Politics and Prejudices: Treating Canada like, uh, spit

By Jack Lessenberry

Lower Americans, which is what we really are, geographically (and often otherwise) tend to disrespect Canada, our most important friend, ally, and trading partner.

Not only haven’t we expressed gratitude for their picking up all Michigan’s expenses for the badly needed new bridge over the Detroit River — our government wouldn’t even pay for its own customs plaza.

Canada sighed and rolled its eyes, or would have if an entire nation could. This is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for well over a century: Sometimes on purpose; more often, out of our usual boorish insensitivity and absent-mindedness.

Back in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson once grabbed Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson by his lapels and screamed at him, “Don’t you come into my living room and piss on my rug!”

Poor old Mike Pearson hadn’t in fact ignored the toilet; all he had done is make a speech calling for a bombing halt in Vietnam. LBJ also usually called Pearson by the wrong first name, and sometimes confused him with the British prime minister. Other presidents have openly insulted Canadians or attempted to walk all over them.

Congress, if possible, has been worse. After Pierre Trudeau, who was regarded as a world statesman, addressed a joint session in 1977, one member from Milwaukee said he was impressed because “some members of Congress didn’t know a Canadian could speak such good English.”

Back then, Canada felt mainly ignored. Sondra Gotlieb, an accomplished and outspoken novelist, was the wife of Canada’s ambassador to Washington back in the Reagan era. “For some reason, a glaze passes over people’s faces when you say Canada. Maybe we should invade South Dakota, or something,” she mused. Sadly, they never did.

Canada’s problem is that she is like a sensible, usually sweet woman married to a bully. Though Canada is just as large geographically as the United States, it has barely more than a tenth of the population. Canadian politicians have long referred to it as a mouse sharing a bed with an elephant.

Years ago, Canadian columnist Allan Fotheringham said the problem was “the mouse still quivers. He fears sexual assault.” Being crushed on purpose is more like it.

Things do, in fact, seem to be particularly bad right now. Despite our frequent boorishness, Canada and the United States have usually gotten along very well. Our nations really have been close, at least on most issues, and it really was the world’s longest unguarded border, at least until Sept. 11, 2001.

There’ve been exceptions; President Clinton did seem to have a warm relationship with Canada’s leaders, and Canadians will tell you that former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard was the best envoy Washington ever sent.

But those days are gone. Whatever you think of President Obama, relations with Canada have been especially bad in the last few years. The Globe and Mail, Canada’s most important newspaper, ran a long story last month saying that U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman has been more or less frozen out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, in part, evidently because he brought the arrogant attitude of a former investment banker to the diplomatic table.

Mostly, however, there is a chilly atmosphere between Harper and Obama, who have never warmed to each other.

Not even the Canadians would put all the blame for that on Obama; Harper is not notorious for charm. But even his detractors think the United States could show some respect.

Whatever you think of the Keystone XL pipeline project, Canada is fully committed to it. Douglas George, Canada’s current counsel general in Detroit, knows something about energy issues; he is a former ambassador to Kuwait.

He knows something about this nation and this area too; he grew up in Sarnia right across the border from Port Huron, and came with his friends to many a concert in Detroit.

Though environmentalists have legitimate Keystone concerns, George told me “this is something that offers both our nations the chance for energy independence from the Middle East and Venezuela.”

Shortly after that, President Obama flatly declared he would veto a Keystone bill if one reached his desk.

One has the sense that Canada is less offended by Obama’s opposition to Keystone than they are that he didn’t seem to take Canada’s position seriously.

Closer to home, much the same is true for the New International Trade Crossing bridge. The bridge is vital to the economies of both our nations; Canada’s even more than ours.

In a perfect world, representatives of both countries would have sat down a decade ago and thrashed out where and how to build it and how to divide the costs.

But Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun was able to prevent that, by giving Michigan legislators legal bribes known as “campaign contributions.” But Canada stepped up.

