MASSE ON THE WINDSOR-DETROIT BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE

39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 109

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Infrastructure

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to talk about the Windsor-Detroit gateway again. In April of this year, I had a chance to ask the Minister of Transport a question about the Windsor-Detroit gateway.

For those who are not aware, there has been a new border crossing proposal and process under way. It is coming into its final hours. There is a concern in my area with regard to the current proposals on the table.

There are three potential plazas and three crossings being proposed right now. One in particular is very egregious to the community of Sandwich Towne, which is the oldest European settlement west of Montreal. It is very historic. It has a history that is very important to this country. In fact, the Battle of Windsor was fought there. It is part of the history of the War of 1812. There was also the underground railroad. It was also part of the rum-runner age. Many historic events have happened there. That community also has a school. It is a very tight-knit community.

One of the plazas and one of the border crossings is very close to Sandwich Towne. There is a very serious concern emerging. Sterling Marine Fuels is located there as well.

The government is now studying these three areas.

The Sterling depot area is one of the most important fueling depots in the Great Lakes system. It fuels around 600 ships per year and is growing. It has been adding more fueling facilities and storage tanks.

In the last few weeks, I had an opportunity to tour the site. The concern is quite literally that one of the border crossing proposals put forward by the government goes over top of the Sterling site. That is unacceptable. That is a significant risk, not only in terms of an accident but also in terms of an act of terror. This border crossing was to provide some increased capacity because we certainly have to meet that challenge for the modern economy.

My question for the government is this. Why is it still continuing with this site? Why is this still in the running? We should be focusing west of that. There is support from the community for the western crossing and the western plaza. I know that work has been done out there.

As this proposal comes forward, we would like to rule out the Sterling fuels site location. Once again, that is because of an issue of national security. This proposal is also going to pinch into Sandwich Towne. It is next to General Brock school, which is also a police station and a library, and next to homes and businesses. All of these things make it a bad site location. It is also going to require a much more expensive road leading into it.

The community is asking the government to put one of the plazas and the crossing west of Sandwich Towne in the Brighton Beach area so the crossing would go into the United States. A certain site location has been identified in the United States. There obviously has to be a place for the bridge to begin and end, and there are two locations in the United States.

Interestingly enough, if the government chooses to go with the area that is in Sandwich Towne on the Sterling fuels site, it leads to the United States, where fueling depots are located as well. We would have this cocktail that is very dangerous and would undermine the principle of having a safe and secure border.

I had the opportunity to be at the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group's AGM two weeks ago. We passed a resolution calling for the border to be safe and secure and to have economic trade with the highest standards possible.

Therefore, I am calling on the government to put the crossing west of Sandwich Towne, away from the Sterling fuels site, to make sure it is going to meet the principles that have been laid out and that are so important for our economic commerce, trade and security.

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, indeed, we appreciated the member's comments and his input, and I can assure him that due consideration will be given to those.
Transport Canada, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the United States Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation is conducting the environmental assessment for the Detroit River International Crossing project.

This project is actually made up of five components: a bridge, two border inspection plazas, and two highway connections.

As the member for Windsor West is well aware, the study team narrowed down the crossing location to three options in March 2006 with three corresponding plaza options as he has identified. Since that time, the study team has conducted exhaustive technical studies including a thorough geotechnical foundations investigation.

In March 2008, the study team released its geotechnical findings. Indeed, this analysis concluded that the crossing option located closest to the community of Sandwich would have an approach alignment that passes over a historic solution mining area that might affect bedrock stability, so this is important.

Two other crossing locations located further to the south and away from Sandwich, however, have no such geotechnical concerns.

In addition to exhaustive geotechnical investigations, the study team has examined the potential effects of the project on wildlife, biological diversity, and extensively modelled air quality and noise impacts, so there has been an exhaustive amount of work going into this.

The study team has also been fully committed to working with the public, communities and interested groups in the Windsor-Essex County area and, of course, we are interested in working with the member for Windsor West as well to develop a solution in consultation with our United States partners which best meets future transportation needs, while minimizing the impacts on communities.

I am very pleased to say that to date the Canadian study team has participated in over 250 consultation events. In the coming weeks, the Canadian study team, together with our United States partners, will announce the preferred alternative for the plazas and bridge, so good news is coming soon.

This location, I want to assure the member, will strike a balance between minimizing the impacts on the community and natural environment while at the same time meeting the combined goals of increased border capacity, improving the safe and efficient movement of people and goods through the Windsor-Detroit trade corridor, and improving connections to local and North American transportation systems. This is a very important border crossing.

This Conservative government cares deeply for the quality of life of all of our communities and that is reflected in our investments, the largest in history, in infrastructure across the country as we strive for a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and better communities.

I want to reassure the House and all Canadians that this government will continue to make a real difference in the everyday lives of all Canadians from coast to coast.

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

It has been a long time on this file. It has been 10 years for myself. To see it coming down to the last moments, I am still very much concerned that we actually make the right decision.

I hope the parliamentary secretary and the department really examine the challenges of actually keeping this proposal on the table and work toward what the community wants. The community is embracing a down river solution. There is support for it.

I hope that what is going to happen is that there is going to be the right announcement. If it is not and if we actually engage in this other project, the community is going to reject it. It is going to create another obstacle because we will fight to have the proper location selection.

We believe the merit is there and the scientific evidence, the social evidence, as well as the traffic management and security evidence to make sure that the crossing is at the Brighton Beach area where once again, even for land principle policies, it would be very beneficial. By moving it to Sandwich, we lose--

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer):
The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Mr. Brian Jean:
Mr. Speaker, we are very excited as a government to be in power two years and to have initiated this great investment for the people of Windsor and the people of Canada. There is $400 million in this investment.

As the member knows there are 25,000 jobs over the next seven years in the area, 12,000 of those for the construction of the access roads late in 2009. We actually believe that this will pump $2.5 billion into the economy.

This is great news and this is great for Canada. This is the most important border crossing in Canada because of the amount of trade that goes through there. We can assure the member that this government will act in the best interests to enhance the qualify of life for the people of Windsor-Essex County and all Canadians because this is a very important project to us, and we will get the job done right.