Ten Things to Watch in 2020

As 2019 comes to a close we can look ahead to next year, there are a number of issues sitting on the front and back burner that will shape our region. Here are 10 things I am watching for in 2020.

City Budget

The end of January will see City Council debate their first true budget of this term. Last year’s budget was largely directed and written prior to the election with its release being delayed by the pending provincial cuts that didn’t materialize. The budget that will come to council is the first one entirely crafted by this group.

Although there will be a series of posts on this in the coming days/weeks, this budget will really set the direction for this council with the tension between keeping taxes low and supporting progressive initiatives. Given that we only have this budget and the 2021 budget before the “2022 election budget”, the 2020 budget is one that can be used for true city building. There is an opportunity to invest now and see payoff before the next election or lay the ground work for future projects.

Based on recent discussion on the new Council dynamics it will be interesting to watch how specific issues play out. With Ward 7 vacant, it means 5-5 tie is more likely, the math of how issues get passed will be interesting.

Big 3 Negotiations

The third shift managed to survive 2019 and is currently safe until the end of March. The question becomes, what happens after that. Given that in September, the contracts for the Big 3 Automakers expires. It seems to me that this will play into bargaining.

For Windsor keeping a third shift at WAP and securing new product will have to be balanced by Unifor with their members at the Brampton plant. The Brampton plant currently builds “the Charger and Challenger, while profitable for FCA, sit on aging platforms, and it was unclear what the automaker’s long-term plans were for the cars.” If there is one product to give, where does it go?

The other piece of the puzzle is the merger between FCA and PSA. Although still not finalized, how this merger shakes out could see white collar reorganization from FCA Canada offices over the medium term and reporting that Canadian production is not a priority in the merger could mean hopes for another product could be dim.

For Ford, a shift was lost in Oakville will likely be a primary item for the negotiations. The questions becomes what of Windsor’s Engine plant and if new investments will be made? Ford invested $6 billion in new product and plants in the US ($1.5 billion in Michigan alone) as a part of the UAW negotiations, is there money left for Canada?

Although GM doesn’t have a footprint in our City anymore if they were the first of the automakers negotiated with, it is likely that they will set the tone for pay raises, bonuses, seniority and job security for Ford and Chrysler. Also where is the government on these issues? Generally speaking investments are backed by some sort of subsidy program from the Provincial and Federal level.

Mega-Hospital/Sandwich South

Based on the timing outlined, we are likely to find out if there will be a leave for legal appeal of the LPAT ruling sometime in March/April. What this means is that, one way or another, some sort of closure should be here by late spring….

Image result for the end is near meme
Oh god I hope

There really isn’t a lot of point in breaking down the positions as it has become too toxic to discuss online in a productive manner.

Provincial Budget

Generally released in sometime between late March and early May, the question is how big will the cuts be and whether or not a new softer friendlier PC party changes course after what could be called a volatile first year. Last year’s budget only had two explicate mentions of Essex County: 1 mention of Windsor – protecting the Canadian Club and 1 mention of Tecumseh – adding 36 long term beds to Brouillette Manor. The question is will Windsor/Essex get additional notice in the PCs second budget.

The Highway 3 expansion was announced after the budget with work not expected to begin until 2021. Something to watch for is if dollars for early works like engineering and environmental assessments are earmarked this year.

Obviously a Mega-Hospital mention is something everyone will be looking for.

Municipal Collaboration

With Amherstburg formally requesting funding from the province to explore possibilities of municipal collaboration to create savings and efficiencies. The $200,000 that was requested would require a report back by June of 2020 if approved.

There is already lots of collaboration between the municipalities and agencies (Solid Waste, ERCA, WECHU, CWATS as a few examples) in our region the question becomes can it become a little deeper? Amherstburg is already working with Windsor on Police Services, so who knows what could be next. We may get an idea next summer.

Affordable Housing

With housing prices expected to rise again next year and approximately 150 affordable units expected to come online later in 2020. The issue is with over 5,000 on the social housing wait list locally, this is a drop in the bucket. So the question becomes, as made famous by President Bartlet:

Image result for president bartlet whats next

What is in the hopper? This project has taken a couple of years to come together, if the next 150 units are 3-5 years away, what do we do in the mean time?

This is bigger than just the housing authority; the City of Ottawa put aside $15 Million for housing projects on their own for the last 2 years. If we are just going to wait for funding to appear from other levels of government before acting we are never actually going to make progress on ensuring people have a roof over their heads.

The other item to watch for, is the implementation of the Housing and Homelessness Strategy.

High Water

This year was a banner year for high water in the Great Lakes which mean residents along the North and South shores of Essex County faced flooding risks. This risk then extends up the various feeder rivers (Thames, Belle, Little) and numerous creeks and marshes in our region as high water in the lakes means there is no where for water in these basins to go.

For all intensive purposes it’s not looking good for 2020. On the plus side, a warm winter (that we have had to date) and the lack of Lake ice will assist in evaporation from the lake system through the winter. Unfortunately, local weather matters less what is happening in the areas that feed Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. Heavy snow in the north eventually melts and flows down stream.

Unemployment

In the chart below you can see the unemployment rate from December 2018 to November 2019 for the Windsor CMA, Ontario and Canada.

Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0294-01 Labour force characteristics by census metropolitan area, three-month moving average, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, last 5 months

The uptick in our unemployment rate is clear the question is does it continue, stabilize or reverse. There has been some discussion around population growth and people looking for work my be driving a higher rate. This is something I am skeptical of as the Labour Force Survey estimates of populations has a somewhat problematic history of aligning with Census numbers when collected.

These trends also don’t include pending layoffs at Nemak and the Chrysler 3rd shift. Which would add between 1.5-2% by my calculation to the unemployment rate assuming everyone looks for work. So the question becomes, what happens to the unemployment rate next year?

2020 US Presidential Election

What can I say, it is going to be a train wreck to watch and consume almost the entire year. One way or another it will impact Canada and Windsor the question is by how much.

Honestly the biggest impact may be that our region will be flooded with ads and media coverage from US sources that may very well result in people being disconnected from local news.

Gordie Howe Bridge

2020 will see the towers of the Gordie Howe Bridge begin to be built and rising into the sky. We will also see the first impacts of the Community Benefit package as well: employment incentives, grants to community agencies, observation platforms in Malden Park and more will all occur this year.

The Others

A few other things I am watching:

  • Stat Can Poverty threshold recalculations – in 2008 when baselines were last recalculated that national rate rose by 2.2%.
  • What does the Federal Budget look like? With the Conservatives going into a leadership race, the Liberals seem to have some leeway in their government. What issues do they prioritize and invest in? Also how does our local political dynamic influence this?
  • Speaking of Federal Issues, the budget will be where Single Sports Bettering gets official support if the government wants to move it.
  • What is happening with Bill 21 in Quebec.
  • Municipal Election in Ward 7 – many will enter, only one will win.

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