Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ripping Canada's $550M DRIC/P3 Deal To Shreds


I have had enough. I am going to rip apart in this BLOG Canada's Transport Minister, the Michigan P3 Bill and the DRIC project by reviewing Minister Baird's Senate comments in great detail.

They are really all part of the same process....a power grab by Canada to control US trade in the centre of North America but have been badly disguised as an infrastructure project to fool Americans.

It still is mind-boggling to me that the Michigan House could pass the P3 Bill with so little information given out considering how poorly written that Bill was and how detrimental to taxpayers. Even with a supposedly UP TO $550m offer from Canada designed to do so, and successfully too, that in reality is only a non-legally binding 2-page letter..

Now the Michigan Senate has to make a decision about what it should do. It has forced some information kicking and screaming out of MDOT/Transport Canada. That information only demonstrates what lack of legislative oversight would mean with a bureaucracy that has proven to be incompetent, or worse, in being able to demonstrate how a P3 project would work successfully on the DRIC project. It cannot.

More importantly, with respect to DRIC itself, that project is a disaster waiting to happen. We know now that there has never been an investment grade straffic study undertaken in either country or at least never revealed. The reports released publicly are suspect since the RFPs were rigged to get the results desired and in Michigan, did not meet legislative requirements at all. There are no profit and loss numbers and most of the responders to the RFPOI want "availability payments" since there will never be enough toll revenues to make the project financially viable. They are worried that low traffic numbers and Ambassador Bridge competition might mean bankruptcy.

And while this is going on, the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement project is being kept in limbo to the region's detriment with thousands of jobs NOT being created as the Governments, especially, Canada in its 50-year quest, are doing everything possible to force the private owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out so that the Governments can give over his bridge and the new twinned bridge to another private party for 50 years or more!

Let's have a bit of fun today. You will understand after you read this BLOG why the Minister's presence in Lansing received so little media coverage. It was embarrassing!

Let's take Transport Minister Baird's speech that was crafted by a group of Bureaucrats in Ottawa. They are part of the legacy of civil servants who have been working on the real project--- to take over the Ambassador Bridge---for a generation or two according to the Minister, especially hard in the last decade.

Let's demonstrate that it is so confusing that the Minister had no clue what he was saying OR there is another hidden gotcha in what he says that we have to try and figure out.

Let's demonstrate that the project is NOT financially viable, that it will likely go broke and that Michigan IS at risk.

Let's show that there is no legally enforceable deal now and that Terms and Conditions still have to be negotiated. And that it is all talk, talk, talk.

Let's then conclude that Canada is suckering Michigan, not putting up a cent and will get extra-ordinary and unheard of sovereignty over Michaigan assets even if no P3 for the DRIC Bridge is ever signed

I will give the Minister credit. He is at least admitting that the $550 million offer is a scam. It cannot be anything else.

Canada will never put up a penny. The money comes from the US Government or the P3 partner. It is to be used for project components only, nothing else.

And what are project components. Here is what the 3-page Summary handout said.

Oh don't be fooled by Canada's $385.9M. That comes from a private party too as the Minister told us in the letter to the Governor.

Canada does not care. It puts nothing up! The whole thing is financial make-believe and the DRIC-ites want us to fall for it. No wonder they don't want anyone asking questions.

Canada gets whatever it wants for Nothing, Nada, Zippo, Zilch. They get the "Canada provisions" for free.


Oh come on Minister. You called it a loan in Ottawa. You are caught on video. They were your words. Call it whatever you want it has to be paid back.

Future toll revenues. If that was true, then MDOT would have shown the financial data including costs.

Hey I just figured it out. There is no financial data. Your 2008 report is not an investment grade traffic survey either. There is probably no financial information that is relevant in that report.

In fact, you don't need it. That is because the DRIC project is never going to be built. It was never going to be built. The object of Canada's lust is the Ambassador Bridge as we know from the secret mandate letter of the Prime Minister. Accordingly, who needs financial numbers on a project that is never going to see the light of day!

I am fascinated by the concept of the Bridge Authority that someone just threw in. Clearly, somebody got a brain wave and figured out that the Authority could be a shield to protect Michigan taxpayers from liability. And it is true, it could be in certain cases.

So taxpayers would not have to spend any money to pay the tolls if there was a deficiency but they would lose the asset when the bankers took over, or the Canadian Government, because of the default. I wonder why no one has talked about this. Probably too embarrassing

Of course the reality is that no one would invest in the project in the first place. We found that out from the RFPOI proponents who mostly wanted availability payments because there is not enough money in toll revenues.

The most likely approach would be that Canada and/or Michigan would have to guarantee payments to the P3 partner. If there was a deficiency, then the payment would be made on the guarantee and not on the toll revenues.

Do you see how easy it is to get around what the Minister said!

In any event, there is no deal that is legally binding now anyway and once the P3 bill is passed, then MDOT, Canada and the private partner can do anything they want including the section 7(B) 14 “availability payments” to minimize losses.

Note again that Canada's payments are for components only. No money would be used for toll shortfalls.

This is a very interesting provision. It is interesting because it does not include the word “financing.”

I must admit I cannot figure out why it was dropped unless it is sheer sloppiness because it is added in later.

There may well be some kind of the financing trick that someone will try and pull down the road but right now, I am not sure what it is.

Here is what should trouble everyone. “The specific nature of the transaction has not yet been determined.”

So what is Michigan being asked to do now? Pass the P3 Pill without knowing anything and with nothing legally binding in the two-page letter and the words of the Minister. Why not just sign over a blank check and make it easy.

This is not something that anyone would do with even the simplest of transactions and yet the Legislature is being asked to do this on a $5.3 billion project. Is someone mad?

Note again the word “financing” is not used.

I am so happy that the Minister gave us a lesson on “availability payments” since the MDOT Director was so positive that everyone would follow a toll revenues regime. It is just not going to happen.

Just so that everybody understands, the Minister told us that the payments have no relationship to what the tolls are whatsoever.

Now the word “financing” is thrown in. Bizarre.

Why was it omitted before and inserted now? As I wrote above, either it is sheer sloppiness or a different kind of financing that somehow will be used to reduce toll payments but perhaps result in that big balloon or "blimp" payment at the end that our grndchildren will have to pay.

Responsibility is put on the Bridge Authority to make the fixed payments i.e. the availability payments. While it keeps the revenues, all of the traffic risks are on it.

Someone needs to explain how the Authority will find the cash to pay the P3 partner if there is a total revenue deficiency since it has no other significant source of revenue.

Aren't you pleased to know that the financial transaction is so well considered that the Minister does not know what the term of the agreement will be" 30 or 50 years. It will probably be a lot more as the P3 Bill allows.


Again the Minister keeps throwing in the Bridge Authority to make everyone feel better. In the normal case it might.

However with the control of the Government over the Authority, I wonder if the Court in certain cases would pierce the corporate veil.

In any event, forget the Bridge Authority. It would be in default within one year because tolls would be insufficient to pay the financing costs, never mind the operating costs and profits expected by the P3 partner.



Perhaps accurate but narrow. No one talks about the other billion dollars that has to be financed for the P3 bridge. No one talks about what happens once the US side defaults and the bankers take over.

