Sunday, January 19, 2014


We all know that famous phrase from the Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy's dog Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal that the ominous sounding voice is none other than a small old man with a big megaphone and a way of projecting his face to larger-than-life.

Of course, Fort Erie has its own version of "the wizard."  Jim Thibert makes a grand entrance when he speaks at council and he speaks as though from on high.  He dazzles the low information residents of Fort Erie who hang on his every word as though it were gospel. He has taken his budget presentations to an art form all his own. The Thibert Treatment is rife with stats and accusations  towards anyone other than his arm's length corporation that is supposed to be in charge of economic development and tourism for Fort Erie.

But it's not and many of us are fully aware that it is merely Jim Thibert's personal fiefdom, heavily weighted in favour of a horse race track. Case in point: expensive brochure of a couple of years ago had glowing accounts of a marina on the Niagara Boulevard (dead in the water, now awaiting resurrection); a motor speedway (years away from completion); and the horse track (close to death for several years, saved only by massive amounts of money from slots/province). Missing from the brochure was the refurbished Point Abino Light Station and full information about the beaches - especially Bay Beach, part of the only public beach in Crystal Beach.  Oh, he did mention the high rise proposed for the public lands in Bay Beach. In light of the Molinaros walking away from the deal, that should give Thibert a trifecta of losing propositions for Fort Erie.

Sure, I have called for his firing. So have many others.  He has an abysmal track record (excuse the pun.)  Earlier this month, he chose to blame everyone else but his corporation for Fort Erie's downward slide: the province, unskilled workers, cross-border shopping, and the best: lack of leadership.  On the last, I can agree with him, except he was probably implying that the lack of leadership comes from four town councillors.  Except that leadership in a town is the onus of its mayor and Mayor Martin has displayed a decided lack of leadership as he struggles against those representing the will of the people who elected the councillors by wide margins. Certainly not like Martin who won by a mere five votes in 2010. 

And so, it came as no surprise when Don Lubberts reported to council a conversation he had with a local eye doctor who, with a partner is hoping to place his medical marijuana operation in the abandoned former Pharma plant on Jarvis Street. Some remember that Thibert's corporation was given thousands of dollars to find a suitable business to take over the plant. Nothing happened except that Pharma declared bankruptcy. Some may also recall that former Chamber of Commerce head Dick Dimberio declared bankruptcy for his Williams Gold, thus enabling the town to forgive over $35,000. in back property taxes. Lubberts reported that when Thibert's EDTC was approached originally by the doctor's group, Thibert opined that it was not a good fit for the building or the town.  He later expressed support for the proposal. Lubberts reported this so that it would go on record and the doctor expressly wanted the public to know that he was rebuffed by Thibert in the beginning.

Which begs the question: why would the general manager of the town's economic development and tourism corporation discourage any legitimate interest in a building that is now unused? Why would the head of the EDTC stand in front of council and complain about designated wetlands thwarting new commercial business developments and then discourage the interest in a perfectly good building?  Who are all these interested industrial clients who have been shut out of Fort Erie by the wetland designations? Thibert has been on this bandwagon for years and some people are gullible enough to buy this as the reason for the high unemployment and business loss in Fort Erie.  And then the  Horton's Steel site comes to mind, sitting there, mostly idle, awaiting an industrial business.  (Except when Sandy Annunziata was hot to turn it into a housing development. Good idea that. Not. Another of Sandy's accomplishments was to make sure that no high rise would be erected at the foot of Jarvis Street. Had to change the zoning for that, yet he voted to change zoning to allow the development of a high rise in Bay Beach - on public land.)

So how does Jim Thibert survive amongst the ruins of Fort Erie's economic climate? By virtue of his ego and his swagger. Oh, and by suing a blogger (me) for publishing "slander" against him.  Lance Armstrong successfully sued a writer for accusing him of taking steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. And then the truth came out.


