Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Anti-Bridge Company Conspiracy Revealed

You know perfectly well, dear reader, from what I have Blogged so many times before that I believe that the three levels of Government in Canada--Federal, Provincial and Municipal--are working together to try to force the Ambassador Bridge Company to sell out cheaply.

So if I said it again, it would just be ho-hum news to you.

However, what if a person who can hardly be said to favour the Ambassador Bridge Company said it or someone who supported another crossing alternative, say a rail tunnel, and what if this person said it years ago? Would that change your mind?

Here are some comments that I read from an article that I found on the Internet that I consider to be particularly fascinating. What is really of significance as you read it is that each level of Government in Canada is working strictly within its constitutional authority:
  • The Federal Government is dealing with the International Bridge via Bill C3.
  • The Province has responsibility over the road to the border.
  • The City does its part by passing bylaws to prevent the Bridge Company from doing anything with respect to the Indian roads houses demolition and with its interim control by law.
When looked at in a combined fashion, the Governments have circled the Bridge Company to try to stop them! Magnificent plan isn't it. And so well co-ordinated.

I have no idea who the author is, Samuel Knapp but the same article is seen in a number of websites. Knapp is a clear advocate for the DRTP rail tunnel. And remarkably, a fellow by the name of Bill Muir wrote an article with the same title. Hmmm I wonder if it was a search engine optimization gambit.

And don't you just love the article title too to make it so much easier to confirm my suspicions:
  • "Canada is Fully Engaged on the Detroit-Windsor Border Crossing

    Federal Action: At the end of January 2007, the Canadian federal government passed a law known as C-3. This law confirms the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction over international bridges and tunnels; requires governmental approval for the construction or alteration of new and existing bridges or tunnels; requires governmental approval for all changes in ownership, operation and control of international bridges or tunnels; and authorizes the government to make regulations regarding bridge maintenance and repair, safety and security, and operation and use. In short, this law gives Transport Canada control over all 24 border crossings -- including private structures -- and any future border crossings between Canada and the U.S. (see page 6 of the Addendum for additional highlights).

    Provincial Action: Last week the Ontario provincial government announced that it would explore a "comprehensive solution" to border traffic problems, with tunneling (of trucks in Windsor) as a part of the discussion. Building a tunnel under Windsor for trucks would provide environmental, health, safety and economic benefits (see page 9 of the Addendum for a Windsor Star article on the Provincial action).

    Local Action: Also last week, the city of Windsor City Council passed two bylaws that will be in effect for one year and may be extended to two years while a community improvement plan is completed. The bylaws will not permit the construction of new buildings or structures or the demolition of old ones, and will ensure that the area's attributes and physical features are not negatively affected or destroyed. In effect, this suspends the Ambassador Bridge's plan to build a new, expanded customs plaza in Windsor (see page 11 of the Addendum for a Windsor Star article on these bylaws)."

It is set out so precisely and succinctly than even a DRIC-ite could understand it and be able to figure out how he/she has been used to further Canada's border ambitions!

And you wondered why Canada had to become an Instrumentality of Government of Michigan under the proposed Michigan P3 Bill after Transport Canada Minister Baird's UP TO $550M loan offer which is not a loan.

DUH, Canada would be able to act on BOTH sides of the river against the Bridge Company and to take action against an American company that neither Michigan or the US feds would dare try!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Windsor Tales

Here are some more thoughts for you.


A reader scolded me recently:
  • "You have been strangely silent on the contacting out of garbage-recycling."

Frankly, he is right. My defense is that I just couldn't be bothered. I know it is not a good one but that is how I felt.

There was no doubt in my mind what the result would be. How could there be considering what happened with the daycare workers and soon with the Parking enforcement officers.

Where you have a City Council that has to be re-elected based on an anti-Union campaign, there is not much point trying to convince them to do something else otherwise. The workers needed to develop a program to protect their position but I did not see anything that they did to help themselves.

Where you have a City Council that will not give its workers basic courtesy by deferring reports for a week or two so that they can properly either try and work out an arrangement to save daycare or to talk with the County Board or to investigate further into the supposed winner of a garbage RFP, then you know it is all a done deal.

Moreover, I have little respect for CUPE. It has let its members down terribly from its shameful handling of the bad faith claim against the City to its failure to take obvious steps that would have protected both the daycare workers and the garbage workers at least in the short term.

As you know, I have offered suggestions on here as to what they should consider but I've not seen any steps taken by the local leadership to suggest that they want to listen to anything that I have to say.

In the circumstances, there are a lot of other subjects for me to write about and so I have chosen to let this issue go and let others do the work about it.


Whew, it looks like Edgar (aka Eddie) may be a favourite with the Toronto media again. They must have forgotten about the disaster involving the near riot which forced the unfavorable settlements for taxpayers in both Windsor and Toronto with respect to the CUPE strikes.

Ooops, I forgot. We in Windsor believe that the hardliners won the strike.

  • "But Ford’s campaign manager Nick Kouvalis said Green spoke to a couple of city staff, including director of council services Winnie Li, telling them the Ford team was not permitted to have a campaign event in the square...

    No wonder Ford’s promises to protect the taxpayer are resonating with angry citizens.

    Despite Green’s best attempts to thwart the delivery — and the Toronto Star’s weak effort to divert the message with their “smear de jour” — Ford’s proposals respond very well to a public disenfranchised with City Hall.

    His Taxpayer Protection Plan will include opening the $1 billion in major city purchases and contracts to competitive bids and offering protection to those city employees who blow the whistle on waste, abuse and mismanagement of the public purse.

    “Taxpayers have the right to know they’re getting the best value for their money,” he said.

    “Too often ... too many purchases are negotiated behind closed doors without competitive bidding,” he added, pointing to the sole-source contract signed with Bombardier for $750 million in subway cars...

    Ford said he’ll be definitely be looking at contracting out garbage pick-up as well — following a decision by Windsor city council to do so earlier this week.

    Early Tuesday morning Windsor council voted 8-3 to award a seven-year contract to Turtle Island for 100% of its residential curbside garbage pickup. Pickup by the private sector, projected to save $8.9 million, will commence in the new year.

    No wonder Green attempted to shut down Ford on Wednesday."

Is that a Windsor boy who is Ford's campaign manager? If so, I guess there was no work here with no one running of significance yet for Mayor of Windsor.


What a coincidence that Ron McConnell is retiring now that the garbage collection may be outsourced to a private entity. He was one of the management people who was skeptical about private collection. It seemed as if Council was never given the opportunity to listen to what he had to say since more senior people made the presentations about the issue.

  • "Please join us in congratulating Anne Marie Albidone in her appointment to the position of Manager of Environmental Services...

    Anne Marie came to the Corporation in 1995 as a Plant Operator in the Pollution Control area. In 1998, she became temporary supervisor at Environmental Services and since 2005, held the position of Environmental Services Contract and Operations Administrator at Solid Waste.

    In her new capacity, Anne Marie will be challenged with the transition from public sector to private sector collection services and the reorganization of duties of various management staff in the Environmental Services area as a result of these changes."


I see that our Head of the Undevelopment Commission is flying over to England for a trade show. Flying overseas seems to be a tradition for the Undevelopment Commission people. England is so lovely at this time of the year.

However, I wonder how many jobs have been created by all of these wonderful trips.

He may as well go because I am not sure what he is accomplishing in Windsor considering that the Mayor is doing all of the development work without him:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis returned from a one-day round-trip to Montreal Tuesday saying that progress had been made in an attempt to bring further economic investment to Windsor.

    "We continue to make progress, it was a very productive meeting but we still have two or three steps to complete before we can contemplate any type of announcement," said Francis. "I'm fairly confident it will continue to go well and that we can bring this investment to Windsor."

