U.S. bridge company advertisement asks Trump to reject Canadian-funded span

The U.S.-owned company behind a Windsor-Detroit bridge crossing is stepping up its fight to prevent a Canadian-funded second span from being built. And they're doing it by appealing to U.S. President Donald Trump with a TV commercial.

Ad claims Canadian bridge contract will cost the U.S. jobs and trade

The ad targets former U.S. President Barack Obama for granting a Buy American waiver to Canada. (Black Diamond Strategies/Vimeo)

The U.S.-owned company behind a Windsor-Detroit bridge crossing is stepping up its fight to prevent a Canadian-funded second span from being built. And they're doing it by appealing to U.S. President Donald Trump with a TV commercial.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge — the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) — say the construction of the Canadian-funded Gordie Howe International Bridge will take jobs and trade from the U.S.

The Moroun family, who owns and operates the DIBC, previously appealed the Gordie Howe bridge in court, and failed. DIBC president Dan Stamper has also questioned why the "Buy American" policy doesn't apply to steel purchases for the Gordie Howe, which seems to have gone ignored considering that policy was waived for the Canadian infrastructure project.

Now, the DIBC is using patriotism to try and stop the project.

Patriotism play

Over a piano rendition of America the Beautiful, the commercial asks Trump to revoke the 2013 Obama-era "Buy America" waiver, which allows Canada to build a new international span to Detroit.

"There are two grand, new bridges being proposed between America and Canada. One is American-made, American-owned. It uses American-made steel — 5,000 American workers," the narrator says. "The other would be Canadian-made, Canadian-owned, Canadian workers. Who knows who would make the steel?"

Watch the U.S. DWIB's ad appealing to Trump here:

Ad was paid for by the Detroit International Bridge Company. 1:00

The ad continues, showing a picture of former President Barack Obama frowning with the subtext "Obama sided with Canada." It concludes by asking Trump to review the permit, revoke it, and "let the grand new span be American."

'Multiple inaccuracies'

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), which oversees the Canadian bridge project, takes great exception to the advertisement, saying the Gordie Howe Bridge is beneficial to both countries.

"There's a number of misrepresentations and inaccuracies in the video …. To suggest that only Canadians will be working on the project is a complete misrepresentation," said WDBA spokesperson Mark Butler.

"U.S. Border Services will be hiring Americans. CBSA will be hiring Canadians."

In March, the WDBA announced Parsons Inc. had been selected for the role of "owner's engineer" — a role which requires the company to act as a liaison between the bridge company and whatever firm is selected to actually build the Gordie Howe.

This plan shows where the Canadian-built Gordie Howe International Bridge is slated to be built and where the Ambassador Bridge now stands. (CBC/Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority)

Butler said the WDBA have received three proposals from teams consisting of both Canadian and American companies.

"Unlike other projects which are just based in one country, this is a binational project," he said, adding workers from both countries are imperative for the bridge's construction.

The bridge will be built through a Buy America waiver, meaning any steel or iron component of the U.S. portion of the project can be sourced in either Canada or the United States.

"What [the waiver] is also saying is it won't be offshore steel — it won't be Chinese steel."

An artist rendering of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. (WDBA)

Butler said the WDBA will be announcing private sector partners for the Gordie Howe bridge construction in the coming weeks.

"We have all of the permits and approvals in place to begin construction of the bridge. We've already committed to $350 million of construction activities on both sides of the border already. And we are committed to starting the actual construction of the bridge in 2018."

Potential Trump response

Stamper said the plea was necessary because of Canada's "anti-competitive" demands to tear down the current bridge.

"We are appealing to the administration directly because the administration has the ability in the presidential permitting process to side with an American company," Stamper said in a statement to CBC News.

"The Ambassador Bridge's second span will create thousands of good paying American jobs using American steel."

West Windsor advocate, lawyer and school board trustee Fabio Costante is concerned Trump may act on the ad — in line with his administration's "America First" platform.

The ad's release comes as Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continue to spar over NAFTA renegotiations. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"It is a bit worrisome that things like this have legs. He tends to play to this type of frustration … it goes to show how untrustworthy the bridge company is to try to get their way," Costante said.

"There's a bit of fear-mongering that there's going to be no American jobs, even though that's been touted several times from the governor of Michigan and others."

He said the ad taps into a "very cynical side of politics" and finds it unfortunate that Moroun's company is resorting to these measures to derail the Gordie Howe project.

"To go reach out directly to the president and play it from the lens of American-made steel and American-made jobs is misleading."

About the Author

Sanjay Maru

Sanjay Maru is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email him at sanjay.maru@cbc.ca.