Stories From The City’s Seedy Side
A selection of stories that will open your eyes to the under-belly of Windsor.
No doubt you have already heard of the move to unionize Turtle Island workers in Windsor. CUPE National Headquarters launched the certification process which hoped to card the workers charged with collecting garbage and recycling within Windsor city limits. In fact, the vote result was an overwhelming rejection of CUPE’s offer to organize.
What’s funny? Well, first off is the fact that the primary point for former Councilor Dave Brister to raise the issue of contracting out garbage collection is so that the citizens could no longer be “held hostage” by CUPE because through a work stoppage. Brister and other so-called hard-liners like Edgar, and Joanne Gignac (and puppets like Drew Dilkens), vowed that only by out sourcing the collection duties could the City be protected by the mean unionists who only wanted benefits for life. This obviously wasn’t true at the time and it isn’t true now.
At the time of the debates the argument was shown to be a red herring and proof was given by example of the City of Ottawa. Here in the pages of the Windsor Square we showed the fallacy of the proposed “protectionist” stance by the hard-liners, but did anyone listen to us? Obviously not.
We stood on the threshold of Turtle Island employees becoming unionized followed by the initial contract negotiations. Windsor could have faced the prospect of another work stoppage, piles of garbage by the curb-side, and Councilor Ron Jones requesting tourists to take their photos only when the garbage has been cleaned up. Under the old system, another stoppage would not have happened until 2013 as the worst case scenario would dictate. Thanks to Edgar et al we could have been facing a hoarder’s delight as soon as this autumn, despite his assurances that Windsor garbage would be picked up regardless. Haven’t we had enough Edgar-led division in this city?
Despite the setback for CUPE this won’t be the last we hear of a union attempting to organize the workers at Turtle Island. CUPE is still considering whether it will challenge the vote outcome.
I hope any promises made by company management to help stave off the union are kept, otherwise you’ll be reading here of another union attempting the same thing; maybe like the CAW. Or were there threats from the company? It’s interesting considering the CBC quoted one worker as saying that he was “glad” he still had a job after the vote.
And speaking of the CAW, don’t you find it interesting that CUPE National had been spearheading the organizing and Local 82 President Jim Wood had no idea of it until contacted by the City? Can the secrecy by CUPE National be an indication that they are unsure of Local 82’s continuing future under the CUPE banner? Or of their competence?
Boy oh boy, the irony of it all. Again harkening back to the civic strike of 2009, the Windsor Star led the CUPE bashing through the concerted efforts of writers like Vander Dolen, Henderson, Jarvis, and Schmidt. It was such a biased and one-sided effort to propagandize the mayor’s position that it turned vicious at times. It definitely was a movement away from responsible journalism and toward a bootlicking style of writing; all with the approval of the publisher.
Here is the irony of it all. Many of those who predictably and sycophantically spewed forth Edgar’s desire to take away retirement benefits from CUPE employees, “for the sake of fiscal responsibility”, are now battling PostMedia Network to retain their own retirement nest eggs. In a classic case of hypocrisy, members have voted 96% in favour of strike action against the Windsor Star. I wonder how card-carrying unionist Chris Vander Doelen voted. Surely he will tell us in a column that he was part of the 4%!
And “retirees” want to retain their pay cheques; an unusual arrangement where they are paid half their salary while being able to retire early. Full disclosure dictates that Henderson let us know if he falls into this group?
Talks with a mediator were to have started in April. If unsuccessful, I wonder if Jarvis and Schmidt will support an arbitrator being brought in to hear each side’s arguments.
And could the Star survive an extended strike? With their circulation tanking as it is, what would Marty Beneteau do if his “star” columnists refused to file their pieces and chose to walk a picket line instead? Or would they act like scabs and write regardless?
Don’t worry if there is a strike. The writers at The Square will keep writing and continue to inform Windsorites of what is happening in this town.
WILL HE OR WON’T HE?
I’m talking about whether or not Councilor Drew Dilkens will offer his resignation in light of the part he played in the Wayne Strong/Tourism saga. I was going to do a long and involved column, delving into the facts surrounding the hi-jacking of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island by politicians through the manufacturing of a “crisis” at the volunteer-based board. Instead I will offer just this piece of insight, unless there’s overwhelming demand for more.
Strong’s history had become fodder for an Ann Jarvis column in which she admitted her lack of stability (by almost falling out of her chair). We all know the story by now, but it hasn’t been well disseminated that Dilkens headed the committee that chose Wayne Strong to become a member of the interim board and of TWEPI after that. Twice Dilkens selected Strong thus doubling his ineptitude, or worse.
