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City could spend more than $7 million unbudgeted for new park solar lighting

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The city could move forward with installing solar lights on all of its trails, costing over $7 million. A council committee today recommended Windsor “accelerate the timeline” to install the lights. This would be for 10 km of trails per year and having them fully installed by 2035. City administration had recommended a slower pace of five km per year until 2046. The accelerated cost would be $4.5 million or $420,000 per year plus maintenance, which would add $2.6 million over 20 years for a total of $7.1 million plus inflation. And any newly created trails also “would need to have adequate solar lighting worked into the proposed capital and operating budgets.” There is no current capital budget for the lights, a matter city officials labelled “significant financial risk.” The motion was put forward by councilor Kieran McKenzie. McKenzie originally brought the matter up in 2022 asking the city investigate more solar lighting. The city currently has just over 500 solar and 1000 hardwired lights. Some 30 solar lights per kilometre would be required to supply “adequate” light, a report said. But a lot more solar lights are needed than traditional ones or almost 3300 new solar lights. Each one (including fixture and pole) costs $1400 for a total of $4.58 million. And there's maintenance. Over a 20 year lifespan each fixture would have to be replaced at a cost of $700 (based on current prices), therefore an additional $2.65 million in operating expenses. However, solar lights generally are cheaper than hardwired lights. “Anywhere from five to eight times the cost of solar,” according to the report. The matter still has to go before city council, probably by spring.


City transit problems? It's kind of status quo

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When it comes to regulating out of town buses and trains there’s only so much a city can do. Downtown councillor Renaldo Agostino said he’s had reports from “concerned citizens” about “out of town” buses in the city core. “I myself was almost involved in a car accident in-front of the police station where a bus just randomly stopped to drop off passengers. I’ve also had reports concerning seniors being left out in the cold waiting hours for a bus to pick them up with no shelter,” he said in question at a previous council meeting. Why, he asked, aren’t buses using the downtown bus depot? In fact FlixBus uses a designated bus stop at 62-98 Chatham St. E. (photo) “A right-of-way permit was issued to FlixBus in August 2022 to place their signage on existing stanchions within the city right-of-way,” city staff replied in a report to Windsor’s transportation committee. “The Flix signage is at the south end of the block and there is a tunnel bus stop at the north end. This permit is valid for a period of five years.” This actually prevents haphazard bus stops. “Having the bus stops in a consistent location reduces the likelihood of a bus making a random stop. The regularity of buses stopping in the area underscores the routine nature of bus activity here, diminishing the randomness of a single bus stopping here or in another location.” Staff said some cities, like Windsor, allow bus stops in public rights of way, others off of those streets such as in parking lots. FlixBus was “not interested” in using the downtown terminal, staff said. Another intercity operator pays about $50,000 to use the terminal annually. Meanwhile, councillor Jo-Anne Gignac wanted to know how slow trains that block traffic could be regulated. In short, “the city does not have the authority to limit freight train traffic impediments.” Who's responsible then? Transport Canada. And, where a crossing is blocked more than five minutes, people can call the regional office at 416-973-5540.

Photo: Google Street View ______________________________________________________________________

City to move on revamped Festival Plaza

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Windsor City Council will be asked to proceed with Option 3 or a major revamp of the Riverfront Festival Plaza without a canopy or roof. This means a yet to be determined architectural consultant would begin a “detailed design.” The city elicited some 900 community responses for how the refreshed entertainment center, an open concrete swath before the existing stage, should look, including more landscaping, better lighting and a “flexible” space for different events. Option 3 is the least expensive, chiming in at $17.3 million. The others – a full size canopy, would have cost $67.2 million and a half size canopy, $48.1 million. Option 3 includes a water feature and better connections to Riverside Dr. Unlike the other options no part of the structure exceeds the Drive. This would have necessitated a more time-consuming process to amend the city’s official plan and zoning bylaw - “at a minimum this is anticipated to be 12-month process, however it could take longer if there is an appeal,” the council report says. The redesigned plaza would even provide a slight “climate” advantage. “By converting the hard surface to landscaping such as grass islands and trees, we can expect a minor reduction in the heat retention. Planting of trees provides opportunity for festival attendees to seek shade during extreme heat.” Administration says it will “aggressively pursue” any possible grants to help with the cost, the majority of which would be for actual construction. While Option 3 doesn’t have a roof “it supports all of the key engagement aspects of expanding events & recreation programming, expanding arts, activation & lighting, and provisions for outdoor comfort & landscaping.”

Photo: City of Windsor


City finds demand for free menstrual products "lower than expected"; likely continue pilot

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The city of Windsor will likely continue a pilot project at seven municipal buildings after fewer female hygienic products were used than expected. The city began installing the products in Spring 2022 on a free of charge basis at WFCU Centre, Windsor Water World, Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre, Capri Pizzeria Recreation Complex, 350 City Hall Square W., 400 City Hall Square E and Gino and Liz Marcus Community Pool. The products were installed in women’s, men’s and family washrooms at a cost of $19,000. This was for 13,500 pads, 19,500 tampons and 10,000 disposal bags. As of this October, only 2682 pads, 4000 tampons and 3500 bags were used, leaving 10,818, 15,500 and 6500 respectively. “Overall, the usage rates were lower than expected,” the city says in a report. And there were problems like “misuse.” For instance, at Windsor Water World, dispensers were damaged and “became unusable.” Instead, the product was made available at the front desk. At WIATC, CPRC and WFCU, staff found items “scattered throughout the washrooms, soaked in water and/or thrown down toilets.” This happened more frequently during community events with high attendance. But the city says while misused “the risk of this occurring is low and consistent with other vandalism occurring within our washrooms.” The city had extended the pilot project due to Covid-19 so that facility use numbers could get close to pre-pandemic levels. “There is enough supply on hand to continue this program until a future operating budget submission is needed,” the staff report says. Windsor joined communities like Sarnia, Cambridge and Peterborough in offering the products. Councillor Kieran McKenzie had first suggested the idea. Moreover, this past May, the federal government updated the Canada Labour Code so that by mid-December federally regulated employers must make menstrual products available to employees at no cost while in the workplace.


With closure of truck ferry, Ambassador Bridge applies to carry two more classes of hazmat

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The Ambassador bridge is applying to carry two additional classes of hazardous materials – flammables and corrosives. In the wake of the closure of the Windsor-Detroit truck ferry, which for years carried hazmat across the river, the bridge has asked the Michigan Departmennt of Transportation (MDOT) to allow the change. The bridge would still not carry explosives, infectious substances and radioactive materials. MDOT is currently seeking public comment. The bridge argues allowing the substances “will dramatically improve safety in the State of Michigan and enhance the smooth flow of international commerce in the Detroit-Windsor corridor.” That’s because trucks carrying it won’t have to traverse densely-populated areas of metro Detroit. “Every year, approximately 4,200 truckloads of liquid petroleum depart refineries and fuel terminals in Southwest Detroit and Romulus, pass the Ambassador Bridge, and drive an additional 60 to 70 miles through heavily populated areas in Detroit, Wayne County, and Macomb County to cross at the Blue Water Bridge” in Port-Huron-Sarnia, which allows the materials, the company says. One class includes substances “to produce common goods such as batteries, paints, fertilizers, detergents, textiles, soaps and pharmaceuticals.” The bridge says that as EVs become more popular “the requirement to efficiently and safely move these critical commodities through the Detroit-Windsor corridor will increase.” The bridge says it's “fully equipped” to handle the hazmat. It already handles gases, flammable solids and poisonous materials. Its current fire containment system “meets all applicable codes” and is regularly inspected by both Windsor and Detroit fire departments. As far back as 2012 MDOT recommended the additional classes ban should be lifted but they were not. “The leadership at the time made that decision after the process was completed,” MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson said.


