Windsor Ontario News / Comment

OPSEU crashing beer & wine sales party April 8 2017

If it’s not Ontario’s anachronistic liquor laws that have stifled consumers from joining the ranks of millions of other people across North America by being allowed to purchase beer and wine in grocery stores, it’s the unions. Or one union in particular. Shoppers, like good children, were given the proverbial pat on the head by the Kathleen Wynne government a year and half ago when that government allowed beer to be sold in a minority of grocery stores. Then, in October, the government allowed the sale of Canadian and imported wine in 67 groceries. “Over the coming years,” the province says, as many as 450 stores “could be authorized” to sell beer and cider, with as many as 300 selling wine. Meanwhile, the long-running wine boutiques, located adjacent to groceries, have also been permitted to move “inside the sales floor” and use grocery checkouts. They can also broaden their product selection but only in stores that already sell beer and cider. So, just when you began rejoicing for your newfound, if meager, freedoms, along comes another group to try to take them away. This is the government (LCBO) liquor store employees union. The union, OPSEU, is holding a strike vote April 24 and 25. Chief among the issues? The “creeping privatization” of beer and wine sales in grocery stores. Obviously, this is an attempt by the union to protect its own turf and members’ jobs. But to hell with consumer choice and a freer market, right? This is just the latest example of why Ontario needs to rid itself permanently of it’s near liquor sales monopoly and get rid of the LCBO. Privatization will not only lead to better consumer choice but end patronage to special interest groups, like the liquor employees' union.

Why bike lanes when they're not used? March 20 2017

Representatives of the city’s cycling community are complaining that money is being spent on paving road shoulders and not installing dedicated bike lanes. They’re also upset the city is not doing more to create an official bike lane so cyclists can travel from south Windsor all the way downtown, which sees only a lane some of the way. But it begs the question: why spend millions on cycling infrastructure when cyclists don’t use it? How many time shave we seen cyclists flagrantly use sidewalks on streets where bike lanes already exist? Moreover, the overwhelming use of sidewalks by cyclists, not just in Windsor but in cities with much more developed bike infrastructure, indicates cyclists are the one category of road users most egregious in their flaunting of the law. Of course, other than paying lip service to respecting the law and using proper bike etiquette (when was the last time you saw a cyclist use a hand signal?) the local bike committee or city council advisory committee has done nothing to educate cyclists. So the whining continues when the city doesn’t spend more on bike infrastructure, or on the right kind of infrastructure (shared lanes versus official bike paths). But why spend the money if cyclists don’t use it? Obviously, as Bike Windsor Essex executive director Lori Newton says, creating official lanes provides a greater level of protection and encourages cyclists to use city streets. But you and I – and she – knows the fragrant law-breaking will continue. In fact, so pervasive is unlawful behaviour that the city of Montreal is considering allowing cyclists to legally ride on sidewalks and come to “Idaho stops” at stop signs, meaning they can slow but otherwise breeze through. Doubtful they would even respect that. Perhaps the city of Windsor should tell cyclists: no more infrastructure unless we see more respect for laws. Or otherwise, as poor a choice as it is, legalize use of what already exists – sidewalks designed for pedestrians. They’re de facto bike paths anyway. That way the city can save millions on future “bike infrastructure.”

Hypocrisy on the print media front February 22 2017

It’s kind of rich that Canada's largest newspaper company, Postmedia Network, owner of The Windsor Star along with almost 20 other daily newspapers, numerous community newspapers and other media sites, to be looking encouragingly at receiving government funding to prop up a failing newspaper industry. This follows its 2017 first quarter report last month that showed while the company made $17.1 million its overall revenue fell 14.4 per cent. Print advertising dropped $31.1 million or 21.9 per cent and circulation revenue fell $6.1 million or nine per cent. Digital revenue hardly made up the difference, increasing only $1.2 million or 4.1 per cent and only accounting for 14.6 per cent of Postmedia’s total revenue. However, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey told staff there may be light at the end of the tunnel for a corporation that has seen a severe decline in traditional print revenue, as have virtually all traditional newspapers, with the advent of the internet and the changing ways people consume news. That answer? The federal government recently indicated it may be open to providing some form of subsidies. Godfrey applauded Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly (above), who had said last month her government believes in the importance of journalism, as being “the first big ray of sunshine that I’ve heard that may help us to a more profitable future.” Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. But it’s a little ironic for Postmedia, formerly Canwest Global, to be salivating at the idea of receiving public support when so many of its editorials and columnists over the years have railed against exactly that for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In fact, Canwest once called for the elimination of the CBC, with its papers editorializing the CBC be “broken up and sold” and to “let it die.” Certainly, what’s good for the broadcast goose is good for the print gander.

Don't take it out on the kids February 6 2017

The condemnation of former (temporarily suspected) Windsor Minor Hockey Association president Dean Lapierre is taking on a life of its own. Now we hear that Unifor Local 444 has pulled funding from the vast minor hockey organization that Lapierre represented, as if it’s the kids and other adult members of this association’s fault. There are 20 members of WMHA’s board including seven women. Moreover there are 38 coaches and numerous teams. Other sponsors have indicated they might also pull funding after Lapierre’s sexist and derogatory comments about women who participated in last month’s Women’s March on Washington. “Any of those CANADIAN women who wanted to protest the President of the USA and got turned around. Good u dumb bitches,” he wrote on his Facebook page. It comes to light that Lapierre has also made other online remarks of a similar nature. He has been suspended by the association until the end of April and must take sensitivity training. No question Lapierre’s remarks were out of line and the punishment just, if not an argument for greater punishment including a permanent ban. That he was in a position of authority only adds to the injury. Nevertheless, the union and other sponsors considering pulling funding should separate Lapierre’s remarks from the organization as a whole. As well, the union, if it’s so concerned about sexism, should re-evaluate the fact it holds numerous gatherings at the Giovanni Caboto Club, which has been called on the carpet for having no women on its board of directors but has a separate Women’s Club. And as for Lapierre’s remarks, abhorrent as they were, they are one person’s vitriol against the hundreds if not thousands participating in the Women’s March who were advised to or in fact used slogans just as abhorrent. These included, “My pussy bites, Bitches get stuff done, STFU Trump, Ready to #slay! (and three variations), Don’t pee on me, This bitch bites.” And, last but not least, we had performer Madonna’s infamous remarks, “To our detractors that insist this march will never add up to anything….Fuck you. Fuck you.…Yes, I’m outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House….But I know that this won’t change anything.” Where was the condemnation over this vile drivel?

Build the French immersion school January 12 2017

On one hand the Greater Essex County District School Board should be applauded for buying an old and rather nondescript property – how many people even knew it existed – and plan to totally redevelop it and bolster a core Windsor neighbourhood. On the other there are concerns about the board’s removing all aspects of heritage architectural elements, though these seem few, subdued and in many cases in poor shape, according to a city report. We’re talking about the former International Playing Card Company building on Mercer St. just south of Erie St. The board bought the property, which was formerly owned by the Vitale Produce family, who requested demolition of it for just such a sale as far back as last spring. The city kept deferring on designating the old one-story factory as a heritage building until January 9. In a bizarre set of moves, the school board completed the purchase just four days prior to the city council meeting. In other words, the board sprung it on the city. City councillors defiantly voted unanimously for designation anyway, stifling the board. The board wasn’t deterred, with business superintendent Cathy Lynd confidently saying they could work something out. (The board could appeal but isn’t.) The board needs the school for a new three-story French immersion building. Board officials have suggested they could incorporate various elements of the “art deco” factory into the new facade – the front entrance is the most striking feature - as it did with the renovated John Campbell School. Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin, who represents the area, was angered the board didn’t try to set up “dual track” French immersion programs at two nearby older schools, fearing the new school will cannibalize those. The board hasn’t adequately answered that but likely its decision was fueled by the fact those two buildings (as is the current WD Lowe French immersion school) are too expensive to renovate and not adequate for growing French immersion needs. Its strategy might be questionable but you have to give the board credit for wanting to redevelop an inner city site that could give new life to a property which has limited heritage value.

Time to stop the nonsense around bridge company's west end holdings December 12 2016

Last week’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling tossing a dispute between the Ambassador Bridge company and the City of Windsor back to a lower court as the proper forum to hear the case – and which now will likely be delayed again for about six months – should be a signal to all parties to sit down and negotiate this matter once and for all. The bridge company, of course, is blamed for letting dozens of houses on and around Indian Road in west end Windsor deteriorate. The city wants the company to keep them up to property standards. The only reason those houses are standing in the first place is because it was the City of Windsor which imposed a development freeze, first adopted in 2009 as a heritage measure to preserve Sandwich Towne, Windsor’s oldest neighbourhood. Many people, however, saw the freeze as a not so subtle attempt to stop bridge development point-blank, which would see those houses demolished and create a vast open piece of land, slated ultimately for a new bridge plaza. The bridge company, whether you agree with it or not, bought up those properties fair and square on the open market and was stymied by the city from developing the site. Yet, in popular opinion, it’s the company that gets 99 per cent of the blame for the condition of the properties. This court case has wound itself through the legal system for three years. It’s getting ridiculous. It’s time for the matter to be taken out of the courts and the city and company sit down and negotiate an agreement. The houses should rightly be torn down, the bridge given final approvals (admittedly required also from other levels of government) to build a badly-needed new span – redundancy is the name of the game even with a new planned government-backed Gordie Howe International Bridge – and the site developed.

