Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 09, 2009

DRIC Road Stories

OMG...I almost was not able to write this BLOG this morning. I started reading the Star online story about the short-listed companies for bidding on the P3 for the DRIC road and I got faint and very ill.

It was necessary for my wife to call an ambulance who took me quickly to my closest Bank branch so I could transfer my money to a secret Swiss bank account. You see I got a sharp pain in my wallet!

I guess that, like completing the DRIC Bridge by 2013 was a mere target and not a promise since now the time is 2015 or later, the $1.6B cost figure for building the DRIC road was also a lie eeerrrr a target:
  • "While $1.6 billion has been touted for months by DRIC and politicians as a projected cost for the parkway, that number should be thrown out the window, Livingston said.

    "We don't give (bidders) a budget," he said. "We give specifications of what we want to have built. They design to those specifications and put a price on design.

    "Our answer is 'it's going to be, what it's going to be.' We rely on the competitive process to get the best numbers. The presumption is they will fight with each other to come up with the lowest price."

I have to send this line to the MegaProject Danish Professor. He won't believe it. It is good for a chapter in his next book.

My BLOG on the DRIC cost estimates may be true....multi-billions for the cost since the P3 companies will make a huge profit on the deal.

Here are some more thoughts in no particular order:


Isn't that what the Feds are now saying to the Ambassador Bridge Company?

The Feds are trying everything to stop them from building their Enhancement Project Bridge.

My recollection is that, for the Bridge Company, once they get their permits, their bridge will be up in around 30 months. Not the DRIC Bridge:

  • "The government of Canada is anxious to start construction of the new bridge as soon as possible," said Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada.

    "Once we receive all the necessary approvals on both sides of the border and have assembled all the land needed for the new inspection plazas and bridge, we will begin the preliminary design stage.

    "We estimate that the new crossing will be completed in four or five years from start of construction."

48-60 months. Just about double the construction time of the Bridge Company's bridge project. And maybe more slippage from 2015 since Michigan is in no hurry to give approvals it seems.


Given the billion dollar waste, how can anyone in Government have the nerve to make such a stupid comment and so soon after the Auditor General's report:

  • "It may end up as a road to nowhere, but the $1.6-billion Windsor-Essex Parkway is going to be a reality -- and very soon, the president and CEO of Infrastructure Ontario said Thursday.

    Whether a new international bridge in Brighton Beach ever gets built or even if Michigan backs out of the proposed $5-billion border infrastructure effort, construction will start "almost immediately" in Windsor on a new border highway in the Talbot Road-Huron Church Road corridor, said David Livingston.

    "The road is going ahead," he said."

Dwight and Sandra might want to suggest to the Premier that a HUGE audit take place immediately in Infrastructure Ontario projects after an idiotic statement like that.

Ohhhhhhhhhh, there is that wallet pain again.


  • "The specifications for the project will be based on the province's plan, not the city's GreenLink, and there won't be significant alterations, like more tunnelling, Livingston said. It's now out of the politicians' hands.

    "My job is just to get the project going," he said.

Whew, Dwight and Sandra are off the hook now. No meeting with Council is needed to be cross-examined or to justify anything now.


Remember that commercial for the potato chips: "Ruffles have ridges"

What else would you expect Caanda to say

  • "Canadian officials unruffled as Michigan limits DRIC funding

    Canadian officials say they are not concerned about construction delays after the Michigan state legislature decided last week to limit funds for a new Detroit River bridge to US$2.5 million in fiscal 2010...

    "We understand that the legislature has requested MDOT to come back in the new year with additional information," said the ministry's Fausto Natarelli.

    "We extend our support to MDOT on this."

The value of that support plus $2.50 might be enough to buy a bag of Ruffles.


Good column by her except she did not follow through on the only conclusion possible: DRIC is dead.

  • That may be, but this is a joint Canadian and American project. While we're blazing forward, Michigan is not. The state is the lead body for the project on the American side. But legislators there are still wrangling over it, and the treasury doesn't have any money.

  • The Michigan legislature capped funding for a new bridge at $2.5 million in fiscal 2010. Along with federal funding, that provides a grand total of $12.5 million on the American side next year.

  • The state will allow the Detroit River International Crossing team to conduct engineering work and pursue a private partner to help finance the project. But it's not bound to start construction. In other words, for that amount, DRIC can shuffle some paper.

  • Traffic has fallen during the recession, so the question that critics in the legislature will ask is, Do we need a new crossing?

  • The Canadian government, won't begin preliminary design until all the necessary approvals have been received and the land assembled on both sides.

  • Meanwhile, Windsor, which is demanding another kilometre of tunnelling on the parkway to protect neighbourhoods, won't let provincial officials and engineers on city property to conduct surveys.

  • We might not know when there will be a bridge at the end of our new road to nowhere.

Her conclusion was

  • but at least it will be a better road, and building it will create jobs.

Really, after all of those negatives.

What she should have said is that it is time for the Canadian and US governments to sit down with the Bridge Company and arrive at a solution to this mess that everyone can live with or we will be talking about this as the court battles go on for the next decade or two on both sides of the river.


The costs of the DRIC road will be huge no doubt. Multi-billions. So why would all of these world-class companies want to build the DRIC road when companies like Macquarie who also bid and was short-listed are having problems with their toll roads around the world.

Simple....they have little risk and the upside is huge: mega-gigantic profits, a gift from Finance Ministers Dwight Duncan and Jim Flaherty to them:

  • "A winning team will be selected in 2010 to design, build, finance and maintain The Windsor-Essex Parkway, which will be owned and operated by the provincial government and it will not be tolled. "
So we pay for the road, not users. The P3 investors do not have to worry about collecting tolls from users when taxpayers will pay

Ohhhhhhhhhh, that sharp wallet pain again. Call an ambulance for me!

The Province could have gone out and borrowed the money over 25 years at a lower rate but then the P3 investors could not make their obscene profits.

Notice also the period is 25 years now not 30 so the business risk is even less.

  • "The winning bidder will be responsible for maintaining the road for 25 years after construction — a provision to ensure there is no shoddy construction."

And in the 26th year, who pays for the required work as happened with our Tunnel as readers may recall when the City took it over.

Expect as well something like this because money is hard to find these days

  • "The Canadian province of Ontario reached financial close with a Plenary-led consortium on the C$535 million ($454 million) Niagara hospital project on 27 March. The financing is the first for a design-build-finance-maintain concession in the province since the credit crisis hit. It closed by falling back on the resources of domestic lenders and equity providers, and because the province committed a generous slug of progress payments to compensate for weak lender appetite."

Which short-listed organization suspected years ago that the P3 model would be used for building roads in Ontario even if the Government would never charge tolls for vehicles using it?

What an amazing prediction that came through. Even before anyone ever thought of an economic meltdown in the financial markets too.


Not really, they will wind up working with the winning consortium I am certain:
  • "One notable omission from the short list of finalists was a group led in part by local company Coco Paving -- a consortium known as WEP Development Partners also being led by FCC Construction and Obrascon Huarte Lain, both based in Spain.

    Coco Group of Companies was listed as a smaller subcontractor in another bid that did make the finalist list called Windsor Essex Transportation Partners...

    "I guess Coco Paving is the surprise," said Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association. "They have become such a huge organization I thought they might be a natural to be on the short list, but they didn't get selected."


I am sure that you can figure out who I mean since their name was invisible in the news stories.

I suspect though that they are lurking around in the background. Such modesty.

Presidential Permits For DRIC, Again

What a perfect opportunity I was given to remind people about Presidential Permits for our border crossing and DRIC. I had absolutely nothing to do with it, honest, and was shocked to see it in print.

BLOG readers already know that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project does NOT need one but the DRIC Bridge does require a Permit.

My BLOG is getting famous. It was mentioned in the Minutes of a US DRIC meeting recently:

It's pretty clear that DRIC has done little about getting a Permit so far. It's "under development." Now that sounds underwhelming.

