US embassy cable - 05TORONTO3042

PROPOSED DETROIT WINDSOR TUNNEL TAKEOVER EXCITES SIGNIFICANT OPPOSITION

Identifier: 05TORONTO3042
Wikileaks: View 05TORONTO3042 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2005-11-23 15:10:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PBTS ELTN PGOV CA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

231510Z Nov 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TORONTO 003042 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2015 
TAGS: PREL, PBTS, ELTN, PGOV, CA 
SUBJECT: PROPOSED DETROIT WINDSOR TUNNEL TAKEOVER EXCITES 
SIGNIFICANT OPPOSITION 
 
REF: TORONTO 2778 
 
Classified By: Consul General Jessica Lecroy for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
). 
 
 1.  (C) SUMMARY: Serious opposition on both sides of the 
border has been sparked by the Detroit International Bridge 
Company (DIBC) late October proposal to give Detroit $30 
million in exchange for control of the U.S. side of the 
Detroit Windsor Tunnel and purchase of 10 acres of land to 
construct a new super plaza for border inspections at the 
foot of the Ambassador Bridge.  The Detroit and Canada Tunnel 
Corporation has been working behind the scenes with Detroit 
City Councilors to derail the proposed operational takeover 
of the tunnel.  The Canadian federal government has formally 
expressed concerns about the proposed super plaza and tunnel 
takeover.  On November 18 the Detroit City Council passed a 
resolution also expressing serious reservations about the 
proposal.  It is not clear how serious the DIBC was about 
gaining operational control of the U.S. side of the tunnel. 
It seems likely, however, that bridge owners will continue 
their push to construct a twin bridge span across the Detroit 
River, which would present serious challenges to officials on 
the Canadian side of the border.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  (C) The chess game to control the primary border 
crossings between Detroit and Windsor has continued behind 
the scenes for the past few weeks.  Reftel described the 
offer by the Ambassador Bridge owners to give the City of 
Detroit $20 million for the right to control the lease for 
the U.S. side of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel beginning in 
2020, and $10 million to purchase from the city 10 acres at 
the foot of the bridge that would enable construction of a 
200-acre super inspection plaza for U.S. and Canadian border 
enforcement officials (with capacity for 100 U.S. and 100 
Canadian inspectino booths).  The proposal, which reportedly 
also includes construction of some new "big box" retail 
outlets in Detroit, was publicly unveiled a few weeks before 
the Detroit City Mayor election, though Ambassador Bridge 
officials have reportedly been discussing the super plaza 
proposal since June. 
 
3.  (C) On November 22, Neal Belitsky (protect), Executive 
Vice President and General Manager at the Detroit and Canada 
Tunnel Corporation (DCTC), told the Consul General that his 
company, which manages tunnel operations for the cities of 
Detroit and Windsor, has been quietly working with the 
Detroit City Council to derail the Ambassador Bridge 
proposal.  He noted that the council had not been informed of 
the proposal before its public release. 
 
4.  (SBU) In late October Deputy Prime Minister and Minister 
of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, Anne 
McLellan, sent a letter to Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis 
expressing concerns about the proposed super plaza.  McLellan 
wrote that Canadian Customs and Border Services Agency 
personnel could not operate at the proposed super plaza on 
U.S. soil under current Canadian law or agreement with the 
U.S.  She added: "We are not seeking such an arrangement in 
Windsor-Detroit.8 
 
5.  (C) Belitsky outlined the DCTC,s six basic concerns with 
the Ambassador Bridge proposal.  He: 
 
--questioned whether a private entity should exercise virtual 
control over the primary border crossings between Detroit and 
Windsor; 
 
--noted that having one &super8 plaza for border 
inspections eliminates redundancy; 
 
--acknowledged that the City of Detroit can decide what to do 
with the lease on the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, but argued that 
decision-making process should be transparent, not made 
behind closed doors; 
 
--observed that no details have yet been provided for traffic 
flow between the tunnel and the proposed super plaza at the 
foot of the Ambassador Bridge; 
 
--noted that the tunnel currently connects downtown Detroit 
and Windsor (NOTE: Forcing tunnel traffic to travel directly 
to the proposed super plaza and exit into the U.S. from there 
would isolate downtown Detroit.  END NOTE); 
 
--argued that, for life safety reasons, it is important for 
the tunnel to be operated by a single entity (NOTE: The City 
of Windsor vehemently opposes the Ambassador Bridge,s plan, 
which makes it likely that, if Detroit agrees to give the 
tunnel lease to the Ambassador Bridge Company, the tunnel 
would end up being managed by two separate operators. 
Belitsky observed having multiple tunnel operators has 
contributed to delayed public safety reactions during 
emergencies such as recent tunnel fires in Europe.  END 
NOTE). 
 
