Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Do Edgar/Dwight Have A DRIC Road Deal

There is no doubt that one is close to being signed or so it is being suggested to us.

The only question is when will it be announced. My guess: sooner rather than later to ensure that no one runs against Edgar. Or that is the hope.

How do I know this? Obviously, inside moles at various government levels have been suggesting to me that something is coming. But actually, there was a Big Leak.

Yes, dear reader, another one. I will not keep you in suspense. The Leakor this time was Councillor Hatfield and he leaked it in the Star obviously as the beginning of a set-up to show the genius that our Mayor is:
  • "Hatfield cites tax fight in bid for Ward 7 seat

    In the next session Hatfield said council should put the border file behind it, adding he is now optimistic the province will make enough concessions to "wrap it up."

Except, here is what another Star story stated about Hatfield and the border file:

  • "Hatfield 1st Windsor council incumbent to file papers for re-election



Yes that is right, Zippo, Nothing, Nada. Percy gave it away too soon. No more Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler, B.C. trips as the Mayor's stand-in for Percy! Or maybe the deal fell apart and the Councillor was not in the loop to know it.

What power someone has to take out this key part of the story though don't you think. Scary!

If there is an Edgar (aka Eddie) deal with Dwight, will that mean that Marra will be pressured not to run for Mayor against Edgar. Bill would win easily otherwise.

Oh, one last warning. We have heard of a deal between the Province and City so many times before when reading Gord's column but it has never come to fruition.

It may well be that this happened again if the Province got angry that they are being pressured to sign on the dotted line for something that cannot be achieved but which will help Edgar politically. After all, according to Percy, everone bows down to Edgar

  • "the province will make enough concessions."

Yea, right! Dwight knuckling under to Edgar. That's good for Dwight's leadership ambitions.

Obliging Blogosphere 1, Edgar 0

Want proof of the power of the Blogosphere, look no further than what was posted on the Star online. Two conflicting stories with the major one being that Edgar (aka Eddie) was forced to back-off.

Chris Schnurr's BLOG "Downtown Festival: Possibilities?' with photos of the midway on Riverside was devastating and made a mockery of what was being claimed as to lack of location.

I hope that my BLOG contribution "Is A Boycott Summer Fest Facebook Page Next" which made it clear that Summer Fest was never going to come back to the Downtown if it moved eastward helped.

Both Chris and I and some other writers making comments on other BLOGs were suspicious of what was going on and speculated about what the real reason for the move was.

Clearly though, the clincher was the 2977 people who signed up to the Facebook group "Keep Windsor's Summerfest at the Riverfront!" within a few days who scared the hell out of Edgar!

And if you really believe that the Summer Fest move was a last minute thing, then explain this poster away on another Facebook page:

So we went from our Mayor saying this:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said a number of options were explored: Dieppe Park, not enough space; the area around the Art Gallery of Windsor, no service; and Riverside Drive, too inconvenient.

    “You would have to close Riverside down for 18 days, which is problematic,” Francis said. “But the move is not permanent. It’s just a result of all the construction going on.”

To our Mayor saying this:

  • "But Francis said he arranged a hasty meeting Tuesday night with the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association and the Windsor Parade Corporation, which runs Summer Fest, to see if the carnival could somehow stay downtown."

The funniest line was this:

  • "It’s very disappointing,” Francis said about the largely anonymous and harsh criticism about what was a business decision by private companies."

Sure, no input by the City in this whatsoever.

  • "The east-end centre has the necessary hydro , parking and space needed to host the festival, said Walt Metulynsky, Windsor's manager of leisure outreach services.

    "Thinking of other places we could put it downtown, that footprint just didn't match," he said."

And when does Edgar give in to criticism anonymous or not.

It is typical Edgar...It is more important to promote the Lauzon area for "shrewd investors" rather than continue a tradition for citizens downtown.

I found this quoote interesting:

  • "The last two weeks have clearly demonstrated that people have come to value the midway and the entertainment it provides," Mayor Eddie Francis said Wednesday at a news conference.

What it also says is that our Mayor is completely out of touch with citizens.

Why did he back off? One simple reason---an election year. But just you watch, it will be pay-back time later for Edgar. It always is.

What Is It With DRIC Supporters

I just don't get it at all.

Don't they ever listen to what they say? Do they think that everyone accepts blindly the positions they put forward? Can they ever admit the fallacy in what they are stating?

I heard that a major Canadian transportation organization recently has hired a big lobbyist firm in Michigan to lobby FOR the DRIC bridge in Lansing. Wow, the DRIC people must be desperate to have to call on third party assistance. And a Canadian one too!

That seems strange to me. What does the group have to gain by doing so? I wonder how much that will cost their Canadian members in lobbyist fees.

A warning to the lobbyists---do your homework. You do NOT want to look like fools in front of Michigan Legislators whom you are also trying to influence for other clients if you try to feed them all of this nonsense that DRIC supporters would like you to promote.

