Editorial: Unclog Canada’s national trade arteries

Taking the pulse of this trading nation requires examining the trade arteries feeding Canada’s economic heart.

In what is a vast geography supporting a sparse population, those arteries are doing relatively well, considering.

Consider, for example, how quickly the railways servicing B.C.’s main maritime cargo ports recovered in the wake of 2021’s destructive wildfire season and flash flooding disasters.

The impact on transpacific cargo movement from those shocks to railroad infrastructure is still being felt in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. But it could have been more severe if not for the diligence of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railroad management and crews.

Consider, too, that PSA International earlier this year took over operation of a second container terminal in the Port of Halifax and has been investing in mega-vessel handling to improve the East Coast port’s competitiveness.

Consider, also, that DP World’s multimillion-dollar investments in container terminals in Prince Rupert and Vancouver will expand container cargo-handling capacity in B.C., and GCT Canada’s $300 million investment in its rail densification project at GCT Deltaport has improved container cargo movement efficiency at Canada’s busiest port.

But then consider that Canada faces serious future trade artery blockages and bottlenecks in part because its infrastructure approval processes continue to delay improvements that could divert more North American goods north from congested U.S. ports.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s $3.5 billion Terminal 2 project at Roberts Bank, for example, has been winding through planning and approval processes for the past decade.

Whether it is the right project to expand cargo movement through B.C.’s Asia Pacific Gateway is open to debate, but there is little debate that Canada needs more West Coast cargo-handling capacity and that further delays in providing it will diminish any chances for local, regional and national economies to seize the trade opportunity today that expansion would deliver well into the future.