  1. Mr. Thibert accused council and staff of projecting an image of not being open for business, a phrase that he says he heard from Fort Erie business people (and which, unfortunately, is an image that Mr. Thibert spread by emphasizing it so much in his presentation). But what does that phrase even mean in terms of specific recommendations? The councillors can’t change how much of Fort Erie’s land is wetlands or how expensive energy is, so why did Mr. Thibert complain to them about that? Mr. Thibert elaborated that staff need to appear to be more open for business than the staff of other municipalities. Is he saying that Fort Erie’s staff should ignore the rules (of the Region and of the Province) more than the staff of other municipalities do? Is he saying that the residents of Fort Erie need to subsidize big businesses more than other municipalities do? Are either of those really desirable goals?

    There was only one point I heard Thibert make that seemed to me to address anything positive that the councilors might do, and, to their credit, the councilors (on both sides of the supposed 4/3 split) jumped on it, looking for advice. Mr. Thibert had blamed the citizens of Fort Erie for not possessing the requisite skills for the jobs that are available. The councillors asked what the available jobs are, what skills do citizens need but lack, and what should schools do differently. All they got back from Mr. Thibert was a lot of rhetoric and referrals to job agencies. If citizens and councilors have to go to job agencies and find out this information for themselves, how is the EDTC helping them with this supposed problem?

    Mr. Thibert’s chastising the councilors as if they were children that they should take the next few months as their last chance to put aside their differences and lead did not give them any advice regarding precisely what they should do to live up to whatever Mr. Thibert’s standards are for leadership. I would have expected that for what the EDTC has been paid, Mr. Thibert would be expected to come to council with real positive specific suggestions for what council could do to improve things, not just a vague bunch of insults for the councilors, staff, and citizens of Fort Erie.

    I wonder whether Mr. Thibert should have accepted some of the blame himself for trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Maybe what makes sense in trying to economically develop an area such as Fort Erie (with a glut of housing, beautiful scenery, beaches, and bike trails, and not much industrial space) might be to try and promote small businesses and tourism rather than concentrating so much on industry and residential development.

  2. nature loverJanuary 20, 2014 at 12:49 AM Agree to the point of your last paragraph and " Not much Industrial Space ", There is lost of Industrial Space in Fort Erie and much of it sits vacant and should get redeveloped.

  3. mayor martin is the one that coined the phrase "Fort Erie is Closed for Business" only because the majority didn't want a private enterprise plundering our magnificent beachfront in Crystal Beach. The condo is not a business that would benefit anyone but the developer. A large beach facility with washrooms, changerooms and clean beach is what will attract tourists, not a condo.

    At last weeks Council, Pessaro said "I have often said, Councillors don't create jobs". I haven't heard him say that before, I do know that he has often said "I am for development in Fort Erie, even bad development". True to his word he was adamant about supporting the Molinaro development. Why?

    I think the nasties should be concentrating on getting a condo along their waterfront in ward one and stop trying to shove a condo in Crystal Beach on our public waterfront. There is a lot of public waterfront at that end of town. Build a condo there. Jarvis Street needs a pick-me-up. There are already a lot of housing sales in Ridgeway and Crystal Beach. We are progressing very well.

  4. A report coming out later today from the local realtors will belie the contention that home sales are down in Fort Erie. In fact, sales have been quite brisk - especially in Ridgeway and Crystal Beach. Crystal Beach has come a long way from the dark days of the 1990s, thanks to the hard work of volunteers and determined business owners.

