And now ... Quick Hits

Excessive (def.): Incoming travellers now must fill out a form indicating where they plan to spend 14 days in quarantine, they could be checked on and if in violation get a $750,000 fine and six months in prison. – 5/8/20

Tone deaf: The Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority says to avoid using plastic bags at point of purchase, after retailers have told shoppers not to use resusable bags due to possible Covid-19 contamination. - 5/1/20

Pray for them: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to prohibit all public and private gatherings outside single households to combat the coronavirus outbreak does not apply to religious organizations. – 3/24/20

With friends like these: The Rev. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, at a Detroit conference attended by 14,000 this weekend, said he regretted the deaths of Qassim Soleimani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards leader, and “my other brother” former Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi. – 2/24/20

Irony: The University of Windsor Black Law Students Association has accused the university's law school, perhaps the most liberal law school in Canada with its Access to Justice philosophy, of not doing enough to combat "systemic" racism. - 2/16/20

Nice pay if you can get it: A lawsuit is challenging a whopping pay increase for Kevin Kenneally, former deputy chief financial officer of Detroit’s pension funds, who had his pay increased from $166,855 to $285,000 by working as an independent contractor. A previous dispute over his pay threatened fund payments under the Grand Bargain, which saw the destitute city emerge from bankruptcy. - 2/2/20

Eat, drink and be merry: For a trip to the G20 summit in Japan last year the Prime Minister’s Office and worthy guests consumed 57 bottles of wine and $95,000 worth of food. - 1/31/20 ________________________________________________________________

The hissing of summer lawns: With apology to Joni Mitchell’s album of the same name, the City of Windsor has a two-member crew: one to push a lawn mower, the other to walk in front to make sure no endangered Butler’s garter snake is injured. – 8/10/18

Mother of all misnamed: In mythology the Phoenix is a bird that rises from the ashes, but the federal government’s Phoenix payroll system has essentially crashed and burned, with wildly skewed civil servant pay cheques, now costing more than $400 million and the addition of 1100 staff to fix. – 7/30/18

Self-loathing: A survey found that central office staff of the Detroit Public Schools, even more than the general public, would not recommend their schools as a place to study. 63 per cent disapproved vs. 50 per cent of teachers and 40 per cent of families. – 6/14/18

Have some sympathy: Lawyer Laura Joy asked the court to impose a lighter sentence for Kenneth Sparks, saying he’s “very sorry,” has a dozen grandchildren and wants to “enjoy his golden years.” Sparks, a career criminal, was convicted of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon – stabbing one woman and hitting another woman in the head with a pipe. – 5/18/18

Poor choice of words: Anitra Escoto, a Lakeshore resident who this week spoke against a proposed cemetery on a former golf course along her street, said why change the current neighbourhood, which is "so calm and peaceful.” – 9/5/18

Jumping the gun: No one knows why a man drove a rented van into a crowd of people in north end Toronto Monday. But the city’s mayor, John Tory, seems to think there’s a specific reason. Why else did he describe his city as “being inclusive” and “accepting and understanding?” - 4/24/18

Double standard: Ford CEO Jim Hackett told a Michigan business audience that “women tell the truth” more than men when it comes to apprehension over driverless cars. Imagine the hullabaloo if he had said the opposite? – 10/11/17

What took them so long? The feds finally got around to designating Windsor a foreign trade zone - the eighth such region - despite the fact we have one quarter of all trade between Canada and the US.- 1/8/17

How to offend locals: In launching a new cross-border advertising campaign BIA rep Greg Plante called Windsor “a great suburb of Detroit.”– 18/7/17

Space age People Mover: Detroit mayoral candidate Coleman Young Jr. is proposing two-person pod SkyTran that uses electromagnetic power for personal rapid transit. – 12/7/17

No sense of humour: Authorities in St. Marys were not impressed after an Animal House type prank where students sent four piglets scurrying through school halls and assembly, eliciting criticism for “bullying” the animals. – 4/7/17

Canada’s safety net fails: Upset to pay for hospital parking local citizen Larry Robert says: “Health care is free by the government, but it’s not free to park.” -24/6/17

Land of the absurd: Ontario will spend $45 billion to save ratepayers $24 billion on electricity bills, watchdog says. - 25/5/17

Commie to capitalist: Andy Warhol’s image of Chairman Mao, deceased leader of the great Chinese poverty-stricken oppressed masses, recently sold for US$12.6 million. – 7/4/17

Only in Ottawa: The Liberal government is considering eliminating House of Commons' sittings on Fridays so as to be "family-friendly" for MPs with kids. - 22/3/17

What took so long? The litigious Ambassador Bridge company has filed suit against it carrying hazmat, regulations that have existed for decades. – 23/2/17

Irony: University of California, Berkeley, home of the 1960's Free Speech Movement (FSM), this week cancelled a speech by high profile right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, amidst violent riots against the speaker. – 3/2/17



