Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Few More Border Stories

Here are some things you may not have known


Focus on a DRIC bridge not terrorizing the Ambassador Bridge Company; focus on full tunnelling, Greenlink and the Windsor-Essex Parkway not upgrading E C Row to be our border road and on a cheap road solution; focus on building a DRIC bridge not buying the Ambassador Bridge; focus on P3s taking over key border crossings so there is no Dubai Ports incident, not Canada.

All of these matters jumped into my head when I saw this quote from John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
  • “It was almost illusionist, drawing your attention to something that isn’t important, so that you’re not watching what’s happening, which really is important.”


Take a look at how the Sarnia Mayor describes the Blue Water Bridge:

  • "Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has seen the same trend in his border city. He said traffic on the Bluewater Bridge has been down every year since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, even though the bridge has been twinned and substantially upgraded."

What is also true is that tolls at the BWB were kept artificially low for years to try to take away business from Moroun. They were finally almost doubled recently to the chagrin of OTA's David Bradley who likes taxpayers paying the costs not truckers who actually use the bridge.

Remember that the Ambassador Bridge with all of its supposed negatives already takes traffic from Sarnia.

No wonder no one wants Matty to build his second bridge in the same manner as in Sarnia. Truckers would go where the operator really knows how to run a border crossing!


A glimmer of hope for the man and then this:

  • "Region facing new reality

    LOONIE: Tourism, retail and manufacturing are being hit with a double whammy from the higher Canadian dollar and tighter border security

    Get used to it.

    With a tighter border and the loonie poised to eclipse the American dollar in value, Southwestern Ontario's tourism and manufacturing sectors are adjusting to a new economic reality.

    Both Americans and Canadians are more reluctant to make quick cross-border hops to hunt bargains or see a show.

    Cross-border traffic with the U.S. sank 9.2% last year and the number of Canadian visits to the U.S. was down by 10%.

    That trend was seen at the Stratford Festival, where ticket sales to Americans have fallen to about 30% of the market.

    "The days of Americans coming down to see one show and have dinner are almost over," said Anthony Cimolino, general director of the Stratford Festival.

    Cimolino said the explanation is more than the soaring loonie. New U.S. regulations requiring passports at the border and the depressed economy in Michigan, a key market for Stratford, are discouraging casual cross-border tourism...

    The higher loonie has also caused a major shakeup in the manufacturing sector.

    Paul Hogendoorn, head of the London Region Manufacturing Council, said many of the manufacturing plants in the region that were dependent on a low Canadian dollar to drive export sales have gone under.

    "If you're just reliant on coming in at the lowest price, there's always someone, somewhere, who is going to beat you," he said...

    Douglas Porter, an economist with BMO Capital Markets, said Southwestern Ontario manufacturers have had some time to adjust to a higher loonie, but "the jury is still out" on how well they can cope.

    "I think it's still going to be a real burden. It's one reason to believe Ontario will have a sub-par economic recovery in comparison to Western Canada, in particular."


Can you imagine, the Canadian Government spending taxpayer dollars to help out a private border operator even though his business would surely disappear if a DRIC Bridge was built

One day the Government of Canada will be called upon to explain this discrimination. Why it helped one private border operator in Windsor but not another:

  • "Major revamp for Windsor-Detroit ‘hazmat’ ferry dock

    Despite its four-month construction time frame — and November start date — by late January more than half the work had been completed at the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry dock in Windsor’s Ojibway Industrial Park...

    The Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor Detroit Tunnel are the two major crossings between Windsor and Detroit. Lesser known is the hazardous goods ferry.

    Since Earth Day 1990 the ferry, a barge pushed by a tug, makes several trips a day and lately it’s been up to 14, carrying five tractor-trailers each time across the almost two-kilometre international river crossing.

    The privately-run ferry carries trucks with hazardous goods which are banned by the bridge and tunnel and oversized loads...

