“Baird called that vote “an incredible, incredible, important development.” “This is the most important infrastructure project across Canada today and is one of the most important in our history to enhance trade with our closest neighbour,” he told a news conference.
What you won’t likely hear is that the “bribe” really appears to be a loan. If Michigan had asked for it, there may be more credibility to it as a need (in the face of Matty Moroun building another bridge with his own money) for Canadian taxpayers to foot the bill initially, with funding approval from the US government for the balance.
“Baird offered US$550 million to the financially strapped state “for project components in Michigan that would not be funded by the public-private partnership or the United States government.”
“Amongst other terms to be negotiated … Canada would expect repayment from the anticipated toll revenues to be derived from the operation of the new bridge,” Baird told Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
“He asked Granholm, a project supporter, to forward the offer to the Michigan legislature in hopes it will influence the final approval process .. More than a quarter of all merchandise trade between the United States and Canada crosses the existing Ambassador Bridge alone. Baird said 8,000 trucks and 68,000 travellers cross at Windsor-Detroit daily, along with $130 billion a year in trade. Officials predict truck traffic will triple and vehicle traffic more than double within 30 years.” Source: Canadian press
It smells of vote-buying, regardless. At this time of prudence being needed, Canadian PM Harper throws out of the blue so much money that could be used across the country for more significant needs.
There has been no run up to this. It’s a sudden occurrence with no foundation, as for 80 years, Canada has been satisfied to use the tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge to cross into the US. Yes, it’s a flashpoint for the moving of goods and materials back and forth from the USA to Canada and vice versa. The point is that private ownership of the present bridge has never been questioned. Canadians knew or know nothing of this until now.
Again, why in a time of prudent spending does the federal government get into the business of bridge building that apparently will not involve much Canadian labour input and/or materials that we can foresee? The only benefit would come from the traffic pace of the new crossing (tolls). That is not a bad thing, but paying Canada back thru tolls rather than a set payback scheme with interest is better and has safeguards. Indeed, the Americans already have put up roadblocks for crossing into their country. They must accede to backing off for Canadian purposes as a pre-requisite for any loan.
There is no doubt that a new bridge is required to replace the derelict Ambassador Bridge crossing into the USA. Despite the enormous revenues that the bridge has generated over the last 80 years its private owner has failed to properly maintain its structural integrity to the point that it will soon become hazardous. Only after Canada has pushed so hard for a replacement does Matty Moroun even react. He will now do everything in his power to sabotage the proposed replacement and will use his political influence to stall this project for the next decade.
If a new bridge is vital to Canadian commerce we should look to the example that Canadian ancestors fathers set for them in building the St. Lawrence Seaway. The first proposal to build the seaway in 1909 met with fierce resistance from railway and port lobbyists in the United States. After numerous subsequent proposals were rejected by the US, Canada decided to proceed unilaterally. Construction began in 1954 with completion in 1959 at a cost of 440 million US. Canada paid 336 million or 76% of the total cost.
Canada does not need the US to help finance a bridge because the former could do it themselves if necessary (so long the US agrees to cede sovereign rights to own half the crossing). Canada only needs US cooperation and agreement as to the best location. It would be a great advantage to Detroit to divert all this heavy truck traffic from the city core.
Reasonable tolls will return any investment made by Canada or Canada and Michigan if they decide to join the former. After payout the tolls could provide an additional source of government revenues to perhaps be used for other highway projects. Of course Mr. Moroun will no longer enjoy his monopoly and may even have to repair his bridge and make it more attractive. But hey, isn’t capitalism all about building something better and providing competition?