By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Ontario ports are finding themselves sinking rather than swimming when it comes to their relationships with the province, according to Donna Taylor, the president and CEO of the Oshawa Port.
And it’s not just ports on the Great Lakes that are facing this trouble, but all of Canada’s 18 national ports as well.
“It’s interesting that the province of Ontario has five of the 18 national ports in its purview and we don’t have a lot of relationship with the province,” she says. “We want to alert them to the fact that the ports really do contribute to the economy, take congestion off the roads and we have a big role to play.”
Taylor – recently appointed as vice-chair for the Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA), an organization that represents all Canadian Ports – says she hopes to use her new role to bring all parties together for a shared goal.
“We need to get our message out a little better about how all of what we’re doing is helping the growth of the province,” she says.
Along with the fact that Ontario ports generate more than $9 billion in revenue and create more than 63,000 jobs, Taylor says they also play a role in the green economy.
Congestion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area costs the province approximately $11 billion a year, and with ship transport being pegged at seven times more efficient than trucks, ports could play a role in easing traffic.
“That would take a lot of trucks off the road, delivering and driving all these containers,” she says.
The province is a missing link when it comes to port expansion, Taylor adds.
Being operated by the federal port authority and with close relationships with the City of Oshawa, the authority still needs the province to be on board with plans. For example, any P3 funding from the federal government for projects is required to be matched by the province as well if they are to be accepted. The P3 (private public partnership) program was started by the federal government in 2013 and aims to help provinces and territories with large infrastructure projects.
“We may see some growth if we can bring the province in with us.”
And what could expansion look like?
While Taylor says she is open to the idea of a high-speed fairy service from Oshawa to Toronto or perhaps a short-seas shipping operation between Oshawa and Montreal, she wants to look at bringing some already implemented ideas back into the forefront.
One of those is the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway.
Established in 2007 by the federal government in partnership with the two provinces, the project looked to build on the already existing transportation networks between the provinces and use them as stronger forces of economic growth. Taylor says this has fallen through the cracks, as opposed to the measures taken in the ports in Vancouver and Halifax.
“That has just fallen by the wayside. There was a lot of money poured into the gateway on the west coast in Vancouver and a lot of money poured into an east coast gateway, and us, as the third coast, we tend to get overlooked.”
A preliminary step will be taken early next year when the ACPA heads to Queen’s Park to host a Marine Day to push its message of the ports’ role in the Ontario economy.