A bridge too difficult by far

Wall Street Journal

Commentary: Crucial Canadian border span held hostage by billionaire

By Bill Mann, MarketWatch

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. (MarketWatch) — When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the White House this week, he and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to announce new measures for cross-border cooperation between the two countries. The Beyond the Border trade and security deal will better co-ordinate intelligence-sharing at the border and streamline cross-border trade. Well, some of it, anyway.

There’s billions of dollars of stalled commerce at stake between the world’s two largest trading partners, and yes, things do need to be speeded up — considerably — at the U.S.-Canada border.

There will be plenty of questions from reporters to the two leaders about Obama’s decision last month to stall the Keystone-XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas until after the Presidential election, something Harper isn’t pleased about.

But one of the biggest trade and economic barriers between the U.S. and Canada will continue to fester and may not even be mentioned. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room. And the gorilla’s name is Matty: Billionaire trucking magnate Manuel “Matty” Moroun is almost singlehandedly holding up the building of a new bridge at the major trade link of Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

Moroun owns the existing Ambassador Bridge, and he doesn’t want a government-owned and funded competitor to be built. That’s putting it mildly.

Shades of the Middle Ages

As one Michigan columnist put it recently, “Didn’t individuals stop owning bridges in the Middle Ages?”

Click here to read the full column.