Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Will Homeland Security Investigate The Michigan/Canada Relationship

Did you see this terrible story reported in the press? And now about the alleged Russian spies in the US?

It seems though that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director is back-tracking. Yet he is a well-repected career bureaucrat who ought to know better. Did this outburst the day before his arrival have anything to do with the Chinese President coming to Canada for the G20/G-8 meetings. A not-so-subtle warning that we are watching you perhaps with built-in Government deniability so the Prime Minister can say he had no idea what was going to be said.

I hope that there was a real strong reason for him to say what he did because I can see how it can be turned against Canada as a result of the DRIC/P3 Bill believe it or not. Even though we are "friends" with the US.

Shades of the cold war, KGB, spies, industrial espionage:

  • "Some politicians under foreign sway: CSIS

    Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in an exclusive interview with the CBC.

    Canada's spy agency suspects that cabinet ministers in two provinces are under the control of foreign governments, CBC News has learned.

    Several members of B.C. municipal governments are also under suspicion, Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told CBC News in an exclusive interview.

    "We're in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there's some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries," Fadden said.

    "The individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality. All of a sudden, decisions aren't taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country's preoccupations."

    He said the politicians and public servants see it as a long-standing relationship and have no idea they are being used.

    "There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government."

    Fadden said the agency is in the process of discussing with the Privy Council Office the best way to inform those provinces there may be a problem.

    "We'll do the same with the public servants. I'm making this comment because I think it's a real danger that people be totally oblivious to this kind of issue."

    Fadden warned that foreign regimes — through universities and social clubs — will develop a relationship with people who have a connection to the homeland.

    "You invite somebody back to the homeland. You pay [for] their trips and all of a sudden you discover that when an event is occurring that is of particular interest to country "X," you call up and you ask the person to take a particular view," Fadden said."

Hmmmm. I wonder now. Will Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano feel obliged to make some comment if a Senior Canadian Government Minister comes to the US?

After all, Homeland Security is concerned about Canada. While we are not treated like Mexico yet

  • "The measures I’ve described today are for the Southwest border. However, we have other measures we we’ve apply at the northern border. Including more deployment of mobile-type radar systems, more agents – [to meet] the congressional mandate on the number of agents that have to be at the northern border. We have excellent cooperation with the RCMP and have an aggressive program under way now to improve and provide better equipment and technology in the ports of entry all along the northern border.”

I wonder how she will react once she is made aware of the huge change in Michigan's P3 Bill to benefit Canada. Will she want to investigate further.

It is not hard to make the case.

From this in the P3 Bill originally:

  • "Instrumentality of government" means a legal public entity created or empowered to carry out functions commonly carried out by units of government."

To this:

  • "Instrumentality of government" means a public entity created or empowered to carry out functions commonly carried out by units of government, public agencies, or public authorities.

    Instrumentality of government additionally means the government of Canada or a public agency or public authority created by the government of Canada or another state of the United States or a corporation without share capital created and empowered under the Canadian international bridges and tunnels act to carry out functions commonly carried out by the government of Canada."

Oh sure, Minister Baird pooh-poohed any negative suggestions about Canada taking over any Michigan sovereignty. DUH, what would you expect him to say "Darn, you caught us!" Why then was the provision put in?

Didn't this change come in around the time when Canada offered its two-page letter supposedly offering Michigan a riskless, no-brainer offer of money, $550 million worth. That money was to encourage Michigan House members to pass the P3 Bill and accomplished that objective according to the Minister. In anyone's league, that is a lot of money.

Just think of the broad scope of the P3 Bill. It is much more than merely the DRIC Bridge: any new or existing domestic or international highway, lane, road, bridge, tunnel, overpass, ramp, interchange, ferry, airport, vehicle parking facility, vehicle transportation facility, port facility, locks facility, rail facility, intermodal or other public transit facility.

The DRIC bridge is worry enough since Canada keeps telling us that it is Canada's most important project. The Minister keeps reminding us how much of our trade goes over the Ambassador Bridge and also, interestingly enough, about all of the security concerns.

I wonder if Homeland Security will be as impressed as I was about the role of the Bridge Authority which all of a sudden has become front and centre to supposedly shield Michigan from any liability. Sure some members will be American but will they be people that have been "contaminated" by Canada ie who "are under at least the general influence of a foreign government." Will Canada get to choose the Americans while the "non-loan" loan is outstanding? Who knows since there are no Terms and Conditions yet.

Why it is interesting is no one would be concerned if the Authority defaulted where they would be concerned if Michigan defaults. And default it must because no one wants to provide any information whatsoever that total revenues would exceed costs. I am sure that Homeland Security will pick up on the fact that Canada is now talking about "availability payments" rather than a deal in which payments come from toll revenues only.

Naturally if there is a default, the Bridge goes to the investors, most of whom are foreign including some Canadian banks, or presumably to the guarantor who may well be the Government of Canada. In any case, the control of the most important land crossing in North America is lost to Americans and this corridor of trade into and out of the United States is no longer in American hands.

Obviously, if Canada has reason to be concerned if "cabinet ministers in two provinces are under the control of foreign governments" then I would expect that the United States ought to be concerned if there is a potential for a foreign country to control the trade and corridors of a State and the United States of America.

Do you understand now why I am so critical of the Canadian Government and how it is treating its relationship with the United States? I have written before that Prime Minister Harper is getting bad advice about how to deal with the Americans. I've also written that the Ambassador Bridge will become a flashpoint between our two countries if someone is not careful. It may become our new softwood lumber case as the NAFTA litigation moves forward

I hate to say it but I would expect that very soon I may be able to say "I told you so."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another WUC Investigation Needed

Oh Lord, here we go again. WUC-gate2, the sequel

There is something rotten going on again in the Windsor Utilities Commission, or perhaps in reality somewhere else this time, that needs investigation.

Don't expect the Windsor Star to do it. They're too busy talking about Monopoly and other Children's games to be concerned with important matters in the City. The responsibility lies with the Chair of the Commission to start it at least. Is he up to the job?

Ken Lewenza Junior is an interesting character.

The story about him is that he would probably be first in line to replace Joe Comartin when he decides to retire some day. Accordingly, one would have thought that he should "play it safe" and not rock the boat too much. Why jeopardize his future chances.

