NOTED & FILED
Our community as reflected in outside media
July 21/21: Essex County figured prominently in a Financial Post story about how local municipalities are being hurt by a jump in their insurance rates. “Surging liability costs are forcing some communities to raise property taxes or cut services,” the article begins. Towns have been hit with 20-30 per cent increases as they face more liability claims, the “outsized” impact on small populations and a “shrinking pool of insurers.” This comes when Ontario municipalities post-pandemic face a $2.4 billion decline because of Covid. Moreover, smaller towns are seeing an increase in populations, and therefore infrastructure costs, as city dwellers flee to rural communities. Sandra Zwiers, Essex County’s finance director, says her town is “consumed by the cost to service.” The municipality saw a 13 per cent premium increase or $115,780 after a 10.6 per cent one last year. And deductibles keep climbing. The county’s deductible jumped to $100,000 “for every occurrence” last year form $25,000 previously.
June 30/21: Former Windsor West MPP and provincial cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello lauded the important of supply chains now more than ever. In a co-authored column in the Toronto Sun with former federal Tory cabinet minister Tony Clement they say that thanks to the pandemic supply chains are no longer the domain of “pencil pocket” managers. “The mad scramble for PPE underlined that supply chain resiliency is not just a jobs issue; it’s also a national security and health and welfare issue.” But not just PPE. Even before the pandemic the supply of critical minerals was becoming crucial. For example, China controls 80% of the world’s lithium-ion battery refining, 77% of the world’s battery cell capacity and 60% of global battery component manufacturing. “It’s hard to imagine Canada being part of the green energy revolution when we’re not part of this global supply chain.” The two ex-politicos tout their new Reshoring Canada organization to do exactly that. “Our mandate? Advocacy, information and promotion of supply chain resiliency and modernization in Canada and North America.” As per their backgrounds the organization is non-partisan. But “data is critical. We’re surveying key industries about supply chain gaps and strengths, with a view to making specific recommendations to government and business.” Pupatello and Clement say they are “encouraged” by initial feedback. “Clearly many Canadian business and policy leaders see the need to reimagine Canadian supply chains and take more interest in what can be produced locally. Many are convinced Canadians can compete, extract and manufacture with the best in the world. It’s a win-win and, after the pandemic, we need some wins.”
June 16/21: Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens got some national exposure in his quest to get locals vaccinated by taking advantage of unused Covid-19 vaccines across the river in Detroit. The National Post reported on Dilkens’s appearance before the federal health committee. “We have 35,000 doses that hit the trash, two kilometres away from where I’m sitting at the very moment, in the state of Michigan,” Dilkens was quoted as saying. “Doses that have been offered to us by pharmacists living in my community who work over there, who are just beside themselves thinking that this stuff is going into the landfill.” The newspaper told of Dilkens wanting to respect international sovereignty by setting up a vaccination clinic in the middle of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. But the feds have thwarted the city at apparently every turn. “This is being offered to us and for some reason, our government is finding every way to say no to making this happen,” Dilkens said. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner couldn’t understand why Ottawa won’t help, asking “are they just being obstructionist for the sake of being obstructionist?” The Post also reported that the federal public health agency had given Dilkens reasons. One is lack of compensation for an American-sourced vaccine. Vaccines would also need to be “properly imported,” reported the Post. And even if the nurse stands on the US side of the tunnel when they reach across to administer the vaccine “that is considered importation of product and requires an expression of no objection from Health Canada,” the agency said.
