Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 04, 2009

The #1 Election Issue: The Ambassador Bridge

Am I right on this? The proof will be in the pudding.

Michael Ignatieff just made the Ambassador Bridge the key issue in the election campaign believe it or not. It will be interesting to see how the Conservatives react because it brings the credibility of Stephen Harper as a leader right to the front.

All this talk about an election. It ain't necessarily so.

Has everyone forgotten the Opposition alliance that almost brought the Conservatives down. There is no reason that a defeat of the Government automatically means a new election. The Governor-General could ask IGGY to form a Government with the support of the Oposition parties as could have happened before.

But let us assume that there will be an election. How does the Ambassador Bridge fit into it?

I read this comment by IGGY in a CTV news article:
  • "Ignatieff said a Liberal government under his leadership would re-focus the government's stimulus spending to promote exports and open border crossings."

I had no idea what it meant.

Then by a fluke, I was up early watching TV and saw a press conference of his. The language he used was very similar to something he said a few weeks earlier that was very clear:

  • "Politics Liberal leader says Ottawa's spending to help the economy doesn't appear to be focused

    SAINT JOHN - If the Liberals were leading the country, stimulus money would be spent in a more focused way, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told a Saint John Board of Trade luncheon on Thursday.

    "It means Atlantic Gateway, Pacific Gateway and border crossings in between because that is what we have to enhance to become more productive and more competitive," he said.

    Canada has a $50-billion deficit, the worst unemployment in years and energy projects are on pause, including the proposed second refinery for Saint John because of energy prices, Ignatieff said.

    "We've got stimulus spending because the Liberals forced the government to get into stimulus spending," he said.

    However, the spending by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government doesn't appear to be focused, Ignatieff said, quoting Winston Churchill, who was once asked what he thought of the dessert he was served.

    "This pudding lacks a theme," Churchill is reported to have said.

    Those same words could be applied to the way stimulus money is being spent, Ignatieff said.

    "If you have a $50-billion deficit at least you want to get something from it that increases the productivity and competitiveness of our economy long term," he said."

You cannot demand an election by a vote of non-confidence without a reason. Right now, what is Iggy's issue other than he wants to be PM instead of Stephen. So he has to find one. And the best one is the waste of billions of infrastructure dollars without any return on the money.

Iggy was asked by a reporter how he could attack Harper for spending money yet also advocate spending money. His answer was along these pudding lines from one of his speeches:

  • "Second, we demanded straight answers about job creation and infrastructure stimulus.

    Rather than answer, Stephen Harper spent the summer trying to hide his failure to create jobs—re-announcing projects that should have been underway months ago.

    In fact, only two hundred of the twelve hundred infrastructure projects that the Conservatives announced in Ontario have actually received the funding they were promised. Only Stephen Harper could count that as being 80% underway.

The Liberal theme will be yes, we will spend infrastructure money but unlike the Conservatives we will spend it in a focused manner to create jobs now by increasing "the productivity and competitiveness of our economy long term."

A symbol of that inaction by the Government and lack of planning for the future will be our border crossing. The Conservatives took it over from the Liberals years ago it will be said but what have they done in all of their years in power will be the cry! Nothing, Nada, Zilch will be the answer.

Remember how I criticized Dwight the other day and suggested a course of action for him. I was serious:

  • "Why would Dwight Duncan mouth off about the DRIC bridge, something of which the Provincial Government has NO jurisdictional authority and something about which the Feds told the Province earlier to buzz off?

    If Dwight wanted to say something, he should have acted as a good Liberal. He supported IGGY didn't he. He should have attacked Harper for failing on the border as evidenced by the fact that he was snubbed by President Obama. He should have condemned Harper for failing as well in not being able to get the President to end protectionism against Provincial companies who are desperate for business.

    If he really had big kahoonas, he should have demanded as our local MPP that the Feds and Province build the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge to prevent 20 years of litigation and tell the Feds to work on a resolution with the Bridge Company already! We need the jobs now."

Ignatieff is not dumb. He knows enough Obama Adminsitration people as friends. He knows that they would prefer to deal with him rather than Harper as PM. He knows they are NOT going to let Canada wipe out the Bridge Company so Canada can control the border crossings. He knows that the Americans are looking south and ignoring Canada. He knows all about NAFTA-gate.

His smartest move is to use the Ambassador Bridge as a symbol of Harper neglect of the border, our economy and our long-term. To do so, he needs to work out a solution that he and Matty Moroun can live with ASAP.

Interestingly, the Liberal Seantors understood very well what the Government was doing in their hearings on Bill C-3 and did not like it as was made clear in the Senate Observations. No wonder Harper wants to get rid of the Senate!

Iggy can use their comments to show the Government's poor excuse for border management over the years and the complete change in the Government's position on how to deal with the Bridge Company that forced litigation.

What does this mean for Stephen Harper who is THE person in charge of the Central Canada border crossings. He too needs to do a deal with Moroun now in a way that makes sense from the perspective of both sides. He cannot afford to be the PM responsible for decades of litigation over the crossing AND a bad relationship with the US.

There is so much involved in the border file that is ugly and will be shocking once it comes out. Perhaps I will not have to wait for cross-examinations in border litigation to hear the truth. One never knows how the border file will play itself out now that IGGY has out it front and centre.

Perhaps now the National media will wake up to a national tragedy that we in Windsor have been living for years.

PS. Will Stephen read my BLOG and finally decide to make peace with Matty here? He is taking IGGY on respecting the other border crossings:

  • "Harper, continuing a week of spending announcements, cast himself as the only leader who cares a whit about the economy.

