Canadian economy at risk: Bradley

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Canada ‘s trade-based economy is at risk, unless politicians create a "Canadian advantage" for businesses to locate here, says CTA CEO David Bradley.

Politicians should adopt an industrial strategy that recognizes the essential role played by the freight transportation sector, said Bradley, in a speech this week to the North American chapter of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport in Ottawa.

"Canada ‘s number one economic priority must be to maintain efficient access to the US market,” Bradley said.
"Since most of the trade between the two countries moves by truck it is imperative that Canadian manufacturers and shippers have access to efficient, productive and predictable highway and border infrastructure, otherwise direct investment will flow south of the border and there will be no need for trucks, trains, planes and ships.

"However, Canada remains the only major industrialized country on the planet not to have a national highway program," he added. "Overall freight transportation is taken for granted in Canada and trucks the preferred choice for most shipments because of their ability to provide flexible, Just-In-Time service — are at best considered a necessary evil by policy-makers."

The current Canadian transportation policy "provides no vision or inspiration," Bradley said. "It relies on a narrow and outdated notion that the solution to all the world’s ills is to somehow reduce the number of trucks on the highways by forcing a modal shift from truck to rail."

Yet, while Transport Canada continues to be fixated on modal shift, the major Canadian and US railways have been putting freight back onto truck. Bradley cited the fact that CP Rail recently got out of the trailer on flat car (TOFC) business to focus on container traffic, while the largest US railway, Union Pacific, has been putting (and paying for) tonnes of freight to be shipped by truck in recent weeks.

"The truth is we need all the modes. Service is the name of the game. Truck and rail are both at capacity. Government policy should be focused on improving the efficiency and productivity of all modes with the ultimate goal being increased aggregate demand in the economy which will in turn generate more freight for all modes not more for one and less for another."

Bradley warned that unless government transportation policy becomes more enlightened "freight will soon be left on the dock and the economy will be choked."

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