A strong Western Canada is critical to a strong Canada.
We must act now to set up both the region and the country for a successful future. It will take a strategy that both responds to the needs of Western Canada and builds on the strengths that the region brings to our country.
Creating sustainable economic growth that achieves this will not be accomplished by a single measure, but instead by deploying a range of tools available, and including a broad range of businesses. From agriculture, to energy, to transportation, to tourism, to IT, to legal services – and everywhere in between – getting the job done requires a strategy that both responds to the needs of Western Canada and builds on the strengths that the region brings to our country.
Together with our Council members, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is pursing policies that advance a positive agenda in the interest of the West and of Canada as a whole. By building our economic capabilities to ensure Canadian businesses can compete, investing in a modern economy ready to seize new and emerging opportunities, and laying the foundation to foster a better society for the future, we can grow our economy and create opportunities for Canadians everywhere.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its members on the Western Executive Council are best positioned to assist in the process by presenting a positive and focused agenda that concentrates on a handful of transformational policies.
The Council will make the greatest impact through focusing not only what it asks the government for, but also what it can do to advance a positive agenda in the interest of all Canadians. The Council can play a leading role in developing and advocating positive policies that include uniquely Western perspectives. In turn, this can help bridge the gap between Ottawa and the West.
For more information on the Western Executive Council, please contact Robin Guy, Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure & Regulatory Policy.
Western Executive Council Co-Chairs
The Western Executive Council is presenting a positive and focused agenda that concentrates on a handful of transformational policies.
The Western Executive Council is focused on three broad themes:
- investing in a modern economy to seize new opportunities;
- building our economic capabilities to help Western Canadian businesses compete; and
- laying the foundation for a better society for the future.
Successfully and sustainably bringing the immense natural wealth of Western Canada to international markets can help drive prosperity throughout Canada.
As the pace of change facing Canadian businesses accelerates, companies must be agile and adapt to remain competitive. The right policy environment sets industry up to succeed in this rapidly changing context and generate long-term economic growth.
Canada’s agricultural sector is a world leader in quality, innovation and sustainability. Western Canada has over 107,000 farming operations that cover more than 135 million acres, representing 85 percent of Canadian farmland. With the world’s population estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050, global agriculture production will have to increase by about 60-70 percent from the current levels to meet increased food demand.
As one of Canada’s most important economic drivers, and a pillar of rural western communities, the continued competitiveness and sustainability of the agriculture sector is vital to Canada’s economic growth and role as a trading nation.
Sustainable farming is the future. In many cases in Western Canada that future is already underway. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship – Right Source at the Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place – provides a framework to achieve cropping system goals, such as increased production, increased farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability. As we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing the 4Rs will play a leading role in increasing crop production and on-farm economics while balancing environmental goals.
Based in the Prairie provinces, the protein industry is increasing the value of key Western Canadian crops including canola, wheat and pulses. Through the government’s support, the proteins industry has received support to advance Canada’s position in the global plant protein industry. To remain competitive, we must continue to evolve our research, development and commercialization of processing capabilities and develop new plant-based protein ingredients for local and global markets.
The success of the Western Canadian agriculture sector will require new innovative thinking to support bringing together food and fuel value chains. Agricultural commodities can be the main source of sustainable economic growth of the agriculture, agri-food and bio and renewable fuels sectors. Canadian agriculture also requires strategic investments in digital infrastructure, such as rural broadband, which will enable producers to take advantage of precision farming practices and maximize their crop yield. The west coast of Canada is also home to a vibrant aquaculture sector with the potential for strong growth in the future.
Finally, Canada must continue to promote trade-enabling policies and negotiate new free trade agreements that will grow market access for Canadian agriculture.
Supporting Western Canadian Natural Resources
Canada’s natural resource sector, anchored in the West, contribute 17 percent of the country’s nominal GDP and provide 1.9 million jobs. The sector, which includes minerals, metals, forests, oil and natural gas, comprises 48 percent of the value of Canada’s total global exports. As the world transitions to a lower carbon future, Canada can drive additional economic growth by providing much needed responsibly produced low carbon energy, natural resources and critical minerals.
Sustainable Western Canadian Energy
As the fifth-largest producer of natural gas and oil, Canada has the opportunity to provide responsibly produced hydrocarbons to meet demand while driving job creation and economic growth throughout Western Canada. In fact, Canadian oil and natural gas provided $105 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported almost 400,000 jobs across the country in 2020. It also provided $10 billion in average annual revenue to governments for the period 2017 to 2019.
