WASHINGTON—Still smarting from the sting of the latest Keystone XL delay, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt was in the U.S. looking for progress on another major bilateral file: a new bridge crossing between Windsor and Detroit.
Raitt requested funding for completion of a replacement for the aging bridge that handles nearly one-third of all Canada-U.S. trade.
“The government of Canada is concerned about the vulnerability of that trade and the jobs it sustains in both our countries,” said the prepared text of Raitt’s speech, which she delivered to the NAFTAnext summit in Chicago.
She delivered the message in a Chicago speech, one week after the Obama administration announced an indefinite delay in a decision over an oil pipeline that has caused tensions between the two national governments.
Raitt noted that the Canadian government has put up nearly all the money for the New International Trade Crossing and is simply awaiting the U.S. government to fund a new customs plaza on the American side.
“Canada continues to await a decision by the U.S. government to pay for this new facility. It requires a relatively modest investment—some $250 million out of the $4-billion overall cost for the project,” she said.
“But this final hurdle is holding up a vitally important project.”
The new public replacement for the privately owned, 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge has the stated support of both national governments.
But as a Canada-U.S. trade issue, it might only be rivalled by Keystone XL.
But don’t expect things to move faster, said Canada-U.S. watcher David Biette, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations at the Wilson Center.
For starters, Keystone XL was delayed by a Democratic administration amid election-year divisions among Democrats. The bridge is more likely to face funding obstacles in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives from conservatives opposed to new government spending.
The bridge project also faces opposition from the owners of the current Ambassador Bridge. They’ll be in court next week seeking an injunction preventing the U.S. Coast Guard from issuing the last permit required for the new public project.
The privately owned Detroit International Bridge Co. will argue that the new project infringes its rights, acquired under century-old arrangements. It wants to build its own new span, next to the existing bridge near downtown Windsor, and accuses the national governments of blocking it with red tape.
The Canadian government calls the existing site, in downtown Windsor, impractical for a major lane expansion and has thrown its full support behind a construction project already underway far from the downtown core.