Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 21, 2010

Payne For The City

Here are the Court documents filed by Hilary Payne relating to the court case to quash the City by-laws preventing the tearing down of the homes in the Indian Road area and setting up the Sandwich Heritage District.

They are a good read when it's raining over the weekend.

Here is what the lawsuit is all about.

I assume that the Voice of Council will be cross-examined as part of this. Get your tickets for the big show soon.

Oh, in case you wondered, it's the same Hilary Payne:

  • "Windsor landlords sue city for $6M
    Suits include $2.25M sought by Windsor's former CAO

    Three sets of landlords who rent out student housing in the University of Windsor area are collectively suing the municipality for almost $6 million in what they allege was malicious prosecution by police, the fire marshal's office and other city officials.

    The list of plaintiffs include former city CAO Hilary Payne and his wife Gloria, whose individual claim seeks $2.25 million in damages "for loss of reputation, humiliation and disgrace, pain and suffering" over the way the pair alleges it was treated by officials following the January 2006 arson at a student rental house they owned at 614 Mill St., according to statement of claim.

The Square

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BLOGEXCLUSIVE: The MDOT/Canada Anti-Matty Moroun P3 Bill

Still playing bloody games.

The $550M was a mere diversion. Here is the real P3 Bill that was sprung on Legislators yesterday and will probably be voted on today. Makes a mockery of Democracy doesn't it.

The bureaucrats are a gutless bunch. Tell it as it is. It is directed right at Moroun just the way the International Bridges and Tunnels Act in Canada was directed at him. They just did not have the nerve to say it.

If you want lawsuits up the ying yang, here is the next one.

The issue of lack of Legislative oversight still remains in the Bill as do most of the other onerous terms but now we know it is Canada's doing. It was Canada's Plan being followed by the MDOT sheep or will Jim Blanchard try and tell us otherwise.

For UP TO $550M or probably really nothing, the DRIC Bridge belongs to Canada under the revised P3 Bill. Michigan will get paid off somehow. Oh I got it, it is a no-brainer and riskless so nothing more need be done. As I said before, Michigan was merely a necessary evil in Canada's plan to be dismissed when no longer needed. Like NOW!

If Legislators want to know how their Bureaucracy will screw them in a P3 Bill, here it is!

Here are the new key provisions that give Canada control of the border in a bloodless coup and are designed to bankrupt Moroun or rather to get him to sell out finally!

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez would be proud.

Canada now becomes an instrumentality of Government of Michigan

Canada now becomes a full party to a Michigan P3 for no cost whatsoever. In fact, the Agreement could just be between Canada and the P3 operator without Michigan as I read this

Wow, in that 5-year period MDOT could have screwed taxpayers before the Legislators can say anything.

The bridge could be owned by Canada as an instrumentality if Canada set up a company under Michigan law

Canada can control the P3 operator

A way to get around Moroun's ownership of property for a new bridge

It's the way that Michigan taxpayers will find out that the DRIC deal is NOT riskless since this determines who bears the risk. Do you really think that MDOT will fight for taxpayers since they are forced to belive their own phony traffic numbers. Since their numbers are so good, then MDOT can afford to take the risk of traffic shortfalls.

Canada can take advantage of US bonds including private activity bonds. How generous

If the Bridge is Canada's after all, Canada is given the power to issue bonds. Canada might generously offer a gift like UP TO $550M under onerous conditions not known to Legislators now, or perhaps ever because of confidentiality clauses.

Another way to take away Moroun's lands.

There you have it, all nicely wrapped up. Those bureaucrats sure are smart.

I wonder what the Legislators in the House and Senate will do now.


I saw an article by Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, a federation of Michigan labor groups attacking the Republicans for being the Party of "NO!"

All I would say if I was a Michigan resident is thank goodness for them saying NO to this absurd P3 Bill. It should be considered a badge of honour.

  • "We cannot understand why this legislation is stalled"

Mr. Gaffney would understand if he ever read the P3 Bill why everyone in the State should say NO.

The Republican's Rep Opsommer has been a leader attacking the Bill for not providing legislative oversight an d pointing out the Bill's deficiencies. I understand that he has introduced his own Bill in which the oversight flaw is remedied and other sections corrected.

All I can say to that Mr. Gaffney is YES!!!

Border Traffic Rises Above Near-Depression Levels---Barely

Here are the numbers that DRIC-ites will gloat over.

Here are some other numbers that they will conveniently forget to mention as well

From the Bridge Co. Press Release:
  • Although increases are reported over 2009, remember that economic activity was severely depressed then because of the global crisis. Compared with 2008, the 2010 traffic volume is down considerably. Ambassador Bridge traffic during the first four months of 2010 is 43 percent lower overall compared with the same period of 2000 (car traffic down 50 percent, truck traffic down 28 percent).

  • 1—Traffic in the first four months of 2010 continued to improve from the same period last year, when the global economic meltdown was under way.
    2—However, January through April 2010 traffic is down 10 percent overall from the same period of 2008. (Cars down 6 percent, trucks down 15 percent).
    3—The Bridge Co. is still on a pace to have its second-worst annual traffic volume in the last decade.
    4—Traffic for the first four months of 2010 is down 43 percent overall compared with the same period of 2000. (Cars down 50 percent, trucks down 28 percent).
    5—All border crossings are seeing similar trends.