I see that the Vice-President still does the talking for the Commission.

  • "Our objectives in attending this show are quite simple," said WEEDC vice-president Patrick Persichilli, who will be at the show with CEO Ron Gaudet."

I love this comment as well considering that it is a taxpayer paid trip:

  • "And anytime you get an opportunity to put the Windsor region on someone's radar screen, it's priceless."

I'm shocked that the Mayor did not say so far if he is going over or is he because he's not going to be at the Council meeting I am told on July 26

  • "Attending trade shows of this kind is important if the Windsor area is to stand any chance of becoming a bigger player in the aerospace sector, said Mayor Eddie Francis.

    "It's something you have to do to open up and keep open channels of communication," said Francis."

The next Farnborough International Airshow will be held from 19-25 July 2010.

I should not be so cynical. I guess that they might be following up on the fabulous success with industry members, something we have heard nothing about, during the sessions at the Red Bull air races. You remember, I Blogged about the various sessions held.

Who knows, maybe there is something going on with respect to our air industry since Montréal is a centre of aviation in Canada.


One of my inside moles found this press release in a dumpster at City Hall. I guess someone forgot to shred it. It obviously was prepared for the hugely successful one day trip of Edgar (aka Eddie) to and from Montréal as discussed above:

  • News Release

    Mayor Achieves Huge Result for Windsor, Again
    (Except We Cannot Tell You About It)

    The Office of the Mayor announced today that the Mayor will have an announcement sometime in the future. This announcement has nothing to do with previous announcements of announcements.

    "I cannot give the taxpayers any more details about my trip. At the request of the investor, I cannot tell anyone, including councillors, what I am doing," said Francis. "I would like to thank the Windsor Star for planting this story despite the fact that no one, including many councillors, knew that I was out of town. The newspaper's continued support of me is appreciated."

The Real Border Issue: The Corridor Not The Bridge


“Gateways and trade corridors are major systems of marine, road, rail and air transportation infrastructure of national significance for international commerce, within a defined geographic zone.

Gateway: a multi-modal entry/exit point through which goods and international passengers move beyond local, and even regional, markets.

Trade Corridor: a linear, multi-modal orientation of international passenger and freight flows that connect gateways to major markets.

Gateway and corridor strategies are integrated packages of long-term investment and
policy measures that advance the development and exploitation of gateways and corridors for national benefit.’

Most of us missed it, completely. One of the key parties did not, however, as I shall describe below. Our attention was too directed towards the Ambassador Bridge itself and the proposed DRIC bridge. We missed the “Big Picture.”

I could never understand why Transport Canada Minister Baird talked about the Canadian Government working for a generation or two, about 50 years, in this area. It made no sense. Oh sure, I understood that the Government wanted to take over the Ambassador Bridge. After all, that is what Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s secret mandate letter was all about. But for 50 years?

There had to be more to it than that but I could not figure out what it was until I read the opinion by the Wayne State professor that supports the Bridge Company position.

What that opinion really says is that the Government of Canada recognized that it made a mistake almost 80 years ago and that it has been trying for 50 years to correct it without tipping their hand or letting anyone understand why.

The mistake: losing control of the major trade corridor and Gateway between Canada and the United States, the entire waterfront area between Detroit and Windsor and even beyond. It must be galling for Canadian bureaucrats when they hear about the Ambassador Gateway project.

The lightbulb finally went on. I completely had ignored it after all of this time. The hints were there but I was too focused on the wrong object. The Government of Canada has known it all along since they have been working on getting control back for 50 years. Here are a couple of examples of what I overlooked even in my own BLOGs:

  •  Conservative MP Russ Hiebert has thrown support behind a plan to nationalize security, maintenance and use of border infrastructure. Bill C-3, known as the Bridges and Tunnels Act, will give the federal government exclusive authority over 29 bridges and tunnels to the U.S....This bill will allow us to fully manage trade and security at all border points, and is especially timely as the Detroit-Windsor trade corridor is growing desperate for additional border transit capacity,” the MP said"

    Given the importance of the corridor and the fact that 40% of Canada's trade goes along the corridor and adding another bridge is very essential, not only just to Ontario and Quebec but the rest of the country with our GDP so tightly wound around basically a private American operator that owns the current bridge"

Even Jeff Watson got into the game:

  •  “In my corridor, a private bridge operator is threatening the binational process for moving forward. This private interest is moving very quickly to twin the span there which really threatens to undermine a process that we are a partner in.”

Transport Canada’s “NATIONAL POLICY FRAMEWORK” talks about Windor/Detroit this way:

  • The Windsor-Detroit corridor is Canada’s busiest artery of trade. With the area handling almost 30% of total and more than 2.5 million trucks, an efficient and secure Windsor-Detroit corridor is essential to the Canadian economy.

What is the common word in all of the examples: “corridor.”

Let me go a little bit further. I said that most of us missed it. The Bridge Company did not. They obviously figured out the issue. Here is what Dan Stamper said in the Canadian Senate hearings during the Bill C-3 hearings:

  • "Mr. Stamper: The [Presidential]} permit process has developed in the U.S. by saying, "We will issue a permit for the corridor. We want to know that the corridor is in the right geographical area for the good of the U.S. We want to know that that corridor is needed. We want to know that that corridor will not affect an existing corridor.” The presidential permit being issued says, "We the U.S. have looked at that and said the corridor is good." That is why the current presidential permit process says, "We are not going to affect or remove rights that a current corridor has because we issued that right to be there.

    Mr. Stamper: The bureaucrats projected the traffic growth at the Blue Water Bridge by taking it away from the corridor in Windsor, Detroit...

    This attempt at Blue Water failed mainly because they built everything but what was needed, which was additional inspection booths for customs. The attempt now by the bureaucrats, if they could not move the traffic from Detroit-Windsor corridor to Sarnia-Port Huron, is to build a bridge in the Windsor corridor and compete with us, but they cannot do it on a straight-up competition, and they know it. They have to have Bill C-3 to take our away business legally."

It is the corridor that Canada wants to control not just the Ambassador Bridge. The corridor includes that bridge, any new Bridge, the Tunnel and the existing and proposed rail tunnel and whatever else might be constructed in the future. Remember the breadth of the P3 language as to what facilities it can cover.

Here is the key section of what the Professor said that made me see clearly what this is all about.

Note the extent of the grant. It is NOT to a specific location. Rather it is:

  • "within or near the city limits of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan."

The Canadian legislation must be comparable.

That is the corridor that Canada signed away in an agreement with the United States and now wants back any way it can. Canada gave it all away to the Bridge Company, the entire corridor and is now desperate to get it back even if it means becoming an Instrumentality of Government of Michigan to do so through a P3 Bill.

For those looking for the word "exclusive," it is not necessary. If there had been the desire to allow another person to build a bridge in that territory, the right granted would have been "non-exclusive."

Considering where the Governments want to build the DRIC bridge, such construction would interfere with the grant given to the Bridge Company and therefore would be illegal.

In passing, presumably, both Congress and Parliament might be able to pass new legislation permitting the DRIC bridge to be built. However, in this case, the Government would have to pay to the Ambassador Bridge Company compensation for taking away part of the right granted to them. The anomalous position would be that yes, the Government could build the DRIC bridge but would have to pay a huge sum of money to the Ambassador Bridge Company for the business that they would be taking away from them. And we know how much that is according to the DRIC engineers... up to 75% or so. Triple the truck traffic of today as Minister Baird continually keeps telling us.

