Friday, August 31, 2007

A headline you're not likely to read in Windsor anytime soon

Bridge opens 21 months ahead of schedule.

(actually, for Windsor, you could insert "anything" instead of bridge)

Windsor Quotable Quotes

This list will form the start of a "Windsor Quotable Quotes" database that I'm preparing for a new website.

1. "Remove my name from your mailing list and find a charity to which you might devote your time."
Councillor Dave Brister - email reply to a Windsor Taxpayer, 25 August, 2007

2. "We meet to do business. We don't just call meetings for the sake of calling meetings."
Mayor Eddie Francis, Windsor Star, 23 August, 2007

3. "Part of the reason it was never addressed is politics. Very simple."
Mayor Eddie Francis, Windsor Utilities Press Conference, 26 July, 2007

4. "We're not going to play a shell game and we're going to go back to prudent business practices."
Mayor Eddie Francis, Windsor Utilities Press Conference, 26 July, 2007

5. "I say to them, you better find a God damn product for Windsor or we'll take all of the General Motors corporation down in September 2008. General Motors workers have earned the commitment, especially in Windsor."
Buzz Hargrove, CAW Local 1973 Union Meeting, Serbian Centre, Windsor, 03 June, 2007

Add your suggestions in the comments along with a reference for the quote.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Windsor Cheerleading Champion Declared!

Judges claim "unanimous" decison.

Wins competition despite wearing blindfold 24/7

Spectators wonder whether competition has any relevance or value anymore

In case you missed it....

Councillor Dave Brister's "macaca" moment:
Councillor Brister slams blogging taxpayer: “Devote your time to charity”

And if you didn’t think last night’s council wasn’t enough to demonstrate this contempt, perhaps Councillor Brister’s email to a voter, resident, and taxpayer will. Below is what the Mayor of Monmouth sent to his mailing list:
Words can't quite describe the contempt I feel after reading a response such as this. In the "you make your bed you lay in it" category, Councillor Brister just tucked in the hospital corners.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Here's an interesting clip

Who was it that first put out the information that said there were 1000 homes that weren't billed?

Who was it that later said they weren't sure it was a 1000 or not, that they were still checking?

Who was it that said these bills were uncollectable?

Who was it that said none of these homeowners had come forward?

Who was it that said that " Windsor’s new rates are high because its the first to come to grips with the common dilemma of deteriorated sewer and water pipes and increased environmental requirements." ?

Those are a couple of questions that come to mind. Feel free to add any others in the comments.

Some questions from the Watson report

(Click on images for full size)

The Water Infrastructure Renewal Needs Report was completed in 2002. By coincidence, $7.2 million happens to be the amount that WUC borrowed last year for capital funding instead of a rate increase. Why didn't Council enact a rate increase, at the very least, beginning last year?
The chart below, taken from the WUC brochure, shows rate increases in 2002, 2003 and 2004, then nothing. Why did the increases stop? We know that at least $7.2 million per year was needed and the rates were not even providing that much.

Are the development charges actually being passed on to WUC ? I just find it curious to see the
report say "The WUC should also ensure funds generated via DC's are brought back to the WUC to avoid having to finance these works via water rate revenues to any large extent".

The WUC brochure identifies the cost installing new pipe at $500 per metre. Is the $574 per per single family home enough or are our Development charges too low?

Above are the projected rates out to 2016 based on either the Low Debt option, or High Debt option. Notice that next year the fixed rate dips by 22 cents, but the volume rate goes up. What would the effect have been if we continued volume rate increases at a steady rate over the last three years?

At the end of 2016 our volume rate will still be lower than any other volume rate in the Province that I've been able to find to date. The next closest is Durham Region at 56 cents. The average was around 80 cents to $1.10 .

This is important in two ways. First, for those that wish to save money, our current reliance on high fixed charges and levies makes it impossible to reduce your bill in any meaningful way.

Secondly, when the WUC tries to implement conservation programs in the future, they might as well just hand out money to customers. For example, if a rebate program was offered to cover half the cost of installing low-flow shower heads, what is my incentive to spend the money and receive the rebate when my savings will amount to approximately 50 cents per month? None.

To make matters worse, the seasonal levy is applied from May to October. Your average usage is figured out over the November to April period. Let's say it's 24 cubic meters. If you use any more than your average 24 cubic meters in the May to October period, a seasonal rate of 24.9 cents per cubic meter is charged on the additional usage. Hopefully you don't try to conserve any water from November to April, because a 3 cubic meter per month reduction in your usage during that period would end up costing you more in the "summer" season. With your average now at 21 cubic meters, any usage above that amount will incur the seasonal charge.

I have a few other questions, but they will require much more in-depth research. As well, I've yet to wade into the various appendices. (299 pages of reading fun!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

City Beat

The Windsor Star's newest blogger, Dave Battagello with City Beat.

Welcome to the blogging world Dave.

I've added Dave's feed to WE Speak and

The stage has shifted

One thing that was clear from Monday's City Council meeting was that the only person setting the terms of reference is John Gerretsen, the Minister of Municipal Affairs. To date, the Minister or his office have only heard from the Mayor and the CAO.

If you want to have any input, the Minister's contact info is below. While the 'contact form' is the easiest way, typically mail or fax is a preferred method of contact if you wish to receive a response.

John Gerretsen, Minister
Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, 17th Floor
Toronto, ON
M5G 2E5

phone (416) 585-7000
fax (416) 585-6470
Contact Form

At the same time, we should also be contacting his cabinet colleagues and Windsor MPPs, Dwight Duncan and Sandra Puppatello. Their job is to represent the interests of their constituents, not the Mayor's office or City Council. The only way they can do that is if you make your voice heard.

Dwight Duncan
Constituency Office
4808 Tecumseh Rd. East
Windsor, ON, N8T 1B8
Telephone: (519) 251-5199
Fax: (519) 251-5299


Sandra Puppatello
Constituency Office

1483 Ouellette Ave.
Windsor, ON, N8X 1K1
Fax: 519-977-7029


Amongst all the other BS that went on Monday night, I found the information from City Solicitor George Wilki most enlightening, regarding the audit process that Council committed themselves to and the other options that were available.

Unfortunately, this information was delivered to Council two weeks too late. The Mayor's end-run motion was already voted on, with little or not information and absolutely no public debate allowed.

Democracy, Windsor style.

PS. - if I get a chance later this evening, I will be designing a poster that you will be able to email, fax or mail to the above recipients.

PS 2 - Don't forget to sign the Petition to Create a Windsor Auditor-General. If Monday's Council meeting taught us anything it's that the citizens need to take the initiative.
You can also download a paper version to distribute to your friends, family and co-workers.

Re-inventing the wheel

I'm looking forward to seeing this gold-plated piece of work:
Pupatello also announced that $227,300 will go toward a new website for newcomers to Windsor and Essex County.

The site will provide information on settling and working in the area, and is part of
Bring on some more vote buying Sandra.

I'm hoping that number at least accounts for 4 or 5 years salary for someone to run this Cadillac, otherwise it will simply be like the last one they paid millions for.

Around Town Tuesday

Windsor International Film Fest Facebook group - 15 and climbing. Invite your friends and spread the word. 3rd year for the fest. It can only grow with your support.

