What’s in a name? Peace Bridge at heart of U.S.-Canada dispute

Travellers can expect long wait times during the holiday season at the U.S.-Canada border.

The governor of New York has some sharp words for Canada and is circling his wagons in a fight over the Peace Bridge border crossing, a longstanding symbol of cooperation between Canada and the U.S.

What began as a squabble over simple renovations has broken down into name-calling and those on the U.S. side of the argument are calling for the outright destruction of a binational committee that oversees the 80-year-old border crossing.

The New York Times writes that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is incensed at the committee's unwillingness to rush through the development of land on the U.S. side of the crossing, calling the bridge a "metaphor for dysfunction."

The Times report cites a number or correspondences between the Cuomo's crew and their Canadian colleagues that use, to say the least, language one wouldn't usually find in an international exchange. At least one between countries considered allies.

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William B. Hoyt III, an American member on the Peace Bridge's board of directors, calls Canadians "duplicitous" in an email and attacks their "deceitful, disrespectful and arrogant behavior." (Yes, behavior. As in, no "u." Troublesome Yanks.)

This dispute appears to have been ongoing for some time, but reached a breaking point when the Canadian and U.S. governments approved a $25-million truck inspection facility on the Canadian side of the border. Cuomo felt upgrades to a plaza on the Buffalo side of the bridge should be expedited as well.

Yahoo! Canada's Steve Mertl wrote on the dispute last month, outlining it thusly:

[S]ome Americans say the Peace Bridge Authority has spent money on upgrading facilities on the Canadian side of the bridge to the detriment of the U.S. side.

The Times writes that the discord began when Cuomo's administration negotiated to buy a piece of land near the bridge for $4 million. Canadians balked, because the land had been appraised at $1.7 million. Cuomo's administration then purchased the land using state funds, but the seeds of discord had been sewn.

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The Americans demanded the termination of the Peace Bridge's Canadian manager Ron Reinas, and Cuomo's crew is now angling to collapse the committee entirely.

Cuomo recently told the Buffalo News' Robert McCarthy:

The Peace Bridge is a metaphor to me for an overall failure of economic development for the region. You can't allow projects like this to linger for 20 years.

It would have great potential for the entire region, and that potential has been squandered. It's really remarkable, when you think about it.

Anthony Annunziata, the Canadian chairman of the bridge committee, retorted to the newspaper that the whole affair comes down to making headlines. “All he wants is to be able to say he did it,” he said.

While some have recently urged for cooler heads in the spat, it can't be said for everyone.

Cuomo recently nominated ally and former Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello to the binary agency. Masiello told the Buffalo News he believes in Cuomo’s vision and thinks it is “worth fighting for.”

So this power struggle could get worse before it gets better.