WINDSOR and OTTAWA, Ontario—The federal government has taken the first step to putting the regulatory framework in place that will guide construction of a new bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
The legislation—officially referred to An Act Respecting a Bridge Spanning the Detroit River between Windsor and Detroit and Other Works, and referred to colloquially by the government as the Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act—is jammed into the omnibus budget bill C-45 that the government reintroduced to parliament.
According to the government, the goal of the Act is to expedite the building of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). To do that, the government has eliminated the need for companies working on the bridge construction to apply for certain permits or be granted government approval for certain tasks. The bridge will be constructed as a P3 (public private partnership) venture.
A statement issued by the government says:
“The new legislation will exempt the construction of the DRIC from a number of federal laws under which permits, approvals or authorizations would normally be required. The Ac,t however, would compel the project proponents (including the P3 partner) to comply with the intent of these laws even though a permit/approval would not be issued. Transport Canada will continue to work with federal responsible agencies to ensure that environmental mitigation measures comply with the intent of all federal laws pertaining to environmental protection, fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, species at risk and navigable waters.”
Specifically, Section 3 and Section 4 of the Act spell out the details of the exemptions:
3. (1) The Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, section 6 of the International Bridges and Tunnels Act and the Port Authorities Operations Regulations do not apply to the construction of the bridge, parkway or any related work.
3. (2) After completion of the construction of the bridge, parkway or any related work, as the case may be, any authorization that would have been required for its construction but for subsection (1), is deemed to have been issued for the purpose of the application of the Acts and regulations referred to in subsection (1).
4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply to the bridge, parkway or any related work.
Government officials have stressed the need to do everything possible to speed up construction.
“This legislation is necessary to complete the new bridge between Windsor and Detroit in a timely manner. We are working to advance the project as quickly as possible to ensure continued job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Essex MP Jeff Watson.
“We are working to advance the project as quickly as possible to ensure continued job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Denis Lebel, minister of transport, infrastructure and communities
This legislation also supports the establishment of a crossing authority by Canada as stipulated in the Canada-Michigan Crossing Agreement which was signed on June 15, 2012.
Almost 400,000 people and nearly $2 billion dollars of goods and services move across the existing bridge every day. The construction of a new bridge has been a point of contention between the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who is against a new construction project, and governments on both sides of the border.