No risks... how about these as just a few examples

  • The big risk is what happens if the P3 project goes broke as in California or South Carolina. Michigan may have to take it over when they had no intention of doing so and could be in a big jam if it has NOT been completed. eg Port Mann bridge.


  • The DRIC-ites claim that if there is a default then the bankers will take it over and complete the project or operate it. Yup, I sure would want a banker to run the most important border crossing in North America. Heck their interest in getting their money out may NOT be the same as the Governments or the users. What would ultimately be the biggest irony, as Toll Road News once wrote, is that Matty might buy the crossing from the banks at pennies on the dollar!

  • Usually P3 operators want a monopoly and prevent the Government from building or improving competitive facilities. Now you know why Windsor tried so hard to buy the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel at such a high price or why Canada may want to P3 the Blue Water Bridge. There is a need to control pricing at all border points to protect DRIC's financial position.

  • What if tolls were increased to levels that the public could not tolerate---MDOT might have to buy out the project at a premium.

  • Re Section 7f, the reason the State has to do it is that the private operator cannot raise the money theses days eg Macquarie's Port Mann bridge in British Columbia or $200M for the service centres on Highway 401. Private investment was the reason for P3s in the first place...who needs them when the State can borrow at a lower cost and use the same contractors to build the road----that is exactly what happened in BC where the Government was forced to take over the project and actually saved a billion dollars!

  • If the P3 contractor went broke and MDOT raised money under Sec 7f, then it would be a horrific mess---MDOT would have to pay back the money but may NOT be able to do so if revenues were less than the financing costs. It might not be able to afford to pay back the financing so that a third party takes control of a State asset.

  • There was a provision to make the separate P3s into a private entities. We have that experience in Windsor where our airport and the Tunnel were "privatized" into City-owned private companies. Our Mayor kicked out reporters and the public from meetings that were previously open to the public but now were not since it was a "corporate" matter. That means there is NO legislative control at all just like with the Peace Bridge Authority in Buffalo. Check out as well the stories about public authorities and corruption http://windsorcityon.blogspot.com/2006/06/more-on-public-authorities.html

  • "Contract default by government could result in substantial cash payment to concessionaire and stress to government rating

    A default by the government on the terms of the concession, on the other hand, could result in a substantial termination payment equal to the fair market value of the concession at the time of the termination. In the case of the Chicago and Indiana concessions, events of default by the government include a failure to abide by the terms of the concession, payments due from an encumbrance on the toll road created or incurred by the government, or an inability of the government to pay its debt or a filing for bankruptcy protection—a remote risk in Moody’s opinion. Termination payments could necessitate a use of reserves, a bond sale or both; and these actions could have a negative impact on a government’s credit rating."


This may turn into an accounting mess as well if the components are all dealt with by different P3 partners separately. How will costs and toll revenues be allocated? That should take a roomful of accountants to figure out.

Do not feel too sorry for Canada that comes at the end of the chain for getting revenues for its $550 million offer. Canada isn't putting up a penny anyway.

Note again the word "financing" is thrown in.

Excess revenues... my calculation shows about $12 billion owing at the end of 50 years on the $550 million transaction due to all the shortfalls being capitalized.



"Belief"...how about facts. Be careful here Minister. You don't want your nose to grow. If you "believe" that the project would be financially viable, where the numbers? Produce them or admit that this is make-believe finance.

If those figures are available, then why weren't they included as part of the WSA report. The only inference that can be drawn, since everybody has been asking for them for months, is that either they don't exist or they are so bad that no one would ever put them forward because the project would die.

Please Minister, you offered nothing but pretended to offer something. You said it yourself. The money was offered to help influence the House members to pass the P3 Bill. And you said that it helped achieve that task.

It's a shame for you that the Governor could not do her job and have the Bill passed in the House without the offer. We all suspect now that the offer was meant to be put later for the Senators, to put pressure on them. How disappointing it was to see you in front of the Senate Committee with nothing to give to them to help influence their vote either.

Here is the reality about what this is all about. Baird's job was to make it happen. That was his mandate from the PM as he told us:

CANADA NEEDS THE P3 BILL PASSED SO THAT IT CAN PRESSURE MOROUN TO TRY TO TAKE OVER HIS BRIDGE CHEAPLY.

If you want further proof that there is no deal. Here it is. There are so many key matters that still have to be negotiated.

In all good conscience, how could anyone approve a P3 Bill and a multibillion-dollar DRIC project on this basis? How could anyone give over sovereignty to a foreign jurisdiction and control over their most important border crossing and not even receive one cent in return.

At least with Manhattan, $24 was paid.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Congratulations to VP John Fairley

NEWS

For Immediate Release:

June 25, 2010

ST. CLAIR COLLEGE introduces two new Vice presidents


St. Clair College President, Dr. John Strasser has announced the appointment of two new Vice Presidents at the college.

Mr. Ron Seguin, as Vice President, Global Education and Training Services, will assume responsibility for Contract Training and Continuing Education and Summer Camps or Institutes at all campuses, the Employment Ontario Centres, the Self-Employment Assistance Centre and International Education.

Mr. John Fairley, as Vice President, College and Community Relations, will assume responsibilities for Alumni Relations, Human Resources, the St. Clair College Foundation and the St. Clair Centre for the Arts as well as the food services at South and Thames Campuses.

St. Clair has experienced more than a fifty percent growth in student enrolment in the first decade of the new millennium.

The construction and capital acquisitions that accompanied this phenomenal growth have spanned the breadth of College offerings from technology and trades (the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing and the Centre for Construction, Innovation and Production) to applied arts and hospitality and tourism (the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts and the MediaPlex).

The new Applied Health Sciences building will soon add additional educational capacity in a growing job sector.

Student Residences in Windsor and Chatham, a Student Centre in Windsor and a HealthPlex in Chatham are now providing the complimentary facilities that allow the College to reach out to the world to provide quality education and training.

BLOGexclusive: MDOT DRIC RFP--- Should Heads Roll

Senator Cropsey in the Michigan Seante made this comment on Thursday about MDOT
  • "The department has failed to do its job. It needs to be held accountable."

Wait until the Senator reads this BLOG! I wonder what he will say then.

I did a BLOG the other day "How To Cook The DRIC Traffic And Revenue Books" that disgusted me about the manner in which I believed that the criteria were so set up to get the answer that Transport Canada wanted.

If I thought that was bad, then you can imagine my apoplexy when I read what the requirements for the RFP for MDOT were for their so-called investment-grade traffic survey.

There comes a time when someone has to take responsibility for giving the orders to tell the Legislature of Michigan to get stuffed. MDOT has already refused to provide relevant cost numbers so that Legislators are unable to make an informed decision. Accountability time is now in my opinion.

If I was in charge, I would repeat the words of the Queen of Hearts: "Off with their heads."

Section 384 is pretty clear isn't it? I thought it was written in plain English. MDOT is required to comply with it I assume. Here are the relevant parts again if you have forgotten what the language is.

  • Section 384 (1) The department may continue with preliminary legal, financial, traffic and revenue study, permitting, engineering, and other ancillary work for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) so that it can solicit from the private sector, requests for proposals for public-private partnership to construct the bridge, plaza, and related infrastructure. The department shall submit proposals to the legislature by May 1, 2010. Those activities associated with the DRIC project shall not bind the state in any way to construction.

