Live City Check-In—One-on-One with Mayor Drew Dilkens, Windsor, ON
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Windsor’s unique geographical and historical context
Windsor’s proximity to the Canada-United States border has played a unique role in the local crisis. Many Windsor residents who travel for work across the border have been impacted by border closure. However, Mayor Dilkins reports that whereas Windsor has the highest unemployment in the country, its recovery has also been better than the provincial and national average.
2. The Spillover Effect
Mayor Dilkens notes the interdependencies between Windsor and Detroit throughout the discussion: “when you see a renaissance in Detroit happening, we are the beneficiaries,” and likewise, “when the U.S. sneezes, we get a cold.” Partnerships across the border are a key component of the City’s roadmap for economic diversification moving forward.
3. Transportation Culture
Windsor was the only municipality in Canada to shut down its transit system, for five weeks in Spring 2020. According to Mayor Dilkens, this was due to insufficient resources to provide necessary sanitization, and a 90% drop in ridership. Mayor Dilkens acknowledged that this decision made the city an outlier, but also noted that as the automotive capital of Canada, and due to the size of the city, he was facing a different decision context than many of his peers across Canada.
4. Outbreaks in the migrant farmworker population
Essex County has with 176 farms, and the largest greenhouse farm area in Canada. The agricultural industry relies on seasonal temporary foreign workers, and outbreaks on farms across the County is one of the greatest COVID-19 crises in the nation. Mayor Dilkens notes that while the local health unit is available as a resource, he looks to other orders of government for leadership, with the federal government responsible for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and the Province responsible for health, labour, and agriculture.
5. Different Levels of Government Responsibility
COVID-19 has exposed municipal finance and governance challenges in Canada’s constitutional arrangement, since municipalities are considered “creatures of the province”. Mayor Dilkens expresses there might be an opportunity to rethink how cities are governed, and that he would like the flexibility to consider what running a city might look like with additional tools and the ability to govern more independently.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary [00:00:15] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe, it’s midday here in Toronto. The traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples Toronto is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis, people from across Turtle Island. And we’re also, Toronto’s covered by Treaty 13, signed with Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams Treaty, signed with multiple Anishinaabe, nations. We always want to remind ourselves that we are on traditional territories across Canada. This is across Canada broadcasting. We have lots of Americans that tune in as well. Hi, neighbors to the south and we are always trying to be cognizant of the implications of history and also the exclusionary practices that often urbanism, municipal planning and urban design have perpetuated to exclude people from participating fully in and what we’re what are designed to be inclusive, we hope. We want to design cities that are inclusive and engaging of all people. And so we always start these broadcasts by reminding ourselves of that. And a lot of the topics and conversation that we’ve been having on these talks, we’re almost up to 50 of them, if you can believe it, and have revolved around the preconditions before COVID things that existed in municipal environments that were challenging. And now COVID has acted as a particle accelerator and made them all. Or in our in our midst, we’re much more aware of the things that we have to actually change in the way that cities are organized and planned and how they’re functioning. So we’re very, very happy always on Fridays to have a devoted time with the mayor. And today we have Mayor Dilkens coming to us from Windsor. I was just teasing him about the view behind his window, which I said, is that Detroit? He said, no, no, that is actually Windsor, Mary. And then he pivoted the screen. You show me where Detroit was. Don’t you know? I’m from London, Ontario. And I was just admiring the holding slide, that beautiful photo that the staff put up of your waterfront. I think people in southwestern Ontario and London, we knew Windsor because, of course, we battled against those high schools in sports all the time. And I used to go to Windsor and when I go to Detroit to go to Windsor. So, and of course, I listen to Windsor Radio and like everybody my age did. And so we’re really, really pleased to have you. You’ve been in the news a lot. Windsor has been in the news a lot, especially recently. I see that the job numbers have come out and you win a rather unenviable prize that I think you’ve got the highest unemployment in the country in Windsor. So I want to talk to you about that. And I want to just hear from you, your perspective on the challenges you’ve been facing during COVID. And as we continue to adjust, I guess, to whatever the future holds. Before you answer that, I’ll just say that we encourage people to come out into the chat and engage with us on the questions you have, you can always let us know where you’re coming from. It’s always nice for us to see who’s watching or participating. And you can ask questions of the mayor. I will watch for them and I’ll steer them into the chat. We always encourage people to be respectful on the chat because we publish the chat. We videotape these and lots and lots of people watch them in the middle of the night when they have nothing to do. They watch our CityTalks, which is great. We can also participate on social media with hashtag CityTalk and everything that goes on the chat is published. So we really foster an open dialog on these things, so. Mayor Dilkens, welcome to a hot day. I wonder if it’s as hot in Windsor it’s probably hotter than it is here in Toronto. And we’ll hear from other people across the country about the temperatures there. So talk to us about Windor’s experience and what you’ve been and wrestling with.
Mayor Dilkens [00:03:50] Yeah, well, thanks for having me, Mary. It’s my pleasure to be here today. And it is a hot day in the city of Windsor is southernmost city in all of Canada.
[00:03:56] And certainly, you know, you raise the topic of COVID and how cities are working their way through this very difficult time and trying to find our new normal and get our legs back under us. And certainly the city of Windsor is no different. So we’ve had a number of challenges, probably amplified in some way because of the nature of our our geography, where we are along the border being the biggest Windsor and Detroit, the two largest urban areas this close to one another on the other side of Canada, U.S. border. And so our largest employer is Fiat Chrysler, where they make the Chrysler Pacifica and the Dodge Caravan here in the city of Windsor. And that just stopped like many businesses, halted overnight. Here is a very complex supply chain. We’re on both sides of the border. The average parts that go into a car before it rolls off the final assembly line cross the border six, eight times. And so all of that traffic, all of that activity sort of stopped overnight. And, you know, because of the major spin off from an OEM to the rest of the economy, it also has a very direct impact that’s felt very immediately, which plays itself out into the numbers you referenced with respect to unemployment in the city. And so the numbers are still not great. We can still continue to climb our way back. But the positive sign that I took away today is that our recovery is slightly better than the national average and the provincial average, and so there’s a pocket of optimism as we work our way back through a very difficult time.
Mary [00:05:23] That’s interesting.
Mayor Dilkens [00:05:23] And then as I look at my window here at off screen, I’m looking at Caesars Windsor, which is another one of our largest employers. Another one of our big employers here, over two thousand employees. This was the first casino, a gaming operation in the entire province of Ontario. Over two thousand employees and of course, at least a full third of the attendance of that casino comes from across the border on a daily basis, comes from the greater Detroit area. And so that operation completely closed. Which, of course, has an impact on municipal operations because we are the recipient of a twelve million dollar annual dividend, give or take through that operations. So you have a lot of folks who are not working. Pathway forward is uncertain. And even if you’re looking at a sort of a Las Vegas rebound and what they did to get back on their feet when they reopen, it really has about half the gaming floor opened, it has about half the employees returning. And it’s a much different gaming experience. And so things will change. And then we see it happening already. And then I think just sort of round out some of the complexity in this region, although not really city proper, it certainly has a very strong city impact, which is why I’ve been very vocal. And that’s with respect to what we’re seeing happen with these temporary foreign workers or the migrant workers here in Essex County. And although our city has very few farms, we have a few farms in the southernmost part from land that was annexed from an adjacent town a number of years ago. But but all of the farms. Hundred and seventy six of them are located in Essex County. It’s probably you know, it’s been called a crisis by Patty Hajdu. It’s been recognized as the worst outbreak in Canada happening here down in Essex County. And so that adds a level of complexity because a lot of the folks that we’re talking about travel back and forth between the city and it has an impact on some businesses when there is a contamination or positive case found, and they do contact tracing. And so lots of things going on here, but pleased that our largest employer is back in business. Traffic is resuming. And even when I look at the border itself, we are back in terms of commercial traffic to about 80 percent of where we were pre-COVID. So that’s a very, very strong sign that manufacturing is on the rebound and that that are things things are starting to – everyone’s getting their legs under them and trying to find that new normal and things are are starting to shape up in the right direction.
