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Posted: June 7, 2015

Port expansion crucial to support Canadian trade

Letter to the Editor

A competitive tax environment, a highly educated workforce, an abundance of natural resources, and an economy rooted in international trade make B.C. and Canada an attractive place to do business. Troubled waters could lay ahead, though, if we don’t continue to invest in the infrastructure we need to support the businesses looking to grow here at home by selling their goods and services abroad.

Across the country, business owners, along with their employees and customers, depend on reliable global supply chains to transport our Canadian-made exports to markets around the world, as well as to bring us a variety of imported goods from food to manufactured products that we use every day.

Historic investments in our Asia-Pacific Gateway over past decade, including the many investments to our container terminal infrastructure in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, have leveraged our natural geographic advantage, and have transformed not just Metro Vancouver but the entire west coast into a premier Canadian gateway of choice to the many dynamic Asian economies.

Thanks to continued economic growth in Canada and in Asia, not to mention the work at both the provincial and federal level to develop new markets by removing barriers to trade, the volume of trade, in particular containerized trade, through Canada’s west coast continues to grow. In response to this, Port Metro Vancouver is working with individual container terminal operators in Metro Vancouver to increase efficiencies and improve capacity.

These investments will provide needed capacity in the near-term, however, they will not be enough to meet the levels of container trade that are forecasted for 2020 and beyond.

The container sector is competitive, and if we do nothing, we risk losing business, and the jobs that go with it, to other ports in Seattle and L.A. Port Metro Vancouver’s proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project would ensure that Canada can continue to be that preferred gateway for trade between Canada and Asia, and that all the family-supporting jobs the container sector provides will stay right here, not just in Metro Vancouver, but throughout B.C.

The BC Chamber’s province-wide membership recognizes the importance of projects such as Roberts Bank Terminal 2 to the economy of B.C. and Canada. By supporting the construction of Terminal 2 and other necessary infrastructure projects across the province, we can enhance our productivity and by extension our competitive advantage in the global market.

This in turn can enable the entrepreneurial spirit of B.C. and Canadian business owners to thrive from the opportunities put before us from around the globe thanks in part to the benefits of international trade. And, because the Terminal 2 project would be privately funded, these benefits would be achieved with no additional cost to taxpayers.

Continued diversification of the B.C. economy is critically important, and I am encouraged by on-going developments in the LNG, technology, film and forestry sectors to name a few. We only need to look at Alberta to see the risk of an economy that relies too much on one sector. A thriving port is absolutely essential to ensure the economic diversity and viability of our region and province, and the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project will further this goal well into the future.

We owe much of our province’s existing economic strength and prosperity to the bold, long-term investments that were made in transportation infrastructure in past decades that allow our businesses to take advantage of our global position to the many sought-after markets of the Asia Pacific.

As Canada’s only Pacific province, it is our obligation to build on this legacy through generational infrastructure projects, like Roberts Bank Terminal 2, in order to secure the economic vitality of our province and country for the decades to come.

John Winter,

President and CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce

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