Manitoba Heavy Construction Association

Spring 2022

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2 SATURDAY, APRIL 9, 2022 A SUPPLEMENT TO THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Chris Lorenc A country without strong global trade ties leaves its economy hobbled and vulnerable. Canada is heavily dependent on trade and needs to be seen as a preferred trading partner, open to new and expanded global-trade relations. Yet, in some really fundamental ways, our country falls short of its goal and is dangerously dependent on the domestic and foreign policies of its largest trading partners. That not only hurts our economy and international profile, it imperils the future growth of our social programs and, ultimately, Canada's national security interests. Our national economy relies heavily on trade – 65% of our GDP is derived from imports and exports. Similarly, 53% of Manitoba's GDP is drawn from trade. But our trade is concentrated on just two markets: 75% of our exports go the U.S.; 4% to China. Both are global economic and military behemoths. The risk in that over-dependence was illustrated by the recent pain caused by ongoing trade protectionism (US) and weaponization (China). We can no longer rest upon the fortuitous proximity to, and cultural affinity with, the world's largest economy; the buy-America sentiment that raged during the Trump administration is now central to the Biden government's policy. And, China's trade and human rights retaliations over the detention of Meng Wanzhou underscore the hazards of tying ourselves to a powerful country that does not share our values and respect for human rights. Our foreign policy and international obligations will inevitably draw Canada into dispute. That prevailing risk to our trade, the economy, and our national security must be managed. To mitigate the risk, Canada must diversify its trade markets. To do that, it must first invest in its trade corridors and gateways, to ensure we can deliver the goods. Trade infrastructure has not been a top-shelf concern or investment priority for too many years. That's been noticed by those who depend on moving goods and services into, around and out of Canada, and as a direct result our country's reputation as a reliable trade partner has taken a hit. Canada's ranking for trade transportation reliability has fallen dramatically, as seen in surveys by international economic bodies, such as the World Economic Forum. Over the last decade or so, Canada's rank in trade infrastructure confidence fell from a respectable 10th to 32nd, in the WEF's survey of global competitiveness of transport- infrastructure. The slide is coincident with the diminished investment levels in the federal trade corridors fund. This is untenable for a country so dependent on trade, and the lack of political concern about the problem is alarming. (Read Carlo Dade on the next page.) Trade partners notice investment priorities. Businesses feel the pain when extreme weather, domestic protests/labour relations and international supply-chain issues disrupt the flow of goods and services. Canada needs seamless and efficient trade transportation infrastructure that is resilient to potentially cataclysmic events, but also flexible such that alternative arterial connections can accommodate a surge when movement in one branch is disrupted. Canada must significantly recapitalize its national trade corridors fund. Further, it must tie its investment to an infrastructure investment strategy that lays out a 10 or 20- year horizon, prioritizing projects with the greatest ROI. The best trade strategy engages the private sector, the builders or owners of infrastructure – rail, ports and air – that connects to trade corridors at many end points. Importantly, the trade corridors fund must focus on the opportunity the West presents. The Western Canada Trade Gateway & Corridor Initiative, proposed by a coalition of national, regional, and provincial business stakeholders, urges the federal government to harness the potential Western Canada provides in trade growth, both in Asia – home to some of the fastest growing middle-class populations – and into the North American continent. Western Canada's geographic advantages make the region indispensable to Canada's trade profile and productivity. Our global competitors are ahead of us on infrastructure investment strategy, governance and long-range funding plans. We can't ignore the consequences of such economic risk any longer. A strong economy enables a respected foreign policy presence, to help advance and protect Canada's security interests, including: protection of shared values; democratic and human rights; economic, social and political freedoms, and; the freedom from fear, threat, and conflict. A strong economy supports national security, which in turn enables a strong economy. Closer to home, a weak economy puts at risk the financial resources that allow us to fund and expand health care, education and cultural programs, and the country's ability to work towards ensuring all Canadians share in the dividends of prosperity. Investing in trade, and trade infrastructure, is our economic, social and national security "health care" plan. Canada's trade infrastructure vital to economy, national security PTH 75 at Morris; MTI Photo Chris Lorenc is President of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association and the Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association Brandon Winnipeg 431-244-4611 204.233.1600 Traffic Control & Rental Services Our local teams are ready to help you design and deploy custom work zone and infrastructure solutions. Join us at our BRANDON OPEN HOUSE REGISTER HERE > BBQ, DRINKS, AND PRIZES April 21 | 2-6pm

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