Don't you get it? The Governments would be paying twice for a bridge across the Detroit River: once for the DRIC bridge and once for the Ambassador Bridge traffic that was lost. Is it any wonder now that the Prime Minister wanted to buy the Ambassador Bridge!

Transport Canada's policy says it all:

  • "Gateways and trade corridors are major systems of marine, road, rail and air transportation infrastructure."

No wonder that Canada wants a P3 Bill in Michigan with it being an Instrumentality of Government of Michigan that covers such facilities as "international highway, bridge, tunnel, ferry, airport, port facility, locks rail facility, intermodal or other public transit facility."

You see, dear reader, Canada has corridors and gateways in the Atlantic region and in the Pacific region of our country that we control so we have some influence over trade and commerce into and out of the US. For 50 years, we have been trying to control the centre of North America.

It is so close that the bureaucrats can taste it. If it wasn't for that damn Bridge Company.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Border Banter

Just a few thoughts on items that caught my eye over the past few weeks.


The things you learn that help make things understandable such as Chrysler's Sergio Marchionne's backing of DRIC:
  • James J. Blanchard

    Board of Directors, Chrysler Group LLC

    James J. Blanchard was appointed to the Board of Directors of Chrysler Group LLC on July 6, 2009.

Paisano...did you know that Giacomo

  • "is a $630-per-hour consultant to the DRIC project as a subcontractor of the Southfield office Louisville-based The Corradino Group.

    Corradino is a principal DRIC contractor, orchestrating environmental, traffic and engineering studies.

    He was hired as a DRIC consultant in 2007."

Did you expect him to tell you all the negatives about the DRIC bridge, mio amico? Have you asked him yet what the tolls would be on the new DRIC bridge for

  • "Each day, Chrysler moves more than 1,300 shipments, some 2,000 cars and trucks, and makes 1,600 entries per day at the Detroit-Windsor border, he noted. Hundreds of the automaker’s employees cross the border to work in the U.S. or Canada."

Some have said they could quadruple! That would increase the price of your vehicles wouldn't it?

What about the toll revenue shortfalls, Sergio, did Blanchard explain to you how they would be paid for? Perhaps higher taxes on your profits?

I like how the Detroit media reported the Mackinac visit by Sergio where he gave his pro-DRIC speech:

Crains reported:

  • "Marchionne's dinner companions before his speech included former Gov. James Blanchard, now the UAW's representative on the Chrysler board and an adviser to a major consultant on the Michigan Department of Transportation's DRIC project."

I guess the Free Press forgot

  • "Marchionne traveled to the island accompanied by Robert Kidder, Chrysler’s chairman, and former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, a Chrysler board member appointed by the UAW-run retiree health care trust that that is Chrysler’s largest shareholder."


How dare Dietrich Bergmann cast any doubt on the DRIC. There can only be one reason he is against it. Listen to this

It was like a blast from the past that gave me chills when I heard Senator Bash-him ask a question like this. Nothing like trying to smear a person who attends as a witness.

Perhaps the Senator can explain why he was so nice to Representative Gonzales, a DRIC supporter, and did not ask him who gave him campaign contributions.

  • "As for the DRIC, only Dillon is for it, having guided legislation authorizing the project through the House last week. Hoekstra and Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder have reservations and Bouchard, Attorney General Mike Cox, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and Sen. Tom George are all again’ it."

Here is what the candidates for Governor in Michigan are saying about their support for DRIC:

  • Mike Cox said he doesn't support the project

  • Tom George said “the question is, will it help Michigan. I don't believe it will.

  • Rick Snyder said Michigan “should be a transportation hub,” but he has questions that need to be answered about the public-private partnership model.

  • Virg Bernero said he opposes the DRIC-related legislation as written, but thinks there is a need for a second span.

  • Mike Bouchard said they have received money from the Ambassador Bridge owners, and Bouchard said that “if we've got a private sector investor that's willing to build the bridge, let's take our money, time and investment elsewhere. He said he believes twinning the Ambassador, based on traffic studies, is the appropriate step.

  • Peter Hoekstra said he's in favor of a public-private partnership to build a second bridge, using private money but he said that "we don't need charity from Canada"

  • Andy Dillon, who has supported the House-passed legislation that would allow the Michigan Department of Transportation to enter into public-private partnerships, said that investors are “not going to spend over $1 billion” on the DRIC if traffic doesn't justify the project, and that costs would be borne by the private sector.


I saw this story:

  • "Granholm Urges Legislature to Send Anti-Bullying Bill to Her Desk

    In her weekly radio address, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today urged the Michigan Legislature to send her a bill that will help end harassment and bullying in schools.'

While it is not the same, I do not think that the Governor and the Michigan Legislators would be amused with these comments heard in a Canadian House of Commons Committee meeting in relation to the Minister recently:

  • "The proceedings quickly turned into a scene unbecoming of elected officials when Baird began shouting, questioning whether the committee chair knew what she was doing and declared himself ready to answer questions about the goings-on in his office.

    "Any member of Parliament, any one of the 308 members of Parliament, are entitled to come to committee, they are entitled to be heard," Baird said.

    "And Madame Chair, while I cannot vote, I am an elected member of Parliament and I am here to be heard. And I appreciate that it only took me 50 times to be able to ask to be heard, because you don't know the rules, and it is an absolute disgrace. I'm here as a member of Parliament, and I have every right to be heard."

    Committee chair and Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi told Baird that "you are speaking as a witness, so decide what you want. You can't have it both ways..."

    Baird interrupted to say he never claimed to be a witness, to which Ratansi retorted: "Good, ‘bye."

    In another exchange, committee member and Liberal MP Siobhan Coady said "bullies in the schoolyard should never be listened to."

    "Are you trying to intimidate me, Minister Baird?" Coady later yelled. "Because I'll put myself up against you any day on intimidation factors. Don't try to intimidate me, ever!"


Now you will understand why people have turned to BLOGs for analysis:

  • Detroit Free Press "Study: New bridge can rake in $108M"

  • Windsor Star "DRIC bridge toll revenue set at $59.9M" "DRIC would be cash cow"

Not one word about the financing costs and the huge shortfalls that someone has to pay for!

And the newspapers wonder why people look elsewhere for information.

At least the specialized business paper in Detroit had the story right although their headline could have been a bit better:

  • "DRIC span annual revenue estimated at $60 million in first year

    Absent from the predictions are the annual construction financing debt payments. MDOT and the other DRIC partners want a private sector partner to finance, build and operate the bridge itself, and would put all financing payments and risk on the operator.

    Its assumed tolls would pay the construction and operational costs — something disputed by some infrastructure industry analysts who say the border traffic estimates upon which the revenue predictions are based are too optimistic.

    Most of the private-sector early-interest bids on the project also doubted tolls could cover the financing costs, and instead called for guaranteed government payments. The state has said it is confident that the small number of bids that believe tolls can pay for the project will force other bidders to fall in line."


I thought that the AG letter to Rep Opsommer was pretty clear on that.

However, now there is even more:

  • "State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the House bill is flawed. He said Senate Republicans believe a second span is needed, but that the House-passed legislation is flawed and possibly illegal. Bishop said he will ask Attorney General Mike Cox to determine if it is unconstitutional.

    Bishop questioned the constitutionality of creating autonomous authority operated by the state transportation department, the Canadian government and private contractors.

    The federal constitution says a state is not allowed to enter into any kind of agreement with a foreign power like that,” Bishop said. “I’m concerned it’s directly contrary to our United States Constitution.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

DRIC Road/Bridge Beauty Contest Winner Announced

It's just like the Miss Universe contest.