The Square

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Different Voice From Canada

Here are the comments by Liberal Party MP Joe Volpe Transport Critic for the Official Opposition in Canada, Vice-Chair and Member of the House of Commons Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. His Party could take over power in a new election since the Conservative Government today is in a minority Parliament.

He speaks about the Ambassador Gateway project undoing, what Minister Baird did, the desperation security/redundancy argument, the absurd $550M expenditure and what really ought to be done right away that does NOT cost $5.3B.

Remember his Party was involved previously in the border file when it first started.

DRIC And The Root Of All Evil

Of course money bastardizes the political system. No, no, no, I’m not talking about bribes and payoffs. That's too easy. I’ll leave that for others to talk about.

Rather what I want to discuss in this BLOG is how money seems to cause people to act in very strange and mysterious ways, especially when gigantic sums of money are at stake, billions of dollars. In ways that thoughtful representatives concerned for the well-being of taxpayers ought never to act or even consider. You will see how actions are taken that could result in taxpayers being prejudiced financially for generations to come. For what reason, for what purpose?

This whole episode involving the introduction of of Michigan’s P3 legislation and whether a DRIC bridge should be built will be the example that I want to use.

Can any of us comprehend realistically what $5.3B means or is it merely a number on paper? Do Legislators get jaded after awhile and forget that taxpayers have to pay for these tremendous ego/legacy projects that carry someone's name for eternity?

We have seen rah rah rah pep rallies, demonization and vilification, a breathless Governor, a proposed $550 million payment from a foreign Government to Michigan and who knows what else by the time that this matter is finished one way or another. No one seems shocked by any of this, as if it is an expected part of the process.

Let’s have some fun and do a bit of speculating and see where it takes us.

The Baird letter was a showstopper. It took the Governor's breath away at least. There is no doubt that it is been hanging around for some time since work on this started about eight or nine months ago according to media reports. If you will recall L. Brooks at the rally for DRIC mentioned that he would be taking around a letter to Legislators, presumably Republicans and probably Senators, that hopefully from his perspective would get them to change their opposition to the DRIC bridge.

That letter, if it was same one, never saw the light of day publicly until the breathless Michigan Governor introduced it at a Michigan House hearing on the P3 Bill which quickly seemed to turn into a popularity contest for DRIC.

That there were last minutes talks between officials on both sides of the border was revealed. But what could they have been talking about? My guess---that the House was NOT going to pass the P3 Bill if House members looked at it closely since it removed legislative oversight from the process.

To put it bluntly, the Bill sucked. The House Republicans were making rumblings about that. Billions of dollars of transportation projects could be introduced by a Lame-Duck MDOT Director and approved by a Michigan Transportation Commission that was appointed by a Lame-Duck Governor that could bind Governors who were not elected yet for up to 50 years or more.

If the Bill died, then DRIC was dead for years since several of the Governor-candidates favoured the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project. What was needed therefore was a big gesture.

Minister Baird provided it with his 2-page letter! Not money though because an agreement was subject to negotiations. It was also tied into passing legislation. In came Jennifer saying that UP TO $550M was offered.

The gambit worked. The House Committee approved the Bill and all was right with the world. Except that the House has NOT voted on the Bill for weeks and we are coming up to June 1, the D-day for approving DRIC or not.

Panicsville again. Legislators called in to the Governor's office, arm-twisiting and still no clear majority so no vote.

Again, Minister Baird to the rescue supposedly and as the papers said, conversations with Legislators after his big Detroit speech. To be frank, that speech was a dud, boring, nothing new. How could there be since he had given away the cash. It was I am certain to have been the step that was to convince the Senators to go forward. It was supposed to be brought in I would bet at the SENATE hearings not for the Michigan HOUSE. However, that arrow had been removed from the quiver because the Governor could NOT get a House vote.

So what do you do now if it looks like the P3 Bill will die? Baird's speech probably made it worse. As did the Steudle interview that effectively told Legislators that it does not matter what they say, Canada will get what it wants. The solution---simple, re-write it! Try desperately to find a way to keep the guts of the Bill but pretend to address the concerns of Legislators.

Now here is the good trick as we in Windsor have seen with our local Government. Make sure that the new Bill is introduced in the last possible second, pressure members of your party, the Democrats who have the majority in the House, and then call a quick vote.

Here is where the bastardization comes in. What this is doing is destroying the system, and destroying it on something not inconsequential--- multi-billions in transportation projects.

What happened to Legislators having time to think, to deliberate, to consider, to make changes if needed? What happened to the Committee system that is normally charged with holding hearings before a major piece of legislation is passed?

Nope, not this time around. The Bill is too important for Canada who wants it and will get it regardless, no matter what Michigan Legislators think, according to an interview by the MDOT Director.

Just pass the damn Bill and then the House members can go off and do what they have to do to get re-elected.

How are you going to deal with the Senate with the Republican majority? The Senate just pased a Bill that says the following about DRIC, effectively killing it:
  • "Sec. 384. On or before March 1, 2011, the department shall report to the state budget director, the house and senate appropriations subcommittees on transportation, and the house and senate fiscal agencies on department activities related to the Detroit River International Crossing. The department shall not make any expenditure, commit to an expenditure, or bind the state to an expenditure, related to the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) unless the legislature has enacted specific enabling legislation to allow for the construction of DRIC.

That demonstrates pretty clearly what the Senators think of the Baird pressure tactic and his money!

