TORONTO – A decision by Michigan voters to defeat a proposal that would have meant referendums on whether new bridges or tunnels are built between their state and Canada helps clear the way for a new Canadian-financed bridge deemed critical to trade, Canada's government said Wednesday.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a new bridge is important to the economies of both countries and said he's very pleased to see the people of Michigan support it.
Michigan voters on Tuesday defeated Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun's efforts to require a public vote before any competing international crossing can be built with state money. It came in response to the proposed construction of a new government bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Moroun is the billionaire private owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Canada's busiest border crossing. Moroun wants to build a new span of his own, and spent millions of advertising dollars to support Proposal 6.
Michigan Gov. Rick. Snyder opposed Moroun's ballot measure and calls Moroun a special interest against Michigan interests. Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has said Moroun's motivation is to maintain a near monopoly on truck and trade traffic with his Ambassador Bridge.
Snyder and Canadian leaders reached a deal in June on a new government bridge. Snyder has said that under the agreement Michigan isn't on the hook for any of the bridge costs, which would be repaid to Canada through tolls collected on the Canadian side.
The governor's office has said the new bridge would relieve traffic congestion at the crossing and enhance the $70 billion-a-year trade relationship between Michigan and Canada. Harper has called a new bridge one of Canada's best investments and said revenues would recoup the cost. The United States and Canada share the world's largest trading relationship.
Canada's auto sector has said a new bridge is critical to alleviating gridlock at the country's most important trade conduit.
Canadian Transport Minister Denis Lebel said the bridge will be built as "as soon as possible" and said they are awaiting a presidential permit from the Obama administration.