Gordie Howe is Good for the Great Lakes Region

Letter to President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau

OTTAWA, Jan. 27, 2017 /CNW/ –

His Excellency the Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, D.C.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.

Prime Minister of Canada

Langevin Block

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. President and Prime Minister:

The United States of America and Canada share a very special relationship that has been forged through commerce, combat, mutual aid in times of crisis, friends and family, and our mutual commitment to conserving the environment for future generations. As inscribed on the Peace Arch between Blaine, Washington and Douglas, British Columbia, we are truly children of a common mother and brethren dwelling together in unity.

As you begin to work together to advance the United States (U.S.) – Canada relationship under your leadership, the Council of the Great Lakes Region would like to offer the following observations.  We hope they are useful as you strengthen this unique bilateral relationship during your time in office.

The U.S. and Canada make things together. We innovate and learn together. Together our farmers feed our families and communities. It is a dynamic partnership that has led to one of the most important and successful economic relationships in the world. In fact, Canada is the top export destination for 35 states. The U.S. also accounts for 51 per cent of global investment into Canada.

Conversely, Canada is the biggest supplier of energy to the U.S., the second largest exporter of agriculture and agri-food products to the U.S., and is a trusted and integrated supplier of inputs into U.S. manufacturing – automotive, aerospace, life sciences, information and communications technologies. Overall, Canada sells more to the U.S. in one year than to the rest of the world combined over three years. As a result, nearly 9 million U.S. jobs depend on Canada.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region is the heart and soul of this economic relationship. Home to 107 million Americans and Canadians, this binational region straddles the international border and encompasses eight U.S. states – Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and two Canadian provinces – Ontario and Quebec.

Border crossings in the region comprise 74 per cent of the total value of imports and exports moving across all ports of entry between the two countries by rail, truck and pipeline. With a GDP of USD $5.8 trillion, if taken as a separate economic unit, the region would be the third largest economy in the world after the U.S. and China, supporting some 50 million jobs, or roughly one-third of the combined American and Canadian workforce.

Moreover, the region boasts one-fifth of U.S. and one-half of Canadian manufacturing. In 2011, the region accounted for nearly 24.1 per cent and 72.1 per cent of R&D funding in the U.S. and Canada and generated 26.2 per cent and 68 per cent of patents in the U.S. and Canada respectively in 2012. Furthermore, the region is home to 20 of the world’s top 100 universities.

As you consider the next steps in the bilateral relationship, our experience in the region shows that there is more we can do to modernize, align and in some cases eliminate duplicate regulations across sectors at the federal–state/provincial level that would create growth in the region and improve the ease of doing business by reducing red tape. Smart regulations do not equal less stringent regulations. To this end, the Council encourages you to continue and accelerate the work of the Regulatory Cooperation Council.

Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET) are multi-agency law enforcement teams that target cross-border criminal activity on land and in the marine environment through initiatives like Shiprider, a program that sees U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian law enforcement personnel jointly patrol shared waterways, including in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region. They have shown how we can effectively monitor and protect the longest border in the world. Therefore, IBETs should be expanded and strengthened.

Similarly, there is more that we can do to secure the border while pre-clearing and expediting the movement of legitimate people and goods, as well as sharing customs and border resources in joint facilities, as we try to institutionalize the “checked once, approved twice” approach to trade and mobility between our two countries.

The enactment of the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act by Congress in December 2016, coupled with a companion bill that is awaiting approval in Canada, provides the legal framework for establishing a modern, seamless border in an increasingly borderless global economy. Thickening the border as a result of duplicate inspection and enforcement or implementing tax measures at the border, would add billions of dollars in extra operating costs for business and government in the region and could have a cooling affect on bilateral imports and exports.

Over the last decade world trade in goods has increased dramatically from less than $8 trillion in 2003 to more than $18.5 trillion in 2013. Over the same period, trade in services has more than doubled, from $2 trillion to $4.7 trillion. This growth has been precipitated in many cases by specialized economic zones (SEZs), also known as Free Trade or export processing zones (EPZs), which now number in the thousands around the globe and can exist across international borders. Establishing a public-private Great Lakes FTZ between our two countries in the region would be a game changer for business and attracting investment, as it would create a favourable tax and tariff treatment regime across the entire region as well as provide greater flexibility in how companies warehouse and transport goods.