Actually, the Senate action gives me encouragement that perhaps all is not rotten in politics. Tying together P3 and DRIC was a huge blunder for which the Governor is paying dearly. Maybe that is why she is so breathless.

The Senate action if the House approves it means that DRIC actually has to be addressed and not snuck in because a Lame-Duck MDOT Director wants it. A $30-40m DRIC cost already for consultants....Isn't that sum about half of the amount that Michigan is short to maximize its federal matching grants next year ($84 mil)?

Talk about panic...It was a last minute substitute that passed the House Committee and now it is so faulty it probably cannot pass the full House and probably will be re-written.

I really like it when the best laid bureaucratic plans go awry. Poor MDOT thought it was very clever backing elected leaders into a corner with the June 1 deadline approaching, but it is MDOT which is too clever (by half!). If the legislature retains on-going oversight of legitimate P-3 legislation, then the MDOT' power grab has failed! If they actually take the time to read, improve and deliberate the bill, and hopefully kill any P3 Bill, then MDOT is sunk!

Own The Podium----DRIC Style

Did a senior Executive in the Michigan Government really say this? It is unreal to me, a shock. Lame-duck Governor, lame-duck Director.

Want to see to whom Michigan Legislators would be ceding power under the P3 legislation, and an example of what could happen when losing checks and balances to unelected bureaucrats who are accountable to no voter. Careful, you might lose your breakfast on reading this!

"Own The Podium" that was Canada's theme during the last Olympics. That attitude has apparently carried over to the border file as we are successfully beating up on Michigan on the Windsor/Detroit crossing. Whatever we want, even if it means wiping out part of Detroit and not touching Windsor, we get!

Own the Podium cost Canada a lot of money--not $550M mind you-- but it was designed to change things around this country dramatically, to give us some back-bone and spunk. To make us winners.
  • For Canada to be a world leader in high-performance sport."

  • an innovative and collaborative initiative without precedent in Canadian sport. It was created to bring together the key parties involved in leading and funding excellence in Canadian sport, with specific emphasis on achieving excellence at Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Never mind the sociological BS, it was designed to make us #1 in sports and to allow us to kick butt. Sure we did not accomplish everything we wanted but we did achieve some good results:

  • "Olympic officials had boldly predicted Team Canada would win these Games – hence the name, “Own the Podium.”
  • "The program has been criticized as being impolite and un-Canadian."
  • "Canadian athletes came to the Games not with a “swagger” but with confidence, and as a result they inspired a nation."

Well that un-Canadian attitude has spread over to the DRIC file and we have intimidated the hell out of Michigan MDOT and in particular its Director. Canada must now "own the border"

  • "Steudle: DRIC 'Going To Happen At Some Point'

    The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) is officialssuch a high priority to Canadian officials that Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk STEUDLE told MIRS this week that the project "is going to happen at some point," regardless of any current opposition in the Michigan Legislature.

    The Canadian government is willing to invest a half billion dollars to connect its Highway 401 with I-75 to help move materials across the international border, Steudle said. It's clear that the handful of lanes on the Ambassador Bridge is far from sufficient for the "nation's biggest border crossing" and the Canadian government will not stop pushing for more.

    "I don't think they're going to stop if we say we don't want it," Steudle said. "In my view, this is going to happen at some point."

Wow, Gold Medal for Canada. Who gives a damn what Americans say! They have no voice. Michigan legislators are irrelevant. Even MDOT's P3 legislation is proof of that. No one cares what they want.

What a bunch of wimps Americans have become! Throw a few bucks at them and they grovel. That's what Granholm has done for her State and now she wants Legislators to follow along.

Here is the short-sighted part that would bother me if I was a Michigan Legislator.
  • "Q: Are you guys operating under the assumption that if the Legislature doesn't act by June 1, is the project dead?

    A: We're pushing right now to have the Legislature act and June 1 is the date that we have in there. It's their date. We're pushing saying, "this is the best thing." And frankly, with the announcement from the Canadians, there is zero cost for Michigan. This should be a no-brainer. It's a significant infrastructure improvement with no cost to Michigan. I don't even understand why there's a second question, there's no Michigan money...

    What you've seen with the advancement with the Canadians' offer is that this is a huge priority in Canada, when you have the Premier weighing in saying, "We're going to invest half a billion dollars because we can see the economic benefits in it," I don't think they're going to stop if we say we don't want it.

    Q: So this is going to happen one way or another?

    A: In my view, this is going to happen at some point."
I did not know it was that easy to take over a US State! And that cheap. Fantastic! Canada owns Michigan now if one listens to the Director. Whatever we say goes! Nothing can stop us now!

Of course, no one knows Canada's Terms and Conditions yet. Who cares!

Moreover, there are still $4.8B worth of costs unaccounted for. Who cares!

It appears that Government guarantees or subsidies by way of "availability payments" will be needed or no one will put up the money with the traffic and Ambassador Bridge competition risks! But why mention that and confuse people. I have not yet heard Minister Baird agree to pay for that. Who cares!

And as for MDOT's former "partner" whom they encouraged to spend his own private dollars to build a second bridge, take that Matty:
  • "We have had numerous meetings with the Ambassador Bridge folks, with the president and owner. I have discussed several times how to advance the border crossing initiative with the Ambassador Bridge and the DRIC Bridge.