It does bug me to be honest. I suspect that there may a reader or two of mine who might disagree a bit on what I have to say on the border file. No problem.

However, I try very hard to substantiate what I say and provide the proof of it in my BLOGs so that my readers can understand why I say what I do and then draw their own conclusion.

Let me give you the latest example of DRIC supporters saying things that drive me crazy. It is from a recent interview on the Business News Network. Naturally, I will fisk their comments to try and put their remarks in a perspective.


Andrea: $5 billion. that's the estimated price tag on the Detroit River International Crossing project, which is expected to help unclog the congested crossing between Detroit and Windsor. But what will it mean for businesses on either side of the border? For their perspective we're joined by Jay Switzer -- sorry, Doug Switzer, VP of Government Relations for the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Thank you very much for joining us today.

[Just watch how that $5B is ignored by the DRIC supporters, especially when that amount grows substantially higher. Too bad that the host did not mention whose side the guests are really on and not leave the impression that they are neutral.]

Doug: thanks for having me.

Andrea: Ok, so Dan Stamper, our previous guest, who operates the Ambassador Bridge, he made an interesting argument, which was essentially that, look, it's cheaper what we're doing. Why do businesses want to pay four times the amount of tolls than they would be paying if we go with our idea? Why do we want to promote a government-funded potential boondoggle here?

[I have never understood why the financing of the border crossing is such a mystery. Why hasn't MDOT released the Wilbur Smith Report on financing the DRIC bridge? Why is it such a secret? I would have thought that the math on financing the two bridges should be easy to compare and the cost of building a traditionally funded bridge compared with a P3 bridge ought also to be easy to calculate. Maybe that is the problem. Disclosing the numbers now would be fatal to DRIC!]

Doug: Right. I think really the issue is where they're paying the tolls to. I don’t think the tolls will be four times what they are on the Ambassador Bridge. I would expect the tolls would be commensurate with what they're already paying.

[Frankly this comment is absurd. How can the tolls be approximately the same when the cost of the DRIC Bridge is in the $2 billion range while that of the Ambassador Bridge is around $3-$400 million? What no one wants to recognize is that the Ambassador Bridge can seriously undercut the tolls of the other bridge, thereby attracting traffic away from the new Bridge. The end result could be the bankruptcy of the DRIC bridge.

Of course, the Bridge Company will be extremely competitive. That is why it is highly unlikely that any P3 organization will seriously put in a bid knowing that they have to compete with someone whose price will be a quarter of theirs. P3 companies like monopolies so that they can make their 13 to 20% rate of return.]

So for the trucking companies and the shippers who are using the border crossing there won't be any additional cost. It's just a question of whether they'll be paying it to the Ambassador Bridge or whether they'll be paying it to a new Bridge Authority.

[Again, a ridiculous comment and wishful thinking. But then again, he works for the Association whose head moaned and groaned about the increase in tolls at the Blue Water Bridge. Perhaps they feel that if they are nice to the Governments, the tolls will be kept low again for the benefit of their members and at the expense of taxpayers.]

Andrea: I want to bring in a second guest. We also have Sarah Hubbard. She is Senior Vice-president of government relations with the Detroit Regional Chamber. Sarah, I want to pose the same question that I just posed to Doug here, which is that the operators of the Ambassador Bridge are saying, look, why would you want to go with the government-backed Bridge? Because basically it costs $5 billion, and the tolls are going to be much higher than what we're charging.

Sarah: Well, we think options are important here.

[What is even more important to Sarah, is not answering the question because if she did, that would be the end of the DRIC Bridge.]

We need redundancy for national security issues.

[Can we bury this argument already!

To be blunt, the attack in Moscow on the subway system confirmed again that terrorists multi-target. If they are going to attack the Ambassador Bridge, they would attack the other new Bridge whether it was beside the old one or a mile down the road or even 60 miles away. More importantly, Sarah forgets to mention that the Tunnel is the main concern because it has been described as a "unique security risk." It should be obvious why that is so.]

We need to make sure that we have very strong, clear entry and exit areas for the Bridge.

[Poor Sarah, clearly she forgot about the Ambassador Gateway project in which the Governments and the Bridge Company have spent already about a quarter of $1 billion to do precisely what she described on the US side. On the Canadian side, although promises have been made, nothing has been done including spending $300 million on the building of a road to the Ambassador Bridge as was contemplated under the BIF program. If Highway 401 is to be extended, it will be extended in precisely the same route to either of the new bridges.]

And we think this is something that community on both sides can live with as well, we like the idea of having several options. In Buffalo they have four Bridges and that seems to work out pretty well there. We have lots of room for growth in the Detroit-Windsor area. We want to really grow the logistics industry and have more trucking and more transportation going on in the Detroit-Windsor area.

