Stephen Harper must take immediate action to clarify the comments of Essex Conservative MP Jeff Watson or no Conservative will ever be elected in Windsor for another generation!
What did Watson mean by the vicious attack on the Ambassador Bridge Company? Are his words in Parliament as a spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Government in the Debate on Bill C-3 nothing more than the last gasp of someone who favoured DRTP in the past? Or is he expressing the Conservative Government's desire to build DRTP without coming out and saying it? Or is he merely supporting the DRIC process but using the most unfortunate language?
The Conservative Party must have a death wish. They must not want to stay in power but would prefer an Opposition role. It seems that they want to give the PM job back so badly to the about to be anointed failed Ontario NDP leader, Bob Rae (unless Dwight Duncan chooses to run in which case he will be a shoo-in after his impressive Ontario budget) that they are adopting and pushing forward Liberal legislation so totally out of character to the Party's Founding Principles:
- "A balance between fiscal accountability, progressive social policy and individual rights and responsibilities
A belief that the best guarantors of the prosperity and well-being of the people of Canada are:
--- The freedom of individual Canadians to pursue their enlightened and legitimate self-interest within a competitive economy;
--- The freedom of individual Canadians to enjoy the fruits of their labour to the greatest possible extent; and,
---The right to own property;
A belief that a responsible government must be fiscally prudent and should be limited to those responsibilities which cannot be discharged reasonably by the individual or others.
A belief that ...prosperity is guaranteed by a free competitive market economy;"
If you think I am exaggerating, here is a disturbing story in a BC newspaper. Check out the language used. How does this tie into the Conservative beliefs:
"Conservative MP Russ Hiebert has thrown support behind a plan to nationalize security, maintenance and use of border infrastructure. Bill C-3, known as the Bridges and Tunnels Act, will give the federal government exclusive authority over 29 bridges and tunnels to the U.S....This bill will allow us to fully manage trade and security at all border points, and is especially timely as the Detroit-Windsor trade corridor is growing desperate for additional border transit capacity,” the MP said"
How else can one explain Bill C-3? I told you that the Conservatives adopted the Liberal agenda with it. As an example, Hon. John McCallum (Markham—Unionville, Lib.) said:
"Mr. Speaker, it is difficult for me to disagree with the bill because it is, so far as I can tell, the same as the Liberal bill that was before Parliament before the election. It sounds extraordinarily familiar...The government will not have opposition from the official opposition on this bill. How can we oppose our own bill?"
And this comment showing the Conservatives knew what they were doing:
Hon. Rob Nicholson (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC): I am pleased that this is the first piece of legislation introduced into this Parliament after Bill C-2, the federal accountability act.
The Bill is being debated now in Second Reading and I found what was said fascinating
Our Mayor and Council, local media, NDP MPs, Senator Kenny and Perrin Beatty should take great pride in what some of the members have said about Windsor. They have certainly spread misinformation far and wide. We do not need terrorists; we can destroy ourselves successfully thank you and chase away business and investment in our Community on our own:
the NDP members from Windsor had been appealing to the former Liberal government to do something about the Ambassador Bridge and the billions of dollars of lost trade and opportunity that stems from the inadequacy of that vital crossing.
yet to this day, there is a backup of semi-trailers waiting to take our exports to the United States.
Those semi-trailers sit there with their engines idling, poisoning the good citizens of Windsor West
The member from Windsor West, in particular, who was not able to be here, has been very passionate and knowledgeable on this and has worked very hard in his community of Windsor to try to not only resolve the bottleneck on the bridge but also its inadequacy because it affects his whole community and the economy of the area surrounding Windsor, not to mention of the economy of the province.
When we look at the level of traffic and the impact of the backup of that traffic into communities such as Windsor, there obviously is a need for new bridges.
the environmental impact of traffic if there are backups, as there are now, and the spewing of exhaust that goes into the community
The bridge in Windsor is owned by a private U.S. company, and the bridge and the surrounding areas are plagued by a traffic and congestion nightmare
Any regular bottleneck has the ability to put pressure on the entire transportation system. Bottlenecks that originate at freight transfer points and at the border can affect overall freight movements within trade corridors. As I mentioned before, the manufacturers in Simcoe--Grey using the Windsor corridor know this all too well.
Clearly there is a need to add additional capacity to that corridor
We learned a lot about public bridges and why we should not have one in Windsor. Imagine that many of the public ones do not have enough money to do the repairs and upkeep. Yet having more public bridges is the proposed solution. I think I may have missed the logic class in school where that kind of reasoning was taught:
there is only one international bridge in Quebec, the one in Sutton. ..An old, metal bridge, it is approximately 50 metres long and was built around 1929... It is used by many trucks and appears in need of repair. It is owned by both Vermont, primarily, and the municipality of Sutton. It is inspected by Quebec's Department of Transport and in conjunction with Vermont as well.
The government also gives itself legislative powers, but someone else has to shoulder the financial responsibility
How can the Canadian government make maintenance decisions when the American government is paying 70% of the costs? Really now. The federal government has nothing to do with it. Quebec pays 30% and the Americans pay the other 70%. And yet the federal government wants to decide when repairs should be made? I think it will find itself alone on that bridge.
We have a bridge that needs upgrading, maintenance and more authority to ensure we have the security that is required
Two remarks by Mr. Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie, NDP). Let me know if you understand why he would favour a public bruidge given his reality:
The bridge in my riding is run now by an authority. At one time there was a combination of funding from the Michigan department of transportation and the Ontario government. Now a local authority runs that bridge and it is forever trying to figure out how to get the money it needs to just maintain the bridge and ensure it continues to be safe and secure. That does not even include the personnel required at either end of the bridge to ensure the flow of traffic continues at a pace that is convenient and helpful to those going back and forth and wanting to access both countries.
