Friday, July 31, 2009

Celebrate Emancipation Day Weekend

Emancipation Day, which is celebrated on August 1st in Canada, has special meaning for me. Please read below the following legislation, passed by the Province of Ontario:

Emancipation Day Act, 2008
S.O. 2008, CHAPTER 25


The British Parliament
abolished slavery in the British Empire as of August 1, 1834 by enacting an Act
being 3 & 4 Will. IV, chapter 73 (U.K.) on August 28, 1833. That Act
resulted from the work of abolitionists who struggled against slavery, including
Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who promoted the passage of an Act
restricting slavery in Upper Canada, being 33 Geo. III, chapter 7 (U.C.) enacted
on July 9, 1793. Upper Canada was the predecessor of the Province of Ontario.
Abolitionists and others who struggled against slavery, including those who
arrived in Ontario by the underground railroad, have celebrated August 1 as
Emancipation Day in the past.
Ancestors of Ontario’s Black community were one
of the founding communities of Ontario and Canada. The Black community has been
present in Ontario for more than 300 years.
The year 2008 marks the 30th
anniversary of the founding of the Ontario Black History Society, which is
dedicated to the study, preservation and promotion of the history of Ontario’s
Black community, and the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. in the United States of America.
It is important to recognize the
heritage of Ontario’s Black community and the contributions that it has made and
continues to make to Ontario. It is also important to recall the ongoing
international struggle for human rights and freedom from repression for persons
of all races which can be best personified by Lieutenant Governor John Graves
Simcoe and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Accordingly, it is appropriate to
recognize August 1 formally as Emancipation Day and to celebrate
Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the
Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as

Emancipation Day
1. August 1 in each year is proclaimed as Emancipation Day. 2008, c. 25,
s. 1.
2. Omitted
(provides for coming into force of provisions of this Act). 2008, c. 25,
s. 2.
3. Omitted
(enacts short title of this Act). 2008, c. 25, s. 3.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Windsor City Council will Try Again

Members of Windsor City Council have indicated they will try again to establish a new electoral ward system in time for next year's vote.

The Council members embarrassed themselves while discussing a consultant's report which they themselves commissioned. Read my post of July 13 and my post of July 14, 2009. It was reported some 2 weeks ago that Council members spent three hours debating and voted down at least ten different motions before they finally gave up--with the current system intact, of course.

While Council allocated $50,000 for the report, I understand that only $20,000 was spent.Whether the report cost $20,000 or 20 cents should make no difference. The issue before Council is one of an outdated ward system. The current 5 wards, 2 Council members per ward system has significant population imbalance. But more importantly, the size of Council is too big. And it looks like some Council members are leaning towards a new, 10 ward system with one Council member per ward.

Given the fallout from the just ended 15 week strike involving nearly 1800 city workers, and the need for smaller, more effective, and more affordable government, to maintain the status quo with council numbers should not be an option.

Yesterday, I called the Mayor's office in Edmonton, Alberta and had a very helpful conversation with one of the staff members. The reason I called Edmonton is that I had heard that they, too, were changing their ward system. I was told that last week Edmonton City Council approved a new, 12 ward system with one council member per ward.

I was also told the City of Edmonton has a population of around 780,000. OK: 780,000 divided by 12 equals 65,000 residents per ward. Let's assume Windsor has 220,000 residents. If you divide this by 10, you get 22,000 residents per ward.

And oh, by the way, in Alberta, members of municipal councils are elected for three-year terms and not the four-year terms we have here in Ontario.

It would be unreasonable for Windsor City Council to move forward with a new ward system, which includes 10 wards and one Council member per ward. What is reasonable for the current time and circumstances in the City of Windsor is 6 wards, with one council member per ward.

Each Council member would represent approximately 36,000 residents--a far cry from the 65,000 residents represented by Edmonton City Council members.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Michael Vick the Football Player

Micheal Vick is famous, very famous.

He was born Michael Dwayne Vick on June 26, 1980, in Newport News, Virginia to struggling teenage parents. Brenda Vick was just 16 when she became pregnant with him. His father, Michael Boddie, was only a year older. The very young parents already had a girl, Christina.

Michael's father served three years in the army and bounced around from job to job before he settled in as a sandblaster in the Newport News shipyards. His mother, Brenda, became the mainstay in his life and that of his three siblings. Obviously, the children were very close to Brenda as they all took her last name.

Very early on, Michael showed great promise as a football player. He eventually chose to attend Virginia Tech University and arrived at the campus in Blacksburg in the summer of 1998. Michael did not disappoint the Virginia Tech fans, leading his team to the national collegiate championship game in 2000. Although Virginia Tech lost to Florida State, Vick made a great impression. The very next year, Vick lead his team to a Gator Bowl victory over Clemson, 41-20.

In 2001, and only in his sophomore year, Michael Vick turned pro after being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. Soon thereafter he signed the largest rookie contract in NFL history, $62 million over six years. This was followed up by the signing in 2005 of a 10-year $130 million contract extension. The new contract made Michael Vick the highest paid player ever in pro football.

However, all of the above is not the reason Michael Vick is so very famous. Unfortunately for Vick, he became famous outside football circles after a U.S. federal investigation linked him to a vicious dog fighting ring called the Bad Newz Kennels. Vick pleaded guilty to funding the operation and killing some of the dogs after the fights. Bad Newz indeed.