Mary [00:07:42] As you say, you know, someone on the chat’s just offered that to these mayors sessions are so useful because it makes clear that no one, no two cities are the same in Canada and everywhere. You have some shared challenges, obviously. But then you have these unique challenges. And I would say, as you just pointed out, Windsor has a bunch of unique characteristics. The fact that you are so inextricably linked to Detroit and I’m interested how what what Windsorites’ reaction is when they see these maps of the incidents of COVID in the United States just continuing to rise. Now, granted, it’s the the incidents at the moment is in the south. But does it has it raised a level of anxiety with 80 percent of the commercial traffic back? That to me, would if I were living in Windsor, that would bring anxiety for me, because it just means that there are more and more shipments of people and things potentially carrying the virus. So is there an added level of anxiety around? Sort of it’s a two edged sword. The border’s open in that way. But, you know.
Mayor Dilkens [00:08:41] Yeah. So this whole experience has been very, very interesting. And if I go back as I as I worked my way to answer your question directly, let me go back to March.
Mary [00:08:50] Sure.
Mayor Dilkens [00:08:51] Off just about like what happened in March and and the complexities of the situation as the border closed here. I always tell people because they, I don’t know they quite understand it. But, Mary, if you came to the city of Windsor today and I said let’s go for lunch and the border was open, we could go from city hall through the tunnel over to my favorite Thai restaurant in Detroit in about nine minutes.
Mary [00:09:13] Yeah,.
Mayor Dilkens [00:09:14] With an access card. Nine minutes from door to door. That’s that’s how close it is.
Mary [00:09:19] Very integrated. Yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:09:20] Highly integrated. And that that that plays itself out in terms of the job market. It plays it out in terms of the complexities you see when the border is closed and family relationships and my own family included both sides of the border where they can’t see each other. And you’re missing different types of events. So it has a unique effect. Some of the decisions that you see happening have a unique effect down here and in March.
Mary [00:09:41] How many thousand people go from Windsor to Detroit for to work every day?
Mayor Dilkens [00:09:46] So this is, so in March what would happen. You have probably four or five thousand people a day who cross the border just to for employment over in the state of Michigan. And so in our water was closed. Essential workers only. We saw Detroit become a hotspot, setting up field hospitals, in Cobo Center. You know, that could happen so quickly. And the rise was so dramatic over there that it was you were thankful that we had this river separating Windsor from Detroit. But the nurses and the healthcare professionals, twelve hundred twelve to fifteen hundred of whom cross the border every day. Live in my community. Cross the border to work as nurses and physicians and respiratory therapists and the whole gamut of medical services. They were taking a beating because there was the thought that these folks were the vector for transmission.
Mary [00:10:33] Yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:10:34] This is coming back to Ontario when in fact, the data never played itself out. There were more local health care workers becoming infected than those coming from across the border.
Mary [00:10:43] Really.
Mayor Dilkens [00:10:44] It was it was saying, you know, when you go into a hospital there, they’re all wearing PPE. They’re all taking the best precautions that we’re taking here. The standards are, you know, for the most part, at least equal in terms of the protection that healthcare professionals take. And so they really got hammered in terms of their crossing the border. And I would say discriminated against some some of these nurses when they came back where they weren’t allowed to go in stores. You couldn’t go into LCBO, you know, they’d ask the question, have you been out of Canada the last 14 days? They’d say yeah. Sorry, you can’t come in the store. They’d have to find someone else to go in the store to buy a bottle of wine. And so.
Mary [00:11:19] It’s very Canadian of us just saying that that’s what that’s the measure we’re going to use is we couldn’t even get into the LCBO. Oh wow!
Mayor Dilkens [00:11:29] On one hand, you had people talking about how these folks are heroes and what they’re doing was so heroic. And the pictures of them wearing N95 masks and taking it off and the face was just, you know, embedded with the straps that they had worn for a 12 hour shift. And then on the other hand, they couldn’t access basic services, notwithstanding the fact that they were taking all the proper protection and, you know, going to work. And so that played itself out over the course of, you know, I would say it took several weeks and then it finally dissipated. And then, you know, you you you start looking at the broader economy here and who’s allowed to cross. And certainly the agricultural sector is large in Essex County. A lot of jobs rely on this very important sector. And for perspective, Essex County has the most amount of greenhouse land, farmland under glass, greenhouses in the entire country. We’re actually second only to Holland. And so it’s it’s quite an industry. And in fact, if you go to Costco almost anywhere in Canada, or the United States, if you were in that in the fresh produce aisle at Costco, there’s a ninety nine percent chance, whether you’re in Hawaii or whether you’re in Toronto or anywhere, you’re going to pick up cucumbers, tomatoes or peppers that come from Essex County. And so it’s an important it’s an important point that they’ve be allowed to cross and continue to serve. Make sure grocery stores have food. And so, you know, I don’t know that there’s a greater concern because the border is still closed. So any of sort of the discretionary travel, if you want to go over and have fun over in Detroit and go out to eat or shop. None of that’s possible right now. All the professional sports, a theater, sort of the beauty of living here is that you have this small, you know, two hundred forty thousand people, sort of small Canadian city feel. But you have access literally 10 minutes away to all the major stuff that happens in a city like Toronto, all the major sports and entertainment and shopping. And so all of that sort of fun stuff is is done. It’s not you’re not really missing a whole lot by having having the border close. And so I don’t know that there’s a greater concern today than there was back in March. In fact, that I probably think folks here look at the United States and say their population is about 10 times the size of ours here in Canada. But their COVID their new COVID case count about a hundred times higher. Yeah, we know. I think all of us who, you know, have half a brain in our head would say we’ve just spent a hundred plus days going through what we’ve gone through, doing what we’ve done, followed the precautions of the best advice and wash hands and distance and isolate them on and on and on. We’ve done all that to get over a hump, to flatten the curve and get over it. We don’t want to go back. I don’t want to do the rest of the summer into the fall. I want to know what I’ve done has actually made a difference. And so if keeping the border closed for a period of time is the pathway to make sure that we continue to keep Canadians safe. I certainly support the prime minister and the deputy prime minister in that decision. And I know, in fairness, they have reached out. The deputy prime minister has reached out and she said to me, what if we were? I said, you her the the the the exemptions you made for immediate family was helpful, but there’s still pressure. She said, well, what are the next incremental steps from your perspective? So we’ve set up some ideas up for them to consider. And there are still some family situations. And I said myself included, but simple thing where my brother married a lady from Michigan. They live over in Michigan. They have two children. My niece is getting married, supposed to get married June the 12th. The borders that she scrapped the wedding and said, I’ll I’ll move it to when the time we think we’d be safer. So she’s moved to August 7th and come hell or high water, she’s gonna get married. And so I can’t cross the border to get there. But you can fly. My mom and dad are going to drive up to Toronto, fly from Toronto to Detroit. Rent a car.