I decided to clarify matters and sent off this note to some of the Minutes recipients and to Michigan Legislators. It's too bad that Michigan gave money to MDOT for DRIC in their Budget. After reading this, you may wonder why as I did:

  • "I note the reference to my BLOG, Windsorcityblog in your Minutes and a supposed error that I made.

    So that the recipients of your Minutes understand exactly what I have said about DRIC and the Presidential Permit, I would direct them to my BLOG May 12, 2006 "President Bush's Choice: The Twinned Ambassador Bridge"

    As I stated:

    "It was revealed in a letter sent November 4, 2005 that the President is not prepared to give his concurrence for DRIC’s “central” location for a new bridge.

    The only crossing that makes sense, therefore, is the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge and no Presidential permit is required to do so!...

    [In a closed door session] What did FHWA request: “State Department concurrence in the conclusion that the centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing.” In other words, the President’s designate was being asked to concur in what DRIC was proposing as to the location for the new bridge! Please note the use of the word ONLY!

    Do you see anywhere in that document where such concurrence was given? In bureaucrat-eze, State did not tell FHWA to get lost directly. They did it indirectly. State told FHWA that they would do their job if an application were brought forward but they pointed out a major problem which would NOT allow them to grant the concurrence requested..."

    Nevertheless, what did the four Governments determine on November 14, 2005 as if the meeting was never held and the November 4 letter was never received: “A new crossing in the Central Area accessed via HCR/Talbot Road and the West Windsor Industrial Area will be carried forward for continued analysis.”

    I trust that this clarifies matters."

Almost 4 years ago that State Dept. letter was written. Nothing has changed except a ton of taxpayer money has been spent by the bureaucrats. What a waste of time and money. For what?

Bringing Them Up To Speed

You may wonder why so many people comment so harshly about mini-Gord and Anne Jarvis. It's not really their fault. They are trying.

They are constantly being compared. It is because they have Henderson's big shoes to fill.

Sure we should give them a bit of time to settle in but unfortunately there are too many important issues to be able to afford to them the luxury of learning time so Anne can write about pizzas and mini-Gord can try to discredit his colleague to salvage Edgar (aka Eddie).

Sure Gord can now write about museums and Dave Cooke and the University but they cannot! The poor man has earned the right to coast a bit. He is retired after all. They cannot do so if they want to sell papers after people cancelled their Star subscriptions.

Let me give only one exmple to demonstrate how hard their task is. Check out this DRIC press release about bidders for the DRIC Road:

  • The Windsor-Essex Parkway Project-Builders Shortlisted
    Project Attracts International Industry Interest

    TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ - Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Transportation today announced the companies short-listed to submit proposals to design, build, finance and maintain The Windsor-Essex Parkway.

    Over the past few months, companies from all over the world participated in a rigorous competitive request for qualifications (RFQ) process that reviewed their design, construction, maintenance and financing abilities to deliver a large and complex project, such as the Parkway.

    Following evaluations, five companies met the qualifications criteria and the three highest scoring ones were short-listed for the project. The short-listed companies are:

    - Rose City Parkway Group including:
    - Aecon Concessions is a division of Aecon Construction Group Inc.
    - Fengate Capital
    - Dufferin, a division of Holcim (Canada) Inc.
    - The Miller Group
    - MMM Group Limited
    - Macquarie Capital Group Limited
    - HOCHTIEF PPP Solution North America Inc.
    - Peter Kiewit Sons Co.
    - AECOM Canada Ltd.
    - H.W. Lochner
    - Thurber Engineering Ltd.
    - Applied Research Associates, Inc.
    - RC Spencer Associates Inc.
    - West 8

    - Windsor-Essex Transportation Partners including:
    - Carillion Canada Inc.
    - The Bank of Nova Scotia
    - Stantec Consulting Ltd.
    - PCL
    - Bilfinger Berger Project Investments
    - HSBC Specialist Investments Ltd (HSBC Infrastructure)
    - John Laing Investments Limited (John Laing)
    - Walsh Construction Company, a subsidiary of The Walsh Group, Ltd.
    - Parsons Corporation
    - Trow Associates Inc.

    - Windsor Essex Mobility Group including:
    - Dilion Consulting Limited
    - RBC Dominion Securities Inc.
    - Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras, S. A.
    - Acciona, S.A.
    - Fluor Canada Ltd.
    - Dragados Canada Inc.
    - Acciona Infrastructure Canada, Inc.
    - Hatch Mott MacDonald Ltd.
    - AMEC Earth and Environmental, Ltd.

    These companies are diverse and their team members include many local contractors and businesses - a criteria of the RFQ. In their proposals, the companies demonstrated a strong interest in partnering with local companies and businesses.

    Short-listed bidders will be invited to respond to the request for proposals, which will be released in December 2009. The two remaining pre-qualified companies will be held in reserve to replace any of the short-listed bidders should they be unable to participate. The companies being held in reserve include SNC Lavalin Inc. and WEP Development Partners...

    A winning team will be selected in 2010 to design, build, finance and maintain The Windsor-Essex Parkway, which will be owned and operated by the provincial government and it will not be tolled.

    The Windsor-Essex Parkway is the most significant single highway investment the province has made in Ontario's history and it will provide a major boost to the local and regional economies. The creation of 12,000 project-related jobs, with the majority in the Windsor-Essex area, is anticipated."

Our new columnists will probably comment on what is being done and we may even get a Greenlink column or two out of them.

Gord would not do that. He would merely gloat, and let everyone know it too.

Heck, he predicted exactly what would happen respecting the DRIC Road and who would win. He was bang on. For the parties who are going to lose, well it's their fault. They should have read Gord's words and knew they had no chance.

Naturally he had some help. But then again, no one ever reveals sources do they!

Gord was very generous in throwing out hints to Bloggers too for us to decipher so that we could have fun also.

It's about time already that the Newbies get some sources too and some inside info to give us the good stuff. Perhaps one of them can try and figure out what Gord already knows and write about that.

Here's a hint for them---which party did you not see on the list and why?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A University Column, Now? Why?

Whoa, that was strange timing for Gord's University column last Saturday considering most of the action around the University will take place next year. The President's strategic plan and possible work stoppages as well as revenue issues were described.

What was the purpose of doing it now? Not even a mention about the frat party either and that it was the University President's job to clean up the mess not Edgar's!

Of course, it meant that Gord could ignore the ongoing 400 Building fiasco. I thought he could have written a great column denouncing the politicizing of the Audit Committee and demanding that it be reconstituted. Or consider the fun he could have had with Councillor Marra voting to keep the Dunbar report locked up never to see the light of day.

I was shocked that there was no Junior bashing. Heck, he could have written that column with one eye closed and one hand tied behind his back. That tells me that City Hall is signalling that it wants to keep the rhetoric down, hopefully so that the story will go away and perhaps gives Junior second thoughts about going forward.

It also means that there is an ugly story waiting to come out.

No shots at Spanky and his financial troubles at Queen's Park, no we are close to a deal on Greenlink again, nothing about Pelissier and downtown violence. Just about the University in 2010. Strange.

I read the column a second time and then got it. The column was really all about Dave Cooke. I missed this the first time around:
  • "Cooke won't be around to see it happen. He'll leave the board at the end of December, due to term limits."
That means the man needs a new job soon. And what could be better for an ex-politico coming back to Windsor to live than being Mayor especially when Gord wrote:
  • "I'm all but certain that Francis will pack it in next year."
It's a good paying job especially with all the Chairmanships paying extra. However, there was a big caveat that I think is important and tells me that a so-called good story about Dave really was not one:
  • "But it appears that Marra, in playing dumb games while Windsor is fighting for its life, is trying to goad Francis into sticking around for a 2010 rematch. Now that would be fun."
As I am sure you can guess, dear reader, even with his CUPE bounce which may not last much longer, in order to beat Marra, Edgar (aka Eddie) needs a third candidate to split the anti-Edgar vote. However, he does not want a third candidate who is so strong that he might bump off both him and Marra in a 3-way race.

So while it seems Cooke is being praised for his canny wisdom---"triggered a series of reforms that turned the education system in Ontario on its ear---he is also slammed hard when you really look into what is written. Consider:
  • What did he accomplish as the University's Chair for the last three years other than watching it continue to be an "inward-looking institutions that defend their musty ways with dogged tenacity."

