Thursday, April 30, 2009

Canada Pays the Price in Afghanistan

We have a lot to think about these days. Our minds are preoccupied with "The Great Recession", the future of the auto industry, swine flu, a major strike by City of Windsor employees, let's not forget the cab drivers' strike and all the daily challenges of life.

But let's stop for a moment, clear our heads and say a quiet Thank You to the brave men and women who have served and died in the name of all Canadians in the Afghanistan mission.

Let's say a prayer for them and their families and loved ones.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

U.S. Government and UAW to Control G.M. and Chrysler

Wowww!!! What a combination!!

The writing was on the wall for the U.S. Government to own big chunks of General Motors and Chrysler LLC. But who would have thought the U.S Government and the UAW would get together and hold controlling interests in both companies. While the situation is still in flux and the proposed deals could fall apart, the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.

The Bigggggg question; what does this mean??

Well for starters, Fiat S.p.A of Italy is much closer to getting its wish. A huge presence in the North American market and up to 35% ownership of Chrysler for no money invested. Bob Barker eat your heart out. You've got to hand it to those Italians. First Fiat fleeces G.M. out of $2,000,000,000 during an ill fated American adventure into Italy. Now Fiat seems to be setting themselves up beautifully in this deal; all upside no downside risk.

Boy, I want to go to Washington and negotiate with those Obama guys and ladies myself. I'll just put S.p.A. after my name and see what they offer. Anyway as I have been saying this Fiat S.p.A. and Chrysler deal just doesn't smell right. And nothing I have seen so far changes my mind.

This also means CAW President Ken Lewenza should get a seat on the new Chrysler-Fiat Board of Directors. After all, he did the impossible by getting his CAW membership to agree to huge concessions.

And for the Canadian taxpayer, what does all this mean?? Well, we will just have to wait and see what federal Industry Minister Tony Clement shares with us.

My advice, breath calmly as we wait.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CUPE Honcho Sid Ryan Back in Windsor

Sid Ryan is back.

The President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario) is back in Windsor helping striking City of Windsor employees. Uhhhhhhhhh I don't think so!!

In a recent post I strongly suggested to City Hall workers to keep Sid at home.

Ask yourself, why is Sid spending so much time in Windsor?? It can't be because he loves Windsor, nobody believes that!!!!!!!!

He is in Windsor to block the wedge. If striking employees in Windsor have to give up stuff, very important stuff, like benefits and salary hikes, what would happen to municipal employees in lesser towns?? Hey, Sid's job is on the line. And if he has to keep every city of Windsor employee on strike for weeks or months to protect his backside, it will be done. Amen and Amen.

Again, unlike Gord Henderson, and shame on him, I take no position on this strike. I am just a pragmatist watching how city hall employees are being used and abused.

Dear City Hall Employees:

You do good work and you are very much needed. Don't pay any attention to Gord Henderson's bullcrap. However right now politics is not in your favour. Global financial meltdown, auto meltdown, stimulus spending that is not working, big deficits coming, new tax hikes coming (just look at Tecumseh), swine flu, etc. etc. And last but not least, probably even Alan Halberstdat has tested the political winds and can't risk supporting you. Although in the end he will say he did!! That's our Alan!

This is just not Fair Play.

Cut the best deal you can and get back to work. Let Sid Ryan use some other folks as his fodder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yours truly,

Fair Play Blog

Monday, April 27, 2009

Will We Have a Pandemic?? And What Will it Cost??

The "Swine Flu" that we have all been reading about has already taken the lives of more than 150 innocent persons. While the epicentre of the Flu is in Mexico, it is spreading quickly in the United States and is slowly gaining a foothold in Europe.

The World Health Organization could decide to raise its pandemic alert level, currently at 3 on a scale of 1 to 6, to phase 4 or 5. If that happens we will all have to hunker down.

While the focus has been on human health and safety, and that is how it should be, we cannot ignore the potential economic fallout. Governments are asking their citizens to avoid travel. Such caution, while needed, will harm the economy. Let's not forget the huge price Canada paid during the Sars outbreak in lives lost and in lost economic activity. For a period of time in 2003, Toronto was a ghost town and was placed under "quasi-quarantine".

If this Swine Flu is not brought under swift control the depths of the "Great Recession" will have to be re-calculated.

Ken Lewenza - Get's the Job Done

A mere 8 weeks ago it would have been unthinkable to believe the CAW would agree to more concessions or benefit cuts. But as we sink deeper into the "The Great Recession" and as the Governments in the United States and Canada play hardball in their efforts to save what is left of the traditional North American Auto Industry, the old rule book no longer applies.