All of those foreign companies who responded to the TC/MDOT RFPOI, wearing their finest gowns and skimpiest bathing suits as they flash their big smiles so that they could win the prize of DRIC P3 investor. The gifts are huge: billions of dollars of guaranteed DRIC availability payments (assuming they are legal) by ripping off tax-payers for 50 years or more on both sides of the border. It really is a no-brainer----for the winner. It's like money in the bank at a guaranteed rate of return with no risk, taxpayer money to boot!

Michigan represntative Opsommer has been hinting about OMERS's role in DRIC:
  • "Why risk it? All of our bridges were constructed via specific legislation that did not grant MDOT new powers. It would be bad policy to cede tolling approval for the sake of one DRIC project. Also, it is important to note there is no "free bridge" as the $550 million dollars Canada would "give" us is a loan that would be repaid through tolls on Michigan drivers. (Speculation is that the Canadian pension fund OMERS would be a 99-year investor.) The Legislature would have no say in toll increases, which would be set by MDOT and the investor."

Since the Representative has opened the door to speculation, let's close it and give the answer who the winner is.

The beauty pageant winner? Who will be named as the fairest of the fair DRIC P3 proponents and be awarded the prize of excessive billions of taxpayers dollars if DRIC-ites get their way?

It is as easy to guess as speculating that the DRIC Engineers were never going to choose the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project as the new crossing for our border. Except we know that Prime Minister Harper really wants to buy that bridge as the media reported on his secret mandate letter and why Transport Minister Baird supposedly offered $550M to pass the Michigan P3 legislation.

This is a public service announcement BLOG to warn two of the bidders on the Ontario DRIC road P3 project and many of the MDOT/Transport Canada RFPOI proponents to save their time, effort and money. Avoid disappointment. They have absolutely no chance of winning. So if you, dear reader, do not want to read the convoluted corporate machinations about how I came to my conclusion, then you are free to skip this BLOG.

If on the other hand, you want to understand how I can be so sure of what I am speculating, read on.

Actually, since the DRIC project is clearly now Canada's, and MDOT does what it is told, this BLOG really covers the entire DRIC Project since it will all be grouped into one big project, all of it. And the winner will take all.

The Blogmeister is pleased to be able to let you know well in advance who the winner of the beauty pageant to build the DRIC Road is. Oh sure, I know nothing is supposed to happen until the end of the year but why keep you in suspense for so long.

Here are the 3 lovely contestants who have been short-listed by our judge, Infrastructure Ontario. Well before that, as I have told you before, Gord is actually the one who gave it away a long time ago. I wonder if his provincial government insider gave him the scoop because it came in a pre-emptive strike against local contractors to make sure they do not get their hopes up:

  • "I don't know about you, but it would be this taxpaying motorist's worst nightmare if the most costly highway development in Ontario's history were to wind up being administered by some mom-and-pop Windsor company that would be in way over its head and unable to deliver the goods in a timely manner...

    Think about it. When the feds built the $1-billion Confederation Bridge linking P.E.I. with New Brunswick in the 1990s, did they hand the assignment to local boy Bud The Spud and his trusty backhoe? No. They awarded the project to a major Calgary-based firm, Strait Crossing Inc., which provided outside expertise but employed thousands of local workers and completed this remarkable link in less than three years...

    Windsor-area residents, who will have to endure a living hell during the anticipated four years of construction, with noise, dirt and traffic gridlock, have every reason to want this done by the most talented and fast-paced company, regardless of nationality, that money can buy."

Hmmm, only one company named. Interesting. And we know how well-connected Gord is.

The best a local can be as mini-Gord re-inforced is as a sub-contractor:

  • "Cocos still player in parkway

    Members of the local construction industry were shocked last week when the Coco Group of Companies was knocked out of the running to build the multibillion-dollar Windsor-Essex Parkway...

    But don't go crying for the Cocos. They're going to make millions on the Parkway project anyway. They would have raked in the profits had they won the grand prize to own half of this gigantic contract, but they'll do just fine as subcontractors to whichever international consortium is chosen to helm the job."

I wonder for whom the Cocos will be a sub. Have they ever introduced a major contrator to Windsorites? If so, that would give us a big hint. Let the traditional media ask them for an answer. I can guess whom they saw, can't you, if anyone.

There, you have it. The winner is the group with Strait Crossing Inc as part of it. Straight from Gord's mouth (Oooops, sorry, bad pun). Or rather by way of the provincial government insider who really does know everything. [I wonder if you can guess who he/she is.] Only one company named in his whole column. But wait you say, you remember who the contestants are from a previous BLOG and they are not named there:

  • - Rose City Parkway Group including:
    - Aecon Concessions is a division of Aecon Construction Group Inc.
    - Fengate Capital
    - Dufferin, a division of Holcim (Canada) Inc.
    - The Miller Group
    - MMM Group Limited
    - Macquarie Capital Group Limited
    - HOCHTIEF PPP Solution North America Inc.
    - Peter Kiewit Sons Co.
    - AECOM Canada Ltd.
    - H.W. Lochner
    - Thurber Engineering Ltd.
    - Applied Research Associates, Inc.
    - RC Spencer Associates Inc.
    - West 8

    - Windsor-Essex Transportation Partners including:
    - Carillion Canada Inc.
    - The Bank of Nova Scotia
    - Stantec Consulting Ltd.
    - PCL
    - Bilfinger Berger Project Investments
    - HSBC Specialist Investments Ltd (HSBC Infrastructure)
    - John Laing Investments Limited (John Laing)
    - Walsh Construction Company, a subsidiary of The Walsh Group, Ltd.
    - Parsons Corporation
    - Trow Associates Inc.

    - Windsor Essex Mobility Group including:
    - Dilion Consulting Limited
    - RBC Dominion Securities Inc.
    - Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras, S. A.
    - Acciona, S.A.
    - Fluor Canada Ltd.
    - Dragados Canada Inc.
    - Acciona Infrastructure Canada, Inc.
    - Hatch Mott MacDonald Ltd.
    - AMEC Earth and Environmental, Ltd.

Don't you just love the word "including." It is who is being hidden that makes this fun.

Ahhh, but you have to do some research to find out how Strait Crossing Inc got there. And the PEI Confederation bridge is a key fact to remember.

Let's start here:

  • Strait Crossing Inc.

    In 1988 a new, special purpose corporation, STRAIT CROSSING INC. (SCI), was established to undertake the $1.0 billion Confederation Bridge Project. Nearly all the senior staff of W. A. Stephenson and SCI Engineers & Constructors were transferred to lead the complete financing, design and construction of this major project.

Then this:

  • SC Infrastructure Inc. (“SCI”) Armbro, in conjunction with Strait Crossing Inc., formed SCI as a wholly owned subsidiary of Armbro effective December 1, 1997. The transaction involved SCI’s purchase of all of the noncontract assets of Capital Projects Group Inc. (“CPGI”), the principal operating subsidiary of Strait Crossing Inc. In addition, SCI retained all of CPGI’s senior management and staff. Based in Calgary, Alberta, it operates in North America and internationally. SCI combines Armbro’s experience in the development, construction and operation of infrastructure with Strait Crossing Inc.’s expertise in infrastructure development, design, financing, construction and operations.

    Strait Crossing Inc., as the sponsoring joint venture partner, led the consortium that completed the development, financing, design, construction and commissioning of operations of the awardwinning $1.0 billion Confederation Bridge between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. For the past 20 years, senior management and staff of CPGI have provided project leadership for the construction of numerous high profile infrastructure projects in North America.

Guess who became the owner of SCI: Armbro Enterprises Inc.

  • "1999 was a year of significant achievements for Armbro. It was a year that marked Armbro’s 70th anniversary. But more importantly, it was a year that set a new benchmark for performance and created a new foundation for Armbro’s growth.