U of Windsor law students, faculty, sign an open letter denouncing "new McCarthyism"

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At least six members of Windsor’s legal community – all associated with the University of Windsor Ron W. Ianni Faculty of Law – have signed a fast-growing open letter denouncing as a “new McCarthyism” attempts by the greater legal community to retaliate against students who’ve shown support for Palestinian “resistance.” Last month more than 70 students at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson) law school signed a letter declaring “unequivocal support” for Palestinians “and all forms of Palestinian resistance” after the widespread slaughter of more than 1400 Israelis and kidnapping of some 250 more near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. According to the letter, sponsored by the Arab Canadian Lawyers Assoc. and Scholar Strike Canada, among others, “lawyers, law firms and law schools … are conflating expressions of solidarity with Palestinians and criticism of the State of Israel as antisemitic and conduct unworthy of learning or practicing law.” Toronto employment lawyer Howard Levitt, who has been an expert guest on Windsor’s AM 800 radio, wrote, “what law firm would want to hire a racist, let alone a student whose name would now feature prominently when it is searched on Google, thereby causing embarrassment to the firm that employs them?” Levitt called for their expulsion. “As I have written, any Canadian employee in a client, public-facing or managerial position, who attends rallies featuring hate speech, can be fired for cause without severance for jeopardizing the reputation of their employer by their association. And if any of them sue, I will personally represent that employer for free.” The local signatories are: Claire Mumme, Jillian Rogin, Mary Anne Vallianatos – identified as being at Windsor Law and presumably students – and faculty members Sujith Xavier, Tess Sheldon and Vasanthi Venkatesh.

Photo: University of Windsor


City's artificial turf no environmental threat

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Yes, artificial turf may be bad for the planet, but the city doesn’t use enough of it to cause any real threat. That’s the conclusion of city staff to a question from city councillor Kieran McKenzie. He wanted to know the fake lawn’s impact on “climate change and biodiversity.” But the city doesn’t use that much of it. Rather, staff say, it’s limited to “specific use in the public right-of-way as well as in some playgrounds and track areas within parkland.” But, a report says, rights-of-way are “not viable for natural plants and or pose safety concerns from a maintenance perspective.” Artificial turf can readily be seen installed along portions of roads like Dougall, Howard (photo), Wyandotte and Huron Church. The green material is also, believe it or not, beautiful, at least relatively. It replaces “existing concrete or brick pavers to a more natural façade,” the city says. And it’s installed in the middle of heat islands where the surrounding pavement holds summer heat “resulting in the inability for plant material to grow due to burning.” Another benefit: there’s less maintenance required such as grass cutting. The artificial stuff’s downside is it doesn’t allow nutrients for living creatures and restricts soil beneath it for burrowing insects and ground above for “soil dwellers” like worms. But any future concerns about more widespread use of the turf are allayed. The city says has “no plans” to replace “viable natural green spaces, inclusive of those used within the right-of-way or in parks, with artificial turf spaces.” Meanwhile Windsor has issued 35 artificial turf permits to private property owners since 2016. But city and private installation of the grass’s overall impact on the climate is “negligible.”

Photo: Google Street View


City tips its hat to its newest rebuilt icons

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City Hall is giving special recognition to four redeveloped properties that have helped preserve Windsor’s history. The “Built Heritage” awards go to the group that redeveloped the former Windsor Utilities Commission building at 787 Ouellette - Tessonics Corporation (Roman & Elena Maev), Passa Architects (Joseph Passa) and Alliance Contractors (Chris Weller). The Strathcona Building at 1958-1998 Wyandotte E. - the Rosati Group. The former Intl. Playing Card Co. 1167 Mercer St. - Greater Essex County District School Board, J.P. Thomson Architects Ltd. (Colin McDonald, Adam Wakulchik, Mark Beaulieu), Haddad Morgan Associates (Will Tape), Fortis Group (Joe Maertens). And the Windsor Grove Cemetery, 455 Giles Blvd E. at Howard Ave. - Ontario Ancestors, Essex Branch (Pat Clancy, David Hutchinson, Rosemary Lunau), Windsor Grove/Windsor Memorial Gardens (Tony Andary). The awards recognize “heritage stewardship, exceptional rehabilitations, and heritage preservation.” For the former WUC (photo) “the façade improvements (add) to the overall revitalization of the downtown and the public realm along the Ouellette Avenue main street.” The Strathcona renovation included “removal of layers of paint from the brick facade (which revealed a red brick with purple undertones), masonry repairs, and the restoration of main street-appropriate storefront.” The rebuilt card company included “historical portions and details, such as repointing and retaining the tall chimney, replacing bricks to a proper match, and sourcing windows that match historic proportions” The Grove Cemetery staff “contributed to the heritage preservation of Windsor through their work in recovering headstones, cleaning cemetery markers, and transcribing and documenting the markers as well into a digital database.”

Photo: Google Street View


City has “met or exceeded” greenhouse gas reduction targets en route to net zero

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The City of Windsor is making headway on reducing carbon emissions, according to the first report on its plan to eliminate greenhouse gases since before the Covid-19 pandemic. The city has a goal of reducing emissions to zero by 2050. In 2015 the city began a long-term plan to cut energy use and greenhouses gases. It therefore uses 2014 as a baseline and compared emissions to 2019 because 2020 and 2021 - which had greater emission declines - are considered "outliers" due to Covid-19 lockdowns when the economy slowed dramatically and artificially. “Since 2014, emissions and energy consumption for the Windsor community have generally followed a downward trend,” the report says. In 2019 per-capita emissions were 8.13 tonnes compared to 8.86 in 2014. Total emissions were therefore down almost six per cent and total energy used down almost three per cent. The biggest reduction was in commercial emissions – just over 30 per cent, followed by residential at almost 12 per cent. Industrial was off close to seven per cent. “To put the community emissions into context, 1.9 million acres of forest or 26 million seedlings planted and grown for ten years would be required to sequester the carbon emitted by the Windsor community in 2021,” the report says. The city to date has “met or exceeded” all interim targets on the way to zero. The city is currently working on a 2022 report which “will provide a better representation of actual community and corporate trends as many COVID restrictions were removed.”


Developer proposes new theater for Silver City site and says other retail will vanish without it

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A prominent city developer is proposing to revitalize the former Silver City theater in south Windsor and argues that if it isn’t redeveloped other retailers in the area will move. Joe Mikhail of JBM Capital Inc. is seeking city financial incentives - and recommended by city staff - to attract a new theatre company and retail or offices to what was the Silver City building. Silver City closed more than two years ago and the building has been badly vandalized. Mikhail would spend $6.5 million, the city would grant almost $2 million over 10 years or the difference between current taxes and new taxes after the redevelopment, or 30.5 per cent of JBM’s investment. In a letter Mikhail made an emotional plea. “We would be much better off to simply take down the property and reduce the property taxes to vacant land.” However, he said, “it would be the wrong one for the city and its need to have a second venue for entertainment.” Mikhail said the theater in fact was a catalyst for attracting other commercial to the south Windsor big box area. “The theatre introduced Costco to the area, which lead to a majority of huge boxes to follow,” he said. “Its draw created a reason for Walker Road to become the dominate retail sector in the city, which then allowed residential growth to multiply.” Mikhail said a current “major retailer” has indicated that “if the theatre is not open, they will move their store outside of Windsor.” And more would follow. “With the relocation of this space, all restaurants in this area will also move or be forced to close. Other big box in the area will likely look at following this move towards Tecumseh. It would not be difficult to see the city’s tax base on Walker Rd. would diminish considerably.”

Photo: Google Street View ______________________________________________________________________

Plan would end weekly garbage pickup, require clear plastic bags instead of opaque ones

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Windsor and Essex County residents could see their garbage collection go from weekly to bi-weekly if a new waste collection system is put in place. Also, opaque plastic bags would have to be replaced by clear plastic ones. It’s all part of a move to comply with a 2025 provincial policy to divert organic waste such as household food, paper towels and pet waste, from landfills. Already, an organics processing company has been hired, Seacliff Energy Corp. Mean while, waste management would be transferred from local municipalities to the county; currently officials are trying to determine efficiencies of scale. “There is no proposal as of yet because regionalizing the service has not even been approved, let alone what the level of service would be should the regionalization of waste collection be approved,” county spokesman Don McArthur said. County Council passed a resolution but most municipalities would have to sign on. “This uploading process is not completed yet, as regionalizing the service requires the support of at least four of the seven local municipalities comprising at least 50 per cent of the electors in Essex County,” McArthur added. And should service be uploaded residents “initially” wouldn’t see a change. In addition, service could be “enhanced” through a weekly organics collection, he said. However, should it go forward, garbage collection would change dramatically. A consultant’s report recommends ending weekly collection and replacing it with “every other week.” The report, based on results of numerous other municipalities which have implemented this, says biweekly collection is the “single most effective” way to get residents on board with organics diversion. There are “challenges,” however, such as potential for increased odours. Some municipalities offer alternatives such as placing “one bag of waste diapers and incontinence products out for collection on the alternating week from garbage collection” or double-bagging used diapers. But municipalities generally have ”successfully” overcome issues. Meanwhile, switching to clear plastic bags has "been found to increase diversion” as reminders to residents to separate materials but also “assist with the enforcing of municipal material disposal bans by allowing waste collectors to monitor for compliance and reject any bags containing banned items.” For privacy, one municipality allows “opaque bag (grocery-sized)” packaging within the larger clear bag.


