(WINDSOR, ON) – As the month began, Windsor’s residents learned their city’s unemployment rate had again soared past every community in the nation, to land at 9%. On September 5, a headline in the local paper asked, “What can be done?”
The article offered no real solutions. Nor did it broach the subject of who is responsible.
It rarely points fingers, knowing doing so would implicate the man who, for all practical purposes, orchestrated the once rosy city’s depressing situation.
It is, however, not above hinting by saying the, “… availability of jobs – especially high-paying ones – have withered somewhat in Windsor over the years.”
Who was in charge during the withering other than past failed mayor Eddie Francis?
During his sequence of terms the city’s situation worsened. One of his greatest failures was encouraging an uncaring, anti-business civic administration by actually rewarding it with more powers to behave badly.
Those trying to operate in a city abandoned by common sense suffer at the hands of an autocratic, bureaucratic, and dictatorial administration.
With the administrators in charge, it is doubtful much will ever be done about unemployment or making the city business-friendly. Proof includes the grandstanding of public threats lodged against the Jones company after it hydraulically toppled the smokestack at the former GM transmission plant.
There was no need for public servants to act so poorly. However, with a weak interim mayor, the former ineffective councillor Drew Dilkens, it is par for the course.
His council’s lack of interest in the local economy was also exposed with its slamming Recycling Makes Cents.
The company planned to create nine new jobs and more property taxes. Obviously, a council spending some $21 million to host a minor short swimming event is too busy to worry about employment for its citizens. It even has the mayor parading around with a costly $6,000 childish mascot.
Although neighbours are justifiably concerned about the recycler processing mall waste, there was an easy fix.
The city could relocate the operation to a more suitable location. There are many industrial areas in the city. But, this would mean abandoning the mayor’s chase for the world spotlight.
Apparently his extravagant pursuit of glitzy, costly, onetime events trumps everything else.
The mayor himself, being a loose cannon, is a further impediment to growth. His antics discourage open minded investors. His sarcastic putdown of devout Catholics certainly did not showcase a tolerant city.
His council banning a group of Christians from flying their flag at city hall during a downtown parade was unfathomable.
Punishing organizations willing to bring the masses to town does not create an image of an open and welcoming community.
Add to this the council’s unabashed recklessness.
It demonstrated no abundance of caution, with properly prepared business plans and market studies, before its unbridled spending on many financial misadventures. Its members seem to collectively think their role is to glorify themselves at the expense of taxpayers.
By doing so, they have failed to create a culture open to entrepreneurship and innovation; a situation that seems to permeate the city. Unlike the University of Waterloo, which counts 196 level 1 and 2 spinoff companies, Windsor’s university has produced few, with one of its most famous students, Douglas Fregin, actually relocating to Waterloo to join former Windsor resident Mike Lazaridis, to start Research In Motion.
Today, companies in Waterloo’s David Johnson Research and Technology Park are reported to touch 60% of the world’s gross domestic product.
Windsor has no such park. Of those operating in its downtown business incubator, many compete with already existing businesses. In a city with a declining population, is there a need for more competitors? Time will tell.
Lowering the unemployment rate can only start with a shift in the council’s focus. It must abandon its self-absorption and start helping, not fighting, those trying to create jobs and new property tax revenue.
It also needs to stop wasting resources on costly, poorly thought-out, if thought-out at all, frivolities.
There is no benefit to employment from flash-in-the-pan second tier swim meets and a so-called 20 year-plan that is merely a disjointed bucket list with a $2 billion price tag.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at 8:30 pm every Monday evening and noon every Wednesday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor is broadcast every Monday and Wednesday to the Windsor and Detroit listening area and streamed online at CJAM.