  • He is leaving at a time when major struggles will take place and all he is offering is words not actions

  • What support has he provided to the President as Chair for these battles since he has just made the President's life impossible signalling the programs that are safe and allowing the lobbying to start for "programs [that] might be on the chopping block" even though he admits he is "Quite frankly I'm not competent to do that."

  • His "hang tough" philosophy since there are "difficult choices that should have been made years before Wildeman arrived" makes a mockery of his 9 years on the University Board when those choices were not made

  • Fiscal responsibility when under his watch the University "cannot go on year after year running an operating deficit" and another big strike may take place next year

  • SDR at the Univeristy---hardly when "They're big. They're unwieldy. And they're highly resistant to change."

Do you see what I mean? Henderson came to bury Cooke, not praise him.

First to scare off Marra and now to get Cooke not to run. Maybe we won't see a race after all.


Wait a minute. Was this column written by Gord? Have any of the columns in the last few months been written by Gord? Museum last week, University this week. They can hardly be said to be "hard-hitting views" from the Star's "provocative city columnist."

Someone on the Star may be signalling that Gord may have been abducted, by aliens perhaps. I had suggested that concept before in relation to a Councillor

  • "The Star quoted him in an early story but something happened between then and now. He must have been abducted by aliens. The published Star story did not mention his quotes."

You laugh. Here is my proof. If you go to this web page on the Star, you will see the following:

That column was written in January and can hardly be considered "recent."

Beware. There are strange things going on at the Star as Saturday's big Front Page story suggests followed by mini-Gord's counterattack and Anne's pizza revelation. Perhaps it all has to do with Canwest trying to sell their newspapers for a billion dollars or not selling their papers at all.

We Need A Third Dunbar Legal Opinion

How much is that darn Dunbar audit going to cost us by the time the controversy around it is done?

I have a suggestion. I know that there are copies of it out there. Please oh please, would a person who has a copy, photocopy it, place it in a brown paper envelope and drop it off in my mailbox one dark and stormy night so I can BLOG it! No questions asked.

Is that too much to ask?

My oh my, is Andrew Roman sensitive or did someone make him write that note to the Star to close down discussion because some Toronto lawyer said so. In a rather smarmy tone, he wrote:
  • "I am the evil Toronto lawyer (is there any other kind) who gave the Windsor auditor general a memorandum saying that the Municipal Act requires secrecy with respect to all matters that come to his or her knowledge. That secrecy requirement necessarily includes a draft document prepared by a former internal auditor, Mr. Dunbar. It is amazing how much misinformed controversy has arisen since."

Unfortunately for Mr. Roman I have an opinion from an equally evil Toronto lawyer giving a different and conflicting opinion:

Wait a minute, that opinion is by the same A. Roman who now is taking a completely opposite point of view. That opinion was made in Augusst, 2008 AFTER the Auditor General office was set up. That took place in July, 2008.

Mr. Roman is a smart fellow. He knew the law when he gave that opinion. What changed? Which opinion is right? Which one should be believed? I for one prefer the "release" opinion.

I am afraid that Councillors Marra and Halberstadt who are on the Audit Committee and are Councillors as well must demand that the City obtain an opinion from another evil lawyer telling us which one of Mr. Roman's opinions is correct.

A small point. Mr. Roman is incorrect when he says

  • "The Windsor Star does not release drafts of journalists' stories."

Actually they do. It's called the online Windsor Star! As Monica Wolfson Blogged back in October, 2007

  • "So, please remember, the stories you see online are sometimes our first version of a story. They may contain unintentional errors, which we try to correct quickly. Or they may be a full story. But you won't know the real story unless you read the newspaper."

So if he is wrong on that, is Mr. Roman wrong on other issues?

The new lawyer retained should consider the following:


Mr. Roman makes a big deal about "matters"

  • "What I said in my memorandum was that the Municipal Act, 2001, Section 223.22 (1) states:

    "(1) The Auditor General and every person acting under the instructions of the Auditor General shall preserve secrecy with respect to all matters that come to his or her knowledge in the course of his or her duties under this Part."

    "All matters" means what it says, and is not limited to confidential documents."

Unfortunately the Privacy Commission in a recent decision takes a different view of what "matters" means:

  • “Matters”

    In Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., by Bryan A. Garner (St. Paul, Minn.: West, 2004), “matter” is defined as follows:

    1. A subject under consideration, esp. involving a dispute or litigation; …

    2. Something that is to be tried or proved; an allegation forming the basis of a claim or defense…. (p. 999)

    The following entries from the definition in the Oxford Concise Dictionary, 6th ed., by J.B. Sykes

    (Oxford University Press, 1976) may also be helpful in understanding its meaning:

    3. (Logic) Particular content of proposition, distinguished from its form.

    4. Material for thought or expression” subject of a book speech, etc. …

    7. Affair, thing to be done or considered, esp. of a specified kind….

    From these definitions, I conclude that “matters” appears to include a reference to person’s knowledge of the fact that a particular issue or complaint is under consideration by the Auditor General, and/or the particulars of that complaint, and to ancillary information derived solely in that context. It is a more specific term than “information.” In my view, it does not include information that came to a person’s attention during the course of their everyday work, whether or not that information was later provided to the Auditor General. "


If documents were matters, there would be no need for these sections of the Act:

  • 223.20 (2) The Auditor General is entitled to have free access to all books, accounts, financial records, electronic data processing records, reports, files and all other papers, things or property belonging to or used by the municipality, the local board, the municipally-controlled corporation or the grant recipient, as the case may be, that the Auditor General believes to be necessary to perform his or her duties under this Part.

    223.22 (3) A person required to preserve secrecy under subsection (1) shall not disclose any information or document disclosed to the Auditor General under section 223.20 that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, litigation privilege or settlement privilege unless the person has the consent of each holder of the privilege. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 98.

Presumably other documents can be disclosed.


Mr. Roman states:

  • "There is widespread public confusion between the role of the external auditors, who do a normal audit of the books and records, and the internal auditor general..."

Ummm, who is talking about external auditors? There are
1) external auditors
2) internal auditors and
3) Auditor General

He goes on to say

  • "On that interpretation of the law, if tomorrow the city hired a person with the title auditor general, then, suddenly, everything would become secret. However, if this person resigned two weeks later, suddenly everything would no longer be secret. Or, if they gave the person the tile "chief auditor" rather than "auditor general" the secrecy requirement would never come into force. The legislative requirement of secrecy applies because of the function of the entire internal audit office; it cannot depend upon whether someone has the title "auditor general."

I think he is mixing up concepts. The roles of Auditor General and internal auditor are different.

Unfortunately for him the Act does make a distinction. A municipality does NOT have to appoint an Auditor Gerneral but must appoint a municipal auditor

  • Auditor General

    223.19 (1) Without limiting sections 9, 10 and 11, those sections authorize the municipality to appoint an Auditor General who reports to council and is responsible for assisting the council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achievement of value for money in municipal operations. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 98.


    (2) Despite subsection (1), the responsibilities of the Auditor General shall not include the matters described in clauses 296 (1) (a) and (b) for which the municipal auditor is responsible.

  • Auditor

    296. (1) A municipality shall appoint an auditor licensed under the Public Accounting Act, 2004 who is responsible for,

    (a) annually auditing the accounts and transactions of the municipality and its local boards and expressing an opinion on the financial statements of these bodies based on the audit; and

    (b) performing duties required by the municipality or local board.


He did not discuss this issue in the Star or in his opinion. Why not? In my opinion, it is fatal to his latest view.

Mr. Roman is trying to do exactly what he said cannot be done:

  • "On that interpretation of the law, if tomorrow the city hired a person with the title auditor general, then, suddenly, everything would become secret. However, if this person resigned two weeks later, suddenly everything would no longer be secret."

He is trying now to make secret something that is already in the public domain merely because an Auditor General office has been set up. The City tried something similar with an MFP forensic forensic audit document that went public and lost in the Court of Appeal when the City tried to say it could not be used by the other side.

