Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Canada Should Increase Foreign Aid To Third World Countries And Michigan

The plan really is all about how to prevent another Dubai ports fiasco and to grab any opportunity one can to accomplish that goal.

Clearly "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" is the new DRIC mantra but for a measly $100M that Michigan has to spend for traffic connections for the DRIC bridge. That money cannot be around if MDOT could not afford $84M for 243 road and bridge projects and had to postpone them, costing the Michigan economy about 10,000 jobs.

The concern is, if Canada, a foreign country remember, tries to get control of key land border crossings into and out of the United States either through buying them directly or P3ing them through a "friendly" investor. The issue to avoid is clear:
  • "Various United States political figures argued that the takeover [of the US ports by a state-owned company in the UAE] would compromise U.S. port security."

But of course, no one can outthink a bureaucrat in developing plans to outsmart the public and more importantly, Legislators both State and Congressional. Read on.

Canada is always there to help out the less fortunate. After devastation in a country whether due to flood, earthquake, hurricane or famine, the Canadian Government and Canadians have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid worldwide to help the people in a country after a catstrophe or natural disaster. Even with our own economic woes, we have contributed money overseas.

We do try to be smart in how we do things however. There is always a reason for our generosity. As part of our Foreign Aid Policy

  • "The Canadian government has announced it will steer foreign aid toward a smaller number of places around the world -- 20 countries or regions where it hopes to have a bigger impact."

I expect that Michigan will be one of those places to receive Canadian aid and very shortly too, say before the Michigan Legislators vote on P3s or DRIC in May/June.

We pay out about $5B per year to help others, about what a DRIC project would cost.

We need not look too far to who might need our help. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States, the State of Michigan is verging on Third World status under Governor Granholm. Thank goodness she is term limited and a new Governor comes into office soon. There is merit in such an electoral system!

Detroit as an example has thousands of homes that the City wants to tear down to eliminate blight. Why the numbers are almost as high as cities who have been hit by an attack of Mother Nature. Curiously, Windsor wants to keep blighted homes standing using anti-demolition by-laws to do so especially if the applicant is the Ambassador Bridge Company.

Take unemployment. I have seen stories with numbers like these:

  • "Officially, Detroit's unemployment rate is just under 30 percent. But the city's mayor and local leaders are suggesting a far more disturbing figure -- the actual jobless rate, they say, is closer to 50 percent."

In this time of need, Canada needs to step up to help out our good neighbour. I know that Canada does not want to increase the amount spent on foreign aid but the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, needs to do some creative thinking to assist Michigan.

I have heard a rumour of an idea like this being bandied around the braintrust in the DRIC camp. It is to make Canada the nice guys while really undermining the Americans.

The PM is in deep doo-doo over DRIC. His secret mandate letter to buy the Ambassador Bridge really hurt his credibility by suggesting that the DRIC process was a phony and completely undercut Michigan.

To earn some good-will and to help him in taking over the Ambassador Bridge, his real objective, there is talk of starting up a Charitable Foundation to help out Michigan. It is to be called "Take a Michigander out to Lunch" Fund. The Government and Canadians will be asked to be generous to our close American friend across the border.

As an example, we expect that the bakery lady in Sandwich could deliver boxes of her famous brownies as part of the campaign to feed hungry souls across the river in Delray since she and the other Windsor politicos and West Enders are so concerned about their future. After all, if they cannot eat Sandwiches, then let them eat brownies!

While brownies help, the real need is for money in Michigan. Millions and millions of dollars. About $100M worth.

The compelling reason that will be presented is that the recent DRIC meeting in Detroit has saddened the heart of the Prime Minister. As one leader to another, he would be shown as having empathy with the Michigan Governor whose State is so short of funds it does not have $84 million to help pay for 243 road and bridge projects in Michigan which may now have to be postponed for years. That means that about 10,000 people per year will not have jobs since the number of projects will be less.

The Prime Minister will be shown as thrilled to learn that the DRIC Project would create 10,000 jobs. He won't remark on the similarity of numbers between the two job losses and job gains. He must be aware that it seems that MDOT is holding back on the $84M so it can fund DRIC in the short-term. He can do the math showing that the net result in the increase in jobs is ZERO.

Of course, he was glad that no one figured out that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project would also create a substantial number of new jobs. That would have spoiled the fun at the rah-rah-rah DRIC meeting. He was not really surprised that that no one at the media conference or in the media itself mentioned the fact that both projects would create work for Michiganders. I am certain that he must have thought it was a mere oversight on the part of MDOT the way they seem to forget a number of matters with respect to the border file.

In any event, the PM knows that Michigan had to find $100 million in order to finance road connections for the DRIC project and he also knows that they may not have the cash for it and the 243 projects. They need about $184M now for both.