    A large part of that foundation was put in place in December 1999 with our acquisition of BFC Construction Corporation (“BFC”), the most recent in a series of strategic acquisitions that included SC Infrastructure (“SCI”) in 1997 and Miwel Construction in 1998. BFC adds its own long and proud history, dating to 1910, to that of Armbro’s. BFC was already a partner with Armbro in delivering several key projects such as the ground-breaking Highway 407 located just north of Toronto – Canada’s first all electronic toll highway and the Highway 104 toll road in Nova Scotia...

    infrastructure development _ Through SC Infrastructure Inc. (“SCI”) as well as through our interest in Canadian Highways International Corporation (“CHIC”), Armbro Enterprises is working with governments and their agencies to find new ways of conceiving, planning, financing, designing, developing, building and operating their infrastructure projects. Armbro has participated in a significant number of public-private partnerships world wide."

Then Ambro changed its name: Aecon Group Inc (formerly Armbro Enterprises Inc)

Do you remember, part of the Rose City group is Aecon Concessions, a division of Aecon Construction Group Inc. Aecon Construction Group, Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Aecon Group Inc.

  • "Aecon Concessions

    Aecon Concessions brings the specialized capabilities and diverse strengths of the Aecon Group and its strategic partners to the development of domestic and international Public-Private Partnership (P3) and Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) projects. Within these projects, Aecon plays a pivotal role as an investor, constructor and/or operator."

In fact, I was astounded that the Aecon President knew so much about the DRIC Road and to mention it specifically in the firm's annual report:

  • June 17, 2008 ""The road building budget for the Ministry of Transportation has doubled over the last few years … and there is more work to be done.

    But while MTO is one of our most important customers, it is not the only transportation infrastructure game in Ontario.

    Plans are well advanced for the new $3 billion Detroit Windsor crossing scheduled for completion in 2014 …and we plan to be there."

And then this in June, 2009:

  • "We see an excellent bidding pipeline of new project opportunities coming on stream in 2009 and 2010. In particular, the appetite for “big transit, big highway and big energy projects” has never been stronger.

    To give you an idea of the scale of the work that is being conceived, looking out through to 2010, we have visibility on between $3 and $4 billion worth of P3 transportation projects ... and that is just in the Greater Toronto Area.

    The same thing is happening in other parts of the province– with projects like the Detroit/Windsor crossing..

    Aecon is well positioned to participate in its fair share of these projects. The field of qualified bidders for this kind of work is smaller and the margins can end up being better than what we see on smaller projects"

While not as precise, the Aecon people said in 2010:

  • "Today, Aecon is doing more work in more parts of Canada than ever before. But we believe this is only the beginning of what Aecon is now poised to achieve.

    With our added size and diversification, comes the opportunity to increase the SCALE of the projects we pursue. Canada is a very big country. When we build things, we tend to build them big.

    And when project sponsors look around for the contractors that can help them achieve these big dreams, Aecon is now clearly seen as one of a select handful of firms that makes the cut...

    This change signals an important trend.

    As Aecon has become more diversified in the scope and geographic reach of our capabilities, and as our capacity has grown, we have been successful in winning and managing larger, more complex and higher value contracts...

    As Aecon moves ‘up market’ in terms of the type of contracts that we pursue, a number of good things happen.

    First, we find the competitive field less crowded. There are only so many contractors that have the experience, resources and surety capacity to qualify for these projects.

    Second, bidding is more disciplined as these larger more seasoned competitors operate under very structured environments and stay very focused on profit.

    And third, larger projects will frequently see us participating with partners...

    The vast majority of our revenue is derived from contracts that are let either directly or indirectly by governments or large multi-national companies."

No wonder Gord smashed the local contractors!

Oh and surely you did not forget this important connection between AECON's head honcho and Windsor:

  • "The tony Toronto enclave Rosedale is abuzz this week with talk of a love match between well-known financial journalist Diane Francis -she writes a column in the National Post - and building baron John Beck.

    Mr. Beck is CEO and chairman of Aecon Group, which is the largest publicly traded construction and infrastructure company..."

I explained what happened between them and Windsor's role in that in this BLOG:

Then I found this:

  • "Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP was recently involved in the following transactions:

    acting for the lenders to the Rose City Parkway Group consortium (with Macquarie, Hochtief, Aecon and Fengate as sponsors), which has been short-listed to design, build, finance and maintain the Windsor-Essex Parkway in Ontario."

Pshaw, you say. Blogmeister, you can do better than that. That is not enough information.

All right ye of little faith. Remember that the Confederation Bridge is important. Why----guess who is involved in its ownership:

  • "OMERS acquires Interest in the Confederation Bridge

    (Toronto - June 2, 2003) OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System), has announced today that its subsidiary, BPC Maritime Corporation, has reached agreement with Ballast Nedam Canada Developments Inc. (Ballast Nedam) to acquire a 34% share of Strait Crossing Development Inc. (SCDI)."

And guess who owns MMM Group Ltd. part of the Rose City Group:

  • "MMM president and chief executive officer Bruce Bodden said in an interview...

    his firm’s partnership with Borealis Capital Corp., which recently made a “significant” investment in MMM, together with its newly expanded capacity, will allow the firm to take on increasingly larger roles on complex projects while increasing its strength in key sectoral markets and considering new geographic ones."

I saw this on MMM's website:

  • "MMM was subsequently retained to provide due diligence technical services by Borealis Capital Corporation for its purchase of the bridge. MMM also sits on the technical review committee for ongoing bridge services."

You would not be surprised to know that:

  • "MMM is providing program management, transportation planning and design, environmental approvals, construction administration, mapping and surveying, and other services for the Detroit River Tunnel Project."

But I especially liked this connection between OMERS and AECON:

  • "The Ontario Power Authority has the job of ensuring that the people of this province have the power they need to light their homes and run their businesses.

    Aecon is part of the solution. A consortium comprised of Trans Canada, OMERS and CAMECO is investing more than $5 billion to upgrade the Bruce Nuclear plant on Lake Huron.

    Aecon’s Industrial Group is participating, together with SNC Lavalin, in a $200 million joint venture to upgrade, repair and replace numerous systems and equipment in the facility."

Bruce nuclear plant...wasn't Windsor's own Spanky the Minister of Energy at the time. The deal over Bruce was criticized by the Ontario Auditor General. But did our Dwight Duncan get upset about the extra money spent:

  • "Still, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said he would sign the same deal all over again.

    "The trade-off is what you pay for power," said Duncan, who was energy minister when the deal was negotiated, before becoming finance minister in October 2005 for seven months and then returning to the energy job."

OMG...will he say that as Finance Minister when the DRIC Road deal costs too much too!

Don't you find it interesting that Macquarie is part of the Rose City group too. They also submitted a proposal to finance the DRIC Bridge as a P3.

Wow, aren't they lucky they sold off their interest in the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel to Alinda. They probably would not have been allowed to bid since then they might be considered to be in a quasi-monopoly position the way Moroun was accused when he made a bid to operate the Tunnel for Detroit. What an insightful move by Macquarie.

I wrote this in March, 2007:

  • "Are the City and Macquarie working together too? Are Windsor, the Feds and Macquarie working together?

    My brain was reeling. I noted that Gowlings works for competitors of the Bridge Co. I knew that at one time they were Governance Counsel for Borealis too.

    Oh no.....Were Windsor, the Feds and Macquarie working together along with Borealis?

    Were Macquarie and Borealis going to be the P3 partner for the new border crossing?"

But, but, but you say...where is the OMERS/Borealis name on the short-list?

