DRIC backers urge Michigan vote
Masse joins last-minute lobbying
Local MP Brian Masse joined a last-ditch bid in Detroit to convince Senate Majority floor leader Mike Bishop to hold a vote on the government-backed DRIC bridge before a new governor and lawmakers take over in Michigan.
There are only a handful of lame duck sessions remaining following state elections earlier this month. Political, business and community leaders from both sides of the border have called on Bishop to fulfil a promise he made several months ago to stage a vote on DRIC before the end of the term.
Approval by Michigan’s Senate is the last major hurdle before construction can start on the DRIC downriver bridge that would link the industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray.
Bishop — who controls motions introduced in the Senate — revealed his flip-flop a few days after the election when he announced the DRIC bridge issue would have to wait until incoming Gov. Rick Snyder and dozens of new senators take over in January.
He was blasted for the decision by DRIC supporters who pointed to political donations he received from Ambassador Bridge billionaire owner Mat- ty Moroun as the reason for his decision.
“We want to let our neighbours know this is a binational betrayal,” Masse said. “There is disappointment on the Canadian side because of what this new crossing means economically and environmentally for both communities.
“I ask (Bishop) to live up to his word. In Canada, when you shake hands on something, it means something. We’ve done our job (to get DRIC approved) on our side of the border and we like to see him finish it.”
Bishop’s office did not return messages left by The Star on Friday.
The event was hosted by state Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D — Detroit) outside historic Ste. Anne Church next to the Ambassador Bridge plaza in Detroit.
She represents southwest Detroit neighbourhoods which are home to both the Ambassador Bridge and the proposed DRIC bridge.
She pointed to the $550-million offer by Canada’s federal government to cover the state’s costs of the bridge project as reason enough why Bishop must stage a vote.
“ Michigan can’t afford to turn our backs on a shovelready project like this one,” Tlaib said.
“This is the only viable proposal on the table and would create 10,000 jobs with the generous support from Canada. It’s alarming my colleagues are turning their backs on families and workers in this state.”
Bridge spokesman Phil Frame said he couldn’t speak about the donations between Moroun and Bishop “because I wasn’t there.”
The bridge owner remains committed to seeing his own twin span proposal become reality instead of DRIC, he said.
“We are pressing forward with the project and committed as we have always been,” Frame said. “That’s about all I can say.”
Debra Williams, leader with the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, said residents in her Delray community and surrounding neighbourhoods are weary of the never-ending delays in Michigan’s Senate to get the DRIC bridge approved.
“It’s frustration — that sums it up,” she said. “It’s unfortunate to see in the legislature that politics is put over people.” Her community views the DRIC bridge as a beacon of renewal in Delray.
“We need a decision,” Williams said. “ Residents and business can’t make important life and work decisions because senators won’t take a vote. We need a vote this year so we can move forward.
“We see (the DRIC project) as an opportunity to get the area rebuilt or fix what’s there. It will not be the way it used to be — our neighbourhood was very viable in the old days. But we see this as something new and different for our young people.”