    He announced new money for border crossings and bridges in the Sarnia and Niagara regions, insisting the bricks-and-mortar spending was more than just short-term job creation projects.

    "It is more fundamentally about where we are headed as a country," Harper said. Upgraded infrastructure will "lay the groundwork for Canada's long-term future economic prosperity," he said, adding an election now could derail a fragile recovery."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Did You Miss This

Here are some stories, the significance of which may be more important than you think


Oh boy, CUPE members ought to be very careful if anyone suggests linking up with CAW. Nothing like a PR failure to make the Mayor look good or was it planned to do so.

Remember Marty Beneteau saying:
  • "Agree with them or not, the CAW has been led by a succession of master communicators beginning with Bob White..."

Well here is a great communication that does not show Labour's genius:

  • "Mayor banned from parade

    Francis, council not welcome at Labour Day events

    Mayor Eddie Francis and city councillors have been told to stay away from this year's Labour Day parade and events, labour council president Gary Parent said Thursday.

    Parent said the move is in response to the mayor's conduct during the 15-week strike by 1,800 municipal employees, members of CUPE locals 543 and 82."
Yes I know that Gary is Windsor & District Labour Council President but where did he work before he retired: as CAW Local 444 financial secretary.

Instead of letting the Mayor and certain Councillors chicken out by not attending or letting them hear the negative reaction of the crowd when they were seen in the parade, the Labour Council President made them martyrs of the City strike and just made Eddie look like the tough anti-union fighter he was not.

Parent allowed Eddie to breathe a sigh of relief as he said
  • "But the mayor said he will abide by the request.

    "It's their parade," Francis said. "Gary Parent, I'm sure, doesn't want me there and I will respect that."

Too bad Labour does not have an Eminence Grise on their side. If they had, there never would have been another blackeye that the anti-union members of the public can enjoy like:

  • "Labour Day parade hits wrong note with musicians' union"


  • "Fearful that political staffers are severely diluting Canada's foreign policy through alterations to policy language, senior Foreign Affairs officials have begun pushing back against their political masters.

    Simmering internal tensions over language changes were first discovered by Embassy in recent weeks, but newly leaked documents indicate that senior departmental officials have had enough...

    "Multiple times documents will go up and changes will be made, sometimes factual ones, and they'll be changed back at the political level," said the DFAIT insider. "One of the reasons for the email you're seeing is the bureaucracy is saying 'We've got to get ahead of this curve because we're getting hammered every time we send documents up and they come back.'"

    The insider situated this confrontation in the context of the unprecedented message control thirsted for by the prime minister, who has decreed that ambassadors cannot speak publicly without first getting their message approved by Conservative spin doctors.

    "None of our ambassadors are allowed to speak unless comments go through [the Prime Minister's Office]," the source said. "And the reason for that is because ambassadors are inclined to speak within the context of decades of Canadian foreign policy and because the government doesn't agree with some or much of that approach, they want to vet everything."

He may have and this could be tragic for our relations with the US

  • "...while Doer and Harper have always seen eye-to-eye on free-trade issues, Doer may have a harder time compromising his personal views when it comes to the environment and the military...

The ambassador-designate, however, made it clear he knows who's boss.

  • "I'm working for the Canadian prime minister, the Canadian people and the Canadian foreign minister," he said."

I am sure you noticed who was Number One on the list


One of the big knocks in Canada about the Bridge Company is that it is private and American-owned. Isn't that why we want a public bridge?

Somehow, if it "owned" by the Government it is better. Correct? Mind you, I have Blogged in the past what our traffic guru Sam Schwartz has said about bridge disasters and the problems of public ownership. Those comments were made in other cities, not Windsor.

However, we are being conned. We are told we should favour our new DRIC bridge and DRIC road being structured as a P3, a public/private partnership.

No one seems to want to explain that for a period of anywhere from 30-99 years, these projects will effectivly be run by a private operator in a lease or concession deal with the Governments effectively washing their hands of it unless something goes wrong.

Just think, instead of the Bridge Company who made our border crossing #1, our key border point could be run by a consortium made up one of these leading foreign entities who will be making a private profit. Can anyone explain to me the real difference:

Grupo ACS--Spaim
Transurban Group--Australia

And we will have accomplished what? Remember what happened with the Tunnel too when Windsor took it over.


There may be another reason why some want a new P3 DRIC project in Canada and the US that has not been publicized much.

It looks like poor old Mark Butler, the spokesperson for Transport Canada on the DRIC file, may have been infected by Sean O'Dell's traffic projection disease:

As he said in Macleans

  • "Butler counters that the project has been planned for five years, and all the relevant parties are on board, including the governments of Canada, the U.S., Michigan and Ontario.

    “All indications are that there will be sufficient traffic to make it worthwhile for a private investor."

So why hasn't the Government of Canada made public its several secret investment grade traffic surveys if thing are so rosy?

Traffic projection accuracy has never been a hallmark of the DRIC experts and politicians keep changing the rationale for DRIC from doubling of traffic today to we need to build for tomorrow.

Anyway. let us not be too cruel. Traffic projections have failed in other locations as well as this story shows:

  • "DRIVING through Sydney's Cross City Tunnel is a majestic experience..

    The consortium that slapped this deal together was banking on daily traffic of 90,000 by the end of the ramp-up period in 2006, whereas the actual traffic numbers barely surpassed one-third of that...