[Oh Sarah, she obviously does not know about the problems in Buffalo/Fort Erie where the project to build the new Peace Bridge is in a worse situation than ours, even with all of their bridges. If Sarah is trying to suggest that Buffalo is our competitor, MDOT have already destroyed that myth a long time ago]

Andrea: Ok, there was recently, though, an Editorial in the ""Detroit Free Press"" where basically they were making the argument that Michigan can't afford this bridge, that really any money that they're going to have for the transportation system, they should be using it to fix cracked roads and potholes versus putting money up for this expensive bridge. What are your thoughts, Sarah?

Sarah: Well, that's just not true.

[Really? I remember reading a story recently about many road and bridge projects that cannot be completed because the State does not have the money. I remember reading a story about the dispute between Moroun and MDOT over Bridge Company toll credits that could help pay for some of these projects. Why even the Governor in her SOS speech thought it was ludicrous not to take advantage of private toll credits.]

Either party who builds a new Bridge is going to use bonding, whether it's bonded through a private activity bond or bonded through a public/private partnership or through some kind of government situation. Bonding will carry the primary cost of the Bridge. After that, the federal government will be picking up significant costs of entry and exitways on both ends. You know, there are different kinds of bonds that are used for patching potholes in other areas of the state.

[Oh Sarah, you probably have not heard that alternative payment methods may have to be considered because of the lack of traffic. That means a taxpayer subsidy for the DRIC Bridge. She really has to keep up with the news.

There will only be bonding if the person doing the bonding knows that the bonds will be paid back. That is not a certainty with the DRIC bridge as outlined above.

Does it really make sense for the State of Michigan and its taxpayers to spend money that they could use for their many road projects it cannot complete now when the Bridge Company is prepared to spend their money to build their Enhancement Project?

After NAFTA-gate, Secretary of State Clinton's dismissive comments respecting the border with Canada the other day and the unpleasantness over Afghanistan and the Arctic, Sarah has to be dreaming in Technicolor if she believes that the US Government will contribute one cent to this project to help out Canada.

Note as well, that Sarah effectively answered the question buying never mentioning once how much Michigan would be able to pay.]

Andrea: Ok. Doug, to you. I want to ask you, I mean what's it like right now? Mr. Stamper said that the Ambassador Bridge is very efficient. What kind of -- are there wait times and how difficult is it to get across at the moment?

Doug: At the moment, there aren't extensive wait times particularly directly at the Bridge.

[Oh my goodness, someone finally acknowledging that the Bridge Company knows how to run a border crossing.]

But we still have the dysfunctional situation as you said in your lead-in to this, of having to travel down a city street, going through 16 stop lights to get to the busiest border crossing between Canada and the United States. At its peak, it was running 3.5 million trucks a year plus, essentially running through the Detroit Windsor community.

[Our traffic volume today is around the 1999 level, a far distance from the peak described. No one seems to want to acknowledge that the road to the Bridge has been there ever since the Bridge was first built almost 80 years ago. Even with the stop lights, the border operation at the Ambassador Bridge beats that of every other crossing between Canada and the United States according to FHWA.]

Our position on this has been that we had two public policy objectives. One was to get a freeway-to-freeway connection that would get us off the city streets and get us out of the Windsor community.

[This is a bogus issue. The Bridge Company years ago engineered a road to the Bridge following the route proposed by the City of Windsor WALTS study that was effectively copied by the DRIC engineers. Whether a truck goes to the new DRIC bridge or the Enhancement Project bridge, the route is identical except for the last mile where a truck would either go left or would go right depending on the final destination.]

And the second was to build in some redundancy.

[See above re the phony argument respecting redundancy and security. If the Governments were serious, then we would have had reverse customs at the border already as the Bridge Company has been advocating for years.]

The DRIC project is the result of the efforts of Governments on both sides of the border, Canada and the United States, to look at all the options including the option of twinning the Ambassador Bridge and they determined that, after spending several million dollars and a couple years studying this, that the most reasonable way was to build this new Bridge that DRIC is proposing.

[Another misstatement. The Governments have not looked at twinning the Ambassador Bridge but rather looked at what they proposed about building a Government bridge right beside the Ambassador Bridge. That is how they threw out the twinning concept by saying that it would destroy most of Sandwich. Of course that argument was a phony one as well.

As I have Blogged many times before, and which was confirmed by Prime Minister Harper's secret mandate letter to buy the Ambassador Bridge, the DRIC project was nothing more than the Governments' attempt to terrorize the Bridge Company into selling their Bridge to the Governments at a very low price. That strategy has failed miserably.

Why would the Government of Canada want to buy the Ambassador Bridge if it was in such a poor location and such a poor project and an old Bridge. The letter demonstrates that Canada was never interested in a DRIC bridge but always wanted to buy the Ambassador Bridge and to locate a new Bridge beside it.]

Andrea: Ok. Because one of the things that kind of jumped out at me is why isn't the Government -- or the two Governments working in coordination with the Ambassador to maybe twin together with Mr. Moroun that second span? Why isn't that happening, Doug?

Doug: It was one of the options that DRIC looked at.