    I have said several times that they operate the nation's biggest border crossing. They clearly know how to operate an international crossing. They'd certainly be welcome as a bidder. But at the end of the day, as public agency, we need to open up that opportunity to everybody.

    They would be more than welcome to submit a proposal and be part of it. They might not be the only one. They might join with a finance company, I don't know. There's that proposal we put out there and they didn't send us a letter back.

    When we go forward with a full request for proposals it would be open for them to say, "Here's my proposal, here's my team" and we'll evaluate it with the rest of the proposals to determine what's best for the state of Michigan."
Did you see a word there for him to build his second bridge? Who cares!

Sure you built up our border to be #1, sure we are taking your traffic so we can compete with you, sure we are doing everything we can to put roadblocks in your way but go on, Matty, bid to get your business back! And who knows if you are going to win. Who cares!

Now here is a thought. What if this DRIC deal really sucks? What if it is a huge disaster for Michigan? What if it costs billions? Will Director Steudle be fired?
  • "Q: Would you serve under the next governor, if asked?

    A: That's a tough question.

    Q: You're well respected on both sides. Is it possible?

    A: We'd have to have a conversation with the new governor. I'm an appointee with Granholm and understood that when I took the job. I wouldn't close anything out, but at the same time, I understand the seat that I sit in... I know it's not a straight-up answer, but I don't want to get into speculation."

In other words.....IBG...YBG! To bigger and better employment possibly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of the gold medal for bullying Michigan on the border battle: Prime Minister Harper of Canada

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

LOANS-gate: Minister Van LOAN And The $550M Canada DRIC LOAN

Do we call it LOANS-gate now?

The DRIC scandals are coming. It is getting very, very ugly with more to come I am sure. Can you feel it too?

And just wait until people are placed under oath during the lawsuits! It becomes tough to lie if you know that you can go to jail for perjury.

First we have the $550M loan (which DRIC-ites try to pretend is not a Loan) offer affair by Canada's Transport Minister Baird made to Governor Granholm of Michigan with the involvement of Prime Minister Harper. Something was needed to "make it happen."

That payment seems to have been designed to influence the Michigan Legislature to induce them to pass P3 legislation so Canada gets the bridge it wants, or rather to put pressure on Matty Moroun to sell out as the PM wants him to do with his secret mandate letter.
That action would allow MDOT to endrun the Michigan Senate and start the DRIC project to try to crush the Ambassador Bridge Company.

I regret to say that this letter and what Minister Baird said in his interview may cause considerable grief down the road.

That loan could have been easily made just for the DRIC project without any strings. Instead it is directly tied into the passage of the P3 legislation and other required legislation in Michigan.

DRIC could be built with traditional debenture or governmental financing but that would NOT allow the Senate to be ignored even if they vote DRIC down. Only the proposed Michigan proposed P3 legislation with no legislative oversight would do that and that is why Canada is so desperate to see the Bill passed

Now do we have a different loan scandal----the Van Loan affair?

Ohhh, so now we know what he meant.

Remember I Blogged about this some weeks ago but did not know what it meant :

"BLOGExtra: Minister of International Trade Van Loan Bombshell

I wrote at the time:
  • 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."

Here is part of what Van Loan wrote that explains it clearly:

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.

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?

He seemed to be pro-Ambassador Bridge since this proposal would have helped Moroun and negated any need for a DRIC bridge:

  • "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.

Of course this was never carried out and then Van Loan subsequently was moved out of his Department.

What is curious about this was that I was contacted by a Government Official who confirmed to me that there was a relationship between the Bridge Company and Van Loan. He was said to be their "consultant." It was almost as if there was a desire to get rid of Van Loan for some reason by disclosing this information to me and expecting me to BLOG it.

I never understood why the call was made and chose not to do anything with the inforamtion to see how this would be played out.

Consultant, no way---Van Loan was LAWYER for the Bridge Company. It may even be worse now since there are Rules of Professional conduct that have to be complied with.

This file is getting weirder every day. How can it possibly be? How could he have taken the job of the Minister responsible for Customs? It is bad enough that he was in the Cabinet of a Government whose views were completely opposite to his but to be a member of the Government overseeing the day-to-day affairs a former client and having a major influence over its expansion plans! Unbelievable!

Moreover, believe it or not, Van Loan was Leader of the Government in the House of Commons when Bill C-3---the International Bridges and Tunnels Act--- was being debated, a Bill targeted at and designed to hurt the Ambassador Bridge Company! How could he stay in that job for that matter?

Yet Minister Baird can claim in a Globee and Mail article:

  • "The war of words intensified Monday as Patrick Moran, corporate counsel for the Moroun family’s transport holdings, said Peter Van Loan, Canada’s International Trade Minister, supported the Moroun family’s position while he served as a lawyer representing the Ambassador Bridge.

    Before being elected in the York-Simcoe riding in 2004, Mr. Van Loan did some legal work for Canadian Transit Co., a holding company that owns the Canadian half of the Ambassador Bridge. Mr. Van Loan, while serving as a lawyer for Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, told the Ontario government that “twinning the Ambassador Bridge was the only resolution to border congestion,” a view that contradicts Mr. Baird’s pro-government stance, Mr. Moran said.

    Mr. Moran released a three-page letter written in February, 2001, by Mr. Van Loan to the Ontario Transport Ministry – a letter that touts the Ambassador Bridge’s “critical function.”

