Improving Competitiveness, Connectivity and Market Access by Creating a National Infrastructure Corridor

Description:

Focused leadership and investment in the coordination, planning and implementation of a national infrastructure corridor would facilitate the flow of Canadian goods from coast-tocoast-coast and improve connectivity between key rural and remote regions of the country. A dedicated corridor would be a timely and important investment in the economic, social and environment quality of life of all Canadians. Further, it would strengthen our competitive position as a lead exporter of natural resources and goods on the world stage.

Background:

Canada is a vast country spanning 9,984,670 km2 coast to coast with unique jurisdictional boundaries overseen by numerous stakeholders. A cohesive national infrastructure corridor of “rights-of-way” across Canada – to develop and expand transportation and transmission infrastructure in the national interest – is not a new concept but it remains as important as ever. Major-General Richard Rhomer was the first to formally propose the idea in Canada’s Centennial year, over five decades ago. Since then, many have picked up the cause and argued for the idea to support Canada’s prosperity, economic growth and competitiveness into the future.

The potential economic and social benefits of this network are many, providing opportunities for rural and remote communities to connect to vital transportation and transmission grids required to access domestic and international customers. Although governments have frequently emphasized the digital divide, the lack of reliable internet access continues to impose major challenges in First Nations reserves and rural communities.1 Economies of scale also dictate that infrastructure costs will decrease for the public as connectivity and more efficient pathways are created.

An established corridor network will help to provide development certainty and attract private sector investment. Currently, mining operations in northern remote locations face average costs that are 2.3 times higher than non-remote projects.2 By reducing this disparity, future projects will be attracted to these areas.

The same is true for the oil and gas sector that has experienced lower prices for crude without direct and efficient access to tide water and international markets. Current limitations, and pipeline politics, have stalled pipeline construction across Canada. A December 2020 report indicated that delays for new pipelines have cost Canadian heavy crude producers approximately $14 Billon (US dollars) over the last 5 years.3 Delays in construction, including the recent announcement of the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and the precarious situation with Line 5, speak to the pressing need for a comprehensive plan that spans the country, reducing land conflicts and providing a clear political path forward.

Along with economic benefits, there are notable environmental gains that would be achieved through the creation of a national infrastructure corridor. By definition, a corridor would provide the most direct and efficient route for national infrastructure development, requiring less geography and land than is currently needed to move and transmit energy products, telecommunications, consumer goods and natural resources across the country. By extension, environmental assessment costs would be lowered without sacrificing quality or efficiency. Additionally, clean energy products and raw materials could be transported more efficiently and safely using the “rights-of-way” route a corridor would provide.

Much of the current research conducted on a possible solution and pathway for a corridor is being conducted at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and the Centre for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations (CIRANO) with funding provided by the federal government.4

Recommendations:

That the federal government:

1. Fund and support further research into the creation of a national infrastructure corridor system.

2. Plan to establish an integrated, national infrastructure corridor network to enable efficient market access from all provinces and territories to any Canadian coast.

3. Provide appropriate support and funding for Prairie export-based businesses.

4. Establish a timetable for consultations and negotiations among provincial, territorial, municipal and First Nations.

5. Involve key industry stakeholders and Canadian companies in exploring options for the pathway(s) for a national infrastructure corridor and refining a strong business case in support.

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1 The Canadian Northern Corridor Research Program. (2020). Infrastructure Policy Trends – The Digital Divide and the Lack of Broadband Access During COVID-19. Retrieved from: https://www.policyschool.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Infrastructure-Trends-Digital-Divide.pdf

2 Association of Consulting Engineering Companies. (2015). Levelling the Playing Field. Retrieved from: https://www.acec.ca/files/Publications/levelling_the_playing_field.pdf

3 HIS Markit Analysis. (2020). Delays for New Pipelines Cost Canadian Heavy Crude Producers at Least $14 Billion Since 2015, IHS Markit Analysis Finds. Retrieved from: https://news.ihsmarkit.com/prviewer/release_only/slug/2020-12-22-delays-for-new-pipelinescost-canadian-heavy-crude-producers-at-least-14-billion-since-2015

4 University of Calgary School of Public Policy. (2021). The Canadian Northern Corridor. Retrieved from: https://www.canadiancorridor.ca/