Strong argues that Dilkens was informed of the baggage he brought with him each time he applied for the tourism board. Not only that, remember Dilkens’ “WOW” moment in the interview he did with my colleague?
In fact, Dilkens indicated that he knew of the pending sale of Strong’s Bed & Breakfast business, and took extra measures to appoint him to the board as a City sponsored, “at large” member, without specialty. Dilkens claims he did not know the details of Strong’s past.
It comes down to this: Dilkens was well aware that there was an issue with Strong, and that it dealt with “sexual assault.” In my opinion, whether Dilkens knew all the gory details or if he had just a general overview, he had the obligation to check out the circumstances given that a City Board was involved; and to not just bury his head in the sand.
Dilkens is guilty of failing to conduct the proper due diligence prior to the selection of board members. How many more times has he haphazardly conducted City business in such a way?
In the circumstances of this file, Dilkens has forfeited the trust of the electorate.
When can we expect Dilkens’ resignation?
ANOTHER BRISTER MISTAKE
If former Councilor Dave Brister thinks he can continue to make mistakes like this (or worse) in Toronto and get away with it, then he is sadly mistaken (again). They’ll eat him alive at Queen’s Park.
Everyone remembers the whole child care debacle that took place under the official story of better delivering day care to those in need. Councilor Brister often cited the “fact” that Windsor could offer twice the number of spaces due to the financial arrangements with the private provider. We find that the argument used to sell the out sourcing to Windsor folk was meant to only be temporary, and just to gain immediate support. Little was made of an August 2010 report generated by City staffers Debbie Cercone and Shannon Hyatt which dealt with per diem payments to private day care providers.
The January report, penned by Ronna Warsh, was so full of holes and of such substandard acceptability we could possibly cut Dilkens some slack for his lack of due diligence in comparison. The second report that was issued in August was simply the second chapter in the saga of getting as many public dollars into the coffers of private day care providers, as far as I am concerned.
The August report recommended to move away from a City controlled cap on funding to the private day cares toward shelling out public money based on the private provider’s operating costs.
I don’t know about you, but that decision leaves the city wide open for a marked increase in the child care budget without securing an increase in available spaces, and without ensuring those desperately in need of child care are getting it. In almost all cases, the private care providers are situated away from the high-need areas like Glengarry and the like. There’s been no movement by the City to correct this shortfall and, in the case of “repurposing” Windsor Water World, threatening the availability to low income earners of the needed support network that should be at the core of the City’s Community Development Department.
So what have we?
We have an argument put forward to justify the out sourcing; Close the centres and we can fund twice as many children at the private facilities. This argument was abandoned a scant eight months later with the presentation of the August report. The result almost nullifies any efficiencies the original argument claimed, and places the needed subsidized spaces at risk.
We have the January report that glaringly flaunted the City’s desire to publically fund private providers, one of which employed a relative of the person who made the recommendation in the first place.
We have the same department recommending removing the cap to the private providers, removing any control the City has over providing funding for day care.
Now we have the “business experts” in Children’s Services who are going to monitor the private day care operators’ budgets and to negotiate rates. But the City department’s budget will just be increased as per diems are linked to providers’ increasing operating costs. The city won’t have any control over what costs are incurred by a provider.
If they deny funding because “costs aren’t acceptable” then the space is lost for the needy. The authors even suggested to “extra bill” families, but admitted it probably wasn’t feasible. If the subsidizing is provided on costs that increase (even at just the Consumer Price Index or simply at the rate of inflation) then the budget will naturally have to follow suit. Other city departments will need to adjust their budgets downwards to make up the difference between targets and actual.
Think that won’t happen? The authors of the August report admit as much in their conclusions, but make the recommendation to remove the cap anyway. Other City services will need to be cut back as tax payer dollars are funneled into private dare care providers. Read the report.
To further insult those in need of subsidized day care, Cercone and Hyatt have instituted a number of requirements of private providers (hoops through which they must jump) that do nothing to secure high-need, subsidized spaces. If you read the August report you’ll see that there are a myriad of hoops for providers that, to me, seem like a big hassle to undertake on the city’s behalf. As a provider I’d be inclined to say forget offering subsidized spaces. Talk about getting “hooped”.
But, I hear you say, councilors must have discussed all these concerns before receiving the report. Nope.