No word on the missing plaques yet. Somebody has to know something. Crime Stoppers can make it worth someone's while to call. 258-8477 or 1-800-222-8477
While you're at it, Crime Stoppers can always use some help.

I didn't think it could be done, but Graston outdid his previous best with this one. Bring back the clowns!

Will he make it to the altar? Stay tuned!

I'm getting the feeling that Monica Wolfson may be off a few Christmas card lists this year. S'alright, she's made my list. Keep up the good work!

In case anyone missed it, full comments have been restored. Thank God for backups!

Noticed in passing - Good thing Council Committees don't count towards the hours in the In-Camera report. The "Greater Windsor Recreation & Sports Centre Steering Committee" is racking up enough In-Camera hours to give the Border file a run for it's money.

No comment, as yet, on last night's farce.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Shadow Poll #12 - Results

Speaking of elections...

New poll is posted in the sidebar.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quick Hits - Monday August 27th

Windsor's own tax fighter Al Nelman is back - Free - Go get 'em Al!
(H/T Schnurr's Sound Off)

Councillor Lewenza sounds like he's mixing up his union and City politics in this article. "Extraordinary and unnecessary" he claims. "Lewenza said Halberstadt has been adding fuel to the fire in order to create confusion". Actually Ken, nobody needs to add fuel to anything, you and Eddie did a fine enough job sowing confusion in the first couple weeks, and continue to do so. "He would consider adding to the scope of the ministry's audit if Halberstadt had specific questions". That's almost funny enough for Ken to sign up for the region's next comedy tour. Bully on - it's working so well so far.

Happy belated Blog Day to The Shadow. I didn't realize till this week, it's been a little over a year now since I stared this blog, initially to cover the upcoming 2006 election. Thanks to some suggestions and encouragement from people, the blog has evolved quite a bit in the last year. Looking forward to another year. Bigger and better things to come in the months ahead.

Every hear of digging yourself in deeper and deeper? By the time this is over with, the 'Terrible Twosome' could probably dig the DRIC tunnel themselves. Keep firing boys, I suspect there's more to come if you do. I wonder why WUC got $7.2 million in bridge financing last year instead of raising rates? Could it have anything to do with the election? Of course not, they were just waiting for the report.

City Council meeting tonight at 6pm - Cogeco 11 if you can't be there in person.

Discover Windsor - circa 1999.

WUC discovers Public Information and the internet
. I'm thinking of barn doors for some reason.
Earthtech Watson and Associates Interim Draft Report (.pdf file - 6.8 mb) 107 pages for your reading pleasure. The Appendix is only 299 pages, if you've got the heart for it.

More to follow on the 'Watson Report'...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We could only be so lucky...

Ya just can't beat the comics some days.

Looking for Municipal Related Blogs

Know a blogging Mayor, Councillor, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Librarian or any other Municipal official I haven't thought of, who blogs?

Know anyone who blogs mainly about Municipal affairs in their area?

How about any campaign blogs or website that have RSS feeds for the upcoming Alberta Municipal Elections?

Drop me a line at or in the comment section. is a blog aggregator dedicated to Canadian Municipal affairs. Currently I've been able to find 25 blogging Municipal officials from 6 Provinces and 1 Territory. Still looking for bloggers from Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

On the Municipal Related side (blogging citizens dedicated to municipal affairs) I've got 20 blogs from 3 Provinces. I've also recently started a special section for the upcoming Alberta Municipal Election this fall. Coming soon will be a Facebook link section and Municipal Facebook group.

If "all politics are local" it doesn't get much more local than Municipal politics. These bloggers are leading their peers in trying new forms of communication to reach out to their constitutents. In my mind, that deserves support and encouragement, no matter what your political stripe or beliefs are.

Is your City or Province represented?

Cross posted to BBS

Cross Posted to The Shadow

Friday, August 24, 2007

The hits just keep on rolling

Today's Windsor Star article - Pay for WUC commissioners soared - brings up several more questions leading to next Monday's Council meeting. (If you want to see the complete chart of Council Remuneration, read this blog post from June of this year. The chart was included as part of Council Communications, distributed to every Councillor)
Coun. Ron Jones, who sits on the board, said the compensation is "a substantial amount of money."
"Certainly that will be something that will be looked at when the audit is being done," Jones said. "I'm certainly prepared to reveal the monies I've made."
Will this be part of the audit?
"The role of our commissioners is greater than for previous members," Francis said. "They have more responsibilities. They have audit and finance committees they sit on. The level of work has increased. We meet to do business. We don't just call meetings for the sake of calling meetings."
If this is the Mayor's impression of former commissioners, certainly a purely financial audit will not provide answers to the public.

It seems strange that since the per meeting payment was instituted above and beyond the flat fee, the length of meetings has decreased while the number has increased. I seem to remember when these huge payment increases were revealed several years ago, former Councillor Joyce Zuk claimed it was a "one-time" increase due to a temporary increase in meetings. She stated that things would return to normal the following year. Three years later and I'm not seeing any return - are you? (I've searched for the quotes mentioned above, but have not been able to find them as yet. If anyone has a copy or reference, drop a note in the comments). Since this has been going on for close to three years now, I asked the question in June and will ask it here again - is this being used to backdoor an increase in pay for Councillors?

Coun. Drew Dilkens said he wasn't aware how much WUC board members make or how much time they spend at meetings.

"The whole point of having an audit is to look into the problems there," Dilkens said. "We are trying to get the answers through an audit."

Hopefully Councillor Dilkens and all the other Councillors remember this statement as they consider who and how the terms of reference for this audit are drafted.

Which brings us to the last and most pertinent question. Are current and past WUC commissioners going to be involved in drafting the terms of reference for the audit? If this is truly going to be an independent audit, this would seem to be a conflict of interest for those Councillors.

As we proceed, considering the shadow hanging over this issue, in-camera meetings closed to the public will not be acceptable. At the very least, the discussion and debate leading to setting the terms of reference must be open to the public. Anything less will simply taint the process before it even begins.

PS. - anyone else think Windsor would be better served if Monica Wolfson was assigned to the City beat? In my mind, things just haven't been the same with that beat since Rosann Danese was shuffled off to other non-print duties. Her blog - Council Notebook - is sorely missed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What he said

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, this letter says it all.
Being charged by Mother Nature 'only fair'
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2007

It rained on Aug. 19. Please be advised that this water usage will be noted on your September Windsor Utilities bill, at the current rate of waste water treatment plus 60 per cent.

Since lawn watering is not required during periods of rain, there will be an additional 20-per cent surcharge for the loss of revenue for the utilities commission.

Following an inquiry, it will be found that current users of rain water will pay the increase due to former rain water users who failed to report such usage in the past. It's only fair.



That communication thing

As each day goes by, it gets easier and easier to understand why the City wants to spend $250,000.00 on a communication department. Hopefully some of that money will eventually be spent teaching the Mayor and his staff how to write a press release or hold a press conference.
Province OKs WUC audit
Mayor delays making audit approval announcement

"I understand the minister did call the mayor later Friday and told him," she said. "He was taking care of business late Friday afternoon and responded to the resolution of the mayor."

Council at its last meeting agreed to a resolution calling for an audit by the municipal affairs ministry to help resolve controversy surrounding WUC's financial and business dealings over the last several years.