They advanced Michigan the money needed, in what amounts to an interest-free $550 million loan that is to be paid back — someday — out of our state’s share of the toll revenue.

Though nobody mentions this, what this really means is that Canada will lose millions on the deal, thanks to inflation.

Canada did think Washington should pay for the customs plaza an international border crossing requires. After all, even poor countries pay for their own diplomatic installations.

But the Obama administration embarrassed itself by not even stepping up to ask Congress for the $250 million or so needed for an immigration and customs facility.

To be fair, even if Obama had, the Republicans who now control both houses of Congress might well have denied it.

Matty Moroun has given money to a number of GOP congressmen, including freshman U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester Hills) who has vowed to stop the new bridge.

So Canada is picking up that expense too. Oh, they expect to be reimbursed from our share of the duties, maybe half a century from now. There’s no real danger relations between our two countries will get too chilly.

Each needs the other too much. Last month, Canada and the U.S. signed a new initiative that should soon eliminate much of the hassle of crossing the border by land, sea, or air.

The relationship is intact. But we’ve shown little class when it comes to the way we’ve treated our most reliable ally and friend. Ten years from now, if the new bridge is indeed up and running, and you have a job, especially in any job that is related to manufacturing, you might think about doing something our government should be doing right now.

Thank a Canadian.

Originally posted by the Detroit Metro Times

Politics and Prejudices: Matty Moroun’s very own congressman

How the troll under the bridge keeps Mike Bishop in his back pocket

Matty Moroun, the greedy billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge, always reminds me of Sauron, the evil eminence in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Thought from time to time to be finished, even dead, he merely bides his time, recovers his strength, and strikes back.

Enter Moroun. The last few years have been politically wretched ones for Matty, or as wretched as they can be when you’re down to your last $1.8 billion or so.

But now he seems about to have his very own bought-and-paid-for congressman, and his newest “pet bull” is already vowing to help sabotage the new Detroit River bridge as soon as he can.

First, a little background: Moroun, an 87-year-old bag of fertilizer waiting to be planted, has one goal in life. Not to help mankind, find a cure for cancer, not even to enjoy himself. He wants to prevent a new bridge across the river.

The auto industry badly needs a new bridge to stay competitive. Canada’s economy needs this bridge even more.

So much, in fact, that they’re willing to front all of Michigan’s costs for this project; they’re content to let us pay them back years later out of our share of the tolls.

Right now, Moroun’s 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge is the only way to get heavy components across the river. But it wasn’t built for today’s monster loads, and it’s wearing out.

Which is why a new one is needed. But Moroun wants to keep his monopoly, even though he is very old, very rich, and may very well be dead before a new bridge could ever open.

For years and years, Matty Moroun has managed to successfully buy off the legislature through the form of legalized bribery known as “campaign contributions.” He shelled out hundreds of thousands — and money by the millions rolled in.

One of his best boys was former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. Four years ago, Bishop promised to allow the Senate to hold a vote on whether to form a public-private partnership with Canada. But Matty didn’t like that.

Suddenly, Moroun poured more than $150,000 in contributions to political candidates and committees under Bishop’s control. Guess what. Mikey went back on his word!

He refused to hold a vote, something that stunned Canada. Brian Masse, a member of Parliament from Windsor, called it “an international betrayal.”

For Moroun, it was just another day at the office, using his latest tool. But then things changed.

Along came Rick Snyder. There’s one thing about very rich people in higher office: they’re harder to buy off. Snyder recognized two things: A) business, most notably manufacturing interests, needed a new bridge, and B) the legislature was owned by the Morouns.

So he found a way to go around the trolls, and used a little-known clause in the Michigan Constitution to conclude an agreement with Canada. The Morouns filed lawsuit after impotent lawsuit. That just made the lawyers richer.

Now, pretty much all that needs to happen is for the federal government to approve the $250 million customs plaza any international border crossing must have.