When the report made its way before Council, former Councilor Dave Brister motioned to place the item on the consent agenda, nullifying not only any efficiencies but ensuring there would be no debate, and no public disclosure. Is this the transparency Brister talks about on his Provincial Election web site? Just as he can’t shake the responsibility for the over-budget arena, this and other issues will dog him for a long time to come.
The stench permeating this issue keeps getting stronger and stronger, more than, even, piling garbage during a strike.
SERVICES CUT AT CITY
Don’t believe what I suggested above? It’s true and it’s happening now.
Low income earners (usually single mothers) receive the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the NCBS is paid out to qualifying families, in part, “to help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty.”
We all know that cities are not profit centres. Services are provided according to the needs and demands of the citizens. And the true cost of providing services at community centres is not reflected in the user fees charged to patrons.
But even those fees are not affordable by all in Canada’s unemployment capital. This fact is recognized by the City by forwarding a discount on fees to recipients of the NCBS. According to the Parks and Rec Activity Guide, needy families can receive up to two programs per child, per session, at the special rate, based on available funding. Proof of being in receipt of the NCBS is necessary to obtain the special rate.
There are now plans in the works to reduce the services to Windsor’s poverty stricken thus reducing access to programs that can “help to prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty”. Somewhere in the ivory towers of Windsor’s “beau monde”, the decision was made to again hit those who can least afford another hit.
Just as the City targeted those most at risk by providing discounts to those receiving the NCBS, by cutting by 50% the programs that the poverty stricken can access the City is again targeting those same people.
Coupled with the planning to dismantle a number of the City’s community centres and to replace them with one athlete-oriented facility, it seems like there is a war on poverty in Windsor, but it’s not a battle to eliminate it; just the people.
BAD NEWS FROM ENGLAND
Workington, one of the largest ports in the northern English county of Cumbria, is set to be expanded within the year. Having recently received a total of €5.7 million in grants (about $9.4 million CD), Workington expects to enlarge operations of their sea shipping, rail, and trucking facilities, which already includes handling 600,000 tonnes of cargo and 300 ship movements annually.
In a report given to IFW Freight and Logistics News Service, the Director in charge of the expansion, David Barron, indicates that much of the business for the port will come from business and industry pilfered from other ports. Barron also hinted that there was already “people committed to volume” and that many businesses in Cumbria have committed to using the regenerated facility.
Compare that to Edgar’s scheme for a cargo village at Windsor Airport. Recently the high roller with other people’s money suggested that he would be moving forward with his plan and seeking help from Canada’s Federal Development Agency. This is even though the second Lufthansa report (with a revised release date of the end of April – missed that one too) is nowhere to be seen. In fact, it appears that the City of Windsor has taken over the Constitutional responsibilities of the Federal Government and has an operative conducting discussions within the United States.
While Workington is an existing port that is expanding to meet the needs of committed customers, Edgar instead has decided to roll the dice with public money to possibly attract some companies to be tenants at an airport that no one in the industry had ever heard of before. All he has so far is some shadowy talk about a company that wants to operate the cargo shanty, but only after it is built. In the face of established competition at Hamilton, Toledo, and Willow Run airports (all of which have comparative advantages to Windsor), and possibly further challenges from London and Detroit City airports, Edgar is determined to push forward no matter how many tax dollars it takes.
My guess is that the “competitive advantage” Edgar talks about is his attempt to secure a US Pre-Clearance operation for Windsor airport. But there is no advantage at all, except in Edgar’s mind and in his propaganda. In a February 2011 MacLean’s article, US Homeland Security boss, Janet Napolitano, explicitly stated that customs pre-clearance was a dead issue.
“Representative, I will be very clear. We have looked into preclearance on the Canadian side. We cannot do it. The position has not changed. When and if the bridge and the facilities are expanded on the U.S. side we are fully prepared to provide the staffing and support for that on the U.S. side. We understand the importance of the span for trade and tourism and so forth. But we are not going to be able to resolve the preclearance issues in Canada.” (L Savage, MacLean’s, 9 February 2011)
In an article appearing in the Ottawa Citizen on the same date, Sheldon Alberts of PostMedia wrote that Napolitano is not wavering from her stance on pre-clearance despite the Harper-Obama agreement on perimeter security. (Paul Godfrey should have Alberts get in touch with some at the Windsor Star)
Napolitano had previously been on record saying a joint pre-clearance facility would result in a “lower level of security” for the U.S. and would have “required Canada to accept actions contrary to its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Who’s with Edgar? Who wants to give up our rights to the Americans so he can build his legacy project at the airport?
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