New Ontario Trade Bridge: Harper’s Legacy

On June 15 it was announced during a press conference where Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Denis Lebel and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder were present, that a $1 billion bridge will be constructed between Windsor and Detroit to create another crossing at the Canadian-American border. Buzz words and phrases that were thrown around by those fast tracking the project included increased trade, a stronger economy and more jobs.  And for the most part, it seems like a progressive idea. A new route between the two countries has been desired for some time with promises for such plans going back ten years when former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was at the helm.  According to MSNBC, “The Windsor-Detroit corridor is Canada’s most important trade artery. Nearly $200 billion of commerce crosses the Windsor-Detroit border corridor annually, Canadian officials say.” And with concerns that due to gridlock the Ambassador Bridge just isn’t cutting it anymore, it makes sense for Harper to jump on board with this project if it will improve trade while making him appear more desirable to his American counterparts.  Harper really has never been one to disappoint our neighbours to the South. “Canada’s exports to the U.S. rose in the first quarter to their highest level in three years, with the U.S. accounting for 73 percent of total shipments. That share touched a record 85 percent in 2001,” a Bloomberg online article wrote. “Sales to the U.S. by Linamar Corp. (LNR), a parts maker based in Guelph, Ontario, increased 29 percent last year to C$188 million. While U.S. revenue has increased, some automakers have cited bottlenecks at the border as a drawback to sourcing supplies in Ontario, said Mark Stoddart, chief technology officer and executive vice president of marketing at Linamar. ‘We have had customers indicate to us that the bridge issue is a concern that they have in sourcing Linamar,’ Stoddart said by phone,” the article continued. As the saying goes, if you build it they will come.  Big construction projects have always been a sign of power.  The Egyptians and Aztecs had their pyramids, the Romans had their aqueducts and the Colosseum and the Greeks have the Acropolis, just to name a few.  Fast forward a few centuries and we see the Eiffel Tower, the Panama Canal, and the Empire State Building as well as small islands being created in Dubai to show the world how big one country’s wallet is.  These new construction projects provide services, entertain the masses, host business and allow business to flow freely (or at a price, cue the toll booths), they become essential in our lives.  But this new bridge project will also have a secondary purpose – Harper’s edifice, a physical reminder that he was here. It is interesting to note that 2012 marks the bi-centennial of the war of 1812.  US forces, under the command of General William Hull, were sent north to liberate us from tyrannical British rule, as they saw it, and plundered and burnt York (modern day Toronto).  Little more than a year later the British, lead by Major General Robert Ross, returned the favour and torched President James Madison’s presidential mansion (now known as the White House).  It has been documented that his wife, Dolly, risked her life to save a portrait of George Washington from the conflagration.  What a difference 200 years can make.  I like the idea of a bridge both physical and metaphorically. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS | The Ontarian, Writer, Editor

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