Commodities gridlock wake-up call for Prairies

In an economy that’s reliant on the exportation of commodities, as Canada is, reliable, efficient and cost-effective trade corridors

In an economy that’s reliant on the exportation of commodities, as Canada is, reliable, efficient and cost-effective trade corridors are imperative to the general health of the economy.

The Prairie provinces are at this very moment receiving a wake-up call on that logistical dilemma.

The effects of this current man-made industrial disaster due to the inability to get products to market are just beginning to be realized. The negative economic impact on Prairie farmers has been estimated in excess of $2 billion, with another $6.5 billion in revenue being delayed into the next production year.

In a growing, exporting nation, it’s imperative that we have reliable methods to export our commodities to foreign markets. The exportation of those commodities for the land-locked Prairie provinces comes with the added challenge of having to rely on a long-range transportation chain that is proving to be insufficient for our current level of export capabilities.

Regardless, if a product is manufactured, semi-processed or unprocessed bulk materials, getting them to market sets off a chain-reaction felt throughout the economy. So to, does the inability to fulfil the expectations of our current customer base, forcing them to seek alternative avenues of supply.

The current inability to transport goods has had a profound effect in several sectors of our economy, not just the obvious agricultural consequences, with the raw materials in the forestry and mining industries also sitting idle.

Rural economies across the Prairies have been adversely affected by the delays in cash flow that have stalled local economies, by interrupting cash flows needed to purchase equipment and supplies for the upcoming fiscal year.

Whether goods are unprocessed, semi-processed or finished goods, the reliability of the movement to market is a key element in the viability of an industry as a whole — not just the individual producer.

On Saturday, March 1, in the small border town of Compeer, AB, I will be hosting stakeholders from both the Saskatchewan and Alberta sides of the border, at an Inter-Provincial Transportation Summit meeting. The purpose of this summit is to discuss the economic viability of a trade corridor that starts near Saskatoon along Highway 51 on the Saskatchewan side, which turns into Highway 12 on the Alberta side when it crosses the provincial border at Compeer.

It’s hoped the summit will initiate discussions on developing a trade corridor that could potentially serve a significant role in getting our products to world markets, for a great many types of producers in manufacturing, mining, and oil and gas; not just in agriculture.

The potential economic benefits will be realized by every community along the route, as well as the surrounding communities that will have access to a more cost-effective transportation option.

As the Wildrose Official Opposition MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, I’m encouraged and excited by the potential economic prosperity the proposed route could bring to a great many communities within the constituency. For more information on the proposed project, or to submit your thoughts, please contact my office.

I would also like to congratulate the entire Canadian Winter Olympic team on a job well done. You’ve made us all proud to be Canadians once again.

Rick Strankman is the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler.

— From the Legislature