After 50 years of operating with a local board of directors, the decision-making at Blue Water Bridge Canada is about to move to Ottawa.
The changes are mandated by the federal government and expected to kick in Feb. 1. But it’s still not known if a local representative will be appointed to the new board amalgamating four international crossings, says John Elliott, chief operating officer for Blue Water Bridge Canada (BWBC).
As for Elliott, his position is terminated as soon as the current BWBC board headed by former MPP Marcel Beaubien is excused.
“There will not be a chief operating officer here,” he said.
However, a new management position to oversee day-to-day BWBC operations is expected to be hired internally.
The changes are a result of Ottawa’s desire to operate four international crossings under a single Crown Corporation known as the Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. with offices in Ottawa.
It will bring governance of the international bridges at Sault Ste. Marie, Cornwall, Lansdowne (near Kingston) and Point Edward under a single body with seven government-appointed members.
“We’ve been encouraging local representation and we’re very hopeful that will happen, but we still don’t know,” said Elliott.
“We believe it’s important to have a local connection, to make sure safety and security are top priorities, and to provide attention to the employees’ wellbeing.”
Elliott said he doesn’t expect any interruption to capital projects planned or already underway at the Sarnia-area’s most iconic landmark. A program to automate more lanes will continue as will preparations for major maintenance of the original (westbound) span.
He said he’s unaware of any changes in the complement of 70 BWBC staff, which include toll collectors, currency exchange, administration and maintenance people.
“We’re told it really is a governance change and that day-to-day operations will continue as they are,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that it will be different but the current board is pushing to maintain a local connection.”
Transport Canada reps have said the new Federal Bridge Corporation will be more cost efficient and ensure uniform security and safety measures at all four international crossings.
The Blue Water Bridge has operated with a local board of directors since 1965 when the Blue Water Bridge Authority was established to operate and maintain the Canadian half of the span.
When operations are turned over to the new Federal Bridge Corporation, the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act will be repealed as prescribed by Bill C – 4, Section 8, which passed into law in December 2013.