[See above. They never looked at it. Moreover, the Governments started reading and believing their own demonization reports. They were terrified to negotiate with Moroun, especially because they have no negotiating position as the lawsuits started by him make absolutely clear.]

We have to remember what DRIC really is.

[See above what DRIC really is]

DRIC is a combined environmental assessment process really, in that essence, between the Federal Canadian, Provincial Ontario, State of Michigan and the Federal US. Though they've combined, all four levels of Government have various processes that need to be gone through. And DRIC was the process to meet all of those requirements. So they looked at all the options, and one of the options was twinning. But for a variety of reasons, they can't really build that road to the Ambassador Bridge. The environmental assessment impact showed that it was more of an environmental impact to try to build that freeway-to-freeway connection to the foot of the Ambassador Bridge. Part of the problem is the Bridge is in the middle of the Windsor Community and it's hard to get to it with a highway.

[Discussed above. I do believe that some people should visit Windsor to understand that the Bridge is not in the middle of the city. I've heard that now from several people over the years who really ought to know better. Perhaps they are confusing the Bridge with the Tunnel.]

Andrea: Ok, Sarah, how important would you say -- I mean this has been going on for quite some time now. How important is it that there is some resolution? I've spoken to some people who are watching this, and they're really fearful that if there isn't a resolution, you know we may not see a Bridge in our lifetime, a new one.

Sarah: Absolutely. You don't just decide to build a Bridge overnight. This is something that takes years of planning as Doug mentioned.

[Sarah forgot that the Ambassador Bridge program started long before DRIC and but for Government interference would have been completed by now]

It's a binational process. Both sides of the river have been working together and it's extremely important that we build a new Bridge. This is -- you can't just decide overnight, oh, we need a new Bridge between two large countries. We think it's important to keep moving forward. We want to find resolution to the DRIC process, and if the Ambassador Bridge is able to build their second span, by all means they can build a second span. In fact in the minds of the business community, we like the option of having additional crossings in several places. We want to have choices. We want to have competition and we want to make sure we have the best crossings possible between the US. and Canada so we can be an inland port.

[For a business group, it is fascinating for me to watch them seeing a company being destroyed by Government and yet they are silent about it. Perhaps that is because the Chamber is a DRIC supporter.

Moreover, as a business person, Sarah does not seem to understand basic economics. Who will pay for all of these bridges if traffic is not there to pay for the bonding, her members as taxpayers?]

Andrea: Sarah, what's your sense though -- I mean the Michigan Legislature has to make a decision about whether they're going to continue to fund the DRIC, the Detroit River Crossing. Do you get a sense of which way they're going on this?

[She should have asked Sarah specifically about Senator Cropsey]

Sarah: Oh, there are a few issues being worked out before the Michigan Legislature.

[Yes, like an MDOT traffic report that does not meet legislative requirements and the failure to release the financial picture until the last minute! And how to get P3 operators to come in without a Government guarantee or subsidy.]

In particular we need to find -- to pass a new law that would allow for a public/private partnership in Michigan. You already have that in Ontario and in Canada. and in the US. We need to do that. We strongly believe that it will pass in time for this project to be completed. There are a few vocal opponents of this project in the Michigan Legislature. There are many more silent supporters.

[Perhaps the silent majority understand that the P3 boondoggle is over, that P3s are too expensive. Perhaps they have read my BLOGs on the Port Mann Bridge P3 fiasco!]

Andrea: Ok. and Doug, the last to you. What would this DRIC Bridge mean in terms of the economy and jobs on both sides?

Doug: Obviously there's a direct impact in terms of the trucks trying to get across the border and the operational costs that they incur trying to move across the border.

[But Doug, you just said there are no border problems now and with the new technological advances, pre-clearance and moving Customs away from the border, the problems will be minimal in the future.]

But I think really the most profound impact on the economy is, you know we talk about the supply chain, and the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. All too often, the border is that weakest link.

[Ooooooo, Doug did not say border "thickening." If he did , it means Customs and non-tariff barriers not the Bridge]

So to us the way to strengthen the supply chains between Canada and the United States, to insure that the two great trading partners that we are can continue to trade is to build the DRIC Bridge, provide that redundancy provide that highway-to-highway connection so that we can insure that when people are making business decisions about where to locate businesses, where to source supplies from, they don't have to factor in, well, i'm not sure if my goods will get across the border. We need to build in that kind of certainty, that kind of security that businesses need when they're making investment in sourcing decisions.

[Uh, Doug, capacity is not the issue, traffic flow is! Just ask the Peace Bridge people and they will confirm it. That is why the Ambassador Bridge project is designed for traffic flow improvements not for capacity reasons.

Your issues are NOT bridge related but part of the "Dirty little secret" the Canadian Senate talked about years ago]

Andrea: Ok. Well, thank you very much, both of you, for joining us today.

Bridge Company NAFTA Press Release

It is no April Fool's day joke. It is getting very serious now.

I wonder if this NAFTA case will finally get Ottawa's attention. Or does our Conservative Government expect to be re-elected on an anti-American platform?

