President & CEO, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
Major disruptions to supply chain infrastructure—lockdowns, protests, strikes—have plagued Canadian business for years on end. It’s time to find a plan for lasting stability.
Our global economy is built on a foundation of unprecedented interconnection. The supply chain is now truly global, and both goods and ideas cross borders more freely than ever before. But we are also rapidly coming to understand that the infrastructure on which this worldwide trade depends is more fragile than we may have imagined.
In 2020 and 2021, pandemic lockdowns ground international travel and commerce to a halt. In 2022, the trucker convoy protest blockaded border crossings and vital roadways across Canada. In July of this year, labour disputes at the ports of British Columbia escalated to a 13-day strike that held up billions of dollars of shipping and caused existential financial damage to already struggling import, export, and manufacturing businesses across Canada. And let’s not forget the strikes at the Port of Montreal in 2020 and 2021, which had a major impact on Canadian manufacturers. Unfortunately, these are only the biggest headlines.
Small Businesses Across Canada Feeling the Pinch
Dennis Darby, President & CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), reports that the average cost to members surveyed during the latest port strike business was $207,000 per day. These costs were compounded by the fact that manufacturing operations across the country were already strained by broader economic factors.
Something must be done to ensure that our critical supply infrastructure is less vulnerable to disruption in the years and decades to come.
More critically, he says, these supply chain disruptions are raising concerns about Canada’s reputation as a safe place to invest. Business investment is a critical driver of economic growth, job creation, and productivity. If these disruptions continue to happen, Canada’s long-term prosperity will be put at risk.
In Search of an Equitable Path to Economic Stability
Finding a workable solution to these valid and serious concerns from the business community is a herculean task riddled with complexities. The right to protest and the right to strike are foundational to Canadian democracy and social equity, while the possibilities of future supply chain disruptions from major global events like the pandemic or the war in Ukraine are by their very nature unpredictable. All the same, in the aftermath of these historically unique events, something must be done to ensure that our critical supply infrastructure is less vulnerable to disruption in the years and decades to come. The health of the Canadian economy—and our nation’s strong standing in the international economic ecosystem—depends on it.
At times it can seem that the needs of labour, the needs of business, and the needs of the populace at large are at odds, that we are working at cross purposes. But there is no reason it must be so. The goals and values of Canadians are more aligned than we might think, so long as we make a good faith effort to understand each other. It is past time for government to take up the mantle of mediator and guide on this issue. Yes, finding a shared path to economic stability while honouring the undeniable rights of Canadians to strike and protest will be a monumental undertaking. With transparency and compromise, however, it should be possible to collectively pursue the common goal of a prosperous and resilient Canada.
Talk to your federal or provincial representative about securing the future of Canada’s supply chain infrastructure.