Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mayor Francis Must Go (Part II)

Another day on Thursday and another day in which the Windsor Star failed its readers and subscribers again by not reporting on the Lewenza/Marra Ward 4 meeting.

You see, dear reader, the Star is afraid of what happened not just because their reputation as a credible news source was destroyed. No, it is because they would have to report about Edgar's warts publicly. The myth would be shattered out of the Star's own mouth.

In truth, Edgar (aka Eddie) has turned out to be nothing more than another Mayor David Miller of Toronto who failed in his CUPE strike. Miller at least had the decency to announce that he was not running again.

And if you think the Star did not know about the Lewenza/Marra meeting so could not report it, think again. My inside moles tell me that a Star reporter tried to sucker Lewenza by asking him to be involved in one of their online chats on the Wednesday after the meeting. That clearly was going to be nothing more than a smear Junior session to try and destroy his credibility to protect the Mayor's reputation.

Why their big front-page headline story on Thursday was about a port-a-john!

Whether Junior chose not to participate or whether it all fell apart I do not know but it did NOT take place. Who knows, maybe the Star chose not to do it after all because it would have meant they would have had to report on the Ward 4 meeting. Better to ignore it as if it never happened.

Let's get down to the nitty gritty now about Edgar's failures in the CUPE strike. And that of the Star. The details. The major items at issue. It is only then that Windsorites will understand how the Mayor failed us.

We learn this not only from the Minutes of in camera meetings that Junior caused to be disclosed but also from the background information that Junior primarily but also Councillor Marra provided us at the Ward 4 meeting, information we otherwise would never have known! And if Junior's allegations are correct, information that the hardliners would never want disclosed because of the consequences to their polticial careers.

Sic transit gloria mundi

THE WINDSOR STAR

It can now be dismissed as a credible news gathering force in this City. Heck, even they admitted that they are a Messenger. The non-coverage of the Lewenza meeting confirms it. The biggest applause of the evening was directed to slams against the Star by audience members.

But it got much worse than this as Junior's Report pointed out when outlining a remark by one of the Star's Senior Columnists, mini-Gord, in his June 11 BLOG:

  • "Kevin and Nicole Cabana

    Dear Kevin, or Nicole: Quit being a crybaby, If you want to go back to work, go back already. I'm not stopping anyone from working.

    As for prolonging the strike, I think that might be true, and it's a compliment to the Windsor Star for representing the interests of its readers. If the Mayor and council didn't know public opinion was so strongly behind them they'd throw in the towel and cave in like previous councils did. We are doing our job well, I'd say."

It is not a figment of Junior's imagination. As a Star reporter wrote of his own newspaper in a moment of weakness or dumbness:

  • "Jason had to take a lot of crap to get that footage. CUPE members were shouting at him, swearing at him, blocking him.

    I hate the unreasonable mentality that holds all Windsor Star staff responsible for the newspaper's editorials and columnists."

It reminded me of what Marty Beneteau said about the Star:

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

In other words, they will do whatever they think it takes to accomplish whatever they believe is "positive change" even if it means dividing the Community. Report the news objectively as newspapers pretend they do...no wonder the border file is the mess it is in.

Pathetic. It is a disservice to our City since the Star is the major news source in town!

ARBITRATION---BETTING THE FARM AND LOSING

What a crock we were fed by the Mayor. Was it deliberate or did he not know? After all, he should; he is a lawyer as he likes to remind us!

  • "Francis said he's aware of the growing irritation among Windsor taxpayers about the lack of service.

    "But at the same time, I don't want a group of irate taxpayers knocking on our door saying, 'Why'd you give away the farm?'

    We have a financial responsibility to the corporation..."

    "It is my opinion not to leave this in the hands of a third party that's 400 or 500 kilometres away… "It is the responsibility of the parties to reach an agreement. The city of Windsor is prepared to sit down and reach an agreement."

    "The history of arbitrators is one of giving away the farm -- they're known to give away the farm."

Thanks to the CFIB, hardly a friend of CUPE, we learned some things that Edgar did not tell us. Thanks to Junior we learned a lot more:

  • There are at least four active arbitrators from this area whose names appear on the Ministry of Labour’s approved list of Arbitrators. To be on that list these people have had to demonstrate expertise in the area of Labour Arbitration
  • While a settlement between the parties is preferred, where the parties are unable to find a settlement, arbitration is a responsible way to end a particular dispute
  • The parties determine the terms of reference for the arbitrator and within that process the parties can still negotiate a settlement before a decision is reached. eg the City of Toronto Labour Disputes Resolution Act 2002
  • Here is a local arbitrated ruling that was delivered recently between Windsor Regional Hospital and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, local 636. The Arbitrator said
  • "Additionally, the board has considered the general economic conditions in Canada and Ontario, and the specific economic situation of Windsor. With respect to the latter point in particular we are of the view that the local economic difficulties, and the influence they will have on the funds available to the employer, aside from Provincial funding, must seriously be considered

Let's be honest. Windsorites were fooled. There was no real reason NOT to arbitrate! It was all scare tactics for public consumption in order to justify the stall and delay in not getting a speedy resolution.

Arbitration could have worked much earlier on and ended the strike. However, some clearly did not want it ended and we were shovelled this BS.

Take a look at what Councillor Halberstadt said the other day as his colleague mentioned at the meeting. He would like garbage made an essential service. The anti-arbitration Councillor must have changed his mind about arbitration. In most cases, when there is no agreement with an essential service union like fire or police, how are disputes resolved: ARBITRATION!

POST RETIREMENT BENEFITS

More scare tactics. Mass confusion for everyone about hundreds of millions of dollars of unfunded liabilities being thrown around. Do you recall when we were finally told that the CUPE amount was only a small percentage of the almost $300M total? Are you surprised now about the late sharing of relevant information!

Let's talk about PRBs. It turns out to have been a completely bogus issue but a very good one to scare taxpayers and demonize CUPE workers for having something that "we do not have." Yes, let us offer benefits to the lowest common denominator for everyone

  • Did PRBs for new hires end? Nope....they have them until age 65
  • PRBs are now part of the collective bargaining process where they were not before so we know what is going to happen during the next round of negotiations.. Oh well, that is for a different Council to deal with. IBG, YBG
  • "The city has agreed to help form a joint committee with new hires at some point to select a provider so they can pay toward a benefit plan for retirement years, she said." See what I mean
  • Not a penny has been set aside to reduce or has been saved for our outstanding, unfunded hundreds of millions of dollars of PRB liabilities for existing employees. S&P will still see them
  • New Councils in the future have been handcuffed since the City has agreed never to take away this benefit from employees. IBG,YBG

This last point is a real sleeper. As a CUPE member had said to me before:

  • "But the really significant gain that the union made in this last round of negotiations was in language that enshrines the PRBs in the contract and allows the union to come back to this issue each time a new contract is negotiated. As Ken Lewenza Jr. pointed out weeks ago, over time the union may be able to gradually negotiate employer contributions to the new hires benefits fund over the years. By the time 30 years is up, who knows how much we may have negotiated back in the form of employer contributions to that fund?