In the eight Great Lakes states, there are over 7.0 million SMEs, or 26% of small businesses in the U.S. However, only 123,249 of these firms exported goods in 2014, supporting about 1.7 million American jobs. The value of SME exports to Canada in 2015, the top export destination for most small firms in the region, was USD$110.8 billion. In the same vein, almost 60% of all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada, many of them manufacturers, are based in Ontario and Quebec, supporting 6.4 million Canadian jobs. The destination for their exports is the U.S., which accounted for 88.1% of total exports of small businesses and 96.2% of exports of medium-sized businesses. However, only 21.3% of Ontario’s and 21.5% of Quebec’s SMEs exported in 2014.

Capacity constraints limit SMEs in tackling border regulations, understanding market opportunities, identifying appropriate partners and clients, and accessing capital or incentives. As a result, we must do more to scale up SMEs and get them export ready in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region through better market intelligence, as well as more targeted advisory and financial supports.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region consists of an expansive network of continental highways, bridges, airports and rail lines, 15 large international marine ports and 50 regional marine ports, and the bi-national Saint Lawrence Seaway and its 19 locks that together connect the region to the continent and industry to global markets in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa.

However, this critical infrastructure is aging and in desperate need of renewal (e.g. the Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan). As well, new transportation assets need to be built to accommodate regional economic growth, build greater connectivity within the region and to world markets, and improve supply chain resiliency (e.g. Gordie Howe International Bridge and associated customs plazas).

Modernizing the region’s infrastructure presents a tremendous opportunity to put American and Canadian workers, capital and building products like steel to work for the benefit of both countries. Therefore, please work together to prioritize and invest in the renewal and construction of trade enabling infrastructure in the region using public-private partnerships, a viable means of addressing our shared infrastructure deficit at a time of constrained public budgets.

The binational Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region is a strategic energy market in North America and transit corridor with assets in exploration, production, and distribution of fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewable energy. In fact, the earliest record of energy trade between Canada and the U.S. dates to the construction of a cross-border electricity interconnection near Niagara Fall in 1901.

As both your governments consider ways to reduce toxic air emissions and shift to cleaning burning energy to fuel our homes and industries, there are opportunities to share more clean energy across the border, but we first need to establish an integrated electricity market and system for managing trade and reliability. Imagine the environmental impact and capital cost savings that could be realized for states in the Northeast-Midwest of the U.S. if Canada was able to export more hydropower or nuclear energy to these jurisdictions.

Over the last decade, we have witnessed the development of unique industry clusters within the region’s metropolitan areas including Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Toronto and Montreal, from life sciences and aerospace to robotics, food and water. A number of distinct cross-border, trade corridors also exist, such as Detroit-Windsor, Buffalo-Niagara, and Port Huron-Sarnia. There are many advantages to doing business within these clusters and corridors together in terms of economic development, science and innovation.

Countries that invest in incubating and accelerating discovery and supporting scientific breakthroughs will lead a knowledge economy that is being further defined by big data, analytics and cognitive computing. Our universities, industries, entrepreneurs, and scientists in the region’s corridors can be at the forefront of defining solutions to the world’s biggest social, economic and environmental problems. I encourage you to help unleash the full potential of these cross-border collaborations by removing barriers to shared science and innovation that are often engrained in our national granting councils and government programs.

Finally, the watershed of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, a defining feature of much of this economic region, is comprised of a number of vital freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems to both countries and the world. The Great Lakes themselves hold about 18% of the world’s and 84% of North America’s surface freshwater, supplying clean drinking water to over 40 million Americans and Canadians. In addition, estimates suggest that more than 3,500 species of plants and animals inhabit the Great Lakes basin, making it a unique and complicated ecosystem.

The U.S. and Canada share a long tradition of working together to protect and conserve ecosystems straddling the border through the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the International Joint Commission and other mechanisms like the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. It is worth noting that protecting our natural capital, such as the restoration of the Great Lakes, is one issue that continues to receive widespread bipartisan support in Congress and the House of Commons. Moreover, restoring contaminated sites and renewing brownfield developments also makes good economic sense, as some projects have shown a return of $15 in net economic benefit for every dollar invested by taxpayers.