    "(2) The department shall submit an investment grade traffic study to the legislature by May 1, 2010 from a reputable traffic company with appropriate experience intended to provide a detailed traffic projection for the ensuing 10 years, taking into account projected infrastructure modifications, expansions and improvements announced.

Here is how MDOT complied with those sections:

Where does it say that the work required was to prepare an investment-grade traffic study? Now we know why the word "refresher" was used. The task assigned was to "refresh and update or review and evaluate the current draft study conducted on the traffic."

Right off the bat, there was a violation of section 384.


The start date was in November with significant work to be completed by mid-December. Didn't the WSA Rep at the Senate hearings say that an investment-grade traffic study would take a year to accomplish. This was in effect a 39 day job not a one year task.

I also wonder why the completion date was June 30, 2010 when the document had to be submitted by May 1.

Don't you find it ironic that the project manager involved was on the rails side considering how much Bridge traffic could be taken away by the various rail projects proposed in Michigan. Where did DRIC consider that as they were required to do about "improvements announced?"

Obviously, the Department knew what investment-grade studies are. They did NOT ask for one in the RFP. Interestingly, as shown above, what they were seeking was a "Comprehensive Traffic and Toll Revenue Study," whatever that is.


Oh, now we know where that term came from. It came from the Canada study in 2008. No 2009 refresher was to be considered although WSA was supposed to do one for Canada.

How lovely that the "secret" Canadian study could be offered to WSA and to MDOT but when I asked for it in my Access to Information request, it was denied to me. I do not understand the reason now why not.

Was MDOT aware of its contents and does it have a copy of the Canadian report done in 2008? If so, then they and Canada deliberately chose not to allow WSA to do a refresher on the 2009 Canada refresher and refused to give the Legislature a copy.

If MDOT had no idea what that 2008 report said, then how could they present material to the Legislature and not know if it was right or wrong because they had not seen the basic report. They would have no idea what the assumptions were. Frankly, it seems negligent to me.

Was there political interference to prevent disclosure to me. That has been a concern before:
  • "Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is concerned by reports of political interference involving an Access to Information request made by the Canadian Press. The interference from the Public Works department resulted in delays and the delivery of a heavily censored version of a report on Public Works' real-estate portfolio."

  • "A top political aide who blocked the release of a sensitive report requested under the Access to Information Act has acknowledged his error - and has been stripped of his duties reviewing such files, says his boss.

    "What my employee tells me here is that he really lacked judgment," Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis said in an interview Tuesday with The Canadian Press."
Do that the Deliverables bear any relationship whatsoever with what is required in section 384?

What does a report dealing with a time period 50, 60 and 75 years in the future have to do with the 10 year time period set out in section 384?


Wow, that investment-grade traffic study that was not an investment-grade traffic study was done awfully quickly.


I really would like to know who was on the Selection Team. Did it include Canada?

I would be interested to know as well how many bidders there were and who they were and how the RFP was advertised. Were all of the bidders qualified?

Can we really take this RFP process seriously if the consultant was supposed to look at the 2008 Canada report which was produced by WSA as well? Would Canada allow a consultant other than WSA to look at their supposedly confidential information?

One can suspect that if WSA became the MDOT consultant then their report had to be consistent with what they said for Canada in their report. It would make no sense otherwise. Would another consultant have done the same as well? Fortunately, WSA was picked so this question never had to be answered.


Let us see now. I like the concept of objectivity but how can WSA even claim to be objective considering that they signed a DRIC advocacy advertisement supporting that bridge. Are they really going to produce a report that would kill that bridge?

Can a consultant who acted at the Blue Water Bridge project and at the Peace Bridge one, especially if these projects are competitive with a Detroit/Windsor bridge, be without a conflict of interest and remain objective? I wonder how MDOT can justify spending a half a billion dollars in Port Huron for a new plaza when the DRIC project according to WSA will take a chunk of their truck traffic away from them. Why are they spending the money if traffic will be reduced?

And I mentioned the fact that a source told me that WSA did a traffic study for the Mich-Can people. If that the bridge had been built, I was told that it would be in receivership today because the traffic forecasts projected and actual are not the same because of the economic meltdown that apparently was not contemplated.

Clearly, this is not my call. However, when has that stopped me before? I'll tell you one thing; I would have a great deal of difficulty believing the MDOT people who are involved in the DRIC file in anything that they have to say after looking at the RFP.

I just do not believe that people should be allowed to get away with it as if there is no accountability or responsibility. Something needs to be done and the Senators should do it.

It begs the question of what else may not be as it appears to be. Such as P3 legislation for instance and everything told to us about how riskless it is to Michigan Taxpayers.

As far as I'm concerned, anything that MDOT tells us should be dismissed out of hand.

It is no wonder that the DRIC-ites tell us to "ASK NO QUESTIONS." They already know how bad the answers would be.

Can Baird Fool All Michigan Legislators All The Time: More DRIC Math


Seriously, would you buy a used car from John Baird? Or a bridge in Windsor/Detroit?

I had to do the above spreadsheet to try and figure out what Transport Minister Baird was telling us. It sounded too good to be true .

You may check it out here as well. http://www.scribd.com/doc/33518770/Baird-DRIC-Math

I did an edit of the DRIC-ite video so that you could see and hear what the Minister said. If you can figure it out, then explain it to me.

We used to have a political party in Western Canada that advocated a theory nicknamed "Funny Money." The Conservative Party had its roots in Western Canada as well. Listening to Baird's financial explanation, I can only call this "Hilarious Money economics."

Here is what Baird said. I fisked it too:






  • Canada will provide up to $550M [only for "components" as Baird's letter sets out, nothing else]
  • to a Bridge Authority [not mentioned in the Baird letter so someone dreamed this up at the last minute]
  • Bridge Authority will be responsible for paying any shortfalls between toll revenues and availability payments [so this is an "availability payments" regime after all. HUH...if the only revenue of the Authority is toll revenues, how can it pay any shortfalls. It will be in default after the first payment . Then what?]
  • funding is not a loan BUT is repaid solely from future toll revenues [Sure looks like a loan with the repayment requirement. As the spreadsheet shows, there will always be a deficiency]
  • Canada will be repaid by the Bridge Authority from future toll revenues [I still cannot figure out how this works with a $12B deficiency after 50 years]
  • Since it is not a loan there is no obligation on Michigan or Michigan taxpayers to repay the Government of Canada [But it s a loan and there is a shortfall. How is that handled?]

This is a make it up as you go along piece of financial nonsense. It is not believable. How can the DRIC-ites say what they do? Do they not respect the facts at all?

Anybody who can do basic math understands that this loan, which is not a loan, can never be paid back.

Do you think any rational investor would be interested in making a payment in these circumstances? Do you think that any rational investor would make a loan to a Bridge Authority whose only revenue to pay back the money is toll revenues which will never be sufficient? Do you think that any rational investor would have any interest whatsoever in doing this deal without an absolute guarantee of payment from the Governments involved including Michigan?

This could be the Baird stratagem in the end---Michigan does not pay money to Canada directly but rather pays the money as a guarantor of the Bridge Authority! Smart eh!