Get real. They cannot appear there. They just announced a competitive DRTP tunnel deal that could take away a whole bunch of the DRIC traffic and could put them in a quasi-monopoly position too!

And have you forgotten what its leader, Michael Nobrega, really wants to do. He wants to be Canada's equivalent to a Macquarie Bank and be an investment manager for other pension funds because of OMERS' infrastructure skills, not just a pension fund manager for Ontario employees:

  • "The C$60billion Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System is currently seeking about three partners for a C$20 billion “global strategic investment alliance with like-minded investors to jointly own large-scale infrastructure and real estate assets”. The alliance, the brain child of OMERS CEO Michael Nobrega, is set up so that the LPs can bypass the GPs but still get great access to deals by virtue of the sheer amount of capital they have to deploy...

    The fee structure is as follows: two of OMERS’ investment arms, Borealis and Oxford, will source and manage investments. In the first five years, Borealis and Oxford will receive an annual asset management fee of 50 basis points on equity under management. A management board that will oversee the alliance will charge an additional fee of 35 basis points on invested capital to reimburse expenses...

    “What we’re trying to do is get access to large-scale, alpha projects. And having an extra fee here or there really doesn’t do it for us,” Nobrega said. “We really need to get the preferential product through capital formation. And that’s where the pension fund makes its wind – not through a carried interest.”

And he wants big bucks too---to be like the Canada Pension Plan it seems:

  • "Michael Nobrega, president and chief executive of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), wants the Ontario government to enact legislative changes immediately to make it easier for people in the province to save for their retirement...

    "I never believe these things happen with a big bang; these things are always incremental," Mr. Nobrega said. But he would like to see the Ontario government, through its legislative powers on pension plans, tweak its rules and allow individuals to join major pension plans already in existence.

    OMERS and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the two largest pension plans in the province, are available only to their constituents. But with a little legislative imagination, these plans could be open to anyone who wants to join, and ease the pension woes of people who are not covered by a plan, Mr. Nobrega contends."

And this

  • "OMERS is one of Canada's top pension plans, with more than C$43 billion ($41 billion) in assets under management, but Nobrega has argued it needs to be bigger to be able to take advantage of global opportunities.

    "I think anything under C$100 billion, you can't play," he told BNN television in an interview. "OMERS itself will grow organically over the next three to four years into the C$70 billion-C$80 billion range."

    Nobrega said OMERS -- the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System -- has not held merger talks with the country's other major pension funds, but has been approached by mid-size funds with assets under management in the C$5 billion to C$13 billion range to invest together in global opportunities.

    "Empirically, we have found that scale has worked to our advantage with respect to returns."

And just so you think I am NOT kidding, this was said back in 2009:

  • "Mr. Nobrega did not mince words when he told the audience that the government should mandate through legislation of private and public sector funds to create more such "super-funds." He argued that OMERS must be one of those funds because it was an industry leader in the area of infrastructure investing.

    Mr. Nobrega's pitch sounded like more of a plea to government. But he made a solid case.

    OMERS, he argued, "led the renaissance in the nuclear industry in this province... invested in the bricks and mortar of our healthcare infrastructure, (and) we are currently invested in the Windsor/Detroit border crossing where one of the largest infrastructure programs must take place in order to produce hundreds of thousands of jobs."

    In short, OMERS has paid its dues, he said."

Now you know why the DRTP Tunnel is so visible again. It's Nobrega's way of telling everyone the project is owed to him. Everything, the DRIC road, the financing of DRIC or rather the Ambassador Bridge purchase and the building of the twinned bridge beside it.

And the winner is....Representative Opsommer was right!

Survey Results: Most Expect Edgar To Break His Promise

The latest WindsorCityBlog survey results are in.

Fewer than 20% of my readers who voted expect Edgar (aka Eddie) to keep his word about running for only 2 terms.

Almost 50% of my readers expect Edgar to break his promise and run for a third term.

The balance, don't know, don't care or live outside of Windsor.

Looking at Windsorites only who had an opinion, almost 72% of them think Edgar will run again.

The interesting question that I did not ask is whether Edgar running again is a good idea or a bad one for Windsor. That will come another time.

As for me, my own view is that it does not matter what Edgar will say or do on July 20. It is nothing more than a ploy for whatever it is that he has already planned out a long time ago. We are nothing more than pawns in Edgar's chess game as he calls the moves.

Unanswered Questions

I wonder if the City auditors have started working on the arena audit yet and how many years it will take before the public gets to see it. Will it be another Dunbar audit fiasco?

There are so many "unanswered questions" surrounding that project. Actually, that expression is starting to dominate the Windsor political scene.

Everywhere you look these days there are questions that are unanswered lying around it seems, just begging to be dealt with. But no one does. Does that seem fair to you?

Here are just a few typical examples:

  1. "I think our members are going to be very upset by this ... this still leaves unanswered questions," Local 543 president Jean Fox said of the board's decision not to hold a hearing.
  2. Well, the Olympic Games are over and Stephen Harper stated he prorogued Parliament to stop and think. Upon reading government-related articles in The Windsor Star, I have some unanswered questions. (Letter to the Editor)
  3. 'A lot of unanswered questions' around Essex animal deaths
  4. Paul Fields at Council saying that there were "unanswered questions" and missing information about the 400 audit
  5. But while the big [DRIC] cable-stayed bridge and associated highway approaches could shift into gear possibly next year, one of the big unanswered questions is how it will be tendered and financed.
  6. Detroit's council has so far refused to establish its new tunnel authority because of too many unanswered questions around the [Tunnel] deal.
  7. County councillors unanimously called for a halt Wednesday to any attempt to close Windsor and Essex County daycare centres until there's been broad consultation with parents, staff and the county itself.

    Councillors cited too many unanswered questions to even consider the recommendations of a city social services department report to close in the coming months all seven daycare centres in the city and county, as well as two satellite operations in schools.
  8. "Again, I have no idea what conversations took place between them and the proponent. It's not part of what showed up on the audit. Those are questions left unanswered."
  9. Yet events this week seem to suggest that the original audit contained information about activities that some might consider malfeasance.

    Obfuscation on fiduciary matters is troubling and raises issues beyond the ones addressed monday night.

    Even those who think these actions were justified to avoid a lawsuit would have to agree there are still many unanswered questions.
  10. Despite tightened security at U.S. airports and unanswered questions about how Abdulmuttalab escaped notice until it was almost too late, business proceeded as usual at Windsor’s airport on Monday
  11. There are so many unanswered questions to a proposal to link Point Pelee with Hillman Marsh that the Essex Region Conservation Authority board had no choice but to send a consultant's report to Leamington to find out what council and residents think about it .
  12. But Mayor Eddie Francis questioned in a phone interview Monday the need for an audit and accused Halberstadt of "creating a cloud of suspicion where there should be none."

    He said there were no "unanswered questions" and that Halberstadt was part of the discussions on the new arena until "declaring a conflict at the 11th hour."

    "If he wanted answers to the questions, he should have stayed on as part of the process," said Francis.

Wow, do you see what I mean. All of those questions that are just waiting to be answered but who has the time to do it.

Now I do not want to be the one who has to tell Edgar (aka Eddie) this but I think a lot of people do have questions that they want answered over the Arena deal. Take the Pizza Queen, she has one:

  • "Windsor's audit committee hopes to confirm a new auditor general in three weeks. It's asking council for a budget of half a million dollars.

    One of the first tasks could be an audit of the construction of the WFCU Centre. It should include the question people still ask: Did the city receive value when it swapped downtown land for the arena site?"