Charges dropped against Windsor man over Freedom Convoy Ambassador Bridge protests

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Charges have been dropped against Eric Lemmon of Windsor over his participation in protests in Windsor during the Freedom Convoy protests near the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor in February of last year. Alan Honner, The Democracy Fund’s (TDF) legal director and lead counsel on the case, said the Crown withdrew charges after the defence disclosed that Lemmon was on the sidewalk with video evidence backing up the theory. “This is a case where the Crown and defence worked together to achieve the right result,” Honner said. He added an "unqualified withdrawal" of charges is considered to be a “favourable resolution” to criminal charges. It’s similar to an acquittal or a stay-of-proceedings, also favourable resolutions. Lemmon was charged with mischief and disobeying a court order when he retained TDF to defend him against the charges in May of this year. A two-day trial was set to commence on August 14, 2023, before the Crown withdrew the charges Tuesday, telling Justice Jeanine LeRoy of the Ontario Court of Justice that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction. The TDF is a Canadian legal charity advancing constitutional rights and has taken on numerous cases where citizens’ civil liberties have been infringed during the Covid-19 government lockdowns.

Photo: The Democracy Fund


Bye bye Roseland as city to vote on shifting venerable curling club to the WFCU Centre

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City Council next week will vote on a plan to close the venerable Roseland curling facility in South Windsor and transfer curling to the WFCU Centre on the city’s far east side. The cost of $525,000 for the conversion and associated costs of one of the WFCU’s rinks, including a licensed lounge, is much less than a total revamp of Roseland - $12.5 to $15 million. Much of the aged building’s structures “are at the end” of their lifecycles, a city report says. Replacement parts for the 50,000 sq. ft. building are “becoming increasingly difficult to find.” Another option would have been to demolish the clubhouse, renovate the rink and add a “small building.” Total cost: $8.5-9.3 million. A third option – building an entirely new 20,000 sq. ft. facility with five sheets would be $9 – 12 million exclusive of demolition costs for the present building and new clubhouse. The move to WFCU would see a permanent facility after conversion of one of the skating rinks. “Most arena ice pads can easily accommodate a five-sheet curling rink, using the existing refrigeration plant,” the report says. And “based on the usage of the existing six sheet facility at Roseland it is anticipated that five sheets is sufficient to maintain the same level of service while still providing opportunity for growth.” Based on public comment moving to WFCU would be best as the centre can “easily accommodate” a lounge, food services and bonspiels. Work could be completed for the 2024-25 season. Some user groups would be “displaced” to another rink with public use then “near capacity” and “public skates may no longer be offered” at same times or locations.


Stats show people recycled less last year

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Local residents aren’t recycling as much as they previously did. Waste “diversion” through recycling boxes and other methods amounted to 51,435 tonnes last year or 32 per cent of all garbage, compared to 56,303 tonnes or 32.9 per cent in 2021. In terms of recycling boxes themselves, we put only 21,978 tonnes of paper, glass and plastics into them compared to 23,802 tonnes the previous year. But drop off at recycling centres were up – 611 to 605 tonnes. The amounts contributed by the city and county were almost the same – 10,931 and 11,047 tonnes respectively. But maybe we’re getting better about only putting pure recyclables in the boxes. That’s because “non-recyclables” like contaminated items or materials to tie recyclables together, saw a “significant” decrease from 2,632 to 1,342 tonnes, according to the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) annual report. And while diversion was “slightly lower” than in the previous year, market conditions were “very similar” and revenue from the sale of recyclables “remain exceptionally high” at least for part of the year, generating $4,681,016 vs. $4,967,436 in 2021. Cardboard drew the most income at $1,061,269, followed by PET (plastic containers) at $980,506 and old newspaper at $872,762, the latter two up substantially over 2021. Revenues have fluctuated wildly since 2015. In that year the authority made $3.1 million in income, then $4.2 million in 2017, then only $2 million in 2019, to the current figures.


National civil liberties group takes on Constable Brisco's appeal over Freedom Convoy donation

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The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) is taking on Windsor police constable Michael Brisco’s appeal of a police disciplinary tribunal penalty for donating to the Freedom Convoy truck protest in 2022. The JCCF has gone to bat in innumerable cases of prosecutions related to Covid-19 lockdown policies, restrictions and penalties. Brisco donated $50 when he was also on unpaid leave for refusing to get a Covid-19 vaccine. The constable, who had an otherwise perfect record during his 15 years as a local peace officer, was convicted of discreditable conduct. Brisco’s name was revealed after the GoSendGo donation site was hacked. He also wrote: “Thank you fellow Canadians for fighting for freedom at the base of Sauron’s Tower. The world is watching … and we see Trudeau’s true colours.” The donation was made Feb. 8. A state of emergency was declared Feb. 6 over the occupation in Ottawa by hundreds of truckers. The protest has been deemed an illegal activity Feb. 4. A smaller protest blocking the Ambassador Bridge also took place in Windsor. Said the Justice Centre, “This is an aggressive and unjust attack on Constable Brisco’s freedom of expression! All Canadians, including police officers, should be able to donate freely to the causes of their choosing, as part of our freedoms of expression and association, without being penalized. The Tribunal never even considered Constable Brisco’s constitutional freedoms before punishing him for exercising them!” The appeal is going before the Ontario Civil Police Commission this fall. The JCCF is seeking donations and has already spent $9000 for official transcripts. JCCF Toronto-based lawyer Chris Fleury told that he is “not aware of any police officer in Ontario having ever been charged in the context of making a charitable donation, to the Freedom Convoy or otherwise.” He wouldn’t comment on how JCCF was contacted, citing solicitor-client privilege.

Photo: JCCF


Lawyer says school board's decision to ban in-person meetings smacks of "totalitarian states"

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A Windsor lawyer says the decision by the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) to “indefinitely” close meetings to the public is a “step towards eliminating dissent.” The board stated June 14 that “until further notice in-person attendance at meetings of the GECDSB Board of Trustees will be limited to staff and Trustees.” Without elaboration the board says this is “to allow for the orderly and expeditious completion of regular business meetings in a safe and secure setting for staff and members of the board.” But lawyer Daniel Ableser, (photo) long an observer of how elected bodies conduct business, says conducting such meetings without the public in attendance is akin to “totalitarian states, like China.” Ableser addressed the board this week via telephone after the policy went into effect. Ableser who, over the years, has also commented on issues of transparency at Windsor City Council meetings, said the board’s action flies in the face of “democratic principles that have gone back 3000 years.” Moreover, it specifically contradicts the provincial Education Act and its regulations which are ”abundantly clear” that the public “shall be open to permit physical attendance.” Ableser says the board’s reason for excluding the pubic - they can now only watch on YouTube and present delegations by phone – doesn’t cut it. If safety is the concern, he says, it should be addressed by the police, not the board. “If there’s a threat you report that to the police and they will attend,” he said. If one or two people are disruptive they are removed. Ableser said the board is following in the footsteps of other provincial and indeed, North American, school boards, by trying to eliminate critical comment or opposition. He says there’s no question boards are on the “front lines of the culture wars” but cites a double standard. They say “we want our soap box for our culture war issues but we want to be able to ban a minority viewpoint that we disagree with. And that’s tyranny of the majority.” The board’s move comes in the wake of parents protesting against a board policy to prevent them from knowing about students’ decisions to change gender identity. Ableser, who has no personal stake in the issue, has filed a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman and says he could bring a Charter challenge. But he suspects the board may “know that they botched this” and thinks meetings will be “back to regular order.” The next meeting isn’t until October anyway.