The first few years after Bishop betrayed his promises also weren’t good for ethically challenged Mike. He was term-limited out of his Senate job. That same year, his fellow Republicans denied him their nomination for attorney general.

Bishop next ran for Oakland County prosecutor, and Jessica Cooper beat him like a drum. He then found a job as a lawyer for a credit-card processing firm in Clawson.

Eventually, he might have moved up to repo man. But fortune smiled on him this year; Mike Rogers, the congressman from Lansing, quit to host a radio talk show.

Bishop became the GOP’s choice to replace him in the 8th District. And the minute he got back to the political kennel, he ran to his master. So far, the Moroun family and that of his chief mini-me, Dan Stamper, has given Bishop’s campaign $18,200.

In return, Matty’s man has promised to try to block the bridge by preventing funding for the customs plaza, telling a reporter for the Livingston Daily that he supports Moroun building a second bridge next to the Ambassador instead.

That’s what the Morouns love to tell the ignorant. In fact, high-level Canadian diplomats have told me they’d never let that happen; two bridges next to each other would be an air-pollution hazard and a traffic-snarling nightmare.

Democrats have a decent candidate in Eric Schertzing, a moderate Democrat who is the Ingham County treasurer.

But the district leans Republican. Unless something drastic happens, voters are about to elect a congressman who will owe his true allegiance not to them, but to Matty Moroun.

Moroun, the slumlord of the abandoned train station. Moroun, the man who has done everything he can to kill a new bridge that both countries desperately need.

You have to wonder if they have any idea.
Rockin’ Down the Ballot: One of the odder things about democracy in Michigan is that we vote to elect the state board of education and the people who run our three major universities: Wayne State University, Michigan State, and that school off in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan.

Even odder is that this isn’t a nonpartisan election. No group of seasoned experts in academia or university finance is called on to help select candidates. Nope. The party hacks delegates to their state conventions pick ’em.

What’s amazing is that we’ve usually gotten pretty decent and responsible people as a result, with the occasional old football coach or businessman’s wife/kid thrown in.

Ironically, the candidates themselves have almost nothing to do with who wins these races. Except for a few of their friends, nobody even notices they’re running.

Most people who split their tickets ignore these races. Usually, if more straight-ticket GOP votes are cast, as was the case in 2010, Republicans win all or nearly all the board seats.

When the Democrats’ top candidate wins easily, as in 2008, their guys win. However, this year the governor’s race could be close, which means these races could go either way.

Which means you should educate yourselves about the education board candidates, for one simple reason: Education is vitally important to any chance of an economic recovery.

Three candidates are of special interest. First, a negative: Whatever else happens, it is vital that Maria Carl, one of the GOP candidates for the state board of education, be defeated.

Carl is an anti-abortion, radical right extremist who hates the Common Core education standards, in part because, as her website makes clear, she doesn’t understand them.

Chad Selweski the longtime politics reporter at The Macomb Daily, reports that at a Michigan GOP state convention in the 1990s, Carl shouted “She’s a Jew! She’s a Jew!” when Andrea Fischer (now Newman) was nominated for a seat on the Republican National Committee.

Classy Maria then loudly urged Macomb County delegates to support Betsy DeVos “because she isn’t a Jew.”

Yep, that’s just the kind of person we want making state education policy … in hell. At the other end of the spectrum is Cassandra Ulbrich, who is running for re-election.

Ulbrich is everything a board member ought to be: savvy in politics (I first knew her when she was a young aide to Congressman David Bonior), highly educated, and dedicated.

Currently, she is vice-president for college advancement and community relations at Macomb Community College, and really gets the challenges our schools face.

The other must-win candidate is Marilyn Kelly, a former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court who is running for a seat on the Wayne State Board of Governors.

Kelly herself was once a state board of education member; her knowledge of law, politics, education, and essential human decency mean she’d be a prize wherever she chose to serve.

