Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 05, 2010

City Tales

Some stories to amuse you on a cold wintery day


I hear that WUC insiders are furious at our dear Mayor Edgar (aka Eddie). He did not attend a number of meetings at the Commission that dealt with sewer lines and replacements, the costs that would be incurred and what rate increase was needed. Quiet, looking at failed airports in England for a week was important. He did NOT have to vote for the increase and did not have to look like a hypocrite by voting against it.

Does this mean everytime there is a negative vote coming up that can hurt politically, Edgar will take a trip or be otherwise occupied? Ask Dwight or John Tory

As I Blogged before:
  • "Obviously back in September, 2005 it was clear to WUC that consumers were going to be faced with a huge cost increase yet nothing was done! Why not?

    ...the role that "politics" played in this matter. Remember that when the WUC matter first broke the Mayor blamed it all on politics You remember that in 2005 the Mayor in fact wanted a rate reduction."

The Insiders are furious that they will have to take the hit later as now the Mayor has the nerve to say just before an election:

  • "Windsor water rate increase called 'strain' on cash-strapped seniors

    If the Windsor Utilities Commission follows through this spring on approving a proposed water rate hike that will add $20 to the average homeowner's bill, it will be the final straw for many seniors...

    Mayor Eddie Francis, also a WUC board member, missed Thursday's meeting because he was overseas, but agreed Friday the water company may have to look at a more gradual increase.

    The mayor took the lead in pushing the 86 per cent hike in 2007.

    "Right now this community cannot handle a 10 per cent increase," he said. "You need a more realistic approach in what's required. You are not going to resolve the infrastructure deficit in one or two years. Maybe there needs to be a 10- to 15-year plan and be balanced in people's ability to handle this.

    "The public needs to come out and hear about this. How do we do this in a way that's reflective of the realities in the community."

OMG, the Mayor wants to have consultation with the community. What a novel approach. Where was he on the daycare consultation with the community? He also must think he needs the senior votes too. So Huron Lodge and their employees are safe for a year. Too bad that he has refused Councillor Lewenza, the head of WUC, teh right to do a presentation at Council about the needs of WUC.

However, the Star wants none of it. If consultation is not necessary with parents over daycare, why have it now over WUC issues:

  • "Water rates
    No need for consultation at this point

    Before deciding on the proposed water rake hike, WUC plans to hold public consultation sessions in March.

    However, we can tell WUC that public consultation on the proposed increase isn't needed. Hard-pressed taxpayers shouldn't be expected to shoulder a double-digit increase on their water bills...

    Before going any further, WUC needs to look more seriously at the economic realities facing the community and come up with a more creative way to make infrastructure improvements.

    The commission should also be looking at any savings in its day-to-day operations that could be redirected to infrastructure.

    At least one board member, Mayor Eddie Francis, is suggesting a more gradual increase...

    There should be no public consultations until WUC looks more closely at the economy and the impact a double-digit increase would have on its ratepayers. WUC needs to go back to the drawing board."

Surely the creative approach is to raise rates not "at this point." Do it after the election so Edgar cannot be blamed! Spend a year doing another Administrative report. That's the ticket.


They should but not likely. They are just so polite. Why get City Hall mad at you:

  • "New chamber chief walks fine line

    The chairman of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce board has a dilemma.

    One of Jim Drummond's priorities when he stepped into the one-year position was to push for reliable utilities at reasonable rates for the 1,200 businesses the chamber represents.

    But, as a member of the Windsor Utilities Commission, the retired chemical engineer is convinced water rates have to go up to cover maintenance and replacement costs.

    "So how do we do this to have the least affect on businesses?" he asks rhetorically. "I think it's a priority for years to come."

You do it by telling the truth, NOT by being afraid to cross the line and tell everyone what the facts are... Business people can understand the need for replacement planning. They have to do it in their own businesses.

Go out Jim with all the WUC people and explain what is going on. Actually, we can handle the truth.

Put the blame where it belongs: on Edgar and Council who just love rate increases since they get dividends via Enwin and money through the sewer surcharge levy! Force Edgar to put our money where his mouth is and cut the dividend and levy.


I am still shocked at the early negativity of the Schmidt Star BLOGs and his use of the "M" word in relation to our Mayor.

Fortunately, in his BLOG "Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights," it looks as if he has found his way back to the flock:

  • "I reminded Sid on a number of occasions that the only times The Star didn’t report the CUPE side was when the CUPE side refused comment … he’d agree to distinguish in the future between the reporting of news and the expressing of opinions in the paper (including letters and soundoffs), but then at each subsequent public appearance — armed with a bullhorn and a crowd in front of him and the exhilarating sense of the power and the glory that comes with that — he’d always resort back to ranting against the biased reporting of The Windsor Star and throwing out personal Eddie attacks. Pursuing the messenger only worked with the ancient Greeks and is usually associated with a losing side. If last summer was a fight between Eddie and Sid, Sid lost big...

    local citizens were the biggest losers last summer."

Oh Doug. I had such great hopes for you. I thought you might be another Roseann or Dave for a little bit longer.

Did the "only times" include not reporting on the Lewenza Ward meeting that revealed how the City cost taxpayers money forever by their hardline approach?

I am so glad that Doug at least confirmed the Messenger role of the Star and that he keeps on spreading the myth that Edgar won. I am not sure though that he is succeeding. The number of people writing on the Star Forum on the Henderson column who pointed out that Edgar's "victory" cost the City 6% forever was surprisingly large.

Local citizens did lose big time but not for the reasons that Doug and the Star would like us to believe.

And a word of warning Doug, lay off Brister:

  • "And the inaugural Schmidt City prize for “Councillor Most Likely to Not Return a Call” goes to: Ward 1 Coun. Dave Brister.

    This was a unanimous choice of the judges (me and two other newsroomies with most recent city hall experience), and Dave will be tough to beat in this category.

    Answer the phone, Dave, citizens want to know more about you."

So what if has rejected you a few times. He has not yet answered years of phone calls and on camera begging by John Fairley to appear on John's Face-To-Face interview show.

Come on Doug, you need to be more politiclly attuned to what is going on in your job if you want to be a success. Your columnists' praise of Brister has to tell you that Edgar is using him as a third candidate to split the vote if Marra runs and Edgar decides he cannot get a better job.


It seems that the E-machine's strategy has not worked. No one got suckered to announce that they were going to run against Edgar for Mayor so that they could be destroyed early on by the Star. Instead, scare them and crush them by making it obvious that Edgar is running.

Or maybe the explanation is even simpler. No one has yet responded positively to the "requests for employment" that Edgar has to be sending out to get a new job after his second term as Mayor is up.

How else to explain the shift from Gord that Edgar will likely not run --"Francis confessed to confidantes that he'd had his fill and was 99.6 per cent certain he wouldn't be a candidate for mayor in the municipal election this October--to

"the odds in favour of Francis departing at the end of the year have fallen sharply, perhaps to as little as 60-40 for stepping aside and letting some other poor fool take on this thankless task for the next four years."

People vilifying Edgar. Can that be?

  • "For a mayor who has spent most of his time in office being vilified by bloggers, conspiracy theorists, sound-off twits, Windsor haters and small-town axe grinders, it's been a revelation to learn that the real people, the hard-working folks who rolled up their sleeves and won that epic showdown with CUPE last summer, appreciate his efforts and want him to stick with the program."

I am so sorry for Gord. It is not true unless he means his good buddy's BLOG, Councillor Alan Halberstadt who has often been brutal. He is just as wrong about vilification as he is about CUPE losing.


The spin has started as I predicted:

  • "The city's chief administrative officer Helga Reidel said if council outsources all garbage and recycling collection, the corporation could save between $400,000 and $800,000 per year based on the wage differentials between the public and private sectors.

    "But sometimes it takes a while to achieve savings from outsourcing," Reidel said.

    If 100 per cent of the work is outsourced and some current employees are transferred to other jobs in the corporation, those transferred employees could displace student or part-time workers, resulting in higher wage costs for the city."

Yes it will take a while if you write off a million dollars or more on equipment, if you add in City management costs even if the garbage collection is outsourced and then if you factor in the employee costs!

Did the Councillors hear that in their in camera session. We'll never know. More importantly, citizens clearly do not know it unless you are one of my BLOG readers.

