Speech by Dwight Duncan, Interim Chair at the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority’s Annual Public Meeting

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today.

It is perhaps fitting that my first public event as the Interim Chair of Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority is at the corporation’s first Annual Public Meeting. I thank all of you who are here today and those who are watching online.

In just a few moments, WDBA’s President and CEO, Michael Cautillo, will provide his overview of the 2014-2015 fiscal year and will speak about our current priorities.

But first, it is my pleasure to introduce the WDBA Board of Directors, share a bit about WDBA, and highlight some key accomplishments of 2014.

The Windsor-Detroit gateway is North America’s busiest commercial land border crossing. This gateway supports the economies of Canada, Ontario, the United States and Michigan.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is the largest infrastructure project on the Canada-US border and is arguably one of the most important infrastructure projects in recent Canadian history.

And, such an important project requires a Board of Directors which has diverse and extensive business skills and experience.

The WDBA Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the business activities and other affairs of the Crown corporation. The board is comprised of five members including myself and the President / Chief Executive Officer.

I ask the Board members to please stand-up as I call your name:

  • Michael Cautillo, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • William Graham, Director
  • Caroline Mulroney Lapham, Director
  • Craig Rix, Director.

I’d like to recognize each of you for the tremendous effort, time and guidance you have provided. More importantly, I would like to thank you for your vision and dedication to bringing the project to where we are now.

(Thank you – please be seated)

I would also like to thank the first Chair, Mark McQueen, who led the Board of Directors from WDBA’s first days and through some very important milestones.

The vision and dedication shown by the WDBA Board members is also clearly evident in the members of the International Authority - the joint Canada-Michigan governance entity established to oversee and approve key steps in the public-private partnership (P3) procurement process for the Gordie Howe International Bridge and to monitor WDBA’s compliance with the Crossing Agreement signed by Canada and Michigan.

Although WDBA is a Canadian Crown corporation and reports to Parliament, this project, like the bridge itself, spans two countries. The new bridge will support what is the largest bi-lateral trade relationship with the world.

Allow me to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project has been a large part of my career and indeed a large part of my life prior to my being appointed as Interim Chair. It has also been a large part of the community for some time.

It is with a strong source of pride that I can say that during my time in government, we were able to start the end-to-end border transportation solution.

I was there when shovels went in the ground for construction of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, Ontario’s first P3 highway project and I am looking forward to seeing shovels go in the ground to start the actual construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

These projects are literally changing the landscape of our international community. And those changes are positive ones. I’m proud to say that I am a part of this historic project.

WDBA is committed to ensuring that the new bridge is built on time and on budget.

And throughout the process, we will continue to work closely with our partners at the US Federal Highway Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Office of the Governor of Michigan, as well as the Government of Canada, and our many stakeholders. That is why we are meeting with the public to ensure your voice is heard and questions are answered.

One more reflection before I conclude my remarks today. There has been plenty of speculation on the costs of the bridge and what that means for Canadian taxpayers. I want to remind you that the Gordie Howe International Bridge is being delivered using a public-private partnership or P3 model. This model, allows us to transfer the majority of risk to our private-sector partner – including any cost overruns – as the P3 model includes a fixed price contract. Ultimately, once we have a successful private sector partner selected, based on the rigorous procurement process that is underway, the price they bid to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the project components will be the cost of the project. No more, no less.

Finally, my thanks and appreciation go out to all WDBA staff for your continuing belief in the work of the organization and your dedication to the job.

I look forward to meeting the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead and to working with the members of the Board of Directors, the International Authority and the Executive Team at WDBA and with you all as we get closer to construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Together we will build the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

With that, and on behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to introduce the WDBA President and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Cautillo, to report on our 2014-15 activities.

Merci. Thank you.