Windsor West MP Brian Masse recently returned from meetings with members of the U.S. Congress and Senate to discuss the issues surrounding the border and the new Windsor-Detroit international crossing.
Masse is the Vice-Chair of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, an all party caucus delegation which travels to the United States to work with congressional and senate representatives to lobby for Canadian interests. According to its website, the association seeks to “find points of convergence in our respective national policies, initiate dialogue on points of divergence, encourage exchanges of information, and promote better understanding between Canadian and American parliamentarians on shared issues of concern.”
On this trip to Washington, Masse explained that the association discussed the new border crossing, issues pertaining to the thickening of the border and tried overall to continue to “press upon the United States to not cut any services or any types of programs, especially right now as we’re going through sequestration. It’s very disturbing that we could have some border cuts.”
A lack of a Presidential Permit is the only impediment left to overcome before the new bridge can be constructed and Masse explained that he was “anxiously awaiting that to happen”.
The Ambassador Bridge Company spent millions of dollars in a failed attempt to persuade Michigan voters to create a state constitutional amendment which would have required the consent of the electorate before any new bridge could be constructed, and when asked whether or not anything could impede the construction of the new bridge, Masse responded with a resounding, “no”.
“What’s interesting is when I started this ten years ago going to Washington to lobby for the bridge, there was very little awareness about the border crossing, and the significance of it. [Now] every member that I’ve met, whether it be Senate or Congress, Democrat or Republican, were in favour of a new border crossing and most were very familiar with the overall project and consequences of if we don’t build it,” said Masse who added that there is now more support than ever for the construction of the new bridge.
While the border and the new crossing is a priority in Washington, Masse cautioned that it cannot be taken for granted.
“We have to continue to raise the issue and show the awareness,” stated Masse who added that the association educated U.S. representatives regarding how many jobs are affected by Canadian trade and commerce, what types of industries are in their districts and state and how the border and logjams or inefficiencies can cost jobs.
“The last couple of years we’ve seen the activity of the committee and interest from the United States wane a little, but there is a high degree of interest for renewal and a strong commitment from several new members.” said Masse.
Cooperation between Canada and U.S. is still a “work in progress” and Masse explained that a meeting is being held in Ottawa between MPs and members of both U.S. congress and senate. While the meeting used to be annual, it hasn’t occurred the last few years and Masse is eager for the opportunity to “exchange information and support.”
“It also creates really good personal relationships. I now have met a number of [members of congress and senate] … if I have issues or problems or need information [pertaining to political issues], I can simply pick up the phone … these are the types of things that we build.” said Masse.
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.