Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zero Taxpayer Dollars, Not A Single Dollar For DRIC

Oh, so you think Canadian MP Jeff Watson is a mere backbencher speaking on a frolic of his own about the lack of Canadian commitment for the $550M for Michigan and that what he says does not represent Government policy. Then watch and listen to this comment made in Parliament by the Canadian Transport Minister on March 23, 2011.

Oh Watson was accurately reflecting what Canada wanted to do: sucker Michigan Legislators into passing a P3/DRIC Bill without Canada committing one single penny to the project under its non-legally binding Letter of Intent. Canada would get the “Canada provisions” of the Bill put into law and then who knows what would happen next to the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

You had better watch and listen to the video again so you will truly appreciate what Canada’s Transport Minister, Chuck Strahl, said in the Canadian House of Commons just days before the federal election was called! It is Canada’s official position on DRIC.

Former Progressive Conservative Cabinet Minister and now President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Perrin Beatty was right. Canada’s actions respecting DRIC and the $550M are “unprecedented.” Pretending to provide money to a financially distressed State is reprehensible and revolting when the reality is that Canada intends to provide:

Zero Taxpayer Dollars, Not A Single Dollar For DRIC.

Combine this new revelation along with the Squeeki-leaks documents dealing potentially with the withholding of relevant information from Parliament. Add in Senior Liberal MP Joe Volpe’s allegation that the $550M could well be a bribe. Then wonder why the Opposition Liberal and NDP Parties have not jumped on DRIC as a major election issue going to the heart of the credibility of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Government!

Are the media asleep as well?

Governor Rick Snyder, if he has any respect for himself and the people of Michigan, has no alternative but to instruct Lt. Governor Calley to cease working immediately on a DRIC/P3 Bill and to denounce the Government of Canada for its perfidious actions. He must demand that Canada allow the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project to be constructed now.

If he does not have the guts to do it or if he has bought into Canada’s plan to destroy the Moroun family ownership of the Ambassador Bridge (and perhaps P3 Michigan assets like the major highways and turn them all into toll-roads), then the Michigan Legislature must.

If you will remember, ex-Transport Minister Baird told us when he first made the offer of the $550 million loan that it is part of a generation or two of effort by Canada to try and crush the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. Note significantly that he also said that the last decade was the really hard work. It is true after all. That comment is significant as you shall see shortly.

And the $550M loan which is not a loan, Transport Minister Strahl just ripped up the worthless Letter of Intent and threw it in the Governerd’s face. It was a nothing anyway and Strahl just admitted it. So much also for the Governerd’s “unique agreement” and the $2.2B federal matching grants based on Canada’s money!

Thank goodness for the Canadian election. It forced the truth out.

To put it simply, I was stunned. Completely unable to believe what I was hearing and reading.

But there is even more if you can believe it. There are two separate statements that mean the end of DRIC.

Strahl’s comment was the first, then this remark was next.

I was completely vindicated. Everything that I had said on here was absolutely correct. The entire DRIC process was a complete and utter fraud perpetrated on both taxpayers in Michigan and Canada and the Ambassador Bridge Company.

He has been around at the Canadian Consulate in Detroit since at least 1985 so he would have some idea of what he is talking about. George Costaris made this comment that just has blown my mind:

“The Canadians' offer to cover all $550 million of Michigan's costs, at least at this point, is not term limited, said George COSTARIS, director of the Consulate General of Canada. The last four governments in Canada, dating back to 1999, supported the idea of the bridge formerly known as the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC).” (MIRS March 24, 2011)

Do you understand the significance of what he said? What Baird said above is true. For a dozen years we have been playing a game. We thought that we were going through a fair, unbiased, objective and proper exercise to determine if a new bridge was needed in Detroit/Windsor and if so where it was to be located and who would build it.

That wasn’t the case. It was a done deal right from the start. We should have known especially when the so-called independent consultants on both sides of the river came out without shame and were part of an advocacy ad supporting DRIC. Did you hear anyone objecting to that?

The decision had already been made in 1999 according to Costaris. We wasted all this time and all this money for one purpose only: to get rid of the Moroun family ownership of the Ambassador Bridge. After all, just over a year ago the Prime Minister instructed his Transport Minister to buy the Bridge since he knew before we did that the US Feds turned off the money for the northern border crossings. DRIC would not work. There was not enough money to build it.

Was DRTP part of this game as well? Perhaps since a similar concept had been turned down many years before but no one told us that. It was taken so seriously with a huge PR budget with its front in Canada being a former Windsor Mayor. Do you remember how many business and labour groups demanded it be built, just like with DRIC now? What a similar modus operandi!

Was it step number one to try to force the Moroun family to sell out cheaply? After all, it was said that it would take away about half of Moroun’s business, just like DRIC. If that didn’t work, then was the pretend DRIC bridge project the backup plan? Now we have the doublestack rail tunnel as the new DRTP.

How much money has been wasted? Scores of millions of dollars on both sides of the river.

How much time has been wasted? Over a decade.

How much has the region been devastated by this inaction? Incalculable… but look at the drop of the population in Detroit and probably in Windsor as well as the unemployment numbers to understand how we have lost out!

Frankly, I want my money back that has been spent on this file and so should all taxpayers. I want those responsible for this charade to pay us back those millions of taxpayer dollars. And as for the Bridge Company, their lawsuits already started will look even better especially when punitive damages claims are added and individuals are sued as well.