Mary [00:15:15] Oh, my.
Mayor Dilkens [00:15:17] And then they have to isolate for 14 days when they come home. But it’s just an example of the type of effort my mother has said she’s in her late 70s. I’m not going to miss my granddaughter’s wedding. And I totally respect it. And she’s willing to go to that extent and that expense. So there’s some there’s some reasonable tweaking at the border. I think that, you know, if you empower the border guards with some discretion, that they can deal with these types of situations, recognizing that whether you fly home or whether you drive across a land border, the best advice and the requirements should still remain that you have to isolate for 14 days no matter how you come home.
Mary [00:15:50] Yeah. I mean, it’s just a whole as you say, it’s going to be interesting. I would anticipate you gave me some really interesting lessons that are going to come out of Windsor because you’re in a very particular circumstance, as you suggested, your your your primary gravitational pull is to a city that’s actually not in the same country, but it’s that it’s nine minutes away where you have your favorite Thai restaurant. So. And as you say, thousands of people working. And I know this statistic about the car manufacturing. I mean, how integrated the sector is from my previous life. And I was I was involved in supporting Ontario as it was it was renegotiating NAFTA. And I know how these supply chains the question is whether these supply chains are going to have to fundamentally really alter based on this extraordinary locked down experience we’ve had. And we started it at the very beginning of COVID that we we were aware that municipal governments were going to have to start taking all sorts of actions and that it was hard to know what everybody was doing. So we started something called City Watch Canada, which is populated still daily and checked daily by volunteers across the country just to show measures that municipal governments are doing. Sixty two cities up there, including yours. And um one of the things that we compare is who made decisions, to do what and when. And we think it’s going to be really important archive and look back and say, oh, well, they decided to do this. What was the impact? So one of the most controversial decisions that you made was to close your transit system. And I’m fascinated for you to tell us what was the rationale for that. And, you know, looking back, was it the right thing to do? What are the implications now? And how are you sort of anticipating the future of transit for the city?
Mayor Dilkens [00:17:21] Yes. Well, let me say, I don’t know a single politician, myself included, whoever knocked on doors and, you know, spoke to folks saying, I want to make your life more difficult and I’m trying to shut down our economy, you know.
Mary [00:17:35] Yeah I’m sure.
Mayor Dilkens [00:17:36] And so no one ever wants to be in the position that we were in trying to look at these decisions and do what we each think. Each mayor will make the decision that they think is right for their community. And so when I looked at what was happening in my community, when I looked at the the uncertainty, when I looked at the possibility for spread, when I looked at at the heart of it, it was about saving lives and what could I do to save lives. And there is no doubt that we could not provide the proper level of sanitization in the busses that were there were a number of factors, a number of things going on which just said to me, you know what, let’s take a pause. Traffic is down more than 90 percent. Ridership is down more than 90 percent, I should say, on the transit system. Let’s take a pause and people will find their own way. Businesses are closed. People will find their own way. We need some support. We worked, you know, a conversation with the hospital to say, talk to me about the number of folks that would have bus passes from the hospital. How do we – lots of conversations before the decision was made. Ultimately, I said we’re going to shut it down.
Mary [00:18:40] And it must have you must have weighed up the pros and cons. But it’s interesting that you’re I think you’re one of the only mayors to do this. Right. So I’m interested. Did you did. Do we have a kind of. I don’t know. Do we have a culture of that exchange in amongst mayors where you could have called the London mayor and said, well, what are you going to do? And I don’t I don’t know how much you guys collaborated or did you feel like you were really on your own with trying to figure out what the right thing was for your particular city?
Mayor Dilkens [00:19:06] A little bit of both. So certainly, you know, I called we provide some transit services to adjacent municipalities as well as so I called those mayors to say, here’s what I’m thinking and here’s why I’m thinking it. And I had their full support. So the towns adjacent to us that we served full support of those towns in making that decision. To answer your question, I did not call other mayors and other municipalities, but we have all we each have each other’s phone numbers and they are all responsive. To the question, I’ve never had an issue getting a response back from a mayor. They’ve all been great. But we were, as I like to say, in the soup, trying to figure it out.
Mary [00:19:41] Yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:19:42] That was the right thing to do. And I get that the decision was controversial among some of the folks in the community. But by and large, I would have to say, you know the final analysis on that decision, that plus 70 percent of the population agreed that it was the right thing, including many transit users who actually sent emails to say, I ride the bus. But I think you did the right thing.
Mary [00:20:04] So what how have essential workers been getting to and from work and with no transit option?
Mayor Dilkens [00:20:09] So we were closed, I think, for about five weeks. And and so folks had to make other arrangements. And what happened is we had a Facebook group get set up with fifteen hundred people who joined to help support seniors who needed groceries and pharmacies, of course, provide delivery. But these folks were willing to pick up and deliver as well. There is no doubt the decision, like every decision that happened by every mayor and every city across Canada. It was imperfect in some way. There was no way that you could do something that made every single person happy. Frankly, you never can. In the good days and bad days, you know what’s even more difficult. And so when I looked at the data, the decrease in ridership, I said, I know 90 percent of the passengers aren’t taking the bus anyway. We had an issue with the those experiencing homelessness as we had closed all the libraries, community centers, arenas and pools. So when they left the shelter system, they had nowhere to go. Of course, busses were free and we had situations where a lot of folks in that population were getting on the bus system, on the transit system, riding around all day. And then, you know, for many of them, there’s reasons that they are homeless. A lot of it relates to drug addiction. So people shooting up on the busses and passing out on the busses, which caused alarm with passengers. There were a whole series of things going on. And I would say that no single thing was the catalyst for making the decision to shut it down. But when I put everything together and said if my job here is to save lives. Let’s take a pause and see how you see how long we can do this. Not trying to set a record, but what’s the reasonable time? And if all of a sudden things change and we have to amend, I can cancel an emergency order in 30 seconds, you know, and yeah.
Mary [00:21:53] I mean, I think the dilemma for you is that it makes you an outlier because as you know, the challenges you just identified about people that are homeless or without place to go or have particular are affiliated with sort of street life that’s been happening in very large transit systems as well. I guess it started of it maybe isn’t an indicator. I mean, just as an outsider is it an indicator that the Windsor economy isn’t that dependent on transit in that way because you couldn’t treat, other cities, have not been able to economically face disrupting their transit service because their workers would it would have really had a very bad impact on the elements of the economy that had to keep functioning. So Toronto hasn’t, Edmondton, New York, hasn’t you know. And so that’s why I’m suggesting it. Is it something particular to Windsor that where you felt that when you weighed up the trade offs, you could sacrifice, you sacrificed a public service, I guess, which is why some of your constituents, I suspect, are feeling particularly violated by it, right.
Mayor Dilkens [00:22:51] Yeah. And so that’s a great question. I think the short answer is a city like Windsor and the use of transit by people in the city of Windsor is different than in a big city like Toronto. You know, we are the automotive capital of Canada. So people still on the busiest day in the city of Windsor. During heart of rush hour, I can get from the furthest end of the city to the other side of the city in 15 to 20 minutes during rush hour. Then the worst of times it would take me 20 minutes. Right. I don’t have the same sort of vehicular pressures that you have on the roads in the GTA, which force people to seek other forms of transportation that are going to be more reliable, you know, in terms of timing.
