Members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to address you today as part of your study.
My name is Daniel‑Robert Gooch and I am the president and chief executive officer of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, which represents the 17 Canada Port Authorities
I understand that you recently toured several of our ports to learn more about the great work they're doing to ensure sufficient capacity to support Canadian trade now and for the future.
I imagine you also learned about the challenges ports face within the confines of the CPA model as it is currently structured. To ensure enough capacity to support growing Canadian trade through innovation and expansion, while supporting the decarbonization of marine transport, $110 billion in infrastructure investment over 50 years is needed, according to the supply chain task force.
We'd like to work with the federal government to gain a better handle on that infrastructure deficit and understand what it looks like across our seaports, and we have a proposal out for study.
However, to make the needed investments, CPAs need greater financial flexibility to act more nimbly while maintaining the arm's-length, commercial nature of Canada's CPAs. For larger ports, the borrowing limits on each CPA hit their ability to nimbly act on investment opportunities. It takes years to get the limits raised; they are too low to fund the investments needed, and they are much lower than what prudent commercial borrowers can secure.
The national trade corridors fund has provided nearly $1 billion to Canada's port authorities. It's a great program that should be made permanent and tweaked to allow ports to move more quickly on projects that have been NTCF-approved but not yet announced. The longer it takes to move a project forward, the higher the impact on inflation.
The NTCF was the first infrastructure program even open to CPAs, yet new federal programs are not always so. Canada benefits when new federal budget programs are open to CPA participation.
Smaller ports face different challenges. With lower revenues, they must be more creative in how to maintain and build infrastructure. The ability to pursue business lines that may not be directly marine-related but provide the revenue needed to maintain and grow marine operations would be helpful.
Being more creative also includes exploring ways for ports of all sizes to collaborate more, such as on joint infrastructure projects or procurement. There are proposals in to Transport Canada on this.
Federal funding will also play a role, as it does in other sectors, such as the funding small airports receive for safety infrastructure through the airports capital assistance program. A similar program for small ports would be helpful for CPAs and non-CPA ports.
However, self-funding options are also important. ACPA has called for moving beyond borrowing limits, allowing port authorities to borrow based on creditworthiness and project merit in order to access more capital more nimbly.
With Bill C-33 expected before committee soon, your recent tour of ports was timely.
Canada's port authorities welcomed the supply chain task force report, which called for port authorities to be modernized through more authority, financial flexibility and autonomy. We were pleased to see that the federal government's goal with Bill C-33 is to provide ports with the tools to unlock greater performance, efficiency and productivity as effective instruments of public policy. These are goals we share.
When ACPA and our members reviewed Bill C-33 after it was tabled, we were pleased to see provisions recognizing port terminals as “works for the general advantage of Canada”, enabling expansion to inland areas and a greater role for ports in traffic management.
However, we also outlined questions and concerns in a letter to Minister Alghabra in December. In response, one month ago today, we had a productive initial meeting with Transport Canada to understand how the government envisions the bill contributing to our shared goals.
Many questions remain, most notably on details of what ports would have to report on financials and strategic plans, and how borrowing limits in this new environment will actually work. We have sought follow-up meetings to understand this in detail, but that hasn't happened yet, and it's necessary for us to determine if the financial amendments proposed in Bill C-33 will help the industry meet our shared goals for a modernized, more nimble system of ports, or if they may have a detrimental impact.
We will also be proposing changes on the governance and advisory committee sections of Bill C-33, as ports have concerns there.
I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, and I'll do my best to respond. I may have to follow up if some of the questions are beyond my scope.