This is nothing more than trying to pull the wool over Michigan Senators' eyes in order to get the P3 Bill passed. It is nothing more than to get the "Canada provisions" into law especially the section that makes Canada an "Instrumentality of Government of Michigan" that can deal with every significant transportation facility in the State.

Once the Bill is passed, Canada and the private party can negotiate anything they want with no legislative oversight whatsoever. There is nothing at all that prevents Minister Baird changing the deal completely at that time. MDOT has built in conveniently section 7B (14) that CAN put the State at risk for "availability payments."

Baird's letter and what he said at the hearings are NOT legally binding whatsoever.

This is absurd. This is insulting. This is nothing more than an attempt by Canada to put Moroun out of business.

Does the Minister believe that everybody is stupid?

As the Better Business Bureau has said: if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.

PS.

Now about that other billion dollars of P3 money for the bridge, who pays for that? And how?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brister Announces Mayoral Run And Other Stories

Here are some thoughts I had about recent news stories:

EDGAR'S REVENGE

Edgar (aka Eddie) likes to get even, no matter how long it takes. He also learns well from other people and is not afraid to take the ideas of others and use them to his own advantage. After all, why re-invent the wheel. He also likes to one-up others.

Those are just some of his characteristics I noted when I worked for him, to my regret, during his first mayoral run.

So do you like the game that he is playing now... keeping on not announcing whether he is running for Mayor or not. It has to be so much fun for him to keep everyone guessing. What an ego trip---as if anyone really cares. The ABEs have their plans already set up about what they are going to do in the election whether he runs or not
  • "It will be at least next month before Eddie Francis announces whether he'll seek a third term -- but even July is not a sure thing.

    "I haven't made a decision," he told The Star.

    Last month, it was suggested he'd have an announcement by mid-June. As far back as December, Francis said that he'd be sitting down with his family over the Christmas break to discuss whether to pursue a third term in the mayor's chair, contrary to a pledge made in 2003 that he'd vacate the office after two terms.

    In his annual state of the city address May 14, Francis gave 50-50 odds that his name would be on the Oct. 25 ballot.

    Coun. Bill Marra, considered the likeliest candidate among 10 council incumbents to bid for the mayor's post, announced last week he'll be satisfied with a return to the council table.

    Francis said this week he would have preferred to have made an announcement by now but that any consideration of his political future has to await completion of several important economic development files he's been working on full-time for months."

He is such an important man after all. Everything depends on him personally. Well one big plan that he worked on full-time for months is done. We are on the Monopoly Board!

All that he is doing is that he is merely pulling a Mike Hurst in his last term when he announced finally that he was not running during a River walk. It was so dramatic.

Don't expect that Edgar will announce anything until the absolute last minute. That should keep most of the people who want to run against him off balance. But of course there is one person who I think may know what is going on. Maybe. Because there is no doubt in my mind that he is being used by Edgar as well.

We now know that the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget aka Councillor STOPDRTP has said that he is not going to run for Councillor again. Which obviously left open the fact that he could run for Mayor.

Readers of the Star obviously have to be impressed about what Gord and mini-Gord said about him in their columns when he announced he was not running. What great and free public relations support that he can use down the road.

Do you think in one of those cell phone calls between the Mayor and the Councillor, a plot was hatched whereby the Mayor would agree to keep everything in a holding pattern, then at the last minute decide not to run so that the Councillor would then run because his family agreed that it was so important for him to do so. He would have everything lined up during the interim... signs, brochures, platform website etc. etc. He would be a shoo-in with all of the Star support.

Now that wouldn't surprise me at all.

However I told you that Edgar likes to get even and likes to one up. I remember him telling me about something that the Councillor did during Edgar's first run that absolutely annoyed him.

How about this for a twist. Edgar does decide to run for Mayor again after all because he could not complete all of these important deals for Windsor before the next election. Brister would not dare run against him because he would suspect that he would lose and he has said he would never run as a Councillor. In this way, Edgar gets rid of Brister from Council without anyone being the wiser. And gets his revenge too. He also turns the Hurst not running on its head.

Moreover, if the Arena audit turns out badly, guess who is the scapegoat. Yeah, former Councillor Brister who is no longer on Council. We saw that played out very well on the 86% WUC increase matter and on the 400 Building audit where people not on Council were blamed.

Perfect. What a plan.

DO NOT OFFER ME A STAR SUBSCRIPTION

Well, Marty Beneteau has no power at his own newspaper. One minute he praises Councillor Lewenza and then his Editors slam him in the usual Star fashion.

I wonder if the Mayor called in his Chief of Staff and complained about how Marty treated him so badly. I wonder what words of encouragement she used to try to brighten his day.

I just do not understand the Star. On the one hand Marty agrees with Lewenza on the need for open and transparent government and then they slam him for political posturing. DUH... if the Councillor did not act in the way he did, then the meeting would not have been made available to everyone in Windsor.

The whole point why the Councillor acted the way he did is precisely because of this sentence in the Star Editorial:

  • "we anticipate would be covered by all the city's media outlets."

That is the point isn't it. Most people get their news, if it is not available to them firsthand, from the Windsor Star. The Councillor has already had the experience with the Star with their non-reporting of his Ward 4 meetings where he explained how the hardliners lost the 101 days labour dispute with its workers. The Star could never report that because it would mean citizens would know that the hard-liners cost them millions of dollars extra in taxes.

We already know how the Star is going to report the issue from the Editorial even though most of the attendees at the WUC rate increase meetings supported what the Commission wanted to do:

  • "Francis seems to prefer a more modest increase than the six years of annual five per cent increases proposed by Lewenza."

That smacks of the Edgar pre-election political posturing previously that resulted in an 86% water rate increase. But nothing can be done after he is elected.

I liked how the Editorial continues on with the Star tradition not to report key facts such as the Commission asked the Mayor to be put on the June 14 public Council agenda and he refused. Councillor Halberstadt was right about Edgar controlling the Agenda.

I liked the fact as well how the Editorial makes a big point of Edgar not being around on June 28 but did not state that Edgar missed a key Commission meeting when he was out of town again:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis, also a WUC board member, missed Thursday’s meeting because he was overseas"

Perhaps if the June 28 meeting was scheduled and is so important, Edgar could skip his trip to Bahrain or defer it or perhaps send someone else in his place. Sure he won't get all the glory, but after all he is paid to be Mayor and a member of the Commission not a pitch man.

However, the real reason that the Star is so mad at the Councillor is because he decided to have the Commission make its presentation NOT because the Star is going to stream the meeting on its website but because CKLW agreed that it would broadcast the Council meeting live.

WE SHOULD LEARN FROM PORT HURON

They seem to have problems as well with homes being purchased and not torn down by the Government who wants to build a plaza for the Blue Water Bridge. They have a novel approach that perhaps Windsor Council might want to consider:

  • "Matt Webb, MDOT's project manager, seemed especially eager to hear our concerns. So, it is more than a little disturbing that MDOT seems ambivalent about the messes it already created -- and not bothered to clean up.

    We are talking about the acquisition and demolition efforts now under way -- clearing out 125 homeowners, 30 businesses and one church.

    There are too many houses that already have been purchased -- and then left to rot. They are eyesores as ugly as those you'll find in the inner city neighborhoods of our metropolitan areas.