Mary [00:23:31] No, I mean, the dilemma there, though, is I mean, I you know, I live in the belly of this beast a little bit. The dilemma, though, as you suggest, is that we know from a climate perspective and from an equity perspective that we really do fundamentally want people to be in cars less. But as you say, your economy is completely tied up with that industry. So is it is it just sort of. Is it a very difficult mindset to actually change in a city like Windsor right next to the Motor City? Like, is it just not going to be possible ultimately?
Mayor Dilkens [00:24:02] I don’t know that. I don’t think it’s impossible to change. I think you see City Council taking steps to to move forward on an active transportation master plan, a transit master plan. The two are married in some ways and the earliest are coordinated in some ways with the goal of trying to provide better infrastructure for people to consider alternate forms of transportation.
Mary [00:24:24] I mean, the other manifestation of this, which is I think, again, where the uniqueness of Windsor would be, is that I know you have a hospital proposal that has been criticized and in many ways it reflects the same, I think the same kind of set of values because the new hospital is actually outside of the core. Right. So it still it builds on kind of a car dependent economic model. And I know we have had resistance on that, too.
Mayor Dilkens [00:24:52] Yeah, I mean, it’s really interesting because what we’re talking about building is a regional a regional hospital. These programs, a two billion dollar build. And of course, the rules in Ontario is that you have to come up. The community has to come up with 10 percent of the costs of the hospital to see it move forward. So we have to come up 12 million dollars as our cost here towards this proposal because it’s a regional hospital, we require cooperation, cooperation from seven other adjacent municipalities to be able to come up with this huge amount of money. So if I was to say I want the hospital in downtown Windsor, you know, someone in Windsor would think that’s a great idea. I think it would be almost impossible to get municipalities in Essex County to support a 100 million dollar share for a hospital that’s not seen to be accessibile to people who are funding the hospital. And so, you know, in a nutshell, a very extensive process was undertaken to come up with a site selection, extremely extensive. I mean, even hired like a fairness adviser to make sure that all every step of the way it was being done in a transparent way that, you know, like I can’t think of how they could have made the process better than they did, quite frankly. And this was the location that the committee actually approved. And this is the location that city council got behind and said, we will fund our 10 percent share. County council, got behind and said we will also fund our 10 percent share. And now we have an agreement in record time. We were funding our share before we even moved to the next stage. That’s how it was a region.
Mary [00:26:25] So it is it is going to be a challenge, though, obviously, to get transit to it. Right. So we’re back to this.
Mayor Dilkens [00:26:31] It won’t be a challenge and we’ve made it clear. But some of the some of the opponents of this location have put forth a narrative that there is no transit to the location today. And we’re saying, well, of course, there’s not there’s no reason to have transit service going by a location where there is no business, there’s no there there’s no hospital there. But we know this is going to take about 10 years, eight to 10 years for us to realize the full construction go through the entire process. Don’t worry. We will figure out the routing to make sure we can get people to and from the hospital system in time for the opening of the system.
Mary [00:27:02] It, tell me about the sort, of in terms of your mandate and what you’re trying to accomplish as a mayor and the economic development of the region, as you suggest, because the hospital can appreciate as part of the economic plan. And you mentioned Caesars. You’ve mentioned the auto industry. Where are the sort of signs of new economic development? I know you thought you had a good university there. Got a community college. Are you are you seeing the possibility to build a more diverse economic base? What would that look like? Are there are there are little signs in neighborhoods of things that are starting to percolate to tend to sort of give you a sense, oh, there might be some new development, artists, things like that. What do you see?
Mayor Dilkens [00:27:42] And so a great question. For so long, people have just seen us as the automotive capital of Canada and they haven’t in Windsor. That is probably a very outdated. We really actually like here on the ground and we’re working hard to try and change that impression that isn’t always so positive of our community. And so I’ll go back to, I think, December the 3rd. I was the first the inaugural meeting of city council after this last election. And I did my inaugural speech and I had started typing a document to type in the speech that frankly, you know, I hate even to admit this to you, but it was the type of speech to sort of the rah rah speech that any Mayor in any city could actually take deliver. Just change the name from Windsor to London to whatever city. And it would 90 percent of it would be completely applicable that, you know, we’re great, we’re working together. And all this is important in the right context. But I started writing that and then General Motors made the decision to close the plant in Oshawa. And the the the the reporting on that and the community sentiment and the response from the community of a plant that had been there, I think for the better part of like 60 or 70 years, that community. And I took the speech that I was writing and I just literally hit delete and said, I will not I cannot deliver that speech. I have to be honest with the community in terms of what I see happening now. And so I delivered a speech that was all about our largest employers, Fiat Chrysler. What if Windsor received the news that Oshawa received? What would we do? Because I know that the economic impact of that type of decision and I have no sense that it’s coming. It just happened here. We need to have a conversation and prepare this economy to be resilient. And we’ve been working on it for a number of years already. But I really wanted to have that stark, like boom like I wanted to hit people with it and have them think about what this would mean for our community. And the impacts are devastating, like they’re absolutely devastating if this were to happen. And so this started a process and we’re in the middle of a process now. We’re not even in the middle where we started and we got sort of sidetracked a little bit because the person we hired took a job as a president of a community college. So we had to go back to the starting point again. And we’re at the short strokes now of getting someone real good who is going to help us through and help counsel the community through an exercise that will lay out a roadmap for economic diversification. And we know that this will take time. We know this will take money. We know that one hundred percent, it has to be connected and embedded deeply in the university culture in the community college culture, so that education is at the heart of what we’re doing. I really believe that and we have to put an eye to our partners north of the border in Detroit. That that, you know, we haven’t necessarily had the same eye on before. So when you ask me if I see some changes, some optimism, some signs of diversification happening. I do. And I’ll just point out as an example, going through the exercise with the city of Detroit, to bid on Amazon’s HQ to write the proposal. We did it with the city of Detroit. It was probably the most, well they told us it was the most unique proposal because we were the only two sort of cross-border municipalities that applied. And we talked about one campus, two countries. We showed how you can build a building on either side of the river, link it with a cable car, and you can have the best of the Canadian talent, the best of U.S. talent. And if you need to go across for a meeting, no problem. You know, it’s easy enough to do. And so we weren’t selected. We weren’t short listed there.
