Speaking Notes to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport: State of Canada’s Supply Chain

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Speaking Notes to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport: State of Canada’s Supply Chain

On April 4th, ACPA’s President and CEO, Daniel-Robert Gooch, and Debbie Murray, Senior Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, were witnesses before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to contribute to its study on the State of Canada’s Supply Chain. Below is ACPA’s presentation.

PLEASE CLICK HERE to read our submission to the Committee for this particular study.

April 4, 2022

“I want to begin by acknowledging that I am joining you from the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples.

Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, thank-you for the opportunity to meet with you today as part of your study on the state of Canada’s supply chain. My name is Daniel-Robert Gooch and I have been in the role of president and CEO of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities for just under two months. I am accompanied by Debbie Murray, who is our senior director of policy and regulatory affairs who will support me with some of your questions.

ACPA represents all 17 of Canada’s port authorities, including our largest ports like Montreal, Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Halifax, but also many smaller ports like Port Alberni, Saguenay and Thunder Bay. While they are all very different and face different challenges, they are all looking to the future and the investments needed to meet Canada’s trade objectives while contributing in positive ways to the communities they serve and operating in a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.

Tomorrow, April 5th, seaports across the Americas commemorate Western Hemisphere Ports Day. Created to recognize the role of ports and the hemisphere’s maritime industry in economic prosperity, this year we are focusing on the role of ports in COVID-19 global pandemic response and recovery. And so your study is very timely.

ACPA would like to commend Transport Minister Alghabra and his colleagues in cabinet for the government’s attention to Canada’s supply chains. The National Supply Chain Summit in January was a robust discussion on the supply challenges Canada faces today – and may soon face.

The role of supply chains in the everyday lives of Canadians and the health of our export sectors has never been more prominent than it has been these past two years. Canada’s port authorities have managed relatively well through the global disruptions we have seen in other parts of the world. But it is not guaranteed that we will be able to manage as well in the future; Our port authorities are fully committed to the work needed to ensure we have adequate exporting capacity for the years ahead, while also participating fully in Canada’s commitments on climate change, through decarbonization and innovative ways to improve the efficiency of our ports and supply chains. Ton for ton, marine is already the mode of transport with the lowest greenhouse emissions and we’re improving on that.

ACPA has presented several recommendations to the federal government on ways to promote supply chain and navigation corridor resiliency, decarbonization and trade facilitation.

I first want to talk about empowering our ports. While the federal government has a role to play through financial support, greater financial flexibility for Canada’s port authorities would allow many of them to privately finance investments, rather than rely “only” on federal funding. This requires structural changes from the federal government to permit risk-based access to private sources of capital and accelerate major infrastructure project completion.

For example, most port authorities have borrowing limits set decades ago; they are now insufficient to raise the capital needed for many of our port infrastructure investment needs. Amending borrowing limits must be simpler and quicker, and lending criteria determined by commercial lenders, if Canada is to benefit from private capital opportunities.

Other recommendations include:

  • Continued National Trade Corridor funding to support supply chain capacity, efficiency, innovation and resilience, and fill the gap in what Canada’s port authorities can fund themselves today, within the current regulatory framework and economic realities each face.
  • Canada’s port authorities have received about $880 million in NTCF funding. This is allowing ports to make investments, such as new technology at the Port of Vancouver to improve container inspection efficiency and a new Halifax container facility to reduce border inspection turn-around times and reduce port congestion.
  • NTCF funding is also helping smaller ports with ongoing maintenance needs and economic opportunities that low volumes and revenues make self-funding challenging. Canada Infrastructure Bank access for smaller projects would be helpful also.
  • We need quicker approval of projects that have gone through appropriate impact assessment consultation. Ports and their partners and communities have invested significant resources into the project approval processes. If ports are to optimize their role in supply chains, infrastructure projects must be approved in a timely manner.
  • We encourage dedicated funding for decarbonization and the energy transition. This is a big need across our supply chains and ACPA recommends a new fund or a specific stream within NTCF.
  • And finally, Canada has become a signatory of the Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors and we applaud that. This is an important recognition of the role of ports in decarbonization and Canada’s port authorities are keen to support it. But we urge the federal government to scale this support to Canada’s port authorities across Canada.

In closing, Canada’s port authorities are looking to the future, to how we can emerge and prosper after COVID-19. Recovery is an opportunity to transition Canada into a leadership role in green, inclusive, digital, and resilient port supply chains. The recovery will require trade and global connections to build wealth, and Canada’s port authorities will be central to facilitating our country’s sustainable recovery.

Thank-you, and we are happy to take any questions you may have.