10/22/2012 12:25 EDT

Windsor Detroit Bridge: Ambassador Bridge Company Hits Out At 'Bridge To Strengthen Trade Act'


The company that owns the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada has struck out at the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and its plans to speed up construction of a new bridge between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, calling the proposed Canadian legislation an “anti-American” law.

As part of its omnibus budget bill released last week, the federal government introduced the Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act, which would exempt whoever ultimately builds the new bridge from environmental laws.

The new bridge and any related work would be exempt from the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act and large parts of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Globe and Mail reported.

The Windsor Star reports that the Harper government’s move was designed to “derail the legal delays typically employed by [billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty] Moroun, the Ambassador Bridge and his trucking empire. Together the Moroun group of companies have been waging a multi-year, multimillion-dollar legal and TV advertising campaign to block construction of a competing bridge in the courts."

In a statement emailed to reporters Monday, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), owned by Moroun, slammed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for “turning a blind eye as Canada attempts to jam through anti-democratic legislation to make the entire project above the law, all in an effort to block an American company from building a new bridge.”

Company president Dan Stamper said in the statement: “Governor Snyder knows he threw American workers under the bus when he gave into Canada’s demand for a Buy America waiver and signed a deal that gives Canada control over most of the jobs and all of the revenue associated with the bridge for the foreseeable future.”

Harper and Snyder signed an agreement this past summer that would see Canada cover the entire $1-billion cost of a new bridge crossing, a move prompted by a lack of funds and a lack of political will in Michigan to build a new bridge. As part of the deal, Canada will recoup the costs of building the bridge through tolls charged in Michigan.

Studies have suggested the project would create thousands of jobs in Michigan, contrary to the DIBC's claim.

Moroun has been waging a political war to prevent the construction of a new bridge that would threaten profits from his existing Ambassador Bridge crossing.

Moroun is pushing Proposal 6, an initiative on the Michigan ballot this November that would alter the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority in the legislature to approve a new border crossing — essentially making it impossible to approve a new crossing. But opponents of the ballot initiative say it may be pointless, as it wouldn’t apply retroactively to the agreement between Harper and Snyder.

Nonetheless, Moroun has spent some $9 million of his own money to fund ads backing Proposal 6, telling Michigan voters that the bridge would end up costing U.S. taxpayers money, even though Canada has agreed to cover the costs. The ads have been slammed by numerous groups as being misleading.

In his efforts to maintain a for-profit monopoly on the Detroit-Windsor crossing, Moroun has enlisted some powerful allies, including the billionaire Koch Brothers, whose group, Americans for Prosperity, has been campaigning against a publicly-owned new bridge, and Grover Norquist, a famed anti-tax crusader.

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