I received a note that claimed that the fellow who wrote the memo I disclosed was not allowed in on the in-camera meeting. He went with all intentions of discussing his views on the situation but was told he was not needed. He apparently waited outside the meeting. There may have been a Motion to have him attend but I do not know if it ever got put to a vote. Some felt his presence would "confuse" the issue I was told. Apparently, this is not the first memo that he has sent out to upper management.

The most obvious step for CUPE leadership to take is to seek to enjoin any further steps being taken on the Garbage tender because of what I believe to be a possible violation of the Municipal Act.

Guess who would be the main witness to be cross-examined if the City defended. Yup, you guessed it: Edgar! After all, he is the guy in charge as well as a lawyer and would have to justify the City's action. Or would the City Clerk have to fall on the sword for him!

Stop The Presses---Windsor/Detroit Border In The Budget

Why does Canada choose to rub it in the face of Michigan legislators time after time. The Federal Budget did it again!

Perhaps it is because Canada wants to control the border crossing itself.

  • Windsor-Detroit

    The Windsor-Detroit border is the busiest commercial crossing in North America, through which over one-quarter of our merchandise trade with the U.S. passes. In 2007, the Government of Canada set out a strategy to advance the construction of a new crossing in the Windsor-Detroit corridor. Canada has worked in concert with the State of Michigan and its U.S. partners, with the U.S. federal administration, with the Province of Ontario and with the City of Windsor to move this project forward. Since 2007, the project has reached key milestones, culminating earlier this year in the issuance of a Request for Proposal of Interest for the development of the Detroit River International Crossing Project under a public-private partnership arrangement.

    Budget 2010 provides $10 million over three years to Transport Canada to support the legal, financial and technical work required to advance this project.
Wow, $3.3M per year for our border. Now that is real commitment to the project all right that should get Michigan onside. NOT!

Uhhhh, didn't the PM tell the Minister of Finance about his Mandate letter to buy the Ambassador Bridge? It's not a P3 now but a purchase Minister since the PM has figured out that Michigan is a lost cause and will not vote for P3 legislation. Was it so secret too that no money has been set aside to buy it after all? I did not see anything in the Budget about that.

Or maybe the whole thing is just another lie, the usual in the DRIC story!

PS to Michigan Legislators

Note the reference to "culminating earlier this year in the issuance of a Request for Proposal of Interest for the development of the Detroit River International Crossing Project under a public-private partnership arrangement."

That document must be the one that MDOT issued as its own I assume


    CONTACT: Bill Shreck, Director of Communications, 517-335-3084

    MDOT issues Request for Proposal of Interest in
    Detroit-Windsor border crossing system

    January 27, 2010 -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is asking individual firms and teams to respond to a Request for Proposal of Interest in partnering on the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project.

    The Request for Proposal of Interest follows a series of informal interviews that MDOT and Transport Canada, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, conducted with major developers, contractors and lenders who had previously been involved in similar large privately-financed transportation infrastructure projects. This step involves a solicitation of market interest in the project that would provide the Michigan Legislature and the Canadian government with more information to formulate governmental policy and develop a procurement and transaction schedule. The deadline for individual firms or teams to submit responses to the Request for Proposal of Interest is March 17.

    Responses will be used by MDOT in a required report to the Michigan Legislature that MDOT will submit by May 1."

Nope, MDOT does not care what the Legislators think. I was right after all when I Blogged:

  • "How can this be? Somehow the Canadian Government is jointly and directly involved in a supposed MDOT solicitation to meet the requirements of the Michigan Legislature although Canada's role is not mentioned in the Press Release. I wonder why not...

    Has MDOT in fact thumbed its nose at the Legislature nose by starting the process to choose a P3 operator even though there is no legislation in place and the Legislature has not approved the project going forward as their Budget Act requires.

    Let's be real, this is NOT MDOT merely "[soliciting} from the private sector requests", this is MDOT and Canada starting the process by obtaining expressions of interest...

    This is NOT what section 384 says at all nor was it the Legislature's intent.

    While I believe that the document was designed to make it appear that it was an MDOT document that complied with the section, I suspect that Transport Canada had more than a hand in it. There are 2 glaring mistakes made in it that tell me that MDOT's role was minor. Maybe I am wrong but one day I hope we shall find out the truth whether Transport Canada was the real author...

    In other words, this document was prepared to meet Canada's timetable and its plan to put the Bridge Company out of business. And to make sure that MDOT cannot back out since it is a "joint" document

    This document is how MDOT is ignoring the Legislature as if it did not exist.

    This is a MegaProject that is running amok! And what is the lame-duck Governor doing about it?"

Now Canada's Budget document spilled the beans!

Who Decides If Edgar Runs Again

No, I don't understand it either. The story does not make a lot of sense nor does the Santos explanation.

Perhaps that is why it is called politics:
  • "Kingsville mayor and federal Liberal candidate Nelson Santos said he will announce in June whether he will seek re-election as mayor or try his luck in the federal riding of Essex.

    "My record has shown if I run for a position I'm committed to the full term of that position," Santos said Wednesday.

    "If I can't make a four-year commitment, I will make the determination not to seek re-election but I need to go through all the discussions and review my position."

Surely Nelson knew what he was getting into when he ran for the Liberal nomination. If not, why did he run? Remember when he was nominated:

  • "Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos, the Essex County warden, will be acclaimed Friday at the Mastronardi Estate Winery as the Liberal candidate in Essex...

    Santos, 39, has served as the head of county council as warden since 2006 and has been mayor of Kingsville for six years. He said he's trying to bring a "new face" to the Liberal party and thinks he can gain back the riding for the Liberals...

    If an election is called, Santos said he will continue to serve as warden and Kingsville's mayor as he campaigns, something former Kingsville mayor and county warden Pat O'Neil did when he ran provincially in 1999 and 2003. Santos said he could reduce his work as a real estate agent and as editor of the Kingsville Reporter."

Presumably, if a federal election was called and he won, Nelson would have resigned as Mayor. What's different now? Perhaps Nelson now feels that Watson is unbeatable and so he wants out.

Frankly, the whole episode has hurt his credibility. If he runs federally, he looks weak since he had trouble making up his mind. If he runs municipally, it is his second choice because he could not make it in the Big Leagues.

Speaking of credibility, does Edgar (aka Eddie) have any left with his "I won't run for Mayor--I may run for Mayor" game being played. It's almost as much fun as Monopoly.

To be direct, in my opinion Edgar has no chance if someone credible runs. Heck, the chicken suit could make it close.

Let me be even more direct. Being Mayor is Bill Marra's to lose! Simple as that. If he wants it, it is his unless he really does something stupid. Like not run.

Edgar won't run. Of course not. He told us he was only a two term politician. More than that, do you really believe that he would handle criticism well if a serious contender ran, taking shots at him, giving him a real campaign with his record on the line.

Not our Edgar. He cannot handle blame well. He would make mistake after mistake lashing back. It is just not in his nature to be able to accept that he has done something wrong.

Can you imagine if he lost. I wonder if he could handle it. What a shock that would be to his system. It would be devastating to his ego. Better not to run and believe he still could have won.

In any event, in the end, it does not matter what he wants. Michelle, his wife, is the decision-maker in the family on matters such as this.

I read a speech that Edgar delivered back in 2007 where he sets this out. The speech is fascinating because of the insight it gives into how Edgar thinks and what drives him. I will BLOG about it another time but now about Michelle:
  • I told my wife I was going to be here speaking to each and every one of you. Here you have an individual that was in private business as an entrepreneur, then became a lawyer and ended up in politics - eating chicken dinners and spending long hours and low pay that attracted me to politics. And I told her there is going to be a group of lawyers, and she said, "Good. Get one of them to represent you to sue you for being a fool to go into politics."

  • But then, fortunately, I was elected to represent Ward 5, which is the east end of Windsor. I wanted to apply what I learned through the business to Windsor Council, and I did that, but at the same time I went to law school. And then I became a lawyer, and I had a decision to make.

    The decision I had to make was whether I was going to be a lawyer or whether I was going to be mayor of the City of Windsor. My wife and I decided to go away for a vacation, decided to have this most important discussion while we were away, and I had made my decision.

