FORT ERIE, Ont. – The fractious balance between the Peace Bridge Authority’s two delegations will continue, following the new Ottawa government’s surprise re-appointment of two Canadian members.
Anthony M. Annunziata, leader of the Canadian contingent to the panel that runs the Peace Bridge and who has openly battled with New York members, surfaced at Friday’s authority meeting after his term had expired. Virtually all familiar with the process expected Ottawa’s new Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to replace him.
But General Manager Ron Rienas said Transport Canada appointed Annunziata and fellow board member Rocco Vacca to one-year terms in place of the normal three-year stints.
For at least three years, Annunziata led a Canadian delegation that had dug in its heels against efforts by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s appointees to exert a more powerful influence over many authority affairs, especially the pace of development on the span’s Buffalo plaza. At one point, New York members were demanding dismissal of Rienas, a Canadian backed by members appointed by the Conservative government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Sam Hoyt, leader of the New York delegation, has historically surfaced as the chief antagonist to Annunziata and Rienas. But the authority’s incoming chairman sounded a diplomatic note on Friday while welcoming the unexpected return of Annunziata and Vacca to the 10-member board.
“Stability, consistency, institutional memory, and the experience that Anthony and Rocky bring to this board is very, very important,” Hoyt said. “There’s been a bump in the road here and a hiccup there. But the fact is the goals agreed to by Gov. Cuomo and the Canadian ambassador (in a 2013 agreement) have been met.”
A nine-year veteran who will now serve as vice chairman of a board that requires rotating leadership, Annunziata said he appreciated his appointments now by two separate governments.
“It’s a great testament to the work we’ve done and the work we’ve done collectively,” he said.