Noted and filed
May 19/17: Marijuana. The Border. Windsor. When the federal government legalizes the weed in just over a year what repercussions could the law have on a border town like Windsor, already experiencing varying border delays depending on vagaries like the time of day or day of the week or the number of inspection booths open or the particular whims of the customs officer? The National Post’s Chris Selley this week indirectly raised some of those questions in a column otherwise about the way the feds are approaching pot legalization. In point of fact, he was raising the questions to show almost a paranoid view of drug regulation. Call us paranoid, but they're worth considering. Among them: what happens if someone rolls up to the border reeking of marijuana? Since the weed is legal would that bar Canadians from the US because, federally, marijuana smoking is still a US crime? Will more vehicles be turned into secondary inspection or turned back altogether because sniffer dogs smell the evil weed? Will the Trump administration, ever vigilant on border security, instruct customs to scrutinize anyone coming from Canada even more? Will there be more people smuggling dope into the US? And, just like some US folks are stopped for carrying weapons into Canada, will Canucks be stopped and charged for carrying baggies of Mary Jane?
April 26/17: The respected transportation blog Pedestrian Observations doesn’t think hi-speed rail is right for Windsor. In an April 7 post author Alon Levy, a mathematician who has lived widely around the world and has “a side interest in urbanism and mass transit that is entirely unrelated to my work” – though reading his intricate blogs about train spacing and speed you might think differently – wrote this: “Canada is not building high-speed rail anytime soon; if it were, it would connect Toronto with Montreal, using Lakeshore East, and not with points west, i.e. London and Windsor. London and Windsor are small, and a high-speed connection to Toronto would be financially marginal, even with potential onward connections to Detroit and Chicago. A Toronto-Niagara Falls-Buffalo-New York route is more promising, but dicey as well. Probably the best compromise in such case is to run trains on a four-tracked Lakeshore West line at 250 km/h; the speed difference with nonstop trains running at 160 km/h allows 15-minute frequency on each pattern without overtakes, and almost allows 12 minutes. Alternatively, express trains could use the local tracks to make stops, as I’ve recommended for some difficult mixtures of local, express, and intercity trains on the Northeast Corridor in New York.
April 10/15: Windsorites have been busy writing, and getting their letters published, on American topics in the Detroit Free Press. Last Thursday Greg Marsh suggested a solution to the battle over new Super Court justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump pick opposed by Democrats. After Gorsuch gets the seat - he was sworn in today – Marsh says the president should nominate former Democratic pick Merrick Garland to replace “the next ‘liberal judge.’” He says this strategy “will ensure that Justice (Antonin) Scalia's seat will be replaced by a likely similarly conservative justice while Garland's selection will ensure the ideological status quo is maintained”…..Meanwhile, in Sunday’s paper, retired Windsor Board of Education superintendent Mike Saffran thinks the best choice for a new Detroit school board super isn’t an outsider – the three finalists come from outside the city – but the person who has been acting in that role since March of last year, Alycia Meriweather. With a nod to his own career, Saffran says, “Parachuting ‘leaders’ into the system creates an unease within the system. I have lived through it and speak from experience. Here's hoping the board exercises some common sense and makes this ‘search’ a really meaningful one.”
Feb. 21/17: University of Windsor political scientist and conservative Fraser Institute senior fellow Lydia Miljan has dismissed the recent anger by Canada’s left wing opposition parties and some in the media that Prime Minister Justine Trudeau failed to deliver on a major election promise to change Canada’s electoral system. Trudeau had said during the election campaign he wanted to replace the current “first past the post” system with some other method such as proportional representation. But on Feb. 1 he abruptly reversed himself, saying the traditional voting system would remain unchanged. Miljan, in an op-ed piece, writes that the opposition’s anger at Trudeau is misplaced. In fact, contrary to how the issue has been portrayed as being a high priority during the election, the promise “was given very little attention” during the 2015 campaign and the opposition’s claims are “bordering on revisionist history, or in today’s parlance, ‘alternative facts.’ ” Miljan says the Liberals’ electoral pledge actually was “buried” and “in the middle” of more than 200 various election promises. She says most voters likely “were wholly unaware that the promise was even made.” Nor, she says, did the criticizing media, during the campaign, “give it much weight either.” She says a search found “electoral reform” was mentioned in the media 851 times compared to “health care” which was mentioned more than 30,000 times.