The Council of the Great Lakes Region is a non-profit, non-partisan binational organization that was established in 2013 to deepen the U.S. – Canada relationship in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region, and create a stronger, more dynamic culture of collaboration between government, business, academia and non-profit leaders in harnessing the region’s economic strengths while enhancing the well-being of the region’s citizens and protecting the environment for future generations.

We achieve this mandate by conducting insightful, evidence-based public policy research, convening diverse perspectives through events like the Great Lakes Economic Forum, and educating leaders about the importance of the region to the U.S. and Canada.

To this end, the Council stands ready to assist you in setting up the bilateral relationship for success over the weeks and months ahead and I would like to invite you to attend the Great Lakes Economic Forum in Detroit-Windsor from April 24-26, 2017. The Forum presents an opportunity for you to meet and solidify your priorities for expanding the U.S. – Canada partnership.

I would welcome an opportunity to discuss the Forum and the binational the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region with you in the near future.

Sincerely,

Mark P. Fisher

c.c.

Mr. Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff, President of the United States

Ms. Katie Telford, Chief of Staff, Prime Minister of Canada

The Star’s View: Beware of bridge owners bearing gifts

Star Editorials

A leopard that changes its spots? The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are suddenly getting all contrite and playing friendly — in a most out-of-character fashion — with one of the host cities of the vital trade span.

After years of litigation and bullheadedly pushing to get their way, the Morouns appear to now want peace with Detroit.

“People hate us,” bridge company spokesman Mickey Blashfield told the Detroit Free Press. Added bridge company president Matt Moroun: “I’ve got to change the reputation of my company and my family.”

The charm offensive comes as Detroit city council mulls a controversial agreement between Mayor Mike Duggan and the Moroun family over a key city property the bridge owners need for their proposed twin span into west Windsor.

Under the tentative deal, three acres of Riverside Park next to the bridge on the American side would be turned over to the Morouns in exchange for five acres of other nearby riverfront property, plus $3 million for park improvements.

Federal permits on the U.S. side for the twin span proposal have stalled because Matt’s father, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, for years, had been unable to acquire portions of the park he needs.

Securing rights to the park has been a stumbling block with the U.S. Coast Guard — the federal body in the U.S. assigned to grant Moroun final environmental approval for the project.

About five years ago, Matty Moroun had a large section of the park fenced off and then called it his own, even posting armed security. A community backlash put Riverside Park back in the city’s hands.

Detroit city council is divided on the deal — a formal vote has been repeatedly delayed and is scheduled again for Tuesday. The bridge company has cleaned up some of its Detroit properties and is paying off a pile of outstanding fines for code violations on dozens of holdings. Some Detroiters question the impact of a second span, but others love the idea of a long-neglected riverfront park in one of the city’s poorest areas getting some attention.

The charm offensive of the Morouns has yet to cross the Canadian border. Moroun is awaiting approval for the twin span from Transport Canada, which will soon make a recommendation to Ottawa.

The Morouns are Windsor’s biggest slum landlords, with more than 100 abandoned homes in Old Sandwich Towne.

The city is fiercely opposed to any expansion of the Ambassador Bridge operations, particularly the owner’s desire for an expanded footprint in West Windsor to accommodate a secondary inspection plaza.

Replacing the current, 1929-span would be acceptable, but a plaza expansion must be opposed with steely resolve. To all levels of Canadian government we say: Beware of bridge owners bearing gifts.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Editor’s note: Second span to Windsor needed

Nolan Finley, The Detroit News

Hopefully, Michigan’s congressional delegation was paying attention Tuesday to what was not happening on the Ambassador Bridge.

Traffic was not moving over the lone bridge across the Detroit River to Canada because a vehicle fire shut down the span.

The delay was short-lived, but created a traffic back-up that inconvenienced motorists and cost truckers and the factories they supply money. Imagine if the accident had been more serious and the bridge had to be closed for days instead of hours.

Back-up capacity is one reason Metro Detroit needs a second bridge across the Detroit River. And yet some Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation aren’t on board.

