The Border Battle Is Over, For Now
I found some fascinating documents on the Internet that demonstrate to me that the Ambassador Bridge to many in Ottawa is a symbol of anti-Americanism or Canadian Nationalism, whichever is politically correct. The taking over of that bridge to those people is probably even more important than Canada ending the role of the Governor General as the Head of State.
It is Canada finally being free of the United States.
No wonder Henderson could write out of the blue in one of his columns:
- “We didn't make much of it at the time. But we surely understand now why Herb Gray moved heaven and earth, as Liberal minister responsible for FIRA (Foreign Investment Review Agency) in the early 1980s, in a failed effort to prevent Moroun's trucking empire from acquiring the Canadian half of the bridge. That battle was lost in the federal courts and ended with an out-of-court settlement following a marathon legal struggle.
Gray understood what was at stake. An economic nationalist, he recognized that having the nation's most critical border crossing owned and operated by a private company, a foreign controlled one at that, would not be in Canada's best interests. He knew that real countries, serious countries, don't let private companies run their borders.”
Now I know why Gord voted NDP and why he has to support our Mayor no matter how much of a failure that he is. Now I understand the Windsor Star and their mission.
Gord is only partially correct. It has nothing to do with private companies running the border since the Conservative Government is prepared to allow that to happen with a P3 private enterprise operator, even a foreign one if they have big $$$. It all has to do with an American owning the Canadian half of the bridge, no matter which American it is.
That bridge has been singled out for almost 50 years by various Canadian Governments, Progressive Conservative, Liberal and Conservative. To be direct, this places my thinking about the border issue in a context that makes everything that has gone on so far much more understandable.
The role of the the DRIC really is part of that process as far as I am concerned. It was set up again, in my opinion, to force the Owner of the Bridge Company to sell out and to sell out cheaply as I have been saying for so long. It has nothing to do with the economies of Canada and the United States, nothing to do with the flow of traffic, nothing to do with security or redundancy. It all has to do with Canadian nationalism.
The Americans have been duped by us. There is no doubt about it in my mind. They are being used to accomplish a goal that Canada has wanted to achieve for almost 50 years and they have no clue. This issue is under their radar even if they have known about it at one time. Who can worry about Canada when the Americans have other wars to fight and an economy to save.
It is no wonder that the Detroit News could claim that Stephen Harper said to President Bush:
- “The story goes that when President George W. Bush met with the leaders of Canada and Mexico earlier this year to defend NAFTA, the Canadian prime minister leaned into the president and whispered that the biggest roadblock to increased trade was the little old man who owned the Ambassador Bridge.”
It is probably is absolutely true. What he really meant was that an American was preventing Canada from achieving a long standing goal. It is no wonder now that one of the first pieces of legislation introduced by the Conservative Government was Bill C-3 that absolutely targeted the Bridge Company. Unfortunately, the Government chose not to tell the real story to Parliament and preferred instead to tell people that the Bill was a slamdunk and should be passed.
I know that this is probably hard to believe. Did you know that the Foreign Investment Review Act was introduced in 1973 and ended in 1985 with the passing of the Investment Canada Act that changed Canada’s emphasis on foreign investment? Yet, the FIRA war with the Bridge Company took until the early 1990s to end with a settlement. Try and explain that away.
Let us deal with the 50 year old war now. After the FIRA settlement, there is no doubt in my mind that the Canadian Government regrouped. They waited.
I would think that at the beginning of the 21st Century, the plan was concocted about how to force out the Bridge Company Owner. Why the Government of Canada with all of its money never bought the bridge in the first place is beyond me if they wanted it so badly. Now that its value has increased, it made it harder for the Government to spend the money required. Therefore there was a need to scare the Owner so that he would come begging to them for a buyout. And that was going to be at the cost of the P3 investor so who cared.
Unfortunately, Bureaucrats who never worked in the real world but who lived a sheltered governmental life do not understand how real private enterprise entrepreneurs operate, especially one who built up a huge empire after sweeping out buses in his youth. He was not going to be intimidated by some mandarins in Ottawa, Toronto, Lansing and Washington.
