Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Real Border Issue: The Corridor Not The Bridge


“Gateways and trade corridors are major systems of marine, road, rail and air transportation infrastructure of national significance for international commerce, within a defined geographic zone.

Gateway: a multi-modal entry/exit point through which goods and international passengers move beyond local, and even regional, markets.

Trade Corridor: a linear, multi-modal orientation of international passenger and freight flows that connect gateways to major markets.

Gateway and corridor strategies are integrated packages of long-term investment and
policy measures that advance the development and exploitation of gateways and corridors for national benefit.’

Most of us missed it, completely. One of the key parties did not, however, as I shall describe below. Our attention was too directed towards the Ambassador Bridge itself and the proposed DRIC bridge. We missed the “Big Picture.”

I could never understand why Transport Canada Minister Baird talked about the Canadian Government working for a generation or two, about 50 years, in this area. It made no sense. Oh sure, I understood that the Government wanted to take over the Ambassador Bridge. After all, that is what Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s secret mandate letter was all about. But for 50 years?

There had to be more to it than that but I could not figure out what it was until I read the opinion by the Wayne State professor that supports the Bridge Company position.

What that opinion really says is that the Government of Canada recognized that it made a mistake almost 80 years ago and that it has been trying for 50 years to correct it without tipping their hand or letting anyone understand why.

The mistake: losing control of the major trade corridor and Gateway between Canada and the United States, the entire waterfront area between Detroit and Windsor and even beyond. It must be galling for Canadian bureaucrats when they hear about the Ambassador Gateway project.

The lightbulb finally went on. I completely had ignored it after all of this time. The hints were there but I was too focused on the wrong object. The Government of Canada has known it all along since they have been working on getting control back for 50 years. Here are a couple of examples of what I overlooked even in my own BLOGs:

  •  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"

    Given the importance of the corridor and the fact that 40% of Canada's trade goes along the corridor and adding another bridge is very essential, not only just to Ontario and Quebec but the rest of the country with our GDP so tightly wound around basically a private American operator that owns the current bridge"

Even Jeff Watson got into the game:

  •  “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.”

Transport Canada’s “NATIONAL POLICY FRAMEWORK” talks about Windor/Detroit this way:

  • The Windsor-Detroit corridor is Canada’s busiest artery of trade. With the area handling almost 30% of total and more than 2.5 million trucks, an efficient and secure Windsor-Detroit corridor is essential to the Canadian economy.

What is the common word in all of the examples: “corridor.”

Let me go a little bit further. I said that most of us missed it. The Bridge Company did not. They obviously figured out the issue. Here is what Dan Stamper said in the Canadian Senate hearings during the Bill C-3 hearings:

  • "Mr. Stamper: The [Presidential]} permit process has developed in the U.S. by saying, "We will issue a permit for the corridor. We want to know that the corridor is in the right geographical area for the good of the U.S. We want to know that that corridor is needed. We want to know that that corridor will not affect an existing corridor.” The presidential permit being issued says, "We the U.S. have looked at that and said the corridor is good." That is why the current presidential permit process says, "We are not going to affect or remove rights that a current corridor has because we issued that right to be there.

    Mr. Stamper: The bureaucrats projected the traffic growth at the Blue Water Bridge by taking it away from the corridor in Windsor, Detroit...

    This attempt at Blue Water failed mainly because they built everything but what was needed, which was additional inspection booths for customs. The attempt now by the bureaucrats, if they could not move the traffic from Detroit-Windsor corridor to Sarnia-Port Huron, is to build a bridge in the Windsor corridor and compete with us, but they cannot do it on a straight-up competition, and they know it. They have to have Bill C-3 to take our away business legally."

It is the corridor that Canada wants to control not just the Ambassador Bridge. The corridor includes that bridge, any new Bridge, the Tunnel and the existing and proposed rail tunnel and whatever else might be constructed in the future. Remember the breadth of the P3 language as to what facilities it can cover.

Here is the key section of what the Professor said that made me see clearly what this is all about.

Note the extent of the grant. It is NOT to a specific location. Rather it is:

  • "within or near the city limits of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan."

The Canadian legislation must be comparable.

That is the corridor that Canada signed away in an agreement with the United States and now wants back any way it can. Canada gave it all away to the Bridge Company, the entire corridor and is now desperate to get it back even if it means becoming an Instrumentality of Government of Michigan to do so through a P3 Bill.

For those looking for the word "exclusive," it is not necessary. If there had been the desire to allow another person to build a bridge in that territory, the right granted would have been "non-exclusive."

Considering where the Governments want to build the DRIC bridge, such construction would interfere with the grant given to the Bridge Company and therefore would be illegal.

In passing, presumably, both Congress and Parliament might be able to pass new legislation permitting the DRIC bridge to be built. However, in this case, the Government would have to pay to the Ambassador Bridge Company compensation for taking away part of the right granted to them. The anomalous position would be that yes, the Government could build the DRIC bridge but would have to pay a huge sum of money to the Ambassador Bridge Company for the business that they would be taking away from them. And we know how much that is according to the DRIC engineers... up to 75% or so. Triple the truck traffic of today as Minister Baird continually keeps telling us.

Don't you get it? The Governments would be paying twice for a bridge across the Detroit River: once for the DRIC bridge and once for the Ambassador Bridge traffic that was lost. Is it any wonder now that the Prime Minister wanted to buy the Ambassador Bridge!

Transport Canada's policy says it all:

  • "Gateways and trade corridors are major systems of marine, road, rail and air transportation infrastructure."

No wonder that Canada wants a P3 Bill in Michigan with it being an Instrumentality of Government of Michigan that covers such facilities as "international highway, bridge, tunnel, ferry, airport, port facility, locks rail facility, intermodal or other public transit facility."

You see, dear reader, Canada has corridors and gateways in the Atlantic region and in the Pacific region of our country that we control so we have some influence over trade and commerce into and out of the US. For 50 years, we have been trying to control the centre of North America.

It is so close that the bureaucrats can taste it. If it wasn't for that damn Bridge Company.