Canadian Interparliamentary Group Supports Ambassador Bridge Project
What is it about politicians? Taxpayers on both sides of the border will be spending about $60 million on the DRIC process by the time it is done. They keep saying that decisions cannot be made until the process is completed. Their answer it is that they must “respect the process.”
And then what could they do?
They DISRESPECT the process!
I am not sure I understand why they make it so easy for those who want to attack the bona fides of the DRIC process and thereby delay the resolution of the border issue for another decade. Could it be that the politicians really know that there is no need to do anything in our region but do not have the guts to say it. After all, they would look like fools for spending all that money when the Ambassador Bridge Company has solved the problem for them.
Tell me what you think of this story. The only answer that I can think of is that the politicians really do get it, they really do understand that there is no need to spend billions of dollars at this border crossing when traffic volumes are down and are not expected to increase dramatically for years.
The only explanation that I can make that makes any sense to me is what the politicians are saying and in very circumspect language is to let the Enhancement Project go forward.
Here are the relevant excerpts:
- Canadian Input for New U.S. Border Plan
Jerry Grafstein and Rob Merrifield have been working with Louise Slaughter to devise a strategy for the next U.S. administration.
By Jeff Davis
Democrats and Republicans are working together to draw up a new Canada-U.S. border management plan for the incoming American administration, and have asked Canadian politicians for their input after years of poor management following 9/11.
Work on a new border plan has begun at the request of the speaker of the U.S. Congress, California Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
The Canadian point men on the project are the co-chairs of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group: Conservative MP Rob Merrifield and Liberal Senator Jerry Grafstein.
The pair have spent much of the summer south of the border, attending the various legislative councils held each summer across the United States, in addition to the Democratic and Republican national conventions. At those meetings they have continually pressed Canada's role in a prosperous American economy, including the importance of a hassle-free border that facilitates trade, rather than hindering it.
Messrs. Merrifield and Grafstein said the decision to have Canadian and American officials devise a new border plan took off after they met with Ms. Pelosi in Washington, D.C., in April.
Mr. Grafstein said Ms. Pelosi "understood the Canadian issues" and got behind the idea of a new bipartisan plan for the border, developed in co-operation with Canadian politicians. The plan will be presented to Ms. Pelosi, who is expected to pass it onto the new administration regardless of its political stripe.
Ms. Pelosi has delegated the leadership of the project to Democratic New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who has been working closely with Messrs. Merrifield and Grafstein. At last week's Democratic National Convention, Ms. Slaughter arranged a series of meetings with top Democrats on the issue for the visiting Canadians.
"[Ms. Slaughter] and I have been charged by Nancy Pelosi to put together a group to deal with border issues, and I do think there is an opportunity to have a re-examination of how the border has thickened and to [find] an appropriate position moving forward," Mr. Merrifield said from Denver last week. "On the Republican and Democratic sides both, there are some serious concerns."
Mr. Grafstein said this is a rare and valuable opportunity to get Canadian perspectives into the new plan at the ground floor.
"This is the first time we've actually had an opportunity to bilaterally deal with border issues, rather than one country doing something unilaterally," he said. "That's very positive."
Messrs. Merrifield and Grafstein predicted that the plan will make an impression regardless of who wins the American presidency.
"I believe there is an opportunity with the new administration, whether it's McCain or Obama, and we're working very hard to make sure that happens," said Mr. Merrifield. "I believe cool heads will prevail with trade. Americans are free traders by nature."
The border plan will be discussed further later this month is Washington, D.C., when Canadian and American legislators will convene for the annual meeting of the Canada-U.S. Border Alliance.
Mr. Grafstein said he is also pushing for a visit by Ms. Slaughter and other American legislators to Ottawa in late October or early November to discuss the plan. Among the invitees to this northern get-together is former Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
"I think [the border plan] will be a tremendous influence," said Mr. Grafstein. "When the speaker of the House asks for a plan to be implemented by the new administration, you should take that very seriously. And we do…"
Canadian Suggestions So Far
At the request of his American allies, Mr. Grafstein has drawn up a series of preliminary recommendations about what can be done to achieve a better-managed border.
A letter, containing eight points, was prepared at the request of Republican Senator and former governor of Ohio George Voinovich on July 31 and later passed to Ms. Slaughter.
Mr. Grafstein's recommendations touch on points that would ease the flow of both people and goods across the border, and apply to air travel, trucking regulations and infrastructure.
To address trucking snags, he recommends lower inspection rates for members of trusted-shipper programs, such as the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) system, and that an agreement be put in place so "that rail and truck cargo inspected, cleared and secured at a Canadian port should not be subject to further inspections at the U.S. border…"
In addition, Mr. Grafstein requests U.S. authorities address the problem of understaffing at border crossings, with the assertion that major border crossings are lacking as much as 40 per cent of their required American staff.
He also asks for "continued U.S. priority attention" to the Detroit River International Crossing, where the Ambassador Bridge now connects Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario. This bridge currently carries some 25 per cent of total Canadian-American trade. To cope with congestion, Mr. Grafstein encourages his American counterparts to proceed with the construction of a second bridge or tunnel. "
In passing, someone from Transport Canada should tell Senator Grafstein that he needs to update his briefing book. DRTP and its truck tunnel is dead.
To be direct about it, this is another stupid move by the Canadian Government. In effect, what they are trying to do is circumvent the White House. President Bush rebuffed Prime Minister Harper at the SPP meeting over the border. Senator McCain has to be furious that effectively the Conservatives do not believe that he will be the President. And how will Senator Obama ever forget NAFTA-gate!
It would appear that Canada's Ultra Secret Playbook on how to deal with the Americans is being used. Clearly, Ambassador Wilson has made the decision that the Democrats will win Congress so that it doesn't matter who is President. Accordingly, the Canadian strategy is to do an end run by working through the Democratic Congress, especially by working through legislative committees to get the approvals. Why else is there a focus on House Speaker, California Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
I wonder if the Ambassador has forgotten that no bridge can be built without a Presidential Permit!
What can we take from the Canadians' remarks. We can say hallelujah that they have finally understood that the issue is not lanes across the River but Customs. The consequence of what they are saying when they talk about doing customs clearance away from the border is that effectively we will have a virtually invisible border and trucks will not have to stop at a Customs booth for an inspection.
If the booths are fully staffed at all relevant times, then effectively there is no longer a border and no longer tie ups. On that basis then, why do billions have to be spent on a new DRIC crossing at Windsor/Detroit?
It is clear that the Canadians finally understand that and are trying to convince the Americans of it as well. The only conclusion that I can draw is that the second bridge that they are talking about is the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project because a new third lane is needed in each direction in order to allow the pre-approved vehicles to cross over the river in a smooth and quick fashion.
Their comment makes an absolute mockery of the need to have 15 or 16 lanes across the River as the FHWA representative said in front of the Cropsey hearings.
The Canadians do not dare dismiss DRIC because that will create all kinds of political issues. However, the gist of what they are saying can only lead to the conclusion that the Canadian Government is looking for a way out and a way to save face.
Someone should suggest that Canada needs to deal with the non-tariff barriers that could impact our trade with United States rather than worrying about the Ambassador Bridge to make it a symbol of Canadian stupidity. It appears to me that the real "thickening" around the border issue may be the brains of certain people.