As to why no information was released regarding the audit announcement, Munce said it was not the minister's responsibility to inform Windsor's residents -- many irate over a 86 per cent rate hike in their water and sewer surcharge bill. She pointed the responsibility to Mayor Eddie Francis.

Francis refused to answer Wednesday why he kept the audit's approval under wraps for days
I guess we should all be thanking our lucky stars the Mayor decided to let us in on the secret Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Divert, Deflect and Distract

I can't say I was surprised to see this Windsor Star article this morning.

Critics charge WUC of 'deceptive' practices, 'trickery'

I haven't seen the WUC insert as yet, but I don't imagine it's any different than this 22 page exercise in spin. I blogged about this on the 4th of August - The 3 D's of City/WUC Communication. Most likely they've taken the 22 pages of BS and boiled it down into a more manageable one page.

(from the 22 page WUC brochure)
1. A typical family home uses 294 m3 of water each year.
2. The average residential bill for all of 2007 will be $298.05
3. The cost of Windsor Water is $0.266
4. The total annual bill impact on water and waste water is 25%
5. Old Rates = $635.10 New Rates=$796.23 Difference =$161.13 or 25%
6. Monthly Rate increase based on 25 m3: $15.81 for water $18.81 for waste water Total =$34.62
7. The projected capital investment required to maintain the integrity of our system is estimated at $750 million over the next 30 years. To meet this need the annual watermain replacement levy will go from approximately $25.20 in 2006 to $67.55 in 2007.
8. The average residential bill will see an increase from $219 in 2006 to $298.05 in 2007
9. Watermain Replacement Levy - 45% charge of fixed charges and water consumption charge
10. Summer Levy - The summer levy is an additional charge of 0.249 cents per cubic metre applied to all consumption between May 1st and October 31 in excess of average consumption between November 1st and April 30th
These were all the "facts" included in the 22 page handout. Clear as mud.

The Star's editorial this morning (WUC woes) misses one possible option. If we can't have a Municipal Affairs or Auditor-General audit, then we should move immediately to establish the office of Windsor Auditor General. An interim Auditor General can be appointed for an initial 1 year term. Appointing outside auditors to conduct a forensic audit is not suitable. They do not have the powers of an Auditor-General and the focus would remain simply on financial terms and not any "value for money" considerations.

A municipal Auditor General has all the same powers of investigation that the Provincial Auditor does. The citizens of Windsor deserve nothing less than a full and comprehensive audit, with the broadest terms of reference available, regardless who is conducting the audit.

Make no mistake, the citizens are demanding it.

I'm looking forward to next Monday's Council meeting. Maybe the Mayor will jump down and do a lightsaber demonstration to distract entertain all of us. Lord knows, we've seen every other sort of dog and pony trick, procedural manoeuver and obsfucation possible. The biggest question remaining is whether or not there is a single Councillor willing to second Councillor Alan Halberstadt's motion for an Auditor-General's investigation. If Councillors are too afraid too even second a motion so that there can be a debate and public input, then what do we have them there for?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Around Town Tuesday

1. Improving Windsor in many ways, one shovelful at a time

2. Windsor International Film Festival on Facebook - I know there are more than 8 people in Windsor on Facebook.

3. I just heard about the proposed ban on cats and dogs from pet stores. I'm assuming it will work as well as the ban on selling drugs, stolen goods, brand label fakes, reserve cigarettes, ...
I'm sure puppy mills from across the Province are just waiting for this to be approved.

4. Does Councillor Halberstadt get a seconder for his Audit motion next Monday? Stay tuned.

In case any of our Councillors don't frequent AM800's Polls Page, I thought this one was worth republishing for their benefit. I can't remember ever seeing an AM800 poll with such unanimity.

Something to think about as they head into next Monday's Council meeting.

5. Rally for the Capitol Theatre - Thursday August 23rd - 6:30 pm. Let your voice be heard. Don't forget to sign the online petition.

6. Speaking of petitions - Help demand the creation of Windsor's own independent Auditor General. You'll thank yourself for it when you receive your tax bills in years to come.

7. It's bad enough we're blowing $80,000.00 US on a Detroit Event while Windsor festivals struggle for sponsorship (like the Willistead Car Show, to name but one), now we're promoters and ticket sellers. Is this an appropriate use of tax dollars - using City facilities as ticket agencies? What's next - selling cats and dogs?

Festival Epicure almost didn't proceed after the City controlled Tunnel Corporation withdrew it's sponsorship. Were it not for the last minute intervention of the DRTP and Bridge Company, this popular festival would have died on the vine.

Buskers Fest disappeared this year thanks to City waffling, politics and indifference. The $80,000 spent on the Grand Prix should have been spent supporting Windsor festivals and events. At the very least, spend a few dollars upgrading the Convention and Visitors Bureau website - please!

8. Send your emails here to join the Eddie Francis Fan Club - don't delay, I hear seating is limited at the next meeting.

9. Silly me, I though stacking the deck was illegal in Canada.

10. Have your own event, cause, rant or scribble to promote? - post it in the comments.

Late Addition: Windsor's Crystal Gage will be appearing on CMT's Karaoke Star 2007 on September 26th 2007. She needs your vote to be crowned Karaoke Star 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quick Hits - Monday August 20th

1. Failure to deliver anything short of a complete, comprehensive value for money audit will be failure this council will never recover from. The public perception of coverup will grow with abandon for the next 3 years and be harvested during the next municipal election.

2. Kudos to the Mayor, Ministers Puppatello, Duncan and U of W President Ross Paul if they actually pull off the re-location of the Engineering Facility downtown. I think the School of Music or Drama would have been a far better candidate for a downtown campus, but beggars can't be choosers, and let's face it, that's where Windsor is today. At least we're finally going to realize some sort of downtown development on the lands expropriated almost 19 years ago.
Note: the Eddie Francis Defence Association Windsor Star frames this as a litmus test for our MPP's. While this is certainly true as they face an upcoming election, failure to locate this facility downtown leaves Eddie Francis trying to recover the "urban village" plans from the garbage can, cleaning them up and reselling them.

3. I'm hearing about another high-level departure from City Hall, but no reasons have been provided as yet.

4. Speaking of downtown development, how's that former Salvation Army building doing that Windsor sold the farm for?

5. No 211 Operating Agreement in sight. I understand last week was the end of Information Windsor's call centre. Are we opening the new 211 service without an operating agreement or has this already been taken care of "in-camer"?

Add your own quick hits and thoughts to the comments.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Written with humour...

but grounded in truth.
Borderline citizen

How do we keep the world's most open border when we're determined to keep the wrong people out? And what about the Canadians? They are going to have to be careful about letting regular Americans out without their documents ... but then how do you send them back? They crossed already. Maybe we need checks going both ways. Maybe it's better not to go. But then maybe that's what these Homeland Security types want ...
I've sent the writer, Jim Ellis, a link to the Convention and Visitor's Bureau Crossing Made Easy website.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shadow Poll #11 - Results

The results are pretty clear on this poll. Now the question is, in a time of budget restraint, how do we accomplish this?

I think one part of the solution is spring and fall large waste pickups. We already have an issue in the West End with the annual spring departure of students. This would seem to be a good time to coordinate a City-wide pickup. A post-Labour day or just prior to Thanksgiving are possible times for a fall sweep.