Through clean technology and clean energy investment, combined with Western Canada’s entrepreneurial drive and high levels of post-secondary education, the West can lead Canada’s transformation into a modern clean energy powerhouse. To create more jobs and entice global capital, we must invest heavily in proven emissions reduction technologies, like carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) that can capture existing emissions from industry as well as enable low carbon hydrogen production.
The Canadian natural gas sector is expected to generate $250 billion in economic impact over the next 10 years and can be an important bridge towards a low carbon economy, as well as increasing energy security. Along with emission reduction technologies, natural gas, plays a foundational role in creating clean fuels and energy products for the modern economy, including hydrogen, compressed natural gas, LNG, and when used in power generation, a much lower emissions source to back up intermittent renewable power.
Critical minerals are essential to the production of consumer products, defence and industrial applications, and our ability to transition to a low carbon economy. Executing an effective critical minerals strategy is vital to reinforcing Canada’s global brand as a secure and sustainable supplier for domestic and international markets, as well as facilitating investments required to expand national critical minerals stockpiles and supply chains. Critical minerals are also essential for food security and the continued production of minerals like potash are vital for crop production and quality.
While developing Canada’s Critical Minerals list is a first step, more must be done to realize Canadian, and in particular Western Canada’s, potential. The government must provide a critical minerals strategy that outlines a roadmap to grow our domestic supply chains, reduce dependence on foreign minerals and expand new market opportunities with trading partners. Given the long lead times of mining projects, where it takes an average of 15 years to move from discovery to first production, the government needs to focus on facilitating and safely removing unnecessary barriers to level-up Canada’s competitiveness relative to other jurisdictions.
Western Canada is the gateway to the Asia-Pacific region. Canada’s west coast provides a strong competitive advantage for deepening Canada’s trade and investment ties throughout the Asia-Pacific region, which includes some of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is also a primary transit point through which vital goods are imported and exported.
Imports and exports move through these points via a multi-modal trade corridor comprised of major international airports, marine terminals, and thousands of kilometres of highways and railways that extend across Canada and into the U.S. As an export-dependent country in an increasingly connected and competitive global economy, Canada must continue expanding its export capacity. Western Canada, and specifically British Columbia, provides crucial entry and exit points for Canadian goods moving to and from Asia-Pacific countries.
The capacity of Canada’s west coast to serve long-term growth is quickly becoming constrained. In fact, current predictions state that without increased capacity, Western Canada ports will face worrisome congestion. 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.
Canada must make major, strategic investments in trade infrastructure to grow and sustain our economy. Because of its strategic location, Western Canada can drive major economic growth if we are prepared to eliminate barriers and to renew and strengthen infrastructure. When we look at our ports, airports, rail lines and other critical infrastructure for moving goods, what we do must be able to accommodate our needs a decade or more from now, and not simply address today’s gaps.
Our infrastructure investments will have to meet much higher environmental standards and address legitimate community concerns. We need processes that are transparent and fair, but that also allow decisions to be made and projects to be undertaken much more efficiently. We can’t afford to make decisions by default because of regulatory sclerosis. Further, building infrastructure cannot be based on election cycles, but rather a long-term vision to enable economic growth. We must go beyond today’s supply chain needs to anticipate future needs and opportunities.
Since 2001, there has been stable growth in the container trade on Canada’s west coast, averaging more than 7 percent annually. Forecasts show that container traffic through these ports will have a compound annual growth rate of 3.5 percent through to 2060. It is critical that Canada take a long-term approach to planning to ensure that our ports are equipped to accommodate future growth. Without increasing our ports capacity, supply chain issues will become the norm.
Air transport is a trade facilitator that contributes to economic development and creates significant employment in Western Canada. The global economy depends on the ability to deliver high-quality goods at competitive prices as quickly as possible. Western Canada is home to Canada’s second and third largest airports and is also home to one of Canada’s national airlines.
For many in Western Canada, aviation is the essential mode of transport. It is critical for attracting investment, connecting businesses and building vibrant communities. It is also critical both for Western Canada’s largest cities and for its smallest towns. Over the years, air transport has also proven to be a key “connector” between the manufacturers and the consumers. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, shipments that took too long to get from one point to another were quickly transported via air.
Ensuring growth in market share requires the federal government to lead a cohesive approach.
In 2019, Canadian railways moved more than 332 million tonnes of freight. Through a network of intermodal terminals (land, marine and air) across North America, our railways helped to deliver more than $205 billion worth of Canadian exports to markets across North America and around the globe.