May 25/21: The wonders of Colchester were portrayed to a Toronto readership in a post on blogTO. The article portrayed a couple of GTA’ers having moved to the southwestern Ontario hamlet, known for its wineries, cottages and Lake Erie. The couple, Tim and Amber, “looked everywhere from Victoria, B.C. to New Brunswick in search of the right place to live, but it was the small community of Colchester, Ont., located in the municipality of Essex, that stood out to them as truly one-of-a-kind.” They’re still connected to their Toronto jobs but can work remotely. The couple are “head over heels in love with the place," says the blog. They call the community “welcoming….everyone looks out for each other.” They also love the unique climate. "You are at the most southernmost point in Canada, the same latitude as Northern California.” Tim says. “You essentially get an extra two months of summer.” He says Lake Erie can be dynamic – sometimes calm and other times powerful with storms – “both weather circumstances unique in their beauty." The couple love the more than 20 wineries and at least five microbreweries. They like the abundant produce stands and proximity to to Windsor’s major shopping as well as Point Pelee National Park. And they sample eateries like 14th Coffee Co. and Garfield's, the local diner. “Colchester literally has it all. It's truly like the small communities you see in the movies," says Tim.
May 5/21: A Windsor tool and die manufacturer figures in a US Bloomberg News story about the continued intransigence of Canadian and US authorities to re-open the international border. “From his base in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit, Tim Galbraith competes with American companies to build industrial molds for U.S. factories,” the story says. “Border rules are costing him business with U.S. customers. Technical experts won’t cross the border for key tasks, including testing out a mold before it ships, and prospective American clients won’t visit because of the quarantine.” Galbraith, of Cavalier Tool & Manufacturing Ltd., says there’s “no chance this guy is going to come and sit in a hotel for 14 days, just so he can come and spend three hours in our plant and drive home. This is a trade barrier the Canadian government has erected that is doing more to repatriate business in the U.S., in our industry, than all the Trump rhetoric of the last four years.” The story also quotes another Windsor official. Marta Leardi-Anderson, executive director of the U Windsor Cross-Border Institute. “What people (elsewhere) don’t understand, too, is the huge connectedness between Canada and the U.S, especially in the border regions where we’re quite used to just going over to have dinner.” Galbraith, for his part, says his sector’s concerns seem to be starting to make inroads with government, if only to allow key technical personnel to gain border access. “They’re seeing the fact that we’re not crying wolf,” he said. “We’re really losing business.”
April 21/21: Windsor and its airport figure in a National Post story about the toll the Covid-19 pandemic is taking on smaller city Canadian airports. And why not? Windsor has led the charge against a desire by Nav Canada – the non-profit agency which staffs flight controllers - to axe control tower staff here along with those at six other airports. Nav Canada relented after a campaign by a coalition of civic leaders, led by Windsor, to save the towers. “From convenient gateways to the world, to often-deserted portals,” the article says. “Few places in Canada have been as drastically transformed by the pandemic as the nation’s smaller airports.” Unlike larger city airports which have many more direct international flights and draw more business, “it’s an open question how long, and at what cost to passengers, it will take for smaller airports to rebound.” The Post quotes Windsor airport CEO Mark Galvin as calling the Nav Canada decision a “ ‘great outcome’ for the border city next to Detroit, Mich.” As well as Mayor Drew Dilkens. “We led this, we brought others on board and we gathered the momentum across the country, such that you had six premiers signing letters on behalf of the airports and sending them to the minister of Transport and prime minister saying, ‘You’ve got to stop this.’”
March 29/21: The Fraser Institute says the Trudeau government’s hike in the carbon tax will “hammer” southwestern Ontario including cities like Windsor. Pointing to the post-Great Recession fallout from which the region has “never recovered” it says increasing the tax to $170 per tonne (by 2030) from $30 “will impose yet more hardship on this already battered region.” Ontario as a whole can expect to lose 86,000 jobs but “particular hardships” await SW Ontario’s manufacturing belt. Prior to the Recession Windsor’s median household income went from 12.1 per cent higher than the national average to four per cent below it by 2015. Manufacturing employment in the southwest, including London, peaked in 2004 at 1.1 million but only six years later had dropped to just over 760,000. Provincial high electricity rates “helped drive” the decline. The Institute says this compares to nearby US states like Michigan and Indiana which between 2005 and 2016 “increased the shares of their economies linked with manufacturing.” And now, it says, the carbon tax hike “promises more hardship, particularly for Ontario’s manufacturing sector, despite Ottawa’s claim that the higher carbon tax will have ‘almost zero impact.’" Notably, the Trudeau government "refuses to release any detailed analysis of the effects of the higher carbon tax.”
