Gordie Howe International Bridge passes first Trump test

Mark McQueen

News report: Trump team compiles infrastructure priority list

Canadian exporters can breathe a sigh of relief, now that the Gordie Howe International Bridge has passed its first big test.  According to McClatchy News, one of Canada’s most important infrastructure projects has been included on a list of about 50 different opportunities that President Trump’s staff have assembled as they consider their priorities for 2017 and beyond.

Two months ago, I was quoted in The Windsor Star regarding the potentially fatal threat that a new Republican Administration could present if President Trump decided to withdraw the Presidential Permit that former President Obama had issued in favour of the Gordie Howe Bridge.

Now that the Gordie Howe seems to be a potential “priority” of the new President, it would be fair to assume the project has survived whatever lobbying was being done by Manny Moroun (a generous Republican donor) in the weeks that followed U.S. election night.  Had the DRIC project been listed as “the new crossing” between Detroit and Windsor, and not the “Gordie Howe”, that would have been a hint that President Trump might be favouring Mr. Moroun’s proposed “twinning” of the existing 86 year-old Ambassador Bridge.  By referring to it by the moniker announced by former PM Stephen Harper in 2015, and describing it as a “PPP project”, there can be no doubt that Trump’s team understands the project’s tortured background and have no desire to upset the apple cart.

The Trudeau government should take note that the project’s description even included a map (from The Detroit Free Press) highlighting a parcel of land owned by the Moroun Family that is currently blocking construction of the would-be U.S. Customs Plaza.

In other GHIB news, Mr. Moroun recently launched a new lawsuit against the bridge project, challenging Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s right to execute the Crossing Agreement with former Transport Minister Lisa Raitt:

Six companies that the family owns have filed a new lawsuit arguing that the construction is illegal. The lawsuit seeks to halt the Michigan Department of Transportation’s efforts to buy land owned by the companies that is in the pathway of the new bridge that the state needs to build, and could lead to another delay in the new crossing to Canada.

For those of you who stop by here regularly, you will recall the Moroun’s latest legal missile is consistent with my assessment of their overall strategy.  Although WDBA Chair Dwight Duncan thought the “olive branch” the Moroun’s proffered to the incoming Trudeau government last February was “a significant development” — journalist Linda Diebel called it “stunning” — those of us with more miles on our tires knew it to be nothing more than a shrewd charm offensive (see prior post “What exactly does Mr. Moroun have in mind?” Feb. 15-16).

As I said almost a year ago, if the Moroun’s wanted to get along better with Canada — all they had to do was stop suing us.  At the time, WBDA Chair Duncan said he was “blown away” by the Moroun’s alleged change in tone; Duncan vowed that the historical barriers were “an issue for the political leadership of Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama.”  With this most recent Moroun legal tactic, it is clear now that they’ve given up on their charm offensive and have reverted to “Plan A”; I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Duncan is “blown away”, yet again, by this most recent twist.

I’d hope not.

The irony may be that President Trump fully recognizes the bridge’s importance to the Midwestern economy, and that the Gordie Howe project may finally get the attention it deserves in Washington.


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