Just who is preventing local Catholic high school students from learning? October 28 2016

To the list of outrageous actions in the annals of (local) strike history must be added the latest: the delaying tactics by UNIFOR support staff on strike against the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB). The biggest controversy since the strike began Oct. 17 has been the union, UNIFOR 2458’s, blocking of teachers to enter schools to teach students. “We are appreciative of the impact a potential strike may have on students and parents,” union president Bruce Dickie said before the strike began. No one, of course, wants to hurt the students, least of all the strikers, or so the rhetoric goes. And the students themselves have been protesting the work disruption, saying it’s hurting their education, though it seems they blame administration more than the workers, which is always the case, reasons for which we’ll let you decide. In any case, the pickets originally started delaying teachers crossing their picket line – which they have every legal right to do – by five minutes. That’s not five minutes in its entirety but five minutes per car. No wonder it has taken literally hours for teachers to get to their desks and students have been socked away in cafeterias to almost noon time. The teachers’ union, of course, is playing pious. Obviously, union president Brain Hogan says, his union must respect picket lines, and he took umbrage at the board attempting to suspend teachers, an obviously flatfooted action that blew up in the board’s face. But, come on, everyone knows what’s really going on here. Delay teachers from getting to classes means students learn less means more pressure put on the board to settle. Checkmate. The strikers (and teachers, who could work out a solution if they wanted) won’t lift a finger to accommodate the teachers (and apparently some contractors), despite what they say about caring for students. But the real culprit here is a labour law that even allows this kind of egregious disruption to take place. (The board was in court today seeking an injunction limiting delays to 30 seconds.)

Downtown a non-starter October 6 2016

Yet another meeting is being called to fact find how the city’s downtown, or central core, can be reinvigorated or indeed saved. Now it’s the Downtown Residents’ Association’s turn. Let’s look at the facts about downtown Windsor and offer some observations. Over the past almost 20 years – even longer if you include the Civic Esplanade and ill-fated Holiday Inn and Steinberg's projects – attempts have been made to bolster downtown Windsor. Nothing or very little has been effective and the downtown continues to “hollow out.” The massive casino was expected to generate spinoff business growth and pedestrian traffic. The decentralization of St. Clair College and University of Windsor – a work in progress - was also supposed to have done this. Nothing has happened. The streets are arguably emptier than ever. These have been civic minded publically-funded initiatives. But what about the private sector? Private developers and landlords haven’t invested downtown because obviously there’s no market. Windsor’s compact downtown and riverfront would be ideal for infill upscale attached townhouse development. Yet, despite innumerable house builders in Windsor-Essex, none have taken a gamble on downtown. That’s because the money follows where people want to live. And fortunately or unfortunately that’s in the burbs. Look at the multiple and “sprawling” residential developments in Lakeshore, Tecumseh and LaSalle, or indeed suburban Windsor. “Urbanists” – of which there has been a growing and activist local community – don’t like this. It would be interesting to find out where they live. There are some obvious truths about Windsor that downtown advocates, of which is one, don’t want to see. One is that Windsor is a car-oriented community (we build them here). Second, despite being a working class town, that working class is paid very well and has middle class aspirations. Hence the move to new homes and shunning older properties where repairs and renovations are needed. Third, this area is very family-oriented. Parents don’t want to bring their kids up in neighbourhoods that are perceived to be old, congested and dangerous. These are facts of life in Canada’s “motor city” and umpteen discussions and forums – and indeed tens of millions of dollars in attempted development – won’t do much to change them.

Shameful traffic law-violating parents Sept. 22 2016

Information for Parents - Traffic Enforcement - Caution! There is no stopping on the south side of Liberty in front of the school. Stopping creates a safety hazard so Police have been issuing tickets. – Massey website

You know society has reached a certain state of entitlement and selfishness when parents line up at a school totally oblivious to the parking regulations around it. Such was the scene at a badly-needed crackdown at Vincent Massey Secondary School where parents had the audacity to angrily shout at bylaw enforcement officers handing out numerous tickets. This illegal parking – in clearly marked No Parking and No Stopping zones and even in front of residents’ driveways, and double and triple street parking – has been going on for years. Why did it take until now for the city to finally crackdown? And of course this kind of flagrant disregard for traffic laws hasn’t just been taking place at Massey. The city says the crackdown is just the start and many school areas will be targeted. In any case, now that the city is starting to enforce regulations it behooves parents - who stop at the school to leave off and pick up their children - to obey the law. Obviously they don’t feel they have to, partly, presumably because they have been doing this for years and no one has said anything about it. This driving-the-kids business also raises other questions. Bad enough that parents of elementary school students routinely drop off and pick up their “little darlings” in front of schools, causing similar bottlenecks and parking violations. But why are parents providing this service to high school students, who should be old, mature, and physically capable enough to walk or take a bus on their own? It's simply another example of the helicopter parenting syndrome which extends now even to “kids” in their 20s, living at home with mom and dad (or one or the other) and always staying in touch through their cell phones. The city should have started this crackdown years ago. And to those entitled parents: for shame.

Provincial Tories show little opposition Sept. 4 2016

Ontario’s main opposition party better start getting its act together. It’s amazing that the Progressive Conservatives continually shoot themselves in the foot. Whether, as in past election campaigns, it’s on the matter of full funding for all religious schools (under leader John Tory) or eliminating 100,000 public service jobs (under leader Tim Hudak) the Tories seem to find the most improbable ways to alienate the public and lose elections. There was no excuse for Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne to come storming back to power with a majority government in 2014, after the notorious scandals of $1 billion cancelled gas plants, and Ornge and e-Health financing messes, not to mention the massively subsidized payouts to alternative energy suppliers at average electricity users’ expense. And of course there’s the fact Ontario has the highest sub-sovereign debt of any jurisdiction in the world. And the ineptitude just keeps piling up and up, most recently the government spent $70 million developing a now defunct provincial pension plan with massive severances to the plan’s top management - $2.8 million including over $825,000 to the CEO for just six month’s work. Still, Tory leader Patrick Brown (photo above left), a bit of an enigma since elected party head just over a year ago, has shown no gumption in challenging the Liberals on this massive arrogance and incompetence. In fact, he continues the tradition of Tory leader bumbling, for example, continually reversing himself on challenging the Liberals’ highly controversial sex-ed reforms. The fact his party won a breakthrough in Liberal fortress Toronto in last week’s Scarborough-Rouge River byelection win of Raymond Cho, might have been more a reflection of ordinary voters’ general anger at the Liberals rather than any leadership on Brown’s part.

Sandwich: the next cool neighbourhood August 19 2016

The city’s far west neighbourhood, Olde Sandwich Towne, is undergoing a revitalization. Yes, it’s been somewhat slow but arguably it’s starting to catch on. One need only look at the recently opened Post Cafe, the former heritage post office building at the corner of Sandwich and Mill streets. It’s been transformed into a millennial-style cafe with a cool vibe. Look down Sandwich Street at the very modern infill for what used to be a derelict building, the soon to open Sandwich Brewing Company, the likes of which Sandwich has never seen. Then there’s new management at the neighbourhood’s only supermarket, Westside Foods, with a fuller inventory catering, among other things, to the area’s ethnic population. Look for new exterior changes, too. Still pending is what to become of the now (thankfully) closed old and overcrowded Windsor Jail, which could be converted to a museum or for other community use. This neighbourhood, close to the University of Windsor, has attracted more pubs over the years, resulting in a funky, almost independent “Sandwich vs. the World” aura. Admittedly, there have long been attempts to rejuvenate the area, including the 1980s renovation of Mackenzie Hall and the Duff-Baby House as well as the commemorative Sandwich Windmill, the last buildings somewhat hidden as they are off the main drag. And the City of Windsor is now converting the Mill Street fire hall into its newest library branch. And finally, the 1970s-era shopping plaza surrounding the Post Cafe is nearing the end of major renovations, giving it at once a more contemporary and heritage look. Sandwich Towne, the city’s oldest and most historic district, and held dear in the hearts by many, has long been a revitalization work in progress. Rebuilding and repopulating it may now be gaining critical mass, and the neighbourhood could become the next version of a hip, trendy, area such as Olde Walkerville. Here’s predicting it will.