It has already been seen by non-Audit Committee people before there was an Auditor General's office and was supposed to have been released to the public. The Star reported:

  • CAO John Skorobohacz was first given a draft of the audit report in December 2006 and committee members have had it in their hands for a year
  • There were several new revelations around the delayed audit Monday, most notably that Mayor Eddie Francis has seen several portions of Dunbar's report. He said it was necessary to review much of the audit to determine whether it should be discussed by council this past spring following an outside legal opinion on its contents.

    Several senior members of city administration have seen the full Dunbar report, while others have only seen parts pertinent to their roles, said Helga Reidel, the city's general manager of corporate services.


The Privacy Commission's view of non-Auditor General documents in the hands of a Mayor or a Senior Manager as an example:

  • 4. Where the record containing the requested information is in the possession of a person who is not a member of the Auditor General’s own staff, but is a City staff member or official whose records are otherwise subject to the Act, did information about the investigation, complaint or proceedings being conducted by the Auditor General come to the person’s knowledge in the course of his or her duties under Part V of the COTA?

    If the answer to any of questions 2, 3 or 4 is “no,” then the record or portion to which that negative answer pertains is not subject to the confidentiality provision at section 181(1) of the COTA, and is therefore subject to the Act."

In closing, my evil BLOGMeister's advice to Mr. Roman and the Audit Committee would be to take a collective deep breath and await the Opinion of yet another lawyer who will determine which of Mr. Roman's two conflicting opinions are correct.

If I am right, then we will finally get to see the Dunbar audit until the next issue arises to keep it secret! In advance, I would suggest that some good redacting would solve that issue.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dwight Duncan's Distress

Sandra Pupatello is having a major problem these days. Is she having the last laugh as Dwight is getting his legs kicked out from under him?

How does she show sympathy for the travails of her colleague, the Finance Minister, as her career is sky-rocketing as his is collapsing around him! How does she hide her glee at her career boost after all of the slings and arrows she has suffered taking the hits for Spanky in the media and the insult that she is being ignored by the Premier?

It must be nice for her working in the trenches dutifully for the Government without a complaint to see her stock rise as she becomes the powerhouse in Windsor as the star of Dwight Duncan is sinking fast.

Poor Dwight:

  1. Ontario deficit $6.4B higher than expected

    Ontario's deficit last fiscal year was much higher than the Liberal government predicted six months ago, officials said Friday.

    The province suffered the largest drop in corporate tax revenue in recent history, and instead of a $3.9-billion deficit, the province is now $6.4-billion in the red.

    That number is expected to soar even higher in 2009-2010.

    The government predicts an $18.5-billion deficit this fiscal year, a number that could grow when after fall update later next month.

  2. Top ministers okayed untendered eHealth contract

    Senior cabinet ministers rubberstamped a $30 million untendered contract with IBM for eHealth Ontario because government officials feared the funding was at risk if they put the work out for a competitive bid, according to secret documents obtained by the Star.

    Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government has steadfastly refused to release the 63-page contract with its 132 pages in background documents. Opposition and media attempts to gain a glimpse at the inner workings of eHealth through freedom-of-information requests have so far been thwarted...

    The IBM contract was approved last November by the management board of cabinet, an influential committee that oversees ministries' annual spending plans and is in charge of human resources, government real estate and information technology.

    Finance Minister Dwight Duncan chairs the committee, which includes minister without portfolio Gerry Phillips, Deputy Premier George Smitherman, Government Services Minister Harinder Takhar, Government House Leader Monique Smith, Citizenship Minister Michael Chan, and Consumer Services Minister Ted McMeekin.

  3. Mr. Peter Shurman (PC Opposition question at Queen's Park) : My question is for the finance minister. The McGuinty Liberals spent $430 million and climbing for a Windsor casino expansion project that wasn't supposed to cost more than $400 million. You spent $80 million more on building the Windsor Energy Centre, which wasn't supposed to be built at all. Now the public accounts show us that "to fund current operations and the continuing negative cash flow at Caesars," you have Ontario taxpayers on the hook for at least another $212 million. Here I thought the house wasn't supposed to lose. What are the profits the Windsor casino has generated since you attended its $2.3-million opening spectacle in June 2008?

Pshaw, that is nickel and dime stuff. A few miilion dollars of taxpayer money here, a few hundred million there. Let's get to the big, juicy stuff, the DRIC Road.

Do you think a letter such as this to the Opposition critic, ccing the media would have any impact:

  1. Subject: For shame--Dwight's biggest boondoggle

    "The loss to taxpayers is approaching a half-billion dollars. Aside from Windsor-Tecumseh, is there anywhere else in the province of Ontario where you, Minister, would actually consider building a money-losing casino and a matching energy centre?"

    I saw your questions of the Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, in Hansard.

    Windsor Casino----a mere pittance
    An energy building----pennies on the dollar in comparison.

    A half billion dollars...small time cash.

    You missed the biggest of them all----the AFP for the Detroit River International Crossing road in Windsor Ontario!

    We are not talking millions here but extra BILLIONS out of taxpayers pockets at a time when the deficit has almost doubled.

    Below are just three BLOGs I wrote outlining how much money the Ontario Government will waste on this project by taking money from taxpayers. And it will all be buried in MTO's budget so no one will ever discover it. It is worse than Highway 407.

    No one knows the real costs yet....just estimates of $1.6B based on "guidelines" when everyone knows the cost will be dramatically higher. It is a MegaProject running amok.

    They will be giving obscene profits to private industry using the AFP approach (ie a public private partnership) rather than building the road using the more traditional financing method.

    Of course the P3 concept is virtually dead with the economic meltdown but not to the Finance Minister (You might want to take a look at what OMERS have asked for re small pension plans and it may give you a hint since they have lots of cash to offer out on a guaranteed deal at a high rate of return )

Seriously, do you think anyone will follow up on this? Do you think anyone cares? Neither do I.

Heck, Dwight has come out of worse jams than this before and survived magnificently. Want to bet that he does so again! Already, his Gong Show Partner resigned taking the hit for E-Health.

Don't smile too broadly Sandra.

Mini-Gord Makes It All Better

Junior has to be laughing out loud now. Mini-Gord is turning into his biggest helper.

And for him to go after another Star writer to suggest the Star's reporter and fact-checkers have no idea what they are doing on the managers leaving story is just too funny. Heck if a Star Columnist has doubts about his own newspaper then I do not feel so bad when I go after them.


Expect an Editorial soon to come down on the side of one writer or the other. That will make the Star look even more ridiculous than it already is. My 2 cents offer to buy it might be too high.

I am sure that you are no longer wondering why Junior has not yet dropped his CUPE strike bombshell. That is the Report that he mentioned that he will be disclosing giving his version of what happened during the strike and the consequences.

You must have suspected as I did that what he is doing is sitting back and waiting for his foes to say stupid things over the next week or so that he can use against them. No wonder that story is supposed to die out. Not even an Anne Jarvis viewpoint either. She had to write about Windsor pizzas in England instead.

However, the story could not die. Eddie had to lash out. Again. Whenever he is blamed. You see, it is never his fault.

Junior is right in what he is doing. Mini-Gord's column on Tuesday gave him so much ammunition that it is not funny. There is one line in particular---I won't mention it now but I will later when appropriate---that absolutely destroys the concocted version of the Strike being a massive victory for the Mayor, the fiscally responsible Members of Council and taxpayers.

In fact, I can see Edgar (aka Eddie) choosing not to run again for family reasons just like his buddy Mayor David Miller in Toronto. I could also see some other Councillors running for the hills to get away from the criticism or at least to Mt. Francis.

In mini-Gord's column, he tries to demonstrate that things aren't so bad here after all. Sure managers have left the City, so what. That seems to be the argument being used.

As one example that is to show everything is fine, he writes:
  • "The so-called "high turnover" list includes three former executives of the city-county development commission, which isn't under the city's direct control. It's a separate legal entity."

Wow, I am re-assured because of that legal nicety!