Instead, he leads the charge in the ridiculous CUPE dispute and tries to explain to the public what really happened, why a strike was not necessary and how much it cost us all. Unfortunately, the Messenger decided that it needed to protect the hard-liners, especially our Mayor, and refused consistently to report anything that Junior had to say. Not only that, they perpetuated the myth that the hard-liners won when instead they cost the city taxpayers millions of dollars.

Now we have the matter involving water rates. The Councillor could have played it safe and played the Mayor's game of keeping rates down before the election and then hammering taxpayers after the election as was done before. Instead, the Councillor took the unheard-of action of telling citizens that a 10% rate increase was required and then took the rate increase show on the road to demonstrate why that was needed and to listen to the reaction of citizens to what was being said.

I think it can be said that the general reaction of citizens who attended all of these information sessions was to support what was being proposed by WUC ie the large increase.

Lewenza learned from the earlier WUC fiasco and took the career chance to get his lumps from the public and see his political career go down the tubes if he failed at his task. In fact was congratulated by his colleagues on Council publicly for his actions and taking the steps he did. Hmmm, that says something about his colleagues too doesn't it.

Of course, Council Colleagues who are running again are afraid of what the reaction of citizens would be. They voted on a 3% increase for water rates, something that the Commission has never supported. Yet now we learn that the Commission will be going ahead with 5% because after all they have the rate setting ability. That should lead to a nice confrontation

Why was that done... Junior has the perfect line and probably the true explanation:
  • "Lewenza said sarcastically that his colleagues could now tell voters they fought for cheaper rates and “all go to sleep at night knowing the five per cent per year was going ahead.”

There is no doubt in my mind that we will see a column by mini-Gord expressing outrage, an editorial or two denouncing the actions of the Commission and who knows what Gord will say in his column protesting what is going on.

Naturally the Mayor will also speak out loudly about protecting the interests of poor citizens who are under so much pressure these days paying out money. I could see him attacking his fellow Commission colleagues for their actions defying Council. Doesn't this sound like the Library Board as well?

It would not surprise me if Commission Board members resigned also. That would hardly break the heart of Council who would then replace the members with more compliant individuals who knew how to take and follow orders. Shades of the Undevelopment Commission.

This action by Council is no different than the Mayor suggesting several years ago that water rates perhaps should be reduced at a time when it was clear that a massive amount of work would be necessary to fix up the water system.

However, there is something bizarre going on at the Commission itself. Is the Commission completely out of control? Do the Board members have the faintest idea of what is going on? The Chair needs to discover what is happening or else it looks like the Minister may have to send in another team of auditors to try to piece together if his City is being well served by the people who are running the Commission.

Consider this. Why would anyone in their right mind after a proposal was rejected by the Board, put forward that proposal to be considered by Council. I'm talking specifically about the 3% solution. That was presented as Option #2 at Council.

There is no doubt in my mind that Councillor Lewenza was trying to prevent the Board from being embarrassed when he said:

  • "Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr., chairman of the WUC board, said Tuesday the cheaper option presented to council “wasn’t an option … it was out there for discussion purposes...

    Asked to explain why councillors were given WUC documents providing two options, Lewenza said Tuesday: “I’m completely perplexed.”

There is no doubt in my mind that he was protecting his Board and his people.

At no time as far as I understand it did the Commission ever support such a low number in any of their presentations or public discussions or conversations with citizens. Why have Council even look at it if it would be irresponsible to support it.

Yet Ms. Zuber could write in her report:

Who instructed her to add that option and why and then present it to Council? How can she claim it is financially viable as well if it is inconsistent with what the Board voted on? Pay as you go for major improvements....oh please! That payment philosophy was never intended to used for large-scale, long-term debts unless it is a pet project such as an East End arena.

Councillor Dilkens asked the right question

  • "Why send us a second option when you’re not even going to consider it?” said Coun. Drew Dilkens."

Then Councillor Gignac, who surprisingly has not gone to have tea with the Queen again was able to say:

  • “They gave us those two options — they were there in black and white,” said Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac."

Even the Chair of the Commission, Councillor Lewenza was forced to say:

  • "Asked to explain why councillors were given WUC documents providing two options, Lewenza said Tuesday: “I’m completely perplexed.”

Well Councillor, it is up to you now as Chair not to be perplexed but to find out what is going on. How can both options be financially viable when you claim:

  • "While the difference doesn’t appear large for the individual water customer, Lewenza said it adds up to about a $15-million difference over the five-year period and would have meant delays for a number of needed watermain projects...

    Lewenza told reporters that the lower spending would eventually put Windsor’s water system in jeopardy...

    Lewenza said WUC needs the higher income for necessary watermain replacements and system upgrades."

Without sufficient money to run the system properly, how can it be financially viable? That is absurd.

Wow, wasn't the Mayor lucky that he was in Bahrain doing an unneeded, two-hour presentation. Or rather it was necessary to for him to be away from the Council meeting where this fiasco played itself out so he could say he was not there and had no role in it. I wish next time he would try and promote something closer to home so that when he leaves town he does not have to spend the money to go overseas.

By the way, who gets the air mileage points when he travels?

I believe that the Chair needs to bring the Board together immediately to try to figure out what is going on.

Naturally of course the Blogmeister can be of tremendous assistance to the Councillor because I have a suspicion of what is really happening. I believe that a deliberate attempt is being made to discredit the Commission in the eyes of the public. Who did it and why, one can only guess at this point in time.

Why do I say this? There is a survey being circulated right now online to selected residents by a firm called Vision Critical. The questions asked are very specific to the City of Windsor so obviously somebody locally is sponsoring it. The questions have to do with our Mayor, what kind of a job he is doing, the CUPE strike and then specifically to privatization of garbage, parking enforcement and child care. Surprisingly though, two other items were added under privatization: sewage and water.

There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that someone wants to gauge how well or poorly the Mayor has done with respect to privatization of the three services that we know about and if he has a chance of being re-elected using CUPE-bashing as his platform. If the results are positive, and they have to be due to the terrific work of the Messenger, then there is no doubt that privatization of these other two services would become so much easier. Especially, if it can be alleged that the Commission is overcharging consumers and improperly ignoring the wishes of Council.

