Marine infrastructure creates opportunity for green economic recovery.

Throughout the pandemic crisis in Canada, the normally unseen business of supply chain and logistics has become much more visible to Canadians. Even in the early, toilet-paper hoarding days of the lockdown, there were never real shortages of either consumer goods or industrial commodities. Rather, there was a newfound recognition of the importance of these hidden systems, and the people who work within them.

Canada’s supply chains rose to the challenge of the crisis, and as Canada moves from response to recovery, the structure and resilience of our supply chains will be an important lever in our continued success, and also in achieving true sustainability in the things we manufacture, build, or grow in Canada.

Today, governments are looking for economic restart ideas that achieve multiple aims: near-term employment; infrastructure for economic and trade stimulus; and environmental improvements. Investment in maritime infrastructure stands out as a powerful opportunity to deliver a transformative impact to numerous industrial supply chains and local economies, while making a fundamental environmental improvement in Canada’s national transportation system. Through this lens, marine infrastructure is among the best investments governments can make.

Not only can marine infrastructure deliver an economic productivity gain of $20 for every $1 invested, and enable the growth of international trade, it does so while being the least greenhouse gas-intensive mode of commercial transportation. The more cargo that moves by marine, the more we all win. Marine transportation has a far superior environmental performance relative to rail and trucking, and is able to get trucks off congested highways through Ontario and Quebec. Each Great Lakes vessel can take the place of close to 1000 truck trips, reducing the carbon footprint of the goods carried by 500%.

In southern Ontario, congested highways cost the regional economy an estimated $6 billion per year. A rebound will be limited by the region’s constrained ability to move people and goods on the road. With the excess capacity that exists within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system, marine shipping can be part of an overall green shift in the transportation sector. Investment in marine infrastructure is an extraordinary tool to deliver the type of transformative change we all hope is the silver lining to this crisis.