Underground Railroad is theme of DT Civic Esplanade and City Hall Plaza redevelopment

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The “preferred” master plan for the new City Esplanade and City Hall Plaza would be one that highlights Windsor’s integral role in the Underground Railroad of the 19th century. Called Light the Path it would create an “invigorating, informative and exciting civic” public area stretching from city hall to the riverfront. Council approved the plan late last month, the culmination of two

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decades of discussion and initial concepts for a new downtown Civic Square. Two other options were Matrix Garden – an ecological concept - and River Flow, which emphasized city history. But Light the Plan would feature “inspired lighting, engaging seating opportunities and gathering spaces, interactive art and water features, and entertaining venues.” City Hall Square (top image) would have a “new type of civic space” with outline of a former military barracks and Black refugee housing, an event area and vendors space. There would also be a “francophone moment” and media screen. The Charles Clark Square ice rink would move south and form a skate trail. The Square in turn would accommodate bigger crowds and “creative geometric plazas” that serve as “outdoor rooms.” There would be much outdoor innovative seating and tables for office workers and the public. A stage and food truck area completes the profile. The Arts Park would display permanent and temporary art installations with "sculptural seating" walls. The Riverside Drive crossing would be at grade or a bridge (second image) with a signature City Beacon having a "dramatic overlook” with grand staircases of the river and Detroit skyline and monuments linked to Detroit celebrating the “harrowing stories of Black Freedom Seekers who came to Canada escaping slavery in the US.” Café tables and graffiti or mural walks would complete the scene. Execution of the plan will span several years. The price could be upwards of $30-$35 million.

Images: City of Windsor/FORREC


Group envisions "off-Broadway" independent type theatre for Windsor's theatre companies

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Windsor’s theatre community is craving a new theater performance arts space, and a vibrant arts hub in Walkerville has a vision of creating just such a home. Shō Studios applied for but was rejected for a $3.2 million federal arts matching grant to create an independent 200-300 seat theatre that would be an entirely new building, adjacent to its current site at the corner of Wyandotte St. and Monmouth Rd. “The permanent theatre is a new build, a brand new building, we want it state of the art,” Shō’s president Lorriane Steele said. The complicated application included detailed “sketch-ups” of the new space but Steele thinks it was rejected because “we didn’t own the building.” She said “there are more hoops to jump through for government money when you’re trying to do something culturally important for the community.” She says the organization will try again. The concept has the backing of Windsor MP Irek Kusmierczyk. Shō, a Japanese word for a musical instrument that mimics the sound of the mythical Phoenix, has been in existed since 2009. The group’s building has expanded to a vibrant multi-faceted arts hub, with more than 30,000 sq. ft of artist studios and pop-up performance spaces for theatre and music. But live shows can only accommodate as many as 60 people. Steele and Susan McLeod, Shō’s secretary-treasurer, have virtually built out the venue themselves to accommodate a myriad of local artists and arts organizations. “We knew that there was a need in Windsor for more arts infrastructure,” Steele said. The city has existing theatres but they are either too large or organizationally restrictive for the kind of innovative and intimate productions Shō envisions, similar to “off-off-Broadway” or the numerous smaller independent theatres in Toronto. There are 28 theatre groups locally who could take advantage of the venue, they say. “Windsor needs this,” Steele says.


Is Windsor's $5B EV battery plant in danger?

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Stellantis could halt work on the mammoth $5 billion NextStar Energy battery plant being built on Windsor’s east side, the Toronto Star reports. The reason? A similar plant just up the road in St. Thomas, owned by Volkswagen, is getting much more in government subsidies. Ottawa was forced to shell out the massive Volkswagen subvsidy - $13.2 billiuon over five years – to build the plant in Canada and thereby matching the US Government’s massive subsidies for electric vehicle plants under Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which gives automakers between $2700 and $3500 US for each EV battery produced. The problem is that Stellantis agreed to its government subsidy long before the IRA was passed. The Star quoted “industry sources” but Stellantis did not return requests for comment. “It would be attractive for the company to relocate stateside if Ottawa and Queen’s Park refuse to up the ante — even with the hundreds of millions of dollars already sunk into the Windsor facility, which is partially built,” the Star reports. Stellantis had actually been seeking a similar deal from the feds even before the VW payout was announced. Federal Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne confirmed the government and Stellantis are “still negotiating.” He said the government wants to be “fair (and) equitable.” But he doesn’t believe Stellantis will pull the plug on the Windsor plant, saying they’re “very committed.” The provincial government, too, is aware it may have to ante up more dollars for Windsor, the Star says. But Ottawa also maintains the two plants are different with St. Thomas’s size and ability to be “scaled up” as the EV market in North America expands. The NextStar plant is a joint partnership of Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions. The Star says Stellantis could seek a subsidy increase proportional to its battery output – 400,000 batteries/year vs. Volkswagen’s one million – or 40 percent of Volkswagen’s $13.2 billion take: $5.2 billion.


Scofflaws owe city more than $45M in fines

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Someone’s not paying their fines. And the City of Windsor is hard-pressed to track them down. “Regardless of how effective the active collection efforts are, there still remains a significant number of outstanding fines,” city staff who handle Provincial Offences Act (POA) citations, say. As of last December there was a whopping $45,060,290 in unpaid fines. The “vast majority” have been outstanding more than a decade. But these are not all personal scofflaws but “in many cases relate to corporations.” The problems is offenders can’t be traced, may have died or are simply out of the country. The city has no choice but to write-off what’s owing. But take heed scofflaws. That doesn’t “absolve a convicted offender from the requirement to pay a fine, as debts to the Crown are owed in perpetuity and are never forgiven.” Meanwhile the city’s 12 new red-light cameras – distinguished by their box like shapes and circular lens – began operating in January 2022 and have collected more than $600,000 in fines, almost 25 per cent of all tickets. Altogether since the city took over collecting POA fines from the province in 2001, the office has obtained almost $50 million in fines. Last year POA offences averaged more than 1800 for a yearly total of almost 23,000. This resulted in $5.6 million in paid fines. The city goes after delinquent payers through municipal tax rolls, garnishment of wages and use of collection agencies. Nine delinquent accounts were added to tax rolls last year generating almost $20,000 And 63 people saw garnishments from their ages for almost $34,000. Almost $800,000 was collected by collection agencies.


Russian Federation adds two more local politicians to that country's travel ban list

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Two more local politicians have joined a long list of Canadians banned from entering Russia as the Russia-Ukrainian War drags on. These are largely politicans, Olympic athletes and some media figures who have been outspoken in their criticism of Russia's invasion. The Russian Foreign Ministry (crest left) yesterday named Anthony Leardi (PC MPP Essex) and Lisa Gretzky (NDP MPP Windsor West), some of the 333 added to the overall list of 1537. “In view of the anti-Russian sanctions periodically imposed by the Trudeau regime against officials, politicians, experts, journalists, cultural figures and athletes from Russia, as well as anyone who does not suit the Ottawa ‘mainstream’ and the neo-Nazi authorities supported by it in Kiev, the entry into the Russian Federation is closed on a permanent basis for 333 Canadian citizens,” the Federation said in a press release. “Adhering to the principle of the inevitability of punishment, the Russian side, in response to Ottawa's hostile actions, included in the ‘stop list’ representatives of the Canadian leadership, parliamentarians and politicians of various levels, public activists and athletes involved in the spread of rabid Russophobia in the country. The Federation hopes naming the individuals will embarrass them to change their wys. But many have greeted the citation as a badge of honour coming from an illegitimate and pariah government. Says the Federation, “the measure is also intended to encourage those on the blacklist to change their behaviour.” Earlier regional additions to the list, added last summer, were Chris Lewis (Conservative MP Essex) and Marilyn Gladu (Conservative MP Sarnia-Lambton).