    I had four years under my belt as a political representative. Politics is interesting to say the best. It is not for everyone. My hats off to those individuals that can do it, that do it extremely well and do it consistently, but politics is a different sport. It is a different environment than in the business sector. It is different.

    And I didn't expect it to be as different as it was. So the decision I had was: I wanted to go and practice law. And my wife looked at me and said, "That's fine. I am 100 percent behind you. I will support you in any endeavor you choose to undertake. But know this: if you decide to walk away, no 'what ifs,' no complaining, no watching councils, no sitting on the sidelines, no Monday-morning quarterbacking." And then she said, "You know, you could be a lawyer any day. You can't be Mayor of Windsor any day."

  • DR. KING: Do you plan to go higher?

    MAYOR FRANCIS: Do I want to move up?

    DR. KING: Do you want to move up?

    MAYOR FRANCIS: I could have all the aspirations in the world, Henry, but my wife has other plans. You know, I get asked this question a lot, and my answer sometimes--I am 32.

  • AUDIENCE MEMBER: You are still young, and you have a chance to be prime minister, but it seems you have that ability.

    MAYOR FRANCIS: You realty have to meet my wife. She doesn't want any part of it.

So forget about what Gord says. He has no clue. His ups and downs about Edgar running are nothing more than political tea leaf speculation. If you want to know what Edgar is going to do, ask Michelle.

Oh and how the game is played. Edgar learned the drama from Mike Hurst's press conference when he decided not to run. Expect Edgar to one-up Hurst's performance. That's Edgar's style too.

Another Daycare Story For The Star To Ignore

You won't read about this in the Saturday Star! Go down and look for yourself.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Has The Obliging Blogosphere Been Silenced

The sycophants, cheerleaders and lapdogs think that they have won. Those obsequious and fawning hangers-on must think that they are all-powerful and can silence anyone.

It's true. We bloggers, conspiracy theorists, sound-off twits, Windsor haters and small-town axe grinders just cannot compare with those who think their views will shape what Windsorites think.

Do you remember the Star headline and photo. Maybe it is just me, but I found it absolutely offensive and disgraceful.
A slur!

I have a copy of it but chose NOT to post it.

It showed a big smile on the face of Ms Warsh under a headline that the City is overpaying people by over $530K per month (over $6M a year) in this time of fiscal restraint. No Windsor Blogger that I know would be that rude and run such a headline and photo as the Star did. Ms Warsh ought to be furious and outraged since a good part of Windsor would have seen this unlike the relatively few who read BLOGs by comparison.

If a Blogger did it, why then the doo-doo would hit the fan...but if the Star does it, not a peep or if there was, that story was not covered and reported.

It's not a new story as you shall see below. It has been around for awhile and yet, what has been done about it by the Mayor and Council? Who is asking the questions about it? Why is Ms Warsh being left to hang out to dry?

Sure the Province's system seems defective based on Auditor General comments and a lot of money has been overpaid across the Province. However, which Councillor will ask for a report on this subject for Windsor to understand the situation here.

I trust such a report will cover topics such as this:

1) It is claimed that:

  • "Windsor is paying out $530,000 each month in overpayments to Ontario Works recipients, managers overseeing the welfare program told the city’s audit committee on Thursday.

    But a major portion of those funds is linked to filling the gap for those unemployed until they can collect their employment insurance — generally a lag of up to two months, claimed Ronna Warsh, the city’s Community Development and Health Commissioner."

How can that be an "overpayment?" It is more in the nature of an advance that will be paid back directly from EI once the EI benefits kick in.

I saw this comment on the Toronto website that deals with assignment of EI funds.

  • "EXAMPLE – Employment Insurance (EI)

    You apply for EI in March. In April you apply for Ontario Works benefits because you need help while Service Canada is processing your EI claim.

    If you are eligible for Ontario Works benefits, an assignment form will be completed. In May, Service Canada tells you that you are eligible for EI as of the date that you applied in March. The assignment means that your EI payments will begin, but will be reduced until the money you received from Employment and Social Services for April and May is repaid. When that amount is repaid, the EI payments you receive will increase."

How much of that $530K is what I would classify as an "advance?" Is the problem as big as it seems or is there something we are missing and not being told? It sounds to me that in reality not much is overpaid.

I ask this because this comment in the story makes little sense to me:

  • "In our case, a number of individuals receive Ontario Works while waiting for Employment Insurance to kick in. Anything they receive becomes an overpayment. It’s evident across the province these overpayments happen.”

Is there no assignment to the City of the EI funds? If so, then the amount at risk ought to be minimal and thus, the Star story is unfair to Ms Warsh.

2) I wonder what the amount of overpayment was previously:

  • "Warsh indicated the city in the last five years has gradually improved oversight of Ontario Works recipients — thanks to better computer software and greater staff efforts.

    “We are getting better and better in terms of training staff and ensuring policies are in place (to crack down on fraudulent claims),” she said.

    Reports are reviewed on a daily basis, Piruzza added."

If they are reviewed daily, then how can the amounts get that high without alarm bells going off one might ask? Perhaps the amounts before were huge and this is a vast improvement. We don't know.

  • "The audit assessed oversight for the program and concluded there has only been “limited improvement” in the administration of the Ontario Works program in recent years.

    “It remains our view that the ministry still has inadequate assurance that only eligible individuals receive financial assistance and in the correct amount,” said the report’s summary."

Hmmm, does this mean that the Cities and towns across the Province are not doing their job properly re initial eligibility? Is Windsor one of those places?

3) What steps have been taken over the past 5 years to improve operations and why is it only being done "gradually?" That does not make much sense to me if money is being overpaid.

As an example, in 2005:

  • "A flawed provincial computer system allowed a case worker in the city's social services department to create a fictitious client whose welfare cheques were deposited into her personal bank account, city officials say...

    City auditor Mike Dunbar said the fraud was discovered "totally by accident"

    ...The city has not been able to go back into the records to look for other abuses, Dunbar said, because the "system is so bad that it cannot generate the reports that we would need to be able to tell..."

    Warsh said Windsor is looking for a way to change the system so that cases with peculiar circumstances are brought to the attention of a supervisor.

    "We're running reports daily to look for anomalies in terms of one-time cheques or other anomalies that you might find in a report," Warsh said. "We're doing more now than we did in the past."

    The City of Windsor will also "be talking to the province" about ways "to tighten those controls," Warsh said."

So what has been gradually improved? Has the system been changed? Ms. Piruzza said "Reports are reviewed on a daily basis" yet there is still about $6M of overpayments. Something is not working it seems or is it compared with the past? Again, we lack information to make a decision.

4) With respect to fraudulent claims, how good is the City? How many alleged fraudulent claims have there been and how many convictions have been obtained in the last 5 years.

I saw this statistic:

  • "Over a four-year period beginning in 1998, more than 2,200 allegations of social assistance fraud were investigated by the city's social services department, with 14 resulting in convictions."

With all of these improvements, how good, or bad, are the numbers now?

5) Respecting overpayments, how much of it is the City recovering:

  • "Getting the money back once an overpayment has been confirmed is another problem, especially if the claim is no longer active.

    “Letters are sent out, but getting the money is difficult,” Piruzza said."

Is there staff dedicated to getting money back? Are they doing this or are they assigned other tasks that take up their day because of cutbacks for instance?

I noted that Hamilton talked about doing more to collect money back:

  • "The city is now planning to hire a collection agency..

    But she said the city must get better at collecting what it is owed.

    "This is a priority. This is people's tax dollars"

Has Windsor thought of that?

Toronto proposed to "to transfer and/or assign applicable delinquent overpayment accounts under the Ontario Works Act to the Provincial Overpayment Recovery Unit for collection."

Can Windsor do that?

I wonder how much has been written off and what the criteria are for doing so.

6) Back in 2005, I saw this in a Council meeting:

  • "That Council RECEIVE and endorse the 20 Ontario Works policies and procedures developed to support the approved service delivery model enhancements and to promote delivery consistency."

Are these policies and procedures working? Are employees following them? Or are they being revised and if so, how long will it take to get the new system out there?

Quite a fascinating subject don't you think with lots of taxpayer money at risk that could be used to lower taxes or for who knows what!

It should be interesting to see what the reaction to the Overpayment story will be or will it just disappear, a one day wonder as it seems to have become already.

