Big changes proposed for Pacific ports,
Published: January 22, 2008
Source: Canadian Press
Everything from West Coast ports to railways and the airline
sector must change if Canada is to become a major trade conduit to
Asia, a report by a trio of private-sector advisers says.
The report to International Trade Minister David Emerson on the
Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative warns incremental
tinkering with Canada's transportation system and ports won't be
enough to fully exploit the country's potential advantages as a
western trade portal to Asia.
"Canada is not a driver of the growth in global trade, nor is it a
particularly critical participant," reads the report, made public
"However, Canada is positioned to benefit by virtue of its geography
and its economic and political relationships."
A spokesman for Emerson said Tuesday the report was being circulated
among stakeholders for discussion. The minister would not comment on
it but did say the government was not bound by any of its
The 27-page report was prepared by Jeff Burghardt of Prince Rupert
Grain Co., furniture manufacturer Arthur Defehr of Winnipeg and T.
Richard Turner, chairman of the Insurance Corp. of B.C.
Emerson appointed them to find ways to exploit Ottawa's $600-million
taxpayer investment in the gateway initiative.
The report includes more than 30 recommendations covering marine
ports, railways, airports and airline operations.
||Ports should operate 24/7:
Among other things, it recommends further consolidation of West Coast
port administration, putting terminal operations in the hands of private
operators but with competition among them, and speedier handling of
containers, including inland terminals to help clear bottlenecks.
A potentially controversial set of recommendations call for drastic
reform to work rules in the ports to make them true round-the-clock
"The ability to change the labour environment on the Canadian docks is
perhaps one of the best opportunities to differentiate ourselves from
competing U.S. ports," reads the report. "Failure to do so would be an
impediment to a significantly enhanced Pacific Gateway."
Despite a crippling strike by container-truck drivers in 2005, the three
advisers stopped short of recommending all labour associated with the
Pacific Gateway be designated essential.
"But policymakers may have to consider such a step in the future as the
shippers and sending ports in Asia consider the entire labour situation
in Canada related to the ports as unreliable," the report said.
||2 railways lack incentive to
The report also tackles the dominance of Canada's two major railways,
which it said have no incentive to invest in expanding capacity to ease
"The railroads have demonstrated that they each act primarily in their
own financial interest," the report said, noting both CP Rail and CN
Rail have heavy commitments to the U.S. market.
"So while we do not necessarily recommend regulation, we suggest that an
expansion of opportunities for the railroads must come with the
acceptance of responsibilities or policies that will assure that service
to Canada is, at a minimum, maintained or, even better, enhanced."
The advisers noted that other countries, including Britain, Australia
and the Netherlands, separate ownership of the track and operation of
However, the report ruled out such an approach — for now.
"If the railways fail to demonstrate that improvement, we would strongly
suggest allowing open access on the national carriers' railway network,"
||Give foreign airlines access to
Open skies top the report's recommendations for the air sector,
urging Canada to give foreign carriers access to any city in Canada with
reciprocal rights for Canadian operators.
It also recommends lifting of foreign ownership restrictions on Canadian
carriers and the adoption of universal transit without visa, which would
waive visa requirements for travellers going through Canada to a third
country such as the United States.
The report also suggested Ottawa and the provinces make airport
authorities more open and accountable, and to give them the right to
raise money through tax-exempt bonds.
© The Canadian Press, 2008