March 8/21: Dick Smyth, one of the legendary voices of the one time Big 8 CKLW radio, has died at 86 in Huntsville Ont. Smyth was news director during CKLW’s heyday and was perhaps best know for his coverage of the 1967 Detroit riot, one of the few Canadian newsmen to spend considerable time during the five-day riot that at that time was the worst in modern American history. The Montreal native was known for his booming voice and often controversial editorials. “The veteran broadcaster was a familiar voice to radio listeners who tuned in for his trademark introduction: ‘Here’s how things look to Dick Smyth this morning,’ The Canadian Press reported. “His career spanned an array of influential stations, such as CKLW-AM in Windsor, when it was known as “the Big 8,” and 1050 CHUM in Toronto.” He was also part of the early days of Toronto City TV’s news broadcasts “where he offered unapologetic and animated opinions on political leaders, the economy and local issues.” CP said those characteristics “came across in person and translated wonderfully to the radio where Smyth became a bridge between news and fiery editorials — an authoritative voice that rang louder than most others.” Smyth got his start in Cornwall and then moved to “legendary Windsor station 'the Big 8,' named for its powerhouse 50,000-watt signal at 800 on the AM dial, that offered Smyth a serious opportunity to build his reputation as a standout morning newscaster and reporter.” During the 1967 riot Smyth’s reports from Detroit “captured the fear gripping Motor City as martial law went into effect. Each update offered vivid descriptions of the scene and colourful interviews with locals.” The reporting garnered him the first Canadian to receive the International Award of the Radio Television News Directors Association. Smyth left Windsor in 1969. Smyth in Toronto later was also called out for his anti-gay vitriol. “Smyth would run afoul of the gay community enough times that the historical archive Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada labelled him an “antigay news editor,” said the CP obituary. In 2012, he reflected on the lack of contemporary radio news personalities. “There’s no great newscasters today on radio.”
Feb. 18/21: The University of Windsor’s law school is undergoing a two-year $30 million renovation which when done will include a more decidedly Indigenous focus, The Globe and Mail reports. The building was opened in 1970 and has the “brutalist” architecture of the “baby boom” era, says the paper. Windsor Law has always had a theme of “law as a social process” or bringing social change and the renos will solidify that motto with physical changes. The building’s basic exterior on University Ave. will remain the same. But more windows will be added to brighten up the dark interior and the inside will be made disabled accessible. As well classroom space will be remodeled to emphasize more collaboration “which aligns with the way lawyers actually work today.” The interior will also be “reimagined to recognize a huge and still emerging cultural shift in Canadian law and Canadian society – reconciliation and a new relationship with Indigenous people.” Indigenous law plays an increasingly important part in the school’s curriculum and a first-year class in Indigenous Legal Orders - how both federal and provincial legislation and court rulings now incorporate Indigenous law and principles - is now mandatory. The revamped spaces were based in part on consultation with the Indigenous Elder in Residence, Myrna Kicknosway. So the design will include space for smudging (an Indigenous purifying ceremony) and for the Elder to talk and work with students. Canada’s justice systems has incorporated the “healing circle” for accused Indigenous people, so the law school is “designed to help students understand how all this fits in with modern law,” the paper says. The building will recognize it sits on traditional Indigenous land of the Three Fires Confederacy - the Ojibway, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi.
Feb.1/21: Shawn Micallef, urban affairs columnist for the Toronto Star and a former Windsor resident, gives a tip of the hat to his former hometown in a column Saturday. Despite specializing in urban matters, or maybe because of it, Micallef questions the entire purpose of living in a major city like Canada’s largest, when because of Covid-19 everything is shut down. “COVID-19 has removed much of the good and attractive things cities had to offer: lots of people doing lots of different things. Without the culture they create and their businesses to frequent, we’re not left with much more than a high cost of living. So why stay?” he writes. Micallef goes on. “As somebody who moved from Windsor to Toronto partly because I always wanted to live here and partly for economic reasons, I’ve often joked, on a Friday or Saturday night without plans, I might as well move to Cornwall and pay less rent if I’m going to stay in. No offence to Cornwall, it’s simply the other side of the province from Windsor and a place with a relatively cheaper cost of living too.” Then towards the end of the article, Micallef states, “In truth, I even daydream about what it might be like to leave, to live a smalltown life or move back to Windsor, even. Give my hometown some consideration if you’re taking off, it’s a good place.” Micallef attended St. Anne’s HS and U of Windsor. He wrote an article for Hazlitt several years ago called The World’s Greatest View of Detroit, and a book, The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure (Exploded Views).