Three Senior Executives leaving from a key organization for the re-development of the City and region and everything is fine. As if no one in that business field outside of Windsor has heard of the turmoil here. No wonder no one has been hired to be the CEO. Who would come here in the first place.

I like the fun with figures too. Start off with 2,200 employees and then 400 managers to do calculations. Do NOT talk about the number of SENIOR Managers since that would tell the true tale when percentages are made.

Mini-Gord is so flippant about golden handshakes:

  • "That's what happens when highly paid people are removed during reorgs. Under law, anybody with an employment contract gets the same treatment, from hockey players to salespeople. You pay them or you get sued -- and end up paying more."

Except Batagello told us:

  • "Except for last month’s controversial payment to John Skorobohacz, who was given $275,000 when he left, in nearly all cases the severance for those senior workers has not been made public.

    Among others believed to have received settlements were former development commission heads Paul Bondy, Roman Dzus and Matthew Fischer, tourism’s Elizabeth Hamel, social service boss Susan Ellis and Enwin Utilities CEO Roy Fritz.

    Former CAO Dennis Perlin, building commissioner Ed Link, public works director Gord Harding and parks commissioner Lloyd Burridge were also given severances, but asked to work them off in another capacity.

    If Skorobohacz’s severance is any indication, taxpayers have been on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars as managers headed for the door."

Ten people with a nice severance package of a year or more given their seniority. What are we looking at, one or two million dollars?

I loved one example given to disprove:

  • "But did 30 people really leave the city's employ against their will since Eddie Francis became Windsor's tyrannical mayor, as some critics claim?"

Mini-Gord talks about

  • "The heavily padded list of supposed casualties includes former public works commission John Tofflemire, who resigned without any pressure whatsoever to take a job in Leamington, where he could take over the family farm."

He better do some homework first. I Blogged at the time:

  • "It is no surprise: John Tofflemire is leaving his job. I wonder what the rumour mill at City Hall will churn out about why he really is going."

Did mini-Gord interview him to ask why he left? Did he ask him about the "illness" story that was being spread around as one of the justifications? I mentioned it to John when I met him after he left. Surprisingly, he was still alive at the time too! As I wrote back in 2007:

  • "From what I hear from my inside moles, morale is quite low still at City Hall. However, if you want a good-paying job and want to live here, then if you are a public servant, you "grin and bear it."

    It gets somewhat concerning however when people like John Tofflemire and Brenda Andreatta decide to pack up and go."

Want to know a different perspective about why John really left? Check out part of this Halberstadt column in Biz-X:
And then mini-Gord has the nerve to mention Alfie Morgan who was once Edgar's biggest booster and who now says in a very politically correct manner in the Battagello story:

  • "Retired university business Prof. Alfie Morgan, who took a turn as acting CAO in 2004, said it is unusual to have such high turnover at the top.

    The reason for the changes are tied with the political agenda of Windsor’s mayor and councillors, he said.

    “Every time they get someone willing to go with the agenda and it’s fine up to a point,” Morgan said.

    “Then time comes where that individual expresses a slight opinion that’s not well-received, conflict sets in and a mechanism for replacing the individual is set into motion.”

    There must be three distinct centres of power — administration, the mayor and city council — so a municipality gets the benefits of three perspectives instead of one, he said.

    “In Windsor, I don’t see the separation of power,” said Morgan, dating it back to former mayor Mike Hurst and continuing with Francis. “The people with power win and ones with less power lose.

    “If you are not with me, you are against me — they have to get out of that mindset. There can be tremendous psychological and financial cost to this. All this restructuring, there is a lot of money in that. There is also cost of mistakes unless it’s done with tremendous care.”

And just remember Alfie's outrage over small business. As I Blogged:

  • "What I think is more interesting to read is his Thursday column “Drowning in red tape.” It was a tagteam event. Henderson and Alfie Morgan, former University professor, former Windsor CAO and now Chair of the small business task force appointed by Council in 2006 went after the Mayor in the strongest possible language for two people who were Eddie’s biggest supporters.

    What is it that provokes these kinds of impassioned outbursts against Eddie Francis? It really is rather simple. People become disappointed and disillusioned after finding out what the real Eddie Francis is all about. It just takes some people longer than others.

    Been there, done that."

It's getting tedious already but do you want to see again how Edgar functions as Mayor. It is just like with gangs, guns and drugs:

  • problem identified
  • talk, talk, talk
  • nothing done
  • money wasted
  • years pass
  • identify same problem again before an election
  • talk, talk, talk.

There has been a nice "Blame Dennis Perlin" game played at City Hall for years because he wanted to make tough decisions. The Mayor disagreed with his approach and years later we are still studying the problem. Finally, Perlin has been given a voice here to give his side of the story in the Battagello piece:

  • "Perlin looks at his time in Windsor with some frustration because he was unable to complete his vision for change.

    His controversial restructuring of personnel, which involved the shuffling of nearly every city department, was merely a first step, with governance policy and service delivery changes in Windsor next on his to-do list. But “(Francis) didn’t agree with the model put forward when he became mayor,” Perlin said.

    “What we had formed had a whole lot of staff and teams excited about how we were to change delivering services,” Perlin said. “We never got to that part. Windsor would have been better off to continue with that process.”

Mini-Gord tells us:

  • "There were 17 names on one list of targets when the city reorganized its executive ranks in 2004."

So assuming salary and benefits per manager at say $125,000, Edgar has wasted, over 5 years of inaction, $10,625,000. Now THAT would have paid a lot of Post Retirement Benefits!

And now we have SDR which Dennis wanted to do years ago that will take forever.

Did you notice a very strange comment by mini-Gord at the end of his column? That's the usual place in Star stories where something big is placed. Was he trying to tell us something and to his colleague David Battagello that there is much more to write about at City Hall:

  • "But there is a currency more important than cash in the halls of government: jobs. The more government jobs there are, the more positions in the bureaucracy can be promised to political supporters."

OK, I'll bite. Who are the political supporters who have jobs at City Hall? Who gave the goodies out? What is mini-Gord driving at? Is there a huge scandal waiting to break out? Does mini-Gord have the nerve to tell us and perhaps jeopardize his job? Naw, let Battagello take the hit instead. Then criticize him.

Nice try though. Mini-Gord did his best to try to salvage the unsalvageable. However, he does need to check things a bit more carefully. He can't make it so easy to go after City Hall.

Perhaps he should get some help from "the Wife" about that given her program at St. Clair.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eddie's AMO Trip And Other Activities

Remember the Association of Municipalities of Ontario trip to Ottawa in mid-August. Perhaps it has more significance than we thought. It happened after the CUPE strike ended do not forget and after the near riot at the Caboto Club, the low point in the ex-CAO's 28 year career.

The Star told us on August 18 that:

  • "A contingent of Windsor representatives including Mayor Eddie Francis was busy in Ottawa on Monday promoting the city and the region to municipalities across the province...

    Francis said his main purpose at the AMO conference was to introduce and familiarize attendees to Windsor and its region. The city is slated to be the location of next year's conference."

Well, accurate but narrow.

Whew, thank goodness the CUPE strike was over by then since guess which two people were part of the contingent and able to be in Ottawa: Edgar (aka Eddie) and Helga, our chief negotiator.

At the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in June in Whistler BC, you may remember:

  • "As Windsorites suffer through a long and bitter civic strike at home with seemingly no end in sight, the city is paying to have Coun. Percy Hatfield and CAO John Skorobohacz attend the event that begins with a meeting today of big city mayors and concludes Sunday after a thick agenda of workshops, gatherings and speeches by the likes of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and most opposition leaders.

    As a direct consequence of the FCM meeting, Windsor's city councillors won't be getting their weekly closed-door strike update Monday night because there's no weekly city council meeting.

    "Yes, there is a strike, yes, it's unfortunate ... (but) people are still working, people are still conducting the business of the city," said Mayor Eddie Francis.

    Francis added it was "absolutely" a good thing that Windsor is represented in Whistler...

    Francis said he was scheduled to attend the Whistler meeting but the Red Bull Air Race "and everything else" forced him to remain at home...

