Fixing the border

Time to move ahead

The Windsor Star

There really shouldn’t be the need for any further debate on the merits of constructing a new greatly needed downriver bridge between Windsor and Detroit. Years of work have gone into planning the crossing on both sides of the border. We’ve heard consistent and compelling arguments about the need for the new bridge and the reasons it should be publicly funded.

However, once again, a few Michigan lawmakers are standing in the way of the project going ahead.

They continue to ignore the overwhelming support from business and labour leaders, business organizations and local governments on both sides of the border. Nor do they acknowledge the staunch backing from President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

On this side of the border, the debate about the new bridge is long over. We want an updated and efficient border crossing that will ensure future growth, and preserve and enhance bilateral trade between the two countries that amounts to $500 billion a year – one-quarter of which relies on the Windsor-Detroit border.

In fact, outside of the Michigan legislature, there is only one voice consistently opposing the new crossing and it is that of the Moroun family, which controls the Ambassador Bridge. The Morouns have literally left no stone unturned in an attempt to stop the new bridge.

As Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson recently wrote: “The Morouns, in addition to showering legislators with campaign contributions, have indulged in a well-financed campaign of stark misinformation to derail this project before it even gets started.”

While it is understandable that the Morouns would protect their virtual monopoly, they have no right to interfere with the economic future of two cities, a province, a state and two countries. The greater good at stake here trumps the interests of the Morouns – period.

The fact of the matter is that the Ambassador Bridge is 80 years old and it was built in another time and century that in no way envisioned the kind of trade and traffic that would link the two economies. We need additional capacity quickly and there is only one workable option – the proposed public bridge.

The Morouns do not have the proper approvals to build a new bridge any time soon. And they simply are not going to get it from any level of government on this side of the border, if that is their goal.

Gov. Snyder has done a remarkable job for Michigan ensuring that the state will be able to build the bridge risk-free through an agreement which will allow money borrowed from Canada to be repaid through tolls. Snyder has also been given a promise from Washington that the money could be used to secure $2.2 billion in federal transportation dollars.

The new bridge isn’t and shouldn’t be about politics, it’s about doing what’s best for the hard-working families on both sides of the border.

As the Michigan Chamber of Commerce said in its recent endorsement of the project, the new crossing will “reinvent Michigan and move the state forward.” In other words, this isn’t just a bridge, it’s going to be an economic engine.

The Canada-U.S. proposal is literally shovelready. If common sense doesn’t prevail, the time has come for Gov. Snyder to use the muscle he has at his disposal to get the bridge built – including using his office to circumvent a few obstructionist-minded legislators.