CBC Windsor’s municipal affairs columnist Cheryl Collier thinks Mayor Eddie Francis spoke too soon when it comes to a city hall to be shared with the federal government.
“This is maybe a case of the mayor speaking a little bit too early, before a deal was firm,” Collier said. “Perhaps he should have sat back and thought about announcing it later.”
Francis announced on Dec. 2 “a deal in principal” that was to see 400 Public Works and Government Services workers move from the heritage Paul Martin Building and into leased space at new city hall.
“It’s a fair lease,” Francis told reporters on Dec. 2.
“We didn’t know where the fed government sat on this, other than what the mayor said,” Collier said.
“To be clear, there was never a deal with the City of Windsor. In fact, the City never filed a formal proposal at all,” a letter from Minister Diane Finley’s press secretary read, in part.
“Normally Mayor Francis is usually pretty good about covering the potential of a deal going sour,” Collier said.
She used BYD as an example. While Francis announced several dealings with the Chinese electric bus company, a plant never moved here after safety certification was never granted to the company.
“This sounded a little more done,” Collier said of the Paul Martin Building deal. “Obviously it wasn’t done at all.”
The government workers were to move out of the building and the University of Windsor law school was to move in.
“The federal government has been focused on downsizing public service, downsizing their footprint in buildings,” Collier said. “If the government is going to make an investment, they want a political gain out of that. The Windsor area has not been a stronghold for the Conservatives in many, many years. You don’t have that political need to invest [here].
“There were a lot of things that weren’t adding up politically and economically.”
The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association is worried the 400 jobs will leave the core. Collier said it’s possible the jobs will move from the region.
“There’s potential now of maybe those federal workers going elsewhere,” she said. “If it makes economic sense to move them, I’m sure they will. That loss would be huge.”