    Boarded up houses. Weed-filled yards. Broken windows. They all become magnets for trouble and result in safety issues for neighborhoods.

    MDOT officials are quick with bureaucratic answers -- most of which ring awfully hollow...

    Once MDOT closes on the sale of a home, the structure should be torn down -- completely down. The ground should be leveled. And there should be an ongoing program to clear the weeds."

Gee, doesn't the Bridge Co. want to do that with their homes and don't the citizens in that area also want that to be done? The only one that it appears who does not want it done is the City. I wonder why not.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO IN PERPETUITY

Has Councillor Jones changed his position? I did not see him requiring the Bridge Company to agree to do something forever with respect to tearing down the homes on Indian Road.

  • "I'm always interested in looking for a solution that everyone can live with," Jones said. "I'm asking the people to come forward and I will help to see that those boarded-up houses are addressed."

DUH Ron, you know already what the people want. There is a lawsuit going on for heaven sakes. Perhaps you could ask the Mayor for a copy of the claim and read it.

Don't you find it strange as well that the Star did not interview Councillor Postma who seems to be the one trying to facilitate a deal between the Bridge Company and the City and its residents. Oh I forgot, she is a nonperson now.

WILL GORD PUBLICIZE THIS AWARD

We know that Gord liked rubbing into our faces all of the prizes that Greenlink won. Will he tell us about the one that the DRIC engineers won for their project:

  • "10 Canadian projects honoured in global infrastructure report

    Ten Canadian projects have landed in a new report to be released Thursday that showcases 100 innovative infrastructure projects from around the world.

    Ranging from unique hospital projects in Central Canada, to border-crossing infrastructure work linking Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, to public transit, new schools and construction in Western Canada, the Canadian investments are sharing the spotlight with dozens of other high-profile initiatives around the world...

    two projects in the Windsor area to improve traffic to the border: The Windsor-Essex Parkway and the Detroit River International Crossing.

    "I think we're seeing governments on both sides of the river and both sides of the (Ontario/Michigan) border coming to terms with the need to do it and then finding the will to act, and I think it's actually a success story because it's multi-jurisdictional and multi-functional," said Beatty."

Here's the funny part. Gridlock Sam won an award for his Greenlink work and that project never went forward. The DRIC gets an award and all that we will get if we are lucky is a below grade road straight to the Ambassador Bridge and the Enhancement Project bridge.

The tearing down of the Ontario tourist centre building means that from E C Row north, the road to the border is the west side of Huron Church Road. The new bridge will be the bridge right beside the Ambassador Bridge. We know that from the Prime Minister's secret mandate letter to buy that bridge meaning that the intention of Canada was always to twin it as it did in Port Huron and wants to do at the Peace Bridge.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TODD PEPPER

  • "Mayor to Introduce New EWSWA General Manager

    Media are invited to a news conference at 11 am, at which Mayor Eddie Francis will introduce the next General Manager of the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority."

Remember this back in May:

  • "The absence of general manager Todd Pepper -- on leave now for 11 months -- is holding up discussion of major issues like a new business plan for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority, says Mayor Eddie Francis.

    After an hour-long in-camera meeting Tuesday, Francis declined to explain the reasons for Pepper's absence.

    "It's a personnel matter," said Francis. "There's nothing I can say."

Should MDOT's Captain Kirk Resign

Frankly, does he have any other choice? It is the honourable thing to do.

Hey, didn't I just start off another BLOG this way the other day? Amazing what is happening on both sides of the border.

The MDOT Director's position has been completely undercut by Transport Canada's John Baird's attendance at the Senate hearings. The Minister made a complete fool out of Director Steudle on several key isssues that Senators were interested in. I was in shock listening to what Baird had to say and felt sorry for Director Steudle. His credibility on the border crossing topic in my opinion has been severely damaged.

Given what I write below I would think it that it would be impossible for him to appear in front of Legislators again and expect to have the kind of relationship he had before with them.


1) VIOLATION OF SECTION 384

That section was very clear:

  • "(2) The department shall submit an investment grade traffic study to the legislature by May 1, 2010 from a reputable traffic company with appropriate experience intended to provide a detailed traffic projection for the ensuing 10 years, taking into account projected infrastructure modifications, expansions and improvements announced."

I have written enough times that in my opinion MDOT did not comply. All that MDOT did was submit a refresher of a 2008 Canadian report that has never been released publicly. That was no investment grade traffic study except to the Director who kept saying that it was.

At the hearing, Canada confirmed that it was only a second level report prepared by Wilbur Smith, not an investment grade traffic study. That kind of a study would only be issued immediately before a Request for Proposal would be sent out to possible investors.

The Director did not tell the Legislature this fact. The WSA report did not meet the requriements of sec. 384. There is no excuse for his non-compliance.

2) TOLL REVENUES

Did you ever hear the Director tell us that availability payments would have to be made? My goodness gracious, there was certainly enough money according to the Director to pay off all the costs including financing cost from toll revenues.

  • "MDOT officials argue that under legislation currently pending in the Senate, the state would sign a public-private partnership (P3) agreement with a third-party investor who would upfront the cost of construction on the pledge they could recoup their costs over time with the toll money.

    If an investor doesn’t believe he or she can make the numbers work to take the risk, they argue MDOT would not get any bidders, but the interest they’ve received to date would not indicate that is the case."

DUH... the vast majority of the RFPOI responders said they wanted availability payments because toll revenues would not cut it.

However, the overly optimistic Director expected that the couple of potential investors who said that toll revenues would be sufficient would force the other respondents to change their minds

Remember this:

  • "Two of the interest bidders on the project said tolls could finance DRIC, and Steudle believes that is enough to get other companies to... [Crains story did not complete the sentence online]"

Presumably the sentence would have said something along the lines of "change their position."

Well, availability payments are in and toll revenue payments are out. Notwithstanding the convoluted remarks that the Minister made, it was very clear that Canada believes that availability payments are essential. Remember, the Border Authority makes the profits and is responsible for any shortfalls.

Canada should know the financial results because the Minister claimed that the project was financially viable. He must have the figures but it does not appear that he ever shared them with Captain Kirk or the Senators. Or is that viability based on the overly optimistic WSA traffic numbers and unrealistic costs so that is why they are not being released?

3) WHO WILL PAY FOR THE OTHER BILLION DOLLARS

I'm so pleased that Canada's $550 million is all accounted for but what about the billion dollars to pay for the US half the bridge that is also going to be P3ed. What is the arrangement for that and is Michigan at risk? I wonder why no one has talked about that including the Director, or should I say, especially the Director.

Canada's contribution only applies to one third of the cost of the project.

Has the Director done the calculations to ensure that there is enough money in total revenues to pay off the $550 million as well as this $1 billion? If not, why not and why has he not talked about it?

4) TOTAL COSTS OF THE PROJECT

What are they? Financing, maintenance, HR, operational, reserves etc etc etc

Transport Canada must have the cost figures because the Minister said very clearly that the project is financially viable. Does Captain Kirk have those numbers? If so, why hasn't he released them? Why has he only released the revenue numbers? It appears to me that the only inference that can be drawn is that costs are higher than revenue as I showed in my spreadsheet. If they were not, don't you think that they would be shown to everyone by now?

