Gov. Snyder: ‘We will get a bridge built’

The Windsor Star

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is digging in his heels against opponents of the proposed downriver bridge, and that’s welcome news for the project’s myriad supporters, including nearly every important business and labour organization and key government officials on both sides of the border.

After approval to move the project forward was narrowly defeated in a state committee by a 3-2 vote two weeks ago, Snyder had called for a “cooling off period.” But it’s now clear that the governor has no intention of turning down the heat for too long.

In fact, he told a conference on Canada-U.S. relations in Ottawa this week that he expects action on the project in the next few months. “We are continuing our process in a relentless fashion and you will be looking at months, not years,” said Snyder.

“This is the case study of one special interest trying to override the interests of many thousands and millions of people. But I can tell you this case study will have a happy ending, that we will get a bridge built.”

Snyder, in his comments, was of course referring to the Ambassador Bridge company that’s controlled by Matty Moroun. The bridge has spent vast amounts of money in an advertising and lobbying campaign to undercut the case for the proposed new public crossing, and also made sizable campaign contributions to Michigan legislators.

Meanwhile, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards has ruled that Moroun’s bridge company is guilty of civil contempt for its failure to complete the long-delayed Gateway project on the U.S. side of the bridge.

Judge Edwards set a hearing for Dec. 1 to determine if a receiver should be appointed to take control of the project away from Moroun’s company, and set a Jan. 12 hearing to decide what sanctions should be imposed to force completion of the project. Those sanctions could include jail time or financial penalties. Moroun, 84, must also appear in person before the judge.

At this point, there is absolutely no credible argument out there to counter the need for the new downriver bridge. This is the busiest crossing in what is the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship. Each year, $128 billion in goods pass through Windsor and Detroit, supporting millions of jobs in both countries – including 220,000 in Michigan. Over the next three decades truck traffic is going to triple.

Snyder has funding arrangements in place for the bridge – including assistance from Canada. He’s got $2.2 billion in transportation funding lined up from Washington that can be pumped into badly needed infrastructure projects in the state. In addition, for Michigan, the project is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs and support 25,000 full-time, permanent jobs.

Snyder has also said that he will encourage bridge supporters to mount a grassroots campaign to sway public opinion in favour of the project. And maybe that’s exactly what’s needed.

It’s time for all the stakeholders – on both sides of the border – to ramp up the campaign to get the new bridge built. The existing border isn’t good enough, and it won’t ensure future prosperity.

It’s also time for all of Michigan’s legislators to put their state’s economy and the best interests of Michigan’s hardworking families first.