Robin Guy is the Canadian Chamber’s Senior Director for Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, and leads the Western Executive Council.
As an export-dependent country in an increasingly connected and competitive global economy, Canada must continue expanding its export capacity. Western Canada provides crucial entry and exit points for Canadian goods moving to and from Asia-Pacific countries through many different modes, including marine, air, and land.
Extreme weather events and aging infrastructure remain challenges to ensure we can get products to markets. We have a serious infrastructure deficit in Canada, which will require us to perform triage today, to remain competitive tomorrow.
Canada’s infrastructure must be a genuine investment that is based on clear priorities and measurable economic returns. As we plan new critical trade infrastructure to move our people and goods, we need to build for the future and not simply address today’s needs. Above all, we require approval processes that are transparent and fair, but that also allow projects to be undertaken much more quickly and efficiently. We must act now and take decisions with purpose to ensure Canada does not fall further behind our competition.
It is essential that we avoid the temptation to spread whatever money is available like peanut butter across Canada. We must make the difficult decisions to develop a pipeline of projects that will help grow Canada’s economy. Infrastructure capacity takes time to build and we need to move now to reap benefits later. We cannot simply address existing gaps, but must look to our future needs to reach our potentials. This forward vision is essential to ensuring our transportation system can meet the future needs of our economy.
The capacity of Canada’s west coast to support long-term growth is quickly becoming constrained. Increased dwell time, additional anchorage requirements due to terminal congestion, a lack of warehousing and industrial lands could become the new normal for Canadian businesses in the coming years. Simply put, if we can’t move Canadian goods, we can’t sell them. Canada must invest in worthy trade infrastructures that promote the movement of goods in a reliable and timely matter. Only in this case will Canada be able to grow our economy.
The government sees the importance of these investments with continued funding of projects through programs such as the National Trade Corridors Fund. Through this program, we must create resiliency through tools such as twinning of rail in high congestion area, increase the capacity of our bridges, and protecting industrial lands around airports and ports of entry.
While the government has stepped up to the table, it must continue to show leadership. Investments made through the NTCF must be based on clear priorities with measurable economic returns. In addition, these priorities must be backed by data to ensure we can see the impact projects are having to strengthen our trade corridors and infrastructure.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is pleased to have contributed to the Canada West Foundation’s report, From Shovel Ready to Shovel Worthy: The Path to a National Trade Infrastructure Plan for the Next Generation of Economic Growth.