    Furthermore, contract language guarantees that no future negotiations can take away the PRBs for current employees. In addition to the contract language, a separate contract with each employee will also legally guarantee those PRBs for lifetime for employees and spouses and qualified dependants."

Did you forget this:

  • "It's been said there is no benefit to this for 30 years," said treasurer Onorio Colucci. "That's true."
  • "City leaders anticipate it will take between 40 and 50 years before current employees are completely grandfathered out and the $291-million price tag is eliminated"
Sid Ryan was right after all.

From mini-Gord, and this is important re how many new hires there will be since we spent 101 days to take away their benefit to save so much money 35 years from now:

  • "But if the rest of the reorg goes the way this phase did, city staffers should take a deep breath and relax just a bit. The vast majority of them will keep their jobs. The latest move permanently erased $1.7 million in annual costs from city books without a layoff. They can do a lot more of that.

    Helga Reidel, the newly appointed chief administrative officer who has been handed this huge task, said attrition is the main tool she intends to use to cut costs. She used the "A" word a dozen times Wednesday. It means letting normal retirements reduce staffing gradually, painlessly.

    "We also have a significant number of vacancies" throughout the organization, "and right now that's a good thing." Empty jobs are being eliminated, permanently."

In other words, the number of new hires will be miniscule for years to come!

It is like a Seinfeld sitcom. We fought a strike over NOTHING!

What liability therefore to scare everyone about for new hires short-term when there are few new hires?

What need to have a 101-day strike over something that is not an issue for years?

Why wasn't a committee set up as was suggested early on to negotiate this issue. Then there would have been no long strike? In the end there is a committee now.

Again, we were fooled over an issue that was not one. Why couldn't the City have used the precedent I outlined the way the Windsor Public Library and CUPE handled this issue? There was no strike there.

The obvious answer: someone wanted a strike! That someone wanted a strike is clear now since we learned from Junior that City managers are forming a union precisely because the elimination of PRBs for them was one of a number of issues that antagonized them. That someone knew that CUPE would strike over the issue too.

In Toronto, they had sick plan benefits and we had PRBs as the main issue. Both "airy-fairy," hard and complex to understand and supposedly multi-million dollar burdens on taxpayers. Co-incidental? And the municipal governments folded in both cities right after our near riot.

The sick plan benefits loss cost Mayor Miller. Shall we say the same now for Mayor Francis over PRBs?

THE HARDLINER DEAL THAT WILL KEEP ON GIVING---FOREVER

Sure I criticize mini-Gord. He makes it so easy. But he gives me so much information to demonstrate how absurd this Mayor and the hardliners on Council are.

Edgar does need to learn to keep his mouth shut or at least to ensure he is not quoted by mini-Gord. But he is incapable of doing so when he thinks there is glory for which he can take credit:

  • "The mayor says paying only three top senior execs to run the city instead of five will save Windsor $400,000 per year, forever. The buyouts pale compared with the long-term savings to taxpayers."

In a variation of that, Edgar spun his magic again:

  • "Getting rid of the general managers level at city hall, as well as eliminating a currently vacant executive director position in environmental services, will result in annual salary and benefits costs of over $750,000 per year, said Francis. Getting rid of an aerial truck and 12 positions, including four captains and five firefighters, at the fire department adds another more than $920,000 in savings, the mayor added."

FOREVER, a word to haunt the Mayor and the hardliners when the math is calculated about how much they cost us.

Now consider the City settlement. Remember Junior told us that there was a CUPE proposal for a status quo settlement that the City did not even consider! It did not fit in with the hardliners' NetZero approach.

Instead:

  • "CUPE workers have agreed to a 6.3 per cent wage increase over the life of the agreement -- annual hikes of one, 1.5, 1.8 and two per cent."
  • "Actually, the total increase over the four years, including the one-time $2,000 lump sum payment and compounding, is seven per cent, according to city treasurer Onorio Colucci."

I recall that the total cost was around $12M over 4 years. For the sake of simplicity, let us say that the amount is $3M per year. Accordingly, since the increases are built into whatever wage increase the workers will get into the future, forever, is it not legitimate to say as Edgar did:

  • "The mayor says paying CUPE workers to run the city will cost Windsor $3,000,000 per year, forever. The payouts pale compared with the long-term savings to taxpayers that could have been achieved but for the hardliners!"

If you want to do a compound interest calculation of adding in an extra $3M in wages over 35 years at an interest rate of 5%, the total cost of this settlement (and to fight the phony PRB issue) is over $300M! Even Junior's $160M was too low! With no interest, the amount is still almost $110M.

Thanks to the hardliners, we keep on losing huge amounts of money---forever!

ALTERNATIVES

By following Edgar the Pied Piper about NetZero for so long, the hardliners stopped thinking.

No, No, No to CUPE may be good politics, for the short-term, but it meant that less expensive alternatives and those that could have ended the strike quickly were never considered. In the end it cost us as taxpayers much more

What if Council called CUPE's bluff about a status quo contract early on. No strike and no expenditures. Lewenza talks about:

  • "Council's failure in recognizing lost opportunities going back to 2006 or the failure to pursue motions that were lost on April 15, April 24, and Councillor Hatfields motion on May 11. Which in hindsight all represent a better deal for taxpayers and our employees."

If the issue is unfunded liabilities, imagine the opportunites for creativity lost when turning down in mid-April ways to fund PRBs as if they were a pension plan funding scheme.

  • "THAT the City negotiating team RETURN to the bargaining table and make an offer to CUPE Local 82 with respect to post retirement benefits which would include the provision of a modified post retirement benefit plan to new hires past the age of 65 which would include a reduction in benefits from those presently enjoyed by employees hired before January 1, 2009."

We did not reduce the existing unfunded PRB liability by one penny in the settlement. We achieved little other than putting off the issue to another Council in the future to let them grapple with it and fight that strike.

Short-term pain but no long-term gain was the motto for the hardliners. Oh I can hear their re-election pitches now.

Here was the big Lewenza challenge:

  • "Why did the so called "hardliners" on Council fold in a one hour span on June 17, 2009 that caused such an enormous shift in the City's position?"

CUPE was being hammered in the media, there was no pressure on Councillors to do anything and yet, for the first time Council offered a wage increase.

That might have caused a breakthrough but there was the leak, the source of which has not yet been found and then Edgar went overseas for 2 weeks! Were there negotaitons during those 2 weeks or was everyone sitting around waiting for his return?

We learned that the answer was Helga, who finally spoke out on the part of a frustrated negotiating committee. She at least got the process off the rails but only after weeks of non-action. Councillors Lewenza and Marra confirmed that there was Councillor micromanaging and that the negotiators' hands were tied.

No wonder CUPE strikers were out for so long. I can guess the reason why now. It was not a labour dispute but political action using taxpayer "savings" to try and crush CUPE. $300,000 a week of it.

Oh there is so much more to talk about:

  • the failure of Administration to speak out
  • the loss of leverage against the other 70% of workers in other City unions
  • the effect on businesses by having so many workers off work and spin-off jobs lost and people still not spending money since they are playing catch-up
  • the effect on people and families
  • the negative image of the City.

The list of Edgar/hardliner failures in the strike is long enough already to prove my point about Edgar going.

