It’s a discussion that’s happening at every level of government: How do we ease traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support Canadian companies and the economy by moving goods more efficiently? Too often what’s missing from that conversation is the role of Canada’s 18 federal ports – including the five Great Lakes ports of Oshawa, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Hamilton and Toronto.

Last month, Donna Taylor, the Great Lakes Caucus representative for the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, was appointed Vice-Chair of the association. Taylor’s goal is to help put Ontario’s five federal Great Lakes ports back on the political radar.

“With the cost of congestion in the GTHA alone at almost $11 billion annually, our Great Lakes ports should be considered an important part of the solution,” said Taylor, President and CEO of Oshawa Port Authority. “Ships transport freight 7 times more efficiently than trucks, and that gives industry a huge advantage. It’s something worth supporting and promoting.”

Ontario’s Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River make up a major portion of a 3,700 km marine highway that connects Canada’s commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors to the world. Ontario’s five Port Authorities support industry and the economy by moving virtually every commodity imaginable, from grain, steel, asphalt and aggregate to wind turbines.

“Ontario’s Great Lakes marine highway is an integral part of the province’s transportation system, with the potential to do far more,” said Gary Valcour, Chair of Oshawa Port Authority. “It’s worth taking a hard look at maximizing our H20 highway to move not only cargo, but commuters.”

In the U.S., maritime organizations have been aggressive in promoting the economic contributions of Great Lakes Seaway shipping. Early next year, the Association of Canadian Port Authorities will host a Marine Day at Queens Park, delivering the message that Ontario’s Great Lakes ports want to take on a greater role in keeping Ontario’s economy moving.