Will one of the Star columnists do a follow-up story? Will a reporter do some digging? Will the Audit Committee care?

I saw this article in December in the Star and now it is almost the beginning of March and what has been done by anyone:

  • "The city’s financial watchdogs will determine if a local review is needed after Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter identified Tuesday about $1.2 billion of overpayments and fraud in welfare and disability support programs across the province.

    With Windsor and Essex County taxpayers paying $35 million annually to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program, the stakes are high enough to assess whether rampant abuse provincially has spread to this community, officials said.

    The local caseload for welfare is 9,500 welfare and there are 8,500 disability recipients.

    “To the extent the auditor general of Ontario found problems provincially, I think city administration will want to take a serious look, get more details and see if any of those issues are prevalent in Windsor,” said treasurer Onorio Colucci."

Has a serious look been taken or is it all considered a joke by our Administration? Geez, I can just hear the excuse: "We would have done something by now but we are still catching up after the 101 day work stoppage." It is NOT be fair to Ms Warsh to have her left hanging like this given the latest Star story.

I guess that it will it be left to a mere lonely Blogger to ask the questions that need answering and demand another investigation.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Why Garbage Will Be Outsourced

Does CUPE leadership have a clue what is happening to them. And by that I do not mean the Union leaders in Windsor only but in Ontario and nationally as well?

And the CUPE workers, are they so beat up that they are allowing their UNION not to represent them forcefully? If so, start looking for new jobs. Or better yet, a new Union!

Can you imagine, no one from CUPE complaining that matters involving outsourcing and tendering were handled behind closed doors out of the sight of the public by the Mayor and Council and without allowing CUPE to have its say as a delegation? What section of the Municipal Act allowed this?

Clearly NOT section 239 (2)(c) since they were NOT dealing with "labour relations or employee negotiations." Or was Miller Thomson hired to pretend solicitor-client matters were being discussed?

I heard to be fair that a number of the Councillors did want to kick it out into the public agenda but on a tie vote, guess who cast the ballot to prevent it. After all, nothing should stall things off so the the ambitious Edgar (aka Eddie) timetable would be delayed.

CUPE still does not get it. They are still being blamed for everything and the garbage workers in particular. As Gord wrote:

  • "If it weren't for the garbage issue, how many Windsorites would even know CUPE services have been withdrawn? Damn few."

So outsource garbage so the City can screw the rest of the CUPE workforce and no one will know a damn thing or care either. The daycare workers prove the point.

Do you want to read a wimpy Press Release? Here it is from CUPE Local 82 which represents Garbage workers:

  • Contracting Out Garbage Wrong Move for Windsor Council-Profit Motive Will Hurt Service, CUPE Warns

    WINDSOR, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 2, 2010) - The union representing municipal solid waste workers in the City of Windsor is warning residents that quality of service will deteriorate if Mayor Eddie Francis and Windsor councillors go ahead with contracting out and privatization plans for municipal garbage collection.

    "We are shocked that council would risk the quality of service for residents and open the door to privatization, a move that will inevitably see good jobs and decent wages taken right out of the local economy without achieving cost savings," said CUPE Local 82 president Jim Wood. "What's really frustrating is their determination to contract out services regardless of the cost risks and loss of control, and despite all the work this local has put in with the administration, looking at ways to guarantee continuous service and our continued work on service efficiencies."

    CUPE Local 82 worked for weeks on a submission to council, pointing out the risks of contracting out, including cost over-runs, lower quality service, loss of control over vital public services, increased liability, disruption to other programs like summer student employment, and other problems.

    "Last spring council rejected the idea of contracting out, in recognition of the quality of our public service, that has operated in the City with essentially the same budget for the last 20 years," said Wood. "Through the decades we have worked with the administration to improve the service, and won accolades from residents – but immediately following last summer's strike, council adopted a motion to tender our services to the private sector. No matter how much information we provided about the risks of such a venture, and despite warnings from management about some of those risks, council seems hell-bent on putting our work to tender."

    "Shutting daycares, privatizing services and eliminating good jobs seems to be the new mantra at Windsor city hall," said Wood. "It's very disappointing that council is tearing apart families and the community at a time when they should be rebuilding and revitalizing our city."

Wow, reading that I am impressed! Who writes this stuff anyway?

Imagine this

  • "CUPE Local 82 worked for weeks on a submission to council"

Pray tell, what did it say? Where is it ? Can I or any person in Windsor see it to read for ourselves? Has it been posted online and if so, where? Why make me search for it.

Quality of service...Who gives a damn! Is that the best that CUPE has got? I posted a nice memo from City management telling us that the City could pay millions of dollars more for outsourcing. Why wan't this made a significant part of the release for heaven's sake.

There is a knowledgeable City manager saying to his Senior Management that this is a dumb move and CUPE does not capitalize on it. Oh Jim Wood did say in the Star article:

  • "The head of the union representing municipal solid waste workers says if the city privatizes garbage and recycling collection, the move could cost taxpayers more than $1 million per year.

    CUPE Local 82 president Jim Wood said he has compared the costs of Windsor's publicly owned collection services with those of private collectors in the county. "We're cheaper than that," he said. "I don't think the city's going to save any money."

Who cares what Jim thinks, no disrespect intended, or what self-serving calculations he makes. Why didn't he release this memo, something even Councillors had not seen until I Blogged it!

Why didn't he ask if that manager who wrote the note was at the in camera session? If not, why not? Why isn't he screaming "cover-up!"

And how about this, in a time of financial restraint, the City has to hire a big name Toronto law firm because the City cannot do a Tender package properly. Where is CUPE denouncing that?

Helga conceded that Jim is right:

  • "But sometimes it takes a while to achieve savings from outsourcing,” Reidel said."

But CUPE will never capitalize on this either.

I thought I would be helpful to the workers. In case the garbage workers wonder for whom they will be working, and at a much lower salary if they would be allowed to work there at all, Gord told them last April:

  • "We arrived at the Windsor Disposal Services Ltd. yard on Deziel Drive, south of E.C. Row, expecting the usual line-up and runaround that patrons endure at the city's Central Avenue transfer station.

    Wrong. For starters, there was no waiting. And only a handful of busy-bee workers, not the customary bloated platoon overseeing the rigmarole. I swear we were in and out in under seven minutes. And the bill for close to 240 kg. (520 lbs.) of junk and garbage? The grand sum of $13.10.

    It pains me to think how many times I've been to the city facility and paid through the nose for a trailer-load, thinking that was the only option, while this alternative, offered by an award-winning Windsor company, was just minutes away."

And in August

  • "Do we like being held hostage every contract? Did we enjoy hauling our own junk to the dump? That gets tiresome after a while, even if the nice folks at Windsor Disposal Services and Pillette Recycling bent over backward to make it a positive experience."

How about this story:

  • "City and county politicians agreed unanimously Wednesday to award an eight-year, $25.6-million contract to Windsor Disposal Services to run the regional recycling program...

    Francis, who seldom goes to waste authority meetings, participated Wednesday by teleconference call -- a procedure never used before in the county for a formal meeting with votes on motions."

WDS works for some of the County towns already don't they? Looks like they may get the City job too thanks to CUPE leadership.

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!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Stephen, Don't P**S Off Matty

Matty Moroun received the biggest Christmas gift of his life from Prime Minister Stephen Harper but he did not know about it until now!

In one secret action that was only recently disclosed, Stephen acknowledged that the only one entitled to build a new bridge in the Windsor/Detroit area was Matty.

But did Stephen give up? Not on your life. Play out the bluff, throw the Hail Mary pass, run it up the flagpole. Pick your own cliché to use!

It is one last try for the Prime Minister. When this tactic fails as everything else has so far, then what? Total capitulation forever? That's the big fear isn't it that has been driving Canada!

What a joke when it is one of your best buddies whose newspapers gave it all away as I shall explain below! Not just once, but twice in case it was missed the first time around.

As a Canadian taxpayer, I beg you PM to call off MDOT. Their "refresher" traffic numbers make no sense but given how "smart" the consultants are and the Governments, you have just increased the value of the Ambassador Bridge haven't you. So if you ever buy it, you have just cost taxpayers a fortune. Smart move Stephen.

Prime Minister, are you still listening to former Ambassador to the US, Michael Wilson, or is someone else whispering sweet nothings in your ear about how to beat Matty Moroun?