Jan. 6/17: You’ve heard of fake news. Well, how about fake charity bins? These looks like legitimate bins scattered on parking lots or street corners. Yet they’re not run by legitimate charities but outside firms which sell the merchandise for profit. That’s been a complaint for years by charities like Goodwill Industries. It asked Windsor city council to ban the bins but the city turned them down, saying the problem is a non-issue locally. But many such bins have turned up in nearby cities like Chatham and Sarnia. However, over in Michigan the state is taking action against companies who drop off fraudulent bins. Attorney General Bill Schuette last month issued a cease-and-desist order and notice of intended action against Dearborn-based Golden Recyclers, according to the Detroit Free Press. Maximum penalty could be more than $10K per violation. The charges relate to the company misrepresenting itself as a charity for the Cancer Foundation and that donations were used to make a company profit. In 2013 another company, American Textile Recycling Services, was accused of removing and selling St. Vincent de Paul bins.
Dec. 19/16: The subject of the tragic death of a onetime Windsor area resident, Dr. Elana Fric Shamji, has developed into a discussion about discrimination in how the news media covered her killing. Fric Shamji, a family physician with expertise in medical policy, earlier this month was strangled and beaten, her body found inside a suitcase in the Toronto area community of Vaughan. The Globe and Mail’s Public Editor Sylvia Stead wrote last week of complaints from readers that The Globe (and perhaps other media) used a double standard in reporting about Fric Shamji’s medical career and that of the man charged in her death, her husband Dr. Mohammed Shanji, a neurosurgeon. “In one article, all of his achievements and credentials are listed, but none of hers,” wrote one reader. But the readers might have been more reacting to the headline rather than the story’s contents. The headline was: “Toronto Doctor Charged with First-Degree Murder in Woman’s Death.” Stead agreed that the wording “puts the focus on the wrong person.” Nevertheless, the first seven paragraphs of the story were about the victim and her professional background. A follow-up Globe article had a “much better” headline, Stead said: “Toronto doctor’s killing shocks medical community.” Stead also wrote in her column that the criminal justice system routinely “places the emphasis on the accused, not the victim,” adding “that is all the more reason for journalists to tell the story of the victims”…..Then, National Post columnist Christie Blatchford referred to Stead's column as well as other similar charges of misogyny on other subjects in an article titled, “Two words to my fellow females – toughen up.” Blatchford reported that “A woman started a change.org petition, addressed to ‘the news media’ and taking the press to task for interviewing Shamji’s former patients who lamented the loss of his surgical skills. ‘His work should be a footnote in these stories, if it is even mentioned at all,’ reads the petition preamble." Concluded a weary Blatchford: “Not everything is a misogynist plot.”
Dec. 2/16: Canadians might have to shell out some cents for plastic bags at the grocery or department store but Michigan this week affirmed it is fully against the idea. The state legislature has passed a law that prevents municipalities from forcing retailers to impose fees for shopping bags. A state representative from Ann Arbor called the decision an assault on local control…..Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency to find out if its agents are illegally profiling citizens and foreigners. It found in redacted records that four of every 10 people stopped in the Detroit sector from 2012-14 were already citizens or foreigners in the US legally. Other information showed that in Sandusky Bay, Ohio (part of the Detroit sector), Hispanics, who make up only three per cent of the population, accounted for between 62 and 85 per cent of arrests between 2009-11. But less than one per cent were Canadians, despite Sandusky’s Lake Erie location. The area is also a popular spot for Canadian boaters.
