It's all out war along the Great Lakes, the testiest battle in decades. And it's about building a bridge to Canada. A conflict of monumental proportions which pits a multi-billionaire, Matty Moroun, against the Governor of the bankrupt State of Michigan, Rick Snyder.
The bridge proposal between Windsor and Detroit is a cornerstone of the Harper Government's plan to develop a joint Canada-U.S. border agreement on "perimeter security." Both the long suffering bridge plan and the security deal which was announced six months ago when Prime Minister Harper and President Obama met, appear stalled and well on a rapid track to the "back burner" of American politics. The Obama Administration is being otherwise distracted with plans for the 2012 Presidential election. And, facilitating or sharing American business with (or as opponents argue transferring jobs to) another country is not on their agenda.
Just a month ago in Washington at hearings of the Congressional "Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security," the Chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, Alan Bersin, told Senators on the panel that the Canadian border is a "more significant threat" to American security than the Mexican border. This was no doubt music to opponents of the Detroit bridge deal. Mr. Bersin explained that: "It's commonly accepted that (the northern border is) the more significant threat, because of the people who can enter Canada and come across our bridges into the United-States."
Back to the war of words in Michigan: The wealthy Manuel (Matty) Moroun owns outright the Ambassador Bridge, a toll span which is the busiest land border crossing in the world. He hasn't taken lightly to Michigan's plan for this second bridge financed with loans from the Government of Canada to compete directly with the estimated $60 to $100 Million/year profits generated by the tolls collected by CenTra Inc., Matty's holding company. As most Canadians who watch American television know, Mr. Moroun's company has been running scathing TV commercials against the project for months. The "Detroit Free Press" daily fingered company goons recently for delivering "fake" eviction notices to the owners whose homes could be in the path of a new bridge. With no money to fight back against the campaign, Michigan Governor Snyder is left muttering pious words: "there's a lot of misinformation out there...This is a great thing for our state...It's about international trade and job creation."....Blah, Blah, Blah!
It's clear that the recession of the last two-and-a-half years down south of the 49th parallel has raised a significant climate of American protectionism which, when coupled with the now decade long paranoia over border security matters, do not bode well for any Canadian initiatives. Whether its a new bridge and/or a perimeter security framework with the ultimate aim of integrating and harmonizing law enforcement measures along the border. - Perhaps critics argue with some significant concessions on Canadian sovereignty: I digress!
Last month at the G-8 Summit in Deauville, France; Prime Minister Harper indicated that the Government's "action plan" (an over used Tory moniker) on border security would be ready this summer. Perhaps: But I'm quite unsure that the Obama Democrats, facing an uphill challenge towards the 2012 Presidential election and its appended tea-party hysteria, will be welcoming another "foreign" trade initiative with reciprocal enthusiasm.