Canada’s rail network plays a critical role to ensure that goods make it to market as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. In Western Canada, rail plays an integral role in moving goods to port and to Canada. As the “life blood” to many industries, including forestry, agriculture and natural resources, it is imperative that we look to expand rail capacity in key areas that act as bottlenecks in our supply chain.
Making Western Canada an attractive destination for business investment that will support economic growth requires getting the fundamentals right.
Western Canadian businesses are increasingly characterised by their spirit of entrepreneurship. While unpredictable and burdensome regulations hold back entrepreneurial businesses, sound and effective regulation can both protect the public interest and promote market success. Canada needs smarter regulatory systems, better processes and well-designed regulations to help minimize the costs to business and unlock economic growth while improving public health and safety outcomes.
To that end, the regulatory approach of the Government of Canada needs to evolve to make innovation and change the norm. In the government’s own words in Budget 2019, “Regulation has to be agile and adaptive enough to address the ways that innovative companies will continuously rewrite the rules of competition, ensuring sufficient oversight to protect the public interest without posing obstacles to innovation.”
While the government has committed to a modern regulatory framework, it has not been as successful at delivering a competitive model for business to flourish. Many Canadian regulators focus on health, social or environmental protections, but are not mandated to consider economic and business competitiveness. Because of this, numerous decisions that affect competitiveness do not include appropriate consideration for economic impacts. Economic competitiveness and regulatory protections are not an either/or proposition, yet regulatory exercises often result in the creation of new self-imposed barriers to growth for Canadian firms.
The government must ease the regulatory burden facing Canadian business, and work with industry and trading partners to ensure regulatory efficiency and alignment. It must work with other levels of government and business to reduce domestic and international trade barriers. Improved collaboration will ensure Western Canadian businesses are not at a disadvantage in the global economy by “made in Canada” regulatory approaches that undermine our ability to compete with other jurisdictions. When regulations are more consistent between jurisdictions, Canadian companies are better able to trade within Canada and beyond, while also giving Canadian consumers greater choice. In Budget 2018, the government committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, and our international trading partners to better harmonize regulation. The government must turn its attention and fulfil its commitments to a more competitive regulatory environment.
In a competitive global economic landscape, we need to strengthen innovation that positions the economy to capitalize on new opportunities. This imperative extends beyond any one sector since all industries need to innovate constantly to stay competitive. The federal government, in partnership with provincial governments, must keep Canadian developed and funded intellectual property in Canada, protect the scarce Canadian labour pool demanded for future innovation and development, and retain the Canadian innovators behind some of today’s most successful technology.
To grow our economy, the government needs to address serious and labour and talent shortage that continues to grow. Given the region’s economic potential, this challenge is perhaps even more serious in Western Canada. Overcoming it will require solutions built by communities that speak to local workforce needs.
The federal government must collaborate more closely with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and the private sector, including businesses and chambers of commerce to better understand labour market needs in the West. This partnership should involve setting immigration targets and programs to make better use of the skills of Indigenous Canadians, women, persons with disabilities, older workers and minorities. We cannot afford to waste the skills of anyone who is willing to help us build a stronger economy. In particular, the Temporary Foreign Workers Program has grown and been updated over the last several years to respond to Canadian labour market conditions, however, gaps remain.
We all want to leave our society in a better place than when we found it. We believe western businesses can help lead the way to a more prosperous, just and successful Canada.
Furthering Indigenous Reconciliation
Achieving Indigenous reconciliation is both the right thing to do and a key tool for building a stronger economy. Western Canadian businesses are leading the way, but more needs to be done, including improving our consultation with Indigenous groups, building respectful relationships, and determining the process of the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples for economic development projects.
As stated in Budget 2022, housing is a basic human need, but it is also an economic imperative. Our economy is built by people, and people need homes in which to live. But, Canada has a structural housing shortage. According to a report published in January 2022, Canada had the lowest supply of housing among the G7 nations, with all western provinces following below the average.
Access to housing remains critical to keeping talent in the West. Without access to affordable housing, many are forced to look for new jobs in other parts of the country or leave Canada altogether. While the Council understands that housing is an area of shared responsibility, the federal government must play a leadership role to ensure we can increase housing supply and affordability in Western Canada.
In a given year, Canada constructs about 200,000 new housing units—standalone houses, individual condos, and other types of homes. While annual construction has increased in recent years, it is not enough to address affordability challenges and keep up with the housing demands of a growing population. To meet these housing needs, Canada will need to double our current rate of new construction over the next decade.