Flag project a bit over the top July 21 2016

The Great Canadian Flag project is one of those “who-can-say-no-to-it” proposals because of its patriotic value, appeal to nationhood, civic virtue and all that. Certainly Windsor City Council didn’t say no when it voted unanimously last year to approve what will be a $355,000 (the amount has increased from $300,000 two years ago) project to sink a gigantic flagpole in Dieppe Gardens that will reach 150 ft. and carry a 60 by 30 ft. flag. “This will show who we are, what we stand for and how lucky we are,” project chairman Peter Hrastovec said when the idea was first hatched in 2013. The location is significant for several reason. It crowns the waterfront linear parks at the foot of Ouellette Ave. in the riverfront’s most patriotic area, Dieppe Gardens. It’s in the direct centre of the city since it’s at the foot of Ouellette, the city’s central north - south street. And it’s on the riverfront and will show people near and far but most likely Americans - since they can see the Windsor waterfront best - just how patriotic Canucks can be. Is this flag an example of fierce nationalism in the face of Americana across the way? That doesn’t seem to be the idea, at least ostensibly. It’s more likely simple – writ large - Canadian pride to offset an otherwise unidentified border. The project takes place in a wider context. Canadians have been known for their subdued or “understated” patriotism. But there seems to be less and less of that in recent years. Canadians at international sporting events often wave the flag vigorously and paint flags on their faces. Via Rail train cars display a large Canadian flag on every car; you won’t find anything similar in the hugely patriotic United States. So the Great Canadian Flag Project might be considered part of this new wave of patriotism. doesn’t support the project for a number of reasons. The flag will literally be a bit over the top. Why do we need such a massive flag to show patriotism? Aesthetically, it will dominate the Windsor skyline rather than let the skyline speak for itself. And third, it will take away the iconic view of, yes, the Detroit skyline from motorists descending the Ouellette Avenue overpass before entering downtown. That’s a Windsor postcard image if ever there was one.

Should we care about outsider's views? July 5 2016

James Howard Kunstler of upstate New York, a self-taught and/or appointed critic of urban sprawl – though he has wide authorship and has lectured in prestigious academe – castigated little old Windsor recently by calling it “amazingly ugly, it’s like somebody came in and beat the city with an ugly stick.” Ouch. But then he has described much of his home country as a "tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside.” At least we’re in good company, eh? His comments have apparently freaked some local movers and shakers. But why should we be so concerned by Kunstler, who seems to take glee in provoking the status quo? Sure, his advocacy of New Urbanism, which recalls early 20th century brownstones with retail on the ground floor and cars out of common view (were cars, and horse and buggies before that, ever out of common view?), might be nice. But how realistic, especially in a city like Windsor, is it? Should we just tear up Tecumseh Rd., Walker Rd. and Howard Ave. - and the hundreds of businesses that line these strips - all conveniently reached by car, which local residents obviously prefer? Kunstler is an anti-fossil fuel advocate, preferring alternate energy and public transportation. Tell that to the well over 10,000 workers employed in Windsor’s auto industry. In other words much of Kunstler’s thesis is pie-in-the-sky. Have you visited a New Urbanism development lately? There’s one in suburban Detroit’s Shelby Township and others abound throughout the US. Nice in concept but unfortunately sterile and grossly underused. When you get right down to it, it might not matter so much what a city looks like (though Kunstler obviously missed our incredible riverfront, great neighborhoods, and economical real estate) but how effective it is in delivering what people need. With the exception of the densest part of the city - downtown – Windsor seems to be thriving indeed. How’s that for New Urbanism irony?

The Great Cycling Pledge June 20 2016

We will now call this joint meeting of city and county council members to order. The topic: Creating more bicycle trails in Windsor and Essex County. Madam Chair: May I suggest that we create 100 new km of bicycle trails – some would be painted lines on the highway, others would be separated by bollards and others still would be off-road, not to be confused with sidewalks which, ahem, a great many cyclists already use. Councillor from Windsor: Doesn’t that raise the question, and I’m not from the pro-car contingent, why spend a gazillion dollars on new bike trails when so many cyclists already use cement sidewalks that originally were designed for pedestrians? That way the city of Windsor might be able to go a ninth straight year without a tax increase. Madam chair: A very good point councillor, and one we will definitely submit to the budget committee. But, for sake of argument – and spending money – let’s just say we will go ahead and build new trails, even though many of the cyclists won’t probably be using them, preferring to ride on the sidewalk only a few feet away or on the pavement but on the opposite side of the street. Councillor from Essex County: Okay, madam chair, I know some people think me too much a fusspot about such things. But, I think, in the interest of natural justice, it should be said. And, really, it’s not asking a lot. For each new kilometre of bike trail let’s have a pledge from cyclists. One kilometre will equal 500 signatures. Cyclists will have to pledge that they will respect the rules of the road. This means riding on bike lanes and not sidewalks, signaling when they want to turn left or right and, yes, even being as nerdy as putting their left arm down and signaling they are stopping at a stop sign. Let’s call the campaign: The Great Cycling Pledge.

Picture: City of Windsor official cycling trails map

Homeowners could be hit hard by Ontario climate change plan May 31 1016

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has stated that press reports are false to claim that Ontario will be phasing out natural gas as a home energy source. Two weeks ago The Globe and Mail published information from a leaked cabinet document about the government’s Climate Change Action Plan, to be released in June. The report understandably set off major alarm bells in the natural gas and home building industries. As it should among average homeowners as well. Natural gas, ironically, has always been considered a much cleaner alternative to coal and oil. The premier denied the media reports: “that is not true…..We are not banning natural gas and have no intention to force people off natural gas.” The Globe had stated the “confidential” report calls for sweeping change over all aspects of Ontarians’ lives to meet climate change goals. For example, “New building code rules that will require all homes and small buildings built in 2030 or later to be heated without using fossil fuels, such as natural gas. This will be expanded to all buildings before 2050. Other building code changes will require major renovations to include energy-efficiency measures. All homes will also have to undergo an energy-efficiency audit before they are sold.” The plan also targets transportation, including automobiles, with a rebate of up to $14,000 for every electric vehicle purchased and up to $1,000 to install home charging stations. There would be $3.8-billion for new grants, rebates and other subsidies to retrofit buildings, and move them off natural gas and onto geothermal, solar power or other forms of electric heat. The Canadian Gas Association called the plan “irresponsible” because it “arbitrarily restricts the freedom of more than 3.5 million Ontario homes, businesses and industrial facilities” and that “a transition for a home owner from gas to electric heat could raise energy space heating costs by up to $3,000 per year.” The leaked report may have been a trial balloon, and if so Wynne quickly got the message. So the final report may be tempered. Ontarians should keep their eyes open. Already we’ve seen one protest using the leaked report as its justification. A renegade Walpole Island native group wants to block a new Union Gas pipeline. A press report stated demonstrator Theo Blackbird-John “pointed out how the Ontario government has said it wants to move the province away from natural gas as a source of home heating.” Ironically, Wynne said the government’s plan “extends natural gas lines to rural and northern communities to support economic development,” exactly what the Walpole Island pipeline would do.

Realtors lure retirees, why not millennials? May 20 2016

The local realtors association has a campaign to lure retirees to the relatively cheap housing of southwestern Ontario. But what about luring millennials? The Globe and Mail reported that TD Bank found 19 percent of home buyers are afraid to buy in cities like Toronto and Vancouver with those cities’ skyrocketing house prices. “Gen Y’s fear of missing out on home ownership is right on the money,” wrote the Globe’s Rob Carrick. “Month by month, affordability in the country’s hot markets is slipping away. Every year a first-time buyer waits could end up costing many thousands of dollars as higher prices flow through to bigger mortgage payments.” Carrick says even before looking at purchasing houses millennials have to face some financial facts: they don’t have the pensions their parents had, they live in a slow-growth economy. Other problems in the GTA are that cheaper homes come with onerous commuting time, and there’s always fear of a market correction. Presto! All these concerns vanish when you consider Windsor-Essex. Overall prices are low so not much in fear of correction, commutes are nonexistent or a breeze. Jobs may be scarce but tech and entrepreneurial savvy millennials can work from home or create businesses in a city that could use a bigger tech sector. Moreover it would tend to keep our young people in the city and prevent the continuing brain drain to - where - more expensive cities? Otherwise we offer all the urban amenities Gen Y’ers crave – parks, restaurants, classic downtown neighbourhoods, and the cutting edge arts and culture scenes of Detroit, itself increasingly a destination for US millennials because of affordability and its funky cultural scenes.


Windsor-Essex's glass half full April 21 2016

Think back. Think way back. Say to about 20 years ago. Remember what Windsor, and for that matter Essex County, was like? Yes, the city had obtained a temporary casino (two if you include the riverboat) and the permanent casino was under construction, diversifying the workforce. But city council was still pulling its hair out over what to do with the long vacant “western super anchor site,” now home of the aquatics centre (picture above), and the perennial debate over the need to replace “the Barn” with a state of the art arena. Moreover, Windsor’s traffic was constantly ensnarled by backups at train crossings along Howard Ave. and Walker Rd. The idea of a new international bridge was still a figment in people’s imaginations. But if you listen to certain folks it’s as if Windsor hasn’t improved much since those rather lacklusrte days. The western super anchor site and arena dilemmas – settled. Downtown retail is still impoverished but at least the university and college have taken important steps in aiding revitalization efforts. The ongoing insecurity of the Art Gallery of Windsor and Windsor Symphony Orchestra has been resolved by deals putting both arts organizations on solid financial footings and in permanent homes. Back-ups from Canadian Pacific Railway trains are overwhelmingly a thing of the past. Even the downtown tunnel plaza has bene expanded so traffic backups don’t block Goyeau and Wyandotte streets. In the county, a wine industry once in its infancy is reaching adolescence or beyond with as many as 17 wineries, and agri-tourism, including a bike trail along County Rd. 50, is taking off. Windsor’s secondary business districts, especially Walkerville, are flourishing, with hip boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants. And where there used to be a few oldtime county festivals, Carrousel of the Nations and Art in the Park, now the region bursts with an array of summer events celebrating food and drink. (More of them throughout the year would be desirable, however.) Windsor has always been a great place for restaurants but even this industry keeps exploding into new niches and increasingly craft breweries. The new border expressway – built. Planning and construction for the new bridge – well underway. So, next time your neighbor starts kvetching about a bumpy road or how far the arena is from downtown, sit back, pause a moment, and perhaps gently point out just where the region was 20 years ago.

