Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Has The US Said The Border War Is Over For Canada

There is no other conclusion that can be drawn.

I will say this again for the umpteenth time. Whoever has been running the border file for Canada has made one disastrous mistake after another.

Instead of working with the Bridge Company, Canada has tried to destroy them. Instead of working with US President Obama, Canada has tried to endrun him.

It seems that memories are short in Ottawa, forgetting about NAFTA-gate and the Dubai ports. Why not try and smear the US Secretary of Homeland Security (she's still around by the way) and put the US Ambassador on the spot on Canadian national television. That makes for winning friends.

The problem with bureaucrats who are so clever and smart is that they form a view of the world that must exist at least in their own minds. When that world proves not to exist in reality, then they do not know what to do.

It is absolutely clear now that Canadian bureaucrats made fundamental but incorrect assumptions about how Moroun as a business person would act and how they could force him to make the choice THEY wanted and expected him to make. They misread and misunderstood both him and his son. Instead, he ignored them, laughed at them and did what a prudent businessman in his position would do: fought them.

Throw in the disastrous failings of the Big Three, the near Depression, the financial problems of major banks around the world and the collapse of the P3 market, none of which could have been contemplated by the bureaucratic geniuses, and you can understand why Canada is in the mess that it is in at this time.

No one in their right mind will finance a bridge when traffic has dropped to 1999 levels or lower, when there is little hope for a rapid recovery and with a strong competitor whose tolls would be about 75% lower! A DRIC bridge would go broke without a Government guarantee or subsidy.

Prime Minister Harper's secret decision to try to buy the Ambassador Bridge proves my point!

No wonder the only tactic left for Canada is vilifying and demonizing the Bridge Company owner. I assume that this tactic is designed to bolster their Michigan DRIC friends except, that Canada’s secret mandate letter to buy the Ambassador Bridge has undercut the DRIC project completely and made MDOT look like complete fools.

Obviously, Canada cannot do anything on its own since we are dealing with an international bridge between two countries. The assumption must be that the US Federal Government will step in in place of the bankrupt Michigan and will help Canada in building the bridge, or rather taking over the Ambassador Bridge and building another bridge right beside it as the Bridge Company wants to do.

Take a look at these comments and tell me whether you believe that Canada has missed the mark, again. I certainly do. The US Ambassador is telling Canada, diplomatically of course, that it will NOT allow a 100% Canadian owned operation at the biggest land border crossing between our countries so Canada controls imports into and exports from the US.

From the US Ambassador just the other day as reported in the Toronto Star but NOT in a Canwest newspaper:
  • "Canada-U.S. border crossing faster than before 9/11: ambassador

    OTTAWA – Security may be tighter, but getting across the Canada-U.S. border today is faster than it was before the terrorist strikes of 2001, U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson says.

    Jacobson, in his first major public remarks on Canada-U.S. border concerns, told an Ottawa audience Tuesday that for all the worries about “thickening” of the border between the two countries, the reality is that things are getting better.

    “We’re already making progress. Border wait times today are, on the average, less than they were prior to Sept. 11,” Jacobson told a sold-out crowd of politicos, lobbyists and business people at the Chateau Laurier. “In fact, since 2007, average border wait times for passengers have been cut by almost a third and during that same period of time for goods, wait times have been cut in half.”

    This progress has come despite concerns about all the extra security measures and passport requirements, Jacobson noted, as well as a perceived rise in U.S. protectionism since the economic crash of 2008. Some Canada-U.S. experts have suggested that wait times are down because overall trade traffic is also on the decline since the downturn.

    Wait times at the border are tracked by Canadian and U.S. officials and updated almost hourly at various government and non-government websites. On Tuesday, for instance, the Canadian Border Services Agency was reporting a 10-minute delay at the Bluewater Bridge near Sarnia and virtually no delays anywhere else.

    Embassy officials said that Jacobson’s numbers on the faster border crossings comes from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.

    Jacobson said he’s been paying special attention to border matters since his arrival in Canada five months ago. He even spent a whole day going back and forth through various border crossings to get a sense of traffic flow and security measures – a day he called educational but noted he was “not sure I’d recommend it for a family outing...”

    “I was amazed at the dividends paid by recent investments in technology,” he said, noting that the U.S. alone has spent $600-million in upgrades to the border in the last several years. Canada is also spending $11-million this year to put 44 high-tech body scanners into airports with major traffic between Canada and the United States."