I think each member Council should asked if they know who is responsible for this survey being undertaken and if it is being paid for by the City. Wouldn't you like to know the results? I sure would.

More importantly I would like to know if the City is paying for information for incumbents to be re-elected so that the election campaign can be directed at specific items that will resonate well with citizens. Hasn't this game been played once before with a survey taken before an election?

Remember as well but I predicted that a number of the City's assets could well be P3ed. Along with the Tunnel, especially if Windsor had taken over the US half, Enwin is a perfect candidate. If you are going to get rid of electrical, one may as well get rid of water and sewage at the same time in one big gigantic P3 package.

It of course will be sold as bringing in tons of money for the City--- when it really is the opportunity for Edgar (aka Eddie) to get his hands on millions of dollars to fritter away and waste on frivolous mind's eye visions--- and hammering those greedy CUPE workers who deserve what they get.

As I have explained to you before, nothing goes in a straight line in the City of Windsor. Why have the discussion honestly and openly about privatization and P3ing assets when games playing and hiding the truth from citizens is so much more fun.

Let's see what Councillor Lewenza does now.

More Windsor Shorties

A few thoughts for you to consider.


Now it can be told since we had the "fake" concept down first:

  • Venetian canal system downtown

  • Mount Francis during the garbage strike

  • Toboggan hills from DRIC dirt

  • "Asked about the local lack of elevation to host many winter sports, the mayor responded: "We can build mountains."

  • Truck tunnels to the border with Greenlink

So it is hardly a surprise, given our Mayor's relationship with the Feds that the Conservatives built a phony lake in Toronto right near Lake Ontario:

  • "A fake $2 million indoor lake by the Gardiner Expressway is the latest example of the Conservative government’s summit spending spree that some say could hit $2 billion by the time world leaders fly out of Toronto on June 27."


When I was President of a Condo in Toronto, one of our biggest expenses was for our indoor pool that few ever used.

It is no different for a City who wants to build a pool for Children's Games:

  • "The big question mark remains the lack of a competition-sized swim facility.

    Backers are hoping the Windsor games can serve as catalyst for a 50-meter competitive pool facility, something Francis said could serve as a “legacy” project for the games.

    Preliminary costing peg such a facility, including seating for up to 2,500, warm-up pool and diving well, at between $28 million and $35 million, said Don Sadler, executive director of Windsor’s parks and facility operations. Another ballpark figure is the estimated annual operating cost of $1.5 million, he added.

    “The key is, it’s going to cost dollars to operate year after year after year — is this community willing to accept that cost?” said Sadler."

From a Report done in Halifax:

  • All 50 metre pools in Canada receive substantial subsidization. Only 1 pool multidimensional facility has an operating subsidization rate lower than 10% of total gross revenue. The identified normal grant of operating subsidization rate ranges from $350,000 to $500,000 per year. Financial support is provided by the owner, sometimes with support of a third party (operating endowments from Games as an example or other levels of government).

  • 50 meter pools across Canada consistently lose money. The multi-dimensional facilities that have the capacity to generate revenue from a variety of sources perform better than those with smaller alternate amenity spaces designed to attract on-going public utilization. Those facilities that included large fitness centres always had greater capability of reducing the subsidization required to operate the aquatic complex.

  • The level of subsidization varies from approximately 8 % of gross revenue to a high of in excess of 80% (communities that choose to offer swimming for free or with deep discounts).

  • A realistic subsidization level for operating a 50 metre pool in conjunction with a multipurpose facility could be approximately $350,000 to $500,000 per year.

How much money is our Arena making us compared with projections?

Has anyone figured out yet where a pool would be built? Any guesses?


  • "Largest Aerospace Manufacturers Sign Up For Windsor Aerospace Event

    KITCHENER, ONTARIO - Global aerospace leaders Boeing, EADS and its Divisions Airbus and Eurocopter, Bombardier, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are sending executives to On the Wings of Innovation 2010, an exclusive VIP global aerospace symposium organized by the Ontario government and the Ontario Aerospace Council, in Windsor on June 4-6, 2010. More than 40 organizations have currently registered for this event including the global aircraft manufacturers, a dozen of the world's leading systems integrators, Ontario companies in aerospace and other advanced technology sectors, representatives from three universities and colleges, as well as federal and provincial government officials."

Here is their Windsor program:

Friday, June 4, 2010 AFTERNOON
1:00 pm Registration desk opens
2:00 pm The Hon. Sandra Pupatello-Welcome
2:15 pm Vision for the Future of Air Travel
A World-renowned, visionary speaker
3:30 pm Networking, Refreshments
4:00 pm Guests check-in at Caesars Hotel, Windsor
5:30 pm Cocktail Reception in Ballroom

Not much business going on there

Friday, June 4, 2010 EVENING(continued)
6:30 pm Seating commences
6:40 pm Presentation by Minister Sandra Pupatello
7:00 pm OAC Presentation; dinner service begins
7:20 pm Ministry Official Presentation
8:00 pm Draw for Theme-related Door Prize
9:30 pm After-Dinner Lounge Reception
11:00 pm Opening day concludes

Not much business going on there

Saturday, June 5, 2010
9:00 am Buffet breakfast
9:45 am OAC conducts ‘Speed Dating Show & Tell’
with OEMS, Tier 1 & Tier 2 Suppliers
11:30 am Networking Break / One-on-ones
12:30 pm Pre Show, Side Acts (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
2:00 pm QUALIFYING STARTS (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
2:00 pm Qualifying 1 (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
3:45 pm Qualifying 2 (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
4:45 pm Results, Summary, Interviews, Highlights of the Day (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
5:30 pm Hospitality Airport Pit Lane Walk
6:00 pm Doors close. Guests get ready for evening program