Rep. Candice Miller of Harrison Township wants money first for an expansion project at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, which is in her district. Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester says he supports Miller, but he also has benefited from campaign donations from Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Maroun, who opposes the second span. Outstate GOP Reps. Tim Walberg and John Moolenaar have yet to endorse the new bridge.

Relying on one bridge in an era in which global trade is so vital to the local economy is reckless. Miller and Bishop should join the rest of the state delegation in setting aside parochial interests and work for the good of the entire state.

Originally posted by The Detroit News

Editorial: Build the Detroit River bridge

Latest legal setback should end the challenges to new Detroit River crossing

Piece by piece, preparations for the new Detroit River bridge are falling into place. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared a potential major legal hurdle by refusing to hear a lawsuit brought by community activists and the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

The challenge came from Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Citizens with Challenges, Detroit Association of Black Organizations and other community groups, along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

The parties claimed the Federal Highway Administration, in approving the Delray neighborhood of southwest Detroit as the site of the new crossing, violated the social and environmental justice provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and other federal laws.

Federal District Court Judge Avern Cohn rejected the lawsuit, and his decision was upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the Supreme Court has put the matter to rest.

It is the latest in a string of legal victories for Gov. Rick Snyder and other backers of the new Detroit River International Crossing.

Last summer, the appellate court also rejected the contention that the federal government had bowed to pressure from Canada in denying a permit for Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun to build a second span adjacent to his current bridge.

And earlier this month, the United States and Canada reached agreement for the Canadians to front the money for building out the customs plaza on the Detroit side of the crossing. As with the entire $2 billion cost of the bridge, which Canada is also putting up, the $300 million for the plaza will be repaid with revenue from tolls.

By now, the inevitability of the new bridge should be evident. Continuing court battles and other blocking moves is pointless.

Moroun, as well as the community groups, should stand down and let the process of building the bridge proceed.

Instead of continuing a futile fight, they should work with the state and federal governments to mitigate the community’s concerns.

There is no reason the crossing should be a negative for the devastated Delray neighborhood. The international trade expected to be generated by the bridge should create opportunities for warehouses and other logistic industry investments, and with them much needed jobs. The focus now should be on training local workers for those jobs, and making sure development unfolds in a manner that benefits the neighborhood.

As for Moroun, he should accept that he’s lost this battle. Further legal maneuvering is pointless. He has a major investment in the Ambassador Bridge, and it is natural that he would want to protect it.

But the government has no compelling interest in damaging Moroun’s business. He should be working with the state to assure there’s enough traffic to sustain both spans. Increasing trade traffic is the objective, after all.

Once construction begins, it will take five years to complete the crossing. There should be no further needless delays. This is a project vital to the region’s economy.

Originally posted by The Detroit News

Two Detroit eyesores that have to be fixed

It has been quite a while since we were able to get the cement plants on Detroit’s riverfront torn down, and it has made a dramatic difference in the waterfront.

Now we have to turn our attention to two major architectural eyesores that need the entire community’s action to get rid of or fixed up.

The Michigan Central Depot railroad station is a giant eyesore that almost symbolizes the plight that Detroit has had for the last few decades. We all know the owner and how he has fought the new bridge being built just a bit downriver from his existing bridge.

Somehow, this railroad station has something to do with his plan. There are some tunnels under the station, and I have no doubt it will become a pawn in whatever Matty Moroun’s grand plan turns out to be.

By all accounts, it would take far too much money to fix up the station for some business use, and so it would seem that unless someone comes up with a plan, the best thing to do is tear it down. Perhaps it should even be condemned, if for no other reason than it is a hazard.

Meanwhile, right in the middle of downtown is the legacy of our Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano: the half-built or less county jail. Sitting in a spot that was pretty inappropriate to begin with, it stands as a symbol of the corruption and inefficiency of our county government.

Hopefully, the plans for this jail will be transferred to somewhere outside of downtown Detroit. But in the meantime, let’s hope that Dan Gilbert’s plan for demolishing the structure can come to pass.

It is amazing that these two structures, separated by decades, can create such a blight on our image.

The city is doing a great job of attacking blight in our city, and there is a real program to eliminate abandoned houses or to sell them with plans for renovation.