We are seeing a City destroyed in so few years under one Mayor. How much more of him can we take?

We are a City with so much potential but where inaction and spending money on consultants is what is spun. A City where mind's eye visions about greatness are the norm and realistic projects are fought even when people need jobs. A City where the major news outlet is more concerned in spreading their philosophy than allowing us to form our own opinion by providing the objective facts.

Am I being fair to pin this all on Edgar? Of course not. The hardliners have to share part of it. They cost us dearly too. Edgar is just one of eleven as he tells us especially when things fall apart and the finger is pointed at him. He is right except he is first amongst the Council, the only full-timer, and he must take full responsibility as CEO.

I will give Junior guts for taking him on. Few on Council would dare do so and face his wrath and that of the Windsor Star. In fact, I heard that Junior was under pressure to forget about the whole thing because he was risking his political future. In my opinion, he helped himself immensely. Frankly, going after Edgar and the Star is a winner in this City now!

Is he right in what he said? You be the judge. What I do know is that Edgar had to be so terrified of him. And the Messenger did not dare to show up to cover the story. Their approach was to ignore it and thereby bury it.

Perhaps I will leave it this way about Edgar and my feelings towards him and why he should announce he is not running again. It's from the Wizard of Oz:

  • It’s not that he is such a bad man, it’s just that he is not a very good wizard.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mayor Francis Must Go (Part I)

It should hardly come as a surprise to you, dear reader, how I feel.

The Lewenza Report is a damning indictment of our Mayor and his conduct during this Community-divisive, 101-day CUPE strike. It is the kind of stuff that investigative journalism should have uncovered long ago, as was done in Toronto after their CUPE strike. Except we have the Windsor Star, the Messenger, as our main media outlet! The Star did not even have the decency to report on the Ward 4 session in its Wednesday edition.
  • "Is this the beginning of the end for Miller?

    Mayor David Miller is a weakened politician today, vulnerable to challengers following a strike deal that suggests he caved in to the unions.

    Would-be mayors spoiling for a run at his job in November 2010 are no doubt emboldened as details of the deal emerge. They now have an issue on which to launch a run for mayor. They'll be able to spin an election message of "Throw out the sellout..."

    Did we go through a five-week strike for that? Could Miller not have accomplished the same without a strike? Why the bluster and chaos and disruption when meeting the unions more than halfway could have settled the dispute months ago?

    So, five weeks later, and counting, Torontonians find that they endured a lost summer for a deal arguably available without a strike.

    To add insult to injury, Miller now insists on selling spoiled goods. "We've eliminated the sick bank," he said, 12 TV cameras rolling and frustrated reporters rolling their eyes yesterday. Torontonians should be "extremely pleased," he said. And no doubt, at least the 30,000 strikers are – even if they are miffed at walking the picket line for five weeks to maintain the status quo...

    Maybe, Miller will find that this municipal strike unmasked much about his personality and leadership that Torontonians reject. And maybe, come November 2010, he may find that while his tenure as mayor did not end in the summer of 2009, the Miller phase-out had begun."


  • "Why that 39-day strike happened to us
    The city admits it was ready to make concessions on pay and sick bank months ago. So why didn't it?


    ...The frustration was warranted. Three weeks after the end of the bitter strike, key players involved say it should never have happened.

    The mayor is questioning his own strategy, and Ann Dembinski, president of one of the two striking unions, is furious about the sick plan compromise that made the contract settlement possible.

    They reveal a deal blocked for months by venomous labour relations, entrenched positions and miscalculations. The outcome suggests there will not be labour peace any time soon.

    "They've sent labour relations back decades," says Dembinski, president of the city's inside workers in CUPE local 79. "It was the nastiest round of bargaining I've ever been in – by far..."

    But he failed at his preferred objective, the one his negotiators clung to during seven months of bargaining: an immediate end to the sick bank. Instead, it will be phased out.

    In hindsight, Miller says the city could have been more flexible on both wages and the sick bank.

    "Could we have given our bargainers flexibility beforehand? Maybe. Those are things we could have done differently.

    "If I had to do it over would I try to do that? Well, given what I know now, yes, possibly," Miller says.."

    Why was Toronto different? Why did daycares have to close and mounds of garbage rot in city parks for the city to reach a deal other municipalities obtained without a walkout?

    It is all the more baffling because a phase-out plan, according to Miller, was part of the mandate council's employee labour relations committee gave negotiators as far back as last September. Yet he says they never proposed it in bargaining, waiting instead until sometime after July 15 – at least 24 days into the strike – for mediators to raise the option. etc. etc. etc."
These could be Windsor stories not just Toronto's. Except we never read anything like that here except on BLOGs. So co-incidental!

I hope you had the time to look for yourself at the materials from the Report that I posted.

After reading the materials and hearing the explanations given by both Councillors at the Ward 4 meeting, my reaction to Edgar (aka Eddie) is like that of Cromwell to the "Rump Parliament" in 1653
  • "You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!"
There is the political way out to make it easier. Mayor Francis needs to remember the excuse now so he can follow the same route as David Miller in Toronto. After all he has a new baby:
  • "Toronto Mayor David Miller announced at City Hall Friday morning that he will not seek a third term, saying he wants to spend more time by his family and has helped the city become "safe, strong, clean and green."

    Accompanied by his wife and children, he arrived at a press conference to applause and said:

    "I'm announcing this morning that I will not be seeking a third time as mayor of Toronto in next year's municipal election."

But of course, he will not go. He will shrug it off or dismiss it or call it frivolous or mere politicing. He will let the sycophants fight the battle for him because he has more important things to do like build mind's eye canals or transportation hubs at the airport.

Actually, Edgar does not have to do anything. The Star did not cover the Ward 4 session so Lewenza's meeting was a non-event. It may as well never happened because to almost 200,000 Windsorites, other than those who attended, it never did. The Emperor still wears a beautiful suit of clothes! Media schools would have a field-day with the Star's actions.

I was stunned by what I heard at the Lewenza meeting!

Here is the irony of over 100 pages of letters and slides of the Lewenza Report. The citizen tax hawks who demand lower taxes need to focus on new targets. Councillor Lewenza demonstrated conclusively that Windsorites' best friends during the CUPE strike were the so-called union-types on Council. Their proposed solutions which were never approved time after time were lower in cost than the final settlement. The Councillor hardliners headed by the Mayor in fact have cost us millions! There was no need for that result whatsoever.

Councillor Lewenza just proved that Councillor Postma's BLOG was right.

  • "Last week we made the decision to allow our team more freedom to negotiate a contract that is fair to both parties and we also agreed that binding arbitration is not the right path for us. I strongly believe that for the past 7 weeks council has not given our negotiating team the tools to truly negotiate. We have set parameters for them but have not given them the autonomy required to get a contract. In essence they have been negotiating with themselves."

No wonder she has not dared to "communicate" on her BLOG with her residents for months.

Several times Lewenza stated that the negotiating committee's hands were tied. Councillor Marra said that the whole mess was the worst politicing he had seen in 15 years of Municipal service. He should know. The first Edgar Back-To-Work Protocol screwed him royally and could have cost him his job!