  5. King James as the “General Manager” has been the preeminent power in Fort Erie for many years now and during this reign we have witnessed the following
    An unprecedented loss of jobs and industry, closures and failures of small businesses, a decline in population especially amongst young adults, a major drop in tourism and a sky rocketing increase in property taxes. Every metric of economy, development and tourism reveals big time decline.
    When confronted with these facts King James simply insults the “accuser”, passes blame to lazy, uneducated residents, an unfriendly Provincial government and brings legal action against…. A blogger
    When any of these don’t save his bacon he’ll call upon his “supporters” to rally his cause. To Town Hall he will usher in a group of local business owners that, if he pressed them hard enough and denied them the contracts issued them through his court, they would suffer the collapse of their enterprise.
    Punctuating the brutal assault upon his dis-tractors are his handpicked “Palace Guard” otherwise known as…. The Ninja
    Tasked with the mission to say and write the words, in fact do the deeds that would subject “The King” too much embarrassment, these self-declared masters of the down and dirty gleefully slither along and do for his majesty “whatever is necessary” to hinder, hamstring and hammer the opposition.
    And the fact is that up until now this combination of assaulting insult and crowd sourced teasing, torture and terror has worked to keep this rather unsuccessful ruler in the driver’s seat. You see this time around “His Majesty” while able to successfully distance himself from a monumental FAIL has left none other than the mayor holding the bag.
    As the GM stayed a healthy distance from the folly that became Bay Beach It was the mayor that referred, time after time, how it was “a done deal”. NOT King James. Sure he would offer his lip service to this all important, proposed development but from his position he could let his old buddy lead the charge on this one. Say what you want about King James but even an idiot understood that economics would have the final say on this project and well maybe the mayor didn't get the memo on that aspect.
    Problem for Hizzoner though is, while the GM is an “at arm’s length” position, as mayor the electorate AND Council each have a hand around your political throat and when YOU have to explain that it was YOUR FRIENDS, the developers that walked, the tightness around your neck is more than just your $100 tie.
    Yes sir Mr. Mayor this WAS your baby and all that’s left is a diaper full of “developer’s stuff”. I guess that makes you the highest ranked member of The Ninja to get bushwhacked to date eh?
    I recently came across an old Mark Twain quote; “Denial is more than a river in Africa”.
    On this river DENIAL is my way of doing business. Yeah.. It’s GOOD to be “The King”.

    1. Don't you think that Thibert is behaving in a Christie kinda way? Chris Christie's underlings (cough-cough) went way too far. I think that Thibert's suit against me (to the tune of over $25,000. taxpayer money) was going way too far. The court case against the four was going way too far. It shows their frustration at people pointing out what is obvious to even those with a limited knowledge of what goes on in Fort Erie. The responsibility for economic development and tourism falls on the shoulders of the EDTC. No other entity has as much control over the future of Fort Erie. It is a non-elected, arm's length corporation that should be totally accountable to the people, but it isn't. It is fronted by a man who thinks that flashy showmanship and the blame game will cover his corporation's failures.

  6. Listening asked why Pessaro backed the condo so strongly.

    In the beginning Pessaro was known as a "fence-sitter" because he wouldn't side with one group so as not to undermine votes. I heard many a joke about where the post was stuck.

    Then, Pessaro chose the old boys club.
    Members were Mayor Martin, Thibert and his cohort Shular.
    Thibert has again backed Kim Zanko for the next election as well as Marina Butler.

    I am guessing Pessaro is waiting for direction whether to stay where he is or go for the big job that he has been aching for.

    1. Back in 2006, when Passero first ran for councillor, he was a fixture in other campaign offices. He picked the brains of others and learned his lessons well. Of course, he lost in 2006 but, bu 2010, he was ready based on all he learned from people he would later throw under the bus. He was a fence-sitter. He should be thanking people like John Papadakis and Tom Lewis among others for all that he learned from them as well as the support and encouragement they provided.

  7. If Jimmy is working " Arm's Length " for the Town, why should we be paying his Lawyer Fee's?

    1. He got the lame ducks on his board to agree to spend the money. He claimed that my blog was damaging the reputation of the EDTC and him. Ha!

  8. Yes, I heard that Pessaro asked for advice about how to get elected next time. The sugestion was to join groups. He certainly did!

  9. Tourism to Ontario was up in October. Good news.


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