Rah Rah! for bland school names April 6 2016

So, just what is wrong with naming a school after a person? Students at W.F. Herman high school (Green Griffin mascot left) are on an ardent campaign to keep the school’s name after it’s merged with Percy P. McCallum elementary as the local public school board consolidates schools due to declining enrolment. One could argue over which person’s name should be chosen but since the McCallum students are moving into Herman – and high schools have a higher profile – the building should keep the name Herman. But the school might not be named after an individual at all. Who knew that the school board had made a subtle if unofficial policy shift in the protocol for naming schools? Naming schools is more about “the concept” and “community” than after an individual, board superintendent Todd Awender said. He pointed to other schools the board has named of late – Lakeshore Discovery and Tecumseh Vista Academy. Losing the Herman name wouldn’t be without precedent. J. L. Forster – the name of a high school which transcended even the west end school’s strong identity and became a rallying cry for people to show pride in their surrounding community - was dropped when the school closed in 2014 and students merged with Century secondary. Admittedly the former Century wasn’t much of a name either. But the new combined school was called Westview Freedom Academy. All three school names are characterized by their absolute blandness. In contrast, both the Forster and Herman names have decades of tradition behind them and, for graduates, are emblematic of being from Windsor as opposed to any other city or town in Canada. Forster was named for the school’s (originally an elementary) first principal. Herman was named for the legendary publisher of The Windsor Star, another transcendent name. Who knows the reasons schools don’t get named for people any more? It sounds, in typical education political correctness fashion, that to name a school after a person might spark controversy, even to a slight degree. Better to be safe than entertain any disagreement. The result is uninspiring names, perfect for an emerging world of sameness and anomie.

Socialism lives! - for well-earning few

WindsorOntarioNews, March 30 2016

The annual Sunshine List is upon us. The list, inaugurated by former PC Premier Mike Harris in the 1990s, was a way to demonstrate to the average citizen just how much certain civil servants - those making $100,000 or more - earn at public expense. The list seems to be getting increasingly relevant as more and more publically-paid employees (including “lowly” types like Windsor city police constables – 208 in 2015) make the list, which might seem unfair because the list is not indexed to inflation. Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to like it that way, a surprise given her government’s indulgence of government unions such as teachers. (Maybe this is her passive-aggressiveness.) In any case, the Sunshine List only pertains to those working for the Ontario government or institutions (like municipalities, universities and school boards) that receive provincial funding. The public sector includes more than that, of course – namely federal institutions. According to Statistics Canada, in 2013, 23.2 per cent of the province’s entire labour force were working in the public sector. One might say that being a public employee means never having to say you're sorry. Pay is generally higher than in the private sector. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business last year reported public sector workers made 18 to 37 per cent more than private sector counterparts. But more than pay, in an economy still feeling the aftershocks of the Great Recession - and where hundreds of thousands of private sector employees lost their jobs - the public sector has become a life raft. People who otherwise espouse free enterprise, faced with a mortgage and family to feed, easily scramble to a public sector job. It’s arguably a major reason why former PC leader Tim Hudak lost the 2014 provincial election by pledging to slash 100,000 government jobs. If you don’t work for the public sector you know someone who does. The problem with the Sunshine List is that it’s simply a voyeuristic statement of facts and good for gossip. Nothing ever changes. More people get added to the list. The trajectory is for continued public sector employment and wage growth. Last year the Fraser Institute reported Ontario’s total public pay compensation grew 47 per cent since 2005-06 compared to inflation of 15 per cent. So, ask yourself these questions: are we getting better services? Are certain people benefitting at the expense of others? And is there any effective opposition to all this?

Sports spending optics don't look good February 24 2016

Windsor city council’s credibility gap on the sports tourism file keeps getting wider, particularly with its seeming indifference to home grown projects that may have more public resonance and economic staying power. The fact the city voted to spend $50,000 on sponsorship for this June’s Detroit Grand Prix may be the final straw. This, after it was learned that several high paid staff have been hired to run the FINA world swimming championships later this year. The person hired to do communications will receive a cool $110,000. Executive director Peter Knowles will be paid $285,000 plus expenses and $2600 per month for rent and utilities, according to The Windsor Star. Two other organizers are earning $100,000 each, part of an $840,000 contract. The city is expected to spend about $3 million towards the $11 million FINA event, upper governments, grants and sponsorships to pay the rest. Then there is council’s recent decision to spent $320,000 for a permanent sports tourism office. No one disputes the potential draw of sports competition. But what does the city gain from any of this? Keeping hotel rooms full is one argument but can’t private enterprise exist without a crutch? Remember the Red Bull air races? Did that translate into international tourism and investment? Besides all these costs, the expenditures must be seen in light of what the city doesn’t fund. It refused to waive a ticket surcharge ($8000) for the Windsor International Film festival. It has spent no new monies revamping the tired Capitol Theatre including installing new and more comfortable seating and a new movie screen. It refused to cut in half the lease for Windsor’s only professional basketball team, the Windsor Express, as well as waive the rent for the downtown farmers’ market. Altogether, the optics don’t look good.

Touchy touchy city-county relations February 4 2016

The funny thing about the contretemps between LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya (far left) and Windsor city councillor Hilay Payne (left) is that it seems a tempest in a teapot. But given the way local politics in these parts plays out, it could prove a storm in a cauldron. Payne, in a letter to the editor, responded to a rather snarky remark that Antaya had made - “What do we have in common with the City of Windsor? We share a border. That’s about it.” Antaya was irked by attempts by the city to amalgamate police, something, ironically, LaSalle wants to do with Amherstburg. Payne, one of the most mild-mannered and gentlemanly politicians around – and an astute details guy who for years was Windsor (and Amerstburg’s) CAO – merely pointed out that LaSalle already shares water and sewer services “on a cost recovery basis” as well as with tourism, development, community health, waste removal, and conservation. The missive sent Antaya through the municipal roof, saying it insulted “country bumpkins”, was “amateurish,” “childish,” a “classless attack,” was “hammering the county,” and not least of all, inaccurate and unprofessional. Antaya also said his remarks were quoted out of context. Wow! Talk about getting one’s back up and to which the description “touchy touchy” might be applied. Let’s face it, the Windsor-Essex region, no matter how many recent attempts to modify the area’s description as “Windsor-Essex” or “Wind-Ex” or how bureaucrats and other officials rhetorically take care to be inclusive, the politicians in charge don’t really like rubbing shoulders all that much. And ironically “Wind-Ex” is one of the most urbanized regions of Canada. It’s ridiculous, for example, that there is no meaningful transit linking Tecumseh, Windsor and LaSalle – physically all one contiguous community. And why such defensiveness over policing? A lot of this is turf wars. And not only politicians play the game. There’s simmering resentment by regular citizens about who’s paying for what, who’s ripping-off whom, as evidenced by the frequent public comments about county residents using Windsor’s roads, with county residents responding they support Windsor businesses. Or about city workers living in lower-taxed county municipalities. Such civic obstreperousness will never be solved locally. Cheaper, more efficient, regional government can only be imposed from above, just like amalgamation for rural municipalities was done 20 years ago.

It's called public shaming February 2 2016

There comes a time when all good citizens should stand up and make sure that people who unnecessarily interfere with the best interests of the community be taken to task for the potential harm they do. Indeed they should be publically shamed. What are the criteria that make their behavior egregious? Self-interest and greed come to mind. And blindly putting their affairs, as questionable as they are, ahead of the commonweal. There are several organizations currently waging such campaigns. One is the group of property owners, GEM, who sought an injunction to prevent further development of a new mega-hospital. GEM’s property in east Windsor came in second among points scored in the hospital site selection process. Like children who didn’t get their way they’ve been stomping their feet ever since. Thankfully some sense - or perhaps them caving to public ridicule - prevailed, and last week GEM withdrew its threat of injunction, which could have long delayed the hospital process. But bullheadedly they continue with a civil suit. Then there are the three organizations long behind a class action that could result in local taxpayers in Tecumseh and Windsor being on the hook for more than $80 million. One is the ALS Society of Essex County (aka Windsor-Essex County ALS Society), the others the Belle River District Minor Hockey Assoc. and Essex County Dancers Inc. These charities want many others to join them but the municipalities of Windsor and Tecumseh launched a campaign asking the included charities in the class to drop out for the good of the community. That effort was struck down last week by a court ruling. For their part the charities allege the municipalities profited by charging bingo licensing fees, what they say is unconstitutional. These are for licences going back as far as 2002. But a fee is a fee, folks, get over it, especially when your beef could result in major financial fallout for local governments aka taxpayers. While intrinsically these organizations might do good work and serve their members, even the public, well, by their litigious ways they demonstrate their selfishness at the expense of the common good. As a result they should be publically shamed.

