Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How Canada Destroyed the Windsor/Detroit Region

I just saw the story about the US Coast Guard and the Bridge Company. It obviously is a major setback for them.

However, it just means that the border file is in total chaos right now with no one having the right to do anything. More litigation, more delay, more fighting as our region collapses economically. What a great future to look forward to!

And no one really cares it seems or rather, no one in a position of power.

To be fair, I have be pretty accurate about what the border file is all about.

The Canwest media stories have disclosed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a secret Mandate letter to purchase the Ambassador Bridge from its owner, Matty Moroun. This should hardly be a surprise to BLOG readers.

The significance of the issuance of that letter is that every tactic tried by the Canadian Government to force Moroun out cheaply has failed. Buying the bridge is an admission of failure and that the DRIC bridge was nothing more than a pressure tactic.

Oh you won’t see a formal capitulation by Harper. The Government could never do that. And we will see more of the same BS for who knows how long. We will also see more litigation until finally someone will wake up and say enough already or there will be a reason for Canada to retreat. As it did because of Free Trade while the FIRA litigation was underway.

The importance of the letter to Moroun and his son means that Canada has NO legal basis for building DRIC. It means that Canada has NO legal basis for stopping the Enhancement Project bridge. It means that Canada has lost against Moroun. Again.

It is as simple as that.

Poor strategy, underestimating one’s opponent, making bureaucratic assumptions about a real life entrepreneur and spreading disinformation has undermined Canada.

So I should gloat, right. Stand up and say “I told you so.” Pat myself on the back. Except I feel no vindication. I feel no joy. I feel sadness instead, troubled by how our politicians and bureaucrats at all levels and on both sides of the border destroyed our region at the worst possible time since the Great Depression.

This whole file has gone on since the late 1990’s, publicly since around the middle of 2002. And what has Canada achieved with all of its machinations and spending of money. Nothing. Canada is worse off than when this all started.

It is hardly a surprise to me to be honest. As a litigator, I could see what was going to happen from the very first time that I got involved with STOPDRTP. I knew that there would have to be negotiations with Moroun, like him or not. There had to be. He owned the #1 border crossing between Canada and the US. He could not be ignored.

Why was Canada so afraid to deal with him? Because of the FIRA litigation? Because his price to sell would be too high and could not be justified? Because some bureaucrat figured out a genius plan that would make him beg to be bought out?

I wish that there was a way to make the responsible Government officials—politician and bureaucrat—pay for the damage they have caused our region. I wish we could force them to pay back to us the millions of taxpayer dollars they have wasted, the time that has passed, the misery they have caused to so many people.

Can we force them to pay back their inflated salaries, bonuses and raises? Can we seize their indexed pensions and take away their benefits? Can we make them suffer as they have made so many people in the region suffer?

Just imagine if Canada had dealt honestly with the Morouns. A deal would have been reached years ago. They are business people and understand how to do a deal. As Matthew Moroun said in the Canadian Senate:
  • “Since 1979 the bridge has been owned by my family. We have operated the bridge successfully, not only financially for our own interests in its long-term future and as shareholders but more importantly as stewards of a great responsibility.

    To that end we have successfully cooperated as partners with Canada Customs, Canada Immigration, Homeland Security, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Ontario Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, Fish and Wildlife and more agencies than can name.

    Permit me to suggest there is no meritorious catalyst for additional and burdensome regulation of the Ambassador Bridge at this time. The state of the bridge is strong. Its finances are sound, its management sharp and successful, and its track record the best in the industry. Additionally there exists no national or international event occurring recently or expected that would encourage or retract invasive fettering of government.

    However, do not confuse my words as introversion or egocentricism. We are neither. Instead, we relish the opportunity to discuss the issues and challenges of the border and specifically the Ambassador Bridge with this committee, and if we are able, Transport Canada. We not only favour outside input but look upon the federal Government of Canada as a partner and primary stakeholder in our long-term future and importantly our day-to-day business. It may seem incongruous that our operation has thrived over 77 years without invasive federal regulation, even though the bridge itself would be incapable of functioning without hundreds of distinguished Canada Customs and Immigration officers on our plaza and inspection areas every day.