    ConnectEast built the EastLink Mitcham to Frankston toll road in Melbourne, whose forecasts have also proven fanciful and whose financial future hangs in the balance. And the Lane Cove Tunnel too, for that matter, whose equity has vanished and whose traffic volume projections were also inflated...

    It has become increasingly clear that the traffic projections for most toll roads have been built around the financial model, not vice versa as it should be. And that financial model was structured in such a way as to ''upfront'' or bring forward the project cashflows so the bankers and all their hangers-on could pocket billions of dollars in fees before even a cent was earned in tolls...

    To this day, the project operators and the Queensland, NSW and Victorian state governments continue to hide financial information. Not one has even produced an oil price assumption for public purview. And these are supposed to be public concessions, struck in the public interest."

Oh no. What a big surprise..........the money boys make a ton of money and who cares if the project eventually goes bust! Only the taxpayers who have to pay the bill but they do not matter.

What Eddie Did Not Tell Bing

It's a shame that the Windsor Star and other media outlets are not covering certain aftermath strike events. It would have been so helpful for Detroit's Mayor Bing to ask Eddie about them when he met with him if he had known about them in advance:
  • "Dave Bing and his border buddy, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, swapped hellos for the first time Monday. Topic A: How to handle a strike, Francis told told the Windsor Star.

    "I shared with him about our (15-week) strike and similar issues we are facing," Francis told the Star. "It was a whole discussion around resources and what both cities are facing."

    Bing's interest isn't academic. AFSCME Local 207 workers are rallying Wednesday to stoke the fires for a work stoppage over Bing's 10 percent pay cut plans and concession demands."

Let's take a look at certain issues that must have been covered in Eddie's comprehensive strike manual but which may have fallen through the cracks:


A continuation of the problem I told you about before with cheques not being prepared

  • From: [Name of person]
    Sent: Wed 9/2/2009 10:41 AM
    Subject: Info

    Since printing the main run, data room staff have printed more than 6000 cheques and DBD's. However, there are still many files on hold. Numerous calls continue to come into the department. At one point yesterday Chloe had 45 callers sitting in the que waiting to have their phone calls answered. Intro staff serviced 633 people yesterday. I would ask that everyone continue to make their best effort to answer all incoming calls as this will reduce our office traffic and the number of people calling more than one time.

    Also I would ask that any staff dropping off a CDF for any type of cheque direction, just leave the form in the slot in the data room door. Data room staff are extremely busy today and we need to remove all interuptions.


  • From: [Name of Person
    Sent: Tue 9/1/2009 9:08 AM
    To: [Name of People]

    Subject: FW: lobby traffic/coverage

    Please be advised that you may be called upon to provide coverage on the first floor today if traffic in the lobby becomes excessive/unmanageable as it did yesterday. thank you.

  • From: [Name of Person]
    Sent: Wed 9/2/2009 9:18 AM
    To: [Name of People]

    Subject: RE: lobby traffic/coverage

    Again today, please be advised that you may be called upon to provide coverage on the first floor today if traffic in the lobby becomes excessive/unmanageable as it did yesterday. thank you.

I wonder if Mayor Bing would want to know that on Tuesday afternoon there were so many calls coming in that all you could get was a busy signal for 3 hours. Women with their children waiting around for hours for attention.


I did not hear Dev Tyagi mention this fact as a reason why the garbage pickups might be behind schedule: almost 20 per cent of the workers had received suspensions!

I am told that 4 were suspended for one week each and 1 for 2 weeks. I have no idea what the reasons were but the penalties seem rather severe unless something significant happened. In any event, grievances have been filed.

If I acted for the workers, I would certainly demand to see the entire City file on this matter to see who on management's side was involved and what the file said.

[Note see below for more info]


I cannot do it all. I am merely a single, lonely Blogger. I'll let the traditional media do some work.

Go ask around about what happened at the marriage licence office. I heard there may have been some problems there.


Here is part of a note I received.
  • "There were actually 5 suspensions handed out three for one week, one for one and a half weeks, and one for 2 weeks. The reason for the suspensions is because direct orders were not followed. The suspensions have not been served yet, they are being grieved. The meeting between the union and the city is in about two weeks regarding this matter.

    The suspension were given because the employees were told to go back to their previous days route, and they refused, and proceeded to their current days route. There were spares at the time picking up the back log.

    The first day the workers returned to work there was a meeting for return to work procedures and in that there was no mention returning the following day to complete the route."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Can Gary Doer It In DC

The surprise departure of Canadian Ambassador to the US Michael Wilson and the even more surprising appointment of former NDP Premier Gary Doer just continue to vindicate my position that the Conservative strategy in dealing with the US has been an utter failure.

Hopefully, there will be time to salvage matters with a new Washington face for Canada provided that there is also a change in Government policy as well. If not, we better hope that IGGY wins next time around since he at least knows people and has friends within the Obama Administration who may take pity on this country.

As you know, I use the Ambassador Bridge situation to demonstrate that Canada failed in its US dealings. Instead of working with the Bridge Company, the Canadians tried to crush its owner. It was not a smart thing to do when the owner is American and an important entry and exit to the US is concerned. Especially after the Dubai ports lesson which our Canadian Embassy in Washington seemed to ignore or about which their Ottawa masters chose to be blind.

That Wilson lasted so long is a shock to me. Whether he was directly involved or not, he should have "retired" right after NAFTA-gate. It happened under his watch. He should have been gone at the latest after the Presidential Inaugural Balls in January.