I'd sooner see initiatives such as this than more consultant's reports telling us what Windsor should do to improve it's image.

The City is trying out a new project comprising of teams designated to various neighbourhood areas. I can't remember all the details, or find any links to the report on this initiative.

As we head into the fall and next year's budget deliberations, now is the time to get involved and speak to your local Councillors.

Korean War Memorial Fundraiser

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

A fundraiser to help raise funds for the Korean War Memorial that is being put along our waterfront .

This is a great community event featuring Period Military vehicles Live Entertainment by Tartan Army & David Fraser .

All day food & drink specials . Raffles , 50/50 draw & Silent auction .

1880 Wyandotte Street East Windsor Ontario .

Phone 519-252-4003 .

For Facebook users, you can stay up to date on the latest by joining the Kildare House group.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Water usage around the country.

Langley had a link to this article yesterday. I thought it was very enlightening.
The average water use, per person, in the GVRD has dropped to 559 litres per day from 728 litres per day in 1986.

Langley Township and City both use less water.

The City's average daily use was 463 litres in 2005, and water use there has been very consistent as far back as the year 2000. In most years, the average City resident uses between 460 and 485 litres per day.

However, that average number is actually driven up by some industrial and farm uses, said Graham Flack, the City's deputy director of corporate services.

The average household in the City uses just 330 litres per day.

"As far as I know, we're one of the lowest users in the GVRD," said Flack.

He attributes the low City water use to metering, which has been in place across the board for decades. City residents pay $0.79 per cubic metre of water, - the bill arriving with their property tax notices.

The Township is broken up into three regions based on its three main water systems.

In Northwest Langley, including Walnut Grove, water use is about 550 litres per day, the highest in Langley. Brookswood/Murrayville sees 420 litres per day, and Aldergrove is the lowest at just 340 litres per day.

The Northwest and Brookswood areas are run through the GVRD, while the Aldergrove system is not connected to the regional system. Local wells are a key feature of the systems.

While that means the Township is a good user of water compared to other Lower Mainland communities, it's far above what people consume in Europe, where the cost of tap water is far higher.

Berlin, Germany has an average daily consumption of 160 litres per water, according to Badelt's numbers.
City of Windsor Average use - 294 cm metres per year - 24.5 cm per month.

City of Langley - 15.03 cm per month

Township of Langley - Northwest Langley - 17.05 cm per month

Township of Langley - Brookswood - 13.02 cm per month

Township of Langley - Aldergrove - 10.54 cm per month

Berlin, Germany - 4.96 cm per month

I think I'm going to start a spreadsheet at Google Spreadsheets and start tracking average usage data as I come across it.

From the comments at Langley

SP, my expert staff at Township Hall pass along the following...

Does the GVRD/GVWD allocate/quota water supplies?
* Yes, the Township has maximum daily flow specified by the GVRD. We are currently well below this flow.

Does it charge municipalities by the megalitre or is the supply effectively "free"?
* Yes, the GVRD charges roughly $0.35 / megalitre. The charge is scheduled to increase steadily over the next five year to recoup increased treatment costs.

I know of course member municipalities can charge a water tax (whether flat or consumption-based), does this revenue directly flow into the municipalities' revenue stream or is there some sort of mechanism where the GVRD/GVWD receives a portion of such revenues?

* A portion of the water utility revenue (roughly one-third) is used to pay for GVRD water at the megalitre rate mentioned above. The is also a portion of development cost charges that go to the GVRD for water/sewer improvements.

Finally, since about 30% of the township actually uses GVRD/GVWD water, is there differential pricing based on water source?
* No, all residents on municipal water pay the same flat rate (~$280/year). It would be very difficult to differentiate pricing, as the areas that received GVRD water also use groundwater.

Today's Letter to the Editor

New levies discourage water conservation
Published: Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Many thanks to all the letter writers, both pro and con who have written about the recent Flush to Vote campaign.

Thanks to the attention from local media, the campaign was a success in raising awareness of the many issues surrounding the 2007 Windsor Utilities commission rate hike.

To those who claim it was nothing more than a waste I would say the insignificant amount that may have been used pales in comparison to the daily waste encouraged by the current low usage rate in Windsor.

At 26.6 cents per cubic metre, Windsor has the lowest usage rate in the entire province.

To flush one 20-litre toilet uses the equivalent of a half cent of water.

To flush that same toilet in Kitchener would cost 2.4 cents, London would run you 2.5 cents for under 16 cubic metres of use and 2.7 cents after that.

Windsor's reliance on low water usage rates and high fixed charges does more to encourage waste and discourage any sort of conservation than anything our campaign may have done.

A person reducing their monthly water usage by three cubic metres in Windsor would save a measly $2.43. In Kitchener the same reduction would save you almost three times that amount, $7.12, while London clocks in at $7.33 in savings.

Even if someone wanted to drastically reduce their water usage to alleviate Windsor's recent 60 per cent rate hike, the effort would have a minimal impact on their bill. Instead of assisting seniors and others on fixed incomes to reduce their water usage and save money, we will now create yet another program that will require more of your money in the form of subsidies or relief assistance.

The question to ask city council is why are users willing to conserve water forced to subsidize those who are not?



MUNIBlogs growing continues to grow. We now have 2 Mayors, 20 Councillors, 3 Public Libraries and the Red Deer Election forum.

To give a sense of balance to the site, a new section, Related Blogs has been added. The Related Blogs section is comprised of blogs from across the country that are mainly concerned with Municipal affairs in their area, much like the Shadow and others are for Windsor. To date, the Related blogs section contains 18 local blogs and we're always on the lookout for more. (for inclusion in this section, a blog must post mainly on Municipal affairs. )

For the 2007 Alberta Municipal Election we've added an Election aggregator to monitor the various candidate's RSS enabled blogs and websites.

If you know of any blogs or websites that fit any of the categories, please feel free to email with the details.

Cross posted to

DRIC Public Information Open House

(click on image for full size)

If you missed the first DRIC Public Meeting yesterday, here's the info for today's meeting along with all the links to the information that is being presented.

August 14, 2007 – 2pm to 8pm
Holiday Inn Select Hotel – Ballroom
1855 Huron Church Road, Windsor

August 15, 2007 – 2pm to 8pm
Ciociaro Club – Salons A & B
3745 North Talbot Road, Tecumseh

At the fifth round of Public Information Open Houses (PIOHs) the enhance below-grade alternative will be presented along with the analysis of the previously identified alternatives, and information on the evaluation process to be undertaking in selecting a technically and environmentally preferred alternative for the crossing, plaza and access road. Your ideas and comments will help the study team evaluate all of the alternatives and develop the single preferred alternative.

