Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


What impeccable timing. The Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget a.k.a Councillor STOPDRTP announces that he is not running for Council again and then all of a sudden DRTP errr CRG, or whatever they are called, comes to life.

Imagine that, the Councillor star of stars, at least in the eyes of mini-Gord, the man who dreamed he could become King, or at least Mayor of Windsor, decided to give it all up.

But we know why he made that big sacrifice don’t we, dear reader. Yes, forget about promises to family… he did it so that he could start up again STOPDRTP2. The fight was not over and he knew it. He had to come back to help out his old community against the evil and pernicious DRTP. Then he can use his massive victory as a spring-board to run for Mayor after Edgar (aka Eddie) leaves. As he told Gord:

  • "Been there. Done that. Absolutely. I'm not going back to being a councillor again and that's solid," he insisted."

The precedent has been set. He used STOPDRTP as a springboard to Council. Why not use STOPDRTP2 since he was going to have a tough time being re-elected with all of the enemies he has made due to his divisiveness. Go out as a so-called winner rather than as a loser against tough competition.

Yes, dear reader, that one, the DRTP/CRG. Instead of thousands of trucks moving through the CASO corridor to the heart of the city, we would now have thousands of rail cars barreling down the tracks day and night to use a double-stacked rail tunnel.

I can just see the old signs being dusted off, the old gang being contacted to line up people to distribute materials and to plan strategy. Hmm, I doubt if I’m going to be asked to be General Counsel this time around if Dave is involved.

I never did like DRTP and after I found out that a similar proposal to theirs was rejected years before by MDOT, I never took them seriously again. When I tried to figure out why anyone took them seriously given their rejection in the past, the conclusion I came to… whether right or wrong… was that they had become a tool to be used to try to force the Bridge Company to sell out.

They were very successful until STOPDRTP arose. They convinced a lot of people, many of them interestingly DRIC supporters today, that they had a proposal that would work and that it had the ability to take away perhaps as much as 50% of the Bridge Company border traffic.

However in the end, no matter how many times they changed their spots or their name or their pitch to fit the mood at that particular moment, they were unable to beat our very effective grassroots citizens movement. As the Star said without giving us credit, no politician could have been elected in Windsor who supported DRTP.

So now they are back again with many of the same cast of characters. I still don’t take them seriously now. I certainly do not underestimate them I just don’t believe that the project will ever move forward successfully.

This time around they’ve added in the Windsor Port Authority as one of the participants. Frankly, it troubles me. Not because the Port wants to be involved in something that might actually be good for the community but rather by the way their role has been portrayed. I believe that the Members of the Opposition owe it to the public to raise this matter in Parliament to get a proper answer.

Here is my concern as described in both Crains Detroit and in the Windsor Star. It was presented so nicely in the Star:

  •  “The port authority is a welcome addition to the CP-Borealis rail tunnel team because it provides a local connection and also a public body that can help guide through the government approval process. The port authority is not a financial partner, but will provide support and assistance, Cree said.

It was presented not so nicely in Crains:

  •  “The port authority will take an equity stake in the tunnel, but Byington declined to say how much.

    Talks to add the port authority to the project began after a May 2009 multi-model conference in Windsor, Byington said. It’s participation in the effort is expected to ease the regulatory and financing process, she said.”

Isn’t that fascinating. The Port is not a financial partner but gets an equity piece for “easing.” Does this give anyone some heartburn? Is this what the function of the Port is? Should it be taking such action especially when it is the judge and jury of the Ambassador Bridge’s Enhancement Project, the competitor of DRTP?

The approach is so similar as well as to what was done before by DRTP. Do everything in stealth mode, get some key leaders onside and make a big announcement about what you are going to do especially about environmental assessments. Make sure of course that everyone is told that everything can be done almost immediately so that we are forced to hurry on up to give the approvals required.

It sounds most impressive with all the money to be spent and all of the jobs to be created. Who is going to put the money this time around? OMERS or will OMERS act as the fund manager of the project and make their money through fees. What is CP Rail going to contribute especially since they sold a big chunk of their interest in the Tunnel back to OMERS?