Truly, have you forgotten about NAFTA-gate? I assure you that President Obama has not. Do you really want the taking over of the Ambassador Bridge, a major crossing into and out of the US, to turn into a Dubai Ports #2 or, even worse, a softwood lumber case?

Didn't you get a hint during the "protectionist" Obama stage that threatening to cut off oil and energy to the US was a dumb move? Did you like to grovel that much over the past year? Even the Governor-General could not help you out!

Stephen, we all know by now that you cannot take over Moroun's bridge and that there is legal doubt that you can build a DRIC bridge even if you wanted to. The way I read the statutes, heck, I don't think you can stop him from building his Enhancement Project bridge either, no matter how hard you try.

I am pretty sure that this is not news to you. Your teams of lawyers have probably told you that already too. After all, if the Government could not beat him during the FIRA decade of litigation, then what has changed so dramatically since then?

Which bureaucrat devised the "terrorize Moroun" strategy? Did that person really believe it would work on a guy who made himself what he is today? Come on Stephen, civil servants are bureaucrats using taxpayer money with little accountability, not entrepreneurs using their own money and taking the financial risk!

It wasn't a bad strategy until it became obvious what was going on. DRTP really had me worried and a good part of Windsor too. They really looked to be a winner to take away half of his business. I wonder if Moroun was concerned. Maybe he remembered the MDOT report of a decade or so ago that I found by chance that threw out the truck tunnel concept early on. Geez, Stephen, that was a dumb strategy to use when your engineers dismissed DRTP too out of hand!

I did like DRIC as a the new DRIC bridge was going to take way more of his business away along with a big chunk from the Tunnel and from the Blue Water Bridge. (Except Wilbur Smith revised traffic numbers are down already 10% from earlier DRIC projections of about a year or so ago.) Throw in a new DRTP doublestack rail tunnel and that should terrorize Moroun (except his ownership of the Depot kind of kills that tunnel concept doesn't it!)

But seriously Stephen, did you really think that

  • DRIC
  • the International Bridges and Tunnels Act
  • Heritage and the anti-demolition by-law to prevent the Indian Road homes coming down
  • a DRIC road that would close off traffic to the Ambassador Bridge or
  • other theats

would work? Perhaps in a bureaucratic mind in Otttawa it was a winner but not in the real world.

Michigan Legislators will kill the DRIC boondoggle I pray in June even with a phony traffic study that does NOT meet the requriements of Michigan law. And saying that the US Government will pay Michigan's share won't work given the huge deficit there and the 2 wars and war over healthcare nor will P3s unless Government guarantees everything or subsidizes crossings which defeats the purpose of a P3 in the first place.

Stephen, Transport Canada is making Moroun the most public "reclusive" billionaire in history! Demonizing and vilifying him on an almost daily basis has not achieved much so far. Read the Star Forums some time to understand what I mean.

Does anyone really care what Tlaib, Masse and Jones think? They made fools of themselves with the joint meeting recently where they tried to get everyone onside with the DRIC bridge---you remember, the project that leaves Windsor virtually untouched but destroys hundreds of homes and businesses in Delray. It really is not your Canadian lawyers' fault Stephen. They do not understand the concept of Environmental Justice.

But it is Derek Burney, the Chair of Canwest who really did you in! Was Derek around when the Mulroney Government settled with Moroun as Mulroney's Chief of Staff? He would have been upset at that but it was a trade-off to get Free Trade with the Americans. Retreat then and now start all over again.

As former Ambassador Gottlieb said in a speech:

  • "Breaking with the past, the Mulroney Government ushered in a new era in the management of our relationship. Although not originally in favour of a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the US, the Mulroney Government changed gears twelve months after its election.

    The achievement of a free trade agreement with the United States was my principal preoccupation in Washington for two years."

Unfortunately, the former Ambassador helped us understand the techniques used to try and endrun the President back in his 2007 speech. Not smart in my opinion:

  • "6. Appoint personal envoys or czars, answerable directly to the President and Prime Minister, to take hold of the entire process of border facilitation.

    7. Establish the principle that new bilateral institutions should be created to plan, maintain and oversee the openness of our borders. Vast consequences hinge on how well they are managed. Unilateral decision-making affecting the principal choke points should be brought under the responsibility of new transborder commissions with effective powers.

    There is a more than a whiff of the 19th century in how we currently go about our business of border management. The international bridge at Buffalo/Fort Erie is an example. Years pass and the problems of congestion, insufficient infrastructure, and security remain unresolved. Too many players, too many jurisdictions, too little planning, too much unilateralism."

I guess he was too embarrassed to say "Ambassador Bridge" so pretended by using the Peace Bridge instead. He did not want to give away the game as you did, Stephen.

I know why Moroun got all of that negative publicity recently and why there was a leak of a supposed offer to buy the Bridge that was to show that Moroun was greedy. It was NOT just to get the Michigan Legisalture onside. I knew there was a reason but did not know why until Derek's National Post and Calgary Herald gave it all away. Check out this timeline:

  • January 6, 2010

"Asked if he will announce new spending restraint programs in this budget, Harper declined to speculate, but said he had given each of his ministers new "comprehensive mandate letters" over the Christmas break instructing each to re-examine their priorities given the fact that resources will be limited.

"We'll be talking about . . . how to continue to advance key economic priorities in a period of constrained spending growth which we will need to see in the next few years. We still have to be able to advance key files that will continue to build the strength of the Canadian economy," Harper said."

  • January 13, 2010:

Stephen Harper has been accused of "totalitarian rule" by one of the academics leading the charge against his decision to suspend Parliament.

But the reality is perhaps closer to the absolutism of Louis XIV of France-- the Sun King, who famously said: "I am the state." The academic Donald Savoie has long noted the development of court government in Canada, where power rests with the Prime Minister and a small group of carefully selected courtiers.

But even Mr. Savoie would be shocked at the extent to which Mr. Harper now controls every aspect of government, as revealed in secret mandate letters the Prime Minister has sent to all his ministers."

  • January 19, 2010

The National Post published details Tuesday of a copy of a so-called "mandate letter" it obtained that had been given several weeks ago to Toews' predecessor Peter Van Loan. Mandate letters are issued from time to time to each cabinet member and contain what are essentially the minister's marching orders from the prime minister.

The report said Van Loan's mandate from Harper was to begin the most sweeping review since 9/11 of the country's public safety system - everything from the RCMP to border control to its intelligence agencies. That job will now fall to Toews, a lawyer who first entered Harper's cabinet in 2006 as justice minister."

  • February 27, 2010

"As the National Post revealed last month, the Prime Minister sent out new mandate letters to his Cabinet telling them not to bring forward any unfunded proposals without receiving his prior approval. Only those proposals that addressed health, safety or national security concerns would be added to the list of projects he and his staff had identified in the mandate letter.

Among those priorities are: purchase of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor..."

Here is what I mean about the Government and why they are infuriating Moroun. Here is the date of the bridge purchase story, within 2 months of the Harper UltraSecret mandate :

  • February 9, 2010

"Feds mull buying Ambassador Bridge

Transport Canada has been in talks to buy the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ont., with Detroit.

Vehicles cross the Ambassador Bridge, as viewed from Windsor, Ont., on June 1, 2009. Ottawa wants to improve the busy travel corridor. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)
Federal officials have met numerous times with Manuel (Matty) Moroun, the octogenarian head of Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns of the bridge, to discuss ways to improve the flow of trade across North America's busiest transport corridor.

"The Government of Canada has had discussions with the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, [but] we will not comment on the details of those discussions," Transport Canada said Tuesday in a release.

But later in the day, a spokesman for Transport Minister John Baird — James Kusie — said no offer has been made to buy the bridge from Moroun.

Although Ottawa is considering buying the Ambassador Bridge, a proposal to build a second, competing bridge, is apparently still on the table.

"The Government of Canada remains committed to the building of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit as additional capacity is needed along this corridor to support the anticipated growth in border traffic," the release said."

They were not "mulling." The decision had already been made to do so in the secret mandate letter sent out at Christmas time!

The Bridge purchase is Canadian government policy. To help accomplish it, another orchestrated smear job for heaven's sake. Canada's secret mandate is to buy the Ambassador Bridge so pretend that a DRIC bridge will be built, go after Moroun, go after Senator Cropsey, go after anyone who stands in Canada's way.

