MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speaking on the Windsor-Detroit Border

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk again about the Canada-U.S. border; in particular, the Windsor-Detroit border.

    On June 21, I asked a question to the minister because we have a border crossing, a brand new crossing, blocked by the state of Michigan right now. The corridor along the Windsor-Detroit gateway has 40% of Canada's daily trade and we have aging infrastructure.

    I started my municipal career in 1997 with the first public meeting to get a new border crossing. Since that time, we have gone through a lot of ups and downs, pushing on several governments, to get a new border crossing capacity to deal with the challenges of the modern infrastructure necessary to be competitive with the United States. We finally had an agreement through the DRIC process, a binational planning process, to create that new infrastructure. A lot of compromise has taken place to get to that point.

    However, the final decision necessary to get the bridge built has been blocked in Lansing, Michigan for a number of months now. This crossing is very important because a lot of Canadian trade, jobs and social economy moving back and forth is dependent on it. I asked the government to intervene in June and to be more forceful, active and engaged.

    There is a private American citizen who owns the Ambassador Bridge lobbying with millions of dollars to protect his empire and his monopoly. That is at the expense of the environment and the economy. With more delays we would see the expense of the project going up. Things do not go down. We would see a greater cost borne by citizens and the payback for the project would take longer. I wanted the minister to get more engaged in June.

    Right now we still have Michigan debating this law in Lansing and we still see a vacuum of leadership from the Minister of Transport on this file. We have not seen the type of leadership necessary to get the ball over the goal line, so to speak.

    It is important that this is not seen as just a local issue. This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Canadian history. It is one of the most important things for our economy in trade to the United States. There are 34 states that have Canada as a number one trading partner. This is a conduit and lifeline for much of that trade and affects everything.

     A quick example is the auto industry. An automobile built in Windsor or Detroit, Michigan, like the Volt, will literally have parts going back and forth across the border a number of times. This is why businesses have been in favour of this and environmental groups have been in favour of this to get some of the idling trucks off the city streets.

     There has been great compromise by the citizens who have to bear the result of the construction and subsequent inconvenience. We need this to be successful right now. We need better leadership from the government to make sure that Michigan knows that we need to get this across the goal line. The government also has to engage Washington to make sure it is pushing this issue as well.

    Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's intervention.

    What I think needs to happen next is a greater emphasis back on Washington to get Michigan moving again. There needs to be a real analysis of the current Ambassador Bridge by the government, in terms of its safety record, auditing its structure and all those things. The International Bridges and Tunnels Act came into effect a number of years ago. Ourselves, as New Democrats, worked with Minister Cannon at that time to get some amendments to the bill. So, there was compromise on both sides to ensure that the legislation was passed.

    I would ask the parliamentary secretary to go back to the minister and encourage him to get to Lansing himself, as well as other senior officials, and to Washington, as where we need that full-court press to get the job done.

    The U.S. is having another round of elections. Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, provided over $1 million of financing to elected officials in the United States during the last session. There probably would be more of that influence happening again. That is the challenge that we face: just getting it over the last hump.