CAW President Ken Lewenza, who in my view continues to be underestimated, knew this and did what he had to do. Ken delivered; he got the job done. Now it's up to the membership to accept $19 per hour in concessions. Which they did Sunday (April 26) evening.

Many opinion leaders, and writers blame management and the unions for the mess over at the "Detroit Three". No longer Bigggggg, just "Detroit Three".

All eyes are now on Fiat.

It will be interesting to see how Fiat, a company with a struggling balance sheet, will buy 30% of Chrysler with no money down. Geez!! Isn't that how we got into this mess in the first place? People and companies loaded with debt, buying stuff with no money down!!!!

We in Windsor Essex continue to wait for the Windsor Star to give us all the financial goods on Fiat. After all they do have a team of business writers. Maybe they can start by analysing Fiat's last several quarterly reports. Or maybe Windsor Star "super snooper" Grace Macaluso could tell us more about Fiat layoffs at it's truck plant in Spain.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What will Duncan do about Pensions??

Dwight Duncan the Ontario Minister of Finance is a well schooled and well disciplined politician. He knows when he has been dealt a bad hand. And boy he's got one now.

In my post of April 13, I highlighted the crisis which is right around the corner for Duncan. This crisis is more dangerous for Duncan than any other Ontario politician, for two reasons. First, he is Finance Minister and everyone assumes he has a biggggg say on how the Ontario Government spends money. Second, he is from Windsor: lot's and lot's of autoworkers- these folks vote even when they are not motivated.

Duncan wants to be Premier, nothing wrong with that. I am sure he would do a good job. However, he can probably kiss the Top Job goodbye if thousands of Windsor area voters lose part or all of their pensions.

Recent demonstrations with large turnouts have moved the pension issue up the political thermometer. Things are very hot now. Duncan continues to be very careful; he prefers that others in the Government speak on the issue. There can be only one reason for this: he does not yet have a solution.

All eyes are on Duncan.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fiat - When will the Windsor Star Tell us More??

Is the Windsor Star going to do its job or not?

We didn't need the Windsor Star to tell us Fiat wants part ownership of Chrysler, and not have to pay for any of it. Windsor Essex citizens could have gotten that great news anywhere. What we needed from the Windsor Star and its huge stable of reporters was an analysis of Fiat as a company and its financial abilities or lack there of.

Instead, what did we get?? A huge puff piece on Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. Boy that was a tough assignment. Good thing they gave that job to "super snooper" Grace Macaluso.

Why do we have to learn about
Fiat's finances from Bloomberg and their team of reporters? The news on Fiat according to Bloomberg is not good. You would think Bloomberg has a bigger stake in Windsor Essex than the Windsor Star. Why have a local newspaper if they are going to ignore the important aspects of local news??

The Great Recession

According to The International Monetary Fund (IMF) the world is facing the biggest recession in over 60 years. The IMF's April World Economic Outlook states we will have a 1.3% contraction in the world economy in 2009.

Windsor Essex has been the "canary in the coal mine". We knew about the "Great Recession" two years ago.

As governments at all levels, corporations and citizens grapple with this ugly reality, we are all left to wonder, just where is bottom? We sit and watch, eyes wide open, as corporations once considered "too big to fail" are alive only because of taxpayer handouts. Via any number of stimulus packages, Trillions of dollars are being added to the government deficit in the United States, tens of Billions added to the deficit in Canada and Billions more if you add in the provinces. We also have to wonder how the taxpayer will pay for all this government spending when we finally emerge from the sub-floor of this economic trough. In Great Britain the debate on deficit spending and more taxes has already started.

Many tough decisions will have to be made by our elected officials. Let's keep an eye on them and watch what they do, which is more important than what they say.

Case in point: our co-top honchos from the town of Tecumseh, Mayor Gary McNamara and Deputy Mayor Tom Burton. These two are absolutely shrill at Essex County Council meetings about any number of expenditures. Hey, but when it comes to their town, taxes can go up, way up, no problem. Check out my post "Part 3- Big Issues- Minimal Coverage"; you will get the picture.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who on Windsor City Council is the Leak?

The front page headline (bottom right) in today's print edition of the Windsor Star about the City of Windsor contingency plan for the ongoing strike is a little goofy. However, the story itself is an interesting sidebar during a major crisis.

City management, according to Windsor Star "super snooper" Dave Battagello, prepared a 1,000 page report on how to run the City during the the strike. The existence of the document is no surprise, just proper planning.

The bigggg question. Why is this document not public? At least that is the big question for City Councillor Drew Dilkens and some of his colleagues. The answer, it seems, is that some or one member of Council cannot be trusted with the information.