To continue to allow these two eyesores to remain standing as the perfect photo op for every visiting journalist who comes to write about our city seems simply absurd.

Both of these structures have existed far too long without positive resolution. I am not sure how we ever got those concrete monstrosities removed from the riverfront, because it took several decades. But it happened, and I hope that we’ll find the same government magic to make these two structures disappear as well.

Maybe we can ask the Ilitches to tear them down when they’re building their new arena.

Originally posted by: Crain’s Detroit Business

Detroit council wants property sale proceeds for DRIC bridge pumped back into Delray

Detroit council on Monday demanded something in writing that guarantees re-investment in Delray’s neighbourhoods when the city sells 300 properties to the state for the new Detroit River bridge leading to Windsor.

“They keep telling us we can negotiate these things down the road, but our community is seven years down the road on this — how much longer do we need to wait to get this?” said Detroit Coun. Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, who represents the Delray community.

Given the massive makeover that lies ahead for the downriver industrial community during construction of the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project, neighbourhood leaders have been fighting hard to get “community benefits” in writing before bridge construction gets started.

Detroit council last week unanimously rejected a request by the city’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to approve the property sale for $1.4 million until community protection and investment for Delray gets put in writing.

Under protocol, Detroit’s council had to come up with its own counter proposal instead of Orr’s request — which Castaneda-Lopez put together and was approved by council on Monday.

Both Orr’s request and council’s proposal will be sent to Lansing for a decision by the state government’s Emergency Loan Board within the next couple weeks.

“The proposal has just been received and is under review,” said David Murray, spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday.

Government staff and those connected to the bridge project will review what can be addressed in terms of the community’s requests, he said.

What the community wants is “legally binding agreements” for most of the $1.4 million to be reinvested in Delray for such things as housing improvements, demolishing vacant buildings, diesel pollution mitigation and fixing street lighting, according to Castaneda-Lopez’s proposal.

They also want community leaders consulted in development of the request for proposal for the bridge project, plus reinstatement of a $1.9-million government housing grant designated for Delray, but has long remained on hold.

“Planting 50 trees is the (current) community benefit to take care of the diesel emissions,” Castaneda-Lopez said. “At this point, that’s very much our reality.

“You would think they would want a thriving, beautiful community for those coming off the bridge to drive through or stop. You want that on both sides of the border, otherwise this (bridge) really doesn’t move us forward as a region or a city.”

Local MP Brian Masse (NDP -Windsor West) represents the riding where the DRIC bridge will be located on the Canadian side in Brighton Beach.

“You can’t hold it against them for trying to improve their community for the new border crossing,” Masse said. “I have been over there several times and it’s a reasonable request they are making.

“They just want to do this right. More power to them because they are the ones who are going to have to live there and co-exist with the border crossing.”

If the property deal is eventually approved, it would be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side for the DRIC project. Causing a delay of a few added weeks in getting the property sale completed is worth it if a resolution can satisfy the Delray community, Masse said.

“Hopefully, they can come to agreement or a compromise that works for everybody — and then let’s get moving forward on this,” he said. “You only get one shot at this — it might another 100 years before they build another one — so this should be a signature crossing.”

Originally posted by the: Windsor Star

Ferry owner favors Detroit River bridge – even if it costs his job

There have been many voices speaking up in favor of a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

Top Canadian officials, Gov. Rick Snyder, big business all hunger for this planned new bridge to be built about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge.

But one of those speaking up for a new bridge is someone who stands to lose his livelihood once the bridge is up and carrying traffic.

Gregg Ward operates the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry. It carries the trucks hauling hazardous materials across the Detroit River, since the Ambassador Bridge is not certified for trucks carrying cargos like gasoline or paint.

Ward says it’s the larger picture that matters, even if that means putting him out of job.

“One of the benefits of this project is, there will be thousands and thousands of jobs, and thousands and thousands of families that will benefit. We have to look at this as a very large regional project that will expand our opportunity … not just look at ourselves,” says Ward.

http://cpa.ds.npr.org/michigan/audio/2014/09/ss_9_10_14_Ward_Bridge-ferry-owner_.mp3

* Listen to our conversation with Gregg Ward above.

Originally posted by: Michigan Radio