“This Nov. 6, in relation to at least one of the ballot initiatives, Michiganders can show they believe in Michiganders. Defeat the Moroun ballot initiative, stand up and say with full confidence that we are focused on the future and not the past.”
– Roy Norton, Canada Consul General
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada based in Detroit, alluded for several minutes at the West Michigan Policy Forum this afternoon that he would address the New International Trade Crossing “in a moment,” as he continued to make a case for the importance of heightened trade between Michigan and Canada.
The proposed bridge between Detroit and Windsor has met stiff opposition from Matty Moroun and his family, who own the Ambassador Bridge now connecting the two cities. That group successfully landed a Nov. 6 ballot initiative to amend the state constitution and ultimately put projects like this up for a vote, in addition to running several television spots called “The People Should Decide.”
Today at St. Cecilia Music Center, Norton noted that Michigan is a larger trading partner for Canada than any other country in the world, save for the United States as a whole.
Last year, he said, Canada did $689 billion worth of trade with the United States, and about 49 percent of that passed through the Michigan-Ontario border.
“Those numbers by themselves should be sufficient alone how important you are,” he said.
Furthering trade transport means goods in Michigan could be “whisked off” to Canada’s far eastern port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, travelling through rural routes instead of getting hung up in busier traffic in the states, he said.
“Canadian railways can move goods from this region cheaper and faster than their competitors,” he said.
A proposed expanded railway tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, “for which there is considerable enthusiasm in Canada,” could only make the two trading partners stronger, he said, though it too would fall victim to the November ballot initiative, though he told the audience of state and local commerce professionals that he would get to that in a moment.
Before he spoke, he was introduced by Marge Potter, executive director of corporate affairs for Continental Rail Gateway, the agency that wants to build the expanded tunnel.
Potter said the Moroun’s ballot initiative means uncertainty for the planned $400 million railway project.
“Many people think this proposal only involves the bridge,” Potter said. “Indeed it doesn’t. It affects the rail project too.”
Moments later, Norton cited a Detroit Free Press editorial in the wake of the intra-local agreement between Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June that moved forward on the New International Trade Crossing, all of which Canada has agreed to fund. The second paragraph of the piece says that “Canada believes in Michigan’s future more than most Michiganders do.”
But Norton insisted that Michigan owns the geography to make it the transportation and logistics hub for the United States to move goods across the globe.
He urged the state, “coming from a friendly neighbor,” to believe in itself.
And then he talked about the bridge.
“This Nov. 6, in relation to at least one of the ballot initiatives, Michiganders can show they believe in Michiganders,” he said, adding, “Defeat the Moroun ballot initiative, stand up and say with full confidence that we are focused on the future and not the past.”
He closed by urging Michiganders to stand up to “this cynical, manipulative and greedy private interests.”
The crowd in St. Cecilia Music Center’s auditorium erupted into applause.