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‘Thought leaders’ to join efforts on infrastructure

TORONTO, Ont. - Approximately 70 % of Canada's trade with the United States travels by road through the province of Ontario to its US border crossings. This represents more than $700 million in goods ...

TORONTO, Ont. – Approximately 70 % of Canada’s trade with the United States travels by road through the province of Ontario to its US border crossings. This represents more than $700 million in goods every day.

Over the next 25 years, both trade flows and the population in southern Ontario are expected to increase.

In order to meet those infrastructure needs, the province has been working on several initiatives to ensure expectations will be met.

David O’Toole, ADM, Policy and Planning Division, Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, described some of these initiatives at the recent SCL conference on Conquering Gridlock.

The ReNew Ontario strategy is a five- to 10-year outlook for capital investments that has been matched with a $33 million federal infrastructure fund.

A greater Toronto transportation authority has been created that will prioritize and sequence the Move Ontario build-out, a one-time $1.2 billion investment in Ontario’s public transit systems and municipal roads and bridges. O’Toole said delivery of a plan should take place by May 2009.

Most recently, in July 2007, Ontario and Quebec signed an MoU to create a continental gateway and trade corridor of sorts and to identify infrastructure priorities from Quebec City to Windsor.

“It will examine existing capacity for road, air, rail and marine, and forecast needs,” he said.

O’Toole stressed, however, that for any future initiative in the province involving infrastructure, “private sector involvement is fundamental.”

“We have invited private sector ‘thought leaders’ to meet three Deputy Ministers from Ontario, Quebec and the federal government, in order to avoid recreating a government quagmire,” said O’Toole.

These thought leaders include Bill Osborne, Ford Canada’s president, who will represent the shipping community.

Claude Robert, chair of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, will represent the trucking industry, while Madeleine Paquin President and CEO Logistec Corporation, will represent the marine sector.Michael Kergin, a former US ambassador, will advise for the US.

“We aim to engage the private sector, the modes and US stakeholders about what would get some early wins and results. We’ll examine the dissonance in regulatory regimes for the different modes and how to harmonize them. We need to have access to sometimes proprietary information from the private firms, without jeopardizing their competitiveness,” said O’Toole.

He has set an 18-month timeline for ongoing meetings, the first of which was scheduled for mid-November in Toronto.

“This exercise should not be perceived to be a zero-sum game between the modes,” said O’Toole.

In spring 2009, he will compile results and recommendations that will coincide with the 2009-2010 budget cycle for Ontario and Quebec.

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