So to provide a service to the Mayor, I would ask the Audit Committee to direct Angela Berry to find the answers to these specific questions since she is going to do the work anyway. If you can add to the list, dear reader, please let me know:

  1.  How and why did a public-private partnership concept to build an arena downtown at a maximum City cost of $15m and no other risk wind up in the East End with a City-run project at 100% with all risk on taxpayers
  2.  Beztak rejection---was it fair how they were attacked in such depth but not anyone else
  3.  Was this all a done deal and worked out in advance
  4.  Was the process all a phony but designed to select a favoured company regardless of cost
  5.  Was Project Ice Track (PIT) treated the pits
  6.  Were the Spitfires tied up by the City so PIT could never get them
  7.  Were there unreported collateral deals not in the City’s interest to get the deal

  8.  Was the business case justifying the arena a proper one based on reality or was it based on a dream that bore no relationship to reality especially based on the actual experience
  9.  How could an arena to be built in Port Huron in 1999 cost so little today especially when much of the concrete forms to be used were all scrapped
  10.  Was the City “extraed” to death
  11.  Where was PCR for all of the years of the arena debate and how did they just appear all of a sudden and after one or two letters become the contractor of choice
  12.  Why were the other possible proponents just noted and filed
  13.  Was the Purchasing by-law circumvented thereby allowing another MFP-type deal (If so, what happened to all of the protections we thought that the PWC report was to give us)
  14.  Was there validity for the single source justification

  15.  Why was it not mentioned that the City had its own arena plans which it purchased and why weren't they used
  16.  Was the Spitfires lease deal a good one for the City considering the huge sums to which the Spitfires are entitled over the term of the agreement
  17.  What was the total cost of the project and was it "on budget" based on original costs
  18.  Were any“overage” costs buried in Departmental budgets and if so, which ones
  19.  Should the developer where the arena land was purchased have paid some of the costs normally that the City has paid,
  20.  Why was his land picked and not others that cost less in the area
  21.  Did the City do proper due diligence before doing the deal with Mr. Farhi
  22.  Did we get value for money ie what was left out to be paid for after the next election eg parking
  23.  Did we get comparable arenas at the East end site with the smaller City arenas that are supposed to be closed (eg less seating)
  24.  Why was a sound system not included originally in the package but added subsequently
  25.  Was the land exchange PLUS paying for the cleanup PLUS the 3 year tax holiday a good one for the City
  26.  Why was everything rush, rush, rush to get everything done before the Council term ended eg no definitive plans and yet the deal was signed at the last Council meeting and is this a proper way to do municipal business
  27.  Were there environmental issues there that were “buried”
  28.  Are there still environmental issues eg Wickes plant takeover which means the City may to clean up arena lands if hazards migrated
  29.  What was the role of the Casino in all of this, if any
  30.  Are legitimate arena costs now charged to General Revenues since the project is finished eg interest costs on borrowings and if so, how much
  31.  Was the PIT Price Waterhouse Report correct in its analysis?

Oh so many questions. Oh so few answers unless the auditors help out. Wouldn't it be nice if their work was completed before the election in October too!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tip Of The City's Litigation Iceberg

It is starting to get ugly and expensive as I have warned before. There are consequences to actions.

It is obviously the start of massive litigation against the City of Windsor. The Bridge Company has sued the City for bad faith in passing the Interim Control by-law and the Anti-Demolition by-law and is seeking monetary damages.

The effect on Windsor taxpayers can be quite substantial down the road. Let me explain.

One of the Councillors should ask tonight whether this lawsuit, the legal fees and damages, are covered by the City’s insurance policy. If they are, frankly it is no big deal depending on what the deductible is and the maximum amount of the Insurance Policy. Assuming that the deductible is low and the coverage is very high, then taxpayers do not have all that much to be worried about, especially if the maximum claim is only $250,000.

I thought that the City had increased its deductible to $250,000. If that is the case, then, depending on the wording of the policy, there may be no insurance coverage for this particular claim at all and all of the legal costs may have to be borne by the City. Those could be quite substantial, perhaps running in the hundreds of thousands of dollars especially if the City loses. Nevertheless, the City could bear that risk.

However, remember that the Bridge Company has an outstanding claim for over $3 billion in its NAFTA claim. What if a lawsuit down the road goes after the City for that amount for bad faith. I would strongly doubt that there is a policy in existence that would cover the extent of a claim that large although I may be wrong since I have no idea what the City’s insurance policy says. Accordingly, taxpayers would be responsible for any excess over the insurance limits. (Technically, the City would be responsible and taxpayers would have to make up the amount through property taxes. I wonder what the tax increase would be for a billion-dollar damages judgment).

But what if there is no insurance at all that covers a “bad faith” claim. Again, I have no idea what the City’s policy covers but in a normal case, errors and omissions and liability policies do not cover bad faith which is a deliberate act. That type of action is not normally what insurance policies cover.

In this case, if this is the first of many “bad faith” claims, then we as taxpayers have a lot to be concerned about. Legal costs would be horrific… just remember the millions our legal weapon of mass destruction cost us for his border legal fees. However, these amounts would be miniscule in a major claim for damages and probably punitive damages if the Bridge Company was successful in a bad faith claim against the City. The amounts could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars or even higher… perhaps in the billions. Just remember that Minister Baird said that traffic volumes would triple. That sets a nice price for losses. Don't forget delays in moving forward eg interest costs alone on a billion dollar project..

Who pays for this other than taxpayers?

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Depending on the wording of the insurance policy or lack thereof, I would have thought that the City should be considering suing those members of Council who are responsible for the bad faith claim. What should be done I would have thought at this stage is to Third Party those members and in effect seek indemnification from them.

That would be a fascinating turn of events as well. We would have one Member of Council going after another Member. That puts the Member's personal assets at risk. Presumably now, they ought to be seeking their own independent legal advice.

But what if Council decided to do nothing, to not seek an indemnity from those responsible on Council. Frankly, I'm not sure what happens next other than perhaps an action by a taxpayer against Council seeking that Indemnity.

You may think that this is a tempest in a teapot because after all a Member of Council would seek indemnification from the City for any damages in any event. I'm not so certain that that would be allowed even if the City wanted to do so. Here's what the Municipal Act says:
  • "Immmunity

    448. (1) No proceeding for damages or otherwise shall be commenced against a member of council or an officer, employee or agent of a municipality or a person acting under the instructions of the officer, employee or agent for any act done in good faith in the performance or intended performance of a duty or authority under this Act or a by-law passed under it or for any alleged neglect or default in the performance in good faith of the duty or authority."

It would not seem therefore that the City would be prohibited from seeking indemnification from someone who did not act in good faith.

While not exactly on point, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act says

  • "Insurance

    14. (1) Despite section 279 of the Municipal Act, 2001 or section 218 of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, as the case may be, the council of every municipality may at any time pass by-laws,

    (a) for contracting for insurance;

    (b) despite the Insurance Act, to enable the municipality to act as an insurer; and

    (c) for exchanging with other municipalities in Ontario reciprocal contracts of indemnity or inter-insurance in accordance with Part XIII of the Insurance Act,

    to protect a member of the council or of any local board thereof who has been found not to have contravened section 5, against any costs or expenses incurred by the member as a result of a proceeding brought under this Act, and for paying on behalf of or reimbursing the member for any such costs or expenses."

Section 5 deals with acting properly in the event of a conflict of interest. In other words the Member must have acted by complying with the section of the Act to get the benefit of any insurance indemnity.

Anyway you look at it, the City and its taxpayers are in trouble. It really doesn't matter if there is insurance or not. If the Bridge Company is successful in its bad faith claims against the City the amount of the damages could well exceed any insurance coverage that the City has.