Who could this person or persons be? That is the real question.

Dave Battagello missed the point of his own story! Dave may be a little tired from doing all those Ambassador Bridge stories.

Ok, let's recap. We have a major strike, management prepared a contingency plan, so good so far. The City Councillors can't have a hard copy of the plan because some "leaker" will hand it to the strikers. This is bad and we need to get to the bottom of it.

My advice to Windsor Star Top Honcho Jim Venney and assistant top honcho Marty Beneteau, keep Dave on the story. Only this time have him get the real story. Who would put their own political interests above the City and the taxpayers?

Who is the Leak?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

California Governor Proclaims Armenian Genocide Remembrance Week

I saw this article and post it in memory of my very dear friend Leon Parioan, as this issue was very close to his heart.

Somali Pirates Captured and Let Go

Canadian sailors did a great job chasing and capturing armed Somali pirates, who would be better described as lawless thugs. After checking them out, our brave sailors, who risked their lives, turned the pirates loose!! This should be part of Ripley's "Believe it or not".

These thugs and thieves described as "poor fisherman" by the main stream media
could not be held according to Prime Minister Steven Harper. Next thing you know, these thugs and thieves will be described as orphans and widows. This way, all the havoc they are causing will not only be understood but justified, of course.

The Somali pirates operate off the Horn of Africa and have captured oil tankers, ships with food and supplies for the starving, and recently a small French yacht. These pirates don't care who they take hostage; it's all found money to them.

The Bigggggggggggg question no one in Canada seems able to answer is what do we do with these pirates when we catch them. For starters
let's do what the French are doing, arrest them and prosecute them, make their lives of crime and terrorism less comfortable.

By the way, how do you think these poor pirates are doing since they left the simple life of fishing?? Some folks tell us they are living the "
high life".

Monday, April 20, 2009

CUPE Top Honcho Sid Ryan coming to Windsor

For some reason Sid Ryan could bring you a birthday cake and make you mad! He is just that kind of guy.

Sid Ryan, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), is coming to Windsor today, April 20/09, and will be joining a rally of striking city employees at 5pm. I can just imagine what he is going to say and how he will say it. Here now let me guess? LOTS of exaggeration, accusation and bombast.

My advice to striking employees, leave Sid at home, he won't help!

Unlike Gord Henderson of the Windsor Star, I won't be taking sides on this strike. I will be spending my time watching the members of council, especially Alan Halberstadt. The next election is almost around the corner. That is what makes this particular strike so interesting to outside observers like myself and so dangerous for city council members. Don't get me wrong, this strike is not good for Windsor, far from it. All folks like me can do is to try and expose angles not covered by the main stream media.

Back to city councillors and Sid Ryan.

There is no City Councillor better at protecting his own political interest while at the same time publicly weeping alongside Ward 3 and city taxpayers than Halberstadt. My money says Halberstadt will have the keenest political sense of where the votes are at. Right now of course it is with the taxpayer, but as the garbage mounts and lack of city services start to bother taxpayers the mood may shift and my guess is so will Halberstadt. Gosh he may even right a column for Biz X Magazine. Now that would be interesting, writing a column, getting paid for it while as a member of City Council, during a city employee strike. I wonder what Sid Ryan would think of that!

Then again Halberstadt may write the column pro bono or for free as most of us like to say.

Anyway I am keeping my eyes on this one.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Windsor Star cheap shot at Ken Lewenza

Feelings are tense all around.

CAW workers in the auto industry feel they are being blamed for all the ills that afflict General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Corporate executives are under the gun from both the U.S. and Canadian Governments to come up with viable business plans so they can access more tax dollars and keep their business going until things turn around.

These are not normal times. Everyone is looking for leadership from all quarters; we are even looking for leadership from the Windsor Star. This is as it should be and is certainly Fair Play, especially given the recent promises by Windsor Star Top Honcho Jim Venney and assistant top honcho Marty Beneteau. Who can forget their crocodile tears of last week. Check my post of April 11/09.

I wrote a post for my Fair Play blog this past Friday and suggested that Ken Lewenza and the CAW go along with the concessions. I also asked the Windsor Star management to use its considerable resources to better inform the residents of Windsor Essex on the financial capabilities of Fiat. We will see what happens.

In the middle of these tense negotiations the last thing we need is a cheap shot at the CAW or Ken Lewenza. But that is exactly what we got from the Windsor Star!! Ask yourself, how does this type of journalism help the situation or the Windsor Essex region.