    Mr. Van Loan couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, but Mr. Baird played down Mr. Moran’s criticisms. “Peter Van Loan was paid to represent a client. His law firm was paid money by Matty Moroun. Everyone is entitled to representation,” Mr. Baird said.

    In any event, Mr. Van Loan “has recused himself on this issue” at the cabinet table, said Mr. Baird, who is in charge of the Detroit-Windsor file."

Accurate but narrow perhaps? What happened at other than the Cabinet table! When did he recuse himself? Minsiter Baird must now prove it!

The questions that must be addressed are obvious:

  • Did the Government know about his former relationship. If not, why not

  • Did Minister Van Loan disclose it. If not why not

  • How could he be House leader whn Bill C-3 was being debated

  • Is Minister Van Loan in breach of the Law Society rules by acting against the interest of a former client in the exact same matter

  • How could he be the Minister responsible for CBSA given his former role

  • Did Van Loan reveal any confidential infoirmation that he learned as counsel for the Bridge Company and if so, what was it

  • Did Van Loan take or not take any action that may have hurt or even might have helped his former client.

To be direct, is this another Ottawa scandal? Is this an issue for the House of Commons Ethics Officer considering this section of the Conflicts of Interest Code:

  • "12.(1) A Member who has a private interest that might be affected by a matter that is before the House of Commons or a committee of which the Member is a member shall, if present during consideration of the matter, disclose orally or in writing the general nature of the private interest at the first opportunity. The general nature of the private interest shall be disclosed forthwith in writing to the Clerk of the House.

    (2) If a a Member becomes aware at a later date of a private interest that should have been disclosed in the circumstances of subsection (1), the Member shall make the required disclosure forthwith."

Note as well:

  • "13. A Member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest."

Will the Opposition do the following:

  • "27.(1) A Member who has reasonable grounds to believe that another Member has not complied with his or her obligations under this Code may request that the Commissioner conduct an inquiry into the matter."

I really liked MDOT's spokesperson's comment:

  • "Michigan Department of Transportation Bill Shreck dismissed Van Loan's letter.

    "He wrote that letter in February 2001, then along came September 2001: 9/11," Shreck said.

    "9-11 was a game changer. If we hadn't started the second, side by side span of the Blue Water Bridge before September 11, 2001, we wouldn't have built it after 9-11.

    "Nobody would build twin spans now because of security risks. The world has changed, but maybe they missed it."

Gee Bill, after the interview that your boss gave, never "dismiss" anything a Canadian says since we rule Michigan.

DUH....MDOT's Spokesperson obviously has never heard of the Peace Bridge in Buffalo/Fort Erie. The plan is to twin the Peace Bridge there even after 9/11 ie one bridge right beside the other.

If security is such a big deal for bridges, why isn't MDOT spending half billion dollars on a NEW bridge at Port Huron away from the Blue Water Bridge rather than fixing up the plaza there since it is such a security risk after 9/11!

Clearly the Governments will say anything to beat Moroun!

The Opposition in Ottawa including our local NDP MPs have bigger fish to fry than the scandal around former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis and her husband Rahim Jaffer. Their issue involves improper lobbying which is serious enough but does not compare with our border crossing which everyone says, for the last decade or so, is the most important infrastructure project between our two countries.

We have seen deliberate misinformation being spread, blocking actions designed to frustrate the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project, strange loan payments made and now a conflict within the Canadian Government:

  • "The letter by Mr. Van Loan points out an inconsistency of opinion within the prime minister's cabinet regarding the best alternative for a new bridge over the Detroit River," said Dan Stamper, president of the DIBC. "The transportation minister is supporting the DRIC while the minister of international trade is on record supporting the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project."

This file is a farce already! Can this truly be how our Government is run?

A Riskless, No-brainer Ambassador Bridge Border Proposal

Read the Covering letter and Resolution for yourself

Keep on coming back here. As I get more info, I will keep on updating. It seems that each media report has a different aspect of what happened today.



Oh, oh...Minister Baird is a spoiled brat. No more sugary niceness. He may take his $550M and go home if he does not get his way. Do what he tells you Michigan or else:

  • "DRIC advocates have warned that failure to build the bridge could result in trade being lost to crossings elsewhere.

    While not entirely closing the door on Canada moving the project to the Niagara-Buffalo region, where there are a number of bridges, Baird today said Detroit-Windsor is the first and only option right now.

    “This is our first choice,” he said."

Didn't MDOT Director Steudle show him the slides where that myth was destroyed by MDOT or doesn't the truth count any more?

And how can he go elsewhere when he just told everyone how our crossing is the #1 project between Canada and the US. He would not be telling us stories just so that he can beat Moroun would he?



What a way to run a border crossing. At least the Bridge Company people who admitted that they had done poorly before in PR activities have learned how to play the game upstaging Baird with their own news.

Stories from reporters covering the Baird speech also covered the Bridge Company press conference.


    "Bridge company, backers of new river crossing stage dueling events

    The battle for public and legislative hearts and minds over a proposed publicly owned Detroit River crossing ratcheted up today with a pair of dueling events."

  • Windsor Star

    "Just days away from a decision by Michigan lawmakers on whether they will help fund construction of a new Windsor-Detroit bridge, Canada's federal Transport Minister John Baird appeared in Detroit in a last-minute appeal to secure a political commitment...