April 1st: no joke as taxes rise and MPs' salaries increase by $5100 to almost $195,000

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Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day. And for Canadians, during this era of high inflation, the joke may indeed be on them. In addition to the alcohol excise tax increasing by two per cent – down from an original 6.3 per cent but for only one year – federal members of parliament will pay themselves an extra $5100. MPs “will take their fourth pay raise since the beginning of the Covid pandemic,” says Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. They already make $189,500. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will see his salary go up $10,200 from $379,000. This, Terrazzano said, when their constituents “are struggling to fill the fridge.” Inflation generally in February was 5.2 per cent but food inflation was 9.7 per cent. Terrazzano said “MPs especially don’t deserve a raise when they make life unaffordable with tax hikes.” Meanwhile, the carbon tax will increase from 11 to 14 cents per litre of gasoline and from 10 to 12 cents per cubic metre of natural gas. That’s based on the government increasing the price of carbon pollution from $50 to $65 per tonne. But there will be no let up in future years. The price will continue to rise by $15 per year until it reaches $170 in 2030. Despite carbon rebates a family will still shell out between $402 and $847 more this year as a result of the increase, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. “That’s a couple of weeks of groceries for a family of four,” Terrazzano added. Terrazzano said the alcohol tax increase, which drew widespread opposition especially from the hospitality industry, keeps increasing “year after year” without a parlimentary vote.


Roads and sewers, new fire HQ and “legal matter” among $1.7 billion, 10-year capital ask

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Residents who complain the city doesn’t do enough to fix roads and sewers should take a look at the city’s 10-year $1.7 billion capital budget forecast, contained in current budget documents. The top spending initiative is almost $169 million for roads. In addition, $32 million is specifically earmarked for the Provincial-Division Rd. corridor enhancement, $21 million for Howard Ave. from S. Cameron to the Herb Gray Parkway and $25 million for ongoing Riverside Dr. Vista (widening) improvements. Altogether $491 million is slated. The next largest part of the budget is sewers, ringing in at $467 million. The biggest items here are $85 million for city-wide sewer rehabilitation and $67 million for the sewer master plan. $61 million has been earmarked for flood prevention and $45 million for basement flooding. The next biggest expenditure is $175 million for parks and rec. This includes $27 million for the central riverfront and Civic Esplanade, $27 million for the controversial Adie Knox Herman “Reimaging” conversion, $21 million for tree maintenance and $20 million for playgrounds. Checking in next is city corporate property at $168 million. Of this the biggest is $28 million for a new fire station headquarters, $11 million for roof replacements, the same for the riverfront fountain, and $10 million for the homeless Housing Hub. One “confidential legal matter” clunks in at a whopping $13.5 million. Next on the list is transportation at $163 million. Top spending includes $33 million for Transit Windsor bus replacement, $25 million to replace city vehicles and $21 million for Fire and Rescue vehicle replacement. Agencies, boards and committees are requesting $127 million. The priciest by far is community housing at $65 million and then $13 million for police fleet maintenance and replacement. Community and Economic Development has an ask of $105 million. Top spending - $41 million – is for the new hospital, and then $13.5 million for something called the “corporate enterprise resource planning system”. There’s also $25 million for grant matching and “inflation mitigation.” Corporate technology’s ask is $41 million.


Other shoe drops: Windsor Star editorial cuts

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The other shoe has dropped for Windsor Star layoffs this winter. This follows on late January’s decision by Postmedia, the company that runs the more than 100-year-old local newspaper, to close the Star’s suburban printing plant with the loss of 75 jobs. The company this week announced it's cutting three editorial positions. These are a night news editor, reporter and a photographer – two through layoffs and one by voluntary layoff. “We also are facing four layoffs in our advertising sales department but those folks haven't received official notice yet. We're in the voluntary layoff part right now,” Julie Kotsis, a Star reporter and Chairperson of Unifor’s Windsor Star Unit and vice president of the union’s Local 240. Kotsis has also led the Star’s Joint Council of Unions' bargaining committee. The news comes just before the official closure of the printing plant on Starway Ave. “And as you know, the Starway Ave. printing plant has its last run (tonight),” Kotsis said. “Really tough times for the media industry in general but particularly difficult for us.” The layoffs apparently are part of an expected 11 per cent cut in editorial positions among Postmedia newspapers. Ironically, Gerry Nott, a former Windsor Star editor and Postmedia’s senior vice president for editorial content, stated in January that the decision is “about aligning our cost structure with our revenue stream against ongoing decline in our industry and strong economic headwinds leading up to this difficult decision on staff reduction." Traditional print newspapers have faced increasing pressures as a result of, among other things, losing advertising to digital websites and the decline of print subscribers. The Star, really Windsor and Essex County’s longtime paper of record, was founded in 1888 and according to Wikipedia has a circulation of more than 49,000 weekdays and more than 51,000 Saturdays. The paper will now be printed in Toronto with inserts handled in London, and the newspapers trucked to Windsor.


City scores an 'A' on climate report card

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The City of Windsor scored an "A" from an international organization of mayors on its fight to control greenhouse gases. That puts it among the top 13 Canadian and 122 global cities for “bold climate action," according to The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM)’s Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The city has been part of the Compact since 2015. “Towns or cities from around the world regardless of size commit to accelerate ambitious, measurable climate and energy initiatives that lead to an inclusive, just, low-emission and climate resilient future, helping to meet and exceed the Paris Agreement objectives,” says Michelle Moxley-Peltier, Windsor’s Community Energy Plan Administrator. Windsor committed to reporting its efforts within three years. Scoring began in 2018 and Windsor “has not received an overall score of less than "A-", which corresponds to the Leadership level, the highest level attainable,” Moxley-Peltier wrote in a report. As part of the compact the city reports on matters like the “climate hazards” faced by the municipality, its emissions reductions target, “climate vulnerabilities,” and plans “to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.” Cities in the Leadership category “have strategic, holistic plans in place to ensure the actions they are taking will reduce climate impacts and vulnerabilities of the citizens, businesses and organizations residing in their city,” says the report. The average regional city score was "B" and the average global city was "D." Most regional cities attained "B" but globally the highest numbers were in the "D-" category.


Lanspeary makeover - more trees, massive playground, and rainbow coloured picnic tables

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The demolition of the aged but venerable greenhouses in Lanspeary Park will mark the first of a major overhaul of Windsor’s central city park, the main entrance of which is on Ottawa St. The almost 12-acre park has been in existence for more than a century. A new master plan combines old and new. There will be a new outdoor swimming pool and water slide, a renovated historic band stand, and a “supersized” accessible family playground “one of the largest municipal playgrounds in Ontario.” The existing parking lot will be turned into a “green pathway” as a focal point access from Giles Blvd. A large accessible parking lot will be built where some of the former greenhouses were located. There will be an extended shaded outdoor paved plaza of almost 900 square metres, a community garden with concrete plaza and seating area and a splash pad of 540 square metres. Look for two basketball courts, six pickleball courts, two tennis courts and the existing washroom will be renovated. The park’s cobblestone heritage building will be retained. The parking lot at Langlois Ave. will be expanded. The “heritage features” like the entry walls and gates will be renovated, new trees add shade and there will be picnic and chess tables. The Windsor-Essex Rainbow Alliance is funding six proposed rainbow coloured picnic tables with umbrellas. While Lanspeary was opened in 1917 it has been home to the city’s greenhouses since 1926 until recently moved to Jackson Park. One of the greenhouses had been moved from Willistead Park. Heritage features will be saved and the footprint will otherwise be returned to parkland. The park was named for W. D. Lanspeary a city councillor who “advocated for parks as a breathing space for the public,” a city report says.

Photo: Google Satellite View


Panhandling bylaw may be pointless - city

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They might be a nuisance but hard to eliminate - the perennial problem of panhandlers, a particular irritant downtown. A legal opinion in response to a question by city councillor Fred Francis found a blanket panhandling ban by the city “would likely not survive a Charter challenge.” That’s because “peaceful constructive panhandling” is a “form of expression.” Instead, says the city legal report, Windsor could consider doing what the City of Vancouver has done or mirror what's in the existing Ontario Safe Streets Act. It could limit aggressive panhandling. This includes behaviour where the panhandler is issuing threats, blocking someone’s path, using abusive language, following or otherwise walking alongside the person being solicited, demanding money while intoxicated and continuing to solicit after being turned down. The Safe Streets Act already prohibits solicitation at ATMs, bus stops, pay phones or taxi stands. Or when someone is getting in or out of a parked vehicle. Solicitation by a group is also banned under the Vancouver law. Francis’s request follows one made by then city councillor Drew Dilkens in 2014 with city staff offering much the same opinion. Moreover, the legal department says, most of the provisions of any such bylaw duplicate legislation already enforced by police. In the 2014 opinion the cost of enforcement was also estimated. An enforcement officer would spend eight hours per charge and more than $300 per incident. If a person plead guilty prosecution time would be less than an hour. But if not many hours of paperwork and trial prep would ensue. And given panhandlers finances it’s ”unlikely” they’d pay up.


