A Few Thoughts on Week 46

Stonks!

This map by Doug Sartori has been one I have been itching to do for a while. Now I just need to get him to do it year over year!
  • The City of Windsor’s new CAO has a TedX Talk.
  • Hamilton Wentworth District School Board canceled it’s police liaison program with trustees going further to write to the province asking for a province wide review.
    • Not sure if this is a conversation locally?
  • The Cross Border Institute at U Windsor released an economic impact report on the Gordie Howe Bridge.
    • “The study estimates the new route will save about 850,000 hours per year for trucks, translating into billions of dollars in savings over the bridge’s lifetime.”
      • Not only financial benefits but also potentially environmental as trucks few trucks idling and burning fuel.
    • If you are wondering my thoughts on the City of Windsor Economic Development report/strategy that will be at Council on Feb 8th, check back mid-week.
  • I want to applaud Leamington Council and Mayor taking the step to buy up closed schools for affordable housing development. This is amazing and frankly unprecedented leadership in our region IMO.
  • NAV Canada has made it’s intentions clear, as I said a few weeks ago, what is our Plan B?
    • Interestingly Sarnia has been looking at selling their airport.
  • Speaking of Transportation, Mayor Dilkens and and Mayor MacDonald both joined the SW Ontario Transportation Taskforce.
    • Now not to be skeptical of this taskforce but despite it’s launch on Jan 26th of this year, the master plan that it is tasked with implementing was released in Jan 2020 and holds of 43 priorities. It is possible that these appointments were supposed to happen in the Winter of 2020 but as with many things was impacted by COVID. That being said many of the 43 priorities that impact our region have already been implemented.
      • Item 2 – $14.8 for 5 years for inter-city bus service in low service areas. The map on the subsequent page shows a “proposed” bus route from Windsor to Leamington.
      • Item 12 – An active transportation project in Windsor for federal approval under ICIP to construct 3.6 km of new bike lanes and 3.48 km of sidewalk along Cabana Road West.
      • Item 13- Widening Highway 3 to Leamington
      • Item 21 – An overpass over Ojibway Parkway to connect the 401 to the eventual custom plaza of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
        • I think this is also done as it started in 2017 and the last time I went to Lasalle (not that recently) but it looked pretty constructed.
    • There are also a wide range of regional activities that are not community specific and are not entirely clear if they have started or been completed. Major projects like the 401 widening are in planning stages and will likely take years (decade?) to complete. I am curious what the next steps are for the taskforce and I hope this new leadership will bring new ideas forward on what is next after the 43 projects outlined in the current plan are completed.
  • An interesting blog post out of the Windsor Law Cities and Climate Action group on how P3s can help municipalities advance a climate agenda. I am also somewhat skeptical of P3 as they present significant barriers from a community standpoint. Generally speaking I take issues with 3 things:
    • I struggle with the perspective that it because America Cities are doing it, it is a good idea to do in Canada. American cities have significantly more taxing and spending power (through home rule) than Canadian ones. Despite this taxing power, Cities are still creatures of their states, these states skew decidedly more right politically and fund cities in the US significantly less. There are far fewer grants and other funding envelopes coming from the state or federal level compared to the provinces here. Finally due to the conservative and free market nature of many states, P3s have become preferred mechanism because of lobbying and political party contributions at a municipal that do not exist in Canada.
      • Many people like to point US hospitals have rebuilt urban centres through P3s as a tool of city building and revitalization. Buffalo Niagara Medical Centre is an example of an institution that is transforming the heart of a rust belt city. This transformation has been financed through a tri-party agreement between public/private/philanthropic partnership (a true P3). The philanthropic funders behind this initiative have over $9 billion in disclosed assets granting over $400 million per year (not just to this project);  private sector banks like First National turned over $2 million parcels of land for $1 but they also hold numerous loans, mortgages and properties in the area; while Cancer Centre which is the focal point of the project, has charged over $500,000,000 in services and earned over $46 million in profit due to a fee for service health care system.
      • Canada in my opinion has neither the philanthropic nor structural incentives to accomplish similar feats on regular basis, rather it is government putting up all the money, someone in the private sector to build it and the community gets left out.
    • Second, P3s are highly litigious processes – no wonder a law student wrote about them. Community benefits, impact studies, cost estimates, environmental assessments, design considerations are all proprietary elements of the procurement process, shielded behind a litigation wall that the public cannot access. The public only gets to see the details after the contract has been signed when full financial disclosure was achieved at which point they are locked in.
      • Even if the suggestions of the World Bank for triple bottom line bids, or carbon impact assessments be included as part of bid, community vetting of that bid may not be possible.
      • To give a tangible local example, I led the community consultation on the Gordie Howe International Bridge Community Benefit package. During that process although the WDBA was very supportive, they could not share any of the three proponents plans nor force them to meet with the community beyond a handful of pre-required expo days as those were the only requirements of the bidding process.
        • As a result, communications with the 3 potential proponents were through emails to a gmail account that they set up. No formal response were received in many cases and responses could not be forced by the WDBA.
      • To the WDBA’s credit following their selection of Bridging North America and they did require an additional prioritization of community benefits. This was outside of the planned process and a new requirement that was added likely as a new condition of the final contract agreement. Overall approximately 70% of the benefits that were identified by the community were included. I have to wonder, if the government was directly building the bridge and the community could advocated directly via MPs or been able to be apart of the negotiations during procurement, if maybe we would have received additional benefits?
    • Finally, it can be argued that P3s actually erodes the capacity of government to complete or maintain major infrastructure projects. Although the post does mention some of the criticisms of P3s, around cost overruns, management challenges etc. the question really becomes do we want to outsource or government’s capacity to manage, oversee and deliver major infrastructure?
      • The utility of P3s are to keep the upfront costs to taxpayers down. In a high interest environment shifting the costs of construction to a third party can make sense, but in a low interest environment like we are in now, it loses it’s value.
      • Beyond this the scale of projects where P3 come into play often force out local contractors and workers. Multi-national consortiums using the same teams of engineers, designers, managers etc. move from project to project. Because the proponent is profit driven, whether during just construction or from operations, there are inverse incentives drive down costs. In the context of climate change and mitigation, meeting minimum standards becomes the norm. The accountability mechanism are baked into the P3 contract, limited retroactive enforcement or improvement.
      • Meanwhile, if government builds and manages the infrastructure there are accountability mechanisms in place to enforce the outcomes.
  • COVID numbers have certainly come down and if I had to guess, we could see schools open after the Family Day long weekend.
    • Our 7 day average is now approaching 50 cases per day (2 weeks ago our average was almost 4 times that amount 193). The last time our case numbers were this low was December 3.
Image
So much judgement after a walk but not playing
Deadly Roulette by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3625-deadly-roulette
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

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