The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) is planning to commission a study from a leading think-tank to show that strategic public sector investment in trade infrastructure increases international competitiveness and economic growth.
“We can put together an investment strategy for ports, pipelines, bridges, railways and border crossings,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.
“The congestion of trade gateways is a barrier to Canadian manufacturers and exporters and the lack of trade infrastructure is an impediment to economic growth.”
This statement was made by Lorenc, during a meeting of the Civil Infrastructure Council at the Canadian Construction Association spring board meeting in Kelowna on May 31.
He said discussions were held recently between the CCA and the Canada West Foundation to produce a study that would make a solid case for strategic public sector investment in trade infrastructure, in order to expand and diversify Canada’s international trade profile.
The three main centres of international trade in Canada are Western Canada, Quebec/Ontario and the Maritime provinces.
“There have been a number of studies that show the link between investment in transportation infrastructure and economic growth,” said John Schubert, past chair of the CCA and the president of Winnipeg-based McCaine Electric Ltd. “So, when we talk about strategic investment in gateways, it all boils down to the same thing. Manufacturing companies can invest in being more productive and efficient, but if they can’t get the goods to market, it all goes for naught. This shows the connectivity, between all sectors of the economy, but they all have to work together.”
The most critical trade infrastructure in Western Canada includes the Pacific Gateway and the ports of Prince Rupert, Vancouver and Delta in BC; the port of Churchill in northern Manitoba, which is a northern trade gateway; and CentrePort Canada, which is Canada’s first inland port in Winnipeg.
These ports are linked to the rest of the country by rail, road and air connections within the western provinces, which are designed to export and import goods to and from international markets.
This critical infrastructure also includes the national petroleum pipeline grid that enables domestic and international business opportunities.
The proposed study on trade infrastructure is designed to follow up on a previous 2012 report to help explain the importance of ongoing infrastructure investment to the economy.
The initial research study by the Canada West Foundation showed a strong link between public infrastructure investment and long-term economic growth.
The report concluded that Canada’s governments should not hesitate to maintain a high level of investment in public infrastructure because it is a key driver of economic productivity.
The report was also helpful in explaining the links between investment in infrastructure and economic growth to senior officials in Ottawa. As a result, many of the CCA’s advocacy priorities were included in the 2013 Federal Budget.
“The area that was not covered by the first report was: what do we mean by strategic investments?,” said Lorenc. “It’s not just about crafting a report and strategy around trade investments, it will be also be coupled with a communication strategy.”
He said the second report will fit in with the priorities of the federal government and the strategy to expand trade with Europe, and growth markets in India, China and South America.
Lorenc wants the second report from the Canada West Foundation to be ready with a complete communication strategy by January 2014, to fit in with the federal budget process for 2014.
Former minister of transport and infrastructure John Baird launched the National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Trade Corridors in 2009.
The policy framework was developed to guide investment decisions for the new $2.1 billion fund for gateways and border crossings. It was established by Budget 2007 as part of Building Canada, the federal government’s long-term infrastructure plan.
The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative was the first application of this new approach. The purpose of the initiative is to strengthen Canada’s competitive position in international commerce by more effectively linking Asia and North America.