He failed in almost as many key areas as our Mayor culminating in the Three Amigos snub. We have protectionism that we can do nothing about, a thickening border, passport requirements killing tourism, Drones flying overhead, repudiation of the "bi-lateral" approach to dealing with the US and no shared border management.

Interestingly, the Times of London had a column about the US/British relationship just the other day:
  • "Special Relationship. Passed away 2009. R.I.P.

When will a Globe and Mail columnist do a similar story on Canada if our idiotic US policy continues as it has been going!

Does anyone lay it at the feet of the Ambassador....Nawwww, we make excuses for him as he rides into the sunset:

  • "Michael Wilson was seen as the right man to be the face of Canada to the George W. Bush administration – conservative, patrician, with two feet in the business community and the ear of the prime minister...

    Canadian academics who study the cross-border relationship said he had the wrong optics for Canada's diplomacy with the new team in the White House and Congress.

    He was too conservative. Too old. Maybe no longer with the ear of the prime minister.

    And possibly tainted by allegations that he leaked confidential remarks made by a staff member of Barack Obama's presidential election team concerning the North American Free Trade Agreement."

  • Axworthy said Canada’s diplomatic presence in the U.S. has not kept pace with Canadian activities in that country.

    "No criticism of (current ambassador) Mike Wilson, but for three years he was having to gear to the peculiarities of the Bush admininistration and it’s tough to shift gears"

DUH...did it take this long for Stephen to figure out the obvious, or was he listening to certain Carleton University professors and hangers on for too long!

The suddenness of it all suggests that Wilson was pushed out, given no option but to go. But that is not to be spoken about in polite company either. Instead we allow him to hold an interview and statements are made like the following since we cannot afford to have the Americans know that our Government screwed up:

  • "he made clear in an interview Friday that it was his decision to step down as ambassador to Washington...

    Mr. Wilson, 71, said he had decided he could not give a commitment to stay on for the duration of Mr. Obama's first term and so decided it was time to go...

    The job itself, he said, was demanding – with the norm being days that began at 8:30 in the morning and finished at 9:30 at night."

  • "Michael Wilson says he's stepping down as Canada's ambassador to the United States because he doesn't want to spend several more years in an often gruelling diplomatic post.

    "It's a pretty intense job," the 71-year-old Wilson, who served as ambassador since 2006, said Friday in an interview.

    "The hours are long - a normal day is 8:30 til 6:30 or 7, then you had the dinners that are two, three, four nights a week, and those are business dinners, not casual affairs. I wasn't prepared to give another four years at that level of intensity..."

    "But I know he didn't want to be here forever. His wife, in particular, wanted to be with the grandkids and be home in Ontario..."

  • "Wilson said he told the PMO in the spring that after overseeing the transition period of a new administration, he would be ready to step aside.

    "I wanted to make sure that we got through this transition," Wilson said. "I thought now is the time, the continuity is there between the two administrations ... now's the time for change."

  • he stressed that the decision to step down as Canada’s envoy was initiated by himself and not the prime minister’s office...

    In an interview Friday, Wilson said he believed Ottawa needed an ambassador who would remain in Washington for the duration of the first Obama administration – a renewed commitment he wasn’t prepared to make after spending three and a half years in the job.

    "All good things come to an end. And I have, I must say, some mixed feelings leaving," said Wilson, 71, who was appointed Canada’s envoy in February 2006.

    "I really had a terrific time being there and yet I felt that the time had come when the prime minister should have someone that he could see in there for at least the duration of the first mandate, first term of President Obama," said Wilson, who was vacationing Friday in Ontario. "I couldn’t do that, so I felt the time had come for him to make a change."

Of course we learned from the American Associated Press something slightly different:

  • "Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday appointed Manitoba Premier Gary Doer as ambassador-designate of Canada to Washington...

    Former Conservative finance minister Michael Wilson, the current U.S. envoy, had given no indication he was leaving the post.

    Doer, 61, who currently is Canada's longest serving provincial premier, made an unexpected announcement Thursday that he would be stepping down from the top job in the central Canadian province after a decade in office."

And then Canadian Press told us

  • "The Prime Minister's Office announced Wilson's resignation Friday in a curious fashion: in an itinerary for Prime Minister Stephen Harper that described a meeting with "the new Ambassador-designate of Canada to the United States of America."

Why was Mr. Doer appointed. Not because of his terrific US skills and background no matter how it is played. Forget this justification because it is inconsequential:

  • "his years of work with various U.S. political groups, including governors’ associations, the North American SuperCorridor Coalition, and the Western Climate Initiative."

The appointment of Conservative Senators was clearly blunted by taking on a member of the NDP in this key job.

What lessons would I give the new Ambassador (and to help keep me at the top of the list to be appointed Senator Blogmeister)

  • Stay as it is claimed you are: pragmatic and "seldom driven by strict ideology..." "he doesn't stand behind rigid ideology - which is why he's been successful."

  • Keep remembering your comment "The old left-right jargon I believe is out of date and out of touch with the public"

  • Be careful in having to live up to the remarks of the PM "The prime minister said Doer has "always been an advocate of good and assertive relations with the United States." Yes, threatening US Presidents with an oil or electricty embargo worked wonders

  • You have a lot in common with successful US entrepeneurs but in your area of expertise. Use that to your advantage: "he was a guard at a youth jail in Winnipeg and head of the Manitoba Government Employees Union.

    He served as a cabinet minister in the government of Howard Pawley from 1986 until Pawley's 1988 election defeat. Doer subsequently won the party leadership.

