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Press Ottawa, premiers to support trade infrastructure investment: WCR&HCA to Pallister

The Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association has congratulated Premier Brian Pallister on his appointment as Chair of Canada’s Premiers and the Council of the Federation.
A letter sent on behalf WCR&HCA urges Pallister to lead the provincial premiers and the council in calling upon Ottawa to significantly recapitalize the federal program for investing in regional trade gateways and corridors.

Top-most on the agenda of the Council is national and provincial economic revival, building back from the deep deficits left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic economic shutdown,” the June 24 letter, signed by WCR&HCA Chair Greg Orbanski and President Chris Lorenc said.

“As you are aware, infrastructure, in particular nation-building projects that elevate trade competitiveness, is foundational to economic recovery and sustainable growth. Trade constituted 66% of Canada’s GDP in 2019 (61% in 2020 due to the pandemic),” it notes. “The data illustrate provincial, regional and therefore national interests are served by a sustained, robust investment strategy in trade gateways & corridors of national significance.”

The case for significant levels of investment to update and build new assets for the trade gateways and corridors is illustrated by past investment programs, including the Asia Pacific Gateway & Corridor Initiative (APGCI); the National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways & Trade Corridors; the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway; and, the Atlantic Gateway & Trade Corridor. All regions have benefited from trade gateway and corridor investment.

The APGCI, in particular, focused on improving all aspects of moving goods through Western Canada, with heavy investment on sea ports in British Columbia. The 2006 initiative saw $1.4 billion in federal seed money leverage $3.5 billion in total investment, as sub-national and private entities bought in. The resulting build-out of Western port facilities dramatically increased freight-volume movement. Construction and upgrades to highways, grade separations and bridges relieved a series of pinch points, allowing for the fluid, efficient movement of goods to domestic and international markets.

Lorenc said it is a particularly timely that Pallister is now leading the Council, because Western Canada is the country’s gateway to high-value global markets in the Far East. Canada needs to diversify its trade and global relations beyond China, and its recent new or renewed trade deals makes that not just possible but vital.

Further, the letter states, investors and trade partners take notice when a country increases its investment in trade-enabling infrastructure.

“Investment in our country’s trade gateways and corridors would signal that Canada is investing in itself, is confident it has what the world wants, can deliver and can compete globally for greater shares of international trade,” the letter concludes.

“It would signal to Canadians that our federal government understands its central responsibility and role in supporting good jobs, creating opportunity, securing economic prosperity and protecting our national security interests.”