Click here to read more about the PIOH meetings: [high res - 10MB] [low res - 500KB]

To view/download the display material and handout package for these meetings, please click on the links below:

Presentation Boards Handout Package [10.3MB]

Individual Package Contents:

Questions & Answers
Parkway Plates
Parkway Sketches
01_Information Kit Introduction
02_The Environmental Study Process
03_Analysis of 7 Evaluation Factors – Practical Alternatives
04_Analysis of 7 Evaluation Factors – Plaza and Crossing Alternatives
05_Changes to Air Quality
06_Improvements to Regional Mobility
07_Protection of Community & Neighbourhood Characteristics – Noise Impact Assessment
08_Context Sensitive Solutions
09_Property Acquisition
10_The Parkway – A New Option
Ambient Air Monitoring
Consistency with Existing & Planned Land Use
Cost & Constructability – Construction Staging of Access Road Alternatives
Cost & Constructability – Foundations Investigations
Cost & Constructability
Protection of Community & Neighbourhood Characteristics – Economic Impact Assessment
Protection of Community & Neighbourhood Characteristics – Social Impact Assessment
Protection of Community & Neighbourhood Characteristics – Vibration Impact Assessment
Protection of Cultural Resources – Archaeology
Protection of Cultural Resources – Built Heritage Features Impact Assessment
Protection of the Natural Environment – Natural Heritage Investigation

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Branding Windsor

Dave Gordon on Hezbollah's ad campaign in Windsor, Ont.

Where was Windsor mayor Eddie Francis? One would think his office, in an attempt to avert the negative publicity, would have had an official statement of condemnation at the ready.

If something like that happened in Toronto, you could bet David Miller would have been apoplectic.

Instead, Alan Halberstadt, city councillor for Ward 3 in Windsor, where the billboard went up, was on the fence whether the sign was appropriate, the Windsor Star reports.

“Perhaps it is a good thing it is down, because it caused such a discord in Windsor,” said Halberstadt to the Star. “We don’t need that kind of discord.”

Mr. Halberstadt might have said instead that support for a terrorists group in any form was unwelcome in his riding, his city, and Canada. If the Jewish and Christian groups hadn’t complained, would he have cared at all?

This small incident may serve as a sign of things to come. How soon before we see Iran placing ads in Western newspapers, the Saudi Princes buying TV commercials during the SuperBowl, or Syria’s Bashar Assad paying for radio ads?

Time to move on, for now

Much of last night's meeting regarding the WUC rate hike isn't even worth commenting on at this point. Interesting to note, now the 1000 homes has gone to 156. Last week the official word from the WUC, as quoted in the Star, was that it might even exceed 1000. Nothing like consistency.

I will note one thing. If the Mayor and Councillor Lewenza want to continually accuse people of "misrepresentation of the facts" they need to join hands, walk to the biggest mirror they can find and take a good hard long look.

Since this issue began one of the biggest reasons for the so called "misrepresentations" is the complete and utter failure on the part of the Mayor, Councillor Lewenza and the WUC to present information in a clear and consistent manner. I won't bother linking to all the posts, you can search through the blog, but hardly a day has gone buy when some information related to the WUC rate hike has not changed. That 22 page information brochure from WUC is as clear as mud. The average citizen reading that wouldn't know up from down.

I'm looking forward to the release of the J.N. Watson report in hard copy. The presentation went by rather quickly when watching on TV (and working at the same time). There are several questions I have related to that report, one of them regarding the development charges.

I remain absolutely unconvinced that we can't move most if not all of the costs included in the "water rate" portion of the bill from the fixed charge to the actual water rate. I realize that this would not be accomplished overnight, but it should be possible to phase in over a 5 to 10 year period. The system should become User Pay. There would certainly be adjustments in the beginning but eventually the rate of conservation would plateau. I find it extremely difficult to believe so many other municipalities in Ontario have it wrong, and Windsor is the only one that has it right.

If we are conducting long term planning it only makes sense to encourage conservation. As growth continues, it would be far cheaper to manage our supply through conservation instead of building new plants. If, for example, we have sufficient capacity for the next 20 years, aggressive conservation could likely extend that capacity another 5 or 10 years.

I think it would also be interesting to find other municipalities that sell water to their neighbouring municipalities and what the prices are.

Councillor Dilkens made an excellent point when discussing the motion to call in the Auditor-General - " “When was information available that the system needed to be upgraded? Who acted or didn’t act?" Certainly important questions. How many people would have approved of the $65 million dollar arena in October if they had of known what we were facing this year? I suspect we would either be building at the raceway right now, or re-examining the downtown site. How about the over $2 million spent for a city owned restaurant on the Riverfront? How many Councillors would still be sitting in their seats today if this discussion was occurring last October and November - you know - right before everyone voted.

Lots of questions remain and I look forward to the Auditor-General's report.

PS - for Councillor Lewenza - here's a link to the Walkerton Report. I tried to find an example of someone watering their lawn with bottled water but apparently Paris Hilton doesn't do yard work.

Update: seems I misunderstood the Mayor's motion last night. I thought he was moving the motion simply to grab the spotlight. Apparently the Auditor General is not investigating, it the auditors from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. More on this at Windsor City Blog and Alan

Monday, August 13, 2007

Windsor Kennel Club

Otherwise known as Windsor City Council Dog and Pony show.

(I just finished watching the J.N. Watson water presentation and Q and A period).

Quick Hits - Monday August 13th

Urban Art in Action - take a walk downtown and check it out! Better yet, stop in. Best live act joint in Windsor that many (most?) don't realize is there.

Hopefully tonights meeting of the Council Striking Committee is to add the Bridge Company to the Olde Sandwich Towne Citizen Advisory Group. At some point, we need to find a venue to open discussions with the Bridge Company - this would seem to be a good starting point. Failure to act will only continue enriching the local legal community.

211 operating agreement - the fall start of this new city uploaded service is fast approaching. Where is the operating agreement? If I've missed it, could someone send me a copy or link.

Ever wondered what your Ward Councillor is working on? Are they doing anything about that issue you spoke with them about? Council Questions provide a glimpse into some of the issues individual Councillors are working on. This document is a summary of outstanding Council Questions. (.pdf)

Help create an independent Windsor Auditor General to look after your interests. Sign the Petition.

Update: one I forgot to add for today. Check out a new Windsor blog I came across recently, Blog Windsor.
"If you have a picture you’d like to see featured at BlogWindsor, upload it to a free Flickr account and tag it with the keywords Windsor and Ontario. Check back often and be sure to share this site with your friends. Let’s show the world the great things to see in our community. Cheers ~"
Who knows, you may just be featured some morning. I've always enjoyed stopping by Blog Guelph to see their pics of my old hometown so I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone in Windsor can put forward.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We Speak changes

Regular readers of WE Speak will notice a slightly bare front page today. I've completed some upgrades and improvements to the backend of the site, unfortunately this necessitated flushing out the front page content. As new posts are published, the front pape will re-populate itself. Things should be back to normal by mid-day Monday.

Fiscal Imbalance Version 2 - The Cities

Great article on the fiscal imbalance suffered by Canadian cities, especially when compared to US and European cities. Some good points by Thomas Courchene.

When Dwight or Sandra come knocking at your door for the upcoming Provincial election, this would be a good article to have handy to give to them. Instead of pushing millions out the door at the end of the fiscal year to their favourite multicultural groups, how about some real relief for cities? Instead of a "green license" plate program that will only add to the bureaucracy, send the money to the cities. Surplus at the end of the year? - 1/3 debt payment, 2/3 to the cities.

The only way we're ever going to halt the steady march of tax/fee/levy increases at the local level is if they are funded appropriately by the Provincial government.
Cities the real victims of fiscal imbalance
Peter Hadekel, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, August 11, 2007

But Courchene argues that urban tax reform has to be broad-based. Cities are creatures of provincial governments, and it's from that level of government that solutions must come.