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Noted and filed

May 25/20: An article by the Waterloo Region Record, one of a series on workplace health, has zoomed in on Ambassador Bridge truck traffic as being a possible source for higher than average cancers. It quotes Customs officers joking darkly about the health implications of the fumes they breathe day in and out as they process thousands of trucks that cross the bridge. “There was a joke among us that as you walked to the booths, the closer you got, the more dead the trees were,” says former officer Christine Paquette. “You had to wonder what you were breathing in, with the amount of trucks that come through there in a day.” Paquette says she “used to come home from work and wash my face, and it would be just black.” She developed a nagging cough then had problems with her thyroid gland that eventually went away after she quit her job. The article quotes Toronto’s Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) as saying 560 cases of lung cancer in Canada annually come from diesel fumes and that Canada’s rules governing emissions are ”dangerously outdated.” As many as 10,000 trucks a day usually cross the bridge though since the pandemic the number, at least in April, was down by almost half. The article quotes area Customs union rep Ken Turner that his members are “very worried (but) there’s a real culture of fear about speaking up, because people don’t want to lose their jobs.”

April 22/20: Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Windsor-Essex’s Medical Officer of Health, would still like to see a ban on cross-border travel for part-time workers in wake of Covid-19 crisis. And he called for better data tracing to track the number of essential care workers who test positive for Covid-19 from working in Detroit. Dr. Ahmed made the comments in an article this week by The Detroit News. The remarks come after Ahmed called last month to restrict Canadian nurses working at Detroit hospitals, stirring local controversy. Ahmed said Windsor-Essex is at risk from workers bringing the virus into Canada. Detroit and surrounding Wayne County has the third highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the United States. But, in the story, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens repeated earlier comments to Windsor media by telling The News banning Canadian nurses would create a “humanitarian crisis.” The News also references a similar cross border nurse situation in The Sault, where Canadian nurses working in both countries had to choose whether to work at home or on the US side. Nine nurses gave up their jobs at War Memorial Hospital in the US. Similarly, in Windsor, Windsor Regional Hospital gave nurses who work on both sides an ultimatum. 35 of 57 nurses gave up jobs in Detroit, 22 gave up Windsor jobs to work in Michigan. As many as 2000 health workers cross the border here every day to work stateside.

March 28/20: The free market-oriented Fraser Institute has some words for the Ontario government and Windsor and their relationship to Michigan. Author Robert P. Murphy points to the recent decision by Fiat Chrysler to axe the minivan assembly plant’s third shift laying off 1500 workers. “Although many factors drive a company’s employment decisions, the overall competitiveness of the jurisdiction is important,” he writes. Murphy points to what he describes as Michigan’s more competitive business climate as a major factor. He references changes brought in after the Great Recession more than 10 years ago. The state replaced a “complex and onerous” business tax with a six per cent broad flat tax. This is “preferable to a complex tax code with graduated brackets and special deductions or credits.” Then the state reduced overall spending, “returning badly-needed resources to the private sector, laying the foundation for more sustainable growth.” Finally, it passed “right to work legislation, which Murphy admits is “not directly applicable in Canada.” The law gives non-union workers a choice to pay union dies. “Many observers noted that the Detroit automakers had been saddled with high labor costs, and the thinking was that a more flexible labor market would be better for everyone in the long run, workers included,” he says. The writer notes that while there can be arguments over precise causes, “there’s little doubt that Michigan’s economy (and state finances) turned around after the above policy changes.” From 2012-16 Michigan had greater private sector job and GDP growth than Ontario. Michigan’s net public debt post-recession never broke pre-recession levels of five per cent while Ontario’s debt grew to just shy of 40 per cent in 2017.

Feb. 2/20: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan conservative think tank, raised the specter of Ontario’s “disastrous” green energy program as a warning to Michigan taxpayers. Last year state utility Consumers Energy and state regulators approved a 20-year energy plan. This will close all coal-powered plants, halt contracts for half of natural gas energy purchases and all nuclear energy purchases. The plan then links the cost and reliability of Michigan’s energy supply to a “massive, six gigawatt, buildout of solar power”…..But the institute says that utilities “typically overvalue renewables while misrepresenting the lower operating costs of existing fossil and nuclear facilities,” as much as two to three times less…..The Center then points to Ontario, which has phased out coal and more than a decade ago launched the Green Energy Act, which mandated expanded use of renewable energy……”The result? Ontario now has the fastest growing electricity costs in Canada and among the highest rates in North America. Furthermore, subsequent research showed that the shutdown of coal plants raised electricity rates in the province but provided few environmental benefits. Indeed, one analysis found that, had the province simply continued with retrofitting coal plants, it could have achieved similar environmental benefits at one-tenth the cost of the green energy programs.”