New bridge: Economy comes first

The Windsor Star

We hope Jim Blanchard was right this week when he said including a bridge referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot is a “huge waste of money.”

The former Michigan governor was responding to the state’s recent Supreme Court decision that said voters should decide whether a second international bridge will be built between Windsor and Detroit.

“I don’t think the referendum has any effect to be honest,” Blanchard said. “It will be retroactive to an agreement. The contract was announced and signed in June. Being retroactive, I don’t think it will have any effect at all.”

That’s the way we’d like to see it play out. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Prime Minister Stephen Harper did, indeed, sign a binational agreement in June to build the $1-billion, government-backed bridge.

It should be binding, especially when it’s clear a second span – one that’s a public-private partnership – is needed and endorsed by every CEO and large corporation on both sides of the border. Even legislators in Ohio and Indiana support the plan.

But Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun is the wild card. He refuses to accept that there will be competition against his lucrative monopoly, and for good reason. That 83-year-old landmark towering over the Detroit River puts more than $100 billion a year in his pocket. And, as we’ve seen repeatedly, Moroun is willing to fight dirty. He distorts the facts and spends millions of dollars on outrageously false and misleading advertising campaigns – ones intentionally designed to dupe Michigan voters.

He also funds political careers. It’s no small irony that two of the Supreme Court justices who wrote the majority opinion to put the bridge on the ballot received generous campaign contributions from the Moroun family as they seek re-election.

But then, that decision should have come as no surprise. Just ask Blanchard. “To think we are looking at amending the constitution to please one billionaire who won’t even fix the Michigan Central station is outrageous,” he said. “He’s been to jail. But such is the state of politics in the U.S.”

And that’s what’s so distressing; U.S. politics. Specifically, it’s the voters who concern us the most. They’ve been inundated with propaganda.

Moroun’s operatives may have garnered the 600,000 signatures that put the bridge question on to the ballot, but his methods are suspect and some people have already admitted they had no idea what they were signing. (Some Canadians were also urged to sign the petition even though they weren’t U.S. citizens.)

Too much power rests with the uninformed voters and paid politicians in Michigan to be cavalier about the outcome. Moroun might not win the war but he can make it last longer.

What we really need is to get that presidential permit signed, sealed and delivered. That’s what will get construction started. The question is whether President Barack Obama will do so before the election, which is doubtful. If he holds back and loses the race, will Mitt Romney carry the ball?

One has to believe there’s been too much groundwork done to let one petty billionaire derail an infrastructure project that is so critical to both countries. Then again, when it comes to politics, take nothing for granted.