Local community newspapers have received more than $350,000 in government funding

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Four local community newspapers - two part of the same chain – have received $362,325 in federal government funds between April 2020 and March of next year. The money comes from the Canadian Periodical Fund (CPF) community newspaper (non-daily) section. The CPF, which has long been established with subsidies given for years to monthly magazines, is designed “to enable (publications) to overcome market disadvantages and continue to provide Canadian readers with the content they choose to read.” Leamington-based Southpoint Publishing got the most funding - $190,813. This was spread over two yearly grants to the Southpoint Sun in Leamington - $146,747 - and similarly the River Town Times in Amherstburg - $44,066. The Essex Free Press in Essex got $103,544, again over two years. And the Harrow News obtained apparently $67,968. (Apparently, because one grant seemed to be repeated twice on the government’s website. So, the total figure above assumes that was a mistake. The repeated grant of $4174 was for an “aboriginal recipient,” presumably an aboriginal staff hire.) Millions of dollars have been allocated to publications large and small under the CPF, with magazines like Maclean’s, Canadian Living and Canadian House & Home receiving literally millions. The federal government has also been broadening its news media subsidies in recent years, in 2019 providing more than $500 million in tax credits to aid publishers, which have been losing money due to the decline in traditional print advertising. The funding has been controversial. Critics say grants compromise journalistic integrity and could directly compromise reporting on governments, the hand that feeds. University of Windsor professor Lydia Miljan calls subsidies ”ill-conceived.” Writing in C2C Journal she said some small newspapers have failed despite grants. “Protecting a dying industry makes it more difficult for innovators to enter the market,” she wrote, noting the public is consuming news like never before just on different platforms. But Toronto Metropolitan University retired journalism professor Ivor Shapiro called it a “fake issue.” He told that the real question is whether news media, like other subsidized industries, provides “a public value.” He said previous government funding to the CBC and magazines always went unquestioned so “one wonders...what the fuss is.”


"Disadvantaged" Windsor selected to be part of worldwide study on urban economic resilience

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The City of Windsor has been selected by a prestigious British university for “lessons learned” on how it has gone about regenerating economic development. In particular, an Oxford University business school is seeking information on how the city’s innovative Community Improvement Plan (CIP) has been successful in helping revitalize neighbourhoods. Several cities around the world, including Windsor, which have had “a period of socioeconomic decline” have been asked to respond. The university wants to know how these “disadvantaged regions” can “be empowered to grow.” The information would be used to provide ideas to help “level up” the UK’s own distressed regions. Virtually every region has had problems with economic growth outside of that encompassing London in southeast England. So far, a project letter says, successive UK governments have failed to adequately address the problems. “Windsor, Canada is one of our case studies and we are particularly interested in learning more about how Windsor used the relationship with the other government levels and instruments such as the CIP to build resilience." Under the CIP Windsor provides a suite of incentives like tax holidays and grants to investors to redevelop inner city or brownfields (former industrial) lands. Official CIPs exist for several neighbourhoods including Olde Sandwich, Ford City and Downtown Windsor.

Photo shows former Walkerville Power building, now restored, whose developers received CIP assistance


Yet another study to boost passenger train frequency between Windsor and Toronto

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Yet another passenger rail study is underway to look at beefing up service in southwestern Ontario. The federal government hired CPCS Transcom Limited (CPCS) with WSP as “external advisors.” They will be “exploring options to improve passenger rail frequencies, on-time performance, and to shorten travel times in Southwestern Ontario,” says the transport ministry. They will look at present and future passenger rail demand, assessing routes and recommending options. The study could lead to so-called High Frequency Rail (HFR) for more frequent and faster service. That’s distinguished from High-Speed Rail (HSR) which would have much faster travel times - "bullet trains" - on dedicated tracks. But the government still says HFR could “transform” travel times by up to 90 minutes. And it appears also appears on the cusp of implementing the system by stating that requests for proposals will be issued early in 2023. However, a federal official denied details in a CBC report that the study is a response to a drastic decline in passenger traffic in the wake of Covid. "The truth is the pandemic absolutely decimated all of the rail services," the CBC quoted Malcolm Cairns, a consultant who undertook a study of passenger service in Ontario and Quebec two years ago. During Covid train travel between Windsor and Toronto was reduced drastically. “Some of the private train services were shut down and transit just went from an average of 60 per cent cost recovery to 20 per cent cost recovery,” Cairns said. But Transport Minister Omar Alghabra’s spokeswoman Nadine Ramadan denied the study has anything to do with post-Covid travel. “No,” she said. “The study is being conducted in accordance with the Minister’s mandate commitment to expand passenger rail in Southwest Ontario.” Paul Langan, president of High-Speed Rail Canada, was pessimistic about government plans. He said rail tracks west of Kitchener are congested and without new, dedicated passenger tracks, there's no way more frequent trains can operate. "They can't fit anymore trains on the existing track,” he told the CBC. “They said 'no' to high-speed rail, which is new track, dedicated track, so to me it's just another study." A 2016 hi-speed rail study on Windsor-Toronto service has since been shelved.

Photo: Via Rail Canada


Local Unifor head reportedly wanted to have unionists clear Freedom Convoy protesters

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Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, allegedly proposed to take physical action against Freedom Convoy protesters last February near the Ambassador Bridge. Cassidy, who represents workers at Stellantis’s minivan assembly plant, apparently had called Premier Doug Ford and offered the union’s services as a way to clear the anti-Covid mandate protesters, who blocked Huron Church Rd. for almost a week. The road is Canada’s most critical route for trade between Canada and the United States including countless shipments of just-in-time parts for auto manufacturing. Speaking before the Public Order Emergency Commission, OPP Supt. Dana Earley (photo), who headed the provincial police’s protest response in Windsor, said she was informed about the phone call from the so-called Provincial Liaison Team (PLT). The PLT works on the ground with protesters to build relationships and make sure events run smoothly. On Tuesday Commission lawyer Frank Au asked Earley about what she had heard about counter-protesters. “The (PLT) had had discussions with a member from the auto union,” she replied. “And he expressed his displeasure with the protest and in fact was sharing with them he was going to take matters into his own hands if it was not resolved.” She added, “I was very grateful for the rapport and the relationship that PLT was able to develop with him. And through that we asked for time for his patience.” Au then quoted a document. “PLT informed superintendent Earley that David Cassidy, president of the local autoworkers union chapter, Unifor Local 444, claimed that he had spoken to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and that he was willing to bring autoworkers to the blockade site to forcibly clear out protesters by Monday February the 14th if police had not cleared the blockade by that date.” Au asked Earley “what kind of danger” this posed. She replied, “This is extremely concerning ….. and it was just other options now that I had to consider that not only the protesters perhaps would not like the plan of action (that police were planning) but we may have counter protesters attending as well that would create significant issues for public and officer safety.”


