Author: John Law

This Canadian Chamber of Commerce report is produced in cooperation with the Canada West Foundation. It was informed by two major sources: a private sector roundtable on Trade Infrastructure in Toronto in September 2015, co-hosted by the Foundation and the Chamber, and; advice of senior officials at Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada.

The author also received editorial contributions from Ryan Greer and Carlo Dade, Director of the Canada West Foundation’s Centre for Trade & Investment Policy. The reports builds on a November 2014 document by Law and Dade, Building on Advantage: Improving Canada’s trade infrastructure.


This paper makes the case for enhanced trade infrastructure investment, not simply as a “nice to have” when we get around to it, but as a “must-have” before it is too late.

It is a reminder of the fundamental connection of our economic well-being as a country to this category of transportation infrastructure that enables the movement of products, services and people to key markets around the world.

We look back now upon the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, our coast-to-coast national railway and the establishment of Canada’s national highway system as historic investments in nation-building. Today, we are at the doorstep of a major new opportunity that can reshape our economic destiny.

Across the globe, three billion new global middle class consumers are set to join our major trade partner to the south as customers of Canadian exports, but only if our transportation network can enable the reliable delivery of the goods. Now is the time for a strategically focused and collaborative public/private upgrade of Canada’s key trade assets. In support of this objective, this report revisits trade infrastructure now for two reasons:

  1. The trade world into which we sell is changing in a way that makes trade infrastructure improvements for Canada much more urgent
  2. The federal government is about to launch a new infrastructure plan of unprecedented size in which trade infrastructure has a vital role to play to support continued economic well-being for Canadians.

As the Canada Transportation Act Review suggests, investments in Canadian transportation infrastructure can drive our global competitiveness for the next 30 years.


The federal government should:
  1. Make trade infrastructure an equal priority in the $120-billion federal infrastructure plan.

    The investment should be commensurate with the funding allocated to the new social, transit and green infrastructure categories.

  2. Make trade infrastructure investment decisions using merit-based criteria.

    The objective of trade infrastructure investments should remain to target projects with the highest probability of long-term economic benefit.

  3. Renew the federal commitment to Canada’s trade corridors.

    A renewed program focusing on trade corridors that recognizes that Canada must improve the quality, speed and cost-effectiveness of its trade networks can usher in a new era of Canadian competitiveness.

  4. Partner with industry to develop a national trade infrastructure committee.

    The federal government should establish a National Trade Infrastructure Committee of public sector and industry experts as an institutional mechanism to guide long-term national trade infrastructure priorities.

  5. Consider the proposed federal infrastructure bank to enhance trade infrastructure investment.

    The government should consult with investors to determine whether the promised infrastructure bank should be used to generate more public-private investments in trade-enabling infrastructure.