Dec. 24/20: Re/Max Canada is shouting about Windsor’s red hot real estate market to the rest of the country. In a post “How Did Windsor Become the Hottest Housing Market in Canada?” Re/Max calls the Windsor market “one of the most interesting industry developments in 2020. What was once one of Canada’s sleepier urban housing markets due to struggling economic conditions and a lack of prospects, has quickly transformed into one of the hottest housing markets in the nation.” A major driver of that is despite rising prices and shortage of inventory Windsor’s prices still beat those of the GTA to a substantial degree. And “when you factor in historically low interest rates and pent-up demand, the situation within Windsor’s housing market makes sense.” Residential sales surged a record 44.3 per cent year over year in September. The average home price that month climbed to 29.6 per cent to a record high of $419,711. The year-to-date average also climbed 20.2 per cent to $395,008. But check this out. The Canadian Real Estate Association said Windsor’s “head-turning” market has also created $20 billion worth of personal wealth. Will this continue? Hard to say. But Re/Max points to wider trends, such as more people moving to smaller cities in the wake of Covid-19 and working electronically. So “smaller municipalities that may have previously been ignored by homebuyers and investors have turned into lucrative opportunities.”
Dec. 9/20: Former Windsor radio personalities Kelly Brown and Ann Delisi reminisced about working at one time CHUM Radio’s 89X and The River on Delisi’s WDET-FM show Sunday. And they also talked about the difference between working in Detroit and “Canada.” It was a tribute to the 30-year-old New Rock Alternative that saw its final day Nov. 19 when the one-time cutting-edge station flipped to the all-new Pure Country 89 because of “economic challenges,” the station’s corporate parent said. Both jocks, Americans, were recruited to work at the Canadian stations. Delisi commented on the relative liberalism of Canadian airwaves compared to the US and profanity in songs. “You guys were playing the unedited version of a Nine Inch Nails song and I walked into the wall because it was like 'oh my gosh' do they know what they’re playing...…but you could get away with it over there (in Canada).” Said Brown: “it was the time of my life.”
Delisi summed-up the station’s legacy: “89X made its mark in the most profound way in this market.” As for the new country format, Brown said though she likes some crossover country, “I can’t relate to it, I just can’t.”
Nov. 25/20: It appears other Canadians have now read about Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens’s recent errant dining out in violation of Covid-19 rules. The Canadian Press picked up the local story and it appeared today in the Toronto Sun with the headline “Scofflaw mayor sorry.” It's just two short paragraphs but a reader gets the point. “WINDSOR — The mayor of Windsor apologized for breaking COVID-19 rules when dining out with seven other people last week. Mayor Drew Dilkens made a statement to Windsor city council Monday, saying he made an ‘unfortunate error’ that should not have occurred.” A photo of the mayor accompanies the story with the cutline “Dilkens Rule-breaker.”
