There are reports that the Canadian government is passing legislation that would exempt a new Windsor-Detroit bridge from a slew of environmental laws. This legislation would ultimately shield the project from any legal action that U.S. opponents might launch.
In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a deal with Michigan to build a second bridge through one of Canada’s most important trade routes. But the American operator of the existing Ambassador bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit fiercely opposes the plan.
Manuel (Matty) Moroun is chief executive officer of the private company that owns the bridge. According to the Globe and Mail, Moroun has said that a second one is not needed right now because traffic volumes on his span are down 40 per cent from before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
There are reports that the Canadian government anticipates Moroun or his allies would launch legal action in Canada challenging environmental approvals for the new international crossing.
Last Thursday, the ruling Conservatives introduced new legislation that states the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act and big parts of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act “do not apply to the construction of the bridge, parkway or any related work.”
The Globe and Mail quotes Transport Canada department spokesman Mark Butler: “This legislation will ensure that the project will not be subjected to lawsuits on the Canadian side related to the issuance of regulatory permits or approvals and that the project will be constructed without delay or stoppage.”
The newspaper reports that the Tories insist that companies building the bridge and related interchanges will be expected to comply with “the intent of all federal laws pertaining to environmental protection” and file action plans to the relevant Conservative ministers.
The Globe and Mail goes on to report that a new bridge is expected to cost nearly $1-billion and will be privately financed by the company that builds it. Both countries, however, must put in place customs plazas, ramps and connecting roads. This infrastructure will reportedly cost about $2.5-billion. Canada has been so eager for the bridge to be built that it has agreed to pay Michigan’s $550-million share of new bridge-related infrastructure costs. This money will later be recouped from toll revenue.
But as of now, it looks like Moroun and his company remain the biggest obstacles to building this second bridge.