It has all been a lie. That is not what Governments are supposed to be doing. Those who have perpetrated this fraud on us should not be allowed to get away with it. Let them suffer now. Make them pay. Let their heads roll too.

However, if you think that is bad, it gets even worse when you add in the Strahl comment. It is again confirmation of everything I have said about the phony offer of $550 million from Canada.

Here is the exchange during the House of Commons Question Period. You will not believe what you are reading:

“Champlain Bridge

Mrs. Josée Beaudin (Saint-Lambert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in a letter published in La Presse, the Minister of Transport continues to deny the facts. Although engineers have said that some sections of the Champlain Bridge could collapse, the minister continues to claim that the bridge is safe and that construction of a new bridge can wait.

Does the Minister of Transport realize that it is his indifference to the needs of Quebec that could trigger an election?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC): Mr. Speaker, clearly the Champlain Bridge is an extremely important bridge. That is why we are investing almost $400 million in it over the next 10 years to make sure it stays safe.

I am not an engineer. A good question to ask is: whom do we ask about this? We ask the engineers who inspect the bridge. We ask the CEO who oversees the bridge. We work with the provincial government, which works with us to make sure the bridge is safe.

Of course the bridge will have to be replaced in the longer term. However, Montrealers should know that the bridge is safe and will be safe. We will be working closely with the Quebec government to make a long-term plan for its replacement in the years to come.


Mrs. Josée Beaudin (Saint-Lambert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives managed to find the money needed to build a new bridge in Windsor, Ontario. They even advanced $550 million to help Michigan pay for its share. However, when the time comes to replace the busiest bridge in Canada, which is in Quebec, they cannot come up with the money. That is just wrong.

When will Quebec's needs get the same attention as the needs of Ontario and Michigan?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC): That was a good question, Mr. Speaker. How much money are we going to spend on the new Windsor bridge? We are going to spend zero taxpayer dollars. It is a P3 project. It will not have a single dollar in it.

Perhaps that is an option for the Champlain Bridge. The reason we are not saying that is because we are going to wait for the report to be tabled with me. When that report is tabled, options will be presented to us, including design ideas, whether it should include a railway, whether it should include rapid transit, whether it should include a bus route. There are lots of options. We are certainly not going to go into this willy-nilly.

While the bridge is safe, Montrealers should use it.

We will be working with the Quebec government to design an option.”


Take a look at and listen to the Transport Minister. He is so proud of himself

What happened to the $550 million? I told you I could not find it in Canada’s Economic Action Plan. I told you that it was not in the Budget. I asked Conservative Member of Parliament, Jeff Watson, months ago to tell me where it was budgeted but he refused to answer me.

Clearly, the Minister has now confirmed that it has never been there. It too was all a joke on Michigan.

As I have said so many times, there was no binding and enforceable legal commitment on Canada to put up one single penny. All that Canada wanted was a DRIC/P3 Bill passed so that the “Canada provisions” would come into law so that Canada would become in Instrumentality of Government of Michigan thereby taking over some of the sovereign powers of that State.

When the time came for Canada to put up some money, there are so many provisions in that Letter of Intent that allowed Canada not to put up cash that it was a joke.

Did the MDOT Director know this? Or was he fooled too? Do you remember this drawing showing us where Canada’s money was supposed to go?

Someone needs to ask the Director how he could possibly provide this information to the Legislature if in fact he knew that Canada was not going to contribute anything. If he knows it only now, what choice does the Director have but to tell the Governor that it won’t cost Michigan taxpayers a dime but rather it will cost them $550M and more? And if there is a toll revenue shortfall, since Canada contributes zero taxpayer dollars, who makes it up other than Michigan taxpayers or the whole project goes into receivership on Day 1!

Look at the drawing---$550M was earmarked for specific parts of the project. It was to be Canada’s money, not P3 money. How then can the Minister claim that zero taxpayer dollars would be spent? How can he claim it would be P3 money when it was not?

Did he forget what Minister Baird said when he first offered the loan? Or did he think we would forget. Just click the link

What is the truth!

That leaves a nice big $550 million hole for DRIC, along with another $270 million hole because the US Federal Government does not have money to put into the northern border. Alternatively, if the P3 is going to pay for it, then it must finance an additional $820 million. It should be obvious that the project is not financially viable because there is no way that toll revenues will ever be able to cover this amount of money along with the bridge costs. Tolls would have to be so high that no one would ever use DRIC

If there is no $550 million, then their $2.2 billion that the Governerd and MDOT were counting on under their “unique agreement” for federal matching grants has vanished. The Governerd now faces a $600 million hole in his Transportation Budget for 2012 and 2013. Can it truly get any worse for Michigan!

Let me be blunt. The Canadian Transport Minister has just kicked the Governerd and the State of Michigan where it hurts the most. Canada has made a fool out of Michigan. Or rather, the Governerd has allowed himself to be made a fool and has caused severe financial distress to the State.

A decade-long plan to force the Ambassador Bridge out of business. A Letter of Intent with no intention to pay out a single penny--- ZERO DOLLARS. NOT A SINGLE DOLLAR. That is all that this border file has all been.

In Canada, we set up judicial inquiries and demand Auditor General investigations of boondoggles and scandals like this. Our American friends must have an equivalent approach. It is time to let the light shine in on the DRIC file and to ensure that those responsible for it face the consequences of their actions.