Ottawa must treat transportation as a system not individual modes: Karygiannis

by Canadian Shipper

As Gary LeRoux of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities and several other transportation industry stakeholders have pointed out of late, the change of leadership in Ottawa’s transport ministry is proving to be a breath of fresh air.

Jim Karygiannis, parliamentary secretary for the transport minister, provided evidence of that yesterday in an address to delegates attending a transportation outlook conference in Ottawa, hosted by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.

Karygiannis began his address by acknowledging that the importance of transportation to Canada’s economic viability it’s the country’s third largest economic sector and charged with moving more than $1 trillion worth of goods annually is sometimes forgotten.

Ottawa’s role should be to create the conditions for the transportation industry to grow and become more competitive, Karygiannis, speaking on behalf of new transport minister Tony Valeri, told delegates attending the conference.

"We will need to develop economic frameworks that give service and infrastructure providers the flexibility and the ability to grow while benefiting all users," he said. "we also need to focus more on the needs of users the shippers, the forwarders, the travellers rather than maintaining the status quo or protecting market share."

He stressed that future investment decisions and policies must deal with transportation as a system, rather than as a collection of individual modes. It was an important point in view of the fact that David Collenette, the former transport minister, was sometimes accused of playing favorites among the modes. Many of the delegates in attendance were from Transport Canada so the address also served as indication of policy direction to those entrusted with helping draft legislation.

Karygiannis said minister Valeri has identified four pillars on which future transportation policy must be built.

– a market-driven policy framework;
– a multimodal infrastructure strategy;
– an efficient and secure trade corridor policy; and
– research and development, to support transportation innovation.

A market-driven policy framework in the air sector would mean pursuing the advantages of air liberalization, Karygiannis said, as well as having an airport policy that addresses cost burdens on airport users and improves the long-term viability of airports. In the marine sector, such a policy must provide greater flexibility and more economic opportunities.

"Ports have told us that it is a challenge for them to raise capital. That they need better mechanisms to do it. We are investigating possible options," he said, adding that his government also needs to make strategic investments in key intermodal linkages and look at options for governance of federally provided marine services.

Karygiannis stressed that Ottawa’s policy must allow the marine sector to make the most of geographic advantages, pointing out that Halifax and Vancouver, for example, have two of the world’s best deep seaports, an important advantage considering the trend towards 8,000 TEU or larger containerships. Our west coast ports are also closer to the burgeoning Asian market than U.S. ports and Halifax is closer than New York to European markets.

"And clearly we need to explore further opportunities to work jointly with our U.S. counterparts to make sure that we are using the Seaway to its maximum potential of inland navigation," he added.

Ottawa’s second pillar a multimodal infrastructure strategy — would encourage better connections between modes.

"We all recognize that a productive and competitive economy requires more coordination and integration between modes. At present, strategic alliances between modes are still the exception rather than the rule," Karygiannis said.

Ottawa’s multimodal infrastructure strategy also must ensure a "consistent, nation-wide approach to funding for transportation infrastructure, in particular our national highway system," Karygiannis said, addressing a major beef for motor carriers.

"Canada is the only G7 country without an ongoing national highway program," he acknowledged, echoing what the Canadian Trucking Alliance has been saying for years.

Karygiannis also stressed the importance of developing an efficient and secure trade border. He called for the establishment of a bi-national intelligent transportation systems architecture to ensure that different technologies at the border can work together.

And he had a lot to say about the future role of technology, making the case for increased investment in this area to support improvements in transportation productivity and competitiveness.

"We need to build more partnerships in the areas of research, technological applications and assistance in commercialization of transportation technologies and science. We need a steady flow of new ideas to advance technologies and science to support intermodal integration, improved infrastructure design, congestion management, supply chain logistics and environmental initiatives," he said.

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