6.  (C) On November 15, Belitsky said the Detroit law firm of 
Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn, L.L.P., on behalf of 
the Canadian government, sent a letter to the Detroit Mayor 
and City Council expressing concerns with the Ambassador 
Bridge proposal and requesting consultations before the 
Council formally considers the Ambassador Bridge proposal 
(text contained in para 9). 
 
7.  (C) On November 18, the Detroit City Council passed a 
resolution expressing serious reservations about the 
Ambassador Bridge proposal.  The resolution says: 
 
&...the Detroit City Council stands united against this and 
any future proposal that is not in the best economic 
interests of the City of Detroit and that fails to recognize 
and take into consideration the critical implications such an 
agreement would have on this most important international 
border and upon the flow of people and commerce across both 
sides of the border.8 
 
The resolution demands additional details and time for the 
Council to perform due diligence on the proposal.  It also 
notes the intent of the City Council to consult with local 
citizens, the U.S. federal government, Michigan officials, 
the City of Windsor, the province of Ontario, and the 
Canadian federal government.  After passing this resolution 
the Detroit City Council went on recess until January. 
 
8.  (C) COMMENT: The Ambassador Bridge proposal to construct 
a super plaza and take control of operations on the U.S. side 
of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel has excited significant 
opposition on both sides of the border.  It is not yet clear 
whether the bridge company is serious about pursuing 
operating rights to the Detroit Windsor Tunnel or whether 
that aspect of their October proposal was mostly for public 
relations effect during the Detroit Mayoral election race. 
It seems likely that the bridge company will continue to 
pursue construction of a twin bridge span and expansion of 
the inspection plaza on the U.S. side of the border.  This 
would present serious challenges to officials on the Canadian 
side of the border.  END COMMENT. 
 
9.  (C) Text of letter from Honigman, et al to Detroit Mayor 
and City Council follows. 
 
Begin Text. 
 
Dear Mayor Kilpatrick and Council Members: 
 
We represent the Government of Canada.  We are writing 
regarding the so-called &Binding Agreement8, whereby DTW, 
Inc., an affiliate of the Detroit International Bridge 
Company, would become the &day to day manager8 of the U.S. 
side of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. 
 
The owners of the Ambassador Bridge had been clear that their 
desire to own the Tunnel is associated with their proposal to 
create a new port of entry that would service both the 
Ambassador Bridge and the Tunnel.  As you are no doubt 
already aware, the Government of Canada has serious concerns 
with the diminution of redundancy that would result from 
having only one pot of entry.  Sending 10,000 Canadians and 
thousands of Americans, who utilize the tunnel or bridge 
every day to travel from the United States to Canada, through 
one port of entry would be problematic if an emergency, 
security threat or even a traffic problem were to disrupt the 
operations of that one port of entry. 
 
Furthermore, recognizing the important role that the Tunnel 
plays in the day-to-day lives of so many Canadians and 
Americans, the Government of Canada would have serious 
concerns with any plan that could disrupt two-way visits 
across our shared border. 
 
The Canadian Government is certainly sympathetic to the 
budget needs of the City, and would not presume to advise the 
City as to how to conduct its affairs.  However, it appears 
that the proposal under consideration from the Detroit 
International Bridge Company would create a monopoly and harm 
the public which uses the Bridge and Tunnel.  We cannot 
ignore any action which would potentially violate the law and 
harm thousands of American and Canadian citizens. 
 
Given our concerns, our preference would be to discuss this 
matter with the Council before you meet to consider the 
Binding Agreement with the Detroit International Bridge 
Company.  You should know that if you choose to proceed with 
approving the binding agreement before meeting with 
representatives from the Government of Canada there are other 
options available to us including litigation. 
 
Very truly yours, 
 
David A. Ettinger 
Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP 
 
End Text. 
LECROY 

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