by Shantel Lipp Shantel Lipp

Canada can continue to spend on infrastructure that members like you build and maintain. 

But investing in infrastructure that supports trade would be a better use of that money and a new report by the Canada West Foundation explains why. The report is titled From Shovel Ready to Shovel Worthy.

Several industry and trade groups across the country and here in Saskatchewan are sharing why this report matters to Canada’s future, including the Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association (WCR&HCA), Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, Business Council of Canada, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Construction Association and Export Development Canada. The Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association is also on that list. 

The world needs what Canada produces and Saskatchewan, in particular, has a lot to offer the world – but producing it is not enough. We must move it through our country and beyond its borders. 

We need the rest of the world to have confidence that what Canada produces for export will be moved through the country efficiently and reliably so we, as a trading partner, are competitive in the world. 

For more than a decade, those in the know have watched Canada spend on projects that are ready for construction. Instead, a better use of that money would be to invest in projects that will provide a return on that spending by improving Canada’s supply-chain competitiveness. 

For every $1 invested in trade transportation infrastructure, the GDP boost is $1.30, often in the same year. This is one of the messages being shared by Chris Lorenc, the president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, who also serves as president of the WCR&HCA, as he promotes this report’s importance.

Canada doesn’t need to start from scratch when developing a plan for investing in shovel-worthy projects. The shortcut is to take the best parts of already established national plans developed by Canada’s competitors. 

We need to look at their success and build upon them by combining those with Canada’s own successes, such as the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative and Transport Canada’s current Regional Transportation Assessments.

There are seven points the report makes about how to build Canada’s first national plan for trade corridor infrastructure. They are:

  1. Define Canada’s national trade corridor network to put all levels of government and industry on the same page.
  2. Bring the private sector to the table as an ongoing contributor of sophisticated supply chain expertise and front-line operational experience to complement the best features of public-sector policy.
  3. Apply criteria of national significance to guide the planning process and decision-making. 
  4. Develop an “evergreen,” decades-long pipeline of national infrastructure projects.
  5. Undertake regular assessments of infrastructure projects in relation to established criteria.
  6. Begin a new forward-looking approach to the collection of data and use of forecasting and modelling tools.
  7. Coordinate the communications of domestic infrastructure working groups and aggressively share progress on the above recommendations with industry and foreign customers.

In the next issue of Think Big, which comes out this summer, there will be a deeper dive into this report. 

Here in Saskatchewan, we have seen major investments being made by the private sector that will further develop this province’s trade potential by putting money towards producing commodities the world requires and adding value to those commodities. Saskatchewan is on the world map because of announcements such as BHP approving $7.5 billion for the Jansen potash project to the numerous canola crush plants that were announced to the resources in high demand being developed in this province, including lithium and helium. 

That is all good news, but we must also pay attention to how we are going to move those commodities from this province through Canada and beyond our borders. This report and our conversation as an industry about it will bring attention to the need for Canada to develop a national plan for developing and maintaining our trade infrastructure. I appreciate your interest in moving that conversation forward for the benefit of our industry, province and country.