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*** OPINION: Alliance MP James Moore on the need for a more open and integrated North American transportation system


The 10th anniversary of the NAFTA recently passed. Canada-U.S. trade is the foundation of our economy, with 43 per cent of our GDP depending upon our trade with the United States, which constitutes 87 per cent of all our exports.
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Since the signing of NAFTA, Canadian companies have forged into new markets, establishing valuable business relationships. However, the > Chrtien/Martin Liberals have shown their complete and utter inability to
> manage our most important trading relationship. Liberal incompetence is illustrated in the state of our transportation system and the trade disruptions Canadians must endure.
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In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Canada was presented with a fundamental choice. We either seize the opportunity to join with our American and Mexican partners to improve North American trade and security, or we retreat into isolation and face the economic consequences. The Liberals chose the latter approach. As a result, Canadians face new trade challenges and our largest trading partner now views us with suspicion rather than trust.
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How would the Canadian Alliance do things differently? We firmly believe in the need to improve trading relations within the North American market. This requires a transportation system based on Open Borders, Open Skies, Open Roads, Open Railways, Open Shipping and Lower/Taxes.
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Trade restrictions and border crossings at the 49th parallel continue to be a concern. Border delays are too long and are increasing. Trade disputes over Canadian exports, such as wheat and softwood lumber, are
increasing. Unfortunately, as U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci has pointed out, U.S. security concerns “trump” trade. The free movement of goods, people and services is thus not guaranteed.
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The Alliance believes Canada should invest in and work towards secure and open borders that permit the free flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel.
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In 1995, Canada negotiated an “Open Skies” agreement for the air industry. Air Canada and Canadian Airlines immediately started to increase cross-border traffic for the benefit of all Canadian travellers.

Unfortunately, the good times did not last. Foreign ownership and cabotage restrictions remain; Canadian Airlines has disappeared; while Air Canada has hit the financial wall. The Alliance believes it is important to
> increase foreign investment limits to allow Canada’s airlines to access more capital and put them on a level playing field with foreign competitors. We believe the government should show leadership in opening our skies to greater competition.
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Canada also has some work to do to improve our road infrastructure. The federal Liberals collect approximately $5-billion a year in fuel taxes, yet they spend less than five per cent of that money on highways. Atlantic Canada, in particular, requires improved infrastructure and trade links with the New England states. The Canadian Alliance would transfer a portion of the revenues collected in gas taxes to the provinces, conditional on an agreement to invest these dollars in infrastructure with a special focus on the national highway system and NAFTA corridors.
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Canada’s railways are at the forefront of trade integration and expanded opportunities. Railways across North America are focusing operations on a continental basis, rationalizing local operations so they are locally
controlled. Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway are among the strongest railroads on the continent and past federal governments have wisely invested in key rail infrastructure projects. The Liberal government has been entirely absent in defence of our railways. However, a strong Canada-U.S. relationship is essential to ensure our voice is heard and respected south of the border. Here, a good example is Canadian National’s inability to acquire Burlington Northern in the U.S. due to trade protectionism and a lack of protest from Ottawa.

> The shipping industry is unique in its ability to move offshore goods and many Canadian companies have taken advantage of this flexibility. Nonetheless, the shipping industry faces important new hurdles in terms of
> a renewed focus on security concerns and upgrading port infrastructure. The Liberals foolishly eliminated Canada’s ports police without an alternative security arrangement, while at the same time failing to
> eliminate ill-advised subsidies in place of a new fiscal framework that would allow ports to finance their own growth.
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Above all, the most common complaints in the transportation sector are the high tax structure and inadequate infrastructure. In the past, Transport Canada was a valuable partner in building, operating and maintaining transportation infrastructure. Sadly, the Chretin/Martin Liberals treat the transportation industry as a cash cow, having decided to “tax everything that moves.” The effects of over-taxation and under investment are starting to show in degrading infrastructure, a tax-exhausted economy, lost opportunities, and failing companies. The Alliance believes that reinvesting in our precious national infrastructure, and understanding transportation as an essential tool in nation-building rather than a source of revenue to the state, is the road to security and prosperity.

Editor’s Note: Opinion pieces are provided as a service to our readers. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Transportation & Logistics or ctl.ca