Oct. 10/16: Windsor often feels left out of a lot of things. We’re the best kept secret in Canada but influential people elsewhere – i.e., the national media – often don’t see us that way, if they see us at all. So in the September/October issue of MoneySense magazine an irate Windsorite complained: Your article (“Canada’s Best Places to Live” Summer, 2016) has really ticked me off! I was born and raised in Windsor and have lived and travelled to many parts of the world,” writes Lynn Sampson. “Windsor is far from perfect, yet you managed to really hurt and anger a lot of people.” She went on to admonish MoneySense’s editors for not recognizing the area’s great weather, and its destination for retirees who realize great real estate values. “All in all, I feel the article is not fit to wrap fish parts in.” … The editors felt compelled to respond. “What dragged Windsor down … was its high unemployment rate relative to the rest of the province. It can feel great to live there if you have a good job, but it likely feels different if you’re looking for work.” With Windsor’s unemployment rate down to 5.7 per cent in September - the lowest in 15 years and one of the lowest in Canada - might MoneySense eventually come to a different conclusion?
Sept. 6/16: In the ongoing controversies surrounding the Ambassador Bridge company it’s hard to find a public official who will openly back bridge management. Bridge management, of course, for many years has been involved in constant legal wars with various government authorities on both sides of the Windsor-Detroit border as it attempts to block construction of a new international bridge and over its own efforts to build a replacement span for its current aged structure. So, at an event last month where work began on extending a Detroit city park that came about as a result of a land swap between that city and the bridge company, it may have seemed surprising to hear Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan laud the idea of a new Ambassador. Noting he supports the new international government-planned bridge Duggan said, “I also believe we need to have two bridges. I thought we ought to be thinking in terms of a replacement for the Ambassador Bridge, and this (the land swap) kind of lays the groundwork for that,” The Detroit News reported. – 6/9/16
June 3/16: Commenting on the overpriced housing markets in cities like Toronto and Vancouver the Bank of Montreal’s chief economist Douglas Porter offers an interesting insight, among others, about why prices are so high in those cities and not in peripheral markets like, well, Windsor, which of course has some of cheapest realty in the country. Quoted in the Financial Post, Porter said, “On the demand side, I think something fundamental has changed. With the weakness in manufacturing and other industries in the last decade, a lot of the smaller centres just don’t offer meaningful job opportunities, in many, cases for younger people.”
May 26/16: The New York Times, in a profile of Windsor-born John Paul Reddam, owner of thoroughbred race horse Nyquist, despite placing third in the Preakness Stakes Saturday after winning the Kentucky Derby, had some kind words for the philosopher turned businessman. Said sports writer William C. Rhoden, Reddam, “for me, (is) the most intriguing figure of the week leading to Saturday’s” race. Nyquist, of course, had been favoured to win and go on to a Triple Crown victory. This, after Reddam’s colt I’ll Have Another won two legs of the Triple Crown in 2014. Said the Times, “A Canadian-born philosopher king turned money lender turned successful horseman, Reddam is a multimillionaire and a haunted near-witness to history.” Rhoden talks about Reddam, 60, years ago making a “dramatic shift” from “the high-minded world of academia — philosophy — to the world of money lending and thoroughbred racing.” He mentions Reddam having philosophy degrees from the University of Windsor and U of Toronto, receiving his doctorate at Southern California. Reddam now lives south of Los Angeles. The Times quotes Reddam on the difference between philosophy and horse racing. “He went to a philosophy conference and was surprised at the combativeness of the discourse. ‘I realized that philosophy in academia was about one-upmanship,” he said. ‘The business world is about making money.’ Reddam, even then a serious horseplayer, decided that he might as well make as much as he could, and have fun doing it.”