This past week, the 29-year-old quarterback finished his 23-month federal sentence (18 months spent in a minimum security facility in Leavenworth, Kansas), when an electronic monitor was removed from his ankle early on July 20th, at his home in Hampton, Virginia.

While in jail, Vick went bankrupt; it has been claimed he owed anywhere from $10 million to $50 million. Wow.

I don't usually do sports stories, and this is not a sports story. It is about a successful person, who has run afoul of the law, pleaded guilty, and spent time in jail; he paid the price for his mistakes. I am writing this story because so many voices are calling for Michael Vick not to be reinstated in professional football. In plain English, many don't want this man to work at his job.

I think Michael Vick deserves a second chance. Below is his just released statement.

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League," Vick said in a statement released by his agent, Joel Segal. "I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.

"As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to reevaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I have made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward."

I sincerely hope Michael Vick can become famous again, and this time for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Windsor Star and Useful Reporting ?

This past Saturday July 25/09, on the front pages of our very own Windsor Star, we were treated to banner headlines which read:
On GM board? You get $200,000 and a car

The story is a critique on pay and perks for new members of the General Motors (GM) Board of Directors. The account, written by super snooper Grace Macaluso, is typical Macaluso. She immediately validates the spitball she wants to throw at the new GM Board by quoting "critics" of the GM policy on pay and perks. This lets her say what she wants, but gets her off the hook, as she can attribute the comments to "critics".

Wow, and you have to go to journalism school to learn this?

While I have to admit the pay for a GM Board member sounds pretty good, it is a multi-billion dollar company, there are great personal, financial, and reputational risks to sitting on Boards these days, and it is not the cakewalk some would have you believe. Board members are expected to bring significant knowledge, experience, and leadership to their duties.

But back to Macaluso, who, I am sure, is a corporate governance expert, along with being a key business writer at the Windsor Star. She was able to track down federal NDP opposition Member of Parliament Joe Comartin, who represents Windsor-Tecumseh. I guess Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan was not available. Anyway, Mr. Comartin says "this is a part-time job" and "there is no way the average citizen would say that is fair compensation". I am sure if Mr. Comartin or super snooper Macaulso, for that matter, were to ask voters in Windsor-Tecumseh their opinions on pay and perks for federal M.P.'s, some might say it is a little excessive. I definitely would not say that, but some "critics" might.

On a personal level, I would like to add that Mr. Comartin is a very nice person and has always been polite to me. On a political level, he is definitely hard left: the perfect "critic" to validate Macaluso's point.

This page 1 story is long and carried over to page 11. Way down on page 11, if you read that far, we finally hear from Joseph D'Cruz, a professor at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, who says that the GM compensation was reasonable within the corporate boardrooms of North America.

I guess this is another technique they teach you at journalism school: if you have to give two sides to a story, make sure the opinion you want to least accentuate is way down the story line and on a different page.

As my readers will know, I am a graduate of the Corporate Governance College, which is at the Rotman School of Management, and I have experience on private sector and not-for-profit Boards. One of my current colleagues was recently approached to sit on the Bank of Montreal Board. This is big time. He turned the invitation down. The time commitment needed too great, the reputational risk too significant, with a compensation level not matching either.

The truth of the matter is--and we did not get this from the Macaluso story--attracting good board leadership is very difficult. The Macaluso story would have been more valuable if we had been given a real sense of the experience and leadership qualities of the new GM Board, instead of a cheap story on pay and perks. After all, some "critics" think Windsor Star reporters are overpaid.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Windsor Star Declares Victory ??

The strike by nearly 1,800 Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members against the City of Windsor taxpayer is over. It seems the Windsor Star has declared victory. And good for them, I say. I am sure Chief Honcho Jim Venney and co-chief honcho Marty Beneteau, the editorialists, opinion writers, headlines writers and all the plain old reporters who participated in the Windsor Star policy of "polarization" are proud of themselves, and must certainly be celebrating this big victory. Just look at the cartoon on page A6 (Saturday July 25/09). The truth of the matter, in my opinion anyway, is that the Windsor Star as an institution sees itself as "the community".

Some of you might say I am being a little hard on the good folks over at the Windsor Star? No, I don't think so. In my post of July 16th, I wrote:

  • Recently, a Windsor Star Editorial admitted that sometimes "Polarization is not always bad and it has often been a necessary step in important causes and movements." That sums up their position, clear as day

Now, they want all of us to move on. Let's not dwell on this 101-day-old strike and how it was reported. How convenient: you can write the stories, write the opinions, publish the cartoons, and then decide we don't need to talk about this anymore.

The main editorial (Saturday July 25/09) on page A6, titled "Back to Work", laid it all out.Terms like we have to "move forward" or "move on" or such sentiments are everywhere. The last words in the editorial are "time to embrace a spirit of good will and co-operation". That's it--discussion closed.

In my opinion, the Windsor Star threw a bundle of spitballs at CUPE workers in their operation "polarization". This performance would have made Gaylord Perry--the famous baseball pitcher and modern king of the spitball--proud.

The big difference between Gaylord Perry and the Windsor Star: Mr. Perry wrote a book and gave a full confession. Maybe Jim Venney and Marty Beneteau can do the same thing. And when they do, we will forgive them and then "move on".

Friday, July 24, 2009

Via Rail to Go on Strike

Below is an updated story on the Via Rail situation found in today's online Toronto Star.

