PM congratulates Obama, praises Michigan on bridge vote
Published Wednesday, November 7, 2012 8:01AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 7, 2012 6:23PM EST
Reacting to news that Barack Obama will return to the White House for a second term as president, Prime Minister Stephen Harper singled out another U.S. election result as particularly significant for Canadians.
Talking to reporters after touring a Sikh temple in the Punjab region of India, Harper offered re-elected President Barack Obama his congratulations and signalled his hope the two will continue their working relationship.
When asked to comment more specifically on potential bilateral challenges, Harper said he expects the relationship to focus on economic issues, especially in North America.
"I should also mention, very briefly, the fact of the result of the referendum in Michigan. We're very pleased to see the support of the people of Michigan for the new bridge between Detroit and Windsor," he added.
Harper also alluded to the project in his official statement of congratulations issued by his office electronically overnight.
After highlighting several specific bilateral projects, including the "Beyond the Border Action Plan" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the prime minister’s remarks emphasized the importance of harmonizing regulations and implementing other measures to further boost the flow of trade between Canada and the U.S.
"This includes putting in place the transportation and security infrastructure necessary to take bilateral commercial relations to new heights and reducing red tape so companies on both sides of the border can create more jobs," he said in the official statement.
Canada and the U.S. already enjoy the world's largest trading partnership, with approximately 400,000 people and $2 billion in goods and services moving between the two countries every day.
The majority of cross-border trade moves by land, much of it across the Ambassador Bridge that links Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich. Voters in that state defeated a ballot measure Tuesday that would have seen them return to the polls to vote on any new crossing into Canada. Instead, they've given the go-ahead to the deal signed with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in June to see a new Canadian-financed bridge built.
Considering Harper has invested more than $1 billion in the project -- officially dubbed the Detroit River International Crossing -- CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said the vote result is significant for Canadians.
"It is absolutely crucial to the Canadian economy that the second bridge be built to stop all that congestion," Fife told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday.
Snyder said Wednesday that work on engineering plans and securing permits will now go ahead, but it could be two years before shovels are in the ground.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of us, it’s a win-win,” Snyder told CTV’s Power Play.
“With this new crossing we can absolutely expand the number of trucks, and that’s the long-term goal.”
In his official statement released after Republican challenger Mitt Romney conceded electoral defeat, Harper noted Canada and its southern neighbour share "one of the closest and most extensive relationships in the world," and outlined his hope the two will "continue finding ways to increase trade and investment flows between our countries."
The leader of the Official Opposition did not wait as long to offer Obama his own forecast for continued good relations, releasing his remarks after the U.S. networks called the election, nearly two hours earlier.
"President Obama knows that a nation can achieve more when its citizens work together to lift each other up. He also recognizes that sustainable development is crucial to ensuring a brighter future for our children and grandchildren," NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said.
Liberal Party interim leader Bob Rae offered his own congratulations, too, via Twitter.
"Congrats to President Obama, and best wishes for the next four years -- a remarkably hard fought race. Big decisions ahead," Rae wrote in one of a series of tweets posted as the ballots were being counted.
Monitoring election reaction in Ottawa, Fife said some Conservative members of Parliament were privately hoping for Romney to emerge from the ballot count a winner, based on his commitment to another project important to Canadians: the Keystone XL pipeline.
Romney campaigned on a promise to approve the proposed pipeline that would take oilsands bitumen from Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries on his first day in office.
Conversely, Obama deferred his decision on the controversial pipeline project until after the election, when he ordered further review of its potential environmental impacts and possible alternative routes through Nebraska.
"I think there's still bitter resentments towards Barack Obama," Fife said, referring to some quarters in the Conservative Party caucus. "But there's little doubt that they believe (Obama) will eventually approve the Keystone pipeline."
Ahead of the election result, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said as much, telling CTV Power Play host Don Martin on Tuesday: "I think it will go ahead under either administration."
"It's in the United States' national interest to approve it, so I'm hopeful they will," Oliver said.
When he was asked about the pipeline's prospects Wednesday, Harper did not offer any comment.
In his official statement, the prime minister made it clear he expects the relationship between Ottawa and Washington to stay the course.
"Close co-operation between our two countries will be essential as we seek to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity over the coming months and years," he said. "I also look forward to continuing to work with President Obama on pressing global economic issues, as well as on security challenges, such as those in Iran and Syria."
With files from CTV’s Canada AM and The Canadian Press