A Dilkens Mayoral Blunder


 

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It’s nice to see that our new Mayor is carrying on the tradition that he started in his mayoral campaign of making one blunder after another. I wonder if  he will ever change!

We have already seen this foot in the mouth comment by the Mayor:

“This event just didn’t line up nicely with the political schedule, that’s the honest truth of it,” Dilkens said Thursday by phone from Doha, Qatar” (Craig Pearson Windsor Star December 4, 2014)

I assume that he will tell us in future if he’s telling us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…you know, the honest truth. Otherwise what would we think of what he is saying.

In his latest blunder, he has made it clear that he will never make it as a diplomat on the world’s stage or any stage frankly.

To explain what I mean, let me compare what the Mayor did with what President Obama did for a very long period of time.

What was one of the most surprising stories of the week. Of course, it was President Obama trying to normalize relations with Cuba. The US and Cuba have been at loggerheads for 50 years and then out of the blue, a reconciliation has been started. How did that come about:

“The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro.” (Peter Baker New York Times December 17, 2014)

Did you notice the words “secret talks?” Those are very important words in the context of the situation. If you want to read all about the secret diplomacy including the fact that most of the meetings took place in Canada, then read this article “Like Iran, Secret Diplomacy Leads to US-Cuba Thaw.”  To be blunt, it is a good thing that none of the meetings were held in Windsor or else, in my opinion, the whole initiative would have fallen apart.

Why do I say that? Why am I so negative about this City? Oh, you know the answer to that already don’t you, dear reader. Oh you do not? Then let me guide you to it.

What issue has gone almost as long in this City as the US/Cuba brouhaha and also involves international relations? Obviously, the border file! It started when Matty Moroun became the owner of the Ambassador Bridge in 1979 and, notwithstanding that at least the Ambassador Bridge Company thought that there was a settlement, it has been going on since that time. It has been a fight between the US owner of the Bridge and the Canadian Government with the US Federal Government and Michigan, Ontario and Windsor on the sidelines mostly but also being active participants as well in some aspects.

If there was ever going to be a settlement of the issue, I would expect that the City of Windsor would have to be involved at some level even though technically and constitutionally the City has no role to play. With a new Mayor, one could hope that the “diplomatic channels” could be re-established so that ultimately the Ambassador Bridge Company and the City could resolve their differences.  That would give a push to the Feds to resolve their concerns.

In my opinion, the only way that this could have been achieved would have been if the representatives from the Bridge Company met with our Mayor secretly to discuss the situation just as was done with the Cuban talks. After all, with all of the various interests in the United States concerned about dealing with Cuba, if people knew about that talks in advance, then the whole subject would have become “political” and probably would have been a campaign issue in the last US election. That meant that nothing would have happened.

Isn’t that the same situation in Windsor with respect to the border file?

I had a glimmer of hope that our new Mayor might want to take a different perspective on the border file. After all, do you remember this when Mayor Dilkens was not one of the big opponents to the Bridge Company but one of Henderson’s Three Blind Mice:

“But that team approach unravelled Monday when Councillors Drew Dilkens, Al Halberstadt and Bill Marra, in a pathetic display of obsequiousness, decided that currying favour with an expansion-bent bridge company is more important …

…The three councillors sided with an infuriated bridge company in opposing the passing of interim control and demolition control bylaws designed to halt the bulldozers in historic Olde Sandwich…

…In pandering to the bridge company, the Three Blind Mice have exposed a crack in Windsor’s armour, one its foes will happily exploit…And if the bridge company were to deliver a quick slam-dunk in its rapidly evolving twinning plans? That could give senior governments an excuse to pull the plug on costly plans for a downriver bridge. Why spend all that money when the bridge has beat them to it? Problem solved. We’re outta here (Gord Henderson, Windsor Star, February 1, 2007).”

However, and I hope I am wrong, it seems that our new Mayor may have been put under pressure and urban chickened out. Why do I say this? Take a look at this and ask yourself whether President Obama would have done what the Mayor did at the beginning of talks:

Dilkens to meet with bridge company as lawsuits pile up

As the Ambassador Bridge company continues to fight the city on a number of legal fronts, Mayor Drew Dilkens said he plans to meet with its representatives before the end of the year.

“You can ignore them and pretend they’ll go away, but as mayor I have a responsibility to deal with them,” Dilkens said Wednesday.

