Canada hopes Obama budget has millions for border project

Canada’s consul general in Detroit would like U.S. President Barack Obama’s budget proposal to include a funding for a new customs plaza in Detroit.

Roy Norton, Canada's consul general in Detroit, will be watching closely for 'a committment'

Canada’s consul general in Detroit would like U.S. President Barack Obama’s budget proposal to include funding for a new customs plaza in Detroit.

Roy Norton said “all of the other hurdles have been overcome” in moving forward with a new international crossing connecting Windsor and Detroit.

Canada is paying for the $1-billion span but the U.S. has to pay for and build a new $250-million customs plaza in Detroit.

“There’s no formal commitment on the part of the U.S. government to fund that customs plaza,” Norton said.

Earlier this month, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had failed to commit to funding the plaza on the U.S. side. He called it is a major hurdle in the construction of the crossing.

On Feb. 12, U.S. Representative Gary Peters introduced the Customs Plaza Construction Act of 2014. It calls on Washington to commit $250 million to the new plaza.

"This budget could be a logical opportunity to do that,” Norton said.

Norton said he would accept a commitment “offline” and outside the budget. He also said a pool of money, dedicated to ports of entry and not specifically for the new bridge, would also be a positive.

“If the commitment isn’t there, as in if the money isn’t in the budget, but if there is otherwise a commitment enunciated, that would be fine,” Norton said. “We are prepared to take the U.S. government on good faith.”

In 2010, Norton was appointed consul general in Detroit with a mandate to “get the bridge.”

A year later, he told CBC News, “I think the bridge will be authorized and underway well before I leave Detroit."

Norton’s tenure in Detroit ends March 7.

The bridge has been authorized, but construction is not underway and completion is a long way off. It was to be completed by 2020.

“We should be able to stick to the timetable,” Norton said. “We’re where we want to be.

“The actual plaza doesn’t have to be built and operational until the span is built and operational. But we need to know there will be a customs plaza.”


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