Nov. 5/20: Point Pelee figured in a recent Dating Diaries column in the Toronto Star. Scott, a hi-tech engineer living in Toronto’s trendy Liberty Village, met Ainsleigh, a Toronto PhD, science geek, and bird enthusiast. Their first date? To “several hours outside of Toronto” to Point Pelee, birdwatching central. As per the dating theme our hero learned from Ainsleigh that “even so-called monogamous birds are promiscuous.” He also learned that the Point is at the “crossroads of two major bird-migration flyways. Birdwatchers from all over Canada and the U.S. visit the park. In the spring, birds make their first landfall there after crossing the lake.” For our technie, that knowledge “sure beat discussing my work: gigabytes, servers, and modems.” Among the birds they saw was a blackpoll warbler – black head and white cheeks – which had “flown a long way to nest here.” They also heard a loud woodpecker. “The air was filled with the sound of birds,” he says. While Scott loved the date, which included a picnic with candle, and they both hit it off, soon after Ainsleigh took a position in the United States. Covid-19 has since interfered with their relationship because even though Scoot can fly to the states he must quarantine 14 days upon return. “I don’t know what will happen next,” he writes. “Even if the relationship fails, we’ll always have Point Pelee.”
Oct. 19/20: One of this fall’s hottest book releases comes from Windsor's Biblioasis press, which for a number of years has punched above its weight in the stature of authors it publishes and influence its books wield. The Toronto Star’s book section referenced Biblioasis on Saturday, noting the publisher’s new series of books, the first by well-known Canadian author Mark Kingwell. “The pandemic has offered all sorts of potential for looking at big ideas in new ways,” the Star says. “Seeing a space in the market for smaller books — akin to the pamphlets that thinkers such as Voltaire and Mary Wollstonecraft published — Biblioasis has pivoted to create a powerful new series titled ‘Field Notes:’ books by top thinkers that offer insights and ideas into the issues of our time with up-to-the-minute observations." The first is Kingwell’s ‘On Risk.’ The author notes that Covid has “made us all think about risk and how to mitigate it — and why not, when our lives can be turned so quickly upside down.” Other upcoming books are Rinaldo Walcott's ‘On Property,’ Andray Domise's ‘On Killing a Revolution’ and Andrew Potter's ‘On Decline.’ ”
Sept. 21/20: A New York Post columnist, lamenting the loss of business trips during the era of Civid-19, remarked about a one-time below par trip to Windsor that she now misses. Nicole Gelinas agrees in part with the cliche that Covid has freed busy executives from flying across the country and spending hours in airports and homogenous hotel rooms. Yet she was always able to squeeze in a few touristy adventures that in hindsight allowed her to discover a community’s uniqueness. “Nashville, Kansas City, Chicago, San Diego, Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Washington — I think just as fondly about walking their downtowns and stealing an hour to visit one of their museums or parks as I do about the most carefully planned leisure getaway,” she writes. But even ill-fated excursions, such as trying to take a Detroit city bus to the Ford car museum, left a fond if ironic memory. And, yes, even Windsor, though her first impressions left a lot to be desired. “Last year, after a day in Detroit, I took the public (Canadian) bus through the Windsor Tunnel to Canada. At the time, after a few minutes, it seemed clear that this was a dumb idea. There was nothing to do in Canada — sorry, Canada — but walk around for an hour or so through a half-empty casino district, some drugstores aimed at the American market and a small park with a box to deposit heroin needles. I wouldn’t have predicted that a year later, with the border now closed, what seemed like a waste of time and bus fare would have become, in retrospect, a now-forbidden, exotic adventure.”
August 28/20: A University of Windsor professor says Canada has fumbled in signing up pharmaceutical companies for a new coronavirus vaccine. And that could cost the country dearly. Writing in National Post, Andrew Richter, associate professor of political science, says Canada has indeed signed agreements with three international companies for vaccines. But each deal is problematic. One is with Chinese company Cansino. Richter says Cansino was supposed to deliver to Canada by now a vaccine for human trials but that hasn’t happened. This might be reflective of the strains in Canada’s overall relationship with China including that China has two Canadians in jail – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig - and the Canadian arrest of Huawei official Meng Wanzhou, waiting for possible extradition to the United States. “Regardless, it seems fair to say that the odds of this vaccine ever receiving approval in Canada are low,” Richter writes. The other agreements are with two US companies. With one, Pfizer, “we have no indication of how many doses Canada will receive (besides a vague assurance it will be in the millions).” With the second, Moderna, the company “has never successfully brought a drug to market in its 10-year history and there are plenty of grounds for skepticism.” But, says Richter, “perhaps most concerning of all” is that the feds have not signed a deal with the one company “furthest along” in vaccine trials and therefore the “first to be authorized for use”. That’s the vaccine being developed by Astrazeneca in association with Oxford University. Yet countries such as the U. S., the European Union, United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil, India, and Japan have all signed agreements. Nor, Richter writes, has Ottawa signed deals with other companies “at the forefront” of vaccine development. These include Johnson & Johnson, Gsk/sanofi and Merck. While other countries “have acted quickly and decisively,” Richter says Ottawa’s foot dragging may mean Canada will have to “wait out turn” for a vaccine.