Some business here, mostly contact making that could prove fruitful

Hosting in the Red Bull VIP Hospitality Pavilion

•Reserved private “Lounge-Unit” with seating, tables and sun umbrellas
•Corporate branding of the reserved area
•Dedicated hostesses
•Souvenir Red Bull Air Race Commemorative Book
•Dedicated Hospitality Pit lane walk at the Temporary Runway, depending on the location
•Welcome Area with Hostesses
•Unique premium viewing of the Race Track
•Limited seating area or grand stand seating for best views of the race (depending on race location)
•Lunch snacks
•Open buffet with extensive selection of international and local delicacies
•Complimentary bar including wines, beers and selection of juices and soft drinks
•Privileged view of the video wall
•Sound system to fully experience and follow the race
•A chance to win a “Red Bull Air Race passenger Flight” (raffle draw)
•Exclusive Red Bull Air Race magazine with stories and background information
•Personal hospitality package with access pass and information booklet
•Access to the Red Bull Air Race Interaction Zone, featuring a Flight Experience Game, a display racing aircraft and possibility to download special mobile features via Bluetooth

Not much business going on there

Saturday, June 5, 2010 EVENING
Guests will be shuttled to the Princess Riverboat for a plated dinner cruise along the river.
The dinner will take place on a private deck of the riverboat. Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies will be seated based on matching need to capability.
A Motown Band will be performing for this private function.

Sure, lots of business being done over dinner

Sunday, June 6, 2010
9:00 am Networking Breakfast
11:00 am One-on-one meeting opportunities
12:00 noonPre Show, side Acts
1:00 pm RACE STARTS (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
1:00 pm Wild Card Session (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
2:00 pmTop 12 (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
2:30 pm Super 8 (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
3:15 pm Final 4 (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
3:55 pm Award Ceremony (VIP Hospitality Pavilion)
4:15 pm Results, Highlights of the Day
5:30 pm Event ends

Not much business going on there

I hope the participants enjoyed the races. I still wonder if Sandra made a few quiches for the party.


When you cannot justify it, showcase it and call it world-class or for our legacy so that all is forgiven:

  • "Gordon Orr, marketing and communication officer for the City of Windsor, called the news tremendous.

    “This is a major coup for us, to bring in a signature sporting event like this to Windsor and Essex County,” Orr said. “We have demonstrated in the past that we can host events of this magnitude in our city. And we hope to do it again in the future.”

    “The media attention we will generate by hosting the games will be monumental...”

    “I am thrilled that Windsor has been chosen host city for the 2013 International Children’s Games,” local MPP Dwight Duncan said. “This is another opportunity for Windsor to showcase itself to the world and bring visitors to our great city.”

  • "Canada is hosting the most important summits back to back that we've ever seen in the country, and we're using this opportunity to be able to showcase Canada…," Cannon said. "Because ultimately what we're looking for here is to find opportunities for people to come and invest in Canada after."

    When pressed on the issue of the fake lake, Cannon replied: "These are marketing techniques that have been put forward by our best people to be able to showcase Canada, and that's what we all want. We want to be proud of what Canada represents and what we can do."

  • "Francis made no effort to mask his enthusiasm over the return of the air races to Windsor.


    "This is a major event that not only puts Windsor, as the host city, but Ontario, as the host province, on the international stage," he says. "There is a legacy that will result from this relationship with Red Bull.

    "This race is not only an economic development tool for Windsor and Essex County, but it is also a tourism tool and a marketing tool," Francis adds. "Many companies from out-of-town come here to take in the race with their company presidents, CEOs and other decision-makers and this race is an outstanding opportunity to us to show off what our region has to offer."

  • "Persichilli described as "critical" the message WestJet's decision sends out to the business community. "You can't pay for better marketing," he said.

    "From a community perspective, this is a momentum-builder for us. It's a strong signal that investors are seeing positive signs," added Francis.

  • Mayor Eddie Francis leaves behind his strike-bound city this week for Athens, Greece, Frankfurt, Germany, and an undisclosed third location to attract foreign investment and chase Olympic dreams for Windsor.

    Francis said he's flying to this year's International Children's Games in Athens to lobby to bring the event to Windsor, perhaps as soon as 2013. An estimated 1,500 athletes aged 12 to 15 -- including two local teams of 12 swimmers and four track and field athletes -- are taking part in this year's 43rd event sanctioned by the IOC.

    On Monday, the mayor bid farewell to the local athletes, coaches and parents heading to Athens in time for Wednesday's opening ceremonies.

    While Francis is missing the opening, he'll be leading the local delegation along with a member of his office staff.

    Luring a future Children's Games, as Hamilton, the only previous Canadian host managed to do in 2000, would have a large economic impact and bring prestige to Windsor, said Francis.

    "It would be significant in size and scope," he added.

    Leaving the city as it enters the 11th week of a protracted and bitter strike by 1,800 municipal workers, with no new talks in sight, was "something I considered significantly," Francis told reporters after announcing his trip at the end of Monday night's council meeting.

    But he said city business has to go on and "we can't miss opportunities."

  • Francis said he'll be meeting with University of Windsor, St. Clair College and other officials in the coming weeks to prepare a submission to host a future IOC-sanctioned children's games, which would include 1,500 young athletes and 2,000 additional delegates.

    "It was very positive," Francis said of his meeting in Athens with the games' German president, whom he hopes to host on a visit to Windsor once the city completes a report on what it has to offer. The mayor said securing the 2013 games is still a target.

    "The legacy would be significant ... people who have never heard of Windsor will be in Windsor, and those opportunities open up doors for future economic possibilities," Francis said.

  • Windsor will have a component to honour Canadian war veterans -- something every host team has done for its Memorial Cup, first awarded in 1919 to commemorate the dead from the First World War.

    "I think it will be a distinguishing factor in our bid," said Mayor Eddie Francis, who is accompanying the Spitfires representatives to Toronto. Dobrich said there will also be a legacy project -- a non-hockey investment in the community so the 2011 Memorial Cup will be remembered for years to come. There will be an array of outside-the-rink events for visitors and Windsorites to attend. (The Barrie bid includes concerts, cruises of the bay, tours of the nearby military base, mountain biking and a NASCAR race.)
  • The 18 best men's rinks in the world will take to the WF-CU Centre ice Nov. 3-7 for the Grey Power World Cup of Curling.

    The event is the season's first of four Capital One Grand Slam of Curling bonspiels.

    The Windsor event will offer the premier players on the planet $100,000 in prize money.

    "It's a marquee event with national prominence," Windsor mayor Eddie Francis said at the press conference Tuesday at the WFCU Centre announcing the successful bid.

