a whole host of other stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers.”

Also on March 30, the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, said, “While the restructuring plans represent progress, they do not go far enough to ensure the long-term viability of these companies. Therefore, we are not certifying their proposals. Together with our U.S. counterparts we believe that further fundamental changes are needed.”

Just this week, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has made it clear that an alliance is contingent on the UAW and CAW meeting transplant all-in labour rates: “Absolutely, we are prepared to walk. There is no doubt in my mind,” Marchionne was quoted as saying. “We cannot commit to this organization unless we see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Canadian government has been very supportive of our viability, providing a loan of $1 billion (CDN, $750 million drawn to date), with an agreement to provide additional support in proportion to the loans received from the U.S. Treasury.

On April 14, the Canadian governments, both federal and provincial, invited the CAW and Chrysler to attend a meeting in Toronto where they laid out four specific guidelines that must be met for providing further financial support. Their “asks” were:

1. That labour costs be reduced to a level equal to those of Toyota Canada. We believe that a Canadian benchmark is the appropriate one for you to achieve. We ask that you jointly demonstrate to us that the agreement you reach attains this benchmark.

2. That Chrysler complete an alliance with Fiat that, in return for equity participation gives Chrysler access to Fiat management, Fiat technology, Fiat sales and distribution outside of NAFTA, and distribution of Fiat products inside NAFTA.

3. That Chrysler and Fiat submit revised plans to Canadian governments and U.S. Treasury based on appropriate assumptions that show clearly Canadian production, product mix, capital investment and R&D.

4. That Chrysler and Fiat commit to maintain Canada’s proportion of North American production and to invest over the medium term that same share of total capital investment and R&D expenditure in Canada.

Let’s keep in mind, the all-in labour costs at Chrysler Canada are $76 per hour while the Toyota Canada all-in rate is approximately $57 per hour.

While we have made some progress with the CAW, it falls significantly short of closing the $19 gap. And yet, as recent as Wednesday this week, the CAW continues to ignore this clear mandate from the government stating that they will not go any further. This unwillingness to work within the government’s guidelines jeopardizes the future of Chrysler and our operations in Canada.

We have made several proposals to the CAW to offset these costs, without affecting base wages and pensions. Some specific examples include:

 Prescription drug dispensing fees, by eliminating the cap results in estimated savings of $2.16 per hour.
 Elimination of out-of-province health care coverage (snowbirds), with employees and retirees assuming responsibility for any coverage results in a cost savings of $1.00 per hour.
 The change from semi-private hospital room coverage to “ward” coverage saves an estimated $0.97 per hour.
 Elimination of life insurance for current and future employees results in a cost savings of $1.54 per hour.
 The reduction of shift premiums to 2.5 percent results in a cost savings of $.80 per hour.
 By increasing health care premiums would save an estimated $1.04 per hour.
 The elimination of non-traditional benefits such as child care, legal services, tuition reimbursement, dependant scholarships and extended health care coverage (chiropractic services, massage therapy, naturopath, orthotics, etc.) results in a cost savings of $0.73 per hour.

Unfortunately, the CAW has been opposed to these solutions – however, we are open to alternative ideas. Next week, we plan to meet with the CAW to attempt to reach an agreement that is acceptable to Fiat and the Canadian government.

The clock is running. Without labour concessions, Chrysler Canada’s manufacturing operations will not survive long-term. Thousands of good-paying jobs are in jeopardy, as well as the economic health of communities such as Windsor and Brampton.

Canada has always been an important manufacturing and sales market for Chrysler LLC. It represents the largest vehicle sales market for Chrysler outside of the U.S. and no other vehicle manufacturer has a larger portion of its total manufacturing in Canada than Chrysler.

However, these are not normal business circumstances and all Chrysler constituents have been asked to “break pattern” – employees, retirees, dealers, suppliers and others.

Time is very short. We have only two weeks before a final decision must be made. Let me be clear, our negotiations are about saving Chrysler Canada. We are coming down to the wire in the fight for our company’s survival – and we need your support.

Bob Nardelli
Tom LaSorda

Naturally, An Artificial Solution For Earth Day

Why do I have to do all of the creative thinking for this City Hall?

It is not that I even get a "thanks" for my efforts. Rather, several Councillors ask to be deleted from my subscriber list, even one of my Ward Councillors if you can believe it. I'll remember that when I am voting next time around too!

I was driving north on Dougall earlier in the week. The sky was so gray and dreary. No flowers blooming yet in the million dollar medians and landscaping near the overpasses, nothing spectacular to welcome all of those tourists and to make them say WOW upon entering our City!

In fact, the grassy areas where the new plantings had been done last year were a disgrace already. And with the strike, who knows when they would be fixed up.



To make a long story short, I was driving there again on Sunday morning and all of a sudden the medians were ablaze with this rich green colour. What a remarkable transformation! The grass had grown overnight it seemed. I had to go and photograph it for you.


