Consul General of Canada speaks to Chamber of Commerce
Written by Barrett Newkirk
The Battle Creek Enquirer
A Canadian official is calling out a campaign against a new government-backed bridge between Michigan and Ontario for being full of misinformation.
Speaking to members of the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, the Detroit-based Consul General of Canada Roy Norton said television ads paid for by the company that owns the existing Ambassador Bridge are meant to mislead voters and suppress competition.
“I’m not trying to sell you a bridge,” Norton said. “I’m actually trying to give you a bridge.”
Television ads paid for by the Detroit International Bridge Company say a second span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario isn’t needed and put the bridge’s price tag at over $2 billion.
Norton, however, put the cost at $1 billion or less.
Canada has offered to fund the new bridge about two miles away from the 82-year-old Ambassador, but despite support from Gov. Rick Snyder, the plan has not passed the Michigan Legislature.
Norton called the new bridge Canada’s top national infrastructure priority. He said he’s hesitated to comment on anti-bridge ads, but now the ads are airing in Toronto in advance of provincial elections in October.
One ad airing in Canada falsely says Michigan has already decided to not build the bridge, Norton said.
He said other ads mischaracterize the debate as one between government and the private sector, when in fact the issue is one company trying to kill competition from any source, public or private.
Along with overstating the cost, Norton said the ads argue a second bridge isn’t needed, even though the Detroit International Bridge Company is pushing for a twin span next the Ambassador.
“The numbers in these ads are clearly designed to scare voters,” Norton said.
A second bridge could be a win for Michigan manufacturers, Norton said, and any shutdown of the Ambassador would be an economic disaster.
He said Canadian trade with Michigan is larger than the country’s trade with any country except the U.S.
For Calhoun County, trade with Canada represents about 3,000 jobs, Norton said. And if some disaster were to halt traffic over the Ambassador Bridge, millions of workers in both countries would be out of work, at least temporarily.
“Prudent governments don’t allow the lives of millions of their residents to hang by a thread,” he said.