    He led the party from the opposition benches for 11 years, before winning the first of three consecutive majority governments in 1999.

  • DO NOT LISTEN TO THE CARLETON BUNCH NO MATTER HOW HARD THEY FLATTER YOU. THEIR APPROACH TO DEALING WITH THE US FAILED: "In selecting Mr. Doer, he said, Mr. Harper is “sending a very strong message that we're onside, not offside.”

    “Doer obviously has a good personal relationship with the Prime Minister … and Americans will know he's someone who can pick up the phone and call the Prime Minister,” Mr. Hampson [director of Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and well-connected to the upper reaches of Stephen Harper's government] said. “In some ways, you can say that by appointing Doer, Harper is saying that our own partisan politics stop at the Canada-U.S. border. This is … a stunning appointment, but it's also a cunning appointment.”

Oh, and back to our border extravaganza, give Matty a call Mr. Ambassador. You don't have to wait until the next Mackinac Policy Conference to deal with the border matter.

Two self-made and pragamatic men unencumbered with policy wonks' ideological baggage who can maintain good relations ought to be able to work out a reasonably acceptable way for Canada and the Bridge Company to work together and end the possibility of lawsuits.

Finally, An Eddie Is Our Hero Column

Geez, mini-Gord did not understand that the $34M Brighton Beach deal had to be praised to the high heavens not portrayed as a mere fair deal that anyone could have done. If you are going to praise a "lawyer" for the negotiations, you don't heap accolades on the hired gun but on the Big Guy himself.

And his slam on Greenlink and the pro-DRIC road diatribe, preposterous!

It is NOT enough to say this:

  • "By threatening to run for a third term, Mayor Eddie Francis is trying to cool the premature election fever gripping some Windsor councillors.

    It won't work: the next municipal race in this town is going to be a doozy, no matter what Francis does. We're talking clowns, freaks, animals, the works."

For heaven's sake, doesn't he understand yet that he has the power to make it happen! That's why he writes on Gord's old days.

If you are going to take over the reins, then learn your lesson as Anne Jarvis clearly did as her story on Matty Moroun demonstrates.

It took Gord to show him how it's done with his Saturday column:

  • "City leaders move border plan forward"

You see, it is designed to infuriate people and it did. I do not really care what Gord writes. That is what he gets paid for. But when he re-writes history to convince people to support the plans of a failed Mayor and Council, that bothers me.

Interestingly, it will be amusing to watch Gord turn himself inside out when Eddie concedes after "tweaking" the unconscionable DRIC road that we all know will not be built anyway since the costs will be astronomical. How will he support any non-Greenlink solution? He has painted himself and the Mayor into a corner. However, the theory is that all will be forgiven anyway and forgotten supposedly when the ribbon is cut for the project to start.

I am just dumbfounded by the audacity. It was bad enough for Eddie to claim that he turned the $300M BIF money into a $1.6B road when the monies came from totally separate and distinct funds set up for completely different purposes. However, for Gord to have the nerve to say that $5.7M in consulting and legal fees made us the billion plus is outrageous! Just admit it was a waste and Eddie's neck was saved by the Brighton Beach overpayment. It is not that hard to do.

Those millions effectively to re-imburse the City Treasury for fees paid are to me the clearest indication that what Gord praises Eddie for---the magnificent fight over the years--was nothing more than a stall tactic. The tactic failed because Matty Moroun was not going to be terrorized by Government action at all levels into selling out cheaply: the Feds with the Bridge, the Province with the road and the City with their social concerns in which Planning techniques were used to Sandwich's and the West End's detriment.

The Schwartz Report gave it all away. It was the Governmental blueprint in public. Eddie would have been the hero if it had happened since supposedly he was predicting in advance what would happen. But it did not.

Just consider the co-ordination involved. Each Government, within their constitutional authority, had their role to play. So do not tell me that it was not planned out well in advance.

Want more proof about the leisurely Bi-national and DRIC process and the time wasted to Windsor's detriment, years that Gord ignores. Here is what I wrote in November, 2004:

  • "Can one believe what the Partnership has said about their work to date:

    During the Planning/Need and Feasibility Study (P/NF) some preliminary corridors were identified, in order to confirm that feasible alternatives exist. These corridors were developed based on technical and environmental objectives to avoid the most sensitive/significant features (environmental, natural, social, economic, cultural) to the greatest extent possible, and to be of sufficient width to accommodate various route alignments.

    The corridors presented at the Public Information Open Houses in June 2003, and in the P/NF Study have no official status at this time."

    The P/NF Study was not conducted within the formal environmental study processes of Canada and the U.S., and therefore the corridors presented in the P/NF Study have no official status at this time."

    In other words, all this time and money to confirm the five corridors that private industry has already identified with conclusions that cannot be used in the environmental process."

Go ahead, ask the consultants as well why they did not use the speedy process Oked by the Ontario Court of Appeal for the EA process.

Why else would one side fund the lawyers and consultants of the other side who supposedly were attacking them. Perhaps Gord can explain that seeming logical inconsistency.

Gord's real nerve is giving credit where it is NOT due. Mayor Francis and other Councillors, especially the virtually invisible on the border Councillor Brister, were elected because of the efforts of STOPDRTP and the great support provided by Windsorites. It was our grassroots citizens movement that gave Eddie the boost that he needed to beat out Bill Marra by a few percentage points, hardly a smashing victory.