[00:31:16] And at the end of it, it was a super compelling proposal like I was. So I always knew the good things about my own city. And I sort of tacitly knew the good things about what’s happening in Detroit. But when it was reduced to writing and stitched together in one document and looked at from a regional perspective, it was it was deeply compelling to me. And so after we were not shortlisted, I got a phone call from Dan Gilbert, who owns Quicken Loans, the largest, largest mortgage broker. And he was the one who led the Detroit response on the on the proposal. And he says, you know, Drew, why? I asked myself, why am I not doing what we’re trying to sell to Amazon to do? It’s a great question. So that led to him taking a facility in downtown Windsor. They’re moving up to 150 people into this facility and it’s to support the US business. It’s not even they’re not even licensed to sell mortgages in Canada today. And so these are anybody said to me in the course of this conversation is I need to hire 10000 like a hired 10000 programmers, developers and software engineers tomorrow. I would. I just can’t find them. And so he is taking the model that we proposed to Amazon, implementing a micro version of it here. And we will be the beneficiaries and the folks that he has moved over here. These are very well-paying jobs. These are in demand, well-paying jobs. And for us, it gives us a chance to point to know someone who’s taken the leap. It gives us a chance to talk to folks who are at the University of Waterloo or other universities, the University of Windsor, wherever they are, and say, hey, listen, there are opportunities here. You don’t have to think of just Silicon Valley or just New York City. You should look at Detroit because it’s a pretty cool setup where you can you can live in Canada. You know, you can have this American experience with your employer, literally. You know, you can see them building just across the river here. And you have the best of both worlds right here because you have access to this major market. And so we’re working on that. That is already here today. They continue to expand the business, which is great. And we’re trying to to parlay that experience into something that will be even more fruitful and take us down sort of that that high tech path. And, you know, it’s always difficult to get there first. Once you get there first then you can start building with two, three, four and five. And so as we work through the process to come up with that economic diversification plan, I think what’s happening in Detroit and the resurgence and renaissance that we’re seeing in Detroit, I think it’s an area that we can talk about Canada’s benefits and the talent pool and pipeline that we have here and try and bring them closer to this major market and be part of this region, which is actually like for me, it’s super exciting being here. There’s so much energy across the border, which which just you always say when you know, when when the U.S. sneezes, we get a cold. And so when they’re prospering, when when you see a renaissance in Detroit happening, we are the beneficiaries, you know, in a in a good way with that that activity going on.
Mary [00:34:20] It’s interesting, as you suggest, the renaissance in Detroit, I was in New Orleans after Katrina. And when I left there to go to New York and when I was in New York, you know, Detroit then started to collapse. And there was lots of comparisons that to try to basically suffered a very long Katrina. And it was it was eventually unable to sustain, as you know, an economy that was dependent on an a monocultural lay on one industry. And you’re kind of, as you suggest, in the shadow of that, you haven’t had the massive collapse that they’ve had. But is it is it interesting to you to see how their actually recovering because they’re recovering I think in a really granular way. They’re really supporting local development. They’re investing in the downtown. They’re investing in local neighborhoods. Do you think that you can you anticipate that you’ll be in a play? This is part of that critique to you about some of the other decisions you’ve made, is that somehow it’s not putting a priority on the downtown and on your core. And I guess I mean, how do you navigate with your council? Because presumably they had views too.
Mayor Dilkens [00:35:21] Well, I mean, that, you know, that the the notion that we’re not investing in the downtown of the cause is complete and utter nonsense.
Mary [00:35:28] No, I’m sure I understand. I’m not suggesting you’re not. But I. But I’m just interested. Can you make it a priority and can you deliver the consensus of council to do that and to make that you’re your?
Mayor Dilkens [00:35:38] So the interesting part that you raise is actually the development of the understanding of what’s going on in Detroit and how it’s happening. And so everyone is quick to point to Detroit and the success that they’re having. And we should have, you know, when we spent a lot of time talking about the way Detroit does a parking garage, you know, and we should we should try and emulate our parking garages to be like Detroit’s parking garages. And I said, OK, guys, we are charging. I think it’s like there was like nine dollars a day to park in our parking garage. They’re charging 30 US.
Mary [00:36:07] Wow.
[00:36:09] So when you have that type of revenue. Yeah. You can paint the whole garage and hire artists to come and do like you can do sort of cool things that you’re seeing when you’re willing to actually make the investment to charge the money that they’re collecting. That helps make the investment possible. And so what’s happened in Detroit is largely organically done through developers and successful billionaires like Dan Gilbert, where they said, you know what? The prices we want we want to see something good happen in downtown Detroit. They came in and they bought property, great property, I might add, at super depressed values. And then they spent millions of dollars moving their own businesses downtown, buying buildings that used to be commercial buildings or residential buildings. Again, that had seen much better days. They bought them, renovated them. So now they’re also the landlord for their staff who are working in their businesses. And and so it has been it’s been an incredible thing to watch. The speed at which has happened has been incredible, having lived here my entire life and have, you know, spent lots of time in downtown Detroit, the speed of the turnaround is incredible. And so when Gilbert came in and made the investment, then you had Pensky and then you brought in other folks as well who just sort of swirled around all of them, you know, with a billion dollars in their pocket or a lot of money, successful businessmen. And they’re the ones who actually led the recovery of downtown Detroit. It wasn’t the city of Detroit. It was not the state of Michigan. It was not the Federal government of the United States. It was businessmen who put their money where their mouth is, moved, bought buildings, moved their staff downtown. And the city, what the city did is they really coordinated municipal infrastructure where to help offset and support those businesses. So they redid roads in front of the places where these guys were buying. And that way it started. Look nice. Right. I mean, there was there was a coordination of the activity. But the city the city played the right role for a city to play. The businessmen play the right role for themselves. And now they’re reaping the benefit, which is which is completely appropriate risk.
Mary [00:38:08] And the dilemma we’ve got, of course, is that we don’t have that kind of population of billionaires that just decide, hey, I’m going to invest in whatever city. It is harder when we have a few billionaires, but they’re not actually I don’t think they’re in Detroit unless you’re hiding them. So let’s talk a little bit about the regional nature of what what your governance arrangement is. I think it’s a curious thing. You know, cities don’t have any kind of constitutional credibility, shall we say, you’re creatures of the province. You’re there saying, I’m actually navigating a region. I’m trying to deal with them economically. I’m trying to do with health care planning with as a region. How have you navigated that? And what is your fiscal position right now in terms of are you going to be running? What’s your sort of burn rate in terms of your own fiscal position because of COVID? And just talk to us a little bit about the constraints that you’re operating in. Because of the ways in which cities are creatures of the province here in Canada.
Mayor Dilkens [00:39:01] So it’s always nice to be referred to as a creature.
Mary [00:39:05] Yes, I suppose, yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:39:07] The Constitution says municipalities are creatures of the province. And so we’re we’re in many ways very reliant on their support and must align. Out of necessity, must align our own priorities to make sure that they’re in line with theirs. If you hope to get funding and that’s that’s not dissimilar to Federal government priorities as well. And so from our perspective, just on the on the on the burn rate in the budget, we’ve projected a budget variance of about 52 million dollars through the end of the year. Just one real practical example. We receive about twelve million dollars annually from the casino by virtue of their operation. We get a percentage of their revenue. And so that whole thing is closed down. So we will get zero this quarter. Our airport is closed. The million dollar dividend they give, that’s dependent on passengers and bums on seats, on aircraft and landing fees. So that’ll be zero. You know, every month that it’s that it’s closed. Our tunnel. We own our half of the Windsor Detroit tunnel. That’s a huge revenue stream. Traffic volumes are down about 90 plus percent. So, you know, you just think of all the different business operations that a municipality would have and the revenues are down, but expenses are up for things like PPE and other services services. So at the end of the day, 52 million dollar hole, we’ve been able to find some savings internally, which has brought that number down to about 30 million dollars. And that’s really when we look at our request of the federal and provincial governments for support. That would be our number, just under 30 million dollars, twenty nine point six or seven million. Is this the actual precise amount.
Mary [00:40:40] So where did you find the savings? Was it in layoffs or how did it where did just.