May 1/16: Does a lawsuit stemming from an accident in Leamington have some similarities to a threatened lawsuit involving a crash almost two years ago in Amherstburg? Perhaps. In the Leamington suit, reported last week, a man charged with first degree murder in the killing of the passenger of a car he was driving, is suing numerous organizations. The defendant, Andrew Cowan, 44, is suing the Town of Leamington, County of Essex, Leamington Horticultural Society, two of the horticultural society’s members, a local landscaping company, and Caesars Windsor for serving him and his passenger Edward Witt, with alcohol prior to the crash. The crash happened at a ramp-shaped flower bed and the pick-up truck went into a building at the corner of Talbot St. and Fraser Rd. on Oct. 21, 2012.……Almost exactly a year ago the family of Emily Bernauer, who died in a car accident driving home from the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival on Sept. 6 2014, indicated they intended to sue several parties such as the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival, Colio Estate Wines, Sobeys, and a Concession 2 home owning couple. Bernauer was killed on Concession 2 when her car rolled over while driving home from the fest, where she was working at the Sobeys tent. Amherstburg police said the 18-year-old woman had alcohol and marijuana in her system, may have been texting at the time of the accident, and was not wearing a seatbelt.
April 21/16: News that the US Treasury will the feature the first African-American and abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the US $20 bill begs the question. Why does the US keep churning out so much paper money anyway? Anyone who has travelled much in the US – including many Windsorites – knows the annoyance of getting so many $1 bills back in change. Canada and other countries solved the problem of low denomination paper years ago. Yet the US keeps hanging on to an archaic tradition. But with the way technology is going perhaps soon no one will even be handling paper money at all.
April 4/16: It seems the default description of Windsor’s economy is that it has been moribund. Seldom do we hear from any community leaders about those parts of Windsor that have a certain dynamism. Dynamism - in Windsor!? Just take a look at the burgeoning restaurant scene. This city has hundreds of restaurants. Not just that, but any week or month are bound to find more eateries that have opened or changed hands. For a city of 200,000 Windsor is incredibly well served – and surprisingly not overserved - by a highly diverse array of restaurant types, especially of the ethnic variety. Which also raises the question: new immigrants to the city seem to readily create jobs for themselves. Why can’t people who have lived here all their lives do that?.....The social media campaign against Heinz ketchup and in favour of French’s – because the latter uses locally-grown tomatoes in the aftermath of Heinz packing up and retreating to the U.S. - has truly become a Canada-wide story. The National Post, for example, doesn’t seem to be able to get enough of it. Colummist Colby Cash last Friday called it “Ketchup Patriotism” and looked at it somewhat skeptically. Said Cash, “it is hard to fault Ontarians for harbouring bad feelings toward Heinz.” But he also pointed out: “French’s, best known for selling mustard, is owned by Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC of Slough, England. This ‘Ketchup Patriotism,’ the closer you look at it, becomes more and more a matter solely of dream terroir. Canadians don’t get the profits, don’t pick the tomatoes and don’t even can the ketchup — that happens in Ohio, although French’s, obviously aware that it has a whole country by the tail, has hinted at plans to open a new cannery somewhere in Ontario. All we do, for the moment, is own the land. This ketchup has a mystical Canadian essence; one I defy anyone to detect in a blind taste test.”
March 21/16: About this time every year there’s a parade in Detroit that celebrates the Nain Rouge or the Red Devil, believed to have been a curse over the city since the days of its founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who had a nightmare about it. (Some people half-seriously think this is why Detroit has ended up in the shape it’s in tpday.) During Sunday's parage,The Nain shouted out: “Why don’t we just change the name of this place to North Windsor?”…..For befuddled and stunned auto industry reporters and not least of all consumers here’s a reason the new FCA Pacifica is being priced as exorbitantly high as it is. From the horse’s mouth, the Detroit Free Press reports that Matt McAlear, Chrysler’s marketing manager, says the company isn’t just trying to rack up more sales but is going after the sweet price spot where most minivan sales across all manufacturers including Toyota and Honda take place – 65 per cent of sales are above $30,000 USD (starting price in Canada more than $40,000).
