PM Harper pleased with outcome of Michigan bridge ballot question

GURAGON, India – Federal and provincial politicians are applauding voters in Michigan for rejecting a proposal which would have required a referendum over the construction of a new bridge described as a key economic link between Canada and the U.S.

But it’s still unclear when the bridge — which still requires a presidential permit — will be built.

“We’re very pleased to see the support of the people of Michigan for the bridge between Detroit and Windsor, which is very important to the economies of our two countries,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday in India, where he’s on a trade mission.

The rejected proposition, included on the ballot in Tuesday’s U.S. elections, was engineered by Manuel “Matty” Moroun, owner of the private Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. If passed, it would have required a public vote before any competing international crossing could be built with state money.

The proposal came in response to the proposed construction of a bridge that the Harper Conservatives have offered to finance.

Moroun wants instead to build a new span of his own, and he spent millions of advertising dollars to support the ballot proposal.

Gov. Rick Snyder brokered the Canadian-financed deal in June and opposed Moroun’s ballot measure. He says Moroun’s motivation is to maintain a near monopoly on truck and trade traffic.

The new crossing will create jobs, reduce congestion at the border and make Ontario manufacturers more competitive, said Transport Minister Denis Lebel.

But he couldn’t say when the bridge will be constructed or whether Ottawa expects more tactics from Moroun to block the project.

“I will not speak about what will Mr. Moroun do in the future,” he said.

The results of the Michigan vote also united Ontario’s governing Liberals and the Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

About one-third of the trade between Ontario and the U.S. flows through the Detroit-Windsor crossing, the Liberals said.

“That crossing represents $300 million every day in two-way trade between Ontario and Michigan,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said after speaking at an economic summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“That’s a lot of jobs on both sides of the border, so that’s really good news for us.”

He said Ontario is also moving ahead with the Windsor-Essex Parkway, which represents thousands of jobs.

Tory Leader Tim Hudak said he’s also pleased that the proposal was defeated.

“It leads to jobs here in Ontario, as well as Michigan and other states,” he said.

The Ontario Trucking Association called it “terrific news,” as the proposal would have held up construction of the second bridge.

It “shows that the people of Michigan reject the self-interest and cronyism that so many of the state’s legislators have fallen victim to in recent years,” said David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association.

Matt Marchand, president of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Michigan voters recognized that a second bridge needed to be built as soon as possible.

“There were thousands and thousands of jobs on the line,” he told Windsor radio station CKLW.

— written by Maria Babbage in Toronto