    "To bring it here allows us to showcase the local community, but also allows to showcase the facility and the local community groups that participate."


Too bad. So many juicy items were printed there.


We better have more good news stories about Windsor Airport.

Can't come soon enough:

  • "London International Airport will undergo a $6.5-million expansion to create more room for passengers and accommodate more jets, Steve Baker, airport chief executive, said Wednesday.

    Passenger traffic has increased 58% over the last six years. Last year, as the recession hammered the economy, 480,000 passengers filed through the terminal, a jump of 6%, Baker said.

    “We have had tremendous growth, we have upscaled our aircraft to jets, we have a lot more passengers...

    The airport terminal last expanded in 2004 and since then, much has changed :

    WestJet Airlines added direct jet service to Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Orlando;

    Air Canada operates direct jet service to Calgary;

    United Airlines offers direct jet service to Chicago;

    Delta Airlines upgraded to jet service to Detroit;

    The airport offers seasonal traffic to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Cancun and Cuba.”

Remember this story

  • "Windsor Airport might see new Sunwing flights

    Windsor’s airport is among the new travel gateways listed as a result of a partnership between Signature Vacations and Sunwing Airlines.

    The announcement could result in new direct flight destinations from Windsor...

    “We did receive some preliminary indication about a month ago that things were looking very positive for two destinations from Windsor,” [Nazzani] said."

Unfortunately, a reader sent me this note:

  • "Thank you for contacting Sunwing Vacations.

    During the coming Winter from Windsor, we will only offer flights to Cuba."


What, no STOPDRTP2 for Councillor Brister! At least there won't be trains:


    Hilary Payne, candidate for councillor in Ward 9 in the October municipal election, is proposing a Rails to Trails to Waterfront as a concept to convert the existing little used CN/CASO railway right-of-way from Walker Road to the International Garden at Riverside Drive into a landscaped recreational trail similar to the Ganatchio Trail. This would provide a people-friendly facility giving non-vehicular green access through the City to the Waterfront for pedestrians ,wheelchair users and cyclists Removal of the tracks easterly into the County also would permit the proposed trail to link up with the trails which have been developed in the County on former railway rights- of- way.

    The removal of the CASO/CN tracks as noted has already been proposed as part of Phase3 -Modal Integration- of the Implementation Strategy for the Community Based Strategic Rail Study completed for City Council in 2008 and would require political will and the cooperation of various entities especially the railway companies involved but would appear to be a worthwhile concept for both the citizens of South and Central Windsor and also in relation to the recent news item entitled "'City lacking bike lanes". It would also help as the Rail Study points out to transform" Windsor into a more environmentally friendly and walkable city "

    Hilary would intend to pursue this concept further if elected to Council in October."

Perhaps he could also pursue who would pay for keeping it up and policing it! Probably the same people who will cut the many acres of grass on the DRIC Road tunnels at whose expense.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

International Children's Games: Why Windsor Really Won

No, it was not because of the solo, 2-hour pitch made by Mayor Edgar (aka Eddie) that Windsor won. Did he think he was talking to Council about Greenlink when he spent all of that time boring people when Windsor had won already?

It appears that a HUGE mistake was made by the Organizing Committee of the Games which they subsequently had to rectify. They thought that Windsor was in Australia and that is why we won. Read on if you think I am joking. The mistake becomes apparent when you learn who won the Games hosting in 2014.

There was mass confusion it seems. The Committee thought that it was awarding the Games to a town outside of Toronto. They did EXCEPT the Toronto they thought about was Toronto, Australia, not Toronto, Canada!

How could that mistake happen? Toronto, Australia is within an area of about 200,000 people, a population number similar to that of Windsor. Edgar must have talked about our population demographics and threw out that number too.

Edgar must have talked also about our economy which is similar to that of the Australian area:
  • "Industry within the city is diverse, with over 12,000 existing businesses, and approximately 2,000 businesses entering the market each year. There has been strong growth over the last five years in the health, community service, and construction industries. Knowledge and technology-based industry is also exhibiting particular growth."

So what if most of our IT jobs are minimum wage call centres ones after all.

The Australian area is close to an international airport (We are near Detroit Metro) and both of us have rail connections and good road connections all over the continent.

But here is the clincher. Both areas have a connection with Macquarie! And that is why the mistake was made.

A Macquarie group, part of the big Australian Bank, for years was involved with the Tunnel, running it for both Windsor and Detroit. Macquarie Bank is a possible bidder on the DRIC P3 too. Toronto is on Lake Macquarie in Australia.

Who is the 2014 winner to make up for the big error:

  • "Lake Macquarie wins bid for International Children's Games
    Posted June 29, 2010

    Months of lobbying has paid off for Lake Macquarie Council, which has secured a global sporting event.

    Lake Macquarie was last night named the successful bidder for the International Children's Games in 2014.

    Mayor Greg Piper was in Bahrain for the announcement and says it is the first time the event will be held in Australia."

See what I mean!

PS. In case you don't get it, this BLOG is meant to be satirical.

Odds And Ends

Just some stories that interested me

  • "Mensa convention begins Wednesday in Dearborn

    The upcoming 6-day Mensa convention in Dearborn includes testing days for people who want to find out whether they've got what it takes to be a member of the high IQ group...

    The American Mensa admission test will be given Wednesday and Saturday and the Mensa Canada test day is Friday...

    the Annual Gathering is Mensa's way of strengthening that network — bringing together intelligence from across the globe."

No wonder there is no welcome mat for DRIC-ites

They have a terrific slogan for their convention however. "The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau was behind the slogan, which is part of a series of self-deprecating ads that reference Detroit's image problems:"

  • "Who's the Genius Who Picked Detroit?"


The DRIC-ites like to believe that if Michigan decides not to move forward with the DRIC project, then the US Federal Government will.

I'm not so sure. I saw this story published recently without a word about our border crossing:

  • "LaHood: Bolstering trade with Mexico, Canada essential to meeting Obama export goals

    Bolstering trade with Canada and Mexico, the first and third largest trading partners with the U.S., will be an essential part of an effort to increase exports, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the North America’s Superhighway Coalition (NASCO) recently...