It was STOPDRTP not City politicans who forced the Senior Level MPs and MPPs to listen to the people. They got religion because we forced it on them. Even the mighty Windsor Star was forced to drop its support of DRTP recognizing

  • "South Windsor residents have been so vociferous in their opposition to a plan that would plop trucks and a massive Canada-U.S. customs plaza in their back yards that no Windsor politician-at any level-can hope to be elected if he or she backs DRTP."

It is so long ago that I am sure that you have forgotten certain events. Here is what we the citizens gave our politicians years ago that they squandered. The border matter could have been resolved a long time ago:

  • "Where was the demand that the Prime Minister, the Premier, the US Ambassador keep their guarantees that Windsorites would determine the final answer and not have something imposed on us."
  • "U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci says Washington wants quick approval of a new border crossing between Windsor and Detroit and suggested the U.S. is prepared to split the cost."
  • "[There] is no doubt that the crossing here is the single most important crossing in Canada. And it is the priority… we are not going to do this unless it really conforms to what the people of the city want. So, now we've done this, now it's a question of determining what exactly, how, the city wants to see us do it. This is not going to be imposed. That is an absolute guarantee. This is not going to be imposed." PRIME MINISTER PAUL MARTIN
  • "The onus should be on Windsor to find solutions to resolve the border truck traffic crisis prior to provincial and federal governments stepping in…, I don't think anybody wants to force something on this community," said Cellucci of Windsor's truck problems. "It's important the community be involved in the solution and to reach a consensus first." U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Paul Cellucci."

And this power earned and granted by citizens was squandered very quickly too, right after the first Schwartz Report. From a January, 2005 Newsletter, our Group's President pointed out:

  • "It finally hit us---Sam and Mayor Francis, in his talk later on stage, effectively conceded that the Bi-National was going to be around for many more years. That’s why Sam had to spend half of his talk telling us about his plans for the "short-term." In fact, Mayor Francis said in an interview on Detroit television subsequently that the Bi-national Partnership makes the final decision on the border crossing. It doesn’t!

    Why did they disappoint us? Simple. The Deputy PM and Federal Transport Minister have said that they "respect" the Bi-national process, are "committed" to it but will help "expedite" it. That is a euphemism for inaction for many years more on the most important border crossing in North America!"

Eddie had given in. He had given up. To me it was unbelievable. I guess Gord forgot this too.

Remember the Phase I agreement amongst the Governments which was to show good faith did NOT deal with the Bridge and road issue just the Tunnel...Phase II was never signed since no agreement could ever be reached.

Squandered opportunitites are what we received for so many years from this Mayor and Council and Gord wants us to praise them.

Almost a year passed before the Schwartz Report came out. When Sam gave his talk, the emphasis for another year was on the Horseshoe Road, a short-term solution not the long-term, that the Feds finally killed with another consultant's report.

  • "I don’t remember electing a Mayor and Council to develop a short-term solution. The Bridge Company did that for us already with the opening of new Customs booths. I thought we were spending all of our hard-earned taxes to hire a consultant to come up with the final answer that Windsor would demand the Senior Levels carry out...

    If only Sam had stopped his Presentation after the first intermission...

    I do NOT want to waste any more time talking about the short-term. NOR SHOULD WINDSOR. We must stop focusing on the shortterm. We cannot wait. We must solve our problems now...

    Rallying support for a short-term solution is not Thinking Big but supporting mediocrity. It means that Windsor has given up. That is unacceptable to me. I have not fought this battle to wait for the future."

Then we had the saga of full tunneling for a year with NO compromise allowed, the areas of mass destruction, then a compromised Greenlink solution in all of its various generations. And we are still fighting over it with the judicial review threats still hanging out there since we are told that nothing significant will be done until 2011 now. That fits perfectly into the two-year delayed so far DRIC bridge.

Stall, delay, inaction as Windsor suffers. Praiseworthy indeed Gord?

Sure Eddie deserves some credit for negotiating. Undoubtedly he got some more for us but that could have been gained years ago too and perhaps even more. Frankly, even if there are a few face-saving DRIC road "tweaks" to save Eddie's career, was it worthwhile stalling the process while Windsor is burning?

We do not know the true story yet. You know my belief---the Governments are working together to beat the Bridge Company and any arguments amongst them are nothing more than who takes over how much of East Europe! I almost hope that there are massive lawsuits so that the truth will be uncovered in cross-examinations before a judge even if it takes a decade.

There would have been gratitude by Windsorites, and I would not have needed to start a BLOG, if the Mayor and Council had negotiated a deal years ago for our benefit. The City is so divided now over the border file that the Mayor can hardly say with a straight face that there is any common point of view other than get the damn thing done already.

Gord needs to stop calling people names. I know it diverts attention away from the real culprits. He needs instead to start pointing the finger of blame where it belongs. All of us gave Eddie and Council the power they needed when they were first elected. They have never taken us into their confidence other than as pawns in the big game to be used for their agenda.

Think of how this City could be prospering even in this poor economic climate if the work on the new DRIC road and the Enhancement Project bridge had already started. We would be at full employment now NOT the City with the highest unemployment rate in Canada. We would be moving already into our new economy NOT waiting still for a new Undevelopment Commission CEO to be hired.

Excuse my language but this is just so much crap designed to enhance Eddie's image as he prepares to run again:

  • "Francis, who'll sit down with provincial ministers Sandra Pupatello and Dwight Duncan in a couple of weeks, knows the fight is nearing a climax. But he's also been told by Duncan that there's some room to manoeuvre. There's still money on the table and a last-ditch opportunity to enhance the Parkway.

