Make bridge a public asset: Hampton Don’t be hasty, says Boshcoff

The sale of the international bridge at Fort Frances is a clear signal that both Boise Cascade and Abitibi-Consolidated face a cash shortage situation and are looking to sell assets to make up that shortfall, NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton said Tuesday afternoon.
“The sale of this bridge is an opportunity for the governments of Canada, the United States, the province of Ontario, and the state of Minnesota to make the bridge a public asset,” he noted.
“The time has never been better than now with a willing seller,” he stressed.
Hampton argued the bridge here has been paid many times over and that he wouldn’t want it to fall into an “absentee landlord” ownership.
He also felt the two companies owning the bridge had been responsive to the communities when tolls had been set previously.
“The bridge has a huge economic impact on the two communities and to the other communities of the northwest,” Hampton said.
Hampton already has written letters to the minister of transportation and the minister of northern development and mines urging them to become involved in the bridge purchase.
Meanwhile, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff agreed the potential sale of the bridge is an opportunity for the border communities and those elsewhere in Northwestern Ontario, adding he hopes to meet with representatives from both sides of the border before they begin formulating plans as he “would like to be involved in a facilitating way.”
But Boshcoff stressed Tuesday he felt the process shouldn’t be hurried.
“We have to look at all the opportunities. Everything is in a highly speculative state,” he noted. “We have to know what all the options are.
“My goal would be to slow the process [of the sale of the bridge] down so that we can develop a community plan.
“It has to be a community decision,” Boshcoff added. “I see a committee of interested community people from La Vallee, Alberton, NWOTA, and other communities from the northwest being formed to determine what role the community and region can play in the future of the bridge.”
He also said federal and provincial legislation regarding the operation of international bridges needs to be looked at prior to making any decisions.
Boshcoff noted minimal tolls, making the entry across the bridge more attractive, and making the bridge more efficient should be key factors when considering any future ownership and operation of the bridge.
“You only have certain windows of opportunity to develop options. This is one of those occasions,” he said.