What part of hospital site selection process do you not understand? January 11 2016

A $10 million lawsuit has been launched by GEM Properties, the failed bidder for the site of the new regional hospital. GEM somehow thinks it was wrongly done by because its Tecumseh Rd. East site was passed over for the County Rd. 42 site, near Windsor airport. It argues its site wasn’t treated fairly and actually accuses the site selection committee of being biased towards undeveloped lands. As well it says it wasn’t taken up on its offer to shave some land off its proposal to reduce its overall price, which was the original kibosh to its proposal. The site actually came in number one for all other requirements, such as location, accessibility and zoning, but lost when its price was added in under a formula that weighed price alone as 30 per cent of criteria. Not only GEM but some other people – mainly those affiliated with Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process (CAMPP), an activist group campaigning for the new hospital to be built in the city’s core - are angry at the 42 site. CAMPP opposes sprawl and feels the new hospital will continue the “hollowing out” of the central city. That’s despite the fact the new regional hospital process will also see a major $146 million redevelopment of downtown’s Hotel Dieu health campus and a new $133 million urgent care facility on a currently vacant piece of land, the former Grace hospital site on University Ave., not to mention a more than $100-million upgrade to the west end Tayfour health campus. Local city and county politicians are dismayed by the lawsuit and fear an injunction could nix a much needed regional hospital in the bud. GEM should be ashamed of itself for bringing the lawsuit. It knew what the rules were as did all the other 21 site bidders. One could argue that price shouldn’t have weighed 30 per cent but those are the rules, guys. Your bid came in $1.8 million more than the County Rd. 42 site. Even if it came in $180 more you would have lost – correctly – under the rules. Funny how people come to the table and then don’t like it when they lose. Likewise if GEM had won all other bidders would have had to accept it. Meanwhile GEM’s site hardly qualifies for a “core” investment as wanted by CAMPP. That’s because it’s on the far eastern flank of the city just west of Lauzon Pkwy., not far from the WFCU Centre and we know how downtown advocates shutter at how far that building is from the city centre. As for CAMPP, regardless of how shoring up the core might be sound planning policy, it doesn’t address some of the real issues at hand. These have to do with transportation access (i.e., roads) and easy availability for almost half the citizens of Windsor-Essex County, namely people in the county. CAMPP is obviously Windsor-centric and doesn’t seem to get that the hospital is designed to serve a much wider swath of the population than those living between Tecumseh and LaSalle.

Where are protests when human beings are attacked, maimed, by animals? January 7 2016

The Justice for Justice protesters were protesting outside a Windsor courthouse again this week during a hearing for a man accused of abusing animals. Michael Earl Hill is charged with willfully causing unnecessary pain and suffering or injury to a dog by binding his snout and legs with electrical tape and leaving him to die behind a Canadian Tire store. The dog, who was saved and renamed Justice, is recovering. No question this was an hideous act and Hill, if found guilty, should be appropriately punished. And it strains the mind why people continue to do such awful things to animals this, as we know, hardly being the first such incident in Windsor. Having said that there are many cases where people have been the victims of animals. The last that comes to mind is little Xavier Strickland, 4, (above left) who was attacked by four pit bulls on a Detroit street last month while being walked to school by his mom, and mauled to death. The dogs’ owner Geneke Lyons is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and possession of dangerous dogs causing death. Earlier there was the case of, Craig Sytsma of Livonia Mi., who was attacked and killed by two 100-pound Cane Corsos in July 2013 while jogging on a semi-rural road outside Detroit. The dogs’ owners Valbona Lucaj, 45, and Sebastiano Quagliata, 46, were sentenced to 57 months to 15 years in prison. There was also the case in October 2014 on Detroit’s east side where a man was attacked and mauled by five pit bulls that had escaped from a house. The man lost his hands and feet. Back in Windsor, remember the Sept. 2014 case of local bartender Adelle Bashura whose face was permanently disfigured after being bitten outside her Price Road home by an Akita? Bashura was an amateur model. There was no order for the dog to be put down. So, it more than begs the question, where are all the protesters after these animal attacks on people take place?

Photo: ABC/7

Windsor region arguably the best December 23 2015

Windsor and Essex County doesn’t have quite the inferiority complex it had at one time. Almost universally people from this area saw it as the armpit of the nation (there is a worst description) with expatriates vowing never to return. There seems to be a little bit more home grown pride in recent years though it’s not quite clear why. But at least a few of us have never wavered in our love for deepest southwestern Ontario. Let’s count the ways. The climate is among the best in Canada, the area’s rich agriculture (and now wine industry) is bountiful. Try to find fresh roadside produce in many other parts of Canada. Our real estate is among the cheapest in the nation. Our neighbourhoods are almost entirely intact and well kept up. Our parks are second to none and our “linear” park system along the riverfront is simply spectacular, commented upon by locals and visitors alike. Our people are friendly, among the friendliest you’ll find anywhere, despite the much ballyhooed friendliness of places like the Maritimes and western Canada. Our pizzas of course are beyond superb. For a city of roughly 200,000 Windsor has an amazing dining culture – always has – and the recent waves of immigration have just made it more diversified. The area is easy to get around with the only rush hour tie-ups lasting perhaps five minutes or when too many cars clog a driveway to a Tim Hortons. And then there is the international dimension to the area, unique in Canada and in North America. Having an American city of over four million people only five minutes away affords us big city advantages that only residents in places like Montreal and Toronto can claim. But we arguably have more. We had access to luxury and outlet malls, even high end retailers, long before those cities did. We have access to more professional sports teams and ironically being in a foreign country allows us faster access to those stadiums than most people in Detroit since the stadiums are mainly downtown. We have access to the kind of entertainment and culture that only the largest US cities offer. The Fox Theatre and DTE Energy Music Theatre are among the top American concert venues. But there’s also places like Meadow Brook and Freedom Hill amphitheatres. Detroit has several symphony orchestras, an opera house and the sublime Detroit Institute of Arts. Hard for any other Canadian city, including Toronto, to match that. There are vibrant nifty retail and dining districts like Royal Oak, Birmingham, Plymouth, the Pointes and Rochester. And a further dimension: one of America’s greatest university towns in Ann Arbor, offering yet more cultural amenities and the largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere. Put it all together and Windsor-Essex residents live in one of the best regions in North America, arguably the best.

Solidarity needed for today's War Effort December 1 2015

It’s not just the Paris attacks but it’s something that as citizens of one of the freest and most cherished democracies on Earth we might long have considered in the so-called War on Terror, which basically began Sept. 11, 2001. Canada, as a Western pluralistic nation, has been under threat for more than 15 years, and in fact has been the target of at least two terror attacks (last year in Quebec and Ottawa) and would-be plots including the Toronto 18 to behead the prime minister and blow up the Toronto Stock Exchange. Yet as civilians Canadians generally have gone about their lives in a blissfully unconcerned way. Meanwhile our military, sent to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks by Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and continuing in a lesser role fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, has carried the real burden of fighting - figuratively and literally - against terrorism. Canadians may feel a false sense of security yet the Toronto 18 plot and the attacks last year should have given us pause. But whether a larger scale attack, or any attack at all, happens in the future, is almost moot. What we really should be concerned about is the nature of the terrorist threat and developing a greater sense of citizenship and mutual solidarity, along with our armed forces, in fighting the War on Terror. Our great grandparents and history books have told us of the immense fellowship of citizens during World War II on the home front in support of the “War Effort.” Conscription of course meant most families had a personal stake in that war’s outcome, unlike today’s volunteer army. And the economy was thrown full tilt into war time production. That sense of imminent peril by the Nazis or the Japanese dramatically focussed an entire population on the importance of winning the war. Today’s War on Terror doesn’t have the same immediacy and provides a rather abstract threat, in that the chances of being killed by a terrorist are extremely small. (You’re tens of thousands of times more likely to die from cancer.) Yet we are all devastated when an attack like Paris does occur. And in an age of asymmetrical warfare a few terrorists could devastate entire cities through dirty bombs, chemical poisonings or cyber-attacks. All this is to say that, each in our own way, we should be paying more attention to what’s going on in the world around us, be vigilant, and make ourselves more committed to this era’s existential War Effort.

Festival's benign neglect should end November 17 2015

The causal indifference the City of Windsor shows the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF), now in its 11th year, might be explained by many things. First, arts has never been big on the radar screen in the City of Roses. If anything, sports has long been the centre of attention. This city, for instance, like all of Canada, is hockey mad. But not simply hockey. Baseball tourneys and high school meets, bring serious money into Windsor, as witnessed by the solidly booked hotels for major sport gatherings. Despite the WIFF’s increasing success it can’t boast that. So there’s been an inbred bias for sports and against the arts. But the world is changing and it’s time for city leaders to take note. Arts itself is becoming big business everywhere. Film festivals are springing up in the smallest of cities across North America. Summer time festivals which accent creative artwork and crafts keep growing. The visual arts itself has found a new audience and developed a cool cachet; just check out Grand Rapids’ stellar Art Prize every fall. And the so-called Creative Class, even in Windsor, is a demographic city planners seek to lure. Backers of WIFF say it transforms the downtown and gives shots in the arm to businesses like restaurants and cafes between screenings. But that takes place for only one week a year. WIFF of course would like to expand that and up until several months ago was offering monthly film screenings. It’s up to the city to recognize it has a growing new industry, non-profit or not, given its business spinoffs and potential for commercial and non-commercial growth like film studies and production workshop and studios. City hall could do several things to facilitate this without taking a big whack to taxpayers. It could provide free or discounted rental of the Capitol Theatre to the festival, and eliminate its $1 surcharge on tickets. Supporting WIFF would also have other benefits. It would meld with the city’s efforts to bring post-secondary education downtown as well as lure more Millennials to the core. However, WIFF might also seek alternatives. It could scout for better or cheaper facilities. The demise of the Palace Cinemas has relegated WIFF to a largely uncomfortable Capitol Theatre. The Jewish Film Festival uses much better facilities at Devonshire Cineplex, where perhaps some of WIFF’s films could be shown. But bottom line is WIFF has been the object of benign neglect for too long. Times, and demographics, are changing, and it’s time the city wakes up.

