Supply Chain Canada: Ontario Goods Movement Strategy nearly ready

by Array

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario: Ontario expects to have a draft of its Ontario Goods Movement Strategy ready in June and hopes to release it s final strategy and action plan by the fall, a high ranking official within the Ministry of Transportation told logistics professionals attending the Supply Chain Canada conference.

Meetings with stakeholders to discuss the draft strategy are expected to take place over the summer, confirmed James Perttula, manager of the Goods Movement Office within the Transportation Policy Branch at the Ministry of Transportation.

The proposed strategy for how Canada’s most heavily populated and congested province can best move goods through its transportation infrastructure will take a “system approach that recognizes that shippers need an efficient, agile and flexible multimodal transportation system,” Perttula said.

“Regardless of how fast the economy is going to grow, we know it will grow and that Ontario’s population will grow and that is going to have an impact. If congestion is an issue now, it will be even more of an issue in 20 years,” Perttula said in making the case for the need of a concrete goods movement plan.

The Ontario government had been working since 2007 with the Quebec government to develop a Continental Gateway Strategy. MTO undertook extensive research and consultation to provide a picture of the state of the multimodal transportation system and current system challenges; Identify key freight generating nodes and infrastructure, regulatory and policy matters that need to be addressed.

However, those talks have “stalled” and Ontario’s transportation ministry recently got the green light to move ahead on its own, Perttula acknowledged. Although Ontario’s plan will be complementary to the work done on the Continental Gateway Strategy and will build on many things the province is already doing, Perttula said it will help sharpen MTO’s focus on good movements.

In addition to making Ontario’s transportation system more efficient, Perttula said the strategy will address how to:

  • ensure a competitive and streamlined regulatory environment
  • build partnerships to strengthen transportation planning
  • integrate sustainability practices into transportation
  • promote the strengths of the system

Perttula said recognition of shippers’ interests underlies how MTO will approach goods movement, and shippers think on a multimodal platform.

“Shippers think about efficiency. They rely on efficient operations in each mode and strong connections between the modes,” Perttula said, adding MTO is not looking to wade into the thorny issue of modal shifting.

“There is often talk of shifting freight from one mode to another (due to concerns about energy use and emissions). We need all the modes. We want to work to ensure the greatest efficiency of all the modes and that the connections between the modes are as strong as they can be,” he argued.

The stakeholder wish list boils down to three basic demands, according to Perttula:

  • Strong Infrastructure: Access to efficient multimodal supply chains is a deciding factor with respect to where a firm decides to locate and the province’s aging infrastructure will require continued investment. That is a topic regularly raised by the transport minister, despite the belt tightening the province is embarking on, Perttula said. “Even in this time of financial restraint, we want to make strategic investments in infrastructure,” he said.
  • Competitive Regulations: Intermodal connections and time sensitive shipments are particularly vulnerable to congestion and regulatory delays. Perttula said there is need to educate the municipalities on how freight moves best to ensure municipal bylaws don’t have a negative impact on freight flows. The province also needs to play an advocacy role in dealing with US or other provincial jurisdictions considering legislation the MTO feels could be detrimental to transportation efficiency.
  • Firm Plan for the Future: Competing jurisdictions are increasing their focus on goods movement planning and statewide/multi-state freight plans are increasingly common in the US. “Other jurisdictions have already done this and we now need to step up. We need a firm plan for the future,” Perttula said.

Goods movement is critical to Ontario’s economy. The province’s multimodal transportation system moves over $1.3 trillion in goods per year. It carries 49 percent of Canada’s total international trade (across all modes) and almost 70 percent of road trade with the U.S.

Robust growth for goods movement is predicted for the next 20 years across all modes. Trade growth and diversification will place significant new demands on the transportation system.

Ontario’s transportation infrastructure

  • Ontario has more than 16,000km of highways, including 1,744 km of controlled access highways (400 series). Five of Canada’s top seven border crossings with the US are in Ontario
  • Ontario has more than 20,000km of railway, including more than 16,000 km of track owned by CN and CP. CP and CN’s largest intermodal terminals are located in Ontario.
  • Ontario has access to 3700km of waterway linking the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of North America providing access to 15 major ports and 50 regional ports. The Port of Hamilton, the largest commercial port on the Canadian Great Lakes.
  • Ontario has 74 airports serving a broad range of communities and industries. Canada’s top two cargo airports are Toronto Pearson and Hamilton.