Politics & Prejudices
Game of bridges
Why the Obama administration is sponging off of Canada.
Published: May 13, 2014
First of all, the new bridge over the Detroit River is now virtually certain to become reality. Forget whatever lies Matty Moroun and his paid lackeys and sycophants continue to spout.
Moroun will continue to file nuisance suits and try to make mischief through the state legislators he’s bought with thinly disguised bribes labeled campaign contributions.
He’s managed, with such tactics, to delay this badly needed bridge for years. But he’s been essentially defeated, thanks to a politician who didn’t need his money — Gov. Rick Snyder — who found a crafty way to strike a deal with Canada.
But the project is now being held up by an unlikely bad guy: President Barack Obama and his administration. They seem happy to have this country play welfare cheat.
Even though Canada is paying the vast majority of the costs of building the New International Trade Crossing, Washington evidently wants Canada to even pay the cost of the necessary customs plaza for our immigration services.
Even wretchedly poor nations normally pay for their own diplomatic needs. Can you imagine the squalling if Albania expected us to pay to redecorate their embassy?
But I’ve been told by high diplomatic sources that Washington feels they have Ottawa over a barrel, since Canada needs a new bridge even more than America does.
And to our shame, this seems to be working.
That’s mainly not well understood in Detroit, where the familiar farce is still playing. The Morouns, meaning 87-year-old Matty, his occasionally trotted-out wife, Nora, and their son, Matthew, will keep claiming, alternatively, that a) a new bridge isn’t needed, and b) that he’s ready to build a new one, right next to his ancient Ambassador Bridge.
Letting him build it will save the taxpayers plenty, the Morouns claim. Sadly, some free-market-worshipping fools even believe it. The truth, of course, is that even if he could get clearance on the U.S. side to build a new span — which he can’t — the Canadians would never allow it, and for good reason.
Nobody would’ve put the Ambassador Bridge where it is, had they known in 1929 how housing and highway patterns would develop. There are a dozen traffic lights between where the bridge ends in Canada, and Highway 401, the main freeway.
There have been times when traffic was so backed up, Windsor officials put porta-potties on some residents’ lawns, which did not go over well. Additionally, Canadian officials agree with state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents the area where the Ambassador Bridge is anchored in Detroit.
“The air is already too polluted from fumes,” she told me last summer. Additionally, the city would have to give Moroun, Detroit’s most famous slumlord, all or part of Riverside Park, an area he tried to seize a few years ago.
No, thank you. We do, however, badly need a new bridge over the Detroit River — as soon as physically possible. Virtually every business not owned by Moroun agrees on that.
Even if the Ambassador Bridge were owned by a saint, it was not built for today’s huge trucks, and is wearing out. Nor is it certified for hazardous materials.
Well over a billion dollars’ worth of stuff, mainly heavy manufacturing and automotive components, crosses the bridge every week. That’s one-quarter of all the trade between Canada and the United States. There’s no other way to get it across.
You can’t send it through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, and the bridge in Port Huron is too far away and already too crowded to make that an economically viable option.
Terrorists could do far more damage to the economy — especially in Michigan and Ontario — by blowing up the Ambassador Bridge than by taking out the World Trade Center.
So we need this bridge, and Michigan would benefit more than anywhere else, thanks to the thousands in construction jobs that would be created. The least we could do is pay the $250 million or so needed for our own customs plaza.
That’s money that would have to be appropriated by Congress, and, to be sure, there might be some pitfalls. But even the GOP members of the House delegation should realize how important a new river crossing would be.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hoped Obama would mention it in his State of the Union speech — or at least include money for the plaza — in his proposed budget.
But no. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did visit Detroit earlier this month and pledged to try to secure the funds, but he’s new on the job and without great clout.
So last week, Lisa Raitt, Canada’s minister of transport, said the project is so “vitally important” to her country they might have to put up the cash for our customs plaza.
“This has never happened before … the United States not paying for their own U.S. customs plaza,” she said. That’s true, and it shouldn’t happen now. This isn’t Upper Volta, or Boratistan.
“If only we’d held onto Fort Detroit until the end of the War of 1812,” the Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada’s top newspaper, wrote last week. They really should have, too.
Not only would we have a new bridge by now, we’d already have had universal health care for years.
Normally I roll my eyes at those political junkies who start obsessing over the next presidential election years in advance. But campaigns start earlier and earlier, and here are a few things worth thinking about:
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