SLAP---Canada's thickening mantra is about to be completely ignored too.

Oh the Ambassador is a very clever fellow too. He talked about what Canada is interested in, perimeter security:

  • "a common customs and immigration perimeter could help make the border between the two countries “much less of a barrier.”

    “As you move that barrier out toward the perimeter of both of our countries, the border becomes less of an issue,” Jacobson said following a speech in Ottawa today on border issues, in response to a question from the audience. “I think you’re on to something.”

If that is the case, the border virtually disappears and so do security and capacity issues. In fact, we may NOT need another bridge here at all, public or private.

However, let us not get too carried away. I doubt he really takes the concept too seriously. Moroun will still need his new bridge for Customs reasons since the border will not disappear that soon. Instead, Canada better hope we keep NAFTA or we are in serious jeopardy:

  • "U.S. lawmakers urge scrapping of NAFTA

    WASHINGTON — The Harper government sought Tuesday to fend off a new trade threat from U.S. lawmakers pushing legislation to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    The anti-NAFTA bill, which has 28 Democratic and Republican sponsors, comes only a month after Canada and the U.S. reached a deal to end a protracted dispute over Buy American provisions in the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

    With U.S. midterm elections coming in November and the American economy still losing jobs, the legislation could portend another wave of protectionist sentiment on Capitol Hill.

    "We are closely following this bill, of course," International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan told reporters in Ottawa. "Our evaluation is that this is certainly inconsistent with the direction that the Barack Obama administration has chosen."

    At issue is legislation introduced last week in the House of Representatives by Representative Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat who cited America's near-10-per-cent unemployment rate as the motivation for trying to kill the trade agreement involving Canada, the U.S. and Mexico."

I wonder when Canada will finally figure out it is over and try and work with Moroun. Or are the bureaucrats too embarrassed to admit that they have been wrong for a decade? In fact, it is the Bridge Company who is now putting on the pressure:

  • "Ambassador Bridge beginning deck replacement, second span still planned

    WARREN, Mich. – The Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC) will seek bids soon from qualified companies to replace the main deck of the Ambassador Bridge, with the project expected to begin in May. Bridge customers should see little or no disruption to traffic.

    DIBC also announced that it remains fully committed to its proposed Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project – a six-lane replacement span next to the 80-year-old, four-lane bridge – despite the U.S. Coast Guard’s return of permit paperwork on March 2.

    “A request for bids for the deck replacement will go out within the next two weeks,” said Dan Stamper, president of DIBC, which owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge. “We expect construction to begin in May and take two years to complete because we will minimize the impact on traffic using this most vital international crossing.”

    Even though traffic on the Ambassador Bridge is down 48 percent from the peak in 1999, it remains the No. 1 international crossing in North America and carries more than 25 percent of the trade between the United States and Canada. The Ambassador Bridge carried 4.2 million cars and 2.3 million trucks in 2009, down from 8.9 million cars and 3.4 million trucks in 1999.

    “We plan to schedule work on the deck during off-peak hours and we’ll close no more than one lane at a time to keep any inconvenience to a minimum,” Stamper said. “As most Ambassador Bridge travelers know, we frequently shut portions of one lane for necessary maintenance without affecting travel time. The excess capacity we have now due to the steep downturn in traffic will help.”

    The deck replacement is one of many capital improvements DIBC has made to the bridge in response to intensive annual inspections, or to improve traffic flow and traveler amenities.

    “Our carefully planned improvements are designed to get the work done right the first time with minimal disruption, avoiding costly and wasteful re-dos that seem to plague projects at some government-owned bridges,” Stamper said.

    Stamper said DIBC is undeterred from its plans to build a modern second span across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. The U.S. Coast Guard cited unresolved land acquisition issues for returning permit paperwork to DIBC earlier this week.

    “After securing some 95 percent of all necessary property rights – in addition to having completed the necessary plazas and inspection areas – we feel no farther away from building a second span and fulfilling our long-term obligation to the border,” Stamper said.

    “In this long journey, we have overcome bigger hurdles than this last one. Fortunately, the substance of our preparations and already-existing infrastructure and assets weigh heavily on our side. Through wars, economic booms and busts, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the blackout of 2003, we have kept traffic and commerce flowing and made the Ambassador Bridge an economic engine for this region.”

If you read between the lines in this statement, Moroun has just told Canada that it is in big trouble!