View From the Legislature

Building Bridges and Building Relationships

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

Last week I was once again honoured to co-chair the Midwest Canada-U.S. Relations Committee, a role I have held for the past several years. In this capacity I have had the opportunity to not only grow a greater appreciation for the important and unique relationship that exists between Canada and the United States but also work to strengthen it for the benefit of Manitoba.

Together with my U.S. co-chair, Michigan state representative Amos O’Neal, we led a delegation of Canadian and American lawmakers in Detroit Michigan. The meetings were focused on several border issues related to commercial trade, the illegal smuggling of drugs and guns and the challenge of irregular and illegal border crossings. Detroit was an appropriate place to hold these meetings as the Detroit-Windsor border is the busiest land border crossing for commercial traffic between our two countries. In fact, the Detroit-Windsor border handles over 25% of all Canada-U.S. surface trade.

Our delegation had the opportunity to spend the day meeting with border security officials on both the U.S. side of the Ambassador Bridge, and the Canadian side. It was impressive to see how border officials on both sides of the bridge work together and with the private entity who owns the Ambassador Bridge to keep trade and recreational border traffic moving. What was clear was that while border officials are aware of their security role, their top priority, they also understand the commercial importance of their work between our two trading nations.

The Detroit-Windsor area is unique, not only for the volume of commercial traffic, but it truly shows the interconnection between our two nations. Many Canadians work on the American side of the border. This means that the almost daily commute for many requires the crossing of an international border. This can be done by way of an underwater tunnel, public transit that crosses the border or the Ambassador Bridge.

Yet, it has been understood for many years, that there needs to be more infrastructure built to handle the cross-border traffic in this area. Our delegation was also able to view the construction site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, a nearly $6 billion bridge that will be 2.5 kilometres in length and have six lanes for traffic (three heading each direction). While not yet completed (it is expected to be in service at the end of 2024), it is an impressive structure that will be important to the commerce of both the region and Canada.

And while this will be the largest Canadian port along the Canada-U.S. border, much of our discussion in Detroit focused on border crossings that we have on the prairies that are vital but not servicing provinces or the U.S. States with sufficient hours of operation. This was also an important issue of discussion.

The relationship that we have with the United States is unique in the world. It is built upon years of trust and friendship and nurtured by people who share common interests. The building of bridges, as is happening in Detroit-Windsor, only happens because we have first built relationships. It is an enduring friendship that has faced its tests but continues to be strong.