Cities should be able to share in provincial income tax receipts the way provinces piggy-back on federal revenues, he argues.

There are other issues to consider. As cities gain in economic power, citizens will demand a greater political voice and more democratic accountability for decisions that affect them.

That suggests that the voting power in urban areas will have to rise to reflect their economic weight.

In Canada, we've heard a lot of talk about the fiscal imbalance between the provinces and the federal government.

But the most striking imbalance may be at the urban level, where the cities expected to carry the economic load don't have the tools for the job.

PS. - I almost forgot one of the biggest ones - upload social services costs back to the Province. It should be easy for them to do, they just have to stop the never ending spending increases above inflation and new program creation. Let's pay for what we have now instead of inventing new things to pay for.

H/T Langley Politics dot com

Saturday, August 11, 2007





When: Thursday, August 23, between 6:30 & 9:00 PM

Where: In front of the Capitol Theatre & Arts Centre, on the
corner of Pelissier and University. Petitions and other information
available at Artcite Inc.,109 University W. (Capitol complex)

Why: To keep the community voice in the public eye. Share your
stories about the Capitol Theatre's history, and bring
your ideas for the future!

For more information please visit:

or contact

Deb Stanson, CCT
Tel: (519) 564-4285

Oona Mosna, CCT
Tel: (519) 977­6564

Theme: What the Capitol Theatre means to us

A full list of speakers & performers will follow shortly in our official press release. Interested delegates or volunteers should contact CCT at one of the email address' provided above.

Out of principle the CCT welcomes everyone in the greater Windsor area to participate in this event. We want to hear what you have to say. We want you to be a part of the theatre's future! So come down, bring your stories, and as Citizens help us write the next chapter in the theatre's history.

The Citizens for the Capitol Theatre (CCT) is a community based organization formed to help facilitate the re­opening and ongoing usage of the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre in a sustainable capacity as an established public trust.

CCT recognizes the interests of the artistic, entertainment, educational and business communities by adopting strategies to maintain this historical theatre and helping to establish the future cultural well-being of Windsor and region through diversity of programming, artistic excellence and ongoing dialogue with the community.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Job protection for Reservists

John Turley-Ewart: Canada's shameful treatment of its soldiers

Federally regulated industries offer no formal job protection for reservists who volunteer to serve overseas. And most provinces allow employers under their jurisdiction to dismiss employees who need a leave of absence to serve in the military. Only three of Canada’s provinces have passed legislation making such action illegal — Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a special effort to raise this issue with provincial governments, most recently asking P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz to pass legislation in his province.

The Prime Minister should not have to ask. There is no reason why the smalll number of reservists who serve Canada abroad (in Afghanistan there are roughly 300 reservists) should have to come home to the unemployment line.

Why they do is a question Parliament and the premiers of Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, B.C., and New Brunswick should be made to answer the next time they declare how much they appreciate the sacrifice our soldiers make on behalf of all of us.

With an election pending in Ontario, a Federal election liable to be triggered at any time and Newfoundland and Alberta running out the clock on their respective governments, there's an opportunity to knock three more Provinces and the Feds off the list. It's becoming fairly obvious that the voluntary approach just isn't working.

We have job protection for Family Leaves, Maternity Leaves, Jury Duty, running for Political Office, but when it comes to serving your country in a combat zone? You're just plain S.O.L!

Our Reservists deserve better.

PS - here's hoping Chrysler and GM vehicle sales experience an upsurge in Stephenville over the next year or so.

Cross posted from The Torch

Momentum grows for Windsor Auditor General

Provincial auditor open to WUC probe
Dave Battagello, Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, August 09, 2007

...The financial mess surrounding the Windsor Utilities Commission and planned water rate hike has some city officials and residents calling for creation of Windsor's own independent auditor general.

Changes to the Municipal Act at the start of this year has allowed Ontario cities to create an auditor general position. Toronto and Ottawa are among the few that have.

"An independent review of municipal affairs will go a long way to giving the public confidence," said Coun. Bill Marra, who earlier this year requested a report from administration on the issue.

"The federal and provincial governments are subject to it, so it makes no sense that it doesn't exist at the municipal level in Windsor."

City auditor Mike Dunbar, who reports to council and senior administrators, is among those who agree the city needs an auditor general, citing the previous MFP scandal and the current concerns around WUC's finances.

"We always believe there should be an independent set of eyes," said Dunbar.

"If there was an auditor general here, they would be empowered to conduct an inquiry, something we can't do. It has certain powers that are advantageous."

Use of an auditor general role is prominent in municipalities across Quebec, but has been slow to catch on in Ontario, Dunbar said. But he sees that changing thanks to the Municipal Act being reworked.

In Toronto, the city's auditor general is empowered to conduct audits in the areas of compliance, finances, value-for-money and the environment, and can undertake investigations around suspected fraudulent activities.

Windsor blogger Paul Synnott has included a petition calling for creation of a local auditor general position on his website.

He could not be reached Thursday, but his blog petition states: "We, the undersigned, call on Windsor city council to create the independent office of Windsor auditor general and fund said office as appropriate."
Make sure your voice is heard. Let's not leave any doubt in Council's mind about whether or not they should create this position.

Download the petition (.pdf format)

Sign the Petition online
(Names and addresses will NOT be displayed in the online petition, only the total number of signatures)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Eddie Flush

Original Creation by

Like a dog with a bone...

Now is not the time to give up on the issue of an independent Audit for the WUC. Although the Mayor has stated he's willing to make the request, there's a lot of road to be travelled between that statement and Council actually acting next Monday night.

The only way to ensure that Council acts it to maintain the pressure. Continue calling and emailing the Mayor and your Councillors.

We may be in the home stretch, but by no means is this race over yet.

While you're at it - ask them why the huge increase in Fixed Rate charges instead of increasing the 26.6 cents per cubic metre we pay for water usage.

I wonder how much it has to do with those long term deals we've signed with Tecumseh and LaSalle for the provision of water? Although I'm sure the deals have reasonable cost escalators built in, I don't think they would allow for huge increases. To encourage conservation and reduce usage, Windsor's rate should be somewhere between $0.90 to $1.10 per cubic metre with little or no fixed charge at all. I'm looking forward to the release of the C.N. Watson rate study.

I'm continuing to study the pros and cons of a User Pay system. Hopefully I'll have some time this weekend to pull all the research I have together and present it in an easy to understand format. I've also received several emails with questions that I will attempt to answer as part of my series on User Pay versus Fixed Charge systems.

One thing to note - I have yet to find a municipality in Canada, let alone Ontario, that has a rate that is even close to Windsor's. The closest so far is Durham region at $0.56 cents per cubic metre. More than twice Windsor's rate.

We may have access to an abundant supply of water, but don't forget that, on average, it costs twice as much to treat water as it does to provide it.

PS - take a minute and sign the petition to create an independent Windsor Auditor General. We shouldn't have to go cap in hand to the Province asking for assistance. The Municipal Act allows municipalities to create this position. If Windsor truly wants to be a leader in the Province, this would be a good place to start.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Petition to create Windsor Auditor General

Paper or Electronic - choose your method of signing the petition. For the electronic version, full name, address and email are required for verification of your signature. None of your information will be displayed or shared other than with Windsor City Council on submission of the petition.