    But minutes after Baird's appearance in Detroit, officials from the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge -- including owner Matty Moroun's son Matthew -- staged their own media event in Detroit where they accused the Canadian government of attempting to buy votes which threaten to steal their annual $60-million in border traffic revenues.

  • Detroit Free Press

    "Baird’s visit came just weeks after Canada offered to front Michigan’s $550 million share of the DRIC, to be paid back through tolls.

    His visit inflamed the war of words between the U.S., Michigan and Canadian governments and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s organization. Members of his family and staff had a table at the luncheon today and held a news conference after Baird’s speech to refute his claims."



How much trouble are Baird and Granholm in respecting this vote:

  • "Baird also was meeting today with members of the Legislature, which gave itself a June 1 deadline to authorize the DRIC."

Do you thnk he met any Republicans...naw just Democrats probably who are having second-thoughts of the wisdom of rallying and lining up behind a term-limited Governor whose P3 Bill could turn around and bite those supporting it.

She won't care either...IBG..YBG.



Make it up as you go along. Who cares any more.

Minister Baird in his statment said.

  • "Building the crossing could amount to about 30,000 jobs in the Windsor and Detroit communities alone."

I guess no one asked him about what he said in his press conference about Windsor-Essex jobs.,

Heck he should have said a gazillion jobs will be created. Look at this answer from DRIC back in February...they are almost there. What an opportunity he missed

  • Q. "You estimate a large number of jobs will be created by this project. How did you arrive at that number?

    A. As noted in the DRIC FEIS, data from FHWA indicates that seven full-time equivalent jobs are created for every million dollars of construction spending per year on transportation infrastructure projects. In addition, FHWA analysis also shows that eighteen indirect jobs are supported by every million dollars of transportation infrastructure related construction spending per year. Based on the estimated cost for the U.S. portion of the project, the FEIS estimated that approximately 10,000 direct jobs, and as many as 30,000 indirect jobs, would be created over the life of this project.

    The recently published Request for Proposal of Interest (RFPOI) described a project that included both U.S. and Canadian elements. The DRIC Project as outlined in the RFPOI is estimated to cost $2.26 billion. Based on this number, and using the same formula from the DRIC FEIS described above, it is estimated that the DIRC project will generate approximately 15,800 jobs in the Detroit-Windsor area over the life of the construction project, and that same spending will lead to as many as 40,680 indirect jobs in the Detroit-Windsor area.

    This estimate does not include jobs that would also be created by the construction of The Windsor-Essex Parkway."

The DRIC road project is another almost $2B one.

See what I mean, no one checks anything any more in this file. None of what DRIC says is believable any more.



Oh, it's ok, it won't be Michigan taxpayers who have to pay the ongoing operating costs of both an Ambassador Bridge and a DRIC Bridge. It will just be people who pay US federal income taxes in Michigan. Completely different people right!

Think about it, the cost of keeping a lane of traffic open for Customs is about a million dollars when you factor in salaries, benefits, and back-office people and support for 24/7/356.

If you have 20-30 or so lanes each at both bridges, you double your costs but for a reduced flow of traffic. As Matthew Moroun said:

  • "The U.S. company has said a new span would siphon off traffic from the Ambassador Bridge...

    "The traffic would be split in half, the expenses of the Ambassador Bridge and the expenses of the new bridge would probably be very redundant and taxpayers would have to come in and subsidize (the new) bridge and we would do our best not to go bust."



Oh lord, not again:

  • "Baird said besides better movement of commercial traffic “I probably don’t need to mention that building a new bridge is vital for national security reasons.”

    “The attempted (Christmas) terrorist attack on the flight headed to Detroit – and the recent Times Square incident – were a stark reminder that we must remain vigilant against terrorist attacks,” he said."

Why didn't Canada moved forward with shared border management to solve this problem? What happened to Minister Van loan's idea of a pilot project at the Ambassador Bridge:

  • "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."

As Matthew Moroun said, there are no Canadian security forces at the Bridge if security is so important. Dan Stamper said that they have their own security force to protect the bridge 24 hours a day so the situation is looked after no thanks to the Governments.



When one becomes a Cabinet Minister in Canada's Conservative Party Government, your past is thrown away. You are sent through a mind-bending process that causes your memory to be wiped out. Like reformatting a defective computer hard-drive and having a new operating system installed.

How else to explain what Minisiter Van Loan said as revealed in the Detroit News and what was said about him today by Minister Baird since their points of view over the Ambassador Bridge are completely opposite:

  • "At an early afternoon press conference held immediately after the luncheon Baird reiterated that at the time Van Loan wrote the letter he was working as an attorney in private practice.

    "He was speaking on behalf of his client," Baird said.

    "He was not speaking on public policy as a member of the Canadian government. Prime Minister Harper has made it very clear that the DRIC is a priority with the government."

    Ambassador Bridge spokesman Phil Frame acknowledged that Van Loan had been hired on behalf of the bridge company at the time he wrote the letter.

    "We hired his law firm," Frame said. "He was speaking on our behalf, but he was obviously speaking from his convictions. He was not lying on our behalf."

I'll be commenting on Van Loan in a separate BLOG



Clearly, someone with a Wndsor connection has been preparing Minister Baird for his speech in Detroit. that could be the kiss of death though for Canada's plans.

"Transport Minister John Baird appealed to Michigan to think big and ignore the naysayers who say a second international bridge at Windsor-Detroit is not needed."

