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Time to put reports into action, Chamber tells House Agriculture Committee

Time to put reports into action, Chamber tells House Agriculture Committee

On February 17, 2022 the Canadian Chamber’s Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure & Regulatory Policy, Robin Guy, appeared at the House...

On February 17, 2022 the Canadian Chamber’s Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure & Regulatory Policy, Robin Guy, appeared at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture in support of the Chamber Canada’s FoodLink campaign. Guy stressed the importance acting on the numerous reports that have been completed to help Canadian agriculture grow, as well as the need to prioritize regulatory issues, supporting Canadian innovation, and supply chain corridors.

Robin Guy’s opening statement:

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Chair and Honourable members, it is a pleasure to be appearing at this Committee for the first time.  My name is Robin Guy, I am the Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I am also joined today by my colleague, Jarred Cohen, Policy Advisor at the Canadian Chamber.

I recognize that it may seem out of the norm for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to appear at this Committee, but as the country’s largest industry association with members in all sectors, we have a deep stake in the success of the agriculture and agri-food industry. Our membership includes companies and associations at various points of the agriculture supply chain, including producers, processors, retailers, and ancillary businesses.

Over the last number of months, the Canadian Chamber has been running the Canada’s FoodLink campaign that has been seeking to draw visibility towards a number of priorities for the industry, such as regulatory competitiveness, trade, and innovation. As such, this committee’s study is both welcome and timely.

Before discussing a few specific points for the committee’s consideration, it is worth noting the volumes of paper littering the town talking about the sector’s potential. This includes:

Although the sector has remained resilient in the face of a disruptive two years, I mention these reports not for posterity purposes, but instead to underscore that it is important to ensure we take the voluminous work that has been produced and put it into action. I hope this committee can catalyze that action.

In the time available, allow me to focus on a few points in the areas the committee has identified as points of interest.

First is regulatory.

While often times the cost of input fluctuations are due to market forces, the regulatory burden imposes a significant cost on companies. And it is a cost that is within our control. Diverging from regulatory best practice and science-based international standards raises the cost of business. It makes Canadian companies less competitive. And it prevents small business owners from running their companies.

Too often regulators do not give sufficient considerations to economic and business impacts when making decisions. To remain competitive, this cannot be the case. We would urge the government to adopt an economic and competitive lens mandate for regulators, to ensure it does not hinder growth for Canadian business.

As Canadian business turn to recovery, I would also stress that now is simply not the right time to introduce new regulations that will hurt economic growth, and add new strains to our supply chain.

Second is transportation corridors.

Extreme weather events and aging infrastructure remain challenges to ensure we can get products to buyers and markets. We have a serious infrastructure deficit in Canada, which will require us to perform triage. It is essential that we avoid the temptation to spread whatever money is available like peanut butter across Canada. 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 Canadian Chamber of Commerce commends the government for its investments through the National Trade Corridors Fund. Through this program, we must continue to look at building redundancy 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. I would also stress that investments must be based on clear priorities with measurable economic returns. These priorities must be clearly communicated by government so private sector can act accordingly. And these priorities must be backed by data to ensure we can see the impact projects are having to strengthen our trade corridors.

I would also like to commend the government for launching the Supply Chain Summit. Partnership and dialogue between government and the private sector are critical to work through these complexities. Establishing supply chain working groups for information sharing and moving issues forward cannot be overlooked. These are not flash in a pan issues that will be solved over night.

Third, and lastly, is supporting supply chains through innovation. The success of the Canadian agriculture sector relies on our ability to adopt to new technologies, which will support the sustainable economic growth of the agriculture and agri-food sector. The long-term viability of the industry relies also on innovation to enable tackling climate change. The government needs to work closely with industry to develop a technology-neutral net-zero transition plan, such as the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program and support for Carbon Capture, Usage Storage in the upcoming federal budget. Thank you again for the opportunity to address the Committee and I look forward to your questions.

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