Majority of trains cancelled

Jul 24, 2009 08:08 AM
Precious Yutangco
staff reporter

Via Rail Canada has begun cancelling trains this morning ahead of a noon strike deadline set by locomotive engineers after talks between union representatives and the company broke down.

Early this morning, the company said unless a last-minute resolution is reached, it will be cancelling all trips at noon.

However, according to their website, trips on the Jasper-Prince Rupert, Montreal-Toronto, Ottawa-Toronto, Montreal-Quebec, Toronto-London, Toronto-Sarnia, Toronto-Niagara Falls, Montreal-Ottawa, Montreal-Jonquiere, Montreal-Senneterre, Montreal-Gaspé and Montreal-Halifax lines have already been halted.

Some routes are offering alternate transportation although most only offer refunds.

According to Amtrak, connections to Buffalo or Niagara Falls, New York, will also be affected.

Although some trains were still running this morning, the majority have been cancelled.

Riders are encouraged to check their exact trip to find out more details.

Via had already cancelled some departures this week in anticipation of a walkout.

According to Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing Via locomotive engineers and yardmasters, their members have been out of a contract since Dec. 31, 2006.

Following a 21-day "cooling-off" period, its members voted 91.2 per cent in favour of a strike.

Some of the outstanding issues include job security.

In a written statement released last week, the union claimed that Via has been demanding the implementation of an antiquated crew utilization procedure, which they say, creates uncertainty about when a locomotive engineer would be scheduled to work.

Wage and benefits are also a major request.

Intense negotiations have been underway for the past four days with the assistance of a federally appointed mediator.

Talks continued overnight but ended around 1 a.m., when Via Rail said that both parties had reached deadlock.

The union, which represents some 340 locomotive engineers, earlier issued a strike notice indicating its intent to go on strike as of noon today.

Trains on the Sudbury-White River and Victoria-Courtenay routes will remain in service, as they are operated by third parties on Via's behalf.

Affected passengers may obtain a refund of any unused tickets.

For more information, call Via at 1-888-VIA-RAIL (842-7245).

Some 12,000 passengers travel routes across Canada daily.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fiat Posts 2nd Consecutive Quarterly Loss

Yesterday, I talked about the problems and challenges at Toyota, mainly because Toyota is so important to the economy of South-Western Ontario. Today, the discouraging news is about Fiat. Living in the Windsor-Essex region means being up-to-date on all things Fiat, since the Italian automaker was handed 20% of the new Chrysler, including senior management responsibilities and pay.

Our local paper, the Windsor Star, and business reporter Grace Macaluso have done an embarrasing job covering this important story. Not once, in my opinion, has a serious story been written about the Fiat balance sheet. Over the past months, I have written a number of posts about Fiat/Chrysler; listed below are some, but not all. Have a read.

This Fiat-Chrysler merger was driven by U.S. President Barack Obama and supported by the Canadian and Ontario governments and paid for by the grateful taxpayers. I agree that we had no choice but to support the bailout. However, it would have been nice to see some real in-depth work from the Windsor Star and super snooper Grace Macaulso. Windsor-Essex needs all the information we can get on this deal.

This week, we learn from Bloomberg news that Fiat lost 410 million Euros in the first quarter and 168 million Euros in the second quarter. In plain English, this means that Fiat lost approximately $910 million dollars CDN, so far this year.

Maybe the Windsor Star management can assign someone, who can get busy, and tell Windsor-Essex residents what this means going forward.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Toyota Losing Money in North America

For the past 30 years, Toyota the car company has been slowly but surely inching its way to the top of the auto world. Until recently, it has been a symbol of a company making all the right decisions.

The company actually made its first car in 1936, while still a division of Toyota Industries. Toyota Motor Company was established in 1937, after being spun off from Toyota Industries, and over the past 70 years, via other mergers and changes, the company finally became Toyota Motor Corporation.

Toyota's first presence in Canada was a plant in Delta, British Columbia (1983), making aluminum alloy wheels for the North American and Japanese markets. In 1986 the company built a huge facility in Georgetown, Kentucky and in 1987 opened a very large operation in Cambridge, Ontario. Today, the company has operations in numerous locations throughout North America.

In 2006, Toyota became the world's most profitable auto company, earning $11 billion that year. And in 2008 it surpassed General Motors as the world's largest automaker.

According to the Toyota Canada website, the company has manufacturing facilities in Woodstock and Cambridge, Ontario. Total investment since inception is $5.6 Billion, and employment as of January 1, 2009 at these plants stood at 5,700. So this company is very important to the Ontario economy and in particular to South Western Ontario.

As we all know, in September of 2008, we started to feel the serious effects of "The Great Recession" and since then, virtually all news for the North American car industry has been grim. Without billions of taxpayer dollars--we will get the full count someday--Chrysler and General Motors would no longer exist. The bad news continues, as we learn that Toyota may close its 25-year joint venture operation in Fremont, California, where 4,700 people are employed. General Motors, the joint venture partner, has already pulled out, leaving Toyota holding the bag.

Just this week, Yoshimi Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said that Toyota continues to lose money in North America despite cost cutting efforts. According to reports in the Detroit News, Toyota's sales in North America have fallen 38 percent in the first six months of the year to 770,000 cars and trucks--from nearly 1.25 million vehicles in the first six months of 2008. These are very big and scary numbers.