What if Captain Kirk does not have the numbers? Did he ever ask for them? If he did and his request was refused, don't you think he should have told that to the Senators so that they would be fully informed? If he did not so advise them, is that proper on his part?

What if he never asked for them in the first place nor did his own calculations? If that is the case, then how can he possibly say that toll revenues would exceed costs? He has no basis for doing so. Would that be improper in saying that without information that supports his position? He would not be fully informing Senators so they could make an informed decision.

5) BRIDGE AUTHORITY

What Bridge Authority? Where did that come from all of a sudden? I don't remember the Captain talking about that in media reports in such detail. Is it a done deal already without discussion by the Legislators? Is that how the P3 Bill will work in future?

Obviously, that was a big deal for the Minister because presumably that is how Michigan is going to be shielded from liability and at least with respect to the $550million. Why the Minister even told us how that Authority would be structured.

Now I am very suspicious about that so called Authority. I did not hear the Director talk about it with the specificity that the Minister did. Or was he hiding that one as well to be brought out as required, or if required? Moreover, the Baird letter states that the future private party has to be involved in governance issues.

The reason I'm so suspicious about it also is that I did not see one word about such an Authority in the Minister's letter. Look for yourself.

Did the Director know that the Minister was going to talk about this at the heaing? Frankly, what the Minister said was so confusing I don't think that he understood either what he was saying as he was reading the speech himself.

Note that there was a suggestion that any revenue shortfalls might be paid by Canada but presumably the maximum amount that Canada would contribute would be $550M. What happens after that? Did the Director tell anyone what the consequence would be, especially if there was a default?

I am not sure though that Canda will pay for "shortfalls" in any event since the letter talks about payments for "components" only and a shortfall is NOT a component.

6) MAKING IT UP AS THEY GO ALONG

To be direct about it, that is how I feel. Canada, MDOT have no clue what they're talking about right now. They will say and do anything to get the P3 Bill passed even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

That is not how a Government Department that spends so much money annually and has major contracts should be operating.

  • A loan not a loan but must be repaid,

  • increased participation not a loan but must be repaid,

  • equity position not a loan but must be repaid,

  • similar financial arrangement to the Blue Water Bridge although that is not what the Blue Water Bridge Authority claims,

  • toll revenues turning into availability payments payable by an Authority whose only revenue comes from tolls,

  • no liability on Michigan other than for the other 2/3rds of the cost of the project that has NOT been discussed or seeing its assets going to default and losing them,

  • Instrumentality of Government of Michigan in which Canada seemingly says there should be no sovereignty concerns yet the section was added in the Bill after Canada made its $550 million offer.

When one considers the above and the waste of time and money over this project over the last eight years, the Legislators need to reassert their authority.

Someone unfortunately needs to take the fall for this Departmental mess. It is unconscionable what has happened. Director Steudle as Head of the Department must bear that responsibility. He should take the honourable action and go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

STOPDRTP2




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was presented not so nicely in Crains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in January we saw this:

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

Who won?

We were told:

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

What did it say?

Last September we were told

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

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

A year ago, we read:

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

We just learned that

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

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

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

Minister Baird said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It would not surprise me one single bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lewenza Won: Should Mini-Gord Resign

Frankly, does he have any other choice? It is the honourable thing to do.

The man writes one of the most ludicrous columns that I think that I have ever read in my life. It is about as anti-democratic as it gets:
  • "For years some experts have argued that it's a bad idea to allow cameras of any kind into the meeting rooms where our politicians make decisions.

    You don't want to encourage these hams to mug for the cameras, the argument goes.

    More proof of this wisdom surfaced Monday when Windsor's attempts to set new water rates took a farcical turn before nosediving straight into chaos."

Openness and transparency, something that his newspaper advocates, what's that?

Then came a vicious and uncalled for attack on Councillor Lewenza whose crime was to go to the public to try to explain the reason for the water rate increase and to get public reaction and input:

  • "Lewenza Jr. is looking confused, vain and foolish in his attempts to manipulate the dates and coverage of this debate, thwart deadlines, and bully WUC staff.

    It's all more ammunition for anyone planning to run against him this fall."

He does everything he possibly can to support a Mayor who has tried desperately to keep the matter off of the Council Agenda including to mis-state what the Procedure is and ignore relevant facts such as the request by Lewenza to have the matter heard on June 14 in a public Council meeting.

Then to have Marty Beneteau undercut him and demonstrate a complete lack of confidence in what he had written:

  • "The Star webcasts most Monday night council meetings, and the special meeting to deal with water rates certainly merits this enhanced coverage," said Beneteau. "Viewers are keenly interested in policy decisions that impact their monthly bills."

    Beneteau said he agrees with Ken Lewenza Jr., city councillor and Windsor Utilities Commission chairman, that transparency is key in the discussion over WUC's proposed rate hikes.

    "This is a role the media can and should play in a democratic society," said Beneteau. "We now have the technology to apply our reporting prowess to a live medium. It's exciting."

Junior won. He stared down the Windsor Star and the Mayor. He beat Edgar (aka Eddie) at his own game. Effectively, Beneteau's action was a slap to the Mayor and his childishness and his secrecy and failure to allow the Public to know what is going on.

If Beneteau keeps this up, who knows, I might even subscribe to the Star again.

The Baird DRIC Loan Which Is Not A Loan But Must Be Paid Back Clarification

Now we know. The DRIC Bridge is an "availability payments" scheme. Forget the toll revenues will pay for it BS spewed out by the DRIC-ites. They tried to get away with that, as they try with everything, and were proven wrong. Again.

What a huge concession. Listen below as Transport Minister Baird tries to twist and turn to confuse the matter totally especially since no financial deal has been worked out.

But that is OK Senators. Sign here. DO NOT ASK ANY MORE QUESTIONS!

Ooops. Canada confirmed to Michigan Senators also that the WSA material presented by MDOT did NOT meet section 384 because it was not an investment grade traffic survey. In fact neither was their report on which the WSA Refresher was based. That, a 3rd level report, would only be prepared right before the RFP was issued and who knows when that will be done. Senator Cropsey was right again too.

MDOT's Director was wrong on this. It is clear that he did not give the Legislature the true facts. In what else was he wrong? And what else is he hiding? Say financing costs for instance?

We got nothing from Baird on that subject today either even though he told us that Canada thought the project was viable financially. Where was the proof and why didn't he present it?

Heads should roll at MDOT for this.

Nice to see Transport Minister Baird in Lansing being as sweet as Mom's apple pie. No nastiness from him.

I was shocked and disappointed: no more money from Canada to Michigan. Nothing changed except for badmouthing the Ambassador Bridge Company even more. Now we know why they cannot get EA approvals.

Baird was there to clarify everything and to tell us (and Michigan) how everything was going to be set up. You see, Canada has 50 years experience with P3s supposedly and we have all kinds of deals respecting other crossings that we can use as a precedent. EXCEPT one of the purposes of the International Bridges and Tunnels Act was to standardize all of the arrangements that Canada had since there was no set structure.

That small detail aside and notwithstanding lawsuits and NAFTA claims, work could begin right away and jobs created if only the Senate would pass the P3 Bill.

