Repair, rebuild Canada’s trade-infrastructure reputation


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Premier Heather Stefanson recently noted in a public release that, this month, she assumes the position of Chair of the next Council of the Federation, and will continue the push for increased federal transfers for health care.

We agree on the priority. The pandemic has put our health care facilities and services through the ringer. Canadians should not be anxiously sitting, in pain, on unacceptably long wait lists for hip or knee surgery, or to see a doctor in an emergency room.

It will take extraordinary effort, and funding, to repair the damage that COVID-19 has inflicted upon our health care systems.

But where will Ottawa find the billions of dollars in increased annual funding the premiers are demanding?

Our economy’s health and growth underpin the world-class public services Canadians depend on. And our economy is built on trade.

Trade is responsible for 65% of the national GDP and 53% of Manitoba’s economy.

So, our trade productivity generates the bulk of government revenues that support health care, education, and the other vital public services Canadians rely on.

Trade depends on the efficient movement of goods and services on highways, ports, rail and air. Anything delivered to the doorstep ends its last mile on a road. But, if you can’t move it, you can’t sell it.

In August, the Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association co-signed, along with 8 leading Canadian business organizations, a letter from the Canada West Foundation to Stefanson, pressing her, as Chair of the Council of the Federation, to lead her provincial counterparts in championing significant increase in the national trade corridors fund, to improve the movement of goods in and out of Canada.

The CWF in May released its report From Shovel Ready to Shovel Worthy – The Path to a National Trade Infrastructure Plan for the Next Generation of Economic Growth (To read, go to and click on Advocacy and then reports).

The report highlights the challenges Canada faces in competing for increased share of global trade markets. It lays out the fundamental first steps toward rebuilding Canada’s reputation as a reliable trade partner and its ability to compete in global trade markets.

Canada is seriously lagging in the level of funding it invests on maintaining and building new trade infrastructure, and it does not have a cohesive trade infrastructure investment strategy. Our closest competitors – those vying for the same trade markets as Canada – have for years employed such strategies to identify, prioritize and invest in nation-building infrastructure renewal.

Canada must catch up to compete, which is increasingly important in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Premier Stefanson has made clear, repeatedly, her support for increased trade and to ensure Manitoba and Western Canada’s supply chain is reliable and resilient in an era of climate change.

Moving into the next meeting with Canada’s premiers in 2023, she has the opportunity to lead this critical economic file, to make the case for revitalizing and recapitalizing trade infrastructure investment so all regions of Canada benefit from the jobs that will be created, the sectors that can flourish, the wealth generated and revenues then returned to government, through increased trade, continentally and with the world.

The timing is right. The federal government is undertaking a National Infrastructure Assessment, to know the condition and the needs of our trade transportation system.

This is a long past-due initiative, as those who rely on the system know only too well.

Canada’s reputation as a trade partner has suffered, domestically and internationally due to falling investment in our trade transportation infrastructure. In 2009, Canada was in the top 10 nations in the World Economic Forum index of trade infrastructure reliability. That plummeted to 32nd, in 2019, just ahead of Azerbaijan.

Flowing from the National Infrastructure Assessment, Canada must implement a trade gateway and corridor infrastructure investment strategy. It’s the first step to winning back the confidence of not just investors and manufacturers at home, but those with whom we have penned new or expanded trade agreements.

The global lack of confidence in Canada’s trade infrastructure is putting the country’s prosperity and post-COVID economic recovery at risk.

Premier Stefanson is well-aware of the hazards, and the opportunities, ahead.

Manitoba can lead Canada to sustained prosperity by championing a national trade gateway and corridor investment strategy so we can compete globally with the best.

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