By Jim Harger
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Roy Norton, Canada’s consulate general in Detroit, said his government is offended by the campaign to sway Michigan voters against the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) his nation is offering to build.
“Nothing in those ads should be believed. Nothing,” said Norton of the multi-million dollar advertising campaign being waged by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.
Norton was in Grand Rapids on Monday, Oct. 8, to attend former Mexican President Vincente Fox’s keynote address to the World Affairs Council of West Michigan.
He also took time to campaign against Proposal 6, a constitutional amendment that would require a public vote on the bridge project after Gov. Rick Snyder went around the legislature and signed an agreement in which Canada will build the bridge.
The biggest lie in the anti-NITC ads is that Canada may not live up to its agreement to free Michigan of any financial obligation in building the bridge, Norton said.
“We Canadians find this offensive, to suggest we’re either lying or would renege on our contract,” said Norton. “The government of Canada does not renege and does not lie to the people of Michigan.”
Meanwhile, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge reneged on their commitments to upgrade their bridge exits until they were jailed by a federal judge, Norton said.
“They were carted off to jail,” said Norton, referring to a January contempt of court order against billionaire bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun. “It’s a bit rich for them to imply that the Canadian government would renege on their commitment.”
Another lie is their contention that a second bridge is unnecessary, Norton said. “Their bridge is 83 years old, it carries 25 percent of all U.S.-Canada trade,” he said.
Companies that rely on the crossing for truck shipments would have to drive north to Port Huron-Sarnia or east to Niagara Falls, N.Y. if the Ambassador Bridge failed is forced to close, Norton said. “Redundancy is insurance,” he said.
Norton said the argument that the bridge should be privately held also is flawed. Of the 27 bridges that cross the U.S.-Canadian border, 25 are publicly owned. Besides the Ambassador Bridge, the only other private crossing is a logging bridge in Minnesota, he said.
NITC, which will be jointly owned by Michigan and Canada, will set the toll rates through a joint authority in which Michigan and Canada will have equal authority, Norton said.
After the Canadian government is repaid for its cost of building the bridge, Norton said Michigan will share in the toll proceeds.
Michigan legislators who refused to approve the agreement with the Canadian government are out of step with Indiana and Ohio, who approved resolutions in favor of the bridge crossing, Norton said.
Norton said he believes Michigan legislators feared they would face well-funded challengers if they went along with the NITC proposal.