May 19, 2024
As we face these ongoing logistical challenges, it becomes clear that addressing them is not just a matter of economic policy but of national importance.

The invisible lifeline of Canada’s economy may be in trouble

In a country as vast and resource-rich as Canada, one would expect logistics — a critical backbone of our economy — to be a priority.

Yet, it remains one of the most underappreciated aspects of our economic infrastructure. Canadians, largely oblivious to the intricacies of supply chains, are accustomed to the seamless appearance of goods on store shelves.

This perception belies a stark reality: Canada has one of the poorest reputations worldwide for logistical efficiency, and we are teetering on the brink of yet another disruptive labour dispute.

A looming strike involving Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) threatens to cripple the nation’s largest railway network. CN, spanning 32,000 kilometres and transporting 272 million tonnes of cargo annually, is vital for connecting eastern and western Canada with the southern U.S. This potential strike, the third rail conflict in five years and fifth including port disputes in Montreal and Vancouver, highlights a chronic vulnerability in our national logistics system.

The timing is inopportunely aligned with peak export periods. For instance, Canada exported over 2.6 million tonnes of grain last June. A strike during this period could inflict economic losses exceeding $35 million daily, not to mention