Think Big--that is what Windsor's traffic guru, Gridlock Sam Schwartz proposed. All of his plans were dismissed by the Senior Levels of Goverenment!

As far as naysayers are concerned, that primarily refers to the Obliging Blogosphere. Even Minister Baird now understands the power of the Windsor BLOGs that are continually setting out the facts that the Governments would prefer to bury!

Here is an example of a mis-statement

No one that I can recall has said a second bridge is not needed. I support building the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project bridge and to let its owner bear the financial risk, not taxpayers. What is NOT needed today is a DRIC bridge as even MDOT has stated until they were caught and had to change what they said!



No wonder the analysis of the competing bridge proposals are so bad. Here is what was said by one of the guests on the Power & Politics show on CBC-TV

  • "Baird is right. You don't hear me say that every day but he's absolutely right. This isn't a bribe, this is co-financing $2 billion worth of trade a day. That's where our self-interest lies. We need a second Bridge and I like to be able to get over to those Bills games and I spend sometimes $2-300.
  • It's the Detroit Lions. You are in NFL teams right. That's a different place."

The analyst is thinking about the Peace Bridge! Sheeeeeeeeeeesh!

The Square

Monday, May 17, 2010

DRIC, DIFT, DRTP---All Ba(i)r[e]d

Darn, darn, darn.

His DRIC timetable has just been all screwed up. You know the Prime Minister gave him a job to do. He had to make it happen already after 16 months of personal failure and 2 generations of Canadian attempts to take over the Ambassador Bridge. Especially over the last decade. Canadian taxpayer money is no object. We can afford it

The P3 Bill should have been approved by the Michigan House by now. Seriously, isn't $550M enough to get a Bill passed in that State? How much more do they want? We Canadians are generous but only so far.

You have to feel sorry for Transport Canada Minister John Baird's speechwriter. That person must have written a speech for Canada's Transport Minister for the event at the Detroit Economic Club on Monday.

Clearly, the expectation was that the P3 legislation would have been passed by the House by now and Baird then had to do a sales job on the Senate. After all look at the events leading up to the speech:
  • rah rah rah pep rally for DRIC
  • The Governor's breathless performance in the House Committee hearings on P3
  • $550M loan to pass P3 legislation
  • TRIP press conference announcing DRIC is the #1 most important project that needs to be undertaken in Michigan, #7 being the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal and #13 the Detroit River Rail Tunnel.
  • Granholm arm-twisting of House members

Instead, some of those darn Michigan House members figured out that the P3 legislation as proposed by MDOT could hurt the State financially and allowed the Executive to do whatever it wanted with no legislative oversight at all.

DRIC and "availability payments" for Michigan's financial solvency in the future do not mix!

Accordingly, instead of a Bill passing by now, Baird has to come to Detroit with a brand new and improved speech to try to convince House members to approve it. I wonder how much he will raise the ante at this speech. Will he offer to pay for EVERYTHING for dRIC now or does he wait for the Senate vote for that goodie? Who knows what the Governor may be forced to do to one-up her breathless performance.

Of course, what is really at stake is passing the P3 legislation so as to endrun the Michigan Senate which is opposed to the DRIC boondoggle. That is why DRIC and P3 are tied so closely together. If the P3 legislation is passed by both the House and Senate, then DRIC will follow no matter if the Senate says no to DRIC. The P3 Bill gives MDOT a blank check to override the Legislature. That is the only reason why Canada offered money in order to get the P3 Bill passed.

However, the House delay has screwed up the timetable in another way. The Record of Decision of the DIFT (Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal) at this time may be a killer for DRIC as well and should get Legislators thinking whether they have been give the complete story about so-called truck traffic increase at the border requiring a second bridge for capacity purposes.

  • "The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued the final environmental clearance for the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal in Wayne County. With the release of the Record of Decision (ROD), the project is allowed to move forward in the next phases of design, right of way acquisition and construction as funding becomes available."

I am not a big expert on DIFT to be honest since I am having enough trouble staying on top of DRIC. I do know it is another of MDOT Director Steudle's projects that could be P3ed at a cost of around $500M. Availability payments for that too perhaps because of bridge competition especially if DRIC is built?

Heck, Michigan taxpayers may as well be on the hook for EVERYTHING!

However, I found it interesting that the DRIC and DIFT EAs were held separately and not together as one considering the impact that they will have on SW Detroit. At one time Councillor Ken Cockrel Jr in Detroit did not want anything going forward until a complete study was undertaken about all of the projects which would also include the double stack rail tunnel I assume.

Interestingly as well, Corradino was the consultant for DRIC and DIFT. The question to ask is whether the 2 projects "double counted" the traffic so as to justify both. DRIC was sold on high levels of truck traffic in the future and was DIFT sold the same way? Was a truck on a rail car good for DIFT and then good for DRIC? In ONE EA , the answer would have been found out. In 2 separate EAs the question may never have been asked. Thus one truck may have turned into 2 trucks by the time both EAs were completed.

I do not recall that rail was a big feature of any discussions on DRIC. Neither was border efficiency like pre-clearance and other steps taken. You might be interested in these BLOG I wrote too about a cow bridge that became the #1 border crossing between Canada and the US

Would DIFT "cannabalize" Ambassador Bridge and, DRIC traffic. Certainly it would have to take away traffic or the project would not be necessary and could never be paid for.