It should be obvious to all observers that Toyota will look everywhere for more cost cutting initiatives, which usually means fewer jobs. I am very concerned about Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's new program to give Ontario consumers $10,000 in a provincial handout to those who purchase a General Motors Volt. This program won't be in effect until 2010 as there are no Volts to purchase right now; this is a kind of stimulus in waiting.

The Volt is a very expensive car and may retail at the $40,000 mark. May I suggest to Premier McGuinty, my former colleague and friend, a program to get clunkers off the road and geared towards cars people can afford to buy. Just a thought.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When is the Right to Strike Wrong?

Early yesterday afternoon while working away in my Windsor office, a fax arrived. The fax, sent courtesy of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), was short and to the point.

In a nutshell, Catherine Swift, the CFIB President said she was "angry" and "WE ARE FED UP AND ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE". All of this, of course, referring to the 15-week-old CUPE strike against the City of Windsor taxpayers.

The CFIB President wants us to sign a form and send it to Premier McGuinty, who is to then legislate an end to this strike via arbitration. This arbitration would have limits, of course. The arbitrator would render a settlement according to what taxpayers could afford. Oh boy!

First, let me say that I think Catherine Swift does a very good job. Now, let me say that I don't agree with her proposal. For starters, we expect too little out of our politicians already, especially municipal politicians: think City Council member Halberstadt. They were elected to do a job which includes budgets and managing employees. If we start chopping this up, the grateful taxpayer will never know whom to hold accountable. This is a difficult enough problem now.

Secondly, no legislation will ever be constructed with an acceptable clause regarding ability to pay. How could it--who would validate a formula against every possible economic circumstance? It would be open-ended and we would be right back were we started, with arbitrators deciding. As far as I know anyway, no one in this strike other than CUPE is up for an arbitrator deciding.

No Catherine, there is no Santa Clause, who will come and solve this difficult problem for us. This is something the Windsor City Council will have to do in the full light of day. And they will have to wear the results. In truth, that is how it should be. It's something about responsibility.

Now if we could only hold the Windsor Star management responsible, that would really be something.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Blueberry Season is Here

With the opening of Klassen's Blueberry Farm to the public on July 18, you know that we have reached the half-way point of summer. I both dread and cheer this event. I know very few people in Windsor Essex who like to acknowledge that Labour Day and the onset of cool weather is only 7 weeks away. However you can drown you sorrow away with an orgy of blueberries.

The Klassen Farm is located on County Rd. 50, East of Harrow and just West of the Arner Townline. Through thoughtful planning, Klassen's is conveniently located in the middle of the Essex County wine route. So you can plan a real day trip. After a few tasters of wine, go right to Klassen's, you can pick your own blueberries, buy ones already picked (which is what I do), have blueberry ice cream, blueberry sundaes, blueberry milkshakes, blueberry tarts, blueberry pie and last but not least, you can sit at the picnic tables and enjoy the ambiance.

I don't want to spoil this, but blueberries, like wine, are good for you and only 82 calories for a full cup. Some researchers say blueberries can slow the aging process--that's why I eat them!

Blueberries are flowering plants or shrubs. According to Foodland Ontario, there are basically two kinds of bushes in Ontario, lowbush and highbush. Low bush grows wild but can be cultivated, and highbush plants can grow up to 6 or 7 feet tall. They are long-lived plants and have a lifespan similar to fruit trees. Blueberry plants like lots of sun; that is one of the reasons they do so well in Essex County.

Most cultivated blueberries are found in British Columbia. In fact, 95% of Canadian cultivated blueberry production comes from B.C., where more than 650 blueberry producers are located farming approximately 17,000 acres.

My favourite blueberry recipe:
  • half a bowl of chilled blueberries
  • topped with real fresh whipped cream (it only takes 4 min. to make)
After dinner blueberry drink:
  • Pour 2oz. of lemoncello over ice in a tall chilled glass
  • add six blueberries
  • sip very slowly

Friday, July 17, 2009

Windsor CUPE Workers Reject Contract Offer

I have been saying for some weeks now, including my post of yesterday, that CUPE workers in the City of Windsor have been taking a real beating from our friendly news folks over at the Windsor Star. The orchestration of these attacks has been, in my view, so blatant, one would think Windsor Star management is part of the Windsor City Council. CUPE workers had no real way of fighting back until yesterday. I, along with many others, underestimated their deep-seated anger.

Yesterday, I said CUPE would accept the City offer by a vote of 64%. I ran into a couple of my readers while grocery shopping in Amherstburg yesterday afternoon, who thought my number was very low. My reply was "64% may be a bit high." Well, obviously the no vote carried the day, and the contract offer went down in flames.

There were some odd things about the vote, though. No real count was made public, and nearly 700 of the almost 1800 strikers did not bother to vote.

The big question this morning: where do we go from here? If CUPE will not accept signing bonuses, more than 6% in wage increases over 4 years, pension and holiday protection for the time on strike, and more, then what is their bottom line?

The answer to that question is easy: CUPE workers want to overturn the obviously successful Windsor Star campaign, to polarize and vilify. Unfortunately for the Windsor Essex region, this is not the first time the Windsor Star and its management have overplayed their cards to the detriment of our community. A lot of unnecessary poison has been created.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Will CUPE Windsor Vote to End Strike?

