Senate endorses new ‘national infrastructure corridor’ concept from University of Calgary

national corridorNational Corridor would include highways, railways, pipelines as well as electrical transmission, communications networks

A Senate committee has endorsed a 2016 University of Calgary study that demonstrated the value of a cross-country “national infrastructure corridor” through northern Canada to tidewater, calling for Ottawa to take the lead on the project, which would likely take decades to complete.

The new national corridor would tie into existing infrastructure in southern Canada like the Trans-Canada Highway and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.

On June 21, he Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce issued a report called National Corridor: Enhancing and Facilitating Commerce and Internal Trade that built on the School of Public Policy report by Andrei Sulzenko and G. Kent Fellows entitled Planning to Realize Canada’s Potential: The Corridor Concept.

“Not since Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy in the 1870s has Canada had such an opportunity to build such a monumental infrastructure project with the potential to transform the country’s economy,” said committee chair David Tkachuk in a press release.

“As Canada looks forward to its next 150 years, a national corridor is the kind of infrastructure it will need to tap into new foreign markets.”

The Northern Corridor would be approximately 7,000 kilometres long in length and largely follow the boreal forest in the northern part of the west, with a spur along the Mackenzie Valley, and then southeast from the Churchill area to northern Ontario and the “Ring of Fire” area. The corridor would then traverse northern Quebec to Labrador, with augmented ports.

The right-of-way would have room for roads, rail lines, pipelines and transmission lines, and would interconnect with the existing (southern focused) transportation network.

The Northern Corridor would prepare the way for privately-funded and economically-driven projects to, for example, transport a full range of export commodities efficiently to port facilities on all three coasts while also improving economic development, according to the Senate report.

The Senate report urges the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to take the lead in building a national corridor, starting with a $5-million grant to the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and the Montreal-based Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations for their research program. The committee recommends that the two research organizations report within 18 months, after which Ottawa should appoint a task force to consult with communities across the country.

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This infrastructure would improve access for Canadian goods to alternative markets, assist with trade diversification, enhance regional development and inter-regional trade opportunities in Canada, support northern and Indigenous economic and social development goals along with Arctic sovereignty objectives, mitigate environmental risks through monitoring and surveillance within a contained footprint and reduce the emissions intensity of transportation in Canada’s north and near-north.

The proposed national corridor would cross the traditional territories of a large number of Indigenous communities, which would require the Canadian government to ensure they are actively involved from the beginning, the committee said.

The Senate committee met with the First Nations Major Projects Coalition and the First Nations Financial Management Board, whose work has “informed this study to a vast degree,” according to the press release.

Pierre-Gerlier Forest, director and James S. and Barbara A. Palmer Chair at The School of Public Policy called the Senate report, “a major endorsement of a new way to envision the future of infrastructure in Canada.

“Canada’s prosperity largely depends on our nineteenth and twentieth century accomplishments. Canada was built by visionaries who were able to overcome geographic and topographic challenges with infrastructure projects like the trans-continental railways, highways and the St. Lawrence Seaway,” said the authors.

The Senate committee said in its release that Canada faces “serious challenges to its continued growth and prosperity as a trading country,” including the rapidly growing market demand in Asia and Europe for Canadian exports, which require improved access to tidewater to make those markets more accessible.

“The proposed national corridor is a visionary project that could unlock extraordinary economic potential. A national corridor would greatly help facilitate internal trade as well as increase access to foreign markets in Asia and Europe, which is exactly what our great country needs,” said Sen. Joseph A. Day, deputy chair of the committee.

 

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