    Francis said he asked Hatfield, who is an FCM regional board member, to represent him at the big-city mayor's meeting."
But no one had to represent the Mayor in Ottawa. And "everything else" was no longer an issue. He had other business there too. No, it was not to talk to Stephen about a Cabinet position if he ran federally for the Conservatives.

You may wonder how I know these things. Easy, while Edgar attended AMO business primarily, he also attended another function there. The good part is that the transportation and hotel costs were already paid for:
  • "August 17th, 2009


    On Monday the 17th of August, the Ambassador of Lebanon Mr. Massoud Maalouf hosted a lunch in the embassy in honour of His Worship the Mayor of the city of Windsor Mr. Eddie Francis.

    The guests were prominent members of the Lebanese community in Ottawa and Montreal... Mayor Francis was accompanied by Ms. Helga Ridel, the General Manager of Corporate Services in the city of Windsor."

Terrific timing!

It's a shame that the Star did not report on such an important event especially if we are trying to attract new business here. Seriously, who needs the Undevelopment Commission or the Airport staff and Board and all of their costs when we have Edgar who can do it all and City business too at the same time.

I am certain that Edgar would tell us, if anyone asked, that this was an important reason for him to go there rather than to attend an AMO lunch:
  • "Windsor is lobbying to be part of a new jet passenger service from Canada to the Middle East hub of Beirut, Lebanon, a route that at least three international airlines are interested in flying.

    Windsor Airport handles almost 11,000 annual passengers to Beirut, but those travellers must first fly to other cities to get to their final destination.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said there is interest by Lebanon-based Middle East Airlines in a new Canadian route that would start in Windsor and make a stopover in Montreal, which handles an additional 30,000 annual passengers to Beirut.

    On his trip to Europe last week, Mayor Eddie Francis spent several days in Lebanon, where he met with that country's president and senior officials, including Lebanon's secretary-general of foreign affairs and emigrants."

Apparently,the Mayor "offered the Ambassador the Key of the City of Windsor as a token of friendship and appreciation and as a souvenir before the Ambassador's retirement by the end of this year."

I asked the Clerk's Office what the procedure was for awarding a Key and was told
  • "Thank you for your email of earlier today regarding "Keys to the City".

    There is no official policy on record/file with regards to the awarding of Keys to the City. This is a protocol that is handled directly by the Office of Mayor, and as such, you may wish to contact that office directly in terms of their process and inventory of past recipients."

So I wrote to the Mayor's Office on October 2 and here was their response:


Oh well, you can see the photos here and not in the pages of the newspaper.

Hmmmmm. You know what I wonder...had John told Edgar that he was resigning by then. If so, did Edgar have the chance to talk to Helga about taking the job during the trip? Did they negotiate the terms of her employment contract as they were going or coming back?

I wonder.

And thanks to a reader for the tip!

Is SDR At YQG Needed

As part of the renovations at the Airport, was a new revolving door installed?

Now that Edgar (aka Eddie) and Council are using SDR restructuring as their excuse for everything, the question needs to be asked why the airport operations are in the state they are.

Is the airport operation being examined as part of the SDR exercise and, accordingly, is any consideration being given about how effective YQG's GM, Federica Nazzani, has been to date? It is no knock against her because it seems she is trying.

However, does she have the skills and experience needed for the job? Has she been placed in an impossible position where she was doomed to fail right from the beginning?

Read on!

If Councillors Marra and Dilkens were slammed by Gord over their actions re Helga's appointment, then they, the Airport Board and Council ought to be slammed if they have not examined how much Ms Nazzani has accomplished to date.

As the Star Editors pointed out 2 years ago and as we saw recently when a Star Reporter was kicked out of an in camera meeting re the airport's future:
  • "Instead of working with the proponents to address city concerns or issue a new RFP, council opted to continue operating the airport as a corporation and to create a new executive board with community, business and aviation representatives. While this might be a prudent approach, council needs to ensure the people appointed to this board place an emphasis on transparency, openness and the public's right to know about public money and public entities.

    The lack of details presented before councillors voted on the airport's future last week is emblematic of broader problems with this city and its arms-length corporations, which are not accountable to residents in any direct and meaningful way. Councillor Drew Dilkens expressed frustration with the lack of information he had to review before casting his vote on the airport and city residents share in that frustration."

How did Ms Nazzani get her job in the first place by the way? Was she the right person for it then and is she the right person for it now? Was there recruitment for the postion? Did she have an air industry or airport background? Why was she the best choice?

The Star told us that after Serco left:

  • "An acting general manger has been put in place -- Federica Nazzani -- who has a local business background in property management and auditing."

No air industry experience there. Gord told us:

  • "Federica Nazzani didn't blink an eye when she was asked by Mayor Eddie Francis to step into the breech and try to rescue a fast-sinking Windsor Airport.

    This 36-year-old dynamo, a chartered accountant with a track record in business valuation, corporate finance and financial investigation that belies her relative youth."

None there either.

True she is a Holy Names Grad as is Edgar but why would he want an inexperienced person in the industry involved if this is a key part of our future economic salvation? Why did he make the choice he did? If Serco an experienced operator with all of their connections could not make it, how could an inexperienced person make a success out of the airport?

To her credit, Ms Nazzani has admitted

  • "her lack of aviation experience: "It's true I don't have that experience."

Here is what she has been doing

  • "Nazzani told council she has been aggressively courting passenger airlines, cargo companies and potential investors to increase business at the local airport.

    "Opportunities are real, but we do need to pursue them," she said. "These airlines have the option to say no, but every time I've asked for a meeting I've got one. That's a certain success, that they are willing to talk to us."

    She suggested the airport might be better off concentrating on securing more freight business and developing its vacant land, possibly for warehousing or logistics use, because competition for passengers becomes so great that profits are slim for airlines."

She has been busy as Gord mentioned almost 2 years ago

  • "Nazzani, a fast study and born salesperson, has been on the road repeatedly to pitch the city-formed company she airline industry conferences as far away as Frankfurt, Stockholm and London."

I heard she was in Asia recently too and she also went to Germany with Edgar to try to get the onion guys from Germany here.

What has she done:

  • "The astonishing thing is that nobody has ever gone out and sold, as she is doing, the inherent advantages of this well-placed but grossly underutilized facility. Years and years have been lost to benign neglect. "They salivate when I talk about this," said Nazzani of her discussions with airline executives who were in the dark about YQG."

What has been her success with salivating executives?

How many airlines operate out of here now? How much cargo flies in and out of here since she became GM? Where are the investors to pay for feasibility studies and new facilitities for cargo?

Here is what the Star wrote a year ago:

  • "More often than not the tarmac, check-in counters and baggage carrousel at Windsor Airport are empty.

    Every month municipal taxpayers spend another $27,000 to keep it running while city officials slowly try to right the listing operation.

    That is little comfort for Len Edwards, whose limousine business at the airport has dropped 75 per cent since the city took over a year ago.

    "Once the city took over it's been downhill. People there working don't know what they are doing or seem to care less," said the owner of Len's Personal Transportation.

    "Nobody is promoting the airport. If you stand still, nothing is going to happen. That's exactly what they are doing."

    Some business tenants of the airport property are also nervous about the future. They say their advice is being ignored and the turnaround plan is taking too long to take off."

A key indicator of her success or failure should be what Edgar said almost 18 months ago:

  • "The second is business development -- attracting airlines, charters and new routes.

    "That business development is happening quicker than expected," Francis said."

Really Edgar? What evidence is there of that taking place? I can think of a few holy names to use as Lufthansa said in their Report on what she wanted to concentrate:

  • "YQG is not being recognized as a cargo airport by either forwarders or shippers...

    44 interviews were conducted in Windsor, Toronto, Detroit, at a trade convention in Las Vegas and at other locations. The Lufthansa Consulting experts conducted interviews with airlines, shippers, forwarders, and government agencies...

    The development of air cargo business at Windsor International Airport is strongly dependent on the development of new air services to and from YQG..."