A couple of years ago CP Rail said that they had very little interest in a double stack rail tunnel. All of a sudden do they have one now? I don’t think so if what their spokesperson tells us is true

  • "It's a great development for us," said Mike LoVecchio, spokesman for CP. "From our perspective, this would enhance our operations. We will be able to run all rail cars through the new tunnel. The existing tunnel is fully functional, but cannot accommodate double-stacked containers. This gives us more flexibility so there is merit there."

    But it was premature to estimate how much added business might be created, he said.

    LoVecchio could not say where the project ranks on CP's list of infrastructure priorities. The railway will spend $750 million on infrastructure improvements in 2010.

    "Every project we do is driven by demands," he said. "The fact that it's on the list means it's a project of significance."

Back in January we saw this:

  •  “The companies behind a $400-million proposal to build a second Detroit River rail tunnel have issued a pre-bid notice -- a call for companies to prove qualifications -- to conduct the environmental assessment for the project.”

Who won?

We were told:

  •  “The notice appeared on the Windsor Construction Association's website and indicated final scope of work for the project will be released sometime early this year.”

What did it say?

Last September we were told

  •  “Richard Blouse, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of commerce, says he expects CP officials will give the green light before the end of the year to dig a large-diameter tunnel big enough to allow double-stacked railway cars to pass under the Detroit River.”

Dwight-Lite better get that traffic light fixed pronto if he gets elected.

A year ago, we read:

  •  “The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership will launch its environmental assessment for a new Windsor-Detroit double-stack rail tunnel in the next few months, said a spokeswoman for the group.”

We just learned that

  • “An environmental assessment description has been filed with the federal Transportation ministry.”

At the HUB conference here in May, 2009, the CP Rail rep said

  • "We need government support through the (Ontario-Quebec Continental) Gateway initiative to make it happen," he said.

Minister Baird said

  • “But federal Transportation Minister John Baird, who was also at Wednesday's conference in Windsor, said it is not on his priority list…

    CP was told the earliest funds will be granted through the gateway initiative is 2010, he said.”

Why it’s 2010, should we get excited now?

I’ve been scratching my head again trying to figure out what’s happening and all I can think about is that this is so familiar. This has a 2003 ring to it.

DRTP pops up out of the blue, with Minister Baird’s Windsor Port Authority going along to ease things to make it appear as if Transport Canada is on side now while at the same time, pressure is being put on in Michigan to build the DRIC Bridge.

The DRIC bridge is forecast to take a big chunk of Matty’s car and truck business and he will see his income pretty much cut in half. Rail can take up to 44% of his business. In effect, he could be almost completely wiped out.

Do you think this is a two-pronged attack to try to convince Moroun to sell out now while the selling is good and there is still value in the bridge.

It would not surprise me one single bit.

If you think I am kidding, mini-Gord explains how this will be played out as a huge public relations exercise:

  • "The announcement was about half a year later than expected, but Canadian Pacific is finally pushing ahead with plans to bore a new $400-million railway tunnel under the Detroit River.

    However, the news could be coming at the perfect time, with Michigan's state senate poised to vote on the DRIC road project next week. Perhaps the threat of rail competition will knock some sense into opponents of the international bridge.

    It would be ideal if both projects are approved so that all of Windsor's main gateways can be replaced at the same time. In fact it would be fantastic -- and not just because of the construction jobs that would generate.

    Can you imagine the energy and excitement that would be injected back into Windsor and Detroit's economies? With more than $5 billion worth of infrastructure work all going on at the same time, can you imagine how much attention we'd get?

    And what better signal could a battered and bleeding region send to the world than simultaneously building two new international crossings -- again?

    It would be a 21st century echo of the roaring 1920s, when both cities were ground zero for the economic explosion that was the birth of the automotive industry.

    We were the envy of the industrialized world back then, and nothing signified that more than the competing bridge and tunnel construction projects.

    But just as a few cranks in the Michigan senate continue to block the DRIC project, a few major hurdles still stand in the way of the new rail tunnel. Unlike DRIC, money is still a big question mark for the renamed Continental Rail Gateway."

In any event, I think I will give some of my former colleagues a call. I hope this time around if we have to put signs in the ground it will be in the summer not in the middle of winter as before.