They both stated that Council micromanaged the file for weeks not letting their negotiating team do anything significant until mid-June, almost 2 months after the strike started, when Helga finally had the guts to put the boots to them as you shall see later. Marra said he would never be involved in such a negotiation like this again.

What is the consequence of this? Windsorites could well face now a $30M claim for back wages from its CUPE workers for the bad faith shown by the City! Except, to be blunt, I do not think that some of the CUPE leadership have the balls to move forward on this aggressively for their membership. Why not?

If CUPE members sit back and let their leadership do nothing, then shame on them. They will have been been doubly crushed but only themselves to blame for the second event! I am not even sure from what I heard last night if the Local leadership is even aware whether something that was supposed to have been filed in the OLRB complaint before has been filed yet!

It is tragic for me to watch this happening to people who have been abused and lost thousands of dollars in wages. However, it is their fight.

Imagine this for Windsorites if CUPE wins. A 101-day strike and being forced to pay back wages too. This consequence of the hardliner actions would be really rubbing taxpayers' faces in it!

Much of what Councillor Lewenza revealed was something I suspected but now it is proven. The big shocker to me is how much this all cost taxpayers in the end when it was absolutely not necessary.

Why did we need a 101-day strike?

Think about it. WUC settled before the CUPE strike without a strike. Enwin and Transit Windsor settled after, again without strikes. All settled around the same numbers too.

If the WUC numbers were so bad, why was it settled? If the CUPE settlement was so bad, then why were the other two City organizations settled without a fight?

CAN ONE NOW AGREE THAT THE CUPE STRIKE WAS NOT A LABOUR DISPUTE. IT WAS NOTHING MORE THAN POLITICAL ACTION DESIGNED TO CRUSH A PUBLIC SERVICES UNION TO ACHIEVE SOME GOVERNMENTAL OBJECTIVE!

It tells you something about Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis. He is a terrific planner. There is no doubt that this struggle was planned for years since the CUPE collapse was to be the precursor for going after the Firefighters (no contract for 3 years and now in arbitration) and then the police:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis says services will still be delivered in the event of a strike as city managers were preparing "perhaps one of the most comprehensive plans this corporation has ever seen in terms of contingency planning."

He is so smart, in his own mind anyway, that the way he plans matters is the way that the Universe is supposed to unfold. Until it does not. Then Eddie has no idea what to do. How can he? He did not contemplate it and so could not plan for it.

Eddie I am certain expected a short strike since it was directed at the City staff who were the lowest paid, many of whom were single parents. When the strike lasted 15 weeks, what did we get from our Mayor with a clear lack of good sense....panic and a near riot! When he got out of the negotiating picture in the last week, Helga was able to arrive at a settlement with CUPE quickly.

No wonder that Toronto settled at almost the same time!

There is so much to talk about in Junior's Report. Let me deal with key issues.

For that though, you will have to wait for Part (II)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

Kennie Vs Edgar

CUPE Strike Presentation




That's what it really is. A contest between 2 political opponents with different views of the world no matter how politically correct someone may try and portray it.

Who won....that's easy. You decide for yourself after getting a new perspective on what took place during the CUPE strike.

Get some of the inside info and have events placed in a context.

Two different views of how to undertake labour disputes in a Municipal Environment.

You read ad nauseum about Edgar's views in the Messenger's pages for months. Now read what Junior has to say as set out in his meeting. Before the Star tries to tell you what to think!

Read the covering letter first and then watch the slide show above.
  • Can We Come Together to Build a Better City?

    By Ken Lewenza Jr.

    The hundred-day civic workers’ strike earlier this year was one of the most difficult and divisive events in our city’s history. And the repercussion and recriminations from the strike continue even to this day, living on in nasty “he-said-she-said” recriminations that mar our deliberations at city council and other civic forums.

    With the perspective that comes with a bit of distance, I want to revisit some of the underlying issues – both fiscal and social – that lay at the heart of the conflict. My goal is not to carry on old battles. My goal is to consider what we can learn as a community from this destructive and unnecessary confrontation, and how to prevent similar debacles in the future.

    Because the hard truth is that public sector agencies in general are going to face intense fiscal pressures in the next few years, a side-effect of the global financial crisis and resulting recession. Governments at all levels now face sizeable deficits. We must learn how to negotiate those fiscal challenges much better than we did in Windsor this year. The consequences, if we don’t, will be measured in social division, lost services … and, perhaps surprisingly, higher costs.

    Let’s take it at face value that the hard-line stance (demanding elimination of post-retirement benefits, or PRBs, for new hires, along with other concessions) taken by the City’s leadership was motivated by a desire to keep costs in line and reduce the fiscal burden on the City and its taxpayers. (Another possible interpretation of events is that “getting tough” with public sector workers is always a sure vote-getter during tough economic times.)

    The fundamental question I then ask is this: Was this an effective way to reach a cost-effective collective agreement with the CUPE bargaining unit? In retrospect, it clearly wasn’t. In fact, by emphasizing confrontation over cooperation, not only did we spark a long, ugly work stoppage, and drive a wedge through the middle of a community that needs to come together right now. We also ended up with a collective agreement that is clearly more expensive to the City, not less expensive.

    That may seem like a surprising claim, but here’s my logic. We’ve heard no end of doom-and-gloom actuarial projections regarding the ultimate cost of post-retirement health benefits for City workers. But in reality, the fiscal problem associated with those benefits is not that the benefit itself is inherently “rich.” In reality, the City’s own actuary confirms that the current service cost of CUPE’s post-retirement benefits is $2.7 million per year – which works out to a little more than $1 per hour for all the full-time workers who get this benefit.

    This seems very modest, compared to all the frightening headlines we saw about the City’s $300 million accumulated PRB liability. Because Canada’s accounting rules have only recently changed , and now require cities to report these lump sum liabilities, many average citizens (and even those who should know better, like politicians and reporters) misunderstand these numbers. Less than one-quarter of that $300 million liability is associated with the CUPE unit. The annual current service cost of that liability is quite modest. And all of that cost is associated with existing employees – not new hires. Yet PRBs for the current workforce weren’t even on the table. It was only for new hires that the City wanted to snatch this benefit away.

    So why on earth did we go to war over a $1 per hour cut in labour costs for new hires, who aren’t even on the payroll yet? In fact, it’s not even clear when the City will be hiring again. The problem is not the go-forward costs of maintaining this benefit (which is so important to the security and quality of life of workers when they retire). The problem is our past failure to set aside resources to support these PRBs. Instead, we just coasted along, crossing our fingers that the money would be there when we needed it. The epic strike didn’t reduce this accumulated liability by one cent.

    In other words, the problem is not the benefit itself. The problem is that we need to find a better way to responsibly pre-fund the benefit. Other industries are also grappling with this challenge (like the auto industry, which is implementing a new pre-funded trust system to pay for PRBs). Not by going to war to take the benefit away. But by working together to find better ways to sustainably pay for the benefit.

    A simple actuarial exercise illustrates the point. Suppose we took 50 cents per hour for all future new hires, and invested it in a fund (just like we do for pensions). These premiums would be indexed to future wage increases. We would invest the monies, aiming for a 7% return over the long-term (consistent with long-run experience). Using the same actuarial assumptions as are built into the City’s valuation of PRBs, and assuming 36 new hires per year (as per the forecast provided to city council), this modest premium would allow the full pre-funding of PRBs for those new hires until at least 2072.