After Secretary Clinton's visit, someone in Ottawa or our DC Embassy ought to wake up!

Please note the sentence I emphasized which will give Edgar (aka Eddie) nightmares.

Bridge company claims Canada violated NAFTA, files arbitration claim

WARREN, Mich. – A new highway planned by Canadian authorities to service a proposed border crossing between Ontario and Michigan violates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because it discriminates against American investors in the nearby Ambassador Bridge, the bridge owners said.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC), which owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge, filed a Claim of Arbitration under Chapter 11 of NAFTA on March 23.

DIBC seeks a determination that Canada has breached its obligations under NAFTA, an award of damages of at least $3.5 billion and other appropriate relief.

The arbitration arises from the decisions by Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Windsor to locate the parkway serving the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) so it steers traffic away from the Ambassador Bridge, DIBC said.

In May 2003, Transport Canada, the Canadian government transportation agency, committed to extend Highway 401 to facilitate access to the Ambassador Bridge. Relying on Canada’s promises, DIBC invested hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements in connection with the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project – the $230 million program to provide direct access to the bridge from the U.S. interstate highway system.

Canada cancelled the improvements to Huron Church Road and instead approved a new freeway linking Highway 401 with the proposed DRIC bridge. The road, commonly referred to as the Windsor-Essex Parkway, is proposed to be 11 kilometers long. The first 9 kilometers would run from Highway 401 directly toward the Ambassador Bridge, but 3 kilometers short, before turning south toward the proposed DRIC bridge.

The new DRIC bridge would be jointly owned by Canada and the U.S. DIBC alleges that Canada’s actions violate NAFTA by favoring Canadian investors in DRIC over the U.S. investors in the Ambassador Bridge, and by denying fair and equitable treatment to the U.S. investors in the Ambassador Bridge. The Ambassador Bridge is wholly owned by DIBC, a privately held U.S. company.

NAFTA prohibits actions of discrimination by the United States, Canada or Mexico against citizens or companies of one another and requires them to treat one another’s investors fairly and equitably. Discriminatory activities of government subdivisions of those nations such as states, provinces or municipalities make the nations themselves liable in damages under NAFTA.

NAFTA provides for arbitration by a three-person tribunal to resolve disputes under Chapter 11. The Secretary-General of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes will constitute the tribunal if the parties do not reach agreement on the panel within 90 days. NAFTA also includes a 90-day period for the parties to attempt to agree on a resolution of the dispute.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Apology NOT Accepted

Aren't you sick of people apologizing? Screw up, cause damage and then kiss up and make it all better.

I did a quick News search and here are the apologies given in the past week or two:

  • Jesse James apologizes to the Sandra Bullock and his kids for his infidelity.
  • Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn says he "apologizes to those I could have offended" after he became the second Conservative cabinet minister in less than a week to lose his cool with airport security.
  • The European clerical sex abuse scandal has reached Italy, with the bishop of the northern diocese of Bolzano apologizing to victims and promising to co-operate with prosecutors
  • Czech doctors' organization apologized to Jewish doctors Thursday for the persecution they endured in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia
  • Toyota Motor Corp. officials apologized to Canadians for the raft of safety problems that has caused the recall of some of its most popular brands
  • Walmart apologizes for racial remarks
  • The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has apologized for his handling of a child sex abuse scandal 35 years ago
  • In statement, Rangers manager apologizes for testing positive for cocaine
  • Industry Minister Tony Clement apologized Tuesday for letters mailed to community groups across Canada telling them their funding for Internet access was being cut
  • A sobbing Charmaine Roy apologized "from the bottom of my heart" to the people she defrauded
  • Time Warner Apologizes For Mixup Involving Kiddie Channels, Porn
  • Co-op Cabs apologizes
  • Virgin America's CEO on Tuesday apologized to passengers who endured a grueling trip from Los Angeles to New York this past weekend
  • Miami Heat forward Dorell Wright was arrested early morning Thursday (March 11th) in Miami Beach, FL. for DUI and has now apologizing after returning to the Miami Heat from his, at the least, distractive arrest.
  • HP Apologizes To Consumers In China Over Problems With Laptops
  • Tiger Woods Apologizes for His 'Sins'
  • Helena Guergis apologizes for PEI airport meltdown
  • Greyhound apologizes to stranded passengers

Whew, I am sorry for showing so many. Darn, now I am doing it.

That is why I congratulate this Windsor lady for showing some spunk:

  • "Mac’s Convenience Stores Inc. has apologized after a clerk ejected Julie Holmes from a Windsor store because she had a service dog with her, but she’s not dropping the issue. She’s filed a human rights complaint.

    “They have apologized and I appreciate it,” said Holmes, 24, who has muscular dystrophy. “But if I accept sorry from them, I have to accept sorry from everybody. Then everybody can treat me like garbage as long as they say sorry. I have to get the point across and educate.”