Warts and all, it's Harper October 8 2015

There are a number of things to dislike about Prime Minister Stephen Harper - his secretiveness, his controlling nature (though Jean Chretien was just as controlling but had better press), his lack of personality and engagement. And in many ways he’s a politician like all politicians. He buys votes by tossing off goodies to key electoral demographics - such as expanding the child tax credit for young couples targeted primarily at electorally key Greater Toronto Area (GTA) voters, and protecting select industries from competition like dairy farmers against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) while leaving consumers in the dust. But as in any election no candidate and no party is perfect though admittedly some flaws are hard to swallow. Nevertheless, supports the Conservatives in election 2015 for the following reasons: Harper steered the economy well through the Great Recession with Canada faring best among G7 countries. As he said he would he balanced the budget. There is also his unwavering support for Israel, his principled military and humanitarian stand against ISIS, support for southwestern Ontario by financing the new international bridge and bailing out the auto industry (things local NDP MP Brian Masse voted against), and, when it comes to putting cash in your pockets, the doubling of the TFSA, which shouldn’t be underestimated. While the NDP under Tom Mulcair has steered close to the political centre this election campaign by offering a balanced budget, we don’t like his stand on the War on Terror, we’re skeptical when he says he’ll run the economy responsibly given his call for major expenditures for new day care and drug benefit programs, and his party’s support for 50% plus one for a vote for Quebec to separate should disqualify the NDP on that point alone. As for tearing up the TPP, get real. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, for their part, would go into short term deficit to fund infrastructure just when the country has come out of deficits, and would roll back the TFSA increase. Yet contradictorily he’d cut taxes for the middle class - $670 per person - while increasing them on the top one per cent. A bit of clichéd class envy, eh? Trudeau also lacks experience in spades. And his foreign policy commitments (I.e., the War on Terror) are questionable. On balance, for a sound admiral at the tiller of the ship of state, and especially the economy, warts and all, it’s Harper.

Past time to crack down on cyclists September 14 2015

The bias towards cyclists is evident in the Ontario government’s Sept. 1 road rule changes. The Ministry of Transportation announced five major changes regarding traffic infractions and fines. Four of them target motorists. Only one targets cyclists. For example, motorists convicted of distracted driving will now be subject to a $490 fine plus three demerits as well as a 30 day minimum suspension for novice drivers. That’s welcome, given the amount of texting motorists now do. Another is “dooring” cyclists or other vehicles - $365 plus three demerits. The item that caught most of the public’s attention has been that drivers now leave one metre when passing cyclists or face $110 fine and two demerit points. There is only one stepped-up penalty for cyclists - not having proper lighting - from $20 to $110 fine. One wonders why the province has clamped down on motorists when the law-breaking by cyclists is so flagrant and all pervasive. And virtually all cyclists break the rules repeatedly and in almost all situations - whether they’re weekend recreationists or lycra-clad athletic clubs. When it comes to cycling this blindness seems to affect all authorities. Governments seek to increase cycling infrastructure like bike paths (a good measure) without seeking more responsibility from cyclists. The media gives the phenomenon a pass. And police - which not only could provide teachable moments but raise significant money through fines - basically ignore the issue. Yes, cycling is trendy, healthy, “green,” but does that mean this increasingly large body of the population should be exempt from the rules? By comparison, other two-wheelers - from riders of “hogs” to e-bikes - seem to be the best drivers on the road, surpassing those of cars. One wonders why the disparity between these drivers and non-motorist cyclists. A theory is that the non-motorists treat their bikes as toys, therefore exempting them from rules. Regardless, with the massive rise of bike culture, and more to come, it’s past time authorities got serious.

Faulty protesters court ruling endangers lives

Charges against three environmental activists who chained themselves to an Enbridge pipeline in 2015 were thrown out of court in Sarnia in January, mainly because the Crown couldn’t prove the protesters’ action endangered life. They were charged with turning a valve that could have caused a catastrophic rupture. In reality, Enbridge shut the line down when it heard of the protest, so the danger was only theoretical. But this still doesn’t excuse the protesters. What if Enbridge hadn’t done that? And how could the protesters be excused from trespassing on private property anyway? Their lawyer call this ruling a precedent for anti-pipeline demonstrators. So we can expect to see more trespassing and, on the basis of probability, more incidents where lives are put at risk. – 8/4/17

Ontario anti-racism effort misdirected

Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate is embarking on a massive anti-racism effort – including a campaign to obtain stats on racial discrimination and $47 million to fight black youth prejudice. The campaign seems largely based on a series of “emotionally charged” (the government’s comments) public meetings last year, including in Windsor, offering anecdotal evidence. As well, the province cites recent bomb threats against Jewish community centres and the January Quebec mosque shootings. But a look at hard statistics indicates it isn’t race which is the chief target of discrimination complaints, it’s disability. In Ontario, in 2014-15 disability ranked highest at 56 per cent of applications to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, race was 20 per cent. The Canadian Human Rights Commission reported disability complaints at 58 per cent, race 14 per cent. It makes you wonder if the government is tackling an issue - in an era of media-induced heightened racial tension - that is not anywhere as serious as it’s made out to be. – 8/3/17

Local feminists' selective outrage

A busload of feminists from Windsor will be traveling to Washington later this month to protest president-elect Donald J. Trump’s derogatory and sexist remarks about women. They’re probably referring to two key Trump statements – his comment about Fox News host Megyn Kelly that she had “blood coming out of her wherever” and the more than decade old audiotape of him joking about how women allow famous men to “grab them by [their genitalia],” for which he apologized. Contrast that to the long list of charges, lawsuits and actual physical evidence (Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress stain) that occurred during former president Bill Clinton’s terms in office in Washington and as governor of Arkansas. Do the names Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Wiley and Paula Jones mean anything? Where were these same protesters when alleged and real incidents by Clinton occurred? There certainly were no marches on Washington. So it seems those protesting Trump are selective in their outrage. Trump, probably because he’s a coarse alpha male and red blood Republican – is fair game. Clinton, the “I feel your pain” Democrat, is not. – 5/1/17

Pay-to-stay jail for gloating prisoner

Recently a man convicted of attempted robbery in Windsor was only too happy to be sent off to jail. In fact, Robert Michael Crawford's lawyer said, he committed a crime because he “wanted to get caught.” The reason? Jails are nice homey places and he can live in them rent-free. And he was brazen enough to say that, if released, he’d only commit another crime to be sent back. The gloating Crawford might change his tune if Ontario, like many jurisdictions in the US including Michigan, had jails that charged prisoners a fee. That’s right. Macomb County in suburban Detroit charges inmates $45 a day, and in Newaygo county near Grand Rapids they’re charged $30 and pay for personal care kits and haircuts. “It's a good program,” Macomb County Sheriff Tony Wickersham said. “We still need to hold (inmates) accountable. Those individuals who are sentenced to the county jail have to pay their fair share.” – 22/12/16

Ambassador Bridge needs to earn respect

The Ambassador Bridge has been lobbying for years that it should be the only bridge border crossing between Windsor and Detroit, campaigning against the planned taxpayer-supported Gordie Howe International Bridge. And it has blamed Customs for backups of traffic which have long frustrated commuters using the bridge, not anything intrinsic to bridge operations itself. Closed Customs booths, after all, mean longer traffic tieups. But the bridge deserves to take some of the blame. This week, in mid-afternoon, both bridge lanes – in each direction - were blocked because truck traffic migrated into the car lanes. This has been a long-time problem at various times of day. Yet where is bridge staff directing traffic and separating trucks and cars? Moreover, the bridge deck’s seemingly endless reconstruction continues to impede traffic flow. If the bridge wants to sell itself on being the most efficient route between Windsor and Detroit it’s time to start earning that respect. - 1/12/16

Capsule comments

The hoisting of the Franco-Ontarian flag (above) at Windsor city hall is about time, and Mayor Drew Dilkens’s comments suggesting it could be a permanent fixture are long overdue. Windsor-Essex was settled by the French and there remain pockets where the language thrives. More credit should be given to this historic and venerable community.

Time to give it up, the ongoing zeal to get the feds to change law to allow single-event sport betting. This effort has been going on now for the better part of a decade. A Commons bill died with last year’s election. Now a private member’s bill (by local MP Brian Masse) has been defeated. Yet the local chamber of commerce soldiers on, calling for a “reload” on the issue. How about concluding that all bets are off?