The biggest surprise in all of this is that the cheap shot came from the Windsor Star Opinion-Editorial Cartoonist Mike Graston. Mike is usually pretty good and usually makes a contribution to the issues of the day.

But I am sorry, his cartoon which appeared in the Saturday April 18/09 edition of the Star was nothing more than a cheap shot and adds nothing to the important debate going on in our community. Lord knows many people disagree with CAW President Ken Lewenza. I disagree with Ken on a lot of things.

Plain and simple the Graston cartoon implies Ken does not care about the jobs of his membership and that Ken is only concerned with himself. That is just a bigggg truck load of B. S.

We expect and deserve more from the Windsor Star, especially during these difficult times.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fiat - Chrysler Talks Just Don't Smell Right

The Big Threat!!

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says trim, no excuse me, what he really said was
take a chain saw to autoworkers wages or Fiat will walk away from the proposed Chrysler - Fiat merger.

Is Fiat creating a set of circumstances so they can walk away from the Chrysler deal and not lose face? Was there ever a deal to begin with?? I always wondered how a company like Fiat considered to be in
such a poor (very poor) financial position could partner with a company which itself is technically bankrupt. Even with lots of government help somebody has to have a balance sheet and cash on hand.

No one knows how this is going to play out, but moves are being made to blame the CAW for the failure of these talks and frankly I don't like it. My advice to CAW President Ken Lewenza, "play brinkman", go along with the demands and let Marchionne wear the results.

The reason for my advice to Ken is as follows, if there is no deal to be made and the CAW was ready to play ball then no blame on the CAW. If however Ken says "no" and this is used as the excuse for the deal to fall apart, Fiat walks, and CAW gets the blame. Chrysler then goes into bankruptcy and some judge in the United States rolls back the labour costs anyway. Same scenario as Delphi.

Call their bluff Ken, "play brinkman".

Now how can our friends over at the Windsor Star help?

Windsor Star readers may have noticed a very large puff piece on Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, a few weeks ago. As a Canadian of Italian heritage I thought it was very nice. I also thought it was nice of the Star to note that Mr. Marchionne is a graduate of the University of Windsor, a very prominent one, and we are all proud.

But as a Canadian citizen and resident of the Windsor Essex region I am expecting much more from the Windsor Star than a puff piece. Chrysler is still a huge employer in the Windsor Essex region and what happens to Chrysler is very important. And if there is an Italian company or anyone else interested in partnering with Chrysler, we should know a great deal about them, especially their financial position.

Special request to Windsor Star Top Honcho Jim Venney and assistant top honcho Marty Beneteau, pleaseeeeeeeeeeee send out one or two of your best "super snoopers" and let's do an expose on the financial abilities (if they have any) of Fiat. What could be more important? It's only Fair Play to know if the game is for real.

Yes and let's know more, much more, about that miracle turnaround that took place in Italy. The Agnelli family still own 30% of Fiat and they have huge political influence in Italy. So the first question to ask is, what role if any did the Italian government play in this turnaround? Once we know that the rest is easy.

Gosh, I hope the Star gets on this right away.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Part 3 - Big Issues - Minimal Coverage

You can find Part 1 and Part 2 in the archives.

Large Tax Hikes in Tecumseh! Boy you have to hand it to Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and Deputy Mayor Tom Burton, the co-top honchos in the town of Tecumseh. Without even turning one pale shade of red, these two have clobbered their ratepayers with huge municipal tax increases over the past 3 years. According to a recent story by Gary Rennie of the Windsor Star, taxes in Tecumseh increased 6.8% in 2007, 5.9% in 2008. This year's tax increase will be 4.4%.

The coverage in the Windsor Star has been pathetic, and that is being polite. When is the Windsor Star going to get serious and give this issue the time and space it deserves? Huge tax increases right in the middle of the Great Recession.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Part 2 - Big Issues - Minimal Coverage

Be sure to
read part 1 to get up to speed!

Provincial Debts and Deficits - boy they are getting really bigggg. Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan in his recently announced budget shocked all of us (even though he leaked the info in advance) by the mega deficits we can expect. At least 18 Billion over the next 2 years and many more Billions over the next 5 to 10 years. The first question our Windsor Star reporters could ask is, are revenues or government income going down? If the answer is no then why are the deficit and debt going up? Will all this new government debt help business create long term jobs? Really what does this mean to the average hardworking taxpayer? Does it mean more taxes and if so how much?

Don't forget to check in tomorrow for part 3 of this series.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Part 1 - Big Issues - Minimal Coverage

What do they talk about at their morning meetings over at the Windsor Star??