P3 The Blue Water Bridge

This bridge is a natural to be P3ed.

It is owned by Canada through the Blue Water Bridge Canada and by the State of Michigan through MDOT. As everyone knows, both Governments are hot to trot on a P3 for whatever is built in Windsor/Detroit although Michigan legislation does not allow for P3s. So far.

Trouble is, no one has a tremendous amount of experience on P3s for major transportation routes, especially an international one. Ontario had a deal over Highway 407 and it took a lawsuit to figure out who could do what. I hardly think think that makes Ontario a pacesetter in this area.

Who could dare take such a chance on the major land broder crossing between the US and Canada? No one is the answer. We need to run a test first to see how it can be done and what lessons can be learned.

Wait, I have a fabulous idea. Or rather, I am publicizing someone else's fabulous idea that few have picked up on. P3 the Blue Water Bridge:
  • "[Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan] Cropsey also is unhappy with Granholm's budget recommendation for the Michigan Department of Transportation. Her proposal calls for reducing operational expenses by $20 million and using that money for road construction to leverage $100 million in matching federal funds. Even so, Michigan will be unable to use an additional $475 million in federal road cash because of inadequate state road funding.

    Cropsey said Granholm needs to think about creative solutions such as instituting road tolls and privatizing bridges.

    "Maybe we ought to turn the Blue Water Bridge over to the private sector and let them run it," Cropsey said of the bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.”

It's not such a foolish idea. Remember that Canada had the Blue Water Bridge on a list of possible assets it might sell. Just the other day, the Finance Minister said:

  • "Finance Minister says Canada may sell government assets

    March 9, 2010 Canada may announce plans in the coming year to sell government assets following a review of its operations, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.

    Flaherty, who this week outlined the Conservative government’s plan to bring down its budget deficit, told CBC Radio a lot of work had been done on the review and “there’s more to be said about that before too long.”

    “There are some opportunities there for some privatizations of businesses that one questions why the government is in them anymore. So we’ll look at those and I expect that in the next year we’ll be able to make some announcements,” he said in an interview posted to the website Friday.

    “It’s actually an asset review. Why does the government own A or B or C? Why are we in that business? Do taxpayers really need to own this?”

    He did not elaborate on what assets might be sold or how much this could raise."

Relax all of you Canadian economic nationalists. He is not really going to sell the bridge but he could P3 it instead. This way he can say he still owns it while he brings in all of this cash to pay down the deficit.

After all, how could he sell it when the Prime Minister has a secret mandate letter to buy the Ambassador Bridge. He may buy it but then probably would turn around to P3 it probably to the same party who P3s the Blue Water Bridge. We know that this was part of Canada's plans for years thanks to Gridlock Sam's "socialist-type" musing that could come into play:

  • "Balanced Traffic between Blue Water Crossing and Windsor-Detroit Crossings

    Developing a balanced traffic network between the Sarnia-Port Huron and Detroit-Windsor Crossings would provide benefits without a new crossing but would be compatible with any of the new crossings... It sets aside the profit-motive, which means each facility is competing for the most traffic, with a utilitarian-motive: the greatest good for the greatest number. Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants."

But why would MDOT do it? They aren't a bunch of namby-pamby leftwing-leaners are they.

There is a simple explanation: money. MDOT is desperate for money. They need to spend a half a billion dollars to fix up the mess they made at the Blue Water Bridge Plaza. They have a need for hundreds of millions of dollars for highway and bridge projects they cannot finance. And if they get money for their budget from private parties, then effectively they are no longer controlled by Legislative oversight at budget time and can tell the Legislature to stuff it. Mind you, they do that now anyway as we can see with DRIC.

They were seduced by Canada over sums that were raised in Chicago and Indiana as the P3 boom skyrocketed. And who would not be! I wonder how many billions they thought the Bridge was worth, half of it to go to MDOT. However, it may be too late for them as the economic meltdown has meant that P3 operators will have trouble finding the cash to satisfy the bureaucrats. Who knows though, Canada might offer to buy it but at a reduced amount. Perhaps like the Tunnel too.

If you do not think that this is a possibility, then why else would MDOT raise the tolls by almost double? There was an immediate need to get the revenues up to increase bridge value and to attract bidders. Moreover, if the successful bidder increased tolls right after it took over, then the private operator would take the public hit and would not like that. Just take a look what happened when Alinda did that in Alabama when they bought out 4 Macquarie bridges there.

However, I have to tell you that this concept will not work. All that it will get would be OTA's David Bradley whinging another time when the private P3 operator increased tolls again. Who could stand that! I guess he cannot figure out that someone has to pay for bridge building. Or perhaps he has and wants it to be taxpayers not bridge users like his members.

I hate to admit it. The better idea would be to follow what the Detroit Free Press proposed and let Matty Moroun run both crossings (and throw in the Fort Erie/Buffalo crossing too for good measure):

  • "Moroun's legal efforts can stall the planning and building of a second crossing, but ultimately they won't stop it. If the Ambassador wants to continue getting a big piece of the border action, it ought to negotiate an agreement under which it would jointly own and operate the Ambassador, the new downriver crossing and maybe even the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Moroun's company could even share revenue on the new downriver crossing while repairing the Ambassador.