  • "The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has beenworking with federal, state and local agencies since 1993 with the goalof improving rail freight transportation opportunities and efficienciesat a consolidated terminal in Wayne County."

Check out this story in the Windsor Star dealing with the Windsor Port.

No one to my knowledge has talked seriously about the impact of the Highway H2O concept on border truck traffic either.

Early on before the DRIC stage, the Bi-national Engineers (who became the DRIC engineers) in one of their early studies said that the use of rail could possibly take up to 40% of truck traffic and water could take a big percentage as well. They then said a realistic number of how much would actually be taken away was much less of the actual traffic but nevertheless, a good percentage. They went on to say that in spite of these big numbers, the road truck numbers would increase so significantly that another bridge was still necessary. And you know how good their traffic projections have been. NOT!

From a recent Transport Action Ontario statement:

  • "The governments of Ontario and Canada need to take steps to stimulate Canadian-U.S. intermodal rail across southwestern Ontario. Intermodal rail services already exist between Toronto and the U.S. via southwest Ontario. However, they are a small fraction of what they could be. The DRIC project’s travel demand consultant in its September 2005 report stated that 44 percent of the truck traffic across the Ambassador Bridge was divertible to intermodal rail. That report then identified several existing infrastructure and other problems to explain why the truck traffic would not be diverted."

Accordingly, I believe that rail and water transportation may take away traffic from the Ambassador Bridge. How much I do not know nor has anyone really studied it. That is a vital question to ask before spending billions on DRIC.

Whatever volume it takes away however means that the need for a DRIC bridge is decreased as well. Let us assume that truck traffic goes up by 128% which is the number being thrown around, even though it is no longer valid. Let us assume that a big percentage of it uses the other modes of transportation as the Bi-National engineers estimated. I do not see then how a new DRIC bridge would have enough traffic to pay its way. It would have to "cannabalize" traffic from other crossings putting them in financial jeopardy and costing taxpayers a fortune since taxpayers own the Tunnel and Blue Water Bridge and would have to subsidize tolls or make availability payments.

DRIC already does that to justify its construction and would absolutely have to do more to compete with rail and water.

Let us also assume that DIFT "cannabalizes" Ambassador Bridge traffic. Then how can DRIC pay its own way.

The problem is that there has NOT been a proper analysis of alternative modes, increased efficiency at border crossings, moving Customs away from the border due to FAST and NEXXUS etc. Do the math on this over 24 hours. I believe that US Customs wants to reduce inspection time per truck from 2 minutes to 15 or 30 seconds. Effectively that means that truck throughput can increase with few border infrastructure changes by 4-8 times! No new bridge is needed at all for capacity, just for improved traffic flow ie exactly what the Ambaasdor Bridge Enhancement Project is designed to do.

Oh and as for DRTP, at the begining of March,

  • "The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership (DRTP) says it will begin an environmental assessment within a few weeks for a proposed double-stacked rail tunnel across the Detroit River between Windsor and Detroit."

All it tells me is who needs a DRIC bridge! To be direct, if there is cannabalization, as a taxpayer, I would prefer that the Bridge Company bear the risk, not me.

Bridge Company Press Conference

They are learning how to play the press game. Scooping the DRIC-ites again!

2 p.m. news conference by Ambassador Bridge company

WHAT: The Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC) will hold a news conference today to make a significant announcement regarding its commitment to build the proposed second span of the Ambassador Bridge

WHEN 2 p.m. Monday, May 17

WHERE: Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown hotel, 525 W. Lafayette Blvd.,

WHO: – Matthew Moroun, vice chairman of CenTra Inc., parent company of DIBC

– Dan Stamper, president of DIBC

WHY: The address to the Economic Club of Detroit today by Canadian Transportation Minister John Baird requires clarification about potential financial liability for the State of Michigan and U.S. taxpayers resulting from the proposed Detroit River International Crossing. DIBC will offer a plan to avoid such liability.

Ambassador Bridge/DRIC Comparison

Aren't you tired of the misinformation about the border already:

  • Truck traffic is now going to triple even though it is at 1999 levels or worse
  • Sandwich will be destroyed by a new plaza except it is really Delray where hundreds of families and businesses will have to be moved
  • a twin bridge here is a security and redundancy risk except what are they trying to build in Buffalo/Fort Erie and what did they build in Port Huron/Sarnia. Moreover one knows terrorists multi-target
  • Buffalo/Niagara has 14 lanes of traffic except only 2 of the 4 bridges can be used for trucks and the number of lanes for trucks in Windor/Detroit into the US is 13 and intoCanada is 12 plus 6 built but not occupied
  • DRIC will produce 10,000 constructuion jobs excpet so far Minister Baird has only talked about jobs for Canadians and industry people have said that the number is exaggerated
  • P3s are good for you except when it comes to pay the Wall Street bankers their huge upfront fees and the operator obscene profits, all without legislative oversight

Do you see what I mean? As an example, I read Senator Basham's newsletter recently and his article in the Dearborn Press and Guide and watched him on Flashpoint. Mistakes are being made that need correction.

Accordingly, for Senator Basham and others , I have prepared this comparison table that should help explain what is going on and why the DRIC bridge is a horrific mistake.

Oh, by the way, it looks like the DRIC-ites got scared off because they could not answer my 20 questions. Hardly a surprise.

Just click on the link here

Be There Or Be Square