There is no room for Islamophobia in our society. But a petition being circulated locally calling for an end to this form of racism says terrorist acts have been committed by an “infinitesimally small” number of individuals. That may be true but those individuals sure punch above their weight. - 6/10/16

NEB protesters deny others free speech

Typically, a ragtag group of protesters succeeded in shutting down the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the Energy East pipeline in Montreal last week. What were they afraid of? That voices contrary to theirs – including proponents who say as many as more than 14,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created by the pipeline linking western Canada to New Brunswick – would get a say? Their action is the definition of fascism. In other words, let’s not have reasoned discussion but shut down all opposition. Mussolini would be proud. – 4/9/16

Photo: TransCanada Pipeline

Roberts's transfer: what's the big deal?

Hard to know what all the fuss is about regarding the transfer of parks boss Phil Roberts to head the city’s two golf courses – Roseland (above) and Little River, the former also including a curling rink and restaurant and banquet facilities. City councillors Irek Kusmierczyk and Chris Holt are upset by the move, saying it doesn’t make sense to go from the senior parks position to a smaller job running two golf facilities. With city council's decision the city pulled a public call for applications. Roberts had been in the top parks job only a year and a half. Mayor Drew Dilkens approached Roberts asking if he’d be interested in the new job, citing Roberts's long career as a nuts-and-bolts focussed manager at Windsor Airport. Roberts apparently liked the move – who knows, he may have even been lobbying for such a position – suggesting he can take operations to a new level, and he put forth a number of exciting ideas. Was Roberts over his head in parks and therefore pushed? There’s no indication of that. Regardless, the city is happy and Roberts is happy. Case closed. – 19/8/16

Are striking librarians union pawns?

The strike by 58 Essex County librarians – now in its 42nd day - indeed might be bizarre but perhaps makes sense when examined in a wider context. Salary is not the issue but sick days and short term disability are. Management wants to reduce the number of banked days and change the payout formula, saving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in unfunded liabilities. Librarians say they don’t abuse the formula. If that’s the case why did they go on strike? Library board chair Richard Meloche (above) earlier suggested a reason. They were pushed on strike by their union, CUPE, because it fears similar changes to a greater number of municipal employees. The small group of librarians - many part-timers - who have not abused the program, are therefore pawns in the union’s wider strategy. - 5/8/16

Open Streets a hit, but

It’ great to hear that Open Streets Windsor, the first effort of its kind to turn over the streets from vehicular traffic and make them a people place, was a smashing success. The event featured buskers, healthy living displays and participatory activities. One wondered how Windsorites, supposedly so oriented towards car culture, would respond. There will be a second such event Sept. 18, also a Sunday. However, a couple of matters. The timing of the event was too early. Streets such as Sandwich, University and Wyandotte were only open to pedestrians between 9 am and 1 pm. A lot of people are still in their beds at 9 am on a Sunday morning. Why couldn’t the event have lasted longer during the day? And city councillor Chris Holt was a little over the top in his comments, saying “People are actually enjoying streets the way they’re meant to be used. Streets are for people.” Well, not exactly. Merriam-Webster defines a street as the following: “a thoroughfare especially in a city, town, or village that is wider than an alley or lane and that usually includes sidewalks; the part of a street reserved for vehicles; a thoroughfare with abutting property." – 18/7/16

Hire Naidu as CEO

Let’s stop beating around the bush and hire the most appropriate person to be permanent head of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation. It should be none other than the agency’s long time senior official and current interim CEO Rakesh Naidu. Naidu has been serving in this position since last August after the ill-fated appointment and resignation of former provincial minister of economic development and trade Sandra Pupatello. Anyone who knows anything about the corporation knows that for years, regardless of who has been CEO of the troubled agency, Naidu has been steadfast behind the scenes doing the heavy lifting, whether it’s tirelessly seeking out and meeting with possible corporate investors, to knowing intimately the details of numerous economic development files. More than 30 people – including from all across Canada and even the US – have applied. Naidu should be the obvious choice. – 30/6/16

Last gasp for Pelissier Street parking garage

It will be interesting to see what a couple of developers come up with for the long dormant commercial spaces in the city-owned Pelissier Street garage. The developers, and proponents of keeping the ground floor units commercial, were lucky that council narrowly agreed to pursue tenancies, despite the fact the spaces have been so unappealing to tenants for years. Keeping the spaces open has also cost the city a pretty penny and might do so again depending on the deal. A council report says it would cost $1.8 million to upgrade the eight units, which have mould and dripping water. Only three units are currently occupied with only one paying market rent. The report also notes the city may be competing unfairly with private landlords along Pelissier where by latest count there was still 30 per cent vacancy rate. Converting the units to their original purpose – parking – would cost much less: $500,000. This should be the last chance to develop the site. If it doesn’t work out convert to parking and be done. Cute commercial spaces are nice but not at taxpayers’ expense and when there is unfair competition with the private sector. – 24/6/16

Source of reduced health spending

The Essex County Health Coalition may have a valid point in expressing anger about the reductions in hospital funding from Queen’s Park to Windsor-Essex. But people complaining about the lost funding – though the province says it has actually (incrementally) raised payments – should ask why this is so. Could it be because the Ontario Government has been running massive deficits for almost a decade, the latest $4.3 billion? And now they must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest to service an accumulated ballooned debt of $300 billion, the greatest of any jurisdiction below a national government. Money that otherwise could be spent on health is being spent to make interest payments. A survey of Coalition backers might find most support centre-left parties like the Liberals that, as policy, believe in deficit spending. Maybe they should ask themselves why they support parties which harm their basic interests. – 31/5/16

Hairbrained municipal decision...

As much as couldn’t agree more with the city and Tecumseh’s campaign against the self-centred lawsuit filed on behalf of the Windsor-Essex County ALS Society and other charities over their claim they had paid exorbitant bingo license fees – taxpayers could be on the hook for $70 million - both municipalities made a hairbrained decision to continue their media campaign for a short period after an injunction was brought against them. The excuse was the ads offered no new information and had been scheduled to run. Now, taxpayers could be on the hook for a fine, court costs and potentially more. - 8/4/16

...and something for patrons to decide

It’s finally great to see the city investing in the Capitol Theatre – and the arts – by finally deciding to replace the theater’s very bad seats, which are a deterrent to attending concerts, plays and other events at the downtown showplace. This week “stakeholders” had a chance to try out three seat designs. But, really, couldn’t the city have opened up the tryouts to the public generally – the people actually using the theatre - who could have voted for their favourite design? - 8/4/16

How can the Liberals live with themselves?

Jean Chretien and Paul Martin are still alive so you can’t say they would be spinning in their Liberal graves. But their psyches otherwise might be spinning after the horrendous budget brought down yesterday by their federal Liberal counterparts. Not only did Justin Trudeau’s Grits appallingly start the long road into deficit spending – after the previous Conservative government finally brought the books slightly into surplus – but they violated their own election pledge to keep the deficit to $10 billion annually and balance by the end of their mandate. The deficit will be almost $30 billion this year alone and there is no pledge at all to balance to a certain time frame. And yet the country is not even in recession, so why the need for such stimulus? It’s disgusting and sickening and future generations will have to pay, and a betrayal of the Chretien government’s proud 1990s reputation of slaying the deficit monster. – 23/3/16

Complaining about getting jobs - huh?

Here’s a switch. A complaint about local unemployed people being hired almost immediately after being laid off. Windsor West NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky (above) said just that in the legislature yesterday. “Registered nurses are being interviewed one day and hired the very next,” she exclaimed. Imagine that! The problem for Gretzky is that they’re being hired in Michigan, not Windsor. News flash for Lisa: Those US jobs hardly pay sweatshop wages. In late 2014 the average Michigan RN salary was $67,000 USD. Multiply that with today’s exchange rate and the value is over $91,000 CAD. That compares to a minimum $60,489 and maximum $85,917 CAD for an RN in Ontario. What other profession or trade these days has that kind of marketability? – 25/2/16

Sell ourselves? Not here

For the past several months it has been a bargain for Americans to spend money in Canada. Yanks can get at least 30 per cent more buying power on the dollar when coming across the river and spending in our stores and restaurants. But most of them, with little access to Canadian media, don’t have any idea it’s a bargain to shop or travel in Canada. Canadians – and particularly Windsorites – have long been accused of not selling ourselves. If there ever was an example this is it. Where are the news articles and advertising campaigns in Detroit screaming the fact Canada is on sale? Yet we complain our stores are empty and blame a desultory local economy. But there’s a market of more than five million people within an hour’s drive. All we have to do is realize we’re a border city. – 18/2/16

Protesting assault

A group of local people last weekend protested the since cancelled appearance of notorious U.S. blogger Daryush (Roosh V) Valizadeh, who had set up a meeting in Windsor for men who apparently share his highly questionable theory of “neomasculinity.” After word got out and opposition ensued that meeting never took place. But opponents rallied anyway, angry with Valizadeh for views that have been described as pro-rape. The local protesters were taking part in similar protests around the world. All well and good. But where were these protesters last month after it came to light of numerous alleged incidents of sexual assault that took place on New Year’s Eve at various locations around Germany? (photo above) – 8/2/16

Sign petition & save TFSA as we know it

One of the first actions of the new federal Liberal Government was to hold good on a promise to rollback the contribution amount Canadians can make to their Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). Last year the then governing Tories raised the contribution limit from $5500 to $10,000 annually. Now, arguing that the TFSA was a tax break for the rich, the Trudeau Liberals had motioned to reduce the contribution limit to $5500. The argument that the rich mainly benefit is erroneous on several grounds. For one thing it helps average people without strong pensions save for retirement. 11 million Canadians have TFSAs and 60 percent of those who have topped them up (now worth $41,000 book value) earn less than $60,000 annually. And over a quarter-million making less than $20,000 a year maxed out their previous $5,500 limit. Hardly a rich person’s tax scheme. You can sign a petition to keep the $10,000 limit by going to the website. – 14/12/15

Who mourns for these other terror victims?