We would need significant help from the federal government in terms of investment in that infrastructure. Our bridge plaza needs to be expanded so that more services can be offered there. We need more personnel working at the border. We need border guards and people checking identification, and we need more facilities so that people have more readily available access.
My last point deals with Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge which needs significant infrastructure moneys. It is a major artery for Vancouver and for people moving in a north-south direction
A few MPs recognized that an international bridge impacts the US but who seemed to care that this Act declares war on the US. Interestingly, the softwood lumber deal was discussed and a new dispute with the US may just be starting up! Here is just one comment: "In the case of the Sutton bridge, Vermont pays 70% of the cost of repairs or maintenance. How will the government be able to order repairs to a bridge in Quebec, such as the Sutton bridge, when we know that the Americans are going to pay 70% of the bill?"
And then there was the MP for Essex, our own Jeff Watson.
You might not know that MPs have assigned seats in the House of Commons. The closer you are to the PM, obviously the more powerful you are. The further you are away, the less important you are.
Still someone has to sit in the worst seat in the house, whether that seat is the middle seat in an airplane, an obstructed view seat in a stadium or near the washroom in a restaurant. This honour went to Jeff! He was placed in seat 122 as shown above, about as far away as one can get! He must have complained and was moved up a row to seat 115, right beside the NDP. He had better be sent back to 122 and quickly.
Now why should this happen to Jeff? Here is a question he was asked and the answer given:
Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I would like to know my colleague's position on a specific issue.What does the member think about the fact that Bill C-3 has removed the measures relating to the powers of the Canadian Transportation Agency to receive complaints concerning noise resulting from railway activities?
The clause in question, which was part of Bill C-44, has been removed in Bill C-3.
Mr. Jeff Watson: Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a very important issue to the member.
With respect to Bill C-3 and its differences with the previous incomplete Bill C-44 put forward by the Liberal government in the last Parliament, we have made two very substantial improvements. We have included some provisions with respect to the St. Lawrence Seaway and crossings there and the ability to have oversight over transactions with respect to new assets.
This is clearly something that the Liberals forgot, but it was important for us to put in this bill, particularly when we look at the asset in Fort Frances and its pending sale to a private interest. It is important that the government have the necessary oversight over such types of transactions. In my corridor, a private bridge operator is threatening the binational process for moving forward. This private interest is moving very quickly to twin the span there which really threatens to undermine a process that we are a partner in.
It is important that we get this bill through in a very timely fashion without holding up too many add-ons because the clock is ticking with respect to this private interest moving forward. It is a project that, in my humble opinion, is not in the national interest, certainly not in the community interest.
It is important that all members in the House support this legislation and get it through quickly, so that we can avert this type of situation or at least have some oversight over what is happening. This is a necessary piece of legislation. I am pleased that we have beefed up what the Liberals failed to do with their legislation.
Huh...What....Pardon me....Did I miss something here.
It was an important topic for the questioner, Jeff admitted, but clearly, with the answer, not for him. I guess I am slow but please explain to me what the question dealing with "complaints concerning noise resulting from railway activities" has to do with the Ambassador Bridge? Last time I saw the bridge, there were no trains using it.
Why did Jeff stray off-message? He is not stupid. Why did he attack the Ambassador Bridge so viciously? Is this part of the Conservative agenda or is it something personal for Jeff? I recall that the first time he ran and won, he was a DRTP supporter.
I wish I knew what was going on behind the scenes. Does DRTP have a strategy now to attack the Bridge Co. to try to salvage their investment? Or is this part of a strategy to force the Ambassador Bridge to work with them since DRTP is so well-connected politically? Who knows.
What it has done in my opinion is put a black mark on the bona fides of the Conservative Bill. The Bill is no longer something for 24 bridges (22 of which are already public) but it is directed specifically at the Ambassador Bridge Company to force them out of business if they will not sell their bridge to the Government! Watson specifically noted that "It is our second piece of legislation after the federal accountability act. This clearly demonstrates that the government is seized with the priority of that crossing in the Windsor-Essex region."
He accuses the Bridge Co. of "threatening the binational process for moving forward. This private interest is moving very quickly to twin the span there which really threatens to undermine a process that we are a partner in. " Jeff must not have read the DRIC report that said it is an existing crossing rather than a new one so it is not subject to DRIC at all. In fact DRIC said that the Bridge Co. was free to pursue their own plans, exactly what they are doing.
For someone who respects process so much, as with the DRIC process, I am shocked at his comment that the Bridge Co.'s project "in my humble opinion, is not in the national interest, certainly not in the community interest." Nothing like prejudicing in advance its application that it has made! How is that respecting the process that the Bridge Co. has already started?
Finally Jeff wants to "avert this type of situation." Yup, Jeff is against private enterprise doing what it was told that it could do.
I would expect that a good Administrative Law lawyer would have a lot of fun with this one as would one skilled in Competition Law since the Bridge Co.'s competitor may be the Government itself. Is Watson a key player on the border issue speaking for the Government? After all, he was one of the first speakers and that is all decided behind closed doors.
Since the comments against the Bridge Co. are easily proven false, and their chief witness would be Marty Beneteau, Editor of the Star, fairness would require that Transport Canada Minister Cannon pull the Bill for the time being and re-examine everything from the start again to get the correct facts out. Alternatively, the Minister should heed the call for committee hearings so the reality can be set out in light of the misinformation being spread.
Now that softwood lumber dispute is off of the table, the Americans have nothing to do. What can be better than going after the Conservative Government on another issue that is a winner for them. Isn't half of an international bridge in US territory?
As for Susan Whelan, she must have a big grin on her face this morning! I wonder if she is filling out her nomination papers now.