Mayor Dilkens [00:40:44] Little bit of both. So there was actually a sort of a list of things that we went through. But yeah, actually having some employees on layoff actually helped us save money. You know, we had a couple of municipal indoor pools. We drain them. So we didn’t have the operating costs of running those. Of course, when you have facilities closed, there’s less operating costs inside the facilities. Interesting things like even benefits like green shield benefits for health care that people aren’t going to the dentist when the dentist is closed or we’re not having to pay the claims and we’re we’re projecting about a three million dollar savings because people just weren’t able to use the benefits for which they were provided. And so it’s a good variance in our favor. But there’s a whole laundry list of things we went through sort of line by line, looking at chances to opportunities to find savings to lower the 52 million dollar amount. But from our perspective, a 30 million dollar hole would be, you know, if you were just if you were going to use the property tax system to offset that hole, you’d need to raise taxes by seven and a half percent. Not completely impractical. We can’t do it. And frankly, talking to mayors across the country, we’re all in the same boat where it’s just it’s impossible to fill the hole without federal and provincial support. And this is legitimately, legitimately that that saying where you know that the feds have the money, the provinces have the jurisdiction of the cities have the problems, that that really is in play here, that we are the ones with the holes and there’s no chance for us to to make it up with our taxing authority, which is the property tax. We need support from feds and province. Otherwise there would have to be widespread cutbacks or huge property tax increase, neither of which I think would be appropriate.
Mary [00:42:27] All I mean, in addition to the sadness about your transit being closed down as it was, you know, not great. The closed pools. Right. Just not in the weather that we’ve got right this minute. And that these are things that make cities livable. And if we can’t provide them. So going forward, Mayor, what do you say? I mean, they can give you. I don’t know. I’m sure you get the same questions that I get. Journalists say, well, is it that we want the government to bail out cities? And I always reply, you don’t know. It’s not bailing out cities. You’re actually providing essential services that make life livable. So it it’s not. But what do you think ultimately is the answer? Like, if we can get some kind of new. If you get some kind of relief. That’s one thing. But do you need new revenue tools going forward?
Mayor Dilkens [00:43:09] Yeah, there’s been a. So we definitely need relief to deal with the immediate situation. Forward to 2021, 2022. Contemplating, you know, what it looks like moving forward because one time relief will get us through this year, moving into next year. I’m not sure how many people are going to fly. I’m not sure who’s going cross the border and I’m not sure what the casino revenue is going to look like. So, you know, these these deficits are material. And, you know, I, I, I actually don’t know what the future holds in terms of that’s the thing if there’s so much uncertainty as a result of COVID. None of us are just sure what the what the future looks like. But the discussion of revenue tools is one that has been brought up many times over the years. And I think I would prefer to have the option with extra taxing authority, not meaning that I have to use it. But I’d like have the ability to consider what running a city would look like with additional tools. And, you know, when I look at the city of Toronto, there are there are some things that their act gives them, some tools that their act gives them that I think may be appropriate. And there may be others, which I’m not sure from a Windsor context that the public would support here. You know, that it would be an interesting conversation with council and the community to see, you know, what they would want to see happen. But I would like to have the ability to have a little more flexibility than we have today. And I think, you know, like you said, we’re creatures of the province. But I think we are mature levels of government in terms of one hundred twenty five years. A hundred, twenty seven years. So you kind of know what we’re doing. You know, we have our finger on the pulse of the people here. We’ve shown to be responsible. We have an 850 fifty million dollar budget. We’re not some little dunk like that. Like it’s appropriate to start if we can’t change the Constitution. Let’s start figuring out how to give municipalities more responsibility to govern themselves and become a little more independent.
[00:45:01] Yeah, I mean, there’s always this this notion to about growth, taxes, that as you. So there’s not much incentive for municipal government to do things that boost the economy because you don’t actually get a share of it, although this is why the question would be, should there be a point off the sales tax? Retail sales tax? Or should there even be a point of consumption tax? Because the property tax is not a progressive tax, etc.. And I think, you know, it’s interesting, as a as a resident, I don’t say citizen, because if lots of people living in cities, in cities that are are not technically citizens, but as a resident, it’s difficult because you don’t. If something isn’t functioning well, you don’t know who to hold accountable. So, for instance, housing, when we a number of us get concerned, there isn’t adequate, affordable housing. It’s very difficult to know which level of government to actually hold accountable to that. So the flip would be if you were, if municipalities were in effect, able to collect more revenue through other tools, then I could hold you accountable for how I could hold more directly than right now if I come to you and say this is a problem. Often municipal officials will say, well, it’s not my look and I don’t have the money. It’s the province or it’s the feds or right?
Mayor Dilkens [00:46:08] And I guess just to puncture what you’re saying, I mean, this this conversation that we’ve been having across the world, frankly, over the last month or so about defunding the police.
Mary [00:46:17] Yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:46:18] Well, I presented that notion. And the idea is and maybe in the U.S. context, it makes sense, but I’m not even sure. But but from from an Ontario context, the Canadian context, you know, the way the distribution of power sort of waterfall and cascade down here, you could municipalities are responsible for the funding of their police service. So if I defund police, you know, the narrative that’s been put out is that somehow I should be funding social supports or mental health. I mean, it’s really what I’m hearing. And health is actually almost entirely federal. And until it really falls out of the provincial head of government to deliver those services. And so it’d be really awkward for the municipality to say, OK, I’m going to take money out of from the property tax base that we funded police with and then move into a provincial sphere or federal sphere. Even though the same thing applies here, you know.
Mary [00:47:08] Yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:47:08] But jurisdiction and then the problem is on the streets of the city. And so that’s why, you know, there needs to be a system where there is, you know, probably better coordination in terms of the response and some of these things. We if I brought my council together and said, guys, we need to come up with a strategy on how to deal with some of the challenges we see out on the street. I think we could actually come up with a really good plan if we knew that we had the money that would.
Mary [00:47:35] Right.
[00:47:36] I dont mind being held accountable for nation of the state. Right. But now it’s like I have to impress on the province the importance of the situation that I see playing out on my streets. And at the end of the day, all the resident knows to do is to cause them call the mayor’s office because he’s there every day and they can come up and stand at the window and you know what I mean? And we’re accessible and people don’t really care who’s paying for it. They just see a problem. They want you to solve it.
Mary [00:48:03] But you know, even if we leave back to this. This is this decision you’ve made around your hospital. When you talk when you explained it to me, one of the things you said was that the province lays out the rules about how these things have to be funded and in and so it’s in fact, again, diminishment of whether or not the local municipality actually can make all the decisions about that and be accountable for that, because it’s a web of we had to do this to keep the province. We had to you know, it’s a it’s a curious thing as we emerge from this week. If you look at COVID, it’s all the rubber has hit the road with every municipal leader and no municipal workers spent 10 seconds thinking, is it my jurisdiction to actually save that life in front of me that I can see is at risk? And I’m wondering if can we use the COVID tragedy as a as a really solid opportunity to change the arrangement? And to give municipal governments different kinds of powers and different kinds of resources to address problems directly. And then citizens and residents will hold you accountable. But as you say, you as a team could, I suspect, come up with the right solutions for streets and for people affected by street life. Right. Rather than people who were thousands of miles away coming up with some policy that isn’t relevant to you. Right?