The Legislators around the State will be furious when they find out that their local road or bridge won't be fixed up to help out Canada. I think that this was the first time that I had ever heard that State money was needed for the DRIC project. Up until now, it was always toll payers who would pick up the tab.

It makes a mockery of this latest pro DRIC piece:

What will tax money be needed for: investor guarantees?

On the one hand, money will be needed later; on the other hand it will never be needed. Can't they make up their mind within the same document for heaven's sake!

MDOT's Captain Kirk claimed that the money would come back once the P3 project was implemented, meaning he needed money now. However there could be a substantial lag, especially if no one wanted to bid on the project between the time when the money was required and when the P3 investor gave Michigan that the money. Sure we are talking only about the time value of money, whatever that expression means, but when you are in a State like Michigan which is in a very bad financial state, that time lag can be a killer financially.

Of course, no one who would be asked to contribute to the Charitable Foundation would ever think of asking why it was necessary to build in another location and spend $100 million on traffic connections. After all, a mile or so down the road, money had been spent on the Ambassador Gateway project to do the same thing. It just cost Michigan and the Federal Government a couple of hundred million dollars. But it is like that with the poor, they just don’t know how to budget their money properly. They spend and spend and spend and max out their credit line. That is why they get into such a bad situation.

The idea will be to collect money and then use that money to help Michigan fund $100 million for the DRIC project. It would be unlikely that the American Federal Government would contribute much after Secretary Clinton made very clear that she had no interest in the Canada/US border considering the problems she is looking into with respect to the Mexican situation

It probably would be expected to raise money from corporations like P3 investors, rich lawyers and consultants and engineers.

I can just picture in my mind all the well-known Canadian music stars getting together, and leaving their egos at the door, singing a specially created song to be shown on MTV and MuchMusic to raise funds for Michiganders. Just like “We are the World" or "Do They Know It's Christmas." If only Canada's Pamela Anderson had not divorced Kid Rock of Detroit, she could have been the poster girl for this.

Of course I am fooling about the charity. Let's be real. It will be necessary for the Government of Canada to put in money.

Some may question why Canada should be helping a US State if Americans won’t do it but that is being very petty.

Some may question why Canada and Canadian taxpayers should be sending out money from Canada when we can use the money in this country for those people who have been disadvantaged here. An example is people in Windsor. They remain unemployed while our Mayor is still studying how to fly them out West to the high-paying jobs and bring them back on weekends. It has only been an eternity when he started his thought process on the subject.

Anyway, a precedent was set when Infrastructure Ontario was prepared to pay some money for the Tunnel deal. Nobody has chosen to disclose the sum yet, probably because it is substantially less than the $75 million required. In this case, money would have been paid from the City of Windsor to the City of Detroit to help them out in their budgetary difficulties.

What is the difference? There is none. Money for the Tunnel, money for the DRIC project…it is all part of the Canadian Game plan anyway to help force the owner of a Bridge Company to sell out at a cheap amount.

I know Michiganders are proud and would not want to accept Canadian charity. I expect that they would not take the money freely but only as a loan to be paid back. In any event, Canada would really give the money only as a loan.

And that would be a very smart move.

I Blogged before that the Windsor's Tunnel deal was a dry-run for something more important even though it was not completed. It did NOT raise too much of a fuss in Washington so it probably gave Ottawa a bit of a boost.

Here is my thought. The Tunnel deal was designed to fail almost immediately financially. The precedent was developed for the Tunnel deal whereby Windsor would have defaulted on the transaction such that Canada or someone favorable to Canada who was the lender would have taken over the Tunnel. The obvious reason for that is that any P3 operator wants a monopoly in an area and would need to control the price of tolls at the Tunnel.

I would expect that the same thing would happen in Michigan. There could well be a nudge- nudge deal with Michigan saying that is not necessary for the State to pay back the money. Canada would take a debenture on some assets for their hundred million dollars---perhaps a charge on the DRIC bridge project itself. When the loan defaulted, Canada or its P3 partner would take over the project.

While charity does begin at home, in this case this is not charity but a shrewd political and business maneuver for Canada to control the border crossing in Windsor/Detroit. More importantly, from a political perspective, Canada gets control of the Tunnel and the Bridge without anyone being the wiser. It is merely a typical loan gone sour situation in which Canada is acting to protect itself rather than what some might think it to be: another Dubai ports incident.

The U.S. Congress would be too worried about other matters to know what happened here and by the time they did, it would be too late. The people involved in Michigan would not have to worry much either. IBG…YBG.

See what I mean. It is sooooooo clever. Michiganders should be warned:

"Beware of Canadians bearing gifts!"