By Lisa Satayut | Lsatayut@mlive.com
JACKSON, MI – A Canadian official charged with promoting Canadian interests said Thursday morning that a new publicly owned bridge linking Canada and Michigan would have a dramatic benefit on Jackson manufacturing companies that trade internationally.
“There are 3,000 jobs in Jackson that depend on trade with Canada right now, and I believe there are prospects for more in the county,” said Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada.
Norton spoke about the New International Trade Crossing bridge initiative and Proposal 6 at a Jackson County Chamber of Commerce event at the Allegiance Health Specialty Center.
He said Jackson manufacturing companies such as Melling Tool Co., TAC Manufacturing and Diversified Engineering and Plastics would stand to benefit from the bridge because they export to Canada.
The NITC would cross over the Detroit River and relieve congestion and speed up trade at the busiest border-crossing between the U.S. and Canada.
According to Norton, the 7th Congressional District exports $1.6 billion every year to Canada. At the same time, he said Canada sells more to Michigan than any other state or country in the world.
“You are our best customers by far,” Norton said.
In 2011, 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.
At the end of his speech, Norton spent a few minutes bashing the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun and his multi-million dollar advertising campaign against the NITC.
The ads say Michigan taxpayers will end up footing some of the bill. Norton said this is not true and the bridge would come “risk-free” to Michigan taxpayers.
“Those ads are offensive. The ad says it (bridge) is going to cost Michigan taxpayers. They are implying Canada will renege on our commitments,” Norton said. “They should look in the mirror. We honor and adhere to our commitments.”
He said Canada will not be countering the ads with Canadian taxpayer dollars, or at all.
“We are not spending money on advertising. We are paying for a bridge not for advertising. And, the other side would somehow accuse us of interfering with the democratic process,” Norton said.
At one point, Norton held up his right hand and swore to those in the room that “Michigan will not have to pay for anything.”
Norton also campaigned against Proposal 6, a constitutional amendment that would require a public vote on the bridge project after Gov. Rick Snyder signed an agreement specifying Canada would build the bridge.
Although the event was hosted by the chamber, the organization is not taking sides at this point.
“The chamber has not taken an official position on any of the ballot proposals, although we were initial supporters of the international bridge,” Chamber of Commerce Spokeswoman Susan Franke told those in attendance.
Norton, based in Detroit, represents Canada in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.