    That’s a simple way to address the cost-overhang resulting from unfunded benefit promises. Instead of battling to the end to take them away from workers in the future, we should fund them responsibly, sustainably – and affordably.

    Even better, by taking this constructive problem-solving approach (rather than going to war), we could have reduced the overall cost of the CUPE contract. Early in bargaining I had proposed a status-quo roll-over agreement for this group, and I believe that CUPE officials were signalling that could be a face-saving solution to a very tough round of contract talks. Instead we slipped into a hundred-day conflict, driven by overheated rhetoric about “greedy” unions, that won’t produce a penny of savings for at least thirty years to come. Yet to eventually get that deal, the City had to sweeten the offer with wage increases that compound to more than 6 percent over four years. This compares to many employers in Windsor who are presently negotiating wage freezes (not surprising, given the current recession). The City threw in another $2.8 million in signing bonuses ($2000.00 for full-timers, $1000.00 for part-timers) to seal the deal.

    The cost of those wage increases will likely add $40 million to City expenses over the next ten years, just from the CUPE group (and much more if that pattern is extended to other bargaining units). And the bill only gets bigger in future years – as subsequent wage increases are applied to a higher starting point. Over the long run, once again using the same actuarial assumptions as the City, I estimate those wage increases (let alone the signing bonus) will cost more than twice as much as the City will ever save by wrestling PRBs away from new hires.

    So the next time a hard-line politician stands up and boasts about the money he “saved” you by getting tough with the unions, think again. There’s no doubt that the strike cost Windsor taxpayers (in money, in lost services, and in a divided community) much more than it saved them. We divided our community, we lost services, we damaged the regional economy (when it could least afford it), and we paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle the conflict. Why? To reduce the labour costs of new hires (who aren’t even on the payroll yet) by $1 per hour.

    Needless to say, Windsor has been hit hard enough by the global financial crisis and the manufacturing meltdown. Then, on top of tens of thousands of jobs that have disappeared from the private sector, the City then effectively eliminated another 1800 good jobs for over three months. How many millions of dollars of personal income, and how many thousands of spin-off jobs, were lost by this aggressive stance – precisely when our community could least afford it? We shouldn’t be glorifying the savings of that needless battle. Rather, we should be regretting its costs – monetary, economic, and social.

    As a city councillor , I am concerned both with treating our own employees fairly, and managing our finances in a responsible, sustainable way. There were much better ways to achieve both goals, than through the now-infamous War of 2009.

    Let’s hope that as we grapple with fiscal challenges in future years, we find better ways to solve our problems by working together – instead of battling each other in epic confrontations that no-one can win.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

With Friends Like Mini-Gord...



Oh I understand perfectly well what mini-Gord's Saturday column was intended to do.

First, obviously, it is a continuation of his tiresome, anti-CUPE war using inflammatory language to work up the masses:
  • "But an outside contractor won't close children's pools, toss garbage at children in parks or stop issuing welfare cheques if its union doesn't get its way."

Nope, but they can go on strike for months and disrupt lives across the Province:

  • "In Ontario, driver examination services are delivered at DriveTest Centres, which are operated by Serco DES Inc. on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO).

    Effective August 21, 2009 unionized employees at Ontario’s DriveTest Centres are on strike and driver examination services are suspended until further notice...

    Driver examination services (i.e., written examinations, vision tests and road tests) are suspended until DriveTest Centres resume normal operations..

    Tests for current drivers... You will need to reschedule your test when services resume.

    Tests for new drivers: If you need a test to get your driver’s licence, you will need to schedule your test when services resume.

    Tests for drivers upgrading existing licences: If you are seeking to upgrade your licence, you will need to reschedule your test when services resume."

Mini-Gord can claim:

  • "The report, distributed to council on Friday, says the city could save between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the $4 million it spends annually collecting household garbage and yard waste."

Absolutely incorrect.

It does not say this at all. Here is what it really says:

But it is more than that. Mini-Gord's column is designed to discredit CUPE's supposed Champion on Council, Ken Lewenza, mere days before Junior releases his Report that we know will show Edgar (aka Eddie) to be less than the hero that he has been portrayed to be. You see, as mini-Gord knows full well, the strike result was a failure for Edgar:

  • "Windsor's property tax hawks will be complaining bitterly today that city council flubbed the best chance in a generation to get labour costs under control. We had CUPE on the ropes, they'll howl, and they still get a 6.3 per cent wage increase? And they get all their vacation plus a signing bonus of two grand for nothing? Outrageous! They have a point. If a struggling corporation can't cut costs during bad times, when can it?"
No one really expected Junior to go this far and go after the Mayor, although being politically correct, Junior won't put it that way. Mini-Gord thought that he could bluff his way forever through this:
  • "But taxpayers should thank their councillors today -- well, most of them, anyway -- for sticking to their guns during a strike that turned into a nerve-racking staredown for both sides.

    There isn't a shadow of a doubt taxpayers won this strike, even if they didn't get the wage and job cuts so many of them think were deserved in CUPE's case.

    Windsor's 15-week municipal strike was very likely a historic marker for the city -- the turning point at which the community decided to change the course of its destiny.

    An overwhelming majority of the city's residents decided they had had enough of perennial tax increases driven by the rising costs of their so-called servants, and ordered local politicians to fix the problem -- or else."

Now mini-Gord knows full well that the jig is up. The truth will come out. So now it is damage-control time. Who the heck is going to listen to Junior when mini-Gord fumes:

  • "Garbage collection is bargaining leverage, pure and simple. It allowed CUPE to hold taxpayers hostage for over three months this year, so it's also about who controls the city budget. The leaders of CUPE spent the summer telling us they do -- they even have the union bumper stickers on every city vehicle to prove it. (Why the heck did they agree to that anyway -- was it the threat of a garbage strike?)"

Of course, the report gives an easy answer to stop that practice which mini-Gord forgot to tell his readers, the few that remain anyway:

But adding that would have hurt his argument now wouldn't it!

Can you imagine this from today's Star. Poor mini-Gord:

  • CUPE open to no-strike deal
    Trash could be essential service


    At least one city councillor says it's time to either contract out garbage collection or have it declared an essential service -- an idea a CUPE union leader suggests is possible...

    "I'd be more than willing to sit down with them if they want to talk about essential services," said Jim Wood, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees union Local 82, which represents outside workers at the city."

Wow, talking to your Unions, not bashing them, might actually accomplish something.

The problem with mini-Gord is that he really does not understand the consequences of what he is writing. The result of his column is sometimes almost exactly opposite to that which he wants to achieve.

Take the Saturday column. Please.

He sets out all of the negotiations between the City and CUPE over the years that have resulted in significant productivity savings and cost reductions. The City Report identifies all of this in gory detail.


Continuous improvement for over 30 years! This work area would probably have earned ISO 9000 certification easily had the City applied for it with this record.

DUH. Doesn't mini-Gord get it? Doesn't he realize all of this was achieved WITHOUT a strike! It was done through "negotiations," a word that he and certain hardliners on Council do not seem to understand!

