Bridge stakeholders have begun a dialogue about the International Bridge in Fort Frances, and there’s much to feel hopeful about, said Fort Frances Mayor Andrew Hallikas.
Last week, a meeting of nearly two dozen stakeholders, including First Nations, corporate interests, municipal, provincial and federal governments and stakeholders from the U.S. side met at a meeting, co-chaired by MPP Greg Rickford and the Town of Fort Frances. According to Hallikas, there was goodwill in the room, and the group have made plans to meet again in the near future.
The current owners of the bridge have faced public backlash in recent weeks, after an announced toll increase, which would nearly triple the price of many crossings. A release from owner Aazhogan following the announcement cited maintenance as a factor, as well as a desire to bring tolls into line with those of other international bridges across the country.
In addition to diplomatic talks, the mayor is pushing for a political resolution. He presented a lengthy resolution in the Tuesday meeting, which would call on the federal government to enter negotiations to bring the bridge into public hands, with minimal to no tolls, and to work with U.S. partners on the construction of a new toll-free bridge.
The motion passed with one opposing vote from Coun. David Kircher, who felt the wording of the resolution was too vague to support, and felt the matter is a provincial and federal, not municipal, matter.
The previous council had attempted to engage the federal government in the purchase of the bridge, but they were not successful. However, Hallikas has been impressed by the level of interest in the matter shown by MP Marcus Powlowski.
The resolution will now be forwarded to multiple stakeholders on both sides of the border, and across all levels of government, and First Nations.
To read a copy of the full resolution passed by council, visit www.fftimes.com.