Ambassador Bruce Heyman says new Canada-U.S. bridge critical

The new American ambassador to Canada calls a new international crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., "critical."

Newly minted ambassador admits he needs to 'get educated' and meet with Transport Minister Lisa Raitt

Bruce Heyman, the new American ambassador to Canada, wants to sit down and discuss a new international bridge with Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The new American ambassador to Canada calls a new international crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., "critical."

Bruce Heyman assumed his duties Tuesday. A day later he told CBC Windsor he needs to "get educated" about the $1-billion Detroit River International Crossing.

"Infrastructure between our two countries is critical and we need to have the best infrastructure we can possibly have," Heyman told CBC Windsor.

Two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the agreement.

While Canada and the Province of Ontario have moved forward with the construction of a new $1.4-billion highway leading to the proposed crossing, little has happened in terms of the bridge itself. Land acquisition has started.

However, the U.S. has yet to earmark the $250-million U.S. needed to build a new U.S. Customs plaza in Michigan.

"I’m not sure there is a particular holdup," Heyman said. "Canada wants the bridge. I think we’d like to see the bridge. I think the issues are how to finance it, how to put it together."

Last week, Windsor West NDP MP and Border Critic Brian Masse suggested Canada may be on the hook for the plaza.

Tuesday, Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and current vice-president at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, suggested the answer may be one customs plaza to serve both countries.

"If we're thinking outside the box and more innovatively, and how we can save taxpayers money, why don't we just have one plaza?" he told CBC News on Tuesday.

Heyman said he needs to "focus on jobs and income" as U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

"How do we do that together, given the fact we have the largest trading relationship?" Heyman said. "Right there in Windsor, you have a signature automotive manufacturing capability and a transition of goods across the border. How do we keep enhancing that?"

In 2010, it was reported that 28,814 trucks crossed the privately owned Ambassador Bridge on a daily basis. It is the busiest border crossing in North America.

Heyman plans to talk about the Detroit River crossing with federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt.

"I think I really want to sit down with our Transportation Minister here and have a conversation about this," he said."I met her several times over the last week at social occasions, but I haven't had a chance to pull her aside and say, 'let's walk through this and work through this and how it works and where we are with this.'

"I think that's really important at this stage, because I need to get educated."