In fact, mini-Gord told us about Lufthansa who took on the assignment:

  • "they hadn't known it existed before being hired to study it, which is disquieting"

Lufthansa told Council when delivering their report that YQG is:

  • "Small and practically unknown to the greater airline world."

Even Edgar with a slap to Ms Nazzani's efforts said:

  • "Francis said some of the freight forwarders -- those who are hired to handle cargo for customers -- contacted during the study weren't even aware Windsor's airport is open for business."

And this:

  • "Key to Windsor’s success at grabbing a slice of the action will be what Francis called a “multi-pronged” approach that includes more marketing efforts...

    Authors of the Lufthansa study met with freight forwarders and logistics providers who were unaware of what Windsor Airport had to offer, which underscores the need for increased marketing, said Francis.

    A lot of people don’t even know Windsor Airport exists,” said Francis.

    “But when they’re told about Windsor Airport and where Windsor Airport is and its proximity to Detroit and the advantages here, they determine that there’s value here."

If no one still knows about YQG, how can anyone claim she has been successful in achieving any recognition for the airport even with all of her world-wide jaunts?

However, the latest news coming out of the airport is a disgrace. The lack of action has delayed until probably the 4th quarter the release of the City's annual report, well past the normal release date.

  • "Airport records two years late

    Audited statements for 2007 and 2008 by the operator of Windsor Airport were not turned over to the city's external auditor KPMG until after the accounting firm raised concerns Thursday during the city's audit committee meeting...

    YQG claims of making a profit based on their books is different compared to findings of outside audited statements, said Halberstadt...

    "I was pleased to hear the information was made available to KPMG, but why the delay?" said Coun. Bill Marra, another audit committee member.

    "The information was not forthcoming and (KPMG) was waiting a lengthy period of time for it. This certainly seems unusual. The bottom line it's been resolved, but the auditors were concerned enough to identify it as an issue."

    Airport board member Coun. Drew Dilkens said they have been clueless over YQG audited statements of the last two years being incomplete and withheld."

There is no excuse for this. Ms. Nazzani must take responsibility as GM. We have been told that "she has held positions on the City of Windsor Audit Committee, WFCU Board, finance and tax committee with the Windsor and District Chamber of Commerce and on the Enwin Energy Board." She is no amateur in business.

Remember when I Blogged this about her vision for the airport:

  • "Now the Airport… you know the one with one commercial airline that flies out of it on a regular basis on a scheduled service, with a few chartered flights thrown in for fun.

    Our Airport General Manager must be sniffing the dream vision too:

    “We have to be thinking big right from the start. The way I run those board meetings is we're putting a Fortune 500 company in place.... If we set the right processes and procedures in place, we'll get there."

Thinking Big is terrific. Delivering Little is not.

With an airport that potential customers know little about even now, audited reports not provided in a timely fashion and a Board seemingly out of the loop, will the Mayor as Chair of YQG one day use the Tyagi excuse that he gave that "SDR Restructuring" eliminated Nazzani’s position as GM of the airport?

I feel sorry for her. Ms. Nazzani may have to take the fall notwithstanding her best efforts.

Will it soon be time for a "Change agenda" at YQG.

The PM Toots His Horn At The Piano

Here is Stephen Harper softening his image by singing a Beatles song "With A Little Help From My Friends" at the National Arts Centre gala over the weekend in Ottawa.

Of course it was his loyal wife who arranged this all on her own as the Globe and Mail reported,

  • "The decision was not based on lyrics or symbolism. “My husband loves the Beatles, the song was in his vocal range and that is about it,” Mrs. Harper said. “Also, it was playable by the band. Some of the Beatles' stuff uses lots of instruments and obviously it had to be something a small band could play.”

Naturally, I did not buy that silliness.

I asked a world-famous Canadian psychologist who works with troubled leaders in business and in other fields to analyse the song given his knowledge of Canadian politics as well. Here is what he said as he fisked the lyrics:

  • "It is fascinating to me that he sang the song with with Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist.

    He was the perfect partner too. His name was symbolic of the ups and downs of Harper's political career in a way that clearly the PM and his wife never realized.

    "What would you think if I sang out of tune
    Would you stand up and walk out on me

    [Obviously about the PM’s video in the Soo where he attacked the Opposition and their reaction to it as they threatened to bring down his Government]

    Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
    and I'll try not to sing out of key

    [An appeal to friends, Canadians and countrymen... Harper’s promises to the NDP and Bloc to be a good boy to salvage his Government and his personal career ambitions]

    Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

    [Yup, from the Governor General whom he appointed in 2005 and her advisors when he put her on the spot over the constitutional crisis when it looked like there might be an Opposition Coalition Government]

    Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
    Mm, Gonna try with a little help from my friends

    [The NDP and Bloc commitment to keep him in power made him so happy]

    What do I do when my love is away
    Does it worry you to be alone

    [Concern finally for manufacturers who cannot get access to American markets and who are going out of business]

    How do you feel by the end of the day
    Are you sad because you're on your own

    [Obama’s snub of the PM over Buy American, the border, the DRIC bridge etc demonstrate that he has achieved little. He hopes no one notices.]

    Do you need anybody
    I need somebody to love

    [Members of his Party to allow him to remain as Leader for one more election especially]

    Could it be anybody
    I want somebody to love

    [Voters to give him a majority Government]

    Would you believe in a love at first sight
    Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time

    [Yes, when he was first elected as Leader and then as PM]

    What do you see when you turn out the light
    I can't tell you, but I know it's mine

    [He sees Iggy’s face in his worst nightmare!]

    "Clearly, this man is in serious difficulty. He has lost his way and his supporters. He craves attention and will do anything to get it. A typical Canadian leader too. Why he is nothing more than a Bill Clinton wanna-be on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1992 playing the sax!"

Monday, October 05, 2009

Killing DRIC Too Slowly But Surely

Seriously, you have to have some sympathy for them, but not much. They should have done the deed years ago, not waited until $60M or so of taxpayer dollars were wasted. For what?

However, no politican would want to be the one whom others could point at and blame for the waste of so much money in these times of restraint.

The solution: let a consultant do it.

Michigan signalled they have had enough of DRIC finally. But no one was prepared to pay the political price for saying so. They were merely following what President Obama already had demonstrated after his snubs of Stephen Harper along with his and President Bush's ignoring of Stephen's entreaties to build the DRIC bridge.

No wonder Stephen hoped that the Congressional leaders would be the ones to help. As if they were going to fight the President over Canada!

Of course the MDOT people had to find the silver lining which just will antagonize the Legislators even more. They had to find something when
  • "The budget proposal also bans activities that would commit the state to building a publicly owned bridge between Canada and the United States, which would be a second span besides the Ambassador Bridge. The owner of the Ambassador has his own plan to build a second span next to the Ambassador."

When the Michigan House and Senate cut the DRIC money request by 75% from $10M to $2.5M from the State, MDOT's Shreck could say to rub their faces in it:

  • "the provisions of the proposal "weren't that bad."

    "The $2.5 million will allow us to leverage $10 million from the federal government," he said."

He just does not seem to get it does he?

However, the coup de grace was not mentioned in the traditional media but in an article in TollRoad News:

  • "The language of the budget as passed yesterday:

    "Section 384 (1) The department may continue with preliminary legal, financial, traffic and revenue study, permitting, engineering, and other ancillary work for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) so that it can solicit from the private sector, requests for proposals for public-private partnership to construct the bridge, plaza, and related infrastructure. The department shall submit proposals to the legislature by May 1, 2010. Those activities associated with the DRIC project shall not bind the state in any way to construction.

    "(2) The department shall submit an investment grade traffic study to the legislature by May 1, 2010 from a reputable traffic company with appropriate experience intended to provide a detailed traffic projection for the ensuing 10 years, taking into account projected infrastructure modifications, expansions and improvements announced.

    "(3) The department shall not expend more than $2.5 million from state transportation revenue sources for activities enumerated in this section.

    " (4) It is the intent of the legislature to fully adopt or reject authorizing legislation by the full legislative bodies by June 1, 2010 to:

    * Construct a new international crossing jointly and in agreement with Canada
    * Create an authorized tolling authority; and
    * Create a public private partnership"

What is important:

1) the use of the money is strictly limited: only for the purpose of soliciting from the private sector, requests for proposals for public-private partnership. NOTHING ELSE.

