MacKay and Watson vow bridge will be built despite Michigan vote

The Windsor Star

Posted by:
Don Lajoie

Federal Tories are confident that Wednesday’s ruling allowing the question of the Ambassador Bridge on the Michigan ballot in November will just be a bump in the road, but others aren’t so sure.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay vowed Thursday that despite a court ruling placing a second international crossing on the U.S.  election ballot in November, his government intends to build a bridge.

“We  can’t be sure what the U.S. will do but this is a project we intend to proceed with,” MacKay said about the Michigan Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that the fate of the $1-billion Windsor-Detroit bridge will be decided in a state-wide vote. The minister added the crossing remains a high priority for the Harper government and that any “impediments” to the project that originate in the U.S. will have to be dealt with on that side of the border.

MP Jeff Watson (C — Essex) echoed the minister’s remarks adding there’s “no doubt” construction will go ahead.

“The prime minster made the announcement recently and this remains the No. 1  infrastructure project for the government,” he said. “We can’t control what happens with U.S. politics. But the prime minister said it best when he said, there may be some legal or other obstacles along the way, but ‘make no mistake, this bridge will be built.’ Those words speak for themselves.”

He said he was not concerned about this latest ruling, adding the project has a history of  “many legal challenges,” but the prime minister “has shown tremendous resolve” on this issue. Watson acknowledged he has had no contact with Michigan Gov.  Rick Snyder since the ruling came down but added: “We have an agreement with Michigan and we’re going to proceed” according to that deal.

Watson said he would not speculate on the processes to be following according to U.S. law and referendum rules.

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse said he was somewhat surprised by MacKay and Watson’s comments.

“I was kind of puzzled by the comments from Peter MacKay and Jeff Watson saying it’s going to happen, but they don’t even know the process,” said Masse from the federal NDP caucus retreat in St. John’s, NL.

“My first step is to fully understand the process. What’s going to be on the ballot?”
Masse said first thing Thursday morning he had staff contact the offices of Michigan Rep. Gary Peters and Gov. Rick Snyder.

“My understanding of the process, and we’re looking to confirm this, is that the governor could choose the referendum to be non-binding and then past that there are two other court options that are available that would actually take place before the conclusion of the process,” said Masse.

“We are looking right now to get those specific facts.”

Masse said a number of high-level meetings and conference calls were taking place Thursday in Michigan government circles in response to the decision on the bridge vote.
“Right now it’s about understanding the process and not providing the Ambassador Bridge with more ammunition to actually incite negativity on the American side,” said Masse.

“What we really want to do is support the people that are wanting to do this project by explaining the merits of it so they can make an independent decision and not heighten or increase the negativity the Ambassador Bridge can do because they see this brazen behaviour. We need to really work in the diplomatic channel.”