“Anybody familiar with the discussions knows that there is no such issue as Chinese steel. Chinese steel is not going to be used in the project.”
– Consul General Roy B. Norton
Chinese steel a red herring in new bridge debate, official says
Canada’s consul general in Detroit said this morning that a supposed issue over using Chinese steel to build a new bridge to Windsor was “a fiction, a poorly informed report.”
“I don’t know who the source of the report was …. They clearly aren’t informed about Canadian government procurement policy…,“ Consul General Roy B. Norton said at a breakfast meeting of Leaders Without Borders, alumni of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s leadership development program.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, appearing on the same panel, said the Detroit River International Crossing, which Gov. Rick Snyder is now negotiating to construct, will be built.
Discussing reports that Canada was intent on using cheaper Chinese steel for a new bridge, which would be contrary to U.S. government preferences, Norton said: “Let’s be realistic about this. Canadian rules cannot apply to a project that is, by definition, bi-national. And U.S. rules cannot apply to a project that is, by definition, bi-national. We will have to work out a hybrid set of rules. Anybody familiar with the discussions knows that there is no such issue as Chinese steel. Chinese steel is not going to be used in the project. It’s a complete, dare I say, red herring, and I don’t know what anybody would have chosen to inject that into this debate at that time.”
Norton said that, if Michigan residents do not support the second bridge that is needed for jobs and economic growth, there likely won’t be any new bridge because the City of Windsor will not allow the Ambassador Bridge Company to proceed with its plans to build a second span twinning the Ambassador.
“They don’t want the 8,500 trucks on their city streets. The last thing they want is more traffic,” he said. “A freeway cannot be brought to the foot of the Ambassador Bridge … Windsor would have to close parts of three city streets in order for twinning to proceed. They insist they will not do so.”
Norton said “the Ambassador Bridge folks will probably litigate. That is what they do. Their suits will result in only short-term delays …”
He said the Ambassador company’s proposed second span, as shown in TV commercials, “exists in a kind of alternative reality, a parallel universe, as fictitious as Mayberry or Smallville or Coronation Street. Twinning of the Ambassador Bridge has none of the permissions it requires … ”
Norton, Calley and Peter Anastor, policy director of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., laid out the need for a second bridge spanning the Detroit River during a session at the Detroit Port Authority. Ironically, the clogged Ambassador Bridge, trucks and cars stalled back-to-back, appeared in the background. The breakfast session came a week after reports that Gov. Rick Snyder was close to a negotiated deal to build the public-private bridge without any need for legislative approval.
Norton discussed the history of the trade crossing, but also skewered Ambassador Bridge Company officials for funding a campaign of deception, much of which was contained in a multimillion-dollar television campaign.
“In the struggle for public opinion, the Ambassador Bridge folks enjoy two comparative advantages,” he said. “The first is that they’re willing to spend almost any amount of money to sell their case. The second is their willingness to tell lies — not to put too fine a point on it — and not just lies, but big lies. Call them Orwellian . . . lies like black is white and white is black. They’re inclusive. They even buy advertising to tell lies to viewers in Canada.”
“As a result of that campaign, a significant portion of Michiganders think that this is going to be a hugely expensive bridge and that they, the taxpayers, are going to have pay for it. Wrong, completely wrong on both counts. The bridge will cost half of what the TV commercials say. But it doesn’t matter because the Canadian taxpayer will assume full liability. This is an offer we have never made to a developed country. Frankly, it shouldn’t be necessary. This bridge should be as important to Michigan as it is to Canada.”
Norton said that without a countercampaign paid for by private-sector companies that need the bridge most, including the car companies, ads that explain that Michigan will eventually earn revenues of $3 billion to $5 billion over the life span of the bridge, without having put any money into it, the new bridge is in jeopardy.
Anastor talked about the need for clearer, organized public-private partnerships. Calley talked about jobs. Calley reminded the audience that the current bridge debate mirrors that over the Mackinac Bridge and that that span’s biggest proponent spent 20 years denying that he was ever opposed.
About Norton’s remarks that no Chinese steel would be used to build a new public bridge, Calley said, “For our part, we’re not prepared to announce any terms of any part of the deal. I’ll just say I find his comments to be very welcome.”