I know recently a lot of their time has been taking up with self congratulations and singing kumbaya since they have rebranded themselves as a positive community organization. Gosh I hope they haven't forgot they have the duty to inform as well. In the interest of Fair Play I am going to give Top Honcho Jim Venney and assistant top honcho Marty Beneteau the benefit of the doubt.

Ok so between spring break, family vacations and rebranding, you are all a little bit light headed and not focused. Really it could happen to anyone swirling around in all this positive activity especially if you are not used to it. So it's up to people in the community to help refocus the team at the rebranded Windsor Star.

Big things have been happening in our Province and even here in Windsor Essex. Far reaching policy decisions have been made which will have great effect on we, the local citizens. I am sad to report that on the whole we have had minimal coverage about these issues from the Windsor Star. The Windsor Star has loads of money, lots of reporters and all the tools they need to inform. One wonders what's going on over there.

So let me give Jim and Marty three important issues they can discuss at their morning brainstorming sessions and hopefully assign reporters to. I know Dave Battagello is tired of doing those Ambassador Bridge stories. And gosh how many times can he tell us Matty Moroun is a BBBBBillionaire!!

Part 1

GST and PST - these taxes will be harmonized. Joined together or combined for us regular folks. How about doing a real series of stories on this issue. For example how many jobs will be lost because of this new tax and
what will it really cost the average citizen or business owner. Does it help or hurt our competitiveness. Will it add costs to our health care system or educational system and if so how much.

Part 2 is now online, click here to read it now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Political Crises looms for Duncan

What will Dwight Duncan Do?

Today's Windsor Star top left front page. Big headlines "
CAW Study Blasts Pension Shortfall".

With the unthinkable maybe about to happen, bankruptcy for General Motors and Chrysler, not only are thousands of jobs at risk, but all pensions and benefits are also at risk. Recall what happened to the former General Chemical employees, pension and benefits slashed after a once proud and successful company was delivered into bankruptcy. In the interest of full disclosure and Fair Play my father in law is a former General Chemical employee who had his pension and benefits reduced.

Over the past four days we have
read about meetings between Duncan and the CAW top Honchos, banner headlines in the Windsor Star and the release of a study by the CAW. Say what you will about the CAW; the fact is they do effective research.

Duncan is moving oh so very carefully (as is his style) to manage this problem. But calling for a review of the Canada Pension Plan system (CPP) just won't cut it. Duncan has bigggggggggg ambitions. Nothing wrong with that.

Big ambitions, no money (the Ontario Government is broke) and CAW members losing their pensions bodes ill for Duncan. The often used 2 step political shuffle Ontario politicians like to use (first pretend there is no problem, second blame the Feds) won't work well here and Duncan is smart enough to know it.

Watch closely, this could be better than the ongoing Dwight Duncan - Eddie Francis fight which has been raging since the retirement of Herb Gray for the title "Boss of all Bosses in Windsor".

Can it be for real??

The Windsor Star arrived this morning, nothing unusual so far. It took me some time to get to it, nothing unusual so far.

But boy o' boy this new front page was very unusual.

"Welcome to the Bright Side" it proclaimed. Children dancing, high fives all around. Wow! Turn to page A 5 and find an interesting story by Craig Pearson (a real decent chap) about Craig Pearson. In the spirit of full disclosure and fair play Craig tells us "I considered my editors unusual request -write a column on Windsor's bright side." I guess the part about the unusual request says it all.

My final thought on this, very unusual, and only time will tell if this is the new Windsor Star.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Joy on this Easter Sunday

Wishing you a
Happy and Holy Easter

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Second Post- Jim Venney

Last Thursday we got the bigggggg teaser from Jim Venney, Windsor Star Chief Honcho and Publisher about (hold back the crocodile tears Jim) how much the Star loves our community and all the fabulous new changes being made at the Star which will make, life, like really good in Windsor.

See today's Star for what can only be called a very lavish rollout.

However, one of the more interesting turns of events is that it now seems the Windsor Star wants to give the Ambassador Bridge proposal for a second span some fair play. For reader information you should know that I was a senior corporate executive at the Ambassador Bridge for almost 11 years and heavily promoted the building of a second span as at that time traffic was growing rapidly.

Read this link for more information.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday and this is my first post. A good time for reflection and a good time to think about the needs of others.

My heart goes out to the earthquake victims in Abbruzzo Italy. The beautiful city of L'Aquila which I have visited many times has now been destroyed.

Imagine nearly 300 dead and anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 homeless. I have made several calls to Italy and may share the details with you later.

In the meantime a quiet thought or prayer for all those affected would seem appropriate.