August 14/20: University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan condemns the federal government for “throwing” money at large “19th century” media organizations to sustain a model that may no longer be viable. Writing in National Post, she points to the $595 million in last year’s federal budget directed at legacy newspapers and other media institutions. The money was to help “save” a dying industry, undercut mainly by the internet and new media institutions like Facebook and Google. These companies simply reproduce content from legacy media, amounting to “intellectual property theft on a monumental, historically unprecedented scale,” Miljan, also a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, says. But instead of going after these “oligopolies” the government has taken the “easier, lazier, more politically palatable path of subsidy.” In this way it has “aided and abetted in this theft.” Subsidies, she says, haven’t worked as witness the closure of 15 local weekly newspapers this spring. And subsidies by nature interfere with the market. “Protecting a dying industry makes it more difficult for innovators to enter the market, while simultaneously doing little to protect the jobs that are part of the old model." Instead, says Miljan, the government should do what other countries – like the European Union, France, Australia and Spain – have done, and protect intellectual property rights. The last two counties, for example, force digital companies to pay for what shows up on their platforms. “If the federal Liberals or a successor government are sincere in their desire to save Canadian journalism, they should focus on enforcing intellectual property rights and maintaining the conditions for the market to operate.”
July 31/20: The Toronto Sun’s crime columnist has taken issue with the Windsor police department for not naming the deceased killers in two famous cold crime cases. Brad Hunter called out the department for not releasing the names of the murderers of Carol Christou in 2000 and Liubica Topic in 1971, the latter “one of the most horrific slayings in Canadian history.” Christou, a grandmom and known as “everybody’s ma” was found stabbed to death in the bathroom of her home. Liubica was just six years old when she was raped and murdered and her death is “believed to be the oldest cold case solved by Canadian cops and investigators deserve nothing but praise.” But Hunter suggests the police department not naming the killers even though they are dead strains credulity. He quotes criminologist and cold case expert Michael Arntfield who is “mystified why the names of these killers are being withheld.” Said Arntfield, “The Windsor Police Service is quickly positioning itself as being among the most committed agencies with respect to the closure of cold cases in Canada.” And, said Arntfield, “There are obviously arguments to be made with respect to whose interests should prevail ….. but as someone who has turned cold-case studies into an area of university study and scholarship, it’s admittedly frustrating that more information with respect to what should be landmark cases for examination and benchmarking isn’t more forthcoming.”
July 14/20: A University of Windsor professor appears skeptical of a well-publicized open letter by Harper’s magazine calling for an end to so-called “cancel culture.’ That’s where someone might lose their job or be “de-platformed” on social media because of certain political opinions. Many of the letter’s signatories are eminent scholars, artists and intellectuals including Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell and J. K. Rowling. The letter, while seemingly a universal condemnation of censorship, sparked its own controversy, with certain signatories regretting they’d even signed it after learning that others – whose views they disapprove of – also did. Commenting on the letter, Windsor law school prof Richard Moon wrote in the Toronto Star, “The letter recognizes that there is a problem in our public discourse, but its focus on free speech and censorship or silencing misses the depth of that problem. The unwillingness of many in the community to engage with those who hold contrary views stems from larger issues with the structure of contemporary discourse. In the internet era, audiences have become more fragmented and political views, more polarized and entrenched. There is little common ground in the community on factual matters, which has made it difficult to discuss issues and to agree or compromise on public policy. Disinformation and conspiracy theories spread easily among partisans and generate fear and distrust of others. Indeed, distortion and deceit rather than direct censorship may now be the most significant threat to public discourse. There is a crisis in our public discourse, and it will not be remedied by general affirmations of the importance free speech.”
