Editorial: Blockades to better business in B.C.

March 02 2020

Blockades provide a moment or two to think.

In Canada’s case, it’s often far more than a moment or two. Political dithering over timely resolution to conflict guarantees that. So there is a lot of time for thinking and rethinking.

In the railroad blockades case, that rethinking needs to focus on whether Canada can maintain what it believes is its major-league trading nation status in the absence of the focused Indigenous and non-Indigenous leadership needed to defend the country’s business interests.

The spontaneous shutdown of key road and rail transportation corridors casts serious doubt on that status and illustrates the ease with which relatively small protest groups can cripple Canadian commerce. Ambitious infrastructure projects and their contribution to B.C.’s economy have consequently become pretty much non-starters out west.

Down on the waterfront, uncertainty over Canada’s trading reliability should spark rethinking over infrastructure investment commitments.

Consider the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s (VFPA) contentious $2.8 billion Terminal 2 proposal at Roberts Bank, plans that were originally rolled out close to a decade ago.

It’s clear now that the project’s swing-for-the-fences rationale to deliver a large increase in container cargo-handling capacity in one expensive serving needs rethinking.

Following last year’s Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Terminal 2 hearings, the VFPA did some of that rethinking. The port authority notified the proponent of a competing Roberts Bank container cargo expansion proposal that it had rescinded its original decision to reject consideration of that proposal.

GCT Global Container Terminals’ $1 billion plan to expand its GCT Deltaport terminal would add container-handling capacity incrementally rather than all at once.

Considering the growing doubts in Canada’s ability to deliver on trade and business commitments and how that is viewed in the competitive world of transpacific trade, the lower-risk GCT option is starting to make better business sense.

This article originally appeared in Business in Vancouver on February 24, 2020.


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