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The Globe and Mail

Transport Minister says Windsor-Detroit bridge to go ahead

The Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit is shown in March, 2013. The bridge’s owner has opposed a $1-billion plan to build another bridge across the U.S.-Canada border.


Canada is vowing a second vehicle bridge will span the river between Windsor and Detroit by 2020 regardless of whether the U.S. government comes through with a long-delayed contribution of $250-million that had threatened to hold back the project.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced appointments to an authority Wednesday that will oversee the construction and operation of the bridge – a project that will broaden the most vital trade conduit to the United States – as well as a second international body to engage in related talks with Michigan.

The new bridge currently has two working names, the Detroit River International Crossing and the New International Trade Crossing, and it will offer an alternative route for trucks at Canada's busiest commercial border thoroughfare, one that already carries one-quarter of the goods traded between Canada and the U.S. each year.

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The U.S. government has to date failed to provide the quarter-billion dollars that would pay for an American customs inspection plaza to screen traffic entering the U.S.

Ms. Raitt said Canada's not waiting for this to be resolved. She has previously said Ottawa might cover the cost of the American plaza if necessary.

"Our government won't let financing disagreements get in the way of construction timelines. We're going to be building a bridge and we're going to make sure we stick to our timelines," she said Wednesday in Windsor, Ont.

"That's why we've put a CEO in place. It's time to get the work done."

Michele (Michael) Cautillo, a professional engineer by training who's been involved in the planning of the new project for years, will serve as president and chief executive officer of the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority, a new Crown corporation. Mark McQueen, president and CEO at venture capital firm Wellington Financial, will serve as chair of the board of directors.

Caroline Mulroney Lapham, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, will serve as a director on the authority.

A spokesman for Justin Trudeau's Liberals said Wednesday they have decided not to comment on this appointment and New Democrat Windsor MP Brian Masse said he would rather have representatives from Windsor on the board, but is willing to work with whoever is on the authority.

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Ms. Mulroney Lapham, a lawyer and former financial analyst, has most recently worked as vice-president of corporate development at Wellington Financial, Mr. McQueen's firm. She's co-founder and executive director of Shoebox Projects for Shelters, a charitable foundation, and has considerable not-for-profit board experience. Wellington Financial did not respond to a request for information Wednesday.

Canada has put up nearly all the public money necessary for the project. The bridge will be financed and built by a private contractor – yet to be selected – but Canada is shouldering the majority of upfront costs to build related infrastructure, such as extension roads approaching the bridge.

This reflects the fact the deal was arranged with the blessing of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, but over the wishes of the Michigan legislature. Legislative supporters of the existing Detroit-Windsor crossing, the Ambassador Bridge, repeatedly opposed the project and took action to ensure the government could not spend state money on the project or collect tolls from the bridge.

Canada will be repaid for covering much of the U.S. share of infrastructure through toll revenues.

About $120-billion (U.S.) worth of goods travel through the Detroit-Windsor corridor each year.

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