July 7/20: Devon Andre, a University of Windsor forensic science graduate and a writer at Bella Marra Health with an office in Concord, Ont., writes in The Epoch Times, about how negative thinking could increase the risk of stroke. “Always assuming the worst, ruminating on past experiences you can’t change, and fearing the future can all put your mind in a precarious situation,” he says. Andre points to new research that shows that “repetitive negative thoughts” (RNT) is linked to “the buildup of tau and amyloid protein in the brain, which are key markers of dementia.” Reversing negative though patterns can be overcome by, well, accentuating the positive or “changing your inner monologue,” Andre writes. Among suggestions are identifying where the negative comes from, spending time with people who reinforce positive feelings, expressing gratitude and going after experiences you enjoy.
June 23/20: A former Canadian diplomat is urging the feds take a regional approach to border re-opening, much as the province has to re-opening business during the coronavirus pandemic. The federal government, along with the US, have so far been steadfast in their refusal to open the Canada-United States border, now in its fourth month of closure except to essential workers and trade. Even yesterday PM Justin Trudeau, in response to the travel industry’s call to reopen the border, said, “I understand how difficult this is and how frustrating this is for some people but ... we are going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening.” Writing in The Globe and Mail Colin Robertson said: “Our main customer will always be the United States, which is still the world’s biggest market. With our updated trade agreement, the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), coming into effect July 1, we need to seize this opportunity. It starts with reopening the Canada-U.S. border. We applied risk-management principles after 9/11 to provide secure, but efficient, cross-border passage. We must do so again in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The (border shutdown) deprives us of trade and investment opportunities. Health considerations must be made, but surely there is room to consider regional openings.”
June 8/20: Two academics, both former residents of southwestern Ontario, weighed in on the difference between how Canada and the United States have responded to the Covid-19 crisis. Writing in the April issue of Policy magazine Helaina Gaspard and Valencia Gaspard note growing up in the Windsor area and the synchronicity between Windsor and Detroit. “Growing up in southern Ontario near the border with Detroit, Michigan, we constantly compared ourselves to the United States," they write. "Their presidents had more international presence and sway, but we had better social programs. The local news would report the weather in Fahrenheit because that’s what everyone used, even though we were taught Celsius at school." Their argument is academic and could be described as “wonkish” but is still quite readable for the average person. The gist of it is that Canada and the US took different approaches to fighting the virus. They say Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team have been “steady hands” through the crisis though there have nee some missteps. And Canadians likely will be “a little less begrudging at tax time because we are watching our tax dollars at work in real time.” In the US, by contrast, the Trump administration has engaged in a “series of missteps and misstatements” from accusing China of taking advantage of the US and a “lack of consistency and coordination in responses across America.” In Canada, they also laud provincial cooperation such as Alberta sending PPE to Quebec. By contrast, in the US, there has been sparring between Washington and states like Michigan.
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.”