Mayor Dilkens [00:49:17] Yeah. And it’s you know, it’s it’s interesting because the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we sit on the big city. Mayors caucus, I do know. And um listening to the problems across this country, I mean, it’s not the bigger and bigger cities, but it’s really the main issue at the end of the day. Right. Oh, I mean, the question has been put to the prime minister by mayors around the big city mayors table saying, don’t you think it’s time for us to, you know, to be given the Gold Star, that we can self-government in some ways and we actually are responsible to a government. And I get that, you know, opening up the Constitution and going to each province and trying to do that is extremely thorny. I mean, it could occupy. It could occupy the better part of an entire agenda trying to do that. And so what I’ve seen happen are positive steps with respect to the gas tax money down to municipalities through a fair and equitable funding stream, which is the gas tax. And I think if you can find other ways where there is funding that can be flowed directly to municipalities, again, where there’s some level accountability, it’s not free money it’s we have to be accountable for this. But that gives us the discretion and the ability to deal with things that we’re seeing in a in a responsible way. I think that is a great path forward. And so there has to be other vehicles to do that. But I know between the federal government of the provinces, it is a very, very thorny issue.
Mary [00:50:52] Do you know that if that phrase it better to ask for forgiveness than permission?
Mayor Dilkens [00:50:57] Yes.
Mary [00:50:57] I feel as if this is sort of a mantra for mayors because I thought we had Don Iveson on a couple of weeks ago and he talked about housing and he just got fed up with waiting and he just said, to hell with it. I mean, he used even more colorful language. He said, we’re just going to start we’re gonna build some housing. We’re gonna figure out how to do it. We’re gonna build some housing. And I know there’s always a reluctance on the part of the government to do that, because you somehow we’re letting that jurisdiction off the hook or your you take it on and then they’ll let you have it. But as you suggest, you’re on the ground. Your council colleagues are on the ground. You’re the closest to the challenges. Do you have an opportunity to really do something fantastic at the local level? On a particular issue that could actually then become a model for the rest of the country? And then is that how that political change might ultimately happen? A constitutional change might follow if people actually seeing it’s better if it starts at the local ground level?
Mayor Dilkens [00:51:50] Well, it’s an interesting question. I you know, I’d love to think about that some more because. I think a model that was implemented that worked really well would get noticed from would certainly people would notice from the provincial and federal government. But you’re right to say, you know, Don has said to hell with that. We’re just gonna go ahead and do it. You know, you do let a lot of political leadership at the higher levels off the hook by doing that. No, you do let them focus their their efforts in other places, which.
Mary [00:52:27] But you know, residents are kind of sick of it, you know, like, do we get sick of you guys saying, well, that’s not my job or not my authority. If you looked at the whole Black Lives Matter impetus, it’s about people saying they’re not going to be satisfied with people just acknowledging that there’s a problem and not doing anything. So I think the defunded the police movement is really calling on you folks who are stewards of the closest level to use whatever levers you’ve got to to demonstrate that you’re hearing what people are saying isn’t working and find ways to fix it.
Mayor Dilkens [00:52:58] Yeah. And so that’s fair. I mean, you know, hearing from folks and then championing the cause is the right thing to do. I mean, listen, no one would expect that the Constitution has been set out very clearly about spheres of influence and areas of responsibility. And no one would expect, you know, the mayor of the city of Windsor or the mayor of Sarnia or London or Toronto to, you know, spend one hundred million bucks bucks and invest in a fighter jet or something to help patrol cars.
Mary [00:53:27] No. Right.
[00:53:28] So they know they would expect that there’s a problem, that we would probably open our mouth and say, guys, in Houston, we have a proble. And so when there is a problem and housing is a great one and Don has been on this as long as I’ve ever known, Don, because his problem and emptiness is quite significant. And it’s significant here, too. But I know his challenges are very significant. You know, he’s been on that. And, you know, you start seeing traction. And the interesting thing that I’ve seen, the more you hear, the more you you see the cadence and you understand the flow of how things work and you start seeing. And FCM has been very effective at starting to stitch together the narratives that are responsive to what is happening in cities and to do it at the right time, to get political, to capture political imagination at the right time and get things embedded into the conversation. And then once they’re out there as part of the conversation. It’s much easier to try and get traction. And so there there is a you know, there is a flow to this. There is that there is an order to this stuff. But I take your point that people, you know, in some situations, they just want to see action. They just want to know that you’re you’re doing something and you’re fighting to make the place that you live, the city you love, the country you love, the province you love. They want to see that you’re fighting for them to make it better. And at the end of the day, I’ve said this 20 times in the last week, the mayor of my city, a hundred years before me, the mayor, one hundred years from now. And this mayor is always they’ve always said this one’s going to say and the next one will. I want to make the place better. So how do I do that? And how do I bring everyone along? I say we need to do this together. And listening is a big thing. And then being able to drill down on the top priorities. It’s also really important because it’s it’s easy to get distracted and have so many priorities that you can become completely ineffective. You really need to zero in on the two or three things that you think are most important for your city, and then we’ll give it hell and fight for it.
Mary [00:55:26] Well, you’ve got remarkable assets in Windsor. This is as you suggest, that you’ve got geographic assets, you’ve got talent assets, you’ve got higher education assets. You’ve got a long history of embedded knowledge around engineering and all that. All the folks that have been invested in that in the automotive industry for so many years. And and you have agricultural roots and you have agricultural partners, so. Yeah. You know, I think seeing some really brave experiments come out of Windsor because of some of this unique and the unique challenges that being right smack dab on the border, nine minutes from Windsor, from Detroit, really positions you to do some great things. No. Yeah.
Mayor Dilkens [00:56:04] Yeah. We’re well positioned. And I think the time is good. And I get when I see what’s happened in Detroit, it’s exciting. We’ve got a bit of a spillover here. How do we build on that? And I, I, you know, I like going to school and I really appreciate the value of a good education. And I really need to make sure that the plan that we’re putting together embeds education at the heart of it, because I really think that, you know, to make significant change, we’ve got to bring everyone along, make sure that they are trained for the future of work now and into the future, and to make sure that the city is evolving to meet those needs as well.
Mary [00:56:38] So those are part of it. I’m assuming your investment strategy, because you’ve got you’ve got this road to climb in terms of the unemployment rate. You know, I’d like to have the mayor of Ottawa on city talk. I’ve met him and he’s like you. He’s dealing with all sorts of challenges. And then he’s got land use challenges associated because GM wasn’t just the employer. It took up a lot of space and I’m sure you’ve got the same thing. Just a couple minutes left, Mayor, as you sort of head into we we we marked 100 days of COVID ten days or so, go with the big report. We’re going to keep every hundred days. We’re going to check in on how our cities are doing. So for this next hundred days, what do you think your priorities are going to be?
Mayor Dilkens [00:57:13] Well, listen, the first hundred days was just about responding and trying to make sure that people had what they needed, that we were doing the right things to save lives. That was at the heart of every decision. How can I. How can I reduce the loss of life here? And so the next hundred days, I think that is that I don’t think that ever leaves the conversation. But now we recognize that the longer this goes on, the more difficult, difficult it will be for businesses to recover, the more difficult it will be for people to keep their jobs. And so that the focus is starting to change. But how do we support businesses? How do we get everyone back on their feet? And it’s not a wholesale, you know, ignoring the COVID in the room. It’s saying we have to find a balance here. And so let’s undertake best precautions. We’re probably never going to get it down to zero until there’s a vaccine. But how can we be reasonable, responsible and take the best precautions available to us? Allowing the economy to reopen and to start again. And so that’s where the focus is today. And over the next hundred days, I’m hoping, you know, we’re going to move from stage two and stage three, which will open up more city services, get us back to regular council meetings and you know more of what people know to be normal or whatever, whatever will become the new normal. But we’re not quite at normal yet. We’re at, you know, excitement that you can get out and sit on a patio, feel like, you know. But very, very different.