Well, it's been over 100 days since CUPE Locals 82 and 543 went out on strike. In retrospect, for CUPE workers, the strike was lost before it started. You could call this "the Battle of the Little Bighorn".

I have written several posts about this strike, and have kept my neutrality throughout, as I wanted to see this strike with clear vision. I especially wanted to understand the "politics" of this strike.

Right out of the starting gate, CUPE was attacked by the Windsor Star. Star opinion writers, editorial writers, headline writers (if that is what they are called) and news reporters, boy, they all piled on. Every real or imagined mistep by CUPE leaders and workers was amplified on the pages of the Windsor Star; believe me, they went all out. This is not to say that CUPE leaders were error free--they were not--and some CUPE members did some real goofy stuff.

Recently, a Windsor Star Editorial admitted that sometimes "Polarization is not always bad and it has often been a necessary step in important causes and movements." That sums up their position, clear as day.

As I have said many times, the Windsor Star and other such papers have a right and duty to publish strong opinions via editorials and opinion writers; they have several of them, and they get lots of space. But for management to use the news reporters and the full weight of the newspaper itself to attack and vilify an organization is wrong. In case we had forgotten, the Windsor Star reminded us (by their actions) that strikes are not only about about money, benefits, and working conditions, they are also about power.

With political cover from the Windsor Star, it was easy for council members like Alan Halberstadt to jump on board as the train left the station. CUPE has promised retaliation against such council members next election. My advice to CUPE: "speak softly and carry a big stick".

There will be a strike vote today on the City of Windsor offer to CUPE workers. CUPE workers will vote to go back to work, my guess 64% in favour.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien Honoured

The "little guy from Shawinigan", as former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is affectionately known, was recently honoured by Queen Elizabeth II, receiving Canada's highest civil honour, The Order of Merit.

The Order of Merit, is a British and Commonwealth Order given by the Monarch. Canada is one of the 53 independent members of the Commonwealth. The Order was established in 1902 by King Edward VII. It is the Sovereign's personal gift, and ministerial advice is not required. This means that the current Prime Minister Stephen Harper need not be consulted. However I would guess and it's just a guess, Prime Minister Harper was advised and or consulted.

The Order is a reward for distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, the promotion of culture and public service.

Chrétien practiced law in Shawinigan until he was first elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal from the riding of Saint-Maurice–Laflèche in the 1963 election. He would represent this Shawinigan-based riding, renamed Saint-Maurice in 1968, for all but eight of the next 41 years. Four of those years were spent in retirement, 1986 to 1990, four more were spent representing the riding of Beausejour, New Brunswick, as he made his comeback.

I first met Jean Chrétien during his visit to Amherstburg, Ontario, in 1976 or so, when he was a cabinet minister and I was a newly elected MPP. This was the first of many meetings with the former Prime Minister. My most memorable visit with Prime Minister Chrétien was around 1988, in the privacy of his hotel suite in Toronto, just he and I. During this meeting he told me of his planned comeback, which was already public knowledge, and I pledged to him my support.

Chrétien was elected Prime Minister in 1993 as he lead the Liberal Party to victory. He was elected Prime Minister two more times before retiring in 2003.

Prime Minister Chrétien's very long and successful political career included many highlights. He was justice minister during the repatriation of the Constitution and the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. He stopped Canada's big banks from merging, read my post dated of May 21, 2009. But most importantly, he fought for one united strong Canada.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Windsor City Council Fails to Change Ward System

According to a report in this morning's Windsor Star, Council members spent 3 hours and nearly a dozen failed motions, before happily giving up on changing the current bloated and numerically distorted ward system.

I am sure the Council members were exhausted, and the reporters too, but at the end of it, every Council member position and chance for re-election was preserved.

This whole thing started out well enough. Council admitted that the 30 year old system was outdated, they hired a consultant, allocated $50,000 from the grateful taxpayer, and said a new ward system should be in place before the next election. Read the paragraphs below which I copied from the City of Windsor website.

Ward Boundary Review


On December 8, 2008, City Council approved CR497/2008 with a recommendation for a full comprehensive ward boundary review to be undertaken in the City Windsor with the assistance of a consultant.


That the City Clerk BE DIRECTED that a full comprehensive Ward Boundary Review BE UNDERTAKEN which could result either in the creation of new ward boundaries or the dissolution of the existing ward boundaries for the 2010 election, and a possible change in the representation of council members. Such a review would be undertaken with the assistance of a Consultant and the project would have an allocated budget of $50,000.00 to be funded from the unallocated 2009 balance as a pre-commitment to the 2009 Budget. In this option, the City Clerk would be directed to engage a Consultant pursuant to the provisions of the Purchasing By-law, and, the Chief Administrative Officer and General Manager would be directed to execute a contract for such consulting services satisfactory in technical content to the City Clerk, in financial content to the City Treasurer and in legal form to the City Solicitor.

Since that time, CAO report #1084 authorized Council Services Department to engage the services of Dr. Robert Williams, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo to provide the consulting services required to direct an independent review of the City’s ward boundaries. Dr. Williams specializes in municipal affairs, Ontario politics and electoral systems.


To conduct a comprehensive review of the municipal ward boundaries in the City of Windsor in order to arrive at an effective and equitable system of representation. Insofar as possible, the review should accommodate for growth in the City for at least the next 10 years. The revised ward structure is to be in place for the 2010 municipal election.


