Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the future ownership of the Detroit River crossing. Before getting to this specific issue, I would like to explain the work that is being done by the governments of Canada, the United States, Ontario and Michigan under the umbrella of the Border Transportation Partnership.
The binational partnership was officially launched in 2001 to develop a long term strategy to improve in a coordinated fashion the movement of people, goods and services across the Windsor-Detroit gateway. This is also commonly referred as the binational process.
The partnership was established in recognition of the urgent need to find a way to coordinate and streamline three different legislated environmental assessment requirements: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; the Ontario environmental assessment act; and the national environmental protection act of the United States of America. This was done in order to identify a common solution for additional crossing capacity.
We have now entered the formal environmental assessment phase of the binational study process for increasing crossing capacity. The governments of Canada and Ontario have announced several initiatives to address cross-border transportation needs over the short and medium term until the new capacity is available.
The environmental assessment phase is expected to last three years, at which time the partnership will have concluded consultations and developed a preliminary design and plan for the expanded border capacity. Construction will begin in 2010, leading to the opening of additional capacity by the end of 2013.
While this timeline seems very long and is a source of frustration to many stakeholders, I would like to assure members that having this additional crossing capacity operational by the end of 2013 is a priority of the binational partnership. We are taking every step necessary to meet this target.
The binational partnership is considering the governance model for new crossing capacity. The partnership is looking at various governance models and accountability frameworks. We are reviewing and analyzing a number of models ranging from private to public sector ownership and operation.
Through the collaborative development of possible governance models, the four governments will be in a position to move quickly toward implementation, regardless of which corridor is selected during the environmental assessment process.
To complement the impending construction of a new or expanded crossing in the Windsor-Detroit corridor and elsewhere, such as the St. Stephen-Calais border crossing between New Brunswick and Maine, Transport Canada is also pursuing new provisions to the Canada Transportation Act relating to international bridges and tunnels.
There are presently 24 international bridges and tunnels between Canada and the United States. Historically, it has been standard practice to introduce special acts of Parliament for the approval and construction of each new international structure. This is a lengthy process and has resulted in a lack of consistency in the governance of the various bridges.
Currently, our international bridges are governed in some cases by crown corporations, international bridge authorities, or by a U.S. authority on the American side and a provincial department of transportation on the Canadian side. As well, two international bridges are privately owned and one is owned by a municipality.
The proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, along with the examination of various governance models and accountability frameworks, will help us move seamlessly from the environmental assessment phase to the design, property acquisition and construction phases of the Detroit River crossing project. These actions will ensure that local, provincial and national interests are protected.