Mayor's office ducks 'Strong Mayor' question while leading opponent foursquare against

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While the office of the incumbent mayor of Windsor is ducking the question, Drew Dilkens's strongest opponent in the current municipal election campaign has come out four-square against the so-called "Strong Mayor" concept. this week reached out to Mayor Dilkens’s office for reaction to statements from Ontario Premier Doug Ford (photo) that he will expand the Strong Mayor concept after the Oct. 24 vote. “They should have a little more power to make things happen rather than have the same vote as a single councillor,” Ford said. The province has already granted the powers to Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario’s largest cities. It’s received mixed reviews. The powers would help cut red tape especially in planning and getting badly needed new housing constructed. “So hopefully they’ll be able to use it to build attainable and affordable homes” the premier said. The power would expedite some of the delays that occur when residents oppose new housing often citing NIMBY. Dilkens’s chief of staff Andrew Teliszewsky said he “wouldn't even know where to start” in commenting on the plan. “The legislation comes into force for Toronto and Ottawa next month, so how they are deployed in those jurisdictions will be up to them and I couldn't even fathom to comment.” He suggested getting comment from the premier’s office or Toronto and Ottawa officials. But Ward 4 councillor Chris Holt, the mayor’s leading challenger, was adamantly opposed to the proposal. Holt called the new powers “exceptional” that can “effectively erode the voice and function of members of council in building consensus, which only serves to further diminish the voices, ideas and needs of residents.” He is “pledging” to “not use” those powers, similar to positions the two leading candidates for Ottawa mayor have taken. Holt called on Dilkens to say where he stands on the issue. He criticized Dilkens for already being “reckless” during the pandemic – for example, being the “only mayor in North America to shut down transit.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Revamped west end wildlife overpass would cross both Ojibway Parkway and ETR tracks

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The city is continuing to look at building a wildlife crossing to span the west end Ojibway Parkway and the parallel Essex Terminal Railway tracks but with an expanded footprint. If City Council approves, upwards of $400,000 would be paid to a private consultant, Wood Canada Ltd., for more studies and public consultation related to an ongoing environmental assessment. The proposal has come up before but Bridging North America, the consortium building the new Gordie Howe International Bridge, announced $1.5 million in seed money for a wildlife crossing near the official port of entry into Canada as part of its co-called Community Benefits Plan. The natural crossing would connect two important ecologial areas - the Black Oak Heritage Park on the east side and Ojibway Park on the west. The work would be carried out jointly with the City of Windsor. "This wildlife crossing would provide safe passage for area wildlife and species at risk in the Ojibway Prairie Complex as approximately 20,000 vehicles per day travel along Ojibway Parkway and E.C. Row Expressway, which contributes heavily to wildlife mortality," says a city staff report. Such a connection would reduce "landscape fragmentation through improvement of habitat connectivity." Previous consultations "raised the concern" with the crossing only going over the four-lane Ojibway Parkway, a commuter route to the industrial west and, LaSalle and Amherstburg, rather than over both the Parkway and neighbouring ETR railway tracks. "The consultant’s modified scope would include additional investigations necessary to assess the lands on the west side of the ETR tracks to inform the evaluation of alternative solutions and the potential development of a new preferred concept design." Bonuses would include reducing rainfall on the Parkway and therefore peak storm flows into the drainage system, and reducing the heat island effect as the green space "will reflect some of the sun's radiation."

Image: City of Windsor

WindsorOntarioNews on hiatus until March

Assumption renos on hold while church completes fundraising

WON Feb 7/24: Assumption Church is putting its renovation on hold for six months while it raises cash to complete its interior work. “We are delaying any further restoration work for six months while we focus on fundraising,” campaign spokesman Paul Mullins said. “The interior restoration is 80% complete. Our budget for the remainder of the interior restoration, including the ceiling and the sanctuary, is $1,500,000. We can still complete the entire interior restoration within a year if we can obtain the required financial support.” Overall the church has raised $5.52 million but needs only another $130,000. “We are committed to ensure that the Parish is not going to incur debt in order to complete this restoration,” Mullins said. “100% of all donations are used for restoration. Nothing is being spent on fundraising.

One-third of Windsor households have “energy poverty”

WON Jan 24/24: As the city seeks to go to “net zero” it realizes some residents are struggling with the cost of energy or “energy poverty.” Says a city hall report, “not all households find energy affordable.” Based on the 2016 Census, 35% of Windsor homes were experiencing a high home energy cost burden, which means that over 6% of the household income was spent on energy costs. 14% of homes have a “very high” energy cost burden (more than 10% of income) and 6.5% have an “extreme” high home energy cost burden (more than 15% of income). The city wants to work with utilities “to develop a full understanding” of the problem, in turn “developing opportunities to address energy access and poverty to help ensure a just transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Cost explodes for reno of bandshell that wasn't even the original one

WON Jan 10/24: Any plan to renovate the derelict Jackson Park Bandshell will start out costing more than originally anticipated - $300,000 compared to $100,000, City Council has been told. That’s for a more extensive consultant study because the structure has heritage status and for environmental and traffic impacts. Community groups have recently been pressing to preserve the building because of the role it played for Windsor’s Black community including hosting Emancipation Day celebrations and Martin Luther King Jr. But those events mainly occurred “on the original stage” (photo) destroyed in a 1957 fire. Subsequent celebrations were smaller and eventually moved to Mic Mac Park.

Lyft arrives in Windsor

WON Dec 8/23: Lyft has come to Windsor. The ride share platform joins Uber in the Rose City and environs as the international company expands into several southwestern Ontario markets. Lyft started out in Toronto in 2017 and then opened in other major Canadian cities. “Now, riders can choose Lyft for a reliable ride–whether running errands, going to the airport or meeting up with friends to explore the city,” says the company. A new user promotion is in effect.

Rats have their days

WON Nov 27/23: Rats may not be as big as alley cats but Windsor’s rat population is in flux. Since 2018 the city’s rodents number has “steadily declined” say city staff. The city provides free baiting under its Rodent Extermination Program. In 2021 there were 2,397 requests but in 2022 only 1,735. But there was a major increase in recent years. From 2007 to 2014 less than 800 baits were placed. But the number jumped in 2017 to almost 1400. “Although part of the decline is likely due to education efforts and the baiting portion of the program, a portion of the decline is due to the natural cycle of wildlife populations,” the city says.

Big charge to local power company for a minor error

WON Nov 10/23: A miniscule billing error will still mean a local energy system will have to fork over almost $3000 to a charity as a penalty as well as an administrative charge of $10,000. ELK Energy, wholly owned by the Town of Essex, serves Belle River, Comber, Cottam, Essex, Harrow and Kingsville. The company agreed to pay into the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) to help needy customers. It chose this method because to compensate customers directly would have amounted to only 30 cents per household. The error was in one charge in prorated bills between Novembers 2020 and 2023.

Region still needs doctors - lots of them

WON Oct 25/23: If you think Windsor-Essex has recruited enough doctors, think again. Despite what might be described as a generally successful almost two-decade long recruitment drive, the area is still woefully lacking MDs, says a United Way-led coalition. A local physician recruitment office is defunct because local municipal funding ran out. But between 2003 and 2019 the office recruited 569 doctors. However, says the coalition, more than 32,000 people still don’t have a primary care doc and one in five physicians are over age 65. But a motion to reestablish the office was voted down by city councillors. – 25/10/23

Red Cross: no intervention in Israel - Hamas conflict Oct 11/23: The Canadian Red Cross says it won’t intervene in the Israel-Palestinian conflict because it takes a position of “neutrality.” I asked if the agency could put pressure on its international component, as requested by a friend in Israel, to have Red Cross visit captured Israelis taken hostage last weekend in the Gaza Strip. “The Canadian Red Cross is part of the largest humanitarian network in the world and all of our services are guided by (seven principles) which includes Neutrality,” an agent wrote back. “The fundamental principle of Neutrality means that we may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.” Yet, in the current Azerbaijan – Nagornokarabakh conflict Red Cross teams were patrolling Stepanakert, looking for refugees, in Nagornokarabakh. – Ron Stang

City 311 budget could more than double for homeless outreach

WON Sept 26/23: It could more than double the cost of the city’s 311 phone service to expand it to 24/7 to improve homelessness services. That’s more than a $2 million or 105 per cent increase. Increasing hours to 16/7 would be a 65 per cent increase. Currently the city provides eight hours five days a week costing $1.9 million. A 24-hour service would cost just over $4 million and 16 hours $3.2 million. Besides the city’s own homeless services there are 10 community organizations that provide additional help and would be linked by 311. A risk analysis says this would cost “a significant amount of money and may create an expectation…..that response times will be immediate.”