Oh, they expected him to litigate, he’s done that before with Governments and won. Why, the Canadian Government even set up a reserve of $400 million for the litigation costs and a possbile settlement amount just as an insurance company would do. I believe they called it their investment in the road to the DRIC Bridge rather than a litigation reserve as it really was. The reserve has obviously been increased and that is why we are seeing huge numbers being thrown around for the DRIC road and the bridge and plaza. Their litigation/buyout number has had to be increased to deal with their new reality.
Clearly, the Bureaucrats are in a turmoil now. Their plan was magnificent. Not only did it involve Canadian nationalism and the taking over of the Ambassador Bridge but it also involves money, the root of all evil. A P3 operator would not only take over the operation of the Ambassador Bridge but probably the Blue Water Bridge as well. They might even throw in the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel as part of it. Not only would the border crossings be controlled by their favourite P3 operator under their terms but the Government would make billions of dollars by handing out a 99 year lease. Does it get any better than that? I wonder how many of them were promoted because of their genius.
There was only one small problem with their Plan. They completely misunderstood their opponent and did not build in the contingency about how to deal with a situation where he chose not to be forced out.
It was inconceivable to them that he would not run to them because, in their world, as a private enterprise business person all that motivated him was money. He would understand immediately that the value of his bridge would be decreased by their actions and so he would sell out quickly rather than seeing its value decreased over time to nothing. Why else would US DRIC say that the new DRIC bridge could take away up to 80% of his truck traffic and 60% of the overall traffic. Those are pretty scary numbers.
Notice how smart those Bureaucrats were. They convinced the US DRIC consultant to place that in their Draft IES report. Canada did not have to set out those numbers. The Americans were being used to hurt themselves. I can just imagine the Canadian mandarins laughing themselves silly at this stroke of genius. The Bureaucrats I guess forgot, however, that the US DRIC consultant had said, when he was part of the Gateway project, that the Ambassador Gateway project could in itself handle almost twice the existing traffic even without another bridge. They outsmarted themselves.
Unfortunately, the 2 ½ page spread in the Globe and Mail destroyed them. It told them that Moroun intended to keep his Bridge. They did not know how to react except to spread some of the malicious stories that they have been forced into making in order to try to support their indefensible position. They never planned for this.
Moreover, the economic meltdown has hurt their ambitions for earning big sums of money because P3 operators are suffering as well. Why would anyone want to come into this area right now with traffic crashing so significantly here? Unless the automobile industry is brought back to life, no one would invest in a new bridge that competes with the Ambassador Bridge.
Can you believe that the issue of the Ambassador Bridge was brought to the level of the US President? Why would he have any interest in some bridge at all to be direct about it? It was brought to him twice by Harper directly and once by Minister Prentice. That tells you how important the Ambassador Bridge is to Canada as a symbol. Canada must not lose.
Imagine how the Bureaucrats feel today especially after NAFTA-gate. What a political disaster for their ambitions. If you have not yet read the Detroit News story, check out this link and read it today: “Matty Moroun's bridge battle” http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008812150328
Here is the quote that will end this battle:
- “The bridge is a living thing," Moroun said. "It's become part of me and I think I've done a good job. It's my legacy. They want to steal it from me but that's not going to happen, I promise."
He has just drawn his line in the sand for everyone to see. The Bureaucrats have really known this for a long time already and the real issue will be when and how they retreat and who will be blamed for the fiasco. Now you understand why Eddie is fighting the big battle over Greenlink. It has nothing to do with air quality or quality of life for Windsorites but rather protecting his position against the Senior Levels who want to point the finger at him and are using jobs as a way to do so.
So the big battle is over. Moroun has won. Understand that. We will still see skirmishes for a while. But the real war will never end until Canada has won or the Americans wake up and figure out what is going on.
Canada will step back as they did after the FIRA litigation with the Bridge Company. Better to retreat and to regroup than to lose. They can also always start again in the future.
When that future begins, I do not know. They may well have to fight with the Senior Moroun again. If not, then his son will at least be warned what will be his lot in life as the Owner of the Company and his relationship with Canada. He may even need to pick up the sword that he talked about in the Senate Hearings as his father has been forced to do.