Originally posted by Jack Lessenberry in: Metrotimes

Detroit-Windsor bridge debate rages on

By Metro Times staff

Eight years ago in Metro Times: How’s this for familiar territory: MT reports that Delray residents are hopeful that Canadian and U.S. officials will OK a span, much like Matty Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor and Detroit via an anchorage in Delray. But Moroun was looking to build a second bridge of his own with the support of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The story was that a second bridge was going to be built, no matter what — but residents wanted that bridge to be MDOT-controlled so they could rely on an agency responsive to community concerns. To this day, that second bridge is still being debated. Gov. Rick Snyder is backing a Detroit-Windsor bridge in collaboration with Canada dubbed the New International Trade Crossing, while Moroun continues to press for a second span of his own.

Originally posted by the Metro Times

The New International Trade Crossing: A means to boost Detroit-and-area employment at a critical time

By Roy Norton

(this article mostly derives from remarks to the International Union of Operating Engineers, at Gaylord, MI, Oct. 24, 2012, and to the Southwest Detroit Business Association, at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers, June 13, 2013)

I’ve had the good fortune to represent Canada in Michigan since 2010. During these three exceptional years, no Michigan-Canada issue has been more important than reaching agreement to build the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

In January 2011, your governor dedicated five minutes of his first state-of-the-state speech to talking about Michigan’s connections with Canada. The speech was remarkable; I’m pretty sure that no other U.S. governor has ever used such a high-profile occasion to remind his audience of how interconnected a jurisdiction – in this case, Michigan – is with Canada.

It’s about jobs …

The governor took that opportunity to endorse construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. He knows – as do workers and job creators across this state – that the majority of Michigan-Canada trade depends on one 84-year-old bridge to get to market. 44% of everything Michigan sells to the world is bought in Canada – more than by your state’s next 14-largest markets combined.

218,000 jobs in your state depend on trade with Canada – literally, on stuff moving to and from Canada, reliably and efficiently. Today, most of those goods cross the Ambassador Bridge.

We must not forget – this is about more than Michigan and Canada. Legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, even Alabama, have passed Resolutions calling for the NITC to proceed. Lawmakers in those states, and in others, know how vulnerable their trade with Canada is to the risk that one very old bridge, for which there’s no real redundancy, could at some point become horribly inefficient. Or even fail – whether due to old age, a catastrophic accident, or terrorism.

Last November, Michigan’s voters proved they well-understand these fundamental realities. The 60/40 rejection of Proposition 6 didn’t happen by accident. Across Michigan, farmers, union laborers, manufacturers, voters understood that Michigan’s prosperity – and prospects – hung in the balance.

With that outcome, Michiganders effectively endorsed a transportation infrastructure project, the total investment in which, on both sides of the border, will approach $4 billion. Building it will create tens of thousands of construction and materials-supply jobs in our two countries during the 4-year construction period. Could there be a better time, in Detroit’s history, for such a major job-creating project to get underway?

The NITC will assure the security of the jobs of millions of workers employed in manufacturing and logistics in both countries. Certainty around the existence of reliable cross-border transportation infrastructure will make this region – both sides of the border – attractive to on-going investment that will result in many more jobs. Rarely has a single piece of infrastructure been more important.

In the medium-term, there will be many permanent jobs associated with operation of the crossing, and in businesses – existing and new – linked to border operations.

and communities …

The NITC, like all major infrastructure projects, will alter the local landscape. While the preliminary impact area has been identified, the exact boundaries could still change. Property owners in the impacted area will be notified officially when plans are finalized. Until that time, binding predictions of specific future land uses simply cannot be made. But governments have made clear their commitment: measures for necessary relocation will be fair and equitable.