Download a copy of the petition to create a Windsor Auditor General.

Sign the Online Petition.

Flush to Vote! - the results

Well we certainly didn't overwhelm the sewer system yesterday, but we did achieve the goal of continuing to raise the awareness of this issue. From a story that might have died out last week, the Flush to Vote! campaign, other blogs, letter writers and radio callers have worked hard to keep this issue alive.

Today's Windsor Star editorial - WUC mess ( I thought the Star was being rather generous with that title)

Flush to Vote! article in the Star
. The Mayor may think a "discussion" of an independent audit will get him off the hook but I suspect residents will now settle for nothing less that a full fledged audit. Anything less is simply not acceptable. The Virtual Flush was more popular than I thought it would be - 324 flushes. (about 20 of them were mine as I checked the totals and filmed the CBC spot)

More letters to the Editor - for the two who weren't pleased with the Flush to Vote! - you helped us achieve our goal by writing a letter to the Editor and continuing to discuss the issue. To the charge of the exercise being environmentally harmful, I would argue that a water usage rate of 26.6 cents per cm is far more harmful than anything our small protest consumed. Try something for fun - investigate the average water usage in Windsor versus any other municipality. Shocking doesn't begin to describe it.

Make sure you tune in to next Monday night's Council meeting (Aug 13th). Nothing less than a motion of Council calling for an unrestricted independent audit by the Ontario Auditor General should be accepted by Windsor residents.

Many thanks to all who have called, emailed, posted blogs, wrote letters, called the Mayor, called your Councillor and anything else I've missed. Your efforts have Council listening for a change. Don't let them stick their fingers in their ears again. Keep it up!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Flush to Vote! - update

Great response today to the Flush to Vote! campaign.

Peter from the Mayor of Monmouth, the man who got the ball rolling on this, started off this morning with an interview on the Lynn Martin show - guest hosted by Al Pervin today. If you missed the show this morning, you can listen again at 9:00 pm this evening for a re-broadcast.
P.S - to AM800 - please hire Al on a regular basis. Find the man a show! That was the best show I've listened to in ages. Al pulls no punches. How refreshing to hear in Windsor.

The Windsor Star stopped by my place at noon for a quick interview and a few pics, followed by CBC news. I think it was a unique experience for all of us. You don't see too many interviews conducted in a bathroom.

Just because the actual event is over doesn't mean we have to stop. When the first bills start arriving at the end of August, beginning of September I think it will really sink in for a lot of people who haven't been paying attention.

Email the Mayor and your Councillors, write a letter to the Editor, sign a petition - keep the heat on!

Speaking of petitions - I just happen to have one available:
1. Whereas the Municipal Act allows for the creation of a Municipal Auditor General;

2. Whereas taxpayers deserve accountability at all levels of government;

We, the undersigned, call on Windsor City Council to create the independent office of "Windsor Auditor General" and fund said office as appropriate
Download the Windsor Auditor General Petition (pdf).

Thanks to the Mayor of Monmouth for a great idea and letting me take part in this with him and all of you.

Quick Hits - Tuesday, August 7th.

Special Tuesday Quick Hits - All Water, All Day today!

For those that missed them, Graston captures the moment in his own unique style: Bada Bing, Junior practices "duck and cover".

Don't forget - Flush to Vote! Noon to 1pm today.

Special VIRTUAL FLUSH for those who wish to participate in spirit if not in action. (P.S. - if you're at City Hall, turn your speakers down really low so no one knows that you're voting!)

Replace Windsor wherever you see Ottawa
. Notice that Ottawa is at 86.8 cents per cubic meter as opposed to Windsor's paltry 26.6 cents per cubic meter.

Listen to the Lynn Martin show today - Al Pervin filling in.
"It's a REVOLT!! Water rates, the bridge, no street lighting, few railroad underpasses..Are you getting your tax dollars worth? Don't you deserve better?"

After you vote today - download the Petition(.pdf) to create a Windsor Auditor General.
Sign it. Copy it. Distribute it.

Help ensure accountability and transparency for the future of Windsor

Make your voice heard!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Coming Soon

Happy Civic Holiday. - any day off work has got to be a good day.

07 Aug - Flush to Vote!

13 Aug - next City Council meeting

23 Aug - Capitol Theatre Rally - organized by the Citizens for the Capitol Theatre

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Donner Award Finalists

A worthwhile competition for Windsor non-profits to participate in. There's a $5000.00 first prize in each category, $20,000 Award of Excellence and another $5000.00 for excellence in management and delivery of services. Each participant receives a comprehensive confidential report ranking them in 10 areas including management, governance, volunteers, innovation and program cost. Along with that, program participants receive profiles of the successful finalists and resources to improve their own perfomance.

Canada’s best-run non-profit agencies announced as finalists for Donner Awards and $70,000 prize money

Release Date: August 2, 2007

Vancouver, BC - Twenty-eight non-profit agencies from across Canada have been identified as being the best run in the country and are in the running for $70,000 in prize money as finalists for the 10th annual Donner Canadian Foundation Awards for Excellence in the Delivery of Social Services.

The Donner Awards are Canada’s largest non-profit recognition program, established in 1998 to recognize and encourage best practices in non-profit management and to increase public confidence and support for Canada’s non-profit sector. The awards will be presented October 19th at a special 10th anniversary celebration of the Donner Awards in Toronto. Additional information is available at

“People across Canada rely on non-profit social service agencies for a huge array of programs and services. That reliance means the agencies have to ensure they manage their resources in a fiscally sound manner so they can provide for their clients’ needs,” said Sylvia LeRoy, program manager for the Donner Awards and Director of The Fraser Institute’s Centre for Social Policy Studies.

“Programs like the Donner Canadian Foundation Awards for Excellence in the Delivery of Social Services give non-profit agencies a chance to share ideas and identify best practices in non-profit management and social service delivery while offering them a chance to win cash awards and recognition.”

This year, more than 600 non-profit programs from across Canada applied for the awards. Participating organizations are ranked on their performance in 10 key areas, including management and governance, the use of staff and volunteers, innovation, program cost, and outcome monitoring.

The top organization in each of nine categories of social service delivery will win $5,000 awards while the $20,000 William H. Donner Award for Excellence will be presented to the highest performer overall.

The Donner Awards newest honour, the $5,000 Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Management, will be presented to a non-profit organization with a consistent record of excellence and innovation in management and delivery of services.