Mary [00:58:39] Yeah. Yeah. And also, you’re going to continue on, I’m sorry to say. You’re going to continue to have to support your regional colleagues in terms of the temporary worker situation and the continued outbreak, which it sounds to me as if they’re they’re wrapping their arms around how to actually control that. But it’s it’s exposed a particularly vulnerable sector of our economy. How agricultural work is done in not just here in Ontario, but across the country.
Mayor Dilkens [00:59:07] COVID has exposed the frailties of every system, every government, every family, every bank account is exposed, everything wrong. And so that situation is not under control. We still need to make sure that the attention is is put in the right place. We need to the provincial government and the federal government to come down here and do what’s right and make sure that they’re taking a leading role in the emergency response effort here because it is not under control and it needs to be brought under control just because of the magnitude of the number of people in the number of farms we’re talking about.
Mary [00:59:39] So in terms of getting in. So I misspoke. So in terms of getting it out of control Mayor, is it just about resources and getting the policy and the priorities set appropriately for what the local conditions requires?
Mayor Dilkens [00:59:50] Yeah, it’s it’s this could be a show in itself. But the federal government has responsibility for temporary foreign workers and bringing the folks here, the province has ultimate responsibility for health, labor and agriculture. And there are so many pieces to this puzzle that make it complex. With one hundred and seventy five farms, eight to ten thousand workers, up to two thousand could be here illegally. So maybe reticent to participate in sort of testing scheme. It’s it’s a very complex situation. But at the heart of it, we are all here as a as a as local resources to help support the effort. What it needs is provincial provincial intervention in terms of someone here from the provincial emergency operation center leading the response. We cannot lead the response effectively among these governments. It needs a different person leading it. But we are the resource to make sure that they have everything they need to help keep these residents. They’re not citizens, but they’re important residents to our community and they’re here. We brought them here. We fought to get them here at a time when the border was closed. And they’re doing work that Canadians don’t want to do. But Canadians want, when you go to Costco and the grocery store, you expect the cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers and all the other stuff is gonna be there. They’re the ones making sure they’re there. We need them working we need them to be healthy. They’re working with our food supply. And all of us here want to make sure that the best response is being provided to allow them to get over the hump as quickly as possible so we can all move forward together to stage three.
Mary [01:01:13] Thank you, Mayor. Thank you for that. Thank you for joining us on city talk. We’re looking forward to more bold action and brave leadership from our mayors across the country. Now’s the time. And we look forward to hearing Windsor. Maybe the next time we have you, we’ll have you on with the mayor of Detroit. The two of you meet and talk about what the city of the future really looks like and how you’re addressing these challenges, hopefully collectively. That would be interesting. Thanks for joining us, Mayor Dolphins next week. It’s how we work, folks, to you go and read Signpost 100, wh ich is the COVID one hundred report. We identified five areas where COVID that has affected our lives. And next week, it’s all about how we work. We hope you’ll join us. You’ll get it in your email. All the details. On Monday morning. Again, thank you Mayor Dilkens for joining us. We wish you a good and healthy weekend.
Mayor Dilkens [01:01:54] Thanks, Mary.
Mary [01:01:55] Bye.
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12:01:06 From Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:02:18 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:02:45 From Canadian Urban Institute: Drew Dilkens, Mayor of the City of Windsor Ontario Twitter: @drewdilkens mayordrewdilkens.ca
12:06:03 From Purshottama Reddy: P S Reddy from Toronto – hello to everyone. Look forward to thes chats especially from the Mayors. No two municipal areas are the same and thats what makes it interesting.
12:08:52 From Michael Roschlau: Windsor was the only city in Canada to fully shut down its transit system during COVID. Can the Mayor explain that decision, its implications for mobility in the city and whether it was really necessary?
12:15:41 From Gil Penalosa: Now that the Mayor has seen the importance of walking, riding bicycle, using public transit. will he change his stubborn goal to build a NEW hospital in the middle of a corn field, which will make lots of money to land owners (develop farm land) but will miss opportunity to strengthen and revitalize Windor’s core?
12:16:39 From Purshottama Reddy: Interesting – cities beyond international borders and the local economic impact. Perhaps this could be subject of a chat in the future when normalcy returns.
12:17:42 From Canadian Urban Institute: https://canurb.org/initiatives/citywatch-canada/
12:20:53 From Kelly Greenfield: Location: St. John’s, NL.Can you give us a sense of the social situation in Windsor, considering the COVID outbreak in 1) long-term care homes, and 2) the county agri-food system. Is Windsor experiencing (more) ageism or racism as a result? And how are you engaging with your fellow citizens to address these issues?
12:21:24 From susan little to All panelists: Why would you cut public transportation!
12:22:11 From susan little to All panelists: A social network helps!
12:22:39 From susan little to All panelists: Street life should be supported now!
12:23:58 From susan little to All panelists: You have a car! Other people don’t
12:24:26 From Michael Roschlau: There are literally hundreds of Canadian communities smaller than Windsor that did not shut down their transit systems.
12:24:35 From susan little to All panelists: yes
12:26:31 From susan little to All panelists: An excessible hospital I hope. You are not building a city of the future.
12:29:18 From Gil Penalosa: There is NOTHING there, corn field. Easy to get other municipalities on board on why it has to be in Windsor, easy access to hotels for visitors, transit, work. No other investment as important to create a nice city than this major hospital. Just money for developers. Shameful. It’d be lost lifetime opportunity.
12:29:30 From susan little to All panelists: windosr
12:29:58 From Wesley Andreas: Unfortunately, Windsor’s transportation policy is still very 1960s era. Provide accommodations for non-auto modes as a secondary consideration, or a retrofit step.
12:33:36 From Gil Penalosa: Great idea to interview majors, but it’d be greater to challenge them on critical issues. To go beyond a platform to listen to their ideas with no questions on obvious wrong decisions. Not just Windsor, has happened with others. If the goal is information, then great; maybe missed opportunity. COVID moment is offering magnificent opportunity to act on sustainable mobility, public spaces, redevelopment… most mayors & councils missing the moment. Good Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, Victoria… not most.
12:34:43 From Abby S: @Gil yes, it would be nice to speak more about the hospital decision which does seem to be contrary to many of the progressive mayors’ initiatives we have heard on these calls.
12:37:16 From Abby S: I am curious what constitutes “success” in Detroit? yes there is a renaissance of some food and other local initiatives, but the streets are still empty of pedestrians (and cars for that matter) and neighborhoods remain in disrepair and empty.
12:37:48 From Abby S: With the exception of a small pocket that Quicken has “gentrified”.
12:41:39 From Abby S: In retrospect was the reliance on casinos for revenue the right move? Of course no one could predict this kind of catastrophic event.
12:43:57 From Abby S: Mary you are so right,. Supporting cities and the voters/citizens who live there should not be considered a “bail out”
12:44:17 From Abby S: How we use language is vitally important.
12:47:57 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:49:15 From MARYAM MOMENI to All panelists: Thank you.
12:52:15 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:54:48 From Alan Kan: That’s a stretch, mayor. People are not expecting cities to purchase military equipment.
12:55:57 From Canadian Urban Institute: What did you think of today’s conversation? Help us improve our programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/3gInKV6
12:55:57 From Alan Kan: I’m also a Rose City Politics listener btw
13:02:00 From Abby S: Thank you Mary!