The NITC will be jointly owned by the Government of Canada and the State of Michigan. As owners, Canada and Michigan are ultimately responsible for ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to enable the host communities in the Detroit and Windsor areas to benefit from the NITC project and to mitigate its negative impacts.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the bridge. The Authority will be required to undertake public outreach activities to ensure the host community is engaged throughout the procurement, construction and operations phases of the project. Such outreach activities will include, but may not be limited to:

  • Development of a public website where all project-related information, reports & materials can be found, and public feedback can be solicited;
  • Holding annual public meetings in both Detroit and Windsor to provide a forum for two-way dialogue that allows for public questions and comments;
  • Issuing information bulletins (newsletters, reports, e-mails etc.) to provide information on the NITC to the interested public;
  • Issuing an annual report to communicate its activities to stakeholders; and,
  • Formal periodic consultations with community stakeholders.

Canada and Michigan plan to pursue a public-private partnership (P3) for the new crossing. This arrangement would see the public sector enter into a contract with a private sector consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the bridge under a long-term concession. At the end of the term, the consortium would transfer the bridge to the public sector. The underlying goal of all P3s is to combine the best capabilities of both public and private sectors for mutual benefit.

Through this contract, Canada and Michigan will ensure that the private sector satisfies the public interest through rigorous, built-in performance standards. The operator will be required to meet all applicable laws and regulations. In addition, the P3 contract will require that the operator establish and maintain mechanisms to understand and address community concerns.

In order to promote NITC community benefits in the context of an innovative P3 arrangement, evaluation criteria to benefit local communities will be included in the Request for Qualification (RFQ).

With respect to community benefits and community involvement, consortia will be asked to include the following as part of their proposals:

  • A plan as to how the community would be involved in the project’s operations during the construction and operations periods;
  • What types of community outreach the consortium would be undertaking to minimize detrimental impacts from vibration, noise, traffic routing, congestion relief, local road repair and rehabilitation, and so on; and,
  • A plan as to how the consortium would work with local community groups, institutions of higher learning, unions and others to maximize opportunities for local employment (e.g., training, apprenticeship programs and the like).

Bidders will be asked how they would reach out to the community, be a good neighbor, employ locally and so forth. The operator will be held to the highest performance standards to ensure that legitimate concerns of the communities are acknowledged and addressed.

We are confident project economics will dictate that local labor, supplies and suppliers be used to the maximum extent possible. Canada and Michigan will strongly encourage and reward the use of local resources, local supplies, and local job training initiatives (including apprenticeship programs) through the procurement process.

U.S. workers in the U.S.A. …

In case there’s doubt, work on the Michigan side can only be done by folks eligible to work in the USA. Canadians can’t come over and take those jobs. Just as Americans can’t come and take the jobs on the Canadian side.

It’s been estimated, in study after study, that more than 10,000 full time jobs – in the construction sector alone – will be created from this project, just in Michigan. Those will be good paying jobs.
And the spinoffs from the project will create another 13,000-or-more jobs. No single project in Michigan in the foreseeable future will generate nearly as much employment as this will.

Michigan has also negotiated an amazing arrangement with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration whereby the $550M that Canada will pay for the Interchange to I-75 – money that never flows into Michigan’s books – will be counted by US DoT as Michigan’s share in the four-to-one match program.

Meaning Canada’s $550 million will secure an additional $2.2 billion in federal funds for road and bridge construction anywhere in Michigan. No cost to the state – but a great benefit to Michigan workers! The Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, in a 2012 study, projected that an additional 6,000 jobs will be created as a result. These funds will begin to flow after NITC construction has begun.

That agreement means this project becomes conditioned to federal matching requirements. One of those is the applicability of ‘Davis Bacon’ – meaning that ‘prevailing wages’ must be paid.

Here’s another gain for American labor and American business. Even though there’s zero U.S. (or MI) money in either the bridge span or the interchange, Canada agreed that those components will be constructed according to a new rule: Buy Canada/Buy US. We don’t know which companies will win contracts to provide steel and other content for the bridge. But we do know, as a result of this rule, that content will come from one or the other (or more likely both) of our two countries. Not from Brazil. Not from China. Not from anywhere else.