Listing of 2007 Donner Award Finalists (by category)

Alternative Education
• Continuing On In Education (Belleville, ON)
• Sarnia Lambton Rebound (Sarnia, ON)
• Teen-Aid Southwest Inc (Swift Current, SK)

Child Care Services
• Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Peterborough (Peterborough, ON)
• Educational Program Innovations Charity Society (North Sydney, NS)
• The Children's Garden Nursery School (Pembroke, ON)

Counselling Services
• Community Living Campbellford/Brighton (Campbellford, ON)
• Hospice Of Waterloo Region (Kitchener, ON)
• Sudbury Action Centre For Youth (Sudbury, ON)
• Youth Services Of Lambton County Inc. - Huron House Boys' Home (Bright's Grove, ON)

Crisis Intervention
• Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre (Calgary, AB)
• Canadian Mental Health Association For The Kootenays (Cranbrook, BC)
• Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Centre Of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

Services for People with Disabilities
• British Columbia Association of People Who Stutter (White Rock, BC)
• Multiple Sclerosis Society Of Canada - Calgary Chapter (Calgary, AB)
• Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (Burnaby, BC)

Services for Seniors
• Alzheimer Society Of Thunder Bay (Thunder Bay, ON)
• Calgary Meals On Wheels (Calgary, AB)
• Community & Primary Health Care - Lanark, Leeds & Grenville (Brockville, ON)

Prevention & Treatment of Substance Abuse
• Fresh Start Recovery Centre (Calgary, AB)
• InnerVisions Recovery Society Of BC (Port Coquitlam, BC)
• Simon House Residence Society (Calgary, AB)
• Sudbury Action Centre For Youth (Sudbury, ON)

Provision of Basic Necessities
• Alice Housing (Dartmouth, NS)
• Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank (Calgary, AB)
• Inner City Home of Sudbury (Sudbury, ON)

Traditional Education
• Cornwall Alternative School (Regina, SK)
• John Knox Christian School (Oakville, ON)
• Trenton Christian School Society (Trenton, ON)

Sylvia LeRoy, Policy Analyst
The Fraser Institute, Tel (604) 688-0221, ext 523

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Gmail and Windsor

Can Windsor make the final cut in Google's Gmail: A Behind the Scenes Video?

It's up to you!

Coming off the line at Chrysler?

Handoff at the Detroit/Windsor tunnel?

10 seconds of branding that won't cost taxpayers anything. Bonus!

The 3 D's of City/WUC communications

Divert, deflect and distract.

Yesterday was the first chance I had to look at the brochure that was distributed at the WUC open house last week. The brochure is now posted on the WUC website under the heading Public Information - August 1/07 Water Rates.

It's certainly packed with plenty of information, most of it confusing, disingenuous and bordering on deception. Here's a summary of the relevant facts that can be found in the document:
1. A typical family home uses 294 m3 of water each year.
2. The average residential bill for all of 2007 will be $298.05
3. The cost of Windsor Water is $0.266
4. The total annual bill impact on water and waste water is 25%
5. Old Rates = $635.10 New Rates=$796.23 Difference =$161.13 or 25%
6. Monthly Rate increase based on 25 m3: $15.81 for water $18.81 for waste water Total =$34.62
7. The projected capital investment required to maintain the integrity of our system is estimated at $750 million over the next 30 years. To meet this need the annual watermain replacement levy will go from approximately $25.20 in 2006 to $67.55 in 2007.
8. The average residential bill will see an increase from $219 in 2006 to $298.05 in 2007
9. Watermain Replacement Levy - 45% charge of fixed charges and water consumption charge
10. Summer Levy - The summer levy is an additional charge of 0.249 cents per cubic metre applied to all consumption between May 1st and October 31 in excess of average consumption between November 1st and April 30th
It took 22 pages to impart all that information. Now that you have it - can you tell me what your water bill is going to be next month or next year?

One thing to remember when looking at this brochure, the City wants to spend $250,000 of your tax dollars next year to implement this type of "communication" citywide.

The worst thing in the whole document is a nice graphic touting how low the water rates are in comparison to municipalities in Essex County and the rest of Ontario.

The graphic seems to show that Windsor isn't that bad off compared to other municipalities, but what are we actually comparing? There is no legend or scale in the graphic.

I suspect we are comparing "Water Rates", which in Windsor is comprised of the usage charge of $0.266 per cm and the Fixed Charge of $16.84, but even that I'm not sure. I think they might be further blending the 2007 rates, as the new increase didn't kick in until this past August 1st. Most other municipalities' rate increases were in effect sometime between January and May.

I've attempted to demonstrate in other posts that while we may have the lowest water usage rate ($0.266 ) in Ontario, if not all of Canada, that's not necessarily a good thing. Combined with the much higher fixed charges, the low usage rate is a disincentive to conservation. I will be continuing on that theme later on this week with further posts on moving to a User Pay system that will allow people to actually save money while conserving water.

That aside, let's take a look at what the "average" family in Windsor (25 cm per month) would be paying for water and sewer services in Windsor versus some of the cities shown in the comparison.

Windsor - $71.64 per month, $859.73 per year (doesn't include summer levy) (Note: a 5 cm per month reduction in Windsor would save $4.05 per month, $48.60 per year)

Hamilton - $40.49 per month, $485.88 per year

Sarnia - $50.52 per month, $606.24 per year

Kitchener - $59.37 per month, $712.44 per year (Note: a 5 cm per month reduction in Kitchener would save $11.87 per month, $142.44 per year)

Peterborough - $50.67 per month, $608.04 per year. (Note: Peterborough has a flat rate system. I calculated this amount based on a 6 room house, with the maximum billable lot square footage of 1500 sq m, no swimming pool. Metered service is available by request, but it was difficult to figure out the price for this as they didn't publish their sewer rate charge, simply a statement that the sewer charge was a proportion of the water usage. A rough guess using 150% as a sewer charge would equal $61.03 per month or $732.36 per year).

Barrie - $59.37 per month, $712.44 per year (Note: a 5 cm per month reduction in Barrie would save $9.60 per month, $115.20 per year)

Waterloo - $53.17 per month, $638.04 per year

Aren't you glad that Windsor has such favourable water rates when compared to these other municipalities?

The reason for the notes after Windsor, Kitchener and Barrie is to demonstrate the difference between Fixed Charges with low Usage rates (Windsor), User Pay with low Fixed Charges (Barrie) and complete User Pay (Kitchener).

For all the "you're comparing apples and oranges" people, the WUC picked these cities to compare, not me. I'm simply demonstrating how ridiculous and misleading their comparison is.

Divert, deflect and distract. It only works if we let them get away with it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

3,2,1 Flush... Coming soon!

Business is interfering with blogging right now so just a quick round up of Water Stories today:

Mayor of Monmouth - City Hall Protest during Flush to Vote! ?

Alan - Think before you dig.

Windsor City Blog - Is WUC Windsor's WATER-gate?

Sound Off - Breaking News: The WUC Agenda Submission and Is City Facing Danger

Letter to the Editor - Utilities commission open house a surreal experience

Letter to the Editor - Water rate hike nothing more than tax increase

Letter to the Editor - Outside source should investigate fund diversion

Letter to the Editor - WUC fiasco symptomatic of typical political malaise

I recorded the Lynn Martin show Wednesday morning and will be presenting some of the questions and answers tomorrow, specifically revolving around the issue of "reducing" the water usage portion of the bill and moving towards a user pay system.

I'm beginning to wonder if one of the reasons we're raising the Fixed Rates instead of the usage charges is because of the water deals with Tecumseh and LaSalle. These are long term contracts with increases built in, but nothing I'm sure that would cover the rate tripling.

In order to allow people to save money and conserve water, we should be immediately begin moving to a complete user pay rate system with no fixed charges. Under user pay, a 20% reduction in your water usage will also result in a 20% reduction in your bill. Under the current system, a 20% reduction would garner you a whopping 4% savings.

Keep checking Flush to Vote! for further updates. I'm hoping to get a copy of Al Nelman's petition for an audit to post and distribute. Al stated on A Channel that his goal for signatures was 10,000 (50 signatures are required to request an audit).