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Advisory group explores how to make Manitoba a transportation, trading hub

Grant Cameron
Advisory group explores how to make Manitoba a transportation, trading hub

A Manitoba Strategic Corridors Advisory Council is recommending the province should make strategic investments in transportation infrastructure to strengthen the supply chain.

The group is also pressing for a first-ever written national trade and transportation corridors strategy.

The eight-member council, which looked into how to grow and develop Manitoba as a transportation and trading hub, suggests the government build on the potential of unique supply chain capabilities, such as the cargo campus development at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport as well as infrastructure at the deepwater Port of Churchill on Hudson Bay.

Members of the advisory council also say they recognize the positive economic impacts of investments in the Hudson Bay Railway leading to the port as well as infrastructure at Thompson Airport and are calling for more fully integrated aviation and marine mode opportunities.

Appointees on the council are private sector executives from the supply chain, transportation, infrastructure delivery and Indigenous economic development sectors who provide advice to government. Their ideas have been forwarded to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk.

The council underscored the importance of continued implementation of current strategic initiatives such as the province’s multi-year infrastructure investment strategy, which includes projects like the Winnipeg One Million Perimeter Freeway Initiative, the proposed Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba Outlet Channels, and twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway to the Ontario border.

The policy statement also suggests assessing transportation requirements to enable critical mineral development projects and working with stakeholders to make the trucking industry more efficient.

Council members are supportive of the provincial government’s memorandum of understanding on economic corridors with Alberta and Saskatchewan as a crucial aspect to enabling Manitoba’s transportation and trade hub vision. They’re also encouraging Manitoba to continue to expand the scope of its partnerships with other jurisdictions, and private and non-profit sectors.

“The council considers the foundation and reasoning for the Manitoba government’s establishment of a transportation and trade hub vision to be legitimate and urgent,” the advisory council members state in their policy statement. “Evolving economic, supply chain, industrial and geopolitical contexts offer both challenges and opportunities for Manitoba, its people and industries, to more beneficially participate in global trade through the leveraging of its substantial historical and competitive advantages in transportation across all modes, including its mid-continent location.”

Perhaps most critically, the advisory council recognized the importance of the ongoing development with other jurisdictions of an inaugural national trade and transportation corridors strategy.

The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) has been advocating for a long-term strategy that focuses on trade corridor investments to build a trade-enabling transportation network.

MHCA president and CEO Chris Lorenc told a ministers’ dinner of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce recently that Premier Heather Stefanson has become the leading champion for a  Canada Trade Infrastructure Plan that would move beyond the five-year traditional funding approach.

The old way of doing things is “short-sighted,” he said, “and has not served our national nor provincial interests well. Canada needs a long-term strategy focusing on high-priority/high-value trade corridor investments to build the trade-enabling transportation network Canada needs, 20 to 30 years from now.”

The plan is being advanced by leading national organizations, including the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), Civil Infrastructure Council, and the Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association.

“This strategy is critical for our national and provincial economic growth, therefore our social welfare and national security interests,” said Lorenc.

Recently, an Ipsos survey completed for the CCA shed light on the importance Canadians attach to trade infrastructure and their perceptions of its condition. The survey found more than 90 per cent of Canadians think trade is important to Canada’s economy, yet only nine per cent think the country’s trade infrastructure is in good shape.

The survey, released July 6, also found most Canadians would like to see changes to trade infrastructure and collaboration among governments and industry to create a national plan for long-term trade infrastructure and investment.

Ninety-three per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat agree that the country needs to make sure that trade infrastructure can effectively move people to jobs and products to market.

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