What he has just done is confirmed that our Mayor was incapable of providing leadership to prevent a strike by talking to his key Unions. Mini-Gord substantiates my theory that the strike was purely political not labour negotiating. We all were put through hell for reasons unknown yet but which should come out during the OLRB hearings if the Mayor is cross-examined properly.

Here is the stupidity of mini-Gord's position which again he does not disclose. Even the C.D. Howe Institute article that was used in the Report said:

What mini-Gord seems unable to comprehend and which you, dear reader, should is that what was suggested is exactly what has been taking place in Windsor for over 30 years!

Isn't it odd that WUC, Enwin and I hear the Transit Commission now could all settle without a strike but not the City? Aren't members of Council on their Boards too? Makes me wonder!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Did Council Hardliners Cost Taxpayers $160M


The gossip suggests that some local CUPE leaders want to follow the Valentinis school of thought and "move on." They want to forget the 101-day strike that cost their members millions of dollars in wages and incredible hardship and get on with things as if everything was normal now. Why fight the bad faith OLRB claim it is said or try and recover back wages.

My strongest advice to CUPE members: help them "move on" by kicking them off the Executive Board right now! Make sure that you have the strongest legal team possible and get on with it!

As I suggested, we taxpayers have never been told the true story of the strike and the consequences to us. Whether Edgar (aka Eddie) likes it or not, the story will come out on Tuesday night at Club Alouette, or at least a different version of it. We can thank Junior for that.

Dear reader, you ought to attend not only to hear the information first hand but to watch the political drama unfolding.

Check out Chris Schnurr's BLOG where he has a clip of Councillor Ken Lewenza and the transcript of what he said on John Fairley's Face-To-Face show http://chrisschnurr.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/2009-cupe-contract-cost-160-million-over-30-years/

Here is what Junior said:
  • "I think the whole issue around the post-retirement benefits; I think for the most part council didn’t completely understand it. It goes back to 2006 when we arbitrarily took them away from our management group, which then they decided they were going to try and form a union. So there was a chain of events that started to happen which could have been avoided.

    Our management group said they were looking, that they would be open to alternative solutions, they were open to a pre-funded plan, they were open to making contributions,and the city’s position was essentially, you know, there’s no types of negotiation.

    And I think there was a lot of exaggeration in terms of the overall cost of what postretirement benefits actually cost. You know, numbers were thrown around that in 30 years, the city’s legacy costs for 543 and 82 is $97-million. To the public, that blows their mind. But essentially what we give away in wages and benefits, if you compare apples to apples, is about $160-million over the same period."
Egad....if that is true, then the Mayor and the other hardliners such as the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget are in deep doo-doo for remarks such as this:
  • "Coun. Dave Brister says he heard dozens of similar messages from voters over the weekend. "They're not wrong," he told me Monday. "I don't think it's a good deal either. But this is the best deal we could get."

    Brister argues that the threat of arbitration hanging over council's head prevented them from following through to extract greater cost savings from CUPE.

    Had that threat not been there, "I would have held out longer, no question."
Pshaw......the Province had no reason to get involved! I guess Brister suffers from the amnesia disease too and forgot about Edgar and the near riot!

OMG....$160M....was this really the best deal? Did Brister and the other hardliners understand what they voted for? I would hate to see the worst then. Expect Junior to elaborate on this theme too:
  • "John Fairley: Could you, could the strike have been, could’ve been ended earlier than what it did? Was there any key point you could go back to and say…

    Ken Lewenza Jr.: Oh sure…

    John Fairley: You know what this would’ve happened?

    Ken Lewenza Jr.: Sure…

    John Fairley: What was that?

    Ken Lewenza Jr.: I mean again I think its just having a better labour relations level of trust and respect between the unions and sit down and have conversations and explore hypothetical scenarios. It’s just…

    John Fairley: Between the unions or between the city and the unions?

    Ken Lewenza Jr.: Between the city and the union. The unions and council. I think there was a lot of opportunities to, and I think with anyone that’s familiar with the collective bargaining process, I mean even people with the business community, if you were to look at what it was where we set out and where it was we actually ended up, there was enough in the envelope to basically allow both sides to walk away satisfied. I think sometimes the best collective agreement is where both sides walk away feeling like they took a little bit of a hit, and I don’t think that’s what happened here...

    Ken Lewenza Jr.: It wasn’t, it was absolutely not about giving up. Negotiations is fluid. It’s a fluid process. You need to sometimes change your tactics. I don’t think that, you know, I mean the votes are explained that somehow that there’s members of council that voted with CUPE all the time.

    I mean anyone that reads those minutes, that’s certainly not the case. In fact I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that there was never a time that a member of council put anything on the table that exceeded what the collective group did at the end of the process.

    So not one councillor put forward a proposal, ever, that was higher than what we signed at the end of the process.

    John Fairley: Is that right?

    Ken Lewenza Jr.: So to mislead the public, that somehow, you know, there was some councillors that were siding with CUPE, it’s simply not the case."
That $160M I am sure will be the first of several bombshells that will be dropped. It ought to change the perception of Windsorites about what happened during the strike.

I said "ought" because you know that the sycophants will make sure that Junior is smeared!

I will be surprised if the story is covered or, if covered, is reported fairly.

We shall see.

The 10 Tunnel Flip Questions That Will NEVER Be Answered



Oh you really did not want to have the answers that deal with a $100M dollar asset that is disappearing from the City's control. Even if you did, you will not get them.

Heck, let's spend more time worrying about Roseland golf course bunkers instead.

I talked about the Tunnel Corporation (and the airport one back in June 2007) BLOG: June 12, 2007 "The Speech The Mayor Would Not Hear."

http://windsorcityon.blogspot.com/2007/06/speech-mayor-would-not-hear.html

As I said at the time:

  • "What we are being asked to do today may seem to be very simple—setting up a few section 203 companies. Instead the truth is that we are doing is signing a blank cheque.

    That is why I am opposed to Administration’s recommendation. We require a proper consultation respecting the entire transaction, with full, complete and true disclosure not piece-meal bits and pieces.

    This report is a continuation of the secrecy at City Hall, to keep us in the dark as if all we are good for is to pay out taxes and remain silent."

It's nice to know I was right!

Here are the questions:

1) Where is the Price Waterhouse Coopers valuation report and why hasn't it been released to the public

2) What is the Net Book Value and how has it been calculated? Why wasn't this released to the public?

3) If the NBV is the same as the PWC valuation, how can that be when the Mayor has said:

  • Mayor Eddie Francis questioned how Detroit arrived at a $100-million price tag for control of the U.S. side of the tunnel.

    Windsor has gone through an "exhaustive process" to arrive last year at a $75-million value, he said.

    "That was the number we were prepared to pay back then, but economic conditions have changed considerably and are very different than five or six months ago."

We all know that traffic numbers are even worse now

4) If the NBV is less than the PWC calculation, does that mean that taxpayers are taking a capital gains LOSS right away and what is the impact on the City's financial statements?

5) This new deal means the City gets no money for the Tunnel but only shares while before we did. Why should taxpayers give away assets for nothing!