March 18/16: Windsor and Essex County are mentioned in a couple of articles in today’s National Post – both having to do with high profile local industries and products – and both critical in nature. One, by automotive columnist David Booth, called the $43,995 starting price of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s new redesigned Windsor-built Pacifica minivan, in showrooms this spring, “ludicrous” and “madness” when the “typical Chrysler minivan consumer is looking for the cheapest method of moving friends and family, not a blinged-out Mercedes competitor”….And then, on the Financial Post’s Comment page columnist Kevin Libin flies in the face of the barrage of social media condemnation of Loblaws when Canada’s largest grocery chain pulled French’s ketchup, made with Leamington tomatoes, from the market. Libin called the campaign, widely touted as a victory, a “patriotic frenzy” and said “American-owned Heinz, as it happens, employs far more Canadians than does Reckitt Benckiser, the European owner of French’s. And both companies combined don’t employ anything close to the number of people who work for Canadian-owned Loblaw…”
March 3/16: Whatever happened to cougar sightings in Essex County?.....Ever notice that when people gather in public places they tend to crowd the entrance ways?.....The Fox News Republican debate in Detroit tonight is showing off the city's Fox Theatre in all it's spectacular glory, seemingly even eye-popping to jaded New York broadcasters who have, after all, Radio City Music Hall.
Feb 18/16: Whatever happened to the Windsor Hum?.....During Aretha Franklin’s terrific concert last weekend at Caesars Windsor Colosseum Aretha at one point stopped and specifically pointed out one member of the audience, a person about whom most Windsorites were probably scratching their heads. She’s Mildred Gaddis, the long time talk show host on WCHB 1200 AM, whose show airs daily and who has long been considered as having her finger on the pulse of the Detroit community, as Aretha pointed out……Ever notice that more times than not, when trying to merge on to the EC Row Expressway – and given there are only two lanes - traffic in the right merging lane doesn’t shift to the left lane to allow the entering vehicle? Why is that?
Feb 14/16: At Caesars Windsor, when bar staff clean up and pack away the booze for the night, the still filled bottles of wine and spirits are transported to a cart to be brought to a safe place. But not any cart. These carts have bars and are otherwise designed so that intrepid casino customers can't get their grubby hands on a bottle passing them in the hallway. Also at the casino, ever notice there are no water fountains? "Can you imagine what it would be like if we had them?" one staff member exclaimed. The casino also must be the only place where mild mannered rudeness rules. Sit in an empty slot machine seat, say, when waiting for a SO to exit the washroom (there are no other chairs), and there's a pretty good chance you'll be matter of factly asked to remove yourself, a gambler a few seats over wanting to try his luck on the machine....The venerable River Canard Bridge is getting a makeover. One of the few remaining "bowstring" bridges in the province it's also noted for its slender columns or "hangers" that tie down the overhead arches to the deck. The columns will be slightly widened this summer to keep the bridge, built in 1937, healthy, and to maintain at least current weight limits. There's also a similar, if smaller, bridge slightly down the road on Concession 2, making for a twofer of architectural heritage......Meanwhile repair work on another bridge, the Ambassador, is continuing , with new, seemingly lower guardrails, replacing the greatly rusted out old vintage hulks, a news story in August 2014 when an astonished Peterborough trucker snapped pics while halted in a typical backup on the bridge. Speaking of that bridge, the much-maligned management has a point when it tells the public not to blame the bridge company for backups, at least of pedestrian vehicles: more times than not there aren't enough Customs booths open, especially on the US side, to handle the traffic......And speaking of bridge owner Matty Maroun's other vast holdings, the once grand but later hulking eyesore that is the former Michigan Central train depot - which ignominously has long greeted bridge travelers entering the US - at least now has windows and interior lights. The question is: what will the Marouns do with the (slightly) renovated building?