Letter to Transport Minister regarding P3s


June 24, 2008

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, MP
Minister of Transportation
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A OA6

Dear Minister Cannon

I would like to thank you and your officials from Transport Canada for selecting the plaza and bridge locations for the next crossing that the residents of Sandwich Towne preferred. This exemplifies the consultation the department has done with regards to this particular aspect of the Detroit River International Crossing Study (DRIC) process.

During the announcement the reiteration of the department’s determination to seek a public-private-partnership (P3) for the design, financing, construction, and operation of the next crossing was troubling. Last year, during testimony you gave at committee, a commitment was made to evaluate whether or not there is a public benefit of a P3 model for the crossing before proceeding with this construct. I have yet to see any analysis from Transport Canada or any other governmental agency on this specific determination. At the same time more evidence is being presented from the investment community that private involvement in critical infrastructure just increases the cost of financing projects and escalates the tolls for users. Furthermore, this raises a series of questions that need to be answered before a conclusive outcome can be established.

First and foremost, what is the timeline for receiving information, conducting analysis, and delivering the conclusion on the costs and benefits of a P3 model for the new crossing? Second, will the criteria be disclosed to the public or an opportunity created for public consultation on the public benefit mandate required for any new crossing? Third, will there be the establishment of a reinvestment fund, derived from revenue of the new crossing, which is used for needs of the community which hosts the crossing, such as what is done at the Niagara and Peace Bridge operations? Finally, will the governance model for the new crossing be separated from the determination of whether or not the crossing is a P3 project?

The businesses and citizens of this community are very familiar with the difficulties and detriments that private ownership and operation of infrastructure can have in regard to trade, economic development, and the efficiency of transportation when it comes to crossing the border. Eliminating trade barriers in all their forms and having the most cost effective crossing options should be the ultimate goal during a time when trade, travel, and tourism has been under siege for the past decade related to infrastructure deficiencies and inadequate government policy making on both sides of the border. At a time when the manufacturing sector of our country is facing the most significant challenges in its history, it is imperative that the next crossing be a competitive enhancement to industry and not another opportunity for government sponsored private profit that detracts from incentive to invest in our country.

Sincerely,

(original signed by)

Brian Masse, MP
Windsor West