    To that end, let it not be lost that we are suggesting that the Ambassador Bridge go it alone. That would be a ridiculous statement and an ignorant one. We are asking this committee, and especially Transport Canada, to please put down your sword, set this legislation aside, and instead engage in meaningful dialogue, not just at a very formal hearing to discuss the legalese of this legislation but rather to discuss and brainstorm and cooperate with one another toward an even more successful Ambassador Bridge for the advantage of the operation, the government, and the public.”

And how did Canada react to that. As the young Moroun told the Toronto Star:

  • “The Morouns know they are a bee in Stephen Harper's bonnet. Famously, during one of the Three Amigos summits, the Prime Minister pleaded for then-president George W. Bush's help in getting rid of the billionaire owners of the Ambassador Bridge – the aging link between Windsor and Detroit that accounts for a quarter of all trade between Canada and the U.S.

    "Here's the thing. We have never had what I would call a real conversation with the Canadian government," says Moroun.

    "All the talk so far has been at a lower level, and it starts with the Canadians saying, 'No matter what, we're going to build a new bridge and kill you. Now what did you want to talk about?' It's a pretty tough way to start off. It puts us in a position of saying, 'No matter what, we're going to stop you.' "

    The Morouns say it's time to start anew. At the highest level.”

Imagine if a deal had been done years ago. The border road would almost be finished by now. The new bridge would almost be constructed by now. Even though the auto industry crashed and people lost their jobs, they would have a chance to get work on the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects and spin-off jobs. Hotels would be full, restaurants would be busy, stores would be selling, houses would not be foreclosed and apartments would not be vacant. We would have escaped the worst of the economic melt-down.

Even more importantly, we would have been on the road to economic redevelopment by now with a realistic future. We could be that region in New Jersey that I have mentioned several times before.

That is what these politicians and bureaucrats cost us. And they do not give a damn about it. And there is nothing we can do about that either. That is what bothers me the most.

You ought to know by now, that I can back up what I say about where we could have been. Take a look at this recent story and note one man especially who is involved in the project. Now you will understand perhaps my anger and disgust. Why isn't this Windsor:

  • Regina takes steps to establish itself as global transportation hub

    REGINA, Sask. -- A meeting of transportation and logistics professionals was held here yesterday to flush out a vision of establishing the region as a global transportation hub.

    The Global Transportation Hub Authority (GTHA) Board of Directors held its first meeting yesterday.

    "We have assembled a diverse group of men and women with impeccable credentials in transportation logistics and international trade," GTHA Chair Wayne Elhard said. "With people whose names are instantly recognized in the international business community, the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) vision will quickly become a reality."

    Elhard said the board will plan, develop, construct, operate and manage the Global Transportation Hub. Other board members include: Captain Gordon Houston (vice chair), former president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver; Mayo Schmidt, president and CEO of Viterra; Louis Ranger, former deputy minister, Transport Canada; Marcella Szel, Q.C., former v.p., marketing and sales, Canadian Pacific Rail; Lionel LaBelle, president and CEO, Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership; and Ron Dedman, Deputy Minister, Government Services, Government of Saskatchewan.

    The board plans to establish Regina as a major Western Canadian transportation and logistics centre. Among the initiatives already underway is the construction of a new one million square foot Loblaw's distribution centre. Other plans include ramping up rail capacity and improving supply chain access and efficiency.

    CPR is building a new state-of-the-art intermodal facility as part of the project, which will replace its current downtown Regina facility. The new facility will increase container capacity to about 250,000 TEU lifts per year. New interchanges, highway connectors and access roads are being constructed at a cost of $167 million. And discussions are underway with a number of trucking and logistics firms, according to stakeholders."
If you want to vilify someone, dear reader, going after the Morouns is the wrong target!