If the government is serious about working to increase affordable housing, governments must work together to reduce barriers to housing construction. Governments – including the federal, provincial and municipal – must work together to end housing scarcity and responsibly increase the supply in major cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg.
What We’re Doing
Members of the Western Executive Council are putting into action many of the ideals and innovations that are driving Canada’s economy forward. The Canadian Chamber is proud to highlight the leadership of our members.
Early in 2022, AGT Foods and Federated Co-operative Limited signed a joint venture partnership to construct a $360M canola crush facility. The canola crush facility will supply approximately 50 percent of the feedstock required for a 15,000-barrel-per-day renewable diesel plant, with the remainder of the supply contracted from other canola crush facilities.
When fully operational by 2027, it is anticipated to produce 1 billion litres of renewable diesel (HRD) per year.
The project will be Canada’s first HRD plant, which is currently only available overseas. The project will include low carbon intensity hydrogen production and will include carbon capture use and storage (CCUS). The project envisions whole plant utilization, not just using the oil for renewable diesel, but investigating the use of the canola protein in food and feed, in addition to utilizing the sugars for use in ethanol production.
The initiative will result in a capital expenditure of approximately $2.5 billion; create more than 2,700 construction jobs, and 300 permanent operating jobs.
Leading climate and energy authorities such as the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) recognise the vital role that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plays in helping to achieve the deep emissions reductions required to limit warming to 1.5 °C.
Shell is helping to advance technology to capture and store CO2 emissions with carbon capture storage through facilities throughout Alberta. Shell developed and continues to operate the Quest CCS project which has captured 7 million tonnes of CO2 since its inception.
In April of this year, Shell was selected along with partners ATCO and Suncor to advance the Atlas Hub project. While the initial phase is expected to tart up middle part of this decade, full build out of the project as a CO2 hub would capture and store approximately 10 million tonnes per year for a total of 300 million tonnes of CO2 over the life of the project.
This project will not only captures existing emissions but will help enable the Edmonton region becoming Canada’s first hydrogen hub and even a global hydrogen exporter.
As Canada’s gateway to over 170 trading economies around the world, the Port of Vancouver handles $1 of every $3 of Canada’s trade in goods outside of North America. In response to forecasts that indicate growth rates of 3.5 percent annually, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has strategic programs underway to make Canada’s largest port competitive on the world stage.
The Port of Vancouver is making significant investments in gateway projects and road and rail infrastructure to remove bottlenecks and increase capacity to ensure our supply chain can efficiently manage the trade growth anticipated over the next 10 years. These improvements will enable Canadian companies to get their products to market faster, while also reducing congestion and wait times.
In addition, the Port of Vancouver is working with its partners to increase capacity at terminals, such as the Centerm Expansion Project and South Shore Access Project, which will increase the terminal’s capacity by 60 percent while expanding its footprint by only 15 percent.
The Port of Vancouver has also proposed the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) Project, a new three-berth marine container terminal which, if approved and built, will play a critical role in creating enough capacity to meet forecasted container trade through to the mid- to late-2030s.
In January 2023, Western Executive Council Co-Chairs Susannah Pierce and Murad Al-Katib write in the Financial Post that Canadian businesses are still waiting on concrete government action to improve the transportation infrastructure and supply chains that serve as a cornerstone of our economy. Read more.
September 2022: Western Council Co-Chairs Susannah Pierce and Tamara Vrooman write in the Calgary Herald that maximizing Western Canada’s huge economic potential is key to building a stronger economy. Read more.
August 2022: Robin Guy, Western Executive Council Lead and Chamber Senior Director, Transportation, Infrastructure & Regulatory Policy, writes that National Supply Chain Task Force needs to set clear priorities to support economic growth. Read more.
July 2022: Western Executive Council meets with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. Chrystia Freeland, to discuss how to further strengthen our Western and Canadian economy. Read more.
June 2022: Canadian Chamber’s Western Executive Council meets in Calgary for a day of government engagements and discussions on how to further strengthen our Western and Canadian economy. Read more.
May 2022: Robin Guy, Senior Director for Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy, appears before the Senate Banking Committee to urge the government to move more broadly and urgently on regulatory modernization. Read more.
May 2022: The Canadian Chamber of Commerce Senior Director for Transportation, Infrastructure and Regulatory Policy writes about the importance of investing in Western Canada’s trade infrastructure to improve the country’s export capacity. Read more.
April 2022: Canadian Chamber’s Western Executive Council holds first in-person meetings in British Columbia, including a Parliamentary meeting and site visits. Read more.