2) Everything must be done by May 1, 2010.

3) An investment trade traffic study must be done

  • covering the next 1o years
  • taking into account infrastructure modifications, expansions and improvements announced

4) Michigan will make a decision by June 1, 2010.

I really have no idea why Michigan has to do a study and neither it seems does Senator Cropsey who said in February 2009:

  • "One of the key things that has to be done is to find out if we really need another international crossing there that the taxpayers or the government of Canada or whomever needs to put up. In order to determine that, one of the key things is to have an investment grade traffic study done. I’m surprised one hasn’t been done already. Then I found out not too long ago that a couple of years ago, Canada, evidently, commissioned an investment grade traffic study to be done. That was supposed to have been done a year ago. I’ve asked the department or one of the representatives from the department that if Canada is such a good neighbor and a good partner, where is the investment grade traffic study? I think the department told me that, well, they aren’t done with it yet or some other type of thing, after a year, supposedly, from what I understand, when the study should have been done.

    However, this is something the department is very well aware of. I have in my hand a letter in which it talks about the DRIC EPE/EIS Project. It was a letter dated July 9. It goes back to the invoice that was submitted by one of the contractors, I believe, on the study on the progress report for The Corradino Group from June 1 through June 30 of 2008. On June 2, The Corradino Group prepared for and participated in the following meetings: June 2 with Transport Canada on the investment grade traffic analysis, and on June 25, they also had a meeting with Transport Canada on the investment grade traffic analysis. It would seem like we should have an investment grade traffic analysis that the government of Canada has done, and I call upon the government of Canada, if they’re going to be a good partner, to give us a copy of the investment grade traffic analysis.

    Why haven’t they released it at this point? Is it because the investment grade traffic analysis will show the American taxpayers, the Michigan taxpayers, that perhaps it does not justify the building of a new DRIC bridge? I don’t know, but I have that question. I call upon the Michigan Department of Transportation to get us the investment grade traffic analysis as soon as possible. It would seem like a year after it was due that we would know where it is, what it is, and what it says."

Now Transport Canada's Sean O'Dell really has to be embarrassed as new numbers come out every month mocking his traffic comments. His Minister and Canada's Finance Minister have to be red in the face as well. The economy is even worse now for our border crossing and for Michigan:

  • "NAFTA surface trade drops for seventh straight month

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Surface trade between Canada, the US and Mexico was down a whopping 28% in July, compared to the same month last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the US Department of Transportation. NAFTA surface trade dropped for the seventh consecutive month to $51.5 billion, with a year-to-year decline of greater than 27%...

    US-Canada surface transportation trade totalled $31.0 billion in July, down 33.8% compared to July 2008. The value of imports carried by truck was 29.0% lower in July 2009 compared to July 2008, while the value of exports carried by truck was 24.3% lower during this period.

    Interestingly, Illinois knocked Michigan out of its usual top spot among US states to lead trade with Canada in July with $3.1 billion. Michigan came in second with $2.7 billion in surface trade value."

Frankly, there is no need to spend money on a study. With numbers like this, I can just see investors pounding the doors down to throw money here into a DRIC bridge. NOT!

I can tell you the results now of the Michigan Investment Grade Traffic study, or rather, I can tell you what others have already said that will be confirmed at a cost of more hundreds of thousands of dollars:

  • Senator Cropsey told us about in his Detroit Free Press article that "If DRIC cannot accurately predict traffic levels from 2004-08, then its 30-year projections are completely baseless. Even with these inflated traffic projections, MDOT testified before my committee that a new span would not be needed until between 2025-35. This gives us plenty of time to address border bridge capacity in the future if the situation warrants it.
  • Nonetheless, it is believed (by Joe Corradino, the US DRIC consultant)) that the market won’t support three bridges.
  • Stuedle said construction on the bridge needs to begin somewhere between 2015 and 2030 depending on traffic flow.
  • The DRIC consultant stated that the Ambassador Gateway project at the existing bridge, on its own, can handle twice the volume at the Bridge now without another bridge
  • MTO's Bruce McCuaig in 2004 before traffic crashed said "the throughput capacity of the Ambassador Bridge does not reach capacity according to the work that has been done to date for 10 years to 15 years...the physically capacity is there, if we can move the traffic through the plazas and through the roads for the next 10 years physically on that bridge."
  • He also said "there are a variety of things that need to be done in this interim period. More specifically, there are border process and plaza improvements that we can do in the shorter term and medium term to help bridge us, if I could use that word, to the time at which new capacity comes on stream in terms of a new border crossing."
  • My understanding of the Canadian Government hidden investment grade traffic surveys is that there are no problems in the short and medium term justifying the need for a new bridge. No wonder the 2 studies have been hidden
  • Canada's Transport Minister Baird has conceded Canada's postion when he changed his tune from the need for capacity issues now to those in the future, up to 40 years from now:

  • The Corradino Group Inc., URS Canada Inc., the US and Canadian DRIC consultants and a Michigan Department of Transportation employee stated prior to March 2003 "The initial feasibility study concluded that at least four additional lanes for roadway traffic will be needed by 2030 and that six lanes should be constructed to accommodate traffic through at least 2050. " The 6 lanes would be achieved by the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement project.
  • If we take the existing traffic and even assume that it would increase to the 1999 levels within the next 10 years, there is no way a DRIC bridge is needed when one looks at the "announced" infrastructure projects including the improved truck ferry service , improved Tunnel operations with the new plaza, a proposed passenger ferry for commuters and others, the DRTP rail Tunnel, the improved Blue Water Bridge operation with their new plaza, a new bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie, increased marine traffic via Highway H2O never mind the Enhancement Project Bridge. All the crossings could go broke since there was not enough business.
  • DRIC consultants stated that the DRIC Bridge had to take huge amounts of business away from the Ambassador Bridge, the Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge to survive and that will not happen in a competitive environment where the other crossings' tolls are lower. The DRIC tolls for trucks may be 3 times higher than that of the Ambassador Bridge.
  • Someone needs to explain where new traffic will be coming from given the automobile industry woes, both domestic and foreign since they are the biggest users of the Bridge and tourist traffic is declining
  • DRIC did not take into account in a serious way the move to have customs away from the border to reduce border thickening nor the increased use of and the technological innovations to make border traffic flow more smoothly.

I read an interesting comment prepared by one traffic consultant on one of these investment grade traffic studies which ought to give everyone pause considering that DRIC has not been right yet on their projections:

  • "Whilst we can make 'best estimates' of future traffic levels, even with the most sophisticated forecasting techniques, the future cannot be predicted with certainty. The uncertainty is compounded by the fact that different demand modelling methodologies can also lead to different forecasts even with the same input assumptions."

Who could have conceived of 9/11 and its impact on the border, the bankruptcy of General Motors and the economic meltdown of the world's financial system.

Remember also the Danish Professor and MegaProjects running amok. "Truth and Lies About Megaprojects"

  • "Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of forecasting for megaprojects, that is, very large infrastructure investment projects costing typically more than several hundred million dollars. One truth about megaprojects - which I will document below - is that forecasters misinform and sometimes even lie about projected costs, benefits, and risks. This results in cost overruns, benefit shortfalls, and the mismanagement of risk to a degree that often jeopardizes project viability."

I go back to my BLOG August 29, 2008 "Cropsey 2 The Sequel: The Cow Bridge" when I wrote about how the "cow bridge" became the #1 border crossing between Canada and the US! And without spending billions of taxpayer dollars. I BLOGGED:

  • "Just think about that and fast-forward 80 years until today. That same Bridge that could be used by cows is now the major border crossing between Canada and the United States carrying by far more traffic than any other bridge and yet is only at about 50% capacity. I have Blogged before about how many studies have said that the Bridge would be jam packed by this date and yet it still can handle millions of vehicles more without any problem."

Who would have thunk it! It is time to put DRIC out of its misery. And ours!