The review will be conducted within the following parameters:

Respect the principle of "effective representation" as enunciated by the Supreme Court in its decision on the Carter case;
Build from the experience gained through other municipal ward boundary reviews and the outcome of OMB hearings in those cases where a review has been appealed (Best Practices);
Insofar as possible, develop a ward structure that will accommodate growth and population shifts for at least 10 years;
Conduct all steps in the work program including research, public consultation, review of options with the public and provisions for a final report and recommendations to Council no later than July 2009.

Guiding Principles

Subject to the overriding principle of "effective representation" as set out in the Carter decision, the following criteria will be referred to for guidance in the conduct of the review:

Communities of interest and neighbourhoods: It is desirable to avoid fragmenting traditional neighbourhoods or communities of interest within the City;
Consideration of representation by population: To the extent possible, and bearing in mind the requirements for effective representation, wards should have reasonably equal population totals. Given the geography and varying population densities and characteristics in the City of Windsor, a degree of variation will be acceptable;
Consideration of present and future population trends: Insofar as possible, the ward structure should accommodate growth for at least 10 years;
Consideration of physical features as natural boundaries: Wards should have a coherent, contiguous shape and the boundaries should be straightforward and easy to remember.


Dr. Robert Williams, Consultant:
Windsor City Clerk's Office:

In my opinion, there is only one thing that stopped the Council from moving to a new ward system, reflective of current population trends and the need for fewer elected officials: self interest.

Let's see if the Windsor Star polarizes the community over this issue. After all, what could be more important than how we are governed?

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis should not let this stand. He should show the same determination on this important issue as he has shown while debating the Canal Project, the new Windsor Arena and the current CUPE strike.

Let me repeat what I said yesterday. The City of Windsor could get along just fine and very efficiently with 6 Wards, one elected official per Ward and a Mayor. As a matter of fact, City Council proved my very point last night.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Windsor City Council and the Ward System

There will be lots and lots of politics tonight at Windsor City Council. According to the Windsor Star, the Council will be dealing with a $50,000 consultant's report on the overhaul of the current "Ward System".

It goes without saying that the current way Windsor citizens elect councillors is outdated, but not for the reasons some Council members will tell you. Yes the 5 wards, with 2 council members per ward is unbalanced as far as population numbers are concerned, but that is a pretty easy fix.

The current system is outdated primarily because we have too many Council members, who basically make full-time wages when committee pay is factored in. Yes, and don't forget one third of their wages is tax free. That is why Council members like Alan Halberstadt, who basically has no other work, other than one column a month and some scuttlebutt (which is a Halberstadt specialty) in Biz X magazine, continue to favour a large council.

A Mayor and 10 Council members for a medium sized Canadian city like Windsor is too large a body to be effective. My bet is that Halberstadt will support 8 wards and one Council member per ward. However in my view that is not the right balance, is wrong for Windsor, and self-serving.

The City of Windsor could mange just fine with 6 wards and one Council member per ward plus the Mayor.

Friday, July 10, 2009

News, Bias, and the Windsor Star

If you took a look at our very own Windsor Star, both yesterday and today, you would not know that world leaders had gathered, and were meeting in L'Aquila, Italy, for the 2009 G8 Summit. One would think, that for such a major event with possible significant business consequences, assistant chief honcho and editor Marty Beneteau would have dispatched supersnooper Grace Macaluso to do a real, in-depth story about the whole summit. Something may still be reported in tomorrow's paper; we will have to wait and see.

So far, I guess, the news reporters are too busy beating up on City of Windsor striking CUPE workers and polarizing the community. Yes, I know CUPE has behaved badly, wrong strike at the wrong time, public sector wages and benefits have to be in line with the private sector. I agree with all that. That is not the issue with me, and never has been.

The real issue is how the Windsor Star has reported all this, and the ethics behind it.

This is what I think: Chief Honcho and Publisher Jim Venney should write a front page editorial and build on the recent admission from the Windsor Star editorial pages that sometimes it is good to polarize the community. He should explain further, and tell us what he really means by that.

You see, the more readers understand, in my view anyway, that normal operating procedures at the Windsor Star are all about editorial and management opinion driving the news, the better able readers in Windsor-Essex will be in detecting bias. What could be more important when trying to understand a subject matter or the news of the day??

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The G8 Summit in L'Aquila Italy

The G8 Summit started yesterday in L'Aquila, which is located in the central Italian region of Abruzzo. The summit includes more than 8 countries, but more on that in a moment.

L'Aquila, the beautiful medieval city, which is near Abbateggio, the small mountain village where I was born, was recently devastated by a series of earthquakes; surrounding towns were also smashed. In L'Aquila alone 294 were killed and more than 50,000 left homeless.

L'Aquila, which means the eagle in Italian, was initially completed as a city in 1254. It is the capital of the region of Abruzzo and the cultural centre as well. L'Aquila is home to the Spanish Fort (Forte Spagnolo),which was constructed in 1534, and the church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, built in 1270. The church is a magnificent structure, and it is also where the hermit, Pietro del Morrone, was consecrated as Pope Celestine V.

In 1989, as Minister of Revenue in the David Peterson government, I assisted Premier Peterson on a trade mission to Italy. We brought more than 200 business leaders from Ontario on this important trade mission, and the entire delegation spent time in L'Aquila. As well, over the years I and my family have made several trips to L'Aquila.

