New bridge

Need grows stronger

The Windsor Star

The new Windsor-Detroit bridge may still be waiting for final legislative approval in Michigan, but one thing is certain – the case for building the downriver crossing is rock solid. The economies of Ontario and Michigan and Canada and the U.S. need the bridge to sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs and create new ones.

Over the past year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has continued to champion the project and, despite the politicking of a handful of Michigan lawmakers, has vowed to get the bridge built.

The sense is that Snyder will move to push the project forward in the new year, and he will do so with the full support of President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and virtually everyone in the Canada-U.S. business community who understands that our essential trading relationship can no longer be held hostage by a few individuals.

As we approach the start of 2012, it’s a good time to refocus on the need for an updated and efficient border to ensure future growth on both sides of the border.

First, this isn’t just a Windsor-Detroit issue. We are at the heart of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region which represents the fourth largest economy in the world – $4.6 trillion in economic output in 2009. More than $2 billion in good and services goes back and forth across the border every day, including $356 million through Windsor-Detroit.

Second, consider the numbers that have been used to support a new publicly owned downriver bridge:

. Bilateral trade supports more than eight million U.S. jobs, including 220,000 in Michigan. One of three Canadian jobs rely on U.S.-Canada trade.

. Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner, purchasing 58 per cent of all Michigan’s foreign-bound goods. In 2008, trade between Canada and Michigan reached $67.4 billion.

. Annual trade between Canada and the U.S. is more than $500 billion a year and one-quarter of that trade relies on the Windsor-Detroit crossing.

. Commercial truck traffic is expected to increase more than 100 per cent by 2035.

All of those figures add up to the need for a modern, publicly owned bridge on the Detroit River. And the case for the new bridge was eloquently argued last summer by former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard and Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and senior strategic adviser with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP

“The 105 million people living in the (Great Lakes-St. Lawrence) region today need their respective governments to continue to work together on the border. To remain the world’s fourth largest economy, the region needs a second Detroit-Windsor crossing.

“Our most integrated trade industry by far, the production and assembly of automobiles is concentrated in the Great Lakes region. This ‘industry of industries’ draws in hundreds of feeder manufacturers in dozens of locations in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

“But the top priority has to be the construction of a second bridge between Windsor and Detroit. In the 7,000 trucks that daily cross the Ambassador Bridge are contained over a quarter of the goods traded between Canada and the U.S. Any interruption in traffic on this 80-year-old, privately owned bridge means layoffs: thousands in the first day and tens of thousands stretching south to the Carolinas by day two. Resiliency, national security and the national interest of both countries requires us to build a second crossing, the new International Trade Crossing.”

As we usher in the new year, it’s time to get the shovels in the ground.