Feds sold out city with bridge approval
It would be an understatement to say the terms of surrender dictated to Windsor by the Justin Trudeau regime on behalf of its influential little friend, the Ambassador Bridge Co., are a tough swallow.
This is kiss-the-dirt humiliation imposed by a government that couldn’t care less about the Windsor area, electorally speaking, but sees value in building on its relationship with the billionaire American owner of vital cross-border trade infrastructure.
You shall submit. But feel free to sit down with those nice folks from the bridge company and hammer out your best deal. Those were Windsor’s marching orders from the feds following the bridge company’s shocking revelation that it has Canadian cabinet approval to build its new six-lane span next to the existing bridge.
Bridge company officials, in a remarkable display of self-control, didn’t openly gloat, let alone dance a jig, to celebrate their victory over Windsor in a mega-bucks struggle dating back at least 15 years. But those chocolate-chip cookies at company headquarters must have tasted especially sweet.
The timing was brilliant. The cabinet decision, scooped by bridge company executive Matthew Moroun, son of owner Matty, came while Windsor was reeling from its worst-ever flood. The focus was on drying out, toting up the damage and figuring out whom to blame. What better time to hang the community out to dry, which is precisely what the feds did.
Federal transportation officials, in one small act of courtesy, gave Mayor Drew Dilkens a heads-up last spring that they intended to capitulate. He was invited to draw up a list of items, consolation prizes if you prefer, that would help the city swallow this bitter pill.
The city made a shopping list that included $20 million for a Sandwich Towne community development fund, the bridge-owned waterfront property at Riverside and Lauzon and a new west-end firehall.
The feds apparently thought Windsor was being greedy. Their permit conditions make no mention of either the Sandwich fund or the waterfront property. They do include a firehall but require Windsor to hand over a key stretch of Huron Church Road.
The ultimate humiliation is still to come. The city will have to sit down with its longtime adversaries, folks it doesn’t trust, to negotiate land swaps and other transactions. One of the shrewdest firms around will engage in horsetrading with earnest civil servants. Care to guess who’ll come out the winner?
The bridge company has already demonstrated it can run circles around the bureaucratic plodders in the nation’s capital.
One important condition imposed by the feds is a requirement that the four-lane Ambassador Bridge be demolished within five years of the opening of the six-lane suspension bridge.
Does anyone, other than a naive or selfdeceiving bureaucrat, seriously believe the existing bridge, which has seen big money spent on new decking and other improvements, will be torn down while still serviceable and capable of providing redundancy?
By the way, bridge officials told this columnist years ago that the structure cannot be demolished because it qualifies for protected status under Michigan’s heritage laws. So what’s changed? University of Windsor business professor Alfie Morgan, who has tracked this border battle from Day 1, believes the new bridge will handle high-speed truck traffic while the old bridge will host light local traffic, including commuters. In other words, it will be a 10-lane revenue bonanza for the bridge company. But at what cost? Morgan’s great fear is that Windsor’s west side, especially Sandwich, will become a sprawling parking lot for big rigs. “This is going to really obliterate west Windsor,” he warned. “I’m shocked that the government thinks so little of the people of Windsor and Essex County.”
Morgan, like so many here, now wonders whether the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which has gone from the back burner to the darkest corner of the deep freezer under the fiscally inept Trudeau government, will ever be erected.
He smells a rat, as we all should. The stench of Liberal gamesmanship is all over this project. It seems clearer by the day that we’ve been sold out. And sold dirt cheap.