I have not figured out who James Blanchford really works for but he was front and centre in all of this with his version of the facts until Canada figured out that he had undercut their credibility and Baird had to close this all down before Moroun figured out what was going on.

Actually, he did not have to. Derek Burney's papers gave the secret all away to him! Twice, the latest being in the John Baglow BLOG: "Parliament returns. Let the bitching begin"

Stephen, Stepehen, Stephen. You blew it dear PM. Your credibility rating has fallen. No wonder the US ambassador looked miffed during the CTV interview when he was blind-sided. Iggy's DC friends have to be rubbing their hands together at your faux pas.

Since the bridge purchase story is true, it makes a mockery of the Government's position that it should spend billions to build a new bridge a mile downriver!

It is absolutely clear now that the whole Detroit River International Crossing exercise was nothing more than trying to take over the Ambassador Bridge cheaply by threatening to bankrupt Moroun's business. Matty and his son have to be angry at the duplicity and especially at the planned and organized attacks on them personally.

I did warn you many times, Stephen, that your Government was boxing itself in a corner every time they took on Moroun. It is about as bad for you as it can get since your options are so limited now. You have been exposed by your own friend too to make it even worse. Are your friends abandoning you now as a loser?

Prime Minister, as a good Canadian, I offered to help you out before but you snubbed me. I will make this offer one more time. I KNOW I can help mediate a solution that would satisfy everyone. The solution is so simple that I am surprised that you have not thought of it.

But then again, that is why you need my help desperately. You have too many people with vested interests, and careers at stake, in beating Moroun that no one in Government can think clearly now. Why even you have tried at least 3 times with American Presidents and failed miserably.

My fee....about the same as that of Mr. Blanchard per hour since if his amounts being thrown around are true, working for a few hours per week can help out in my retirement nicely. Plus I would want a "success fee" based on a fair percentage of the value of the deal. We can work out that percentage number when we talk but "10" is such an easy number to use.

I am in the phone book, Prime Minister. I await your call! After all, you need all the help you can get.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Star Stories

More stuff from our beloved only newspaper in town. I am so glad that I cancelled my subscription:


Seriously, he is in the wrong profession. He ought to be involved in PR medicine ie a spin doctor.

Only Schmidt could take this statement in his "Who's the City Hall Leak?" BLOG:
  • "Windsor’s integrity commissioner failed to ferret out that leak, despite the most expensive effort of his inaugural year, but he said it had to have come from someone at a closed-door session of council that was also attended by senior administration."

and then blame CUPE for:

  • "A further month’s lost wages and benefits later"

So someone from management was supposedly the Leakor, obviously for a specific reason, but it was all CUPE's fault for the strike lasting so long...See what I mean, spinning excellence.

No, the hardliners did not have a political agenda to prolong the strike. Blame it on a guy leaving town:

  • "it was Daryl’s [Newcombe] reporting of leaked details during the bitter CUPE labour dispute last summer that “led to a month extra” in the 101-day strike."

That amnesia disease has hit Doug because he forgot that Edgar (aka Eddie) left town right after the leak and there was little negotiating while he was away. He also forgot about the near riot caused by Edgar that also caused a delay.

But blame it on CUPE. Play to the mob that way.

And Councillor Jones is not off the hook yet although not named:

  • "But, confronted by Ron’s lawyer hammering on the city’s weakly crafted guidelines governing his office, Earl did back down from a subsequent investigation triggered by his leaky probe — his discovery of hundreds of phone calls made between Ron on his city-issued BlackBerry and CUPE Local 543 president Jean Fox...

    There’s a good argument that the constant feedback CUPE leaders were getting from their own “sources” inside council’s closed-door sessions helped feed a false sense that council was wavering, that the leaning and the votes were slowly going the union’s way and that the employer would eventually buckle...

    no, no, Doug, we have our secret insider sources, too, and council’s resolve is going south"

I love the way Doug did that. Genius.

And of course the hardliners won according to Schmidt:

  • "The union leadership, which obviously would have preferred being the ones introducing the terms of surrender...

    Whenever I’d point out to the CUPE brass that the overwhelming response from the community (at least according to the politicians I spoke with constantly) appeared increasingly hard-line and pro-employer."

DUH, what would hardliner politicians say Doug?

But one ought not to make fun of Doug. He does not know the real story of the strike. He does not know the hardliners lost. You see, the Star Editors did not send him or anyone else to the Lewenza Ward meeting to learn the truth.


Not only has Councillor Dilkens mysteriously disappeared according to the Star but so have all of their reporters.

You see there was a daycare meeting last Wednesday night with the President of CUPE Ontario in town but it was never reported. That makes 2 meetings in a row that the Star has not covered for their readers.

And some of you still subscribe to it?

So here is what one of my readers sent me that I can share with you:

  • "Again Windsor Star was nowhere to be seen. Must have been a craft show in the county somewhere tonight. CBC was there for a bit then his cell phone rang and he hit the road. A Channel showed up at the end of the night and waited outside for a rep to go and speak to them. But enough of our weak media.

    Fred Hahn spoke tonight and he's not giving up.

    Neither are the 125-130 parents & employees that were there either

    Drums are only just beginning.

    Task force has been meeting and they have been communicating with administration making small strides

    Lots of letters written tonight to the MPPs - maybe 50 - but the flood has just begun.

    Marion Overholt is leading a team to meet with Dwight Duncan within the next week. Task force is working on a meeting with him too. He IS the finance minister after all.

    Large rally on March 5th at high noon. As you recall, SSWC (Social Service Worker Sector of CUPE Ontario) Conference is scheduled at Caesars so for 12pm on Friday the 5th of March, what are they going to do but come outside and visit City Hall along with parents, children & members of the community. Marching from City Hall to the Glengarry Ave Childcare Centre. Everybody welcome! Bring your biggest Canadian Flag!

    Next up is Amherstburg Council Meeting on Monday, March 8th at 7pm.

    TONS of great ideas from parents tonight. Many really angry! Feeling betrayed I think. And well we should all be. It's our kids!

    Growing slowly. But growing!"


The Star Editors don't read their newspaper for news so why should you continue to subscribe to it!

What a wonderful Editorial on the 25th and a few comments that should have been inserted but were not. I wonder why.

  • "City spared avoided
    Learning lessons from the 400 audit

    "We can understand why Smith believes the city tried to keep a lid on the events surrounding the tendering and building of the 400 Building until the time line for suing had expired. That view is shared by many in Windsor. [We can understand why Edgar wants to keep a lid on the events surrounding the tendering and building of the arena]

    One could draw the conclusion, as Smith has, that this breach was not something city administrators wanted to become public knowledge. That conclusion could be further reinforced by comments from Coun. Alan Halberstadt, a current member of the audit committee. [One is drawn to the conclusion that there may be a breach that is not something City Hall wants to become public knowledge. That conclusion could be further reinforced by comments from Coun. Alan Halberstadt, a current member of the audit committee, about "unanswered questions"]

    Those involved in the spectacle that became the 400 Audit must be reminded that taxpayers were also put at major risk, and they must respond to those taxpayers accordingly. [Our Mayor must be reminded that a $70M+ arena owned by the City puts taxpayers at a major risk especially when it is not as profitable as projected for 2 years now]

    Given the fact disclosure took so long, and knowing how the audit unfolded, it is inappropriate for administration to in any way appear overconfident.

    The city must graciously accept EllisDon's goodwill gesture, then do two things: concentrate on fixing the breaches in Windsor's bylaws, and release the original Dunbar audit. [Given the seeming attack on the arena audit, it is inappropriate for Edgar to in any way appear overconfident and say that "there were no "unanswered questions" or to question "the need for an audit." It is time to fix the sole source sections of the Purchasing by-law that the Mayor introduced in his term of office and get the audit done before the election!]

Oh in case you forgot, Edgar's attack on the arena audit was published in the Star on February 23 "WFCU Centre audit on track" before the Editorial was published. Not a word about the disgraceful remarks in the Editorial at all. Keep the focus on the Dunbar audit and off of Edgar!

Hmmm maybe the Editors were going on vacation and missed that story too or were looking for their reporters who had vanished.


