The U.S.-owned Ambassador Bridge company is questioning why the “Buy American” policy does not apply to steel purchases for Canada’s rival Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Bridge company president Dan Stamper said a 2013 American waiver that states all iron and steel for the bridge can be produced in either Canada or the U.S. is especially difficult to swallow while the “Canadian government unilaterally imposes a condition requiring the demolition of our existing bridge.”
The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge is planning to build a new span after receiving a final permit from the Canadian government, but officials on both sides of the border say some conditions must still be met before construction can begin.(Detroit International Bridge Company)
But Mark Butler, spokesperson for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), said the U.S. government granted the waiver after it was determined to be in the public interest following “careful consideration and significant public consultation.”
The Canadian government is covering the full cost of the new bridge.
In an emailed statement sent to CBC News, a press secretary for the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, said the project is a “top infrastructure priority” for the federal government, but would not comment further.
As for the Ambassador Bridge company, it announced it would be replacing its existing bridge in September after receiving a “final permit” from the Canadian government. That permit came with several conditions, including that construction on the new bridge must begin within five years and that the old bridge must be demolished no more than five years after the second span opens to traffic.
Stamper has previously argued the U.S. permits for the bridge dictate the bridge must be kept open because it’s on “historical lists” and stated on Friday that the Howe bridge “conflicts with many of the current [Trump] administration’s policies.”
He added the future of the existing Ambassador bridge should be worked out by Canadian and American officials while the new bridge is being built.
“We hope that the U.S. will level the playing field at the border. Removing the Canadian condition allows construction to begin,” he said. “Requiring the current bridge to be demolished was not proposed, nor was it considered during the environmental reviews, and our view is that Canada imposed this anti-competitive condition in an attempt to justify a government bridge.”
Howe bridge making progress
Butler said all approvals required for the Gordie Howe Bridge have been secured on both sides of the border and the project is moving ahead.
“We are making significant progress with over $350 million committed to preparatory activities in Canada and the U.S. and the public-private partnership procurement process is well underway with the announcement of our Preferred Proponent on schedule for June of this year.”
Windsor West MP Brian Masse sent a letter to the bridge company Friday, saying that removing the waiver is “not a reasonable way forward.”
“The understanding was this was the best way to go forward at a binational way to build the bridge,” said Masse, adding that the multi-billion dollar bridge investment will improve commerce in both countries.
“Instead of concentrating on their own project, they’re attacking again the Gordie Howe process. The only benefit would be to them.”