City of Windsor to sell off 22 properties owned by tax deadbeats

WON Sept 12/23: The City of Windsor is going head with the sale by tender of 22 properties for which taxes haven’t been paid, owing to $390,000. The properties are ones where the city has “exhausted” all other avenues to collect the tax. Historically the city has 4000-5000 accounts where taxes haven’t been paid in full and on average 100 go to “registrations” each year. The owners then have one year to pay up or enter an extended repayment schedule. The 22 properties are ones where the one-year registration has lapsed. But the owners can pay right up to tender closing to “redeem” their properties. Historically, once notification of the advertisement of sale has been sent to the property owners at least 30-50 per cent pay right up, and an “additional” number pay after the advertisement appears, the city says.

Have say on new bridge's Detroit cycling connection Aug 28/23: The City of Detroit is inviting comments on the future bikeway connecting the Gordie Howe International Bridge (GHIB) with southwest Detroit and the city’s downtown. Known as the Joe Louis Greenway the trail will connect on and off street through Clark Park for one-third of a mile at a cost of $1 million. An expanded route to the GHIB will be one mile and cost an equal amount. Construction dates “are to be determined,” the City of Detroit says. Feedback can be sent to A public meeting will be held Sept. 6 at 6 pm at Clark Park, 1130 Clark Street, Detroit.

City has strategy to counter heritage properties loss Aug 14/23: The city is moving to counter the province on legislation to limit designating heritage properties. Under new Ontario legislation to speed the construction of homes properties on a heritage “list” but not intended for “designation” must be removed by Jan. 1 2025 and can’t be listed again for another five years. Windsor has 1272 properties on its Heritage Register, 388 of these "designated." Once removed the remaining 844 “listed” properties (such as the Yorktown Plaza sign, above) could be demolished. The city’s strategy consists of doing “batch” designations before that time as well as protecting properties through methods such as the neighbourhood Walkerville Study, where 300 properties are listed.

Photo: Wikipedia

NextStar Energy - mammoth site well under construction July 31/23

Recyclers may be coming to a kitchen counter near you July 18/23: Pending municipal approval the local waste authority will be looking for 250 volunteers for a test project in advance of a new organic recycling program. They’ll use so called FoodCyclers to chuck food waste instead of putting it in regular garbage. The FoodCycler is made by Cornwall-based Food Cycle Science, which is working with smaller communities which don’t have established organic programs. The 2.5 litre pail apparatus is reputed to shrink waste by 90 per cent and speeds decomposition within hours. The units can easily fit on kitchen countertops. The pilot would last 12 weeks. Each unit would be subsidized $100.

Yup, another gas tax taking effect July 1 June 29/23: The Trudeau government is imposing a second carbon tax July 1. Known as the Clean Fuel Standard the purpose is to have producers reduce the carbon intensity of fuel. Motorists could see a “minimum three or four cents” increase this summer, R Cube Consulting says. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the tax will increase the price of a liter by 17 cents by 2030, costing the average family as much as $1,157. Canadians now get a rebate under the original carbon tax but not with the new tax. The two taxes will eventually cost families $2000 annually. The government itself says the tax will “disproportionately impact lower and middle-income households,” including “single mothers” and “seniors living on fixed incomes.” Happy Canada Day!

"Greatest hits" CKWW sold in Bell shake-up June15/23: Venerable radio station 580 CKWW is being sold by parent Bell Media, part of a national sell off of stations and layoffs of hundreds of employees. While some stations are being closed completely, such as London’s Newstalk 1290, 580 will be sold, according to The Canadian Press. The sale is to an “undisclosed third party” subject to CRTC approval. The station at one time offered community news and talk but for well over a decade has been re-imagined as a facsimile of the former Big 8 CKLW, with the same playlist, a nostalgic nod to Baby Boomers who grew up listening to the station in the 1960s and 70s. Its tagline is that it plays “the greatest hits of all time.”

Public will get its say on Lanc's location May 25/23: The city will be canvassing the public as to where the new public home of the city’s legendary Lancaster Bomber should be located. The bomber is “nearing restoration” by the Canadian Aviation Museum and the city previously agreed to a ”stewardship” of $50,000 annually to maintain the aircraft, once displayed at Jackson Park. The public will be asked for their comments in a survey between June 7 and 28. There will also be a public information session June 14. The $50,000 pays for materials; work has been done by volunteers. Last year almost 5000 hours were donated. No time line has been put on when the plane, one of only 17 left in the world, will return to public view.

Starting May 12 no vaccination proof needed to enter US April 11/23: You are now vaccine-free to go about their country. Beginning Friday travellers entering the United States will no longer have to provide proof of vaccinations against Covid-19. “Beginning May 12, 2023, DHS will no longer require non-U.S. travelers entering the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination upon request,” the Department of Homeland Security said. “DHS intends to rescind these Title 19 travel restrictions in alignment with the end of the Public Health Emergency and the termination of the Presidential Proclamation on air travel.” The restrictions have often caught Canadians off-guard given the pandemic has been in the rereview mirror for some time and the comparative easier access to other countries.

5% - 2500 - of survey responders supportive of green bin plan April 28/23: Cities like Belleville, Toronto and Cambridge have them and eventually Essex-Windsor will have one too. No timeline has been put on curbside organic waste collection – often dubbed “green bins” but the local waste authority said there is “definitely a lot of interest.” A survey last year – average participation was five per cent – found that of the 2500 who did respond, 75 per cent said they’d participate in the program. Of the 22 who said they wouldn’t, among reasons - “smell, inconvenience of separating food waste, space constraints, they were already composting and it would attract wildlife and rodents.”

CBC wraps-up 'Essex County' TV series, filmed in North Bay April 14/23: The finale of the five-part series Essex County, CBC’s version of the internationally acclaimed graphic novel by Jeff Lemire, originally from Essex County, wraps up Sunday. But the series was filmed in Northern Ontario – North Bay to be exact - and not, well, in Essex County. Why Northern Ontario? “We would have loved to shoot in Essex County, but North Bay offered funding for our production via (the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, a provincial government agency)," executive producer Christina Piovesan said. “We feel that the carefully scouted locations used in the series really brought the scripts to life." Earlier, the CBC said part of the crew's job was "finding places in North Bay that resembled the writer's vision of Essex County."

Lton hospital now has online wait time clock March 30/23: They exist on billboards in the US. And now Leamington’s hospital is one of three in the province to have a similar online wait clock. This is for “low acuity” care such as coughs, colds, minor cuts, sprains and sports injuries within the department’s Rapid Assessment Zone. “The new Wait Time Clock will display the number of patients currently waiting for treatment, allowing patients to make informed decisions about when to seek medical care,” a spokesman for the hospital, known as Erie Shores HealthCare, said.

Windsor mayor and city council salaries total almost $700,000 March 16/23: The total amount of salaries paid to the mayor and city council totalled just over $687,000 in 2022. The mayor’s salary including taxable benefits was $209,077 and 13 councillors’ salaries totally $478,194 including taxable benefits, which themselves were negligible. Councillors had few expenses with only Fabio Costante reporting $939 to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Regina and IT costs for Ed Sleiman and Angelo Marignani totaling less than $1100. But Mayor Dilkens had $23,862 in expenses all of which was for travel. The most expensive trip was $7283 for the high profile South Korean trip last December to attract businesses in the wake of the NextStar EV battery plant announcement ($7283) and a similar trip to Poland and Germany last April ($5889).

Photo: City of Windsor

Main streets should take priority over residential - city March 2/23: Salting residential streets first in a winter storm simply doesn’t make sense, says the city’s public works department. Responding to a question from city councillor Jo-Anne Gignac, diverting salt from the priority 21 main city arteries could actually “cause snow and ice to build up and may result in collisions and traffic backups throughout the city.” There are 1325 lane km of residential streets divided into 36 zones. One zone would take four to six hours to salt. “Directing all twenty-one trucks on from the main routes to salt the thirty-six residential zones would take eight to twelve hours to complete.”

Rides on city Bird e-scooters dropped Feb 13/23: Maybe the novelty is wearing off. E-scooters may still be popular in the city of Windsor but their riderhsip was down last year compared to 2021. The "micro-mobility" transportation saw 104,292 total rides and 17,040 unique riders. The average distance travelled was 2.92 km. That compares to the first year when 137,298 rides were taken and the Bird branded scooters has 22,520 users, travelling 4.11 km on average. There were also more scooters made available on the streets last year - 637 compared to 401.