    The $8.8 million project is included in $300 million of special federal-provincial infrastructure money, announced in 2005, to alleviate some of existing traffic congestion leading to the border...

    After landscaping is completed in spring the Detroit-Windsor ferry will no longer look like the poor cousin to the area’s other crossings, finally getting the infrastructure respect it deserves."


Remember that Edgar (aka Eddie) and Dwight were to have meetings on the border. Remember that Edgar was having conversations with people about whether he should run again.

That was months ago and nothing has happened since. No one got suckered in to announce that they were running as the E-Machine tried to accomplish.

Just in case you were wondering why nothing is going on, or rather nothing is being mentioned publicly, Gord told us back in mid-February.

  • "What's interesting is that the confirmation of his [Edgar's] intentions, originally slated for March, might now be pushed back to late April or early May, after a handful of key tasks, especially related to border infrastructure, might be wrapped up."

Oh, I guess that announcement will be made right after long-delayed Fahri's February announcement. Here is what Farhi said on December 5:

  • "Windsor's battered downtown is getting a much-needed vote of confidence from larger-than-life London developer Shmuel Farhi, who has been opening his wallet to scoop up properties here and hopes to make an announcement in February of his plans for the core area.

    "I don't want to say too much much right now. But it's going to be good news," said the former Israeli soldier whose Farhi Holdings Corp. owns and manages four million square feet of office, retail, industrial and residential space across Ontario, including a significant chunk of downtown London.

    "Over the next two months we'll be expanding our interest in Windsor and hopefully early in the new year we can come with an announcement in regard to my future business there," said Farhi."

If he can delay, then so can Edgar. Here is what Farhi said on February 23:

  • "But Farhi promised "very, very exciting news" coming soon for downtown Windsor.

    The year after acquiring the 100-acre Lear property for $8 million.

    Farhi traded 40 acres of the land in 2006 to the city for its new arena, in exchange for a prime 1.1-acre site west of the Art Gallery of Windsor plus $1.5 million in cash.

    Farhi wouldn't say what those downtown plans are but promised an announcement "very, very shortly" involving "my plan for the downtown."

    There are rumours Farhi Holdings Corp. has been actively acquiring, or negotiating for, more downtown Windsor properties to add to its portfolio. Farhi won't divulge details, but said in December he was optimistic about the city's future and would be "expanding" in Windsor in the next few months to take advantage of "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities."

Delays happen. Remember when Farhi said in August, 2008:

  • "London-based developer Shmuel Farhi will demolish the former Lear Corporation plant on Lauzon Road this fall, clearing the way for a massive development that could top $100 million and include a hotel, restaurants, retail outlets, apartment towers and senior-citizen residences.

    Farhi, who owns much of downtown London through Farhi Holdings Corp., which has real estate assets of more than $500 million across Ontario, confirmed in a phone interview that he's finalizing plans to tear down the sprawling 43-year-old factory, with demolition beginning as early as October, and is working on long-term development plans for the 60-acre site that could, over the long haul, exceed 500,000 square feet and would benefit from close proximity to the city's WFCU Arena complex.

    "It would complement the great work the city has done."

    "I see mixed use. Commercial. Anything and everything we can build there. We can do whatever...

    He said he's been in discussions with hotel firms that could build and operate a hotel...

    "I can see eventually 60 acres being developed ... the equivalent of an entire downtown," said Farhi. Asked about the risks of investing in a city rocked by economic misery, including a disastrous real estate market, Farhi sounded unperturbed. He said Windsor has obvious advantages, including being located next to the U.S."

Gosh, do you think he listend to much to Sean's optimistic traffic projections?

Now he is saying:

  • "While he has "great plans" for the [Lear] site, including mixed-use retail and residential, Farhi said they wouldn't be implemented in the immediate future.

    "In this economic climate, bankers are very conservative -- building on spec is not our forte," said Farhi, who owns a large chunk of downtown London as part of his company's extensive real estate holdings.