Another fine border mess for which taxpayers may have to be responsible.

Last Chance to Vote

What do you, dear reader, think that Edgar will do? Can you read his mind?

Go to:

Enter your response in the blank, click finished and you are done.

The survey closes at 5 PM Monday, today, right before the Council meeting.

Whatever Happened To The Integrity Commish And His Final Report

From the Mulroney Inquiry:
  • "the importance of the integrity of government, and, more particularly, the integrity of those who govern, is the theme that resonates throughout this Report.

    In my view, Canadians are entitled to expect from those who govern, particularly the holders of high office, exemplary conduct in their professional and personal lives.."

It's strange that everything is so quiet about Earl Basse:

  • "Councillors deferred a discussion on the integrity commissioner's annual report at the regular council meeting, but earlier decided they would continue the part-time office.

    Basse, whose contract ended Dec. 31, will continue till June."

Gee, it's July now. Do you think that the silence may have something to do with the fact that there have been complaints made against the Mayor with the Commish and that an election is coming?

According to the Council Report. the Commish accepted Council's offer to extend his contract until June 30, 2010 "on the same terms and conditions as his previous contract." [emphasis added]

Basse it seemed tried to change that contract. I trust that Mr. Basse did NOT try and play games by acting improperly by doing the following

  • "the Integrity Commission has provided Council with the protocols he intends to follow for investigating the remaining complaints he has received...[emphasis added]"

It is in my opinion absolutely improper for him to investigate any complaint as was described using protocols that he has chosen to use. It is Council's job not his to create and change any protocols. He would be usurping the proper role of Council by his action.

I am sure that Edgar (aka Eddie) being a lawyer set him straight on that.

Given the wide interpretation of "conflict," the high ethical standards that politicians must follow and the language of our Code of Conduct, it should be interesting to see what Basse decides.

Just to re-emphasize the broad interpretation of conflict, Mr. Basse may want to read this Editorial from the Toronto Star. You dear reader may want to re-read first my BLOGs "Friendship--The Five Part Series"

  • "What’s a conflict?

    Mississauga residents and, indeed, people across the province have been well-served by a judge’s decision this week to take a broad view of alleged conflict of interest in Mayor Hazel McCallion’s city hall.

    McCallion’s lawyers had attempted to narrow the scope of the inquiry by defining “conflict of interest” in strict legal terms as applying only to votes at meetings of council or one of its committees. In other words, the only test for McCallion would be whether she declared a financial interest in a matter at a public meeting and refrained from voting. What she said or did in private meetings would be off limits.

    Justice Douglas Cunningham, who is heading up the inquiry, found that definition too limited. “Members of city council are entrusted by those who elect them to act in the public interest,” Cunningham said in a strongly worded ruling this week. “Optics are important. In other words, members of a municipal council must conduct themselves in such a way as to avoid any reasonable apprehension that their personal interest could in any way influence their elected responsibility. Suffice it to say that members of council (and staff) are not to use their office to promote private interests, whether their own or those of relatives or friends. They must be unbiased in the exercise of their duties. That is not only the common law, but the common-sense standard by which the conduct of municipal representatives ought to be judged.”

    The inquiry has only just begun examining the mayor’s role in a failed land deal involving her son, Peter McCallion. (Its initial hearings probed the signing of a controversial utility deal). In fairness to both the McCallions, the public should avoid leaping to conclusions before the inquiry has heard from everyone and reported.

    Whatever his findings, however, Cunningham’s decision to take an uninhibited look at conflict of interest is a welcome indication that his report will be comprehensive in nature."

Our State Of Emergency Is Over---Why

Whew, so much excitement. But it's done now. Strange don't you think in the circumstances.

There was a big garage collapse in Kingston but no State of Emergency was declared. A huge one in Montreal but no State of Emergency was declared. Another in Ottawa and again, no State of Emergency was declared.

In each of those cases, local authorities were able to handle the matter.

In fact, it appears that our local authorities were able to handle our situation because we learned that:
  • "the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team was ready to take off from Toronto with specialized equipment to shore up the structure. The HUSAR team’s deployment was cancelled after officials determined no other victims were trapped in the rubble.

    Francis said that in the event Windsor faced a catastrophe that threatened or claimed lives, Windsor can avail itself of Detroit’s emergency services personnel and equipment, including the city’s HUSAR team."

Nevertheless, our Mayor did declare a State of Emergency. It is fine to play Monday Morning Quarterback but something obviously gave him a great deal of concern for him to react in such a fashion.

Imagine then my reaction when I read the following:

  • "An engineering firm has given the city a report on the collapse of a Dufferin Street parking garage, but it was kept under wraps Friday.

    The firm was contracted by the building’s owners to examine the structure and Mayor Eddie Francis said the report will be released publicly only at the discretion of the firm or the building’s owners.

    Because the structure is privately owned, the site of the collapse — and the cleanup — is now in the hands of the building’s owners, Romalist Developments Limited."

Wait a minute. Something does not smell right here. City resources were used to ensure that there were no deaths or serious injuries or more destruction, people were evacuated from their homes and offices, City personnel protected the site and the City paid for people to stay in a hotel room while they were evacuated and we are merely to accept someone's word that everything is okay without being given any reason.

People have been allowed back into their apartments, back into their offices "with some conditions" and we are told everything is all right but we don't know why the incident happened in the first place. What assurances do these people have to be blunt that it is safe to return?

There's something very strange going on when the City has a copy of the report that explained what happened but allows a private party to keep it secret. That is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to everyone else in this City, especially those who live and work nearby.

If it was necessary for the Mayor to declare a State of Emergency for some reason, then it is just as necessary for the Mayor to undeclare that State of Emergency by telling us exactly what happened.

This is a matter of public safety. By keeping this report secret, is the City now assuming a liability in case something happens in the future? The more important question to ask is why the City is not undertaking its own independent investigation considering that lives were at stake.

  • "Francis expressed relief that the incident didn’t claim any lives. “Everything else can be repaired. Everything else can be fixed, but you can never restore life,” he said."

Edgar did say after all:

  • "I think it's incumbent on us as a municipality to look into this ... and make sure that something like this never happens again," Francis told reporters.

    He said the scope of such a review will depend on investigators' findings on the cause of Thursday's collapse."

Until complete answers are provided to the public, in my opinion, the Emergency still exists.


We have now been told:

  • "The parking garage that collapsed Thursday morning may have already been overloaded with weight before a 10,000-kg boom drove across it, says a local engineer.

    Norm Becker, of The Becker Engineering Group, said the asphalt layer on the parking surface contributed to the structure’s collapse.

    “Putting asphalt down does nothing to strengthen the structure and it does everything to weaken it because it’s dead weight that limits the amount of live load you can put on it,” Becker said. Becker was hired by the garage’s owner to investigate the structure and help plan its repair...

    Becker said there may be other factors contributing the structure’s collapse that his firm will investigate but the asphalt was definitely a contributor."

Should we now be satisfied? Hardly.

Do not forget that this report came from an Engineer hired by the owner or perhaps their insurer. We learned one of the contributing factors but not all. The one we were told puts liability on the previous owner it seems. Gee what a surprise that is:

  • "Becker said the repair work was done by a previous owner of the property."

The scarier part of the story says this:

  • "There are a number of cases even locally in Essex County that we found building owners don't understand this and if they see any blemishes or swelling or any defects in the surface of the concrete deck they try to keep it in good repair and they feel by putting asphalt on it they will be doing something they get good value from and that is not the case for parking garages."

Given his actions, the Mayor cannot wash his hands of the matter. Unless we understand exactly what happened so that incidents like this can be prevented, he may have to declare many more States of Emergency!