Editorial: Canada's freight fate in infrastructure’s hands

Taming the wildfire factor is only a small piece of the transportation security puzzle facing B.C. and the rest of Canada.

A bigger piece is in the hands of factors the country has not traditionally excelled in: developing cohesive national initiatives free of political meddling. Fumbling that piece will stall progress in retooling Canada’s trade transportation infrastructure, which is the arterial network that circulates its economic lifeblood throughout every province. 

That network needs a long-term national vision to ensure that the provinces can continue to benefit from a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. 

The federal government is at least aware of that pressing need. It launched Building the Canada We Want in 2050 in early 2021 to identify Canada’s infrastructure priorities. Goods transportation has to be atop that priority list. 

As the Canada West Foundation (CWF) notes in its national infrastructure assessment submission, nearly two-thirds of the country’s GDP is connected to the trade enabled by its transportation network. 

That network has been held in high regard internationally. 

The CWF’s submission points out that in 2009, World Bank and World Economic Forum rankings placed Canada’s infrastructure 10th overall in the world; today its transportation infrastructure has slipped to 32nd. Major investment is needed to reverse that slippage in goods movement efficiency, and there is no lack of private-sector transportation expertise and ambition in this country to advise where best to make that investment. 

Canada’s two national railways have illustrated that with their bidding war to acquire U.S. railway Kansas City Southern and its access to the lucrative Mexican marketplace. So tapping that private-sector expertise and ambition without being distracted by the political interference that so often diverts good intentions down expensive and dead-end detours is one of the keys to ensuring that Ottawa’s national infrastructure assessment gets the right directions to a world-class transportation future.