    "The crack of the door is open. But some are saying don't walk through that crack. That just blows me away," said Francis. He said the province "knows what we are capable of and what our options are. But why would I threaten them when they're prepared to sit down and talk? I'd rather negotiate than litigate. I want to hear what they have to say."

Why bother? The fight was over long ago. They have already met in secret before without Council. They know what each side wants and how far they can go. Eddie is crying wolf again. Who can take him seriously!

It would not surprise me to see Eddie litigate if the Senior Levels needed more time. As our hero, he can stand up to them as the sycophants claim he did with CUPE. Applause, applause.

Ms Jarvis gave us the rationale to be used too:

  • "And there is time. Negotiating adjustments doesn't have to delay construction and much-needed jobs...

    But construction of the actual parkway won't start until 2011. The request for proposals to design and build the route hasn't been issued yet. The federal government hasn't approved the plan. Nothing can happen until the U.S. and Michigan governments also approve it. It's not as if this will start tomorrow if only Francis and city council would shove off."

The story is not over yet. So keep your seatbelt buckled for the ups and downs. And expect Gord to keep on writing this kind of stuff. After all loyal columnists, we have a career to salvage!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Don't Leave Home Without Greenlink

Seriously, how much time wasted and how many credit card, air and hotel points have been earned by City Hall people and their consultants flogging Greenlink rather than trying to figure out how to work with the Province? Do the travel rewards belong to them personally for use by them for their private purposes or do they go to City Hall to be used for City business in the future? After all, City taxpayers pay the shot!

Thanks to Gord Henderson, we learn about more Greenlink travel. Maybe taxpayers will be fortunate and all of the costs will be paid for by the organizers. In any event, a nice perk for those involved: world travel at the expense of someone else.

Gord is such a character. He knows that Bloggers will check up on what he wrote. I know he is egging us on. But what the heck, he is doing me a favour and so I better do as he expects or I won't get any more gems of information from him.

He wrote in a recent Saturday column:
  • "Landmark? Visionary? Exciting? We have that in spades in the GreenLink plan developed by traffic guru Sam Schwartz and the New York-based PB (Parsons Brinckerhoff) engineering and design firm.

    The plan that the McGuinty government and its hired help found unworthy of serious consideration has been basking in the glow of accolades from professionals around the globe.

    In late May, at the World Tunneling Congress in Budapest, attended by thousands of tunnel experts, GreenLink was given its moment in the limelight.

    "This was really a signal honour, coming from the most prestigious underground construction industry forum in the world. It's our all-star game," said Nasri Munfah, PB's tunnelling genius, of the GreenLink presentation that he and city engineer Mark Galvin were invited to make in Budapest. "In general they liked it," said Munfah. "But they kept asking 'how come this is not being implemented?'" It's small consolation, but at least GreenLink will be immortalized in a hardcover book documenting papers delivered at the Congress.

    Intrigued by the Budapest presentation, Singapore officials have invited GreenLink's authors to pitch the plan at the 2nd World Roads Conference to be held in the dynamic Southeast Asian city-state Oct. 26 to 28. Given that the theme of the conference is "Sustainable Urban Transport Development," GreenLink should find a receptive audience."

"In general they liked it"....Oh boy, is that ever an underwhelming statement. Mind you, what did you expect him to say...

  • "PB rep says no one cares about Greenlink."

Could it be the reason this question was asked: "how come this is not being implemented?" is to find out how NOT to do something! Learn from Windsor's mistakes!

You think that I am being cynical. Hardly. Here's the reality that Gord neglected to tell his readers about. Here are the two conferences' details and Greenlink's small role in them.

Budapest: part of one of dozens of seminars given. I wonder what jet-grouting is all about

Their session lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes so that with the other speakers and questions, the 2 Greenlink people got about 15 minutes of fame each I would guess.

Singapore: again, merely one of a number of seminars

Note as well that the talk is amongst the last ones of the conference. There is a golf tournament the next day so many participants will have to decide whether to attend the session or to hit a pail of practice golf balls instead.

PS Did they travel out of YQG or Detroit Metro?

Born Again Tunnel Deal

Don't get too concerned even though Eddie met with Mayor Bing today. Yet.

The noise over the Tunnel is based on this quote from the Detroit News:
  • "But Charlie Beckham, Bing's top aide, said the reality is that the city cannot continue to operate without cuts.

    "Frankly, all our revenue projections have been in the wrong direction," Beckham said. "We are still, quite frankly, in financial crisis. There is no question of that."

    Beckham said bus service will see changes this weekend, but they won't know by how much until Friday, following a series of public hearings. Beckham said in addition to bus cuts and wage concessions, the city is considering a deal involving the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel."

Remember Gord Henderson's words:

  • "How the heck did little old Windsor snatch a blue-chip infrastructure investment opportunity out from under the money- sniffing noses of Canada's major pension fund managers?"

The answer is we did not. The deal stunk as Bloggers in town kept writing. And as shrewd investors knew, the real pros in the business not the Windsor municipal wannabes, from doing a modicum of research.

I am still waiting for my FOI appeal to be decided by the Privacy Commission to find out how much exactly Infrastructure Ontario was prepared to offer on Eddie's dead deal. If they got involved again, clearly the amount offered would be even less based on what Eddie himself says.

Who has the better idea about border crossing valuations? Now we know why Matty Moroun offered less than a third of the amount that Eddie was going to pay: $20M vs $75M! It's his money at risk not taxpayers.