How nice for Baird to tell Michigan what the structure operating the bridge will be whether Michigan likes it or not. You see, poor people have no say. He who has the gold makes the rules.

Oh and Windsor got some bad news too. No wonder the City supported the DRIC bridge. We had NO choice. Support it or else: No DRIC bridge, No DRIC road we are told by Baird. We'd be stuck with the old road and 17 stoplights. Hmmm I wonder what that kind of tactic is called. EXCEPT that is NOT true. Here is what the Infrastructure Ontario Head said:
  • "It may end up as a road to nowhere, but the $1.6-billion Windsor-Essex Parkway is going to be a reality -- and very soon, the president and CEO of Infrastructure Ontario said Thursday.

    Whether a new international bridge in Brighton Beach ever gets built or even if Michigan backs out of the proposed $5-billion border infrastructure effort, construction will start "almost immediately" in Windsor on a new border highway in the Talbot Road-Huron Church Road corridor, said David Livingston.

    "The road is going ahead," he said."

We know now the real route---right to the Ambassador Bridge. Therefore it is NOT a road to the new DRIC border crossing after all. Why else would $1.6B be "committed" according to the Minister. EXCEPT I have only seen $400M committed by the Feds in their Budget for the road.

One funny remark occurred when a Senator asked what would happen if the Government changed and Baird gave his non-answer (See what the Liberal's Transport Critic said about the Government's waste of money in a previous BLOG of mine. I am not sure that he is onside with a waste of $5.3B as Baird hopes.) A Senator then mentioned that Baird was a politician talking to politicians. I am not sure that he took Baird's assurance seriously either.

However, here is the clarification on the $550M. Listen to it yourself. It looks like a Bridge Authority is being thrown into the picture supposedly to shield Michigan from liability. Lots of jobs for ex-politicians on that Board I bet, even term-limited or former ones too perhaps!

Now the Minister confirms that the "specific nature of the transaction has yet to be determined" when "availability payments" were mentioned so that should give Legislators a lot of confidence. He was forced to concede that availability payments would have to be made NOT toll revunue payments.

Now those availability payments to the private partner will be "performance based."

What the heck does that mean? If the Concessionaire private party are good boys and girls they will get their shortfalls paid for? Those sums are NOT tied to revenues apparently. The Bridge Authority has fixed payments we are told for 30 to 50 years for constructing, financing, operating and maintaining the Bridge. It is strictly toll revenues since where else does the Authority get its money. But the Minister said we have an availability payments regime. Are you confused? I am.

The Authority makes any profits and is responsible for any losses. The Minister did a fabulous job of mixing everything up until it was completely incomprehensible so any one could say anything and be right.

How will the Authority cover shortfalls if there is insufficient toll revenue? Default? That was not dealt with.

Seriously who would loan money to a Bridge Authority without money to pay down the financing with questionable amounts of toll revenue especially because traffic is at the 1990's level and with Ambassador Bridge competiton without a guarantee of payment from the Governments.

Oooops, it is NOT a loan although in Canada Baird said it was. Rather it is an increased equity positon for Canada that has to be paid back. HUH!!! What kind of corporate structure is that where an equity position is paid back? A loan by any other name is still a loan.

Listen to Baird for yourself and YOU try and figure out how he talks out of all sides of his mouth at the same time and what he means. I cannot.






Did you hear that little nervous cough too at the start of the recording. A give-away. I would be choked up if I had to say what Baird was saying. Remember his smile in the video when he talked about the 2-page letter. He could not hide that embarrassment either.

All I know is that most P3 proponents have already said they want "availability payments." That means Government is on the hook in the end regardless or lose the DRIC components to the bankers. That is what the P3 Bill allows in section 7(b)14!

Is Baird saying that Canada will bear the liability for availability revenue shortfall? That is a new one if so. Except that there is a cap of how much Canada will pay out even if true: the $550M. My spreadsheet shows that would be eaten up within 5-6 years of opening. Then what?

And if Baird has no interest in having a share of Michigan sovereignty, he should tell Michigan Senators that they can remove that section from the P3 Bill and some other ones as well as I dealt with in the "Canada P3 provisons" BLOG. Of course, he cannot.

What a mess. Baird just ensured that the Senators are completely confused. Who could in all good conscience approve the P3 Bill now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BLOGbreakingnews: Windsor Is In

Wow, we made it it to the Monopoly Board, one of 22 Canadian cities that were voted onto the new MONOPOLY: Canada game board.

We are in a YELLOW city spot

Hmmm how appropriate.

We are a world-class City now!

Except for Chatham-Kent which is #1

WUC Water-gate2

Mini-Gord ends his column this way today:
  • "And two years ago the people at WUC had their butts handed to them on a platter for an outrageous 86 per cent water rate increase."

He forgets what was the role of Edgar (aka Eddie) in that fiasco or rather wants us to forget that.

Now that WUC has gone to the public to get their views and wants the public to have input, know the results and hear Council debate it, mini-Gord wants to prevent that from happening. He tells us what Edgar wants us to hear.

I wrote this back in WUC Water-gate1 in August, 2007:


  • "Is WUC Windsor's WATER-Gate

    It's an old political cliché that can come back to haunt people:

    "It’s not the crime- it’s the cover up."

    Do we have an element of this in the whole mess around water levy and sewage levy rates?

    Oh not that kind of a crime but has the effort of the last few days been designed to hide matters from the public? I'll let you be the judge after reading this BLOG!"

Here we go again. What is the Mayor and the Messenger afraid of this time around?

Someone has to start fact-checking mini-Gord's columns.

The Star needs to do a clarification story to insert information that mini-Gord left out of his column. Perhaps if the information that I have been given is true, the Mayor did NOT tell him during their phone calls about the request of Ken Lewenza for the WUC item to be put on the Council public agenda on June 14.

Mini-Gord does need to let go already of the CUPE strike and "move-on." He is not helping his journalistic career at all.

Did you see one word in his anti-democracy, anti-Lewenza diatribe about the June 14 request by Lewenza to have the WUC meeting on the agenda? Neither did I.

Check out the Line of sight BLOG on this matter for a good explanation http://lineosight.blogspot.com/2010/06/water-water-everywhere.html

In particular, read this:

  • "The Provincial deadline is approaching but nothing is happening at council regarding the WUC proposal to raise the rates for the provision of water to consumers. By July 1st WUC has to be in compliance with the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act and provide to the Ontario Government a plan for cost recovery, but there is nothing on the 14 June Council Agenda.

    However, WUC has been ready to go with a presentation for Council, with options and recommendations for the increase, after extensive consultation with the public, for a few months. Why have they not been allowed to present to Council? Who is ensuring that WUC's report doesn't make it onto the agenda where councilors can debate it and obtain clarity on the issues? Is it politically motivated?"

In a separate Star story we learned:

  • "Francis said the issue wasn’t put on the June 14 agenda of council because WUC had only approved three days earlier a plan calling for a 30 per cent increase over six years. He added next Monday’s council meeting was a non-starter because he would be in Bahrain on city business and that at least two councillors rearranged their schedules so the special meeting could proceed Thursday."

So there is the confirmation that Francis kept it off of the agenda even though Lewenza asked for it to be put ON the agenda so that the public could hear the debate.

