Thank you, Chair and committee members, for inviting the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to take part in your study on the establishment of a Canadian transportation and logistics strategy.
Unsurprisingly, goods and people movement affects nearly every chamber member amongst our network of 200,000-plus members, many of whom have already appeared before you on this study. We agreed with much of what was in your interim report, and we're pleased to see that it cited the chamber's 2017 report, “Stuck in Traffic for 10,000 Years”.
Thank you for including the Canadian chamber on your swing through the Atlantic portion of your study. My remarks will be a little more national in scope, but I'll start by stating my violent agreement with everything we heard from my colleague, Glenn Davis, at the Atlantic chamber. Maybe we'll just echo and reinforce one issue he mentioned off the top, which is the Highway 185 bottleneck.
He mentioned it's a Canadian chamber national policy resolution. Just for a little context on that, resolutions of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, our policy positions are set through the proposal, debate and amendment of resolutions by chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across the country every year at our AGM. This means when an issue like Highway 185 is adopted at the national level, it's deemed by chambers from coast to coast to be a national priority of importance to the entire country. I think the Highway 185 bottleneck includes that. I won't get into some of the implications of that, as Glenn did, but just note that we think it's important the federal government work with the Province of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, if necessary, to accelerate the timeline of the twinning of the highway. Long combination vehicles that do take this route need to decouple, take each trailer separately, and recouple after the 41-kilometre stretch, which, as Glenn said, increases costs, increases carbon emissions and creates safety issues.
I would also like to quickly highlight the work of Krista Ross at the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, who has been a tireless advocate for this issue within the chamber network itself.
Outside of this issue, the Canadian chamber has several other policy resolutions on goods movement that I think are relevant to your study. In the interest of time, I won't go into them in detail, but would be happy to answer any questions afterwards and send the resolutions along to the committee. They include issues such as the management of the lower Fraser River, the need for a pan-territorial transportation strategy, and the importance of supporting short-line rail in Canada.
I would also like to endorse the work of the Beyond Preclearance Coalition, which the chamber belongs to. Beyond Preclearance is a group of organizations in Canada and the U.S. developing a long-term vision to advance the efficiency and security of the Canada-U.S. border. A few weeks ago, we co-hosted a border transportation summit with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the objective of scoping and designing border pilot projects that will help lead to more integrated border movements for all modes of transportation in the years, and hopefully decades, to come. We would recommend this committee use the vision that's laid out in the Beyond Preclearance white paper as the basis for cross-border transportation issues in your larger strategy.
Last, I would like to highlight what I think is our most important recommendation for your study. It comes from the Canadian chamber's Vote Prosperity 2019 federal election platform, which we released yesterday. It's the standard by which the chamber network will be evaluating all platforms this fall.
We are asking for a greater share of federal infrastructure funding to be directed towards trade-enabling transportation projects. We strongly advocated for the creation of a dedicated transportation and trade corridor fund in 2016 and we were very supportive when the national trade corridors fund was announced in budget 2017. Simply put, this kind of infrastructure has the highest return on investment of all kinds of infrastructure investment by the simple fact that it makes its users more productive. However, with $2 billion in funding over 11 years, the NTCF represents only 1.1% of the 12-year, $180-billion long-term plan.
In its first call for proposals, the NTCF received 357 expressions of interest, which totalled nearly $17 billion in funding requests. Following a screening process at Transport Canada, there were 177 comprehensive proposals submitted seeking nearly $10 billion in funding. That is five times the value of what's actually available for the NTCF over its 11-year lifespan.
This fund guarantees the biggest bang for the federal buck because it is merit-based, unlike most other federal infrastructure funds, which only require meeting basic eligibility requirements and are subject to a high degree of political influence from all three levels of government. The NTCF, on the other hand, is based on detailed assessment criteria related to supply chain fluidity, trade flows and reducing bottlenecks. In other words, it finds the projects with the greatest economic value to our export-dependent economy.
At a time when the international trade landscape is shifting and our competitors are making improvements to their trade infrastructure, we need to be more strategic with our investments. We cannot rely only on our geography, our natural resources and our proximity to the U.S. to generate further prosperity.
Author Parag Khanna has a terrific quote in his book Connectography, which I think should be required reading for anybody drafting a strategy in Canada, in which he notes, “Supply chains and connectivity, not sovereignty and borders, are the organizing principles of humanity in the 21st century.”
It is our view that a Canadian transportation and logistics strategy should be underpinned by having trade-enabling infrastructure as an equal priority in the long-term federal infrastructure plan. We're hopeful that this committee shares this view and will support the recommendation in its work.