In a speech to the Canadian Border Trade Alliance in Ottawa, May 3, Federal Transport Minister Tony Valeri thanked the Alliance team for their work done to elevate border issues to the top of the public policy agenda on both sides of the 49th parallel and keeping them there.
“More and more, we see that what happens on one side of the border has a decisive impact on the other side. For that reason, it’s increasingly inevitable that Canadians and Americans will tend to look at border issues through a similar lens – hence the need for a unified focus,” he said.
Valeri went on to say that Canada’s transportation policy must rest squarely on four pillars:
-a market-driven policy framework;
-a multimodal infrastructure strategy;
-an efficient and secure trade corridor policy; and
-research and development to support transportation innovation.
“In the air sector, we need to focus our policy on providing more choices to travellers, shippers and other users while, at the same time, ensuring that the industry remains healthy and financially viable. This means building on the progress of air liberalization. In the marine sector, we need to provide greater flexibility and more economic opportunities for the industry. Ports have told us that it’s a challenge for them to raise capital, that they need better mechanisms to do so. We also need to look at investing in multimodal projects that make the transportation system as efficient and seamless as possible,” he said.
In the freight rail sector, Valeri encouraged continued private investment while ensuring that the industry stays competitive and efficient.
“What we’re talking about really, is better connections between the different modes. In the context of an integrated North American market, it is key to our success. We all know that a productive and competitive economy requires effective coordination and integration between air, rail, sea and road. Regrettably, strategic partnerships between modes are still the exception rather than the rule. If transportation is to realize its potential as a powerful economic enabler, then our policy framework must support multimodal projects that are designed to make the system as efficient and seamless as possible,” he said.
Turning his attention to the third pillar, a secure and efficient trade corridor policy, Valeri noted that in the February Speech from the Throne, the new government made the strengthening of North American trade corridors a central priority. He outlined a few examples of initiatives introduced.
“More than $600 million is being earmarked to improve crossings here in Ontario. A good chunk will be spent on dedicated passenger car and truck lanes to support the NEXUS and Free and Secure Trade programs. In the Windsor-Detroit gateway – the continent’s busiest trade corridor – the governments of Canada and Ontario are spending $300 million to upgrade infrastructure and improve access at this vital border crossing. Five projects were launched just this March as part of Phase 1 of a multi-year strategy to improve the efficiency of this critical gateway.
As part of this strategy, on April 20th, the governments of Canada and Ontario launched a new project to make all 15 border crossings in the province more efficient. This initiative involves the use of Intelligent Transportation Systems to improve traffic flow along transportation corridors leading to border crossings. These technologies can also help ease traffic congestion and improve safety at border communities. A consultant will be selected to develop a multi-year plan for developing and implementing new technologies at the border crossings, including projects that can be pursued in 2004. In addition, the Canadian and United States governments, along with Ontario and Michigan, have teamed up to take a hard look at the long-term transportation needs in the Windsor-Detroit corridor and options for increasing capacity at the border within the next decade,” he said.
Other key trade corridors are also slated for improvements, including a planned agreement with Ontario for improvements at the Niagara and Sarnia border crossings, and one with the Peace Bridge authority.
“We believe that redesigned Canadian and U.S. plazas, improved technology at the Commercial Vehicle Processing Centre and enhanced security features will significantly reduce congestion and permit more vehicles to be processed on their way to Buffalo and the U.S. market,” said Valeri.
The fourth pillar aims to make Canada’s transportation system more productive and competitive, and exportable.
“We need a steady flow of new ideas to support intermodal integration and infrastructure design. We need new ways to manage logistics. New technologies to ease the harmful effects of transportation on the environment. And a new focus on human resource development so that we have the right people with the right skills in the right jobs to run a new and improved transportation system,” said Valeri.