The Moroun ad campaign in support of Prop 6 left the impression the NITC would be made of Chinese steel. Like everything else in those ads, that wasn’t true. The U.S. Steelworkers Union enthusiastically endorsed the Buy U.S.-Buy Canada Agreement. They would not have supported this if there was even a chance the bridge would be made of anything other than U.S.-Canadian steel.

Going forward …

Several major necessary milestones have already been realized: the June 2012 Michigan/Canada Agreement; the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 6; the U.S. Presidential Permit this April 12.

Two milestones, and some irritants, remain. After defeat of their Proposition 6, the Morouns’ spokesman defiantly declared they would take their campaign “to the courts” and to “Washington, D.C.” The fact that the Presidential Permit was issued in the face of a Moroun lawsuit contesting the U.S. government’s authority to do so suggests the desperate actions of the Ambassador Bridge owners are now considered frivolous and totally without merit.

One lawsuit has already been dismissed (in July, by Ingham County Judge Joyce Draganchuk). Suits will probably continue; launching court actions is what these people do. But their lawsuits and stunts can no longer kill this project.

Concerning the two remaining milestones, the U.S. Coast Guard Permit should be a formality; after all, there will be no NITC footings in the water, and it will achieve the height clearances necessary for Detroit River shipping.

Funding for the U.S. Customs Plaza will have to be identified and committed before bids from private sector companies can be invited. We know that money is tight. Everywhere. But we also know the U.S. is a reliable partner – one that can be counted on to discharge its responsibilities. As already noted, the total cost for this project – including all of the road work on both sides of the border – approaches $4 billion. The Governments of Canada and Ontario are committed to pay for – or guarantee – approximately 95% of that sum. The state of Michigan bears no cost and no liability. Per the Crossing Agreement, the customs plaza on the U.S. side – at an approximate cost of $250 million – is clearly a U.S. federal government responsibility. Meeting in Minneapolis in July, the Council of State Government’s Midwestern Legislative Conference (representing eleven states) called on Washington to act quickly to fund the customs plaza, so that the project can get underway.

When our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City in May, he described Detroit-Windsor as the “largest single trade corridor in the world.” Meaning, it’s important to the U.S. and to Canada that we get things right at Detroit-Windsor.

That this project could soon proceed is testament to the resolve and the drive of many. Resolve and drive will still be required in the months ahead.

Between us, Americans and Canadians, Michiganders and Ontarians, are poised to achieve something really big. Something really important to the future of this entire region. Through the extraordinary partnership that we’ve built – together – we will grow our shared economy. We will create jobs – and new hope – for people across this region, on both sides of the border. including for the good people of Detroit. Those couldn’t come at a more important time.

Dr. Roy Norton has represented Canada in the U.S. mid-west since September 2010. He’s been especially active in building support for a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor – but has also been heavily engaged in promoting increased two-way trade and investment, managing border-related and Great Lakes issues, and in building greater awareness of the extent of economic integration (including in the energy sector) between the U.S. and Canada. His two previous foreign assignments for the Government of Canada have been at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Originally posted by Dome Magazine

A Bridge to Somewhere


By Jack Lessenberry

The other hero is a retired Free Press investigative reporter and blogger, Joel Thurtell, who first brought this story to my attention in 2008, after he discovered Moroun had seized portions of a city park and posted phony “Homeland Security” no trespassing signs.

When Thurtell went there, a shotgun-toting Moroun goon drove him away. The reporter posted pictures and a story. Soon after, I wrote about this. Eventually, the “mainstream media” started to.

It isn’t over until it’s over. Expect more dirty tricks till, someday, they close the lid on Matty.

But there really will be a new bridge.

Here we go again

The Windsor Star

Anne Jarvis

And you thought the epic battle for a new bridge was over.