6) Since this company is now private, it can kick out members of the public and the media as was done at the Airport meeting recently. Will the by-laws of the Company provide:

  • all meetings are open to the public just like those of the Tunnel Commission
  • all Minutes are to be distributed to the public
  • no assets can be sold, leased, mortgaged or otherwise disposed of without the prior written consent of the shareholder, the City of Windsor

7) Supposedly this structure was set up to insulate the City from any liability. Will Mr. Sutts give us an iron-clad guarantee that this will happen considering that the Mayor is the Head, members of Council are on the Board and that the City provides staff.

8) Have there been any discussion whatsoever between anyone form Detroit and anyone representing the City including lawyers, consultants etc about doing a deal with Detroit for their half

9) What was the amount that Infrastructure Ontario was prepared to loan to the City

10) Has the Federal Government or Infrastructure Ontario valued the Tunnel and if those numbers have been given to the City, what are they?

Why am I so pessimistic. Remember this Star story:

  • "Council shot down a bid Monday for councillors to get their hands on the minutes of meetings from the city's growing roster of arms- length corporations.

    "I'm surprised," Coun. Drew Dilkens said. "What I put forward was a motion for open, transparent and accountable government -- something I thought everyone would support with a unanimous decision.

    "But tonight it wasn't the intent of this council to move in that direction."

    The city in recent years has continued to form a number of new corporations including Enwin Utilities, Windsor Canada Utilities and new companies to run the airport and Windsor-Detroit tunnel.

    Dilkens has suggested actions of board members behind the corporations have been too secretive and not accountable to taxpayers...

    Dilkens said that made him uncomfortable because every councillor is held accountable by taxpayers. Yet councillors can be in a tough position to respond because of a lack of information, he said.

    He pointed to issues surrounding WUC's controversial 86 per cent water rate hike in the summer, and also what he felt was a lack of information from city administration regarding the recent response to a request for proposals to operate the airport.

    Dilkens brought forward a motion Monday calling on all minutes from board meetings of the corporations to be sent to councillors on a monthly basis, including agencies funded by the city such as the library, art gallery and development commission.

    It was shot down by a 6-4 vote."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Last Mayor Standing


Three young and attractive Mayors, all with great potential for the future, all elected around the same time: Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit, David Miller in Toronto and our own Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis.

Kwame was sent to jail and now is in exile in Texas unless the Detroit Prosecutor lays more charges and gets another conviction. David Miller decided not to run for Mayor for another term after he failed to get results in his CUPE strike.

Is it now Edgar's turn for Fate to come down hard on him? Will the border file and the CUPE strike be the one-two punch that knocks him out?

This week might signal the beginning of the end of the career of Edgar. Will the Windsor Star continue to be able to hide that the Emperor wears no clothes, that the myth that has been created around Edgar has little basis in reality!

Will Edgar become the third of the could have beens?

THE UPCOMING WEEK

Two events this week may seal the Fate of our Mayor.

The first is the completely redesigned Tunnel "flip" to a City subsidiary that demonstrates starkly the poor business decision-making of the Mayor. His proposed Tunnel escapade with Detroit, which may well still be ongoing in his mind, could have cost the City dearly at a time when we needed to save every penny. It made no business or financial sense then and still does not.

The second is the CUPE strike report by Councillor Lewenza, who if the gossip is true, will demonstrate the failure of the Mayor's anti-CUPE effort to crush the Union. It will outline how much extra his failed campaign, which divided the City, and supported by certain hardliners on Council, cost taxpayers financially! It will demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the role of a leader in a City hardpressed by the economic downturn.

Frankly, if Junior is able to accomplish his task, then my theory re the role of Governments in crushing their unions is supported again. Did we, in other words, have a labour negotiation or was it really something political and very different in nature with CUPE workers and Windsor citizens the pawns in the game?

HAS EDGAR BEEN CLIPPED

Listen to the Daryl Newcombe clip from Eh-News. Daryl has a unique ability to sum up complex issues in a minute or two news story to make it understandable to those who may not know the gory details. In this story about a traffic study to be undertaken in Michigan, contrary to what he wanted to do, Edgar effectively blows out of the water the DRIC argument that another Bridge is needed because of traffic volumes.


video



It is the few seconds clip of Edgar that is so fascinating to me because it says so much. He effectively has ackowledged that what Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper have been saying about traffic volumes is correct. He falls back as justification for spending billions the old chestnut of security and redundancy.

He is of course incorrect in what he says as I have pointed out before. To solve the problem, he need only have advocated for reverse customs as he did years ago. But then again, how could he offer up such a simple solution after his Brighton Beach sale for the outrageous sum he received. He would have had to undercut his newest and bestest friends, the Federal Conservatives and Transport Canada. And that would not be a smart thing to do.

In those few seconds on tape, he continued to give the Bridge Company reasons why the DRIC process is such a farce and further set out what his role is in his opposition to their plans. More importantly, he made a fool of himself as Head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission!

THE INHERENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST: EDGAR AS MAYOR AND AS TUNNEL HEAD

Here is the Mayor of Windsor praising the concept of a DRIC bridge. It is the same bridge, if built, that the DRIC consultants say would take away 25% of the Tunnel business. That is business that Edgar as Head of the Tunnel Commission must protect and try and keep!

But consider what he is saying: there is a need for a second bridge after 9/11. Why then is there not the need for a second Tunnel too after 9/11? After all, the Tunnel, not the Ambassador Bridge, has been called the "unique security risk" in this area. Don't we need redundancy at the Tunnel as well or in reality, is the answer that no one cares if it is around or not?

The Bridge Company has a "floating bridge" concept that would discourage any attacks on the Bridge. What are the Tunnel contingency plans? If there are some, I have never heard of them.

We know the shape that the Bridge is in because 2 Reports have been released to the public but I am still waiting to receive the latest Tunnel inspection report given that the age of the Tunnel is similar to that of the Bridge!

We know as well that Matty Moroun wants to spend several hundred million dollars to build his Enhancement Project bridge and to rehabilitate his old bridge. We know that the Tunnel is in last last third of its normal life expectancy.

Interestingly, "excluding the initial $48 million in construction, the Port Authority [of New York] notes $536,600,000 of cumulative capital investment as of December 31, 2005" has been spent on the Holland Tunnel. How much has Windsor spent so far and how much will we have to spend on the Tunnel?

What we do NOT know is what Edgar's plans for the Tunnel are and from where the money will come to rehabilitate it given its declining financial position and its nearing end of life expectancy!

A sale one day to the Feds is becoming more and more the only saving solution don't you think, or rather a P3 front deal so the Americans won't get too upset!

THE TUNNEL FLIP

Let's now deal with the Tunnel flip. It should be obvious by now that Edgar's US$75M deal with Detroit would have been a horrific mistake and Cliff Sutts might have been called on his "guarantee" that he gave to Windsorites:
  • "the deal will not be completed until he is fully assured local taxpayers will not be hurt.

    “We will be extraordinarily cautious so costs of the acquisition will be self-supporting of the project itself. That there will be no need to go to the well of the city to support this transaction.”

Why even Edgar told us in effect that the deal stunk since it was so over-priced:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis questioned how Detroit arrived at a $100-million price tag for control of the U.S. side of the tunnel.