Mini-Gord tried to downplay it and obviously failed so a Star Editorial is needed to tell us that Edgar (aka Eddie) was not playing dirty politics.

I am talking about Edgar's vicious and uncalled for attack on Bill Marra and his family to try to score political points to prevent Marra from running for Mayor.

The Star tries to tell us with a straight face:

  • "It's been suggested there's an ulterior motive behind the decision by the mayor's office to release attendance figures for Windsor city councillors over the past term. Some people have been given the impression that the list appeared, out of the blue, to cause embarrassment.

    In fact, the attendance numbers were tallied and released because a Windsor Star reporter asked for them. He did so Feb. 23, the day after council was barely able to scrape together enough councillors to hold the regular Monday night meeting."

If that was true, then the Mayor's office should have answered my email a long time ago but did not. Note the time and date:

  • "----- Original Message -----

    From: Ed Arditti
    To: Mayor Francis
    Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 8:00 AM
    Subject: Media Inquiry

    As an accredited Blogger who writes on politics in Windsor, please provide me immediately with the following information from the start of the Mayor's second term until today.:

    --number of Committee meetings that the Mayor did not attend
    --number of Committee meetings in which the Mayor was NOT there for the entire meeting eg he arrived late or left early
    --number of airplane trips that the Mayor has taken on Windsor business whether as Mayor or a member of a Board or committee and out of which airport he has flown for each trip (note I do not care what the destination is or whom he was meeting or for what reason)

    Considering the speed in which the Mayor's Office answered the media requests re absences, I expect this information today so I may Blog it tomorrow.

    After all as the Mayor said:

    ""It's about accountability. We knock on doors saying we want to represent you at the table.... I think the public has a right to know,"

Can one say double-standard? Can one say dirty politics? Why couldn't the Mayor's Chief of Staff have compiled that information and sent it to me right away. Does the Star have special privileges with her?

After all, the Star claimed:

  • "But that doesn't alter the fact this was a reasonable question for the media to ask, and the mayor's office had a responsibility to answer it."

Was my question chopped liver? Was it unreasonable? Why wasn't the Mayor's Office obliged to answer it? Does this mean that the only conclusion I should draw is that this was an effort by Edgar through the Messenger to damage Marra?

It is completely disingenuous given the email that Marra sent to the Mayor and Council for the Star to say:

  • "Neither the media nor the voters are asking the mayor's office or administration to explain why councillors have missed meetings. That would be a violation of their personal privacy rights."

Those rights were "waived" when Marra sent that email and the Star and the Mayor know that. Edgar chose to give half the story and now the Star has to do damage control. It may well be a fatal mistake for the Mayor politically.

But of course, the Star has to rub it in Marra's face too but in a very subtle manner:

  • "But it's also a given that in life, situations and priorities can change, making it difficult for individuals to fulfil their career obligations. When that happens, they must consider taking a leave of absence or stepping down from their position. It's no different for city councillors."

Considering that Bill is looking after his family, running a large organization like New Beginnings and is a Councillor, the last group that should be giving him advice is the Star given the relationship they have with City Hall.

Edgar will never recover from the low blow he gave! People will remember it in October. It is a huge step on the slippery slope for Edgar.

Let The Province Pay For Hospitals

Heck, we don't have the money for frivolities for people, matters like daycare and healthcare, when there are consultants to hire for mind's eye visions. We need to look after investors after all and make sure that they are well taken care of.

Sure we are underserviced here medically. Who cares.

We want seniors to come to live here. They will need hospitals as they get older. Who cares.

So what if our hospitals do not have the equipment they need. It is only 2 hours or so each way to London and back, even further to Toronto or Hamilton. Who cares.

Edgar (aka Eddie) seemed to care I thought in a speech delivered outside of Wndsor in 2007:
  • "And what we have to do is send a message--just like we do in business send a message, we are competing with other customers, right? We are competing with other companies to attract those people but sending the message to attract people to live in our cities because we are investing in a quality of life.

    So now it is no longer at the municipal level talking about roads and sewers. It is talking about the arts and cultures, talking about the parks. It is talking about the amenities, talking about the facilities we have involved, because we want those people to come and live in our region...

    So if we can attract people as cities, we will do our job; we will make our city so livable, create so high a standard of a quality of life that they will come. They will raise their families and will come to live in our cities."

But it is election time. Culture, parks, facilities...they can wait. You can't get votes supporting this kind of stuff especially after you supposedly beat up on CUPE workers. Now he can say instead and be praised by a Star Editorial:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said any funding decisions will be up to council, but he doesn’t believe the city should be forcing taxpayers to contribute to a provincial responsibility.

    “There is no question about the value and worth of our hospitals — I use these hospitals myself and I’m very grateful for the care we all get,” he said.

    “I don’t believe that the property tax base is set up to subsidize health care. We have enough challenges trying to deal with our own issues.

    “What’s next? Are we going to fund education next? It’s just something that’s beyond our abilities.”

I don't get it. The money comes out of our pockets regardless whether it is the provincial pocket or the municipal one. Why wouldn't we want to ensure that our money goes directly to our hospitals in their time of need rather than seeing it going elsewhere and having to beg to get it back via the Provincial Health bureaucrats.

We have a great quality of life in Windsor. Provided you don't ever get sick!

And if you do, we will see Monday at Council who cares.


If Edgar can put forward spending $75M to run the US half of the Tunnel, a job which is something a municipality can hardly say is a core function, then he should not be telling us that we ought not to help out our hospitals.

I don’t believe that the property tax base is set up to run Tunnels, especially a Tunnel that makes no money and will lose up to 25% of its business in the future if DRIC is correct. The thought of Edgar even thinking of that just makes me sick.

Why Did Canada Do It

I have written about this subject before but Canada's role has always troubled me. It made no sense when this is an MDOT matter.

Just like Transport Canada under John Baird, just before Deputy Minister Louis Ranger resigned, when they decided no longer to play the game that they were NOT trying to force Matty Moroun out of business, I guess Canada's realists in Ottawa do not care now if their role as co-conspirator with MDOT comes out. How else to explain the so-called MDOT RFPOI for P3ing the new DRIC bridge with their name and fingerprints all over it.

Who gives a damn what Michigan politicans say---or the Canadian Senators--and taxpayers on both sides of the border want. Who cares that money is tight, Canada has a 50-year agenda to complete already. They have to beat Moroun now or it will never happen. He will get his bridge and it is game over. They fooled him once on the FIRA settlement when they really "retreated" not settled only to arise again a decade later to try again.

It is just like Canada is daring the Americans to do something to stop us. Heck we supply them with oil and energy as Harper said so what are they going to do about it? Invade us, or impose tougher protectionist measures? Our own Government has killed our manufacturers already. What more can the Americans do!

Let Obama worry about medicare, 2 wars and jobs; Canada can sneak in under the radar and take over the Central North American crossings using P3s as a front. Dubai Ports...who will guess.

As for Moroun, who cares if he sues. What's another lawsuit or six? Canada will buy him off in the end if they cannot crush him, or his son, with lots of cash if things gets too tough. In the meantime, demonize him and say whatever you want with impunity about the border and DRIC, even if it is an absolute lie.

When the real DRIC P3 costs come in at $3-4B for the DRIC road and a similar cost for the plazas on both sides and bridge, that will provide the justification needed for buying out Moroun and then building a cheap DRIC road, upgrading E C Row and building the second crossing exactly where Moroun wanted to build his Enhancement Project bridge. Just like the twinned bridge in Sarnia/Port Huron and what is proposed at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie.

Let us take a look at a few sections of the RFPOI that are supposed to encourage all of these P3 investors so that the Michigan Legislature will allow DRIC to go forward:

1) "Individual firms or teams interested in responding to this request (“Respondents”) are invited, on a non-binding basis, to express their interest in the project.

MDOT and TC are looking forward to the feedback of the private sector in response to this RFPOI. The responses will be used in developing governmental policy, in structuring the procurement process and the project agreement, as well as briefing the legislative branch of the State of Michigan and the executive branch of the Government of Canada.

This is nothing more than a public relations exercise designed to fool Legislators that someone is interested in the project. Tell investors there is no guarantee and that they will have to compete with the Ambassador Bridge whose tolls will be 2 to 3 times lower and see if anyone bites.