    The bridge company, which has done an excellent job of operating the Ambassador, has the capital and expertise to make such a public-private partnership work. If structured properly, such an agreement could protect the bridge company's economic interests while providing the public oversight and governance that a border crossing should have.”

Put the DRIC bridge P3 project on ice for awhile, P3 the Blue Water bridge by allowing P3 legislation just for that project. And learn what a disaster that will be as the Governments get taken for a ride.

Then the Governments can beg Matty to please build his bridge and run theirs!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clinton Dismisses Canada Border Concerns

You can listen to the interview and form your own conclusions.

All I can say is that Canada's Washington Embassy, our foreign affairs geniuses and the academic cognoscenti especially in a certain Ottawa University have been so wrong that the only thing that will save our relationship with the US is Iggy becoming PM!

Just listen to what the US Secretary of State has to say in diplomatese so that Canadian politicians won't have massive heart attacks:

  1. The thick border is not getting any thinner
  2. She is just beginning to clear away obstacles
  3. Perimeter security---the Americans are not looking at it now although Canadians keep writing about it. (Listen to her tone especially)
  4. We've had a near depression so protectionism is staying. Tough luck if Canada is nervous and anxious
  5. We are not going to make agreements on everything right away---so bye-bye DRIC
  6. The focus is on the Mexican border because the US screwed up and is the cause of many of the Mexican problems by making illegal guns available and buying drugs from the "barbaric and vicious" drug trafficers.

Do you really believe that the State Department headed by Secretary Clintion, after her comments, will reverse what the Department said before about DRIC's Central Corridor and will issue a Presidential Permit to DRIC to build a bridge?

Don't be silly!

BLOGExtra: Minister of International Trade Van Loan Bombshell

I heard this video clip on the CBC Money program, "The Lang and OLeary Exchange." Watch and listen to it for yourself.

It is a real shocker:

I wonder exactly what it means since Dan Stamper stated clearly that Minister Van Loan before he became an MP was writing letters to the Government supporting what the Ambassador Bridge was proposing as "the right answer." That is completely contrary to the Government position that DRIC is the way to go.

Of course, our media investigative reporters will ignore the issue since it is NOT another anti-Moroun attack. It's similar to the Windsor Star approach to journalism--ignore key stories that don't favour your position and they disappear.

Frankly, I find it shocking. Why then has Van Loan remained silent? In his former position of Minister of Public Safety, he had responsibility for Customs (CBSA) and was involved in border crossings matters as this excerpt from a letter from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce shows:

Or in this story:

  • "Van Loan signs border pact with homeland security head
    Trade, security issues dominate 2-day meetin

    Border security issues sat at the top of the agenda on the first day of a two-day conference between high-ranking officials on both side of the Canada-U.S. border.

    Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan met with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in Windsor on Tuesday. The pair will meet again in Ottawa on Wednesday.

    After touring port operations on both sides of the border, the two signed an agreement allowing armed guards to patrol shared waterways and share information and resources."

But as I wrote before, here is what was so startling about what Van Loan said in the past:

  • “In Washington to talk to his U.S. counterpart, Canada's public safety minister said Wednesday that they agreed to meet twice a year to head off problems that might snarl trade at the border…

    Van Loan said the two sides would probably meet once a year in Canada and once in the United States, perhaps at the border itself.

    He also got a commitment from Napolitano that Washington will look again at the idea of what is called land pre-clearance, he said.

    Under a proposal favoured by Ottawa, American officials would check U.S.-bound trucks on the Canadian side of the border and vice versa, easing trade bottlenecks.

    Van Loan said he suggested a pilot project at the Windsor-Detroit border but nothing was settled.”

Nothing ever happened with that idea did it! How could it---it would have helped Moroun and negated any need for a DRIC bridge. Obviously, someone slapped the Minister down, hard. Who cares about solving security issues when there is a Canadian political agenda at play.

So what is it with the Minister? It seems to me that he is pro-Bridge Company yet he is a Minister in the Government which is opposed to the Bridge Company. How does he reconcile that?

How can he remain in the Government and especially as a Minister if he does not favour what the Government wants? Or, is being and remaining a Minister that important?

My head is spinning. Someone needs to start asking some questions soon to clear this up.

It is clear now that on the border file at least, the Harper Government is completely out of control!

Monday, March 29, 2010

More Border Stories

More stories for you to consider


Interesting article in Toll Road News

  • "A peace plan for the war at the Detroit River crossings US-Canada"

Nice to see an "outsider" trying to bring some sanity to our insane border fight. The concept is similar to what I have proposed before, including my "kangaroo" article around three years ago :

  • "How A Kangaroo Can Save Canada's Economy"

Unfortunately, Mr. Samuel does not understand that logic plays no part in what the Governments, especially Canada, want to do. It is an ideological and political war against the Bridge Company not an economic one. That's why the serious lawsuits are starting with more to come from both sides I would bet.