    Windsor has gone through an "exhaustive process" to arrive last year at a $75-million value, he said.

    "That was the number we were prepared to pay back then, but economic conditions have changed considerably and are very different than five or six months ago."

The chart I posted the other day showed that the Tunnel traffic has tanked by over 50% since 1999 and probably will be down substantially from last year as well. Edgar in the Eh-Channel clip above confirms that traffic is a major issue.

How can traffic improve with a DRIC bridge possibility, a new Enhancement Project Bridge, a possible water taxi/ferry service, a cable car, and who knows what else. Wait until Ohio gets their Casinos opened

THE REVISED TUNNEL FLIP

The sign of surrender is the deal now being rewritten for the Tunnel flip. The deal was originally a sale for cash for over $100M including assumption of liabilities. Of course, the subsidiary did not have the money to pay out that sum so a promissory note would be issued for the outstanding amount and interest would be charged until the note was paid off. In the end, City taxpayers would have seen real money for this deal.

By the way, that $100M+ was based on a PWC valuation report of fair market value that has never been seen by the public.

Now the deal changed. Instead of money, lucky us, we get shares in the Tunnel Company worth $100M or so and dividends from the profits made. Of course, Tunnel dividends do not exist now because revenues are so low so in effect, we get nothing.

Here is how Administration justifies this radical shift.

It is all BS.

Of course it is greater flexibility for the new Company. But not for Taxpayers!

The reality is that the new Corporation could not pay interest and principal on the promissory note since it would not have the cash because of poor traffic numbers. It could likely go broke very soon after the deal was completed! Now that would not be a good deal would it.

Nor would it impress Detroit if Edgar still wants to do a deal!

Now, with shares, no money ever has to be paid to the City unless a dividend is ever declared. And if by chance traffic picks up and the Tunnel is sold at a huge profit, that money remains in that Corporation and does NOT go to taxpayers unless a dividend is declared or the Corporation is wound up. Hardly a good deal for us.

Ahhh, but the City will show an asset of $100M in shares so that would be good for us right. Except is that the real value of the shares?

If Edgar is correct and, in this case he is, the Tunnel must be worth much less today than it was when the FMV was determined. On the day of the sale, City taxpayers should probably expect to see a capital loss of millions of dollars!

I found it interesting that nothing was posted publicly about the Net Book Value calculations. I guess that number is to be kept a big secret from us as long as possible:


It is no wonder that Infrastrucutre Ontario offered so little money as a loan to the City!

But of course that is not all. We have completely lost control of the Tunnel as a City asset. Just like at the airport, keep things hidden inside a private Company. And if anyone dares want to know what is going on, boot them out:
  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis kicked a Star reporter out of a Windsor Airport board meeting held in council chambers Tuesday afternoon, insisting that the meetings are and ought to be closed to the public.

    The reporter walked into the public chambers at City Hall shortly after the meeting began about 2 p.m. A host of people who aren’t on the board of YQG — the corporate entity that controls the publicly-owned Windsor Airport — were in attendance."

    Now the private Tunnel Corporation can do with the Tunnel as they want and without Council's permission.

THE CUPE TRUTH FINALLY COMES OUT

How ironic, it will be Edgar's former buddy and strongest supporter on Council, Ken Lewenza Jr., who will effectively run Edgar out of town after his Ward 4 Councillors' session with Bill Marra on Tuesday.

It will be interesting to see if the Star even covers the Ward 4 session and, if a reporter is there, what will be reported. I do expect the good juicy parts to be ignored, especially any part criticizing how the Mayor acted. We cannot have people thinking that the Mayor did a crummy job on the strike now can we. It would be so embarrassing to the Star and their writers.

From what I am hearing, Junior has a plan to deal with that eventuality, to work around the Star and to go directly to the public if necessary.

In Toronto, the media at least explained the strike results to the public, unlike Windsor where the Mayor and hardliners have been glorified:
  • "At the outset of this labour dispute Miller served notice that he was determined to end a costly and outdated "sick bank" system giving workers cash for up to 130 unused sick days on retirement. Yesterday he declared victory and repeatedly claimed that the tentative agreements reached Monday had "eliminated" the sick bank provision...

    Pressed on this matter yesterday, Miller finally conceded it is more accurate to say the sick bank is being phased out rather than eliminated now. In truth, it is being phased out in slow motion. While that is a step forward, some Torontonians may see it as scant reward for enduring a strike that lasted almost six weeks, especially after Miller made progress on this issue a defining measure of his success."

That is the truth that has been hidden from Windsorites by the Messenger. What has been portrayed as a massive victory is not. It was horrific from a taxpayer perspective.

We have seen an inkling of why the strike failed from the Minutes released BLOG October 01, 2009 "What the Strike Minutes Show" http://windsorcityon.blogspot.com/2009/09/what-strike-minutes-show.html However, what Junior will contribute I hope is a detailed explanation of what went on behind the scene so we can understand the Minutes better and have disclosed some background facts of which we are not aware to put everything in a proper context.

If you watched the Face-To-Face interview with Junior the other day, John Fairley did it again. Junior will attack the handling of the strike by Council and the Mayor in particular since Edgar put himself front and centre.

  • "Council in camera Minute June 18, 2009

    Moved by Councillor Jones, seconded by Councillor Brister,

    THAT no member of Council or Administration, other than Mayor Francis and/or Helga Reidel, are to comment on, or do anything pertaining to, labour negotiations."

Edgar cannot hide now. He will have to take the responsibility and the blame exactly as it was thrust on him by the former CAO after the "near riot."

Accordingly, I expect that Junior will talk about, as he did in the interview:

  • the poor labour/management relations under the Mayor

  • missed opportunities and why

  • How CUPE won contrary to popular belief

  • the huge cost to taxpayers, costs that did not need to happen

  • the lack of understanding by the hardliners how bad the final deal was

  • Adminstration's seeming failure to take strong action to advise Council on how poorly their bargaining position was for reasons unknown

  • alternatives that both sides could have lived with

  • how the WUC settlement could have provided a precedent early on

  • how the Star fanned the flames that gave rise to serious divisons in the Community

  • the loss to businesses that are still ongoing

  • how the public was misled with exaggerated monetary numbers

  • the PRB story

  • why arbitration could have worked

  • and much more.

I am sure that the sycophant are waiting in the wings for Junior with their defences already prepared but it won't work if the Star story reports fairly. People will finally understand what really happened during the strike.

The big losers will be the hardliners and especially the Mayor. His well-tailored reputation will suffer. As the Toronto Star said about David Miller, the Windsor Star Editorial writers should say about our Mayor when the truth comes out but of course they dare not:

  • "Times of crisis can build political reputations – or shatter them – depending on how well a leader rises to the challenge. As mayor, David Miller has confronted no crisis greater than the strike by 30,000 Toronto municipal workers, now in its 39th day. If not shattered, his reputation as an effective leader is certainly cracked."

I am sure that contributed to Miller not running.

Next week will be a very interesting one in Windsor. Given the cool weather, if the Mayor is wearing his newly tailored clothes, he might be very chilly standing out in the cold.