While over 90 per cent of Canadians polled in a new Ipsos survey think trade is important to the economy, almost 38 per cent say the country’s trade infrastructure is in poor (30 per cent) or bad (eight per cent) shape.
The survey shows there is a gap between the perceived importance of trade infrastructure in Canada which includes highways, ports, railroads and airports, and the assessment of its current state.
“That really underscores how critical it is that Canada have a trade infrastructure plan because our economy depends on it,” said Canadian Construction Association president Mary Van Buren.
About 2,000 Canadians were polled online.
“This Ipsos survey provides great support to show that Canadians recognize the value and importance of having trade infrastructure to our economy, which will certainly help to pay for social infrastructure that we need as well as our quality of life,” Van Buren noted.
“It’s very important to show that Canadians do support the need for more infrastructure.”
When it comes to the findings that show Canadians believe infrastructure is in poor shape Van Buren said, “We’ve seen these data points before. If you look at the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card it also shows how poor many of our roads are and other civil infrastructure is in bad shape.
“This is not just the industry saying that, this is Canadians.”
When asked to guess what proportion of Canada’s total economic activity (GDP) depends on international trade, on average, Canadians guessed 50.5 per cent, underestimating the true figure (65.43 per cent), states a release on the survey.
According to the poll, over nine in 10 (93 per cent) of Canadians strongly or somewhat agree that given how important trade is to Canada, we need to prioritize making sure that our trade infrastructure can effectively move people to jobs and products to market.
Ninety-four per cent of Canadians also strongly or somewhat agree that Canadian governments and industry need to work together to create a national plan to invest in building and maintaining long-term, trade infrastructure.
Nine in ten of those surveyed are concerned that without a strategic and long-term plan, taxpayer dollars for trade infrastructure investments may not be spent wisely.
Eighty-eight per cent find it concerning that among major trading economies like the U.S., the EU, the U.K. and Australia, Canada is the only one that does not have a long-term trade infrastructure plan.
“We have another report…Shovel Ready to Shovel Worthy (The Path to a National Trade Infrastructure Plan for the Next Generation of Economic Growth) and it really prioritizes where the infrastructure can best benefit trade,” Van Buren explained.
“There are certainly lots of choices but there is a strategy that we can follow in getting some objective, third-party advice on, ‘OK, looking at the whole corridor where are some of those most important places.’ Putting in a scorecard so we measure how well we are doing against that and certainly things like moving up in the perception of where Canada ranks in international trade infrastructure…. The whole plan would look at co-ordinating with all levels of government, with industry stakeholders, with Indigenous people so that we build in a consistent and predictable manner to boost our competitiveness.”
To help raise the profile of having a Canada Trade Infrastructure Plan, CCA is working in collaboration with other partners which include the Canada West Foundation, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Civil Infrastructure Council Corporation and Western Canada Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association.
Canada’s premiers met this week and asked for a dedicated meeting with the prime minister to discuss infrastructure priorities.
“This is part of our overall strategy to secure support in Budget 2024-2025 (for the infrastructure plan) and this is one of the planks in that, to raise awareness among Canadians and demonstrate to politicians and decision-makers that this is a priority for Canada,” Van Buren said.
The survey also found:
Canadians place a high degree of importance on a skilled workforce (95 per cent), supply chains, labour supply, and internal trade (94 per cent respectively) and international trade (with other countries; 92 per cent) in relation to Canada’s economy.
When comparing Canada to other countries, Canadians show concern on a number of factors and what this means for their future: 91 per cent think Canada’s level of investment in trade infrastructure should be proportional to that of other G7 countries. Eighty-seven per cent find it concerning Canada has dropped from 10th in 2009 to 32nd (behind Azerbaijan) in 2019 in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of quality of transportation infrastructure.
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