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Viewpoint: Time to run

Knock hard enough and long enough and someone is bound to hear....


Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis


Knock hard enough and long enough and someone is bound to hear.

Seems that may finally be happening in Canada’s political circles with respect to paying real attention to the inadequacies of our transportation infrastructure.

News of Ottawa’s regained interest in transportation surfaced at a summer meeting of premiers during which they expressed serious concern that absent or aging highway systems and congestion on key routes to airports, ports and border crossings are eroding Canada’s ability to compete in the global economy.

Three premiers are leading the development of a national strategy, which they say will be multimodal and inclusive of all regions. The three are to work with provincial and territorial transportation ministers and bring this strategy to all premiers in November of this year for further discussion.

Then in late September, The Council of Ministers responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety agreed to expand the National Highway System (NHS), following a report and recommendations by the National Highway System Review Task Force. Approximately 4,500 kilometres of feeder routes and 5,900 kilometres of northern and remote routes are being added to the NHS, as well as approximately 500 kilometres of key intermodal connector routes.

Should the nation’s transportation stakeholders be enthused about such developments or just shrug them off as yet more feeble attempts to tackle an issue that so far has proved beyond Ottawa’s comprehension?

Canadian Trucking Alliance chief David Bradley was certainly quick to voice his doubts the ministers will be able to carry out their agreed upon plan to expand the National Highway System.

While having premiers directly involved is a positive sign, the success of their mission, I believe, will depend on their willingness to ask the tough questions Ottawa has avoided for years.

And I would suggest starting with the question Robert Ballantyne, president of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, posed at Canada’s National Transportation Summit I had the opportunity to chair earlier this summer: “We fought the entire Second World War and Canada built the world’s fourth largest military organization in less than six years. Why can’t we build a river crossing in less than 13 years,” Ballantyne asked, referring to the fact that there has been a recognized need for a new road bridge or tunnel between Windsor and Detroit for at least five years but it could be 2013 before the necessary infrastructure is in place.

It’s a question that places the situation in perspective and gets to the root of many of our infrastructure-related problems.

Why can’t we as a country no longer pull off what we once could?

The same question could be asked about our domestic highway infrastructure.

The truth is inescapable. As Mr. Ballantyne suggested, there’s a leadership gap in managing our transportation infrastructure needs.

Hopefully Ottawa is finally waking up to the fact it is the most obvious leadership candidate in resolving Canada’s transportation problems and will get on with the task at hand.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at lou@TransportationMedia.ca.


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