Canadian Manufacturing

Detroit-Windsor bridge vote a vote for Canada

85-year-old billionaire proves money doesn’t buy you everything


Money can’t buy everything.

Just ask Matty Moroun.

While most Canadian U.S. political watchers dedicated their evenings to the presidential election Nov. 6, my attention was focused squarely on Michigan, where its 3.5-million or so voters were greeted with a Canadian connection at the polling stations.

That connection—both literal and figurative—was the fate of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), a yet-to-be-built publicly-funded bridge spanning the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ont.

On their ballots this year, Michigan voters were asked to have their two cents on Proposal 6, an initiative aimed at derailing the NITC in favour of referendum-style voting on this and all future infrastructure connecting Michigan and its neighbours to the north.

Luckily, voters had their sense about them when they went to the ballot boxes.

And that brings me back to Matty Moroun, the 85-year-old infrastructure tycoon who owns the Ambassador Bridge, the only bridge connecting the two cities.

A long-time opponent of the NITC, Moroun has reportedly spent millions of dollars in recent years on attack ads and propaganda to stop the project before Canadian and Michigan officials agreed to build it.

With about 30 per cent of Canada-U.S. trade crossing the Detroit River each year, the waterway plays host to about 8,000 commercial trucks a day.

According to the Michigan government, Moroun’s bridge handles about 95 per cent of that traffic volume.

In 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 7.3-million vehicles crossed the Ambassador Bridge, generating about $60-million in revenues for Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge company.

The anti-NITC jargon Moroun was propagating included phrases like, “(they) know … we can’t afford it.”

According to Forbes, as of March 2012 Moroun was worth about $1.5-billion.

In June, Moroun’s efforts proved fruitless.

But even when an agreement between Canada and Michigan was reached that would see Canada foot the bill for the entire construction cost, Moroun continued to cry poor on behalf of Michigan residents.

Through his The People Should Decide committee, Moroun tried to go over Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s head, lobbying to give voters a chance to amend the state constitution with Proposal 6.

He lost.

And the $30-million he has reportedly spent on support for the proposal is lost with it.

In fact, according to unofficial general election tallies on the Michigan Department of State website, of the 83 counties where voting took place, a majority voted in favour in a mere 11.

Of 83.

That’s a shade over 13 per cent.

Canadians everywhere should breathe a collective sigh of relief.

As Consul General of Canada to Detroit Roy Norton told me in June, the Ambassador Bridge has millions of Canadians—and millions more of our exports—handcuffed by Moroun’s monopoly.

Well, Mr. Moroun, say goodbye to your precious monopoly.

I’m sure the countless Canadian manufacturing firms that depend on the Windsor-Detroit corridor will gladly throw you a farewell party.

And those same manufacturing firms will finally say goodbye to years of bottle-necked orders and deliveries as they sit in gridlock waiting to cross the aging Ambassador Bridge.

This was more than a vote on a bridge; it was a vote on industry, economy and livelihood for Canada.

If I could, I would thank every voter who cast a ballot Nov. 6 against Proposal 6.

And I would thank Matty Moroun.

At least I had something to watch on election night.