You can’t make this up: No sooner do the feds announce the opening of the border to doubled vaxxed Yanks than the Canadian Customs union says it might go on strike. – 7/21/21
Oh, okay: Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna says the reason she's leaving politics is to "reflect on what matters to me most...two things: my kids and climate change." - 6/29/21
Corporate speak: Due to political and public outrage, which Air Canada calls “public disappointment,” airline executives will return $10 million in bonuses (see below) “in order to help address this unintended consequence.” – 6/8/21
Flight of fancy: Air Canada, after losing $3.8 billion due to loss of passengers, cut half its workforce, refused passenger refunds and got almost $6 billion in government Covid aid, has given its top executives $10 million in bonuses. – 6/2/21
Sexual healing: The Michigan police chiefs association cancelled a training session after it was found that a key speaker, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, described sex at home “after the bad guy’s down,” as one of the “perks” of a police officer’s job. – 5/12/21
Snug as a bug: College kids used to stuff themselves into Volkswagens but a convicted trucker, apprehended by Windsor Customs, had 11 illegal migrants wedged into his cab – all behind the curtain. – 4/28/21
Truth or consequences: UWindsor has announced a curriculum analysis based partly on “post-truth,” defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” – 4/6/21
No free lunch: But then there's Windsor's bylaw enforcement officers who get a 75-minute paid one. - 3/5/21
Test us not: Staff at the Caressant Nursing and Retirement Homes in Woodstock balked at getting tested for Covid-19 and filed a grievance with their union, which arbitrator Dana Randall dismissed. – 2/22/21
And that's that: Detroit radio station AM 910 owner Kevin Adell laid down the law with his talk show hosts after allegedly snubbed by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for a show gig. “For wasting my time, now no one’s going to breathe your name,” Adell said. “And any guests you have on, if they talk about him, you’re off." - 2/3/21
It’s, uh, all relative: Michigan, with cumulative 501,115 Covid cases, 12,153 deaths and 5059 latest daily cases, has announced a partial economic re-opening. Ontario, with cumulative 162,052 cases, 4181 deaths and 2181 latest daily cases, has announced a province-wide lockdown. (Ontario’s pop is 13.5 mil, Michigan’s 9.9 mil.) – 12/22/20
Copycat: Detroit News columnist and WJR morning man Paul W. Smith begins his Monday column “Outta’ my mind on a Monday moanin” which happens to be the same phrase the late great Detroit Free Press columnist Bob Talbert used. - 12/14/20
Purple prose: The jury that awarded a former local poet the RBC Emerging Writers prize described the poet as an “assured creator interrupting the neat contours of genre by weaving the dissonant dialectics of the confessional, historiographical, theoretical and the memorial between the cosmos and the terrestrial.” – 11/19/20
Do ya’ think? Michigan, which recorded its highest number of new Covid cases yesterday at 3,675 (Ontario’s was 934), in an attempt to control infection, reduced the limit of those allowed to gather indoors from 500 to 50. – 10/30/20
What’s that? The local health unit applauds a Kingsville farm for having “good practices in place” after a farm worker in a bunkhouse there tested positive, spreading Covid-19 to 17 other fellow workers. – 10/13/20
No free lunch: MPs, realizing people have lost jobs during the pandemic, have decided to no longer take free lunches while on official parliamentary committees. An MP’s base salary is more than $170,000 and MPs got an automatic almost two per cent pay raise April 1. – 9/30/20
Freeway of love: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, dedicating part of the Lodge Freeway to hometown star Aretha Franklin, ironically said the sign stands also for people “who came from the city and left.” Franklin for many years lived in Bloomfield Hills, 25 miles away, and reached by the Lodge. – 8/25/20
Justin’s used cars: The federal government sold 575 used cars for $19.5 million after buying them for $23 million for just a few days use at the Charlevoix, Que. 2018 G7 Summit. - 8/10/10
A Karen too far: Domino’s New Zealand had to cancel a free pizza promotion for Karen’s who are not obnoxious complainers only to be slammed for being kind to women who don’t face real oppression. – 7/31/20
Stealing home: MLB was given an exemption for teams to cross the border and play in Toronto when the Blue Jays have a perfectly good (& renovated!) ballpark in Florida. Yet ordinary citizens are still banned from border hopping. - 7/6/20
Incognito: Pandemic face masks must be heaven sent for criminal perps, who can now enter court houses without having to drape coats over their heads. – 7/1/20
Brainf--t: NDP Essex MPP Taras Natyshak let one go in the provincial legislature yesterday, calling Premier Doug Ford “a piece of s---” over how the MPP believes the province is treating his constituency during Covid-19. He later apologized. – 6/25/20
Bucking Bronco: Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce its all new Bronco SUV July 9, the same date as O.J. Simpson’s birthday. Simpson notoriously was filmed driving his Ford Bronco while being chased in 1994 by the LAPD. The company says the date is just coincidental. (UPDATE June 23: The date has since been changed.) – 6/16/20
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