2) It is anticipated that one or more public - private partnerships will be used for the delivery of the remaining four primary elements.

More than one makes no sense since the crossing would be divided into a Canadian and American section. That makes it impossible for Canada to control the crossing on both sides of the river. Otherwise, Canada is replacing one "Moroun" with "another Moroun."

3) The project is needed to address future mobility requirements across the U.S.-Canada border. More specifically it is needed to:
• provide new border-crossing capacity to meet increased long-term demand;
• improve system connectivity to enhance the seamless flow of people and goods;
• improve border operations and processing capability in accommodating the flow of people and goods; and,
• provide reasonable and secure crossing options in the event of incidents, maintenance,congestion, or other disruptions.

All can be done with the Enhancement Project Bridge just as easily and more cheaply considering that there is no capacity issue, the Ambassador Gateway project is almost done with easy connections to the Interstate system, an extra lane in each direction improves flow and the second bridge provides redundancy.

4) In addition to the need of the additional capacity, the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Project mentions that the development of the DRIC does not appear to threaten the viability of other border crossing, including the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and the Blue Water Bridge.

[Let's see, a new crossing fighting for volumes that are about the same now as they were in 1999 with no expectation of them increasing rapidly in the near future.

Let's see, the Tunnel pays no dividend now to Windsor as an example and somehow it won't be impacted negatively when traffic is taken from it by the DRIC bridge?

Funny, I recall the US DRIC Engineers saying that the new bridge would take traffic from the other crossings and that could make their financial future iffy:

  • "DRIC predicts an initial loss of traffic for the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge.

    Blue Water would see a seven per cent decline in cars and 16 to 18 per cent drop in truck traffic in peak travel periods when the new bridge opens. The tunnel would take a 20 to 26 per cent hit on cars. The Ambassador Bridge would see a 30 to 39 per cent drop in cars and 54 to 75 per cent drop in truck traffic, depending on the location of the new bridge."

This is very similar to what Mark Butler on behalf of Transport Canada said years before. As I Blogged:

  • "Transport Canada says it doesn't believe the other area border crossings will suffer long-term losses.

    "We don't see them closing up," said Mark Butler, a spokesman for Transport Canada and DRIC."

    [Of course they are not going to close up since that would devastate the economies of Ontario and Michigan! But they would operate at a loss if another crossing fought for traffic that was not growing as projected by DRIC but was stagnant or decreasing overall.

    What Mr. Butler did not say makes my pocketbook ache: Taxpayers are not only going to get stuck for paying for the billions of dollars of cost of the DRIC project, we are going to subsidize the losses of the other crossings and may have to pay damages in a lawsuit! The Sarnia Bridge cannot close down because that would kill the automobile industry that the Governments have been so eager to attract to Ontario. Eddie would go ballistic and so would the City of Detroit if the Tunnel went out of business. Like it or not, the Ambassador Bridge will sue "If government expropriates anybody's business."]

What is also very interesting is that support for this statement comes from this Report "DETROIT RIVER INTERNATIONAL CROSSING STUDY TRAVEL DEMAND FORECASTS" prepared in 2005. I must admit I could not find that support in the document unless you still believe in fairies or these long discredited traffic volume numbers:

  • "At the Detroit River crossings, passenger car traffic is forecast to increase from 12.0 million vehicles in 2004 to 18.7 million in 2035 (a 57% growth), while truck traffic is projected at 8.1 million vehicles in 2035 from a 2004 base of 3.5 million (a 128% growth). The overall result is a 73% increase in total road-based traffic over the study period."

Yes, our volumes are now at around the 1999 levels. so much for that traffic forecasting. But here is the real hoot:

  • "The results show that the Ambassador Bridge has adequate capacity to accommodate growth in cross-border traffic until approximately the year 2020. The lower capacity limit indicates that bridge traffic operations will become unstable by approximately 2011...

    Taking the access/egress road system as a whole, it is projected that capacity will be reached (i.e. level-of-service F), by approximately 2010, although localised intersection improvements at critical locations could potentially extend the timeframe before capacity reached by several years."

DUH....sorry guys. It is 2010 now and are you ever wrong. How can this document be given to poor unsuspecting P3 investors!

Here's the killer for traffic volumes from the report and why a new DRIC Bridge could mean financial difficulties for crossings without a government subsidy"

  • "7.1 Travel Demand

    The Base Forecast traffic volumes, summarised in Exhibit 7.1, project a 58% increase in passenger car traffic and a 128% increase in commercial vehicle traffic between 2004 and 2031. The projected passenger car growth reflects the fact that much of the historic growth in passenger car travel was fuelled by two major phenomena. First, the crossborder shopping phenomenon in the late-1980s/early-1990s saw tremendous growth in same-day recreation trips to the US. This was followed by the opening of Casino Windsor in the late 1990s, which also resulted in a large increase in cross-border traffic. In each case, these types of movements have declined significantly from the original peaks due to several reasons including 9/11, SARS, North American political and economic conditions (i.e. security, production, exchange rate), the continued integration of consumer markets and the opening of three casinos in Detroit. A return to these levels is not expected in the future. As such, after a near-term rebound from the recent excessively steep decline, future growth of passenger car traffic is expected to be more in line with the projected population and employment growth in the Windsor-Essex and SEMCOG areas.

    In the last thirty years, commercial freight movements across the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, in particular trucking movements, have increased at a very substantial rate. Between 1972 and 2000, the Ambassador Bridge experienced a five-fold increase in truck trips. Commercial vehicle movements for the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel remained relatively stable; however, commercial vehicles represent a very small portion of the demand for this facility. Between 2000 and 2004, truck traffic has undergone a decline and rebound, such that current volumes are about the same as those in 2000. The commercial vehicle forecast assumes a continuation of sustained economic growth in the US and Canada, with trade between the two countries increasing at a higher rate than overall economic growth, consistent with the increasing trade ties that Canada has with the US and the rest of the world."

Oooops I guess they did not take into account in 2005 the chance of a disaster that hit the auto industry, the big users of the bridge.

5) In the interest of facilitating the construction and financing of this project, TC and MDOT are considering utilizing public-private partnership delivery approaches. An agreement (Concession Contract) between the joint partnership and the private sector partner (Concessionaire) will outline the roles, responsibilities, policies, procedures, reporting requirements, operating standards, etc., of the Concessionaire, as well as the obligations of the owners...

Approvals and permits pursuant to the mitigation program in the ROD and independently required by state and federal agencies remain to be acquired. Principal among these is the Presidential Permit required for a new international crossing by the U.S. Department of State. MDOT will seek this permit. The State Department has indicated that permit conditions include approval of the project by the Michigan Legislature."

Of course, no one mentioned that Michigan cannot enter into such a deal legally nor did they mention what the State Department has already written about the DRIC Bridge location.

6) Cost of all of this
How the heck can this be financed with tolls from users? The Cost Exhibit ensures that it cannot be. But no one told that to the P3 investors

That is why separately Transport Canada's Mark Butler said:

  • "We are continuing our discussions with Michigan on governance issues and financing issues,” said Mark Butler, a Windsor-based spokesman for Transport Canada...

    Butler said the Canadian government would prefer that the new cable-stayed or suspension bridge be undertaken on the basis of a public-private partnership. But he said this approach is not yet set in stone."

Now you know why it is not set in stone. But it gets even worse:

  • "Given the anticipated tolled nature of the border crossing, MDOT says there are several public-private partnership models ranging from real tolls to availability payments that could be applied to the DRIC under current market conditions."

What a joke...from real tolls to phony tolls ie payments support by either direct Government payments or guarantee or subsidies. All at extra taxpayer expense forever! They dare not say that in the RFPOI because then the Legislator who reads it would knwo that this is a financial disaster.

"Current market conditons" is a euphemism for saying there is no way that a "real toll" bridge could ever be considered because of

  • the multi-billion cost which would drive users away

  • economic melt-down,

  • lack of infrastructure money and
    competiton from the Ambassador Bridge whose tolls would be 1/4 of that of the DRIC bridge.

Oh well. This document is just another that will become key as litigation moves forward. The question I have is why Canada is making it so easy for Moroun. There is more behind this than meets the eye. I think I may have an explanation.

However, you will have to find it in my next border BLOG disclosing what I just learned by reading Canwest newspapers.