Oh no it’s not. Wake up. Another one just started.

The day after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that U.S. President Barack Obama had signed the permit for the new government bridge between Windsor and Detroit, a draft report on the Ambassador Bridge’s planned new crossing was released. Make no mistake: the Ambassador Bridge is hell-bent on keeping its lucrative truck route. And like the decade-long battle over the new government bridge and the Herb Gray Parkway, this will be another epic struggle to protect Windsor.

The Canadian Transit Company wants to build a six-lane cable-stayed bridge 30 metres west of the Ambassador Bridge. That’s bigger than the existing span, which is four lanes. Over and over in the report, the new crossing is called a replacement span. But it’s not. When it opens, the existing span will be fixed and maintained. So instead of one bridge with rumbling trucks spewing diesel particulate, dividing the city like a virtual wall, there will be two – 10 lanes of traffic.

These trucks will go to a 19-acre expanded customs plaza on the southwest corner of Huron Church Road and College Avenue. There are a lot of houses south and west of there. Do you want to live next to 19 acres of trucks? The University of Windsor’s 2,000-seat stadium is across Huron Church from the proposed plaza. Do the Lancers want to play next to 19 acres of trucks? Assumption College School is south of the stadium. Do you want your children going to classes next to 19 acres of trucks?

It’s not clear how trucks will get to the new bridge, but under the proposal, Huron Church would be “realigned” around the plaza. The city suspects the bridge wants to close Huron Church to local traffic north of College and make it a truck route.

Didn’t we just spend 10 years fighting to get trucks off city streets? And now we’re considering putting them back on Huron Church, roaring and puffing past homes, schools, businesses, the university and Assumption Church. The city would lose part of a major north-south artery and access to the downtown we’re trying to revitalize and the riverfront.  (Remember the bridge blocked access to northbound Huron Church five years ago.)

The company says it will landscape a five-acre strip west of Huron Church between College and Mill Street to provide a buffer for Sandwich. Will this be landscaping Detroit style? Look at the bridge’s property there. There’s no landscaping. There are acres of pavement and a massive wall. Look at the current plaza on the Canadian side. See any landscaping? It’s not their forte.

The report, prepared by Transport Canada and the Windsor Port Authority, examines 17 potential ways the new crossing could affect Windsor, from air quality to noise and vibration to cultural heritage. It reaches the  same conclusion every time: “Taking into account the application of all appropriate mitigation measures…the project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects…”

Particulate in the air will be higher than it should be, but it will be monitored. Noise will be louder than it should be, but noise barriers will be installed, as high as 5.5 metres along west side of the plaza. How would you like to look at that while you barbecue? To minimize vibration, already perceptible, the surface of the road will be smooth – until spring, when the potholes appear. Rest assured maintenance will be a priority, just like landscaping. No heritage buildings will be demolished or moved, according to the report, so that’s not a problem

Who writes these reports! The bridge already cuts off historic, colourful Sandwich, where the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to revitalize its birthplace. Ten lanes? Just amputate the entire west end.

The report spends pages outlining how it will require the bridge to submit detailed plans to monitor and report on the effects of its new span yada, yada. The bridge had plenty of legal obligations in the infamous Gateway Project  in Michigan. Bridge owner Matty Moroun was finally jailed for refusing to comply.

And don’t forget, Michigan is recommending that hazardous materials – radioactive, poisonous and flammable stuff – be allowed to cross the bridge.

We just spent 10 years and what will be billions of dollars for a new bridge, inspection plaza and highway where they should be: away from the city’s core. Now, as Mayor Eddie Francis summed it up, “we’re talking about building a brand new bridge with a brand new plaza next to an existing bridge in a very dense urban setting with an established culturally significant neighbourhood.”


Francis will ask council Monday to approve spending up the $150,000 to hire environmental lawyer David Estrin, the city’s former counsel on the parkway, to respond to the proposal for the latest new crossing. Bring him on.