Maybe a court can bring some sense to this.



The Canadian Government may be this desperate to beat Moroun, anywhere. He is their competitor to build a second bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie too.

As you know, Pamela was born in Canada and is a spokesperson for PETA. Consider this story:

  • PETA Offers to Save Peace Bridge; If it Changes Name

    BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -- PETA officials have made a 'meaty' offer to the NYSDOT.

    PETA has offered to help pay for the repairs needed to bring the span up to safey ratings if the name of the bridge is changed to "Peace on Your Plate Bridge".

    This offer follows reports saying that the Peace Bridge has such a low safety rating that it could be forced to close.

    In the letter, PETA makes the claim that world peace could be more readily attained if everyone adopted a non-violent vegan diet.

    "Changing the bridge's name to the 'Peace on Your Plate Bridge' is a win-win situation," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "The name change would help keep this vital link in Western New York's economy up and running, and people crossing the bridge would be reminded that we really can have world peace -- starting with one meal at a time."

Could it be that Canada would go along with this?

I would strongly suggest that the Bridge Company plan an information session with PETA and hopefully with Pamela in attendance. She does have a history with Detroit since she married Detroit's Kid Rock so that is their opening to meet her. Wouldn't it have been great, and would have put Windsor on the world's stage, if their vows could have been exchanged at the border crossing between Canada and the US on the Ambassador Bridge.

They need to be polite and not attack the PBA people as boobs. Rather, their job should be to meet PETA and Pamela to keep them them abreast of what is going on.


  • Infrastructure funds struggle to attract investors

    AMSTERDAM - Global infrastructure fundraising dropped by more than half in 2009 from the year before as investors moved to more liquid assets, according to data sent to Reuters by placement agent Probitas Partners.

    Just $US10.7 billion ($11.85 billion) was raised by infrastructure funds in 2009, 57 per cent less than the $US24.7 billion raised in 2008, according to figures compiled by Probitas.

    The contrast is even greater when compared to the $US34.3 billion raised in 2007.

    There are currently 119 funds on the road worldwide seeking an aggregate $US115 billion according to market research and consultancy firm Prequin, making this a very competitive environment for fundraising.

    Infrastructure assets such as roads, airports and power grids are notoriously illiquid, making them less appealing to investors during a liquidity crunch.

    This is exacerbated by the scarcity of debt to support projects, Probitas said


You recall the Butler garter's snakes that could stop the DRIC road until something is done since they are a species at risk.

In the Star, it was reported:

  • "Thousands of badly needed construction jobs associated with the enormous project could be delayed unless an agreement to protect the snake and several wildflowers also unique to the region can be reached.

    I don't think a delay is likely -- at least not for long. But some kind of deal to protect the so-called endangered species is going to have to be struck or the jobs could end up in legal limbo."

The story was reported in the Detroit media this way:

  • "The existence of the Butler's garter snake was identified a few years ago while the DRIC study team examined wildlife ... in the access corridor," Grondin said.

    "We have tracked the snake's movement and have been developing strategies to protect them."

    According to Grondin, the Canadian government is working on strategies to "protect, create and restore of habitat for species at risk "like the Butler's garter snake."

Years of study and no solution yet. And those strategies are "part of the province's planned preconstruction activities," which basically is government speak for "we plan to do something, we just don't know what."

In the end if DRIC can force out hundreds of families and businesses from Delray by the use of expropriation and telling them to go elsewhere, then I am sure they can force out the snakes too by offering them a new home.

Funniest quote in the Detroit story:

  • "What makes it unique?

    The Butler has a smaller head, a different scale arrangement and is known to thrash madly about when frightened by you and me.

    Since 2007, the serpent has been listed as threatened under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, which means it can't be harassed, captured, possessed, bought, sold or killed.

    To learn just what could or should be done about the "serpent de jarretière du Butler" I placed a call to Mark Butler (no relation), spokesman for Transport Canada."


Instead of using its money to build a DRIC Bridge, perhaps MDOT could fix up the bridges on I-94 instead:

  • "I-94 to reopen Monday after weekend repairs
    Additional supports to be added to overpass

    The Michigan Department of Transportation said today it expects to reopen all lanes on an I-94 overpass in Allen Park by Monday morning, days after the bridge was restricted because of safety concerns.

    Bridge inspectors shut two of three lanes on eastbound I-94 over Southfield Road Thursday afternoon, leading to lengthy traffic delays. An MDOT employee observed that pavement appeared to have dropped by as much as half an inch on the left side of the overpass, and follow-up inspections led the state to close the lanes.

    “We will begin a detailed investigation to identify all needs for a long-term repair. Due to our funding issues, it’s impossible to know exactly when that contract will be enacted"

Perhaps MDOT could call Matty about toll credits too!