Dilkens rebuffed the bridge company’s overtures to meet during the recent election campaign, but he said he’s since been approached again.

“The first meeting would be to get an understanding of what it is they want,” he said, adding that Windsor and its city council have always been clear about what’s needed ahead of any approvals for zoning or official plan changes. “Show us your plan — what’s your plan?” (Doug Schmidt Windsor Star December 17, 2014)

Of course, the Mayor knows already that the Bridge Company has a plan, one which Edgar would not let Council see fully when their request to extend their delegation time was refused. It was prepared by the University’s Green Corridor group.

Here’s my point. What was the need for Mayor Dilkens to tell Doug Schmidt that he was having a meeting with the Bridge Company? Why would he want to make that public and not keep it secret? All that it achieved was to put pressure on himself from those who do not want any kind of reconciliation with the Bridge Company. I do not get it at all.

I expect that the Mayor told his new Council members about the meeting and he may have been afraid that someone was going to leak it so he decided to publicize it before that happened. Of course, that was a mistake because what happened was that the Windsor Star is now pressuring him to ensure that he does not change from the position put forward by his predecessor, ex-Mayor Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis.

After all what would it say to the Francis Legacy, if Dilkens resolved matters quickly with the Bridge Company. Moreover, the fear would be by the sycophants that a City/Ambassador Bridge Company resolution could mean the end of DRIC.

Now I understand and you should too, dear reader, the need for the Windsor Star Editorial on December 18, 2014 in which the Star viciously attacked Dilkens “Dilkens can’t use newbie status to avoid answering questions” the day after the Bridge Company story came out. It had nothing to do with the Police Department at all but rather was a warning to Dilkens about the border file. After all, he wasn’t a “newbie” but rather:

“Dilkens, who might be new to the chair, but who has eight years of experience as a city councillor, and who knows full well the issues that have plagued the force during his time in office.”

Moreover, the Editorial demanded that Dilkens not give in to the Bridge Company if he wanted to be seen as a “strong” leader:

“the way for a seasoned councillor and new mayor — one who said during the election campaign that he was his own man, determined to make his mark — to respond. This was an opportunity for Dilkens to let the citizens of Windsor know he intended to be a strong leader and run the show.”

What was the Star doing:

“Dilkens needs to learn a lesson from this.”

The lesson, as I wrote in my article, was that the Media is the Government and that Dilkens better knuckle under immediately or else he will get slammed by the Star!

And just to make sure that Dilkens understood it, the Editorial Cartoon on Saturday showed a meeting between Dilkens and the Bridge Company people.

Does this mean that I am pessimistic about what might be accomplished between Dilkens and the Bridge Company? Of course it does. However, is that the end of it for the next 4 years with more bickering between the parties to the economic disadvantage of this area? It could well be.

Is there a way out for our new Mayor? Of course there is but that depends on how much nerve our new Mayor has. All he needs to do is copy what Justin Trudeau did after a columnist for the Sun chain smeared his family:

“Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is refusing to speak with Sun Media until the company responds to his allegation it aired an “offensive” attack against his family.

Sun Media “crossed the line by airing a personal attack on the Trudeau family that was offensive and breached any reasonable measure of editorial integrity,” reads a statement written by Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communications planning…

Trudeau will “not engage” with Sun Media until the matter is resolved, she wrote.

Trudeau told reporters Tuesday that the statement expresses his stance well, but added that Sun Media’s segment was “unacceptable and beyond the bounds of civil discourse.” (CBC News September 23, 2014)

All that Dilkens needs to make clear is that he is going to do what is in the best interest of the people of Windsor and not necessarily what is the best interest of the Windsor Star and the sycophants. He needs to demonstrate that not only will he not give in to threats but that he will truly be his own man and not just be an Edgar 2.0. Moreover, he should make it clear that if the Star continues with their unacceptable criticism of him, then he will “not engage” with reporters and columnists of the Windsor Star.

If he has the nerve and the strength to do that, then I expect that the Star will knuckle under long before Dilkens would considering that there are now other media outlets in town including the Windsor Square!

After all, as the Windsor Star itself said at the end of their Editorial:

“That’s what strong leaders do.”

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Ed Arditti
Ed Arditti is a retired lawyer and living in Tecumseh, Ontario. Email Ed Arditti