    “But we’re just getting started. And as we move forward, we’re leveraging our transportation investments to help meet President [Barack] Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years. Bolstering trade with Canada and Mexico will be an essential part of this effort,” LaHood said. “So, we’re making it safer, easier, and more efficient to move freight from one border to another. We get it: international goods movement is part of a larger system. In the 21st century, companies need end-to-end logistics solutions. They need infrastructure that is intermodal and multi-modal.”

    The better connected ports, highways, railways, and airports are, the better-off the system is as a whole, LaHood said.

    “All of this reflects and reinforces the already great partnership among North America’s three nations,” the secretary said noting that he’d met personally with Mexico’s Secretary of Communications and Transportation Juan Molinar and Canada’s Minister of Transport John Baird. “Our departments are working together on measures ranging from vehicle and railroad safety standards to information-sharing about freight flows along major trade corridors like NASCO. And our planners and policy-makers — the U.S-Mexico Joint Working Committee on Border Planning in the south and the Transportation Border Working Group in the north – are ensuring that our borders are as efficient as they are secure. Intelligent transportation systems are — and will continue to be — part of this work.”


Looks like Wilbur Smith was off the mark again in this project"

  • "Greenville SC Southern Connector toller files for bankruptcy

    Connector 2000 Association developer and operator of the Greenville Southern Connector tollroad filed for bankruptcy today in US Bankuptcy Court in nearby Spartanburg, South Carolina. The filing done under chapter 9 of the US Bankruptcy code that handles broke government entities has been expected for some time...

    Revenues from the Southern Connector are not sufficient to service the debt, the Connector 2000 Association toiler says in its US Court filing because actual traffic and revenues are "substantially less than projected."

    "The debtor is insolvent" their lawyers say bluntly in the Ch 9 filing. $500m was borrowed. Equity was zero.

    Court papers note Wilbur Smith Associates projected 21k/day in the opening year but fewer than 7.5k showed up.

    Traffic and revenue has remained about a third of that forecast by WSA when the association launched the tollroad project in this small South Carolina town in the late 1990s. The highway on the southern/southwestern fringe of the city only made sense as an access and development road. The road is too indirect to provide any time savings for long-distance traffic which has stuck to the free interstates."


Expect a cheaper solution with the route going north, right to the Ambassador Bridge on Huron Church Road

  • "407 stalled until 2017

    It seems the provincial and federal governments were a little ambitious when they announced in 2007 that they would extend Hwy. 407 east to Hwy. 35/115 by 2013.

    Now the province aims to extend it to Simcoe St. in Oshawa -- not even halfway to the 115 -- by 2015. Stage 2 of the project, under a separate contract, would be the extension to Hwy. 35/115...

    The government remains committed to extending Hwy. 407 to Hwy. 35/115 with the entire project expected to be complete in 2017, Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal said on Friday."

Remember that this highway is a P3 deal and is the Government happy with it or could it be that no one would finance it just like with respect to the service centres on Highway 401:

  • "It's the only toll highway in the province. The previous Progressive Conservative government sold the highway to a private-sector consortium for $3.1 billion in 1999.

    The provincial government would own and control the tolls on the new section of the highway."


Unbelievable. He still is in town although seemingly invisible to mere mortals like taxpayers:

  • "Development, tourism agencies narrow locations for new offices

    The region's economic development and tourism agencies have narrowed the list of potential new locations for their offices to three.

    "We're getting close," said Ron Gaudet, CEO for the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation."

    WEEDC has been consulting community leaders and hopes to have the draft version of its economic road map for the region posted on its website by mid-July for public feedback, Gaudet said."

I trust that this effort is better than the Ph.D. thesis that set up the Undevelopment Commission in the first place. You remember the one:

  • "Because of the nature of the region’s strategy, traditional performance measures such as the number of new plants attracted, or the number of jobs retained, albeit significant, should not be the primary indicators of success. These could actually be counterproductive by driving the wrong behaviour."

By this measure, the Undevelopment Commission has been singularly successful.


This has to be disappointing considering the collapsing Red Bull numbers and the less than busy Summerfest

  • "A myriad of onlookers from both sides of the border gathered along the river for the 52 annual Target Fireworks display. While an exact number is difficult to determine, Windsor police Sgt. Jason Crowley said attendance was smaller than years past."

Then we read this nonsense from Gord Orr who may have forgotten that he does work for the Tourist Group anymore:

  • "This is a major coup for us, to bring in a signature sporting event like this to Windsor and Essex County,” Orr said. “We have demonstrated in the past that we can host events of this magnitude in our city. And we hope to do it again in the future.”

World-class, monumental media coverage, millions will be spent... blah, blah, blah.


Ward 10 candidate Jeff Gaudette announced this interesting program for residents and he has not yet been elected. It's not the kind of thing that a politico would normally do is it. His opponent, Dwight-Lite, is off visiting in Asia: China, Singapore and Japan so far.

  • "Free Tutoring Initiative Unveiled

    Windsor - Dr. Andrew Allen, Coordinator of Urban Education Partnership at the University of Windsor and Jeff Gaudette, candidate for City Council in Ward 10, today announced a new joint venture to assist students seeking educational assistance and helping parents save the cost of hiring tutors.

    "This is a Win-Win situation for all those involved," said Andrew. "Students enrolled in the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor will be getting practical hands on experience as they assist children who are in need of extra help outside of school in the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic."

    Jeff Gaudette said, "many families seek assistance for their children outside of the school system at a great expense to them. We hope this will help families during these difficult economic times when many are facing a multitude of other financial burdens."

    This exercise will be unveiled this fall at four locations throughout Ward 10 and is to be decided shortly. This is just the first step in Jeff's vision of "Together for a Better Tomorrow."


If more cars go through faster, hasn't capacity just been increased at a cost of less than $5.3B:

  • Ambassador Bridge Launches Fast Lane

    The Ambassador Bridge started a three-month pilot program Monday morning with a lane dedicated to those with the enhanced driver's license and other forms of ID with a chip.

    According to Chief Customs and Border Protection Officer Ron Smith, the fast lane has an antenna that can read your ID before you talk to an agent.

    "The information that we need - your name, date of birth, citizenship, residency - is going to be on the computer screen for the officer to review before they ever say hello to you," Smith said.