Here is just one example of an email sent out in May. Note the City wanted the meeting date on June 28 yet now Edgar says that day is NOT satisfactory.

  • "17/05/2010 12:30 PM
    To svlachodimos@city.windsor.on.ca

    Subject Re: City Council Agenda

    Hi Steve,

    In speaking with Ken Lewenza this morning, he advises that the 28th of June is not an option. May we please be listed for June 14th?

    Thanks,"

Yet mini-Gord could state only:

  • "After that vote, Lewenza Jr. asked for a special meeting of city council this Thursday to ratify the rate increase, as required by law."

He also knew that Lewenza only agreed to that date because he was told that Cogeco would broadcast the meeting publicly:

  • "But at the last minute, Lewenza Jr. discovered the special meeting would not be televised by Cogeco cable. He had been counting on this, apparently.

    Lewenza Jr. told people in an email that he was looking forward to the TV debate because he was "sick and tired of the mayor and The Windsor Star," according to one source who read it."

Why couldn't Council have scheduled a regular Council meeting today? Why does the world stand still while Edgar is overseas playing Children's Games which he has already obtained I am told?

Mini-Gord is pathetic:

  • "For years some experts have argued that it's a bad idea to allow cameras of any kind into the meeting rooms where our politicians make decisions."

Sure, let's keep everything "in camera," in secret, behind closed doors so no one knows anything and there is no accountability or responsibility." Heck, who needs Councillors since Edgar does everything anyway and Chairs just about every Board, especially those that pay extra amounts of money that he does not have to share with his colleagues. Let's protect a possible corrupt Councillor as mini-Gord has done.

After all the Mayor pointed out that:

  • "media outlets other than Cogeco, including The Star, would likely cover Thursday’s meeting."

Oh, only just "likely" eh? And we should be satisifed with the Star version of the truth as we can see in the mini-Gord column! Just like the non-reporting of the Ward 4 post-CUPE Ward meeting.

  • "WUC left the job a little late."

Darn, learning from your past mistakes and going out to the public city-wide to explain what you are doing is so inconvenient and time-consuming. Except that WUC was ready to present on the 14th! Edgar (aka Eddie) admitted that WUC had already approved their plan. So what was the big deal?

And now mini-Gord is a lawyer too:

  • "Sadly for him, procedural rules -- which have the weight of law -- mean the special meeting of council must go ahead."

Huh. Procedural rules can be waived; it's done all the time. Or the meeting can be deferred to the following Council meeting on the 28th whether Edgar is there or not. Even Edgar agrees:

  • "From: mayoro
    Sent: June 21, 2010 2:19 PM
    To: Vlachodimos, Steve; mayoro; City Council
    Cc: Reidel, Helga; Critchley, Valerie; Wilkki, George
    Subject: RE: URGENT NOTICE - Council Meeting of June 24

    Public notice has been issued both verbally and in print and procedurally this meeting MUST be held. In the event a member of Council chooses to request a deferral that can be done at the meeting."

There is a Council scheduled meeting after all. Why did Edgar have to schedule an overseas trip for that day?

It's all part of the Star attempt to smear anyone who might be anti-Edgar. If you understand that then you know why I cancelled my Star subscription:

  • "Lewenza Jr. is looking confused, vain and foolish in his attempts to manipulate the dates and coverage of this debate, thwart deadlines, and bully WUC staff.

    It's all more ammunition for anyone planning to run against him this fall."

Yes, we dare not have anyone on the new Council oppose Edgar's absolute rule.

Funniest Corrections, Clarifications Ever By The Star

This is so hilarious I cannot stop laughing. The Star claimed first on their cell phone story:
  • "The mayor didn't return The Star's call seeking comment Friday."

If true, that would have been a hoot. Imagine, a Mayor with a cell phone not responding to a reporter's question about cell phones.

However, the Star did publish a correction:

  • "A story about city council's use of cellphones on A1 Saturday incorrectly said Mayor Eddie Francis could not be reached for comment. The mayor was reached Friday."

If that is true, then did someone at the Star try to embarrass the Mayor? How could such a mistake be made? Or perhaps, after the story was written, did someone then try to reach the Mayor at that time to get a comment so that a correction could be made subsequently?

Don't you wish that we knew the answer. It sounds pretty juicy to me given the Mayor's relationship with the Star.

However the interesting part of a Correction is how long it was and all the details it gave. Why, it was almost a news story in itself.

What a little whiny baby the Mayor sounds like.

  • "If he doesn't want to talk to me ... he's not calling me, not emailing me, not coming into the office. He's clearly saying, 'Hey, we're done.'"

And then this brilliant comment from the Mayor of a City and how he deals with his Councillors:

  • "While Francis agreed that strike issues led to the breakdown, he said it was Lewenza's choice to allow those issues to affect personal relationships. "I'm able to put that behind me, and I'm able to move on. Coun. Lewenza, unfortunately, has been unable to move on."

What an immature comment. They do not have to be friends but the Edgar (aka Eddie) is obliged to deal with him as a Council member as the Head of Council. He has to make the move or else this Council can be torn apart.

Except, dear reader, there is more to it than that. As you will read in mini-Gord's column on Tuesday, if the information that an inside mole gave me is true that he and the Mayor have been on the phone all day, there is a major breakdown between the Mayor and Councillor Lewenza as Head of the Windsor Utilities Commission. You will be able to read about it first in the Messenger (except for my BLOG readers) before the special Council meeting so Edgar's position gets out there first

The Commission through the Councillor specifically asked to be on the Council agenda on June 14 to discuss an item upon which the Commission needed a decision by the end of the month. I don't know all the gory details of that but it doesn't matter. The Councillor wanted a public meeting so that those people who attended WUC information meetings on the water rate increase would have their chance to let the Mayor and Councillors know what they thought the rate increase should be.

Our Mayor wants to keep the rates low in a move that smacks of political opportunism that we've seen him pull before that resulted in an 86% rate increase. The Councillor has a different perspective and several different alternatives to offer Council so that the Commission can properly finance itself without the need of going out and borrowing huge sums of money for which interest would have to be paid.

In an action that confirms Councillor Halberstadt's need for a second pair of eyes for agenda setting to take it out of the Mayor's control, as you know it was not put on the June 14 agenda. Instead, a special meeting is to take place on June 24, naturally without any television coverage so that the only information that the members of the public will get will be the news as the Windsor Star wants to present it. Naturally, there is an in-camera meeting first and nothing yet for the public to read!

Guess whose story will be told and praised if there is a conflict between the Mayor and Councillor Lewenza.

My understanding is that Councillor Lewenza has now said that he does not want Thurday's meeting to take place because of the lack of public coverage.

Presumably, it could take place on June 28 except guess who's not going to be there because he is off in Bahrain I'm told. Another inside source has also told me that the Children's Games are Windsor's for the asking so I do not understand, if true, why the Mayor feels the need to go overseas. Couldn't he just send a fax or make a cell phone call?

Oh my what a silly question to ask. He is going there all by himself we are told. Naturally if the games are announced for Windsor, who gets all the credit?

No wonder our Mayor is acting so childish and playing such games. He's preparing himself for his trip and for the big Monopoly announcement today.