The world, or at least some parts of it given the mass media’s predilections, is awash in anguish over last weekend’s horrific and disgusting attacks on Paris, with hundreds dead and injured. Buildings around the world have lit themselves in French flag colours and the media’s coverage continues unabated. But does anyone know that the day before the Paris attacks two bombs in Beirut killed 40 people? And Russian authorities have now confirmed one of its civilian jetliners last month was bombed over the Sinai Peninsula, killing 224? The Islamic State claimed responsibility for all three attacks. Where is the media coverage and heart-rending passion for these other victims? - 17/11/15

No. 1 election cliche

When Parliament was dissolved after a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston Aug. 2 it triggered the current election campaign that is running 78 days, which, aside from some peculiarities in the drawn out voting process of the late 19th century, is the longest running campaign in Canadian history. That has led all manner of pundits to bemoan how this campaign is so long, tedious, never-ending, etc. One columnist, Rex Murphy, even described the start of it being so long ago that “the first wagon trains were plodding across the bleak high plains.” Come on. Canadians are used to an average of almost two month campaigns (50 days) and the minimum days required by law is 36. There were 66 and 63 day campaigns in 1979 and 1968 respectively. But the last 10 campaigns averaged 45.8 days. Still, a little over two months is hardly an eternity. But you wouldn’t know that from the Canadian media. Just ask Americans, who start campaigning - unofficially - almost four years prior to the next presidential election. Already there have been two high profile Republican leadership debates and the Democrats hold theirs tonight, and the primary season doesn’t even begin until February, nine months before the 2016 presidential vote. So, Canuck journalists, get over the kvetching. - 13/10/15

Zero tolerance for protester bullies

The atrocious performance by protesters outside Conservative Jeff Watson’s office Wednesday should be condemned by the group that organized the anti - Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) rally, Unifor. Obviously Unifor didn’t officially support such obnoxious behaviour although to date (mid-afternoon Friday) it hasn’t admonished the offenders on its website. The irony is that these out of control protesters took out their anger on some Tory volunteers who, a bit amazingly, were offering them refreshments. (Some people have manners.) One of these was called a “dirty fat cow” and there were worst comments. And the middle finger was also offered. It’s one thing to protest, it’s another to bully. And these louts were bullying. For his part Watson was in error in linking the protest to NDP candidate Tracey Ramsey, despite her close Unifor ties. As for the “fat cow” comment, looks like that person should be hauled off to Unifor’s sexism education camp, since the union - rightly - so prizes itself on gender equality. - 25/9/15

Church's unoily alliance

The United Church of Canada, considered by many the nation’s most “progressive” church, has just announced it is divesting $5.9 million in the industry that virtually drives the country’s entire transportation system and beyond - oil. In a statement it noted that it wants to avert “climate crisis.” The church will now take the money and invest it in green energy. “Care for creation and concern for the way that climate is impacting the most marginalized populations made this move an act of justice, of faith, and of solidarity with First Nations and other impacted communities,” the church’s General Council commissioner and “climate advocate” Christine Boyle says. Fine. It will now be interesting to see if all church members who voted for this policy forsake their fossil fuel burning cars. And will church buildings convert from being heated by oil and gas to wind and solar? Also, no mention about what kind of impact this could have on the jobs of people who work in the oil patch. Praise the Lord and hope for fair weather! - 13/8/15

Uber - bring it on

Uber, the independent contractor-based ride-sharing service, started operating in London this afternoon, months before it was originally expected to open shop in The Forest City. Predictably the local taxi industry is crying foul and calling on the city to crack down hard on the upstart service, which is wildly popular with consumers everywhere it’s been launched. Will Uber come to Windsor? Hard to know. Windsor for corporate planning purposes often isn’t treated like other Canadian cities. Chain restaurants tend to come here last if at all. And the city’s geography means we’re too tucked away from mainstream Canada to be of notice. But should Uber indeed come here look at the benefits. It would challenge the local taxi cartel and likely charge less for rides (in London Uber says up to 25 per cent less) making it a boon to the area’s many low income people. It may also be a partial solution to the area’s poor or non-existent transit, especially in neighbouring communities like Tecumseh and LaSalle. Bring Uber on. - 23/7/15

High school follies

High school girls, notably those in London, should suck it up and abide by their schools’ dress codes. Laura Anderson (above left). a north London student, was inflamed after being ordered to cover up after wearing a tank top. Student protesters felt the policy among other things “sexualizes” them. Admittedly the Thames Valley District School Board policy is vague and leaves it up to each school, with parental consultation, to decide the code. But dress codes traditionally have been put in place for decorum (a word that apparently has disappeared from the vocabulary), safety, hygiene and, yes, egalitarianism. If students (both girls and boys) dress relatively the same - more modestly with the extreme being uniforms - the argument goes, there will be less focus on competitive attire and more on studies. Meanwhile, what was with Robert F. Hall Catholic School in Brampton agreeing to yank the only girl off the soccer field to placate its opponent, ISNA High, a Muslim school? Equality, including attire and sports, comes in all forms. - 2/6/15 (Picture: Sophie McGregor/facebook)

A nation of wimps

The ban on use of replica drill rifles by the Navy League of Canada for cadets between ages 9 and 12 is the second shoe to drop in the, ironically, demilitarization of the Canadian military. The Navy League says it is complying with “international norms with respect to children being perceived as carrying arms.” It also follows a two year old complaint where a civilian in Oshawa called police after seeing a rifle barrel sticking out of an instructor’s bag on public transit. Many of these rifles are white. And the ban only affects younger cadets. Yet the move is of a piece with the Canadian Forces’ directive following two terrorist attacks last fall in Quebec and Ontario, cautioning military personnel about wearing uniforms in public. Capt. Thomas Edelson of Joint Operations Command, said there was never a “ban” but a “limitation” that has been eased. Still, personnel are to exercise “prudence.” Wearing the uniform is “not prohibited it’s just not encouraged.” Both directives fly in the face of the country’s brave military tradition, exemplified by generations of service men and women defending our freedom. - 15/4/15

A'burg: Two steps forward, one step back

If there's ever a case of elected officials being out of touch with their constituents it's in the town of Amherstburg. Under the previous council the administration eliminated the very popular multi day yard waste drop off, opting for every second week home pick-up. Then it repaved Sandwich Street without bike lanes when cycling tourism is all the rage and the town wants visitors. And then it put off the badly needed - for decades - rehab of Texas Road. A new - supposedly reform - council is in place. But what’s one of its first proposals? Reducing funding for the extremely popular Santa Claus Parade. - 9/3/15

You can't please ...

It’s one of those classic cases of you can’t please all of the people all of the time. The Sandwich Community Health Centre moves to temporary quarters in pre-fab buildings after Forster High School, where the centre used to located, closed. Now people are complaining about the wooden stairs and ramp. Not good enough. Especially in winter weather. Also no parking. As a clinic official says it’s probably the best location until the centre gets new permanent digs and the interior is even a better layout. Still, the matter begs the question. Everyone knew Forster’s days were numbered so why wasn’t there more advanced planning? As well, we’re dealing with the Ontario government here - which must approve the eventual move to the now-closed College Ave. Community Centre - so the expected temporary quarters might be in place a lot longer than the almost three-years forecasted. - 13/2/15

Retire ATHENA award

The chamber of commerce this week announced its annual Business Excellence Awards. And along with them its ATHENA Award which goes to a member of the community who plays a mentoring role for “women to achieve their leadership potential.” While the award can go to people of both genders, since 1996, when it started to be given, it has only gone to females - a veritable who’s who of well-known women in this community. Perhaps there was merit two decades ago when females were less conspicuous in business. But now the award seems somewhat condescending, as if women can’t get by without some help. - 15/1/15

Affront to free speech

There’s nothing like openness in local government - not! That’s the lesson often-dissenting politician Alan Halberstadt (right) is being forced to learn after being elected to the Greater Essex County District School Board. Halberstadt was a long time Windsor city councillor and often considered the lone voice of opposition to former and at times powerful Mayor Eddie Francis. But Halberstadt and other school trustees have been told that when it comes to school board policy, after trustees vote on education decisions only the board chair can speak to the media and trustees have to go along with the new policies. Problem: Halberstadt is a journalist. He also is known for freely commenting on public policy. This gag rule, in the provincial Education Act, is an affront to free speech and reinforces the tight and often opaque clubs that are elected school boards. - 15/12/14