The G8 Summit was originally planned to be held on the beautiful island of Sardinia. However, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi moved the location to L'Aquila, so Italians and others around the world would not easily forget the devastated city.

I have to tell you, I am getting a little sick and tired of all the protesters at the G8 and other world summits. Protesting, and strongly protesting, is one thing, no problem with that, but trying to stop these meetings from taking place is something else. If all of us stopped every meeting we didn't like, not even the protesters would be able to have a meeting.

Anyway, the G8 Summit was originally started in 1975, as a conference of the world's industrialized democracies, and includes, Canada (which joined in 1977), France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia, which formally joined the group in 1997. The G8 is informal in structure and does not have a permanent secretariat. But when leaders get together, important ideas are discussed and some of these ideas move forward, that is why non-member countries request invitations to these meetings. After all, G8 countries represent 49% of global exports, 51% of industrial output, and 49% of the assets in the International Monetary Fund.

The leaders, of course, get all the attention, but the agenda includes ministerial meetings, and ministers responsible for various portfolios discuss issues of mutual and global concern. The topics include health, labour, energy, terrorism, trade and much more.

The G8 has kind of a sub group, which includes Mexico, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil. Speculation is that the G8 will formally grow in size to anywhere from 13 to 16 members. Anyway, at this year's summit, 39 countries were invited, which in my view makes for a logistical nightmare and takes away from the original intent of the group. Democracies in the Northern Hemisphere do have common issues and concerns that they as a group should deal with. There are many other forums where other countries are included.

Some of the main topics for the 2009 G8 Summit are: the economic crises, how to boost international trade, climate change, development in the poorer countries, and for a complete agenda please click here. Whatever we think of these conferences, let's hope the results improve our world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where is Your Car Made??

So you think you know where your car is made? Maybe not.

Essex County Council recently passed a motion supporting a buy Canadian policy. The motion was loudly supported by the two weakest performers on the County Council, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Tecumseh. These two have recently become famous over dog poop, read my post of June 25/09.

The "dog poop duo" were promoting a resolution that was making the rounds at the behest of the Windsor and District Labour Council. So it wasn't even their idea, just playing to the grandstands. Canada is an exporting country: we sell more than we buy, so we need to be very careful about stuff like this.

The United States Congress passed the American Automobile Labeling Act, in 1992. This legislation requires automakers to disclose the percentage, by cost, of U.S. and Canadian parts in most cars and light trucks. In the U.S. you can find the numbers listed on the window stickers. The Americans are running huge trade deficits, so I understand their motivation, and it's nice that they include Canada as part of U.S. content. But the legislation in my view is a nightmare.

The folks over at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are focused on the auto industry, world wide. While serving as Chairman of the Board of the Windsor Essex Development Commission (WEDC), I and the Commission staff worked very closely with the Center for Automotive Research. They are an important group, both on a regional and international scale. I hope the new WEDC board, when appointed, continues to foster a close working relationship with CAR.

The Center for Automotive Research recently stated that things like research, design, and assembly and where these things are done is also important information for consumers. Currently this is not factored into the content rules. So, in addition to research and design, excluded from this U. S. legislation, is something as basic as the value of the labour of autoworkers assembling the vehicle. This is not Fair Play, if the goal is to do a comparison, and for sure gives a distorted view of where the car is made. So, as you can see, trying to figure out where your car is made is complicated.

Just one more thought before I conclude. The Honda Accord, is built in Ohio, for a company headquartered in Japan. The Ford Fusion is built in Mexico for a corporation based in Dearborn, Michigan. Both cars are similar in size, quality and price. Under the new rules passed by the Essex County Council, which car must be purchased??

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Buy Local Food Initiative Wins Support

I was very happy to see the provincial government announce a $47,000 grant to promote local food. This initiative was brought forward by the Windsor Essex Development Commission (WEDC) some months ago. At that time, I was serving as Chair of the Board and Acting CEO. The work in preparing this initiative was done by the Agricultural Sector Committee, one of four Sector Committees established by the hardworking and dedicated members of the previous Board. The WEDC Board member who served on this committee, with community volunteers, was local greenhouse farmer and businessman Anthony Cervini.

With strong leadership from the previous Board, strategic and innovative ideas such as this were encouraged, advanced, and promoted for implementation.

The Basic Facts about Olive Oil

Three recent stories in the Windsor Star, one about the new Windsor Farmers' Market, another about Locavore, a group promoting the importance of fresh local products, and today's story announcing provincial government support for the local food industry, got me thinking about "healthy food products".

As some of my readers will know, I was born in a small mountain village, in the central Italian region of Abruzzo. The village is near the city of L'Aquila, which sustained terrible earthquakes just this past April. Probably because of my heritage, I am a big fan of olive oil. Not only is this a healthy food product, it is also very tasty. Hey, so let's learn a little more about olive oil, and let's use it with freshly grown Essex County products.

The olive is a fruit produced by a Mediterranean evergreen tree. This tree spread from places like Syria and Iran to Southern Europe about six thousand years ago, and is one of the oldest cultivated trees in the world. The Romans loved olive oil, and as they spread their domain, they brought the olive tree with them. In my travels through Spain, Greece, and Italy, I loved driving past olive groves--the trees looking majestic and the farms well cared for. My favourite olive groves were in the Italian region of Puglia, just pure music.

