Policy Advisor, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
As a key partner in global supply chains, Canada is dependent on the reliable and efficient movement of goods and services across its vast geography. We’re well-placed to do so, with an immense rail network, a robust road transportation system, and world-class shipping and air transportation operations. Over 900,000 Canadians work in the transportation and warehousing sector, which moves over $1 trillion of goods annually and comprises some 3 percent of Canada’s GDP.
Recent disruptions to Canadian and international supply chains have highlighted vulnerabilities in our ultra-connected economy. Several supply chains collapsed and businesses of all sizes in all regions of the country were affected by the recent rail and infrastructure blockades. The decision by Teck Resources to pull the Frontier mine from the approval process, citing extraneous regulations and pressure, was yet another blow to Canada’s reputation as a destination for viable investment. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic started disrupting businesses’ inputs coming from China and is now having very direct and severe impacts on business operations across North America.
The creation of the NTCF should be viewed as the first step towards a long-term, strategic approach to Canada’s trade and transportation infrastructure.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Canadian trade and transportation ecosystem. In 2017, after originally excluding trade-enabling infrastructure in their long-term infrastructure plan, the federal government made an important decision to launch the $2 billion National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) to make merit-based investments in Canada’s trade corridors. The fund has been in high demand and most of the $2 billion has already been allocated. There’s clearly political will and market demand for investing in Canada’s trade corridors. Canada should build on this momentum to continue to improve the reliability and resilience of these networks.
The creation of the NTCF should be viewed as the first step toward a long-term, strategic approach to Canada’s trade and transportation infrastructure. There’s demand from the private sector and appetite from governments to move to long-term, strategic approaches to export infrastructure. It’ll require more coordination, better data, insight, and in creased investment in our multimodal transportation systems. Making this shift will better prepare our economy to confront both the internal and external challenges that we’re facing today. We need to start taking that action now.