Given what has beeen taking place at the Tunnel with its huge traffic drop, even then that $20M might have been too much for an asset that is so old and may need major renovations over the rest of its life. Considering the ferry service that could take away a huge chunk of the Tunnel's commuter traffic plus the DRIC bridge if it is ever built which is suposed to take away around 25% plus the Ambassaor Bridge competition due to the Gateway project, does the Tunnel have any value at all now?

It would not surprise me to see Eddie try and make a low-ball offer to try and get control of the Tunnel. Or perhaps the Feds, but I doubt that they would have the nerve to do that because it would get the Americans all upset.

If Eddie does it, hold on to your hats taxpayers considering how much in legal and consulting fees have already been paid out:

  • "Circumstances have changed drastically since the tunnel discussions of a year or two ago and any potential deal would have to start from scratch, the mayor said.

    “There has been a significant traffic decline and the economy is vastly different than when the tunnel was first talked about in 2006,” Francis said. Those factors would affect the value of the property."

To be direct, it would not surprise me for someone to make an offer for the Tunnel as an "agent" with a hidden "principal" behind them. It could could be a cheap way to end Tunnel border traffic competition for a new DRIC bridge with a P3 investor who likes monopolies. Force vehicles to pay huge amounts for the Tunnel crossing or use the new DRIC bridge instead!

Again, this is another example of our Mayor being incapable of doing a deal in a timely manner. He claimed at one time that the Tunnel was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is certainly not worth that today. Accordingly, taxpayers lost out on a huge amount of money. If it ever made sense to do a Tunnel deal, then the time to do it was years ago, not now.

Let me give an example using Eddie's and Gord's hero as a mayor: Mayor Daley of Chicago.

When he leased out the Chicago Skyway toll-road, the City received $1.8B. It might be worth a fraction of that amount today after the financial melt-down. And Chicago, the recipient of all that money---wasn't last Monday the day that City Hall closed down to save cash because of their budget mess!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Eddie's Third Term

No one takes Eddie seriously about only running for two terms so why make such a big deal about it.

Why suffer the pressures of being a lawyer and have to work hard for fees or risk one's personal capital as an entrepreneur or be in an organization and be accountable to a boss.

Senior Government positions pay well too and being a Cabinet Minister is heady stuff. But who wants to face Opposition grilling during Question Period or be watched over by a non-fawning media.

Being Mayor of Windsor is a nice job too: big salary, nice benefits, lots of taxpayer paid travel including trips overseas, little accountability and minimal oposition.

Why wouldn't a Councillor want to strive to fill that position?

Just exactly as Eddie did when Mike Hurst was Mayor. I just hope he does not try to pretend that he did not do pre-planning, the stuff over which he attacks Councillors today. He knows better than to say that.

For those of you who do not remember what Eddie said about running for two terms only, here is what he said in his Kick-off speech on Thursday, July 24, 2003 at Riverside Arena:
  • "I said to you earlier that I am not a politician and I am not running for office to be mayor for life. My term in office will be energetic, focused and inclusive. Should I be fortunate to be elected to lead our city, and should I ask the citizens for a second term …….my term is not to exceed two."
But here is something you probably did not remember at all. Was it a precursor for the future, a change of mind so quickly?

Interestingly, in his platform issued subsequently, he did not talk about his Windsor after his two terms. Rather we read:

"What will a new Windsor look like in 10 years?

  • It will be a thriving liveable community with streetscapes that are the envy of other cities.

    It will be a city that looks from the air like a forest, with a green canopy and cleaner air.

    It will be a city that attracts doctors and nurses and other professionals who want to locate here to use the world-class facilities that will have developed out of our satellite medical school, and the technologies developed at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor.

    It will be a vibrant, dynamic, multicultural City with strong and flourishing communities.

    It will have a City government that interacts easily and quickly with its citizens, each of whom will have input into city decisions and into budgeting processes – a government that is accountable for its decisions and for the way it uses your tax dollars.

    It will be a city with healthy financial reserves to fund new capital projects, improved roads and sewers, managed by an administrative group that can track every penny of spending. Windsor will be a high-tech City. Many old buildings and former industrial sites will have been transformed from “Brownfields” into productive 21st century industrial sites, and into new residential areas.

    The automotive industry will produce more cars and trucks from the new assembly plants that have located here, attracted to the modern amenities, high levels of service, easy access to the U.S. market, and municipal tax levels that are more than competitive with other regions. The casino will be doing better than ever with the expanded convention and tourism business attracted by quality facilities, such as the new arena/multipurpose complex.

    Windsor will be a leader in technology and in business, with an unbeatable work-force.

    This is my Vision for Windsor, A Fresh Perspective. I offer you a real plan that can achieve this vision. None of us doubt that Windsor can be all of this and more, provided we begin to act decisively and with a sense of determined purpose. This is the growing, thriving and prosperous Windsor I want to live in, and I invite you to join me in making it happen."

You decide for yourself how much of it has been achieved so far. Obviously 10 years have not gone by but already we can expect that many of the items will never be accomplished based on past experience.

And people should understand better about my attitude to the Mayor after reading this: why I supported Eddie initially and am so critical of his failures now! It is not personal; it is nothing more than based on his failure to achieve what he said he would accomplish to better Windsor! His words, not mine.

However those who decide to run against Eddie ought to hold him to this:


    This is a contract between Eddie Francis, and the people of the City of Windsor.

    I solemnly pledge to enact this plan, as outlined in my policy book entitled “Our Future Starts Today”

Ask about Citistat first!