My youngest daughter Bianca spent about six months in Italy some years ago, attending a private school in the beautiful city of Lanciano, in Abruzzo. One of her fondest memories is attending an olive farm, and watching the production of olive oil.

Greek mythology tells us that Athens is named for the Greek Goddess Athena who brought the olive tree to the Greeks as a gift. If it is good enough for a Greek Goddess, it should be good enough for us.

Olive oil is like wine: it comes in many different types of bottles, different varieties and different pricing. You can go upscale very fast: $30 a bottle is common for very good olive oil, but there is lots of good stuff at $12. Although olive oil can be broken into many sub-categories, for my personal use, and ease of explanation, I find the main types are:
  • Premium and Extra Virgin - is oil from the first pressing and with very low acidity at 0.8% or less. It is fruity and with nice flavour. This oil should be used on salads, fresh Essex County tomatos, as a condiment, or for dipping bread, which you can buy fresh every morning from the bakeries on Erie St. in Windsor.
  • Virgin - also from the first pressing, must have good flavour and the acidity rate must be less the 2%. This oil is also good for uncooked foods.
  • Pure or Plain Oil - is a blend of Virgin and refined oil. Refined means it has gone through a chemical process. It is low in acid but has very little if any flavour. This oil is good for cooking.
  • Light or Extra-Light - does not refer to calories or fat content. These oils are refined and should be used for cooking only.
Finally, olive oil should always be stored in a cool, dry, dark place and should last for up to one year.

Oh, and don't forget, it should be used primarily on Essex County products.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Michael Jackson: The Glove, The Love, and the Genius

GUEST COLUMN by Michellyne Mancini

The very first time Itzhak Perlman's wife heard him play the violin, the two of them did not know each other; indeed, they had never met. Toby happened to be backstage at a concert Perlman was giving, and after the concert was over, she walked straight over to him and promptly asked him to marry her. They began dating, and the rest is history. (Toby, a classically trained violinist herself, married the renowned virtuoso. They have five children and still live very happily ever after.)

Michael Jackson, the great King of Pop, who passed away on June 25th at the age of 50, was unfortunately not as lucky in love. A shy person off-stage, he struggled all his life in attempting to find an appropriate partner, eventually, at age 38, deciding to have children on his own, with the help of a friend who had agreed to marry him and bare children for him as part of an arrangement. And it seems that in the end, those things that Michael Jackson really had were his children and his fans.

But Michael Jackson was not simply the Itzhak Perlman of his time. No: he was the Bach, the Mozart, the Beethoven. He changed--and improved--the face and the course of pop music and pop culture in such a way that it would not be recognizable today had it not been for his influence.

Among his colossal accomplishments, Michael managed to bridge black and white music in a way that no other artist has been able to do; indeed he fused the two, so that we no longer kept track of whether we were listening to black soul or white pop, and we didn't care. For those like me, who were born around the time of the Thriller album release in 1982, we never even knew any different: by the time we were listening to music, he had sufficiently affected the pop genre so that the music of our youth was colour blind.

In a world obssessed with all things cool, Michael Jackson epitomised the very essence of it, inspiring an entire generation the world over with his songs, his voice, his dancing, his videos, and his fashion. This was a cool not of superficiality, but a cool of substance.

For among the sequins and the shades, Michael Jackson was not a typical pop superstar: Michael Jackson was different.

His idols included Fred Astaire, Gene Kelley, and James Brown, and he studied their moves until he had perfected them and innovated beyond them, incorporating the highest level of dancing into his own performances and videos. His work ethic was legendary. He was soft spoken and disliked profanity. On his own time, he listened primarily to classical music. And while he cared deeply about his image, there were a great many parts of himself that he refused to conceal: even at the height of his sex appeal in the 1980s, he never allowed himself to be boxed in to a "tough guy" image off-stage--he wore his heart on his sleeve, and he was never too immodest to accept a hug from a loving fan, much to the ire of his bodyguards.

This love that Michael exuded for his fans was probably in a symbiotic relationship with the love they had for him: after giving so much of himself to his music from the early days of his childhood, he needed them as much as they needed him. On June 25th, 2009 and in the days since then, spontaneous outpourings of grief and commemoration have broken out on every continent of the world, mourning the music genius who wore a single, sequined glove. Perhaps Michael Jackson wasn't so unlucky in love after all.

Michellyne Mancini is a freelance writer based in Windsor, Ontario, and the president of Mancini Communications. She can be reached at

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Our U.S. Neighbours are Celebrating

A great list of July 4th weekend activities in Michigan, click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It was a Great 1st of July

Canada Day, a time to celebrate and enjoy. We are really lucky in this "Great Country". Yes we have our challenges and they are many. From the cab drivers strike in Windsor, Ontario to our brave men and women in uniform fighting in Afghanistan. But more than any other place in the world, we have peace, order and stable communities.

Yesterday, throughout the country millions celebrated, some with family gatherings, some playing golf, some at the cottage, some worked in their flower gardens and there were lots of fireworks to end the day.

Right here in Amherstburg, a small beautiful town on the Detroit River, many residents gathered along the shoreline as dusk signaled the end of the day. When darkness finally came, the multi-coloured flashes in the sky lit up the river, and filled the airwaves with delayed thunder. This went on for nearly 30 minutes, all the while you could see ice cream being enjoyed and hear the giggle of children and adults. When it was all over everyone gathered up their belongings and families and headed home.

It was a Great 1st of July.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009