Moreover, I had to find out what magical seeds were used that grew so quickly since my lawn needed a bit of upkeep. I wanted to use the same ones. I knew it was not sodded since it was too early for that. I just had to go up to it and feel it, imagining walking in its lushness in the summer.

The grass had a strange feel to it. It did not seem real. Hold on....I got it!

I think they planted artificial turf! Yes, that had to be it. Then I remembered this item at Council:

Someone had figured out a fantastic idea. Cover all of our parklands with artificial turf! This clearly was the pilot project for it, to see if it would work. With artificial turf, there would be no weeding or messy grass as I had photographed above and no complaints from outraged citizens. Why, I bet this turf must have a 15-20 year guarantee too.

Parks Employees---who needs so many now. No need to hire students any longer in the summer. No fertilizing using dangerous chemicals, no grass cuttings... just the odd-time vacuuming of the turf to keep it spotlessly clean. There would be no need for watering either so we would be saving a valuable resource especially since we are near Earth Day!

Taxes would go down, down down as well!

I knew what was coming next so that we did not have to worry about "stresses" to trees in the medians



And if we wanted some "natural" birdlife, what could be better for the only City south of the US:



Now here is the genius part that I came up with. Remember that the Mayor claimed that there was only $100M differnce in price between Greenlink and the DRIC Raod. How he arrived at that number I have no idea, just like 30,000 trucks on E C Row. But let's take it as true.

If the Feds and Province put artificial turf on those 300 acres of new Parkland that the Mayor says we will get, the initial cost of putting in the artificial turf and the savings in maintenance over the 15-20 years of its life means that the $100M is nothing!

Now we can have Greenlink, Eddie can be our hero and the border file can get started immediately.

And please, someone should thank me this time for the originality!

Send Dwight A Message Too: DO THE DEAL


Some big surprises at the last Citizens for Jobs Now! meeting. This is the new name for the citizens grassroots movement that CIBPA started which has now expanded dramatically beyond just the Italian business community.

First obviously is that they have added other organizations in the City as supporters: business, labour and ethnic. As an example, the Union running radio ads on the border road is a supporter now with 3 of the members of their Executive at the session!

Second was that so many people are coming out to their organizational meetings, over 50 at the last one. A number of other people apparently sent emails saying that they had other commitments and could not attend. If this level of attendance can be maintained, it will become a serious force in this City quickly.

There are clearly parties there with different points of view, some of them conflicting. Importantly, people are burying these differences since they have all agreed that the purpose of what is being done is to get solutions and to get them now. There is the feeling that opposing views can be overcome if people just sit in a room together and negotiate.

No one there could understand frankly that if the City and Province are $100M apart on the border road as the Mayor claimed (of course they are not but that is another story) that there was no coming together. The fear expressed was that we could potentially lose out on $1.6B of investment and the jobs that would be created over such a small percentage of the total investment. It is almost beyond belief in our economic dire straights.

The anger and the frustration in the room could be cut with as knife. You could just feel it. No one can understand that with billions of dollars ready to be spent here by the Governments and private industry for border crossings nothing is happening but bickering.

Rightly so, the politicians at all levels are getting slammed. While the group is meant to be non-partisan and not pointing the finger of blame because that is not conducive to a solution, it is not too hard to guess whose name comes up the most as the one blocking the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs.

However, the big shock to me was that Spanky's name came up too. Yes our Minister of Finance and local MPP, Dwight Duncan, was attacked for not doing anything but posture by more than one person and in rather strong terms. His "take it or leave it" attitude respecting the jail was NOT viewed very well by many of the attendees because jobs would be lost here.

Interestingly, it seemed to me that most people there did not make the connnection between Dwight's warning on the jail as the warning re the DRIC road opposition. Can you imagine if the Province and Feds pulled out!

Dwight was absolutely slammed and mocked over his Facebook page above. Whoever dreamed up that ought to get a lesson in local politics in a City with the highest unemployment rate in Canada.

DUH!!!! Dwight, we can get through all of this, whatever "this" is, without thinking very hard in the most obvious way possible.

You would think that the Minister of Finance would know the answer without having to ask constituents:

DWIGHT, DO THE DEAL!

Gee, I bet that was a shocker to you, dear reader.

However, we ought not to be too critical of Dwight since he is doing something new according to the Toronto Star. He has other more important things on his mind. He is learning how to grovel for us:


I think Dwight knows he has real financial problems building the DRIC road through a P3 deal. Perhaps once he knows he actually has money from overseas that he can use to finance the road (as was done in BC with the Port Mann Bridge) considering the economic collapse that destroyed the P3 market, we will see some action. Not until then in my opinion. After all, that was never contemplated in his Gong Show promise to have money starting to come in here in in 2010.

And do not be surprised if the first Provincial road action is the expansion of E C Row which Eddie will support to help out his transportation hub dream/vision. That will save some big bucks too for the have-not Ontario.

We'll know soon what will happen when the Minister of the Environment makes his decision and decides how long he will stall this off to help out his Cabinet colleague.