    Theoretically they'll be able to call you by your first name when you come up to the booth, Smith said.

    Detroit and Del Rio, Texas will test the lane for the next three months to see if it reduces delays."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Would DRIC Availability Payments Be Illegal

Forgive me but unless you are a lawyer or wannabe Perry Mason, you may find this BLOG difficult to read. Perhaps "boring" is the better word to use since statutory interpretation is required. However, trust me, you will find the discussion fascinating and the end result a shocker.

A Reader gave me some material to read that opened up a whole new dimension for me about the issue of financing the DRIC project. It is no wonder that the DRIC-ites want no questions asked about the toll revenue financing and why they really do not want to get into the question of "availability payments." It is no wonder that no financials have been provided either.

As you shall see, it is much more than whether or not the toll revenues will be sufficient. The fundamental question is whether or not the P3 Bill permits any kind of financing other than toll revenue financing. In other words, is a project built on availability payments illegal under the P3 bill?

It's so much fun trying to figure out what Transportation Minister Baird says he is doing. In Ottawa for the Canadian taxpayers who have to put up the cash, what he is doing is loaning money that has to be repaid.

In Michigan though, he claims it is NOT a loan but still the money has to be repaid

A DRIC loan by any other name is still a loan even if the Minister talks about "availability payments"

Here is what was said in a California Project about availability payments and loans

  • "A project structured with availability payments from future state funds is, in certain respects, similar to a loan to the State with de facto loan payments that include interest cost over a period of time, in this case 30 years (recognizing that availability payments are only payable to the extent performance measures are met). As such, future availability payments inevitably create new commitments of state transportation revenues. Although discounting future payments to present value is a reasonable approach to comparing the economics of different implementation approaches, it does not negate the fact that new commitments of state transportation revenues are being proposed."

And what is the difference between toll charges and availability payments

  • Although a toll charge could be considered a type of user fee, strictly speaking it could also be used to generate revenues in excess of the cost of making the facility available. What tolls and user fees have in common is that they are paid by someone using the service that is provided. Before the money is used to pay the toll or fee, it belongs to a private person. In other words, it is not paid out of public funds in competition with other possible public uses for such funds.

    An availability payment is a payment in consideration of a facility of some type being made available for use. The Federal Highway Administration provides the following definition:

    An availability payment is a periodic payment made to a concessionaire by a public authority for providing an available facility. Payments are reduced if the facility is not available for a period of time, or not being maintained in satisfactory condition. Using an availability payment structure eliminates the need for the concessionaire to assume any traffic risk and protects the interests of the public by giving the concessionaire a financial incentive to maintain the facility in satisfactory condition and operating at a specified level of performance.

    Thus, unlike revenue from tolls or user fees, the amount of an availability payment generally does not depend on how much the facility is used. “Rather than relying on achieving certain levels of traffic and revenue, the concessionaire receives a predictable, fixed set of payments over the life of the agreement.” “[A]n availability payment is a payment for performance made irrespective of demand...

    The amount of use of the completed project generally has no bearing on the amount of the availability payments. By contrast, toll and user fee revenues depend directly on the amount of usage of the facility, and only indirectly on how well the facility is maintained.

    Thus, a very important distinction between tolls and user fees and availability payments has to do with how risk is allocated. As noted in the Federal Highway Administration’s definition set forth above, with availability payments a concessionaire does not assume any traffic risk. “From the private sector's perspective, availability payment transactions are attractive because they provide a more predictable payment stream, with nearly all traffic and toll-revenue risk and upside potential held by the public sector. The concessionaire and its lenders rely on the agency's credit rather than an often unpredictable toll revenue.” With availability payments, “the public sector takes [the] revenue risk”

    In addition, availability payments come from a different source than do tolls and user fees. Availability payments come from public funds. A commitment to make availability payments thus has a direct potential impact on funds that could otherwise be committed for other public purposes."

So whatever it's called, it is in effect a loan that has to be paid back by the public over time. The end-result is a scheme that takes away from other State projects since funds have to be committed for the pay-back.

Humour me in this BLOG. Yes, yes, yes I know that the MDOT Director and the Transport Canada Minister have all said that the project is economically viable. By that they mean that toll revenues will exceed costs over the life of the project. However, neither of them have produced any records whatsoever to demonstrate that. My spreadsheet shows a blimp payment of billions of dollars being required at the end of 50 years. Accordingly, let us draw the inference that availability payments have to be made, as the vast majority of the RFPOI responders stated. After all, they ought to know more than the Blogmeister about things like this... or MDOT.

We know that the State of Michigan does not have $84 million to undertake 243 road and bridge projects and has had to postpone them. I believe that we can therefore draw the conclusion that the State cannot afford financially to make availability payments on the DRIC project.

We know as well that Canada is not being generous in giving money to Michigan. Rather, any monies given out have to be repaid. Even if one uses the Blue Water Bridge analogy, and the way it is being described in Michigan and by the Transport Canada Minister is not correct according to the BWB Authority, the money put up by the United States for that bridge eventually was paid back.

Accordingly, the question to ask is whether the P3 Bill allows for availability payments or is the only way that a project can be built is through user fees.

The answer in my opinion is that only user fees may be charged. No project that provides for "availability payments" is legally permissible.

Since the DRIC project will have revenue shortfalls because user fees are not sufficient, is the Project now dead? The answer is yes except for one unlikely scenario as I shall describe given what a rational banker would do and what Canada has said it would not do.

Let us look at the proposed P3 Bill in detail. Yes, I know it is boring to read statutes but you need to do so unless you want to take my word that user fees must be charged. And remember, we must assume that the Legislature is familiar with the difference between toll revenues, user fees and availability payments.

  • The people of the State of Michigan enact:

    An act to… authorize public-private agreements relating to ... financing... charging user fees, or other arrangements for the creation and operation of public transportation facilities that may be financed by user fees, charges, and other revenue.

    [The Act is very specific about "charging user fees" since Legislative authority is needed constitutionally to charge tolls. A strong argument can be made especially using the language of "other arrangements" that only a user fee regime is permitted. The only weasel word out is the word "financing" and I will show you what that means subsequently and why we know that this can never happen.]

  • "Public-private agreement" means an agreement between a private entity and the Department or between a private entity, the Department, and 1 or more other Instrumentalities of Government that relates to researching, planning, studying, designing, developing, financing, acquiring, constructing, charging user fees, operating, or maintaining a public transportation facility, or any combination of those activities.

    [As above re "charging user fees" and "financing."]

  • A public-private agreement may contain terms and conditions that the Department may determine or negotiate to facilitate the researching, planning, studying, designing, developing, financing, acquiring, constructing, charging user fees, governing, operating, or maintaining of a public transportation facility in the public interest.

    [As above]

  • A public-private agreement shall provide for the terms of the use and operation of a public transportation facility by a concessionaire for a period the Department determines is necessary for the development and financing of a public transportation facility and the economic feasibility of the public-private agreement.

    [Note that the P3 must be economically feasible. That has to mean if it is a user fee regime that revenues will exceed costs. Obviously, the State does not want to have to finance the shortfall because that would take away from other projects such as the 243 road and bridge projects that have to be deferred for lack of money. There is supposed to be an end date to the P3 project. That can ever happen if the bridge financing can never be paid off. The State is not granting operations to a private party in perpetuity.]

  • The [Public-private] agreement may provide for an initial operating term not exceeding 50 years from the later of completion of construction or commencement of collecting user fees if user fees are collected unless a longer term is required for the economic feasibility of the public-private agreement as determined by the Department and approved by the commission.

    [The outside period is normally expected to be 50 years from the date of the first collecting "user fees." A longer period may be granted but there does have to be an end date. The test for the extension is again "economic feasibility" which must mean that at some point in time tolls will exceed costs. If not, how can the project be feasible economically or otherwise.

    There may be a case where user fees are not collected and the P3 Bill provides for that. No one however has ever suggested that no user fees would ever be collected for the bridge.]

  • No provision of a public-private agreement shall allow the public to be deprived of the use and benefit of a public transportation facility except as necessary to implement user fees or ancillary charges authorized by this section.

    [Again strong evidence that user fees must be charged or else people can use the new bridge for nothing]

  • A public-private agreement may provide for the charging and collection of user fees and ancillary charges for the use of a public transportation facility.

    [Specific authority is granted to collect user fees]

  • For any international bridge crossing that does not exist as of the effective date of the amendatory act that added this section, a public-private agreement for any such international bridge crossing shall include risk allocation provisions specifying the risk assumed by the concessionaire and each Instrumentality of Government that is party to the public-private agreement related to the public transportation facility, including the risk relating to construction cost overruns and, as applicable, toll revenue shortfalls.

    Before approving and entering a public-private agreement for any international bridge that does not exist as of the effective date of the amendatory act that added this section, the Department shall ensure these risk allocation provisions provide for the most economically beneficial way for this State to perform the project, while minimizing liability for construction cost overruns and toll revenue shortfalls for which this State could be held liable, and the Department shall submit a report to the governor explaining how this mandate was fulfilled.

    [There is recognition that there may be "toll revenue shortfalls." Note that the only parties who are to assume the risk are the concessionaire or the Instrumentality of Government, not the State. And again, clearly there is recognition that no project may go forward unless user fees exceed costs. Or unless that risk can be allocated to a third party.

    The Department must show "the most economically beneficial way for this State to perform the project... while minimizing liability for toll revenue shortfalls for which the State could be held liable."

    The only way you can be economically beneficial and minimizing liability is if some third-party assumes that business risk.]

  • The Department shall consider all of the following factors in evaluating and selecting a bid or proposal to enter into a public-private agreement:
    (a) the proposed cost of and financial plan for the public transportation facility.
    (c) the proposed design, operation, and feasibility of the public transportation facility.

    [The Director is being disingenuous by not providing financial costs because of this section and the need to show "feasibility." That is why the inference must be drawn that this project will have user fee shortfalls. If that is the case, then this project is not feasible. Except for one situation that I will describe below.]

  • The Department may issue and sell bonds or notes for the purpose of providing funds to carry out the provisions of this act with respect to the development, acquisition, construction, financing, maintenance, or operation of a public transportation facility provided for by a public-private agreement or the refunding of any bonds or notes, together with any costs associated with the transaction.

    A bond or note issued under subsection (1) is payable solely as to both principal and interest from revenues generated from use of the public transportation facility authorized by the public-private agreement,

    [The money must come from project revenues to pay off the bonds and not from State funds. Again, confirmation that user fees must exceed costs.]

  • The Department may accept from any source, and use for supporting a public transportation facility authorized by a public-private agreement, any grant, donation, gift, or other form of conveyance of land, money, other real or personal property, or other item of value.

    [Here is the only exception in my opinion to a user fee regime. Canada or a banker or a Concessionaire would have to agree upfront to either make a donation or gift to Michigan or perhaps forgive the user fee shortfall.]

  • A public transportation facility authorized by a public-private agreement may be financed in whole or in part by contribution of any funds or property made by any person or entity.

    [As above]

  • The Department may combine federal, state, local, and private funds to finance a public transportation facility authorized by a public-private agreement.

    [As above]

In my opinion, it is absolutly clear that the State has recognized that it understands the difference between user fees paying for a project and availability payments being the basis for financing a project.

It has made the choice that a P3 project must be paid for by the users and not by taxpayers. After all, isn't that the basis of how the riskless, no-brainer offer made by Canada? If it did not make that choice, then monies in the future could be taken by the availability payments from the State Budget so that other projects could not be undertaken.

While it would have been better if the State had not used the word "financing" because that could give rise to the idea that availability payments could be made, in my opinion that word "financing" must be narrowly interpreted. That word cannot be used as the basis of supporting an availability payments regime in light of the specific sections quoted above.

However, the State recognized that there could be any shortfall in toll revenues but that the project could still go ahead if some third-party made up the difference. In the DRIC bridge case, obviously the State has no money to make up that difference, no rational banker would give the State billions of dollars of freebie gifts and donations for the shortfalls to which it was entitled and Canada has made it clear that any monies that it pays out have to be repaid.

Since the payment scheme for the P3 project must be a user fee basis in which the user fees exceed financing costs and there is no reasonable possibility of anyone making up that shortfall, the DRIC project is dead.

The verdict: DRIC Case dismissed.