Profits from the Promised Land

By TONY SEED, Shunpiking Magazine, December, 1998

Dossier on Palestine, 2002, page 23

WITH the help of Ontario premier Mike Harris, a Canadian multinational toll highway company took its road show to Israel in October (1998), predicting profits in the Promised Land. But Israeli environmentalists told them to take the road home.

Canadian Highways International Corp (CHIC) built the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island, the toll Cobequid Bypass in Nova Scotia – part of the Trans Canada Highway – and Ontario’s new toll Highway 407. It is also bidding to convert Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway into an underground toll highway.

Now it is building toll roads abroad, patterned on Canadian toll highways and subsidised by our tax-dollars – such as the Cross-Israel Highway known as Route 6. The Israeli government will guarantee up to 80 per cent of any losses the international consortium incurs on the project, estimated to cost US$3bn. Construction is scheduled to start in 1999.

The Israeli toll road sparked protest from an environmental coalition outside the Jerusalem hotel of Harris and CHIC president John Beck. The group carried placards reading: “Canada is ruining our biblical homeland!” and “Canada! Don’t let Highway 6 ruin our green heritage”.

According to a communique distributed by the Committee for Public Transportation: “The Canadian contractor, CHIC from Ontario, will benefit from forced land expropriation at below-market prices from both Jewish and Arab farmers, and from land takeovers.”

Organiser Henry Gold, a Canadian immigrant to Israel, lashed out at the “asphalt Zionism” that will be the highway’s hallmark.

Staff Postscript 2002

Route 6 links a network of connector roads for Jews only among settlements throughout the occupied West Bank. Such settlements are illegal and, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, constitute war crimes under international law. Access to these roads is restricted to persons with a specially-designated licence plate which Palestinians are not allowed to obtain. License plates are colour-coded to distinguish Jews from non-Jews.

US financial conglomerate CIT Group acquired Newcourt, a principal partner in CHIC, in 1999 , thereby also gaining control of part of the Trans Canada Hwy. Newcourt arranged the international financing for the Cross Israel Highway, thus reaping another level of profit.

Members of the CHIC consortia donated $387,531 in 1995-97 election funds to the Harris Conservative government, according to a study by Robert MacDermid, York University. CHIC was the fifth-largest corporate donor to the provincial New Democratic Party; the Bob Rae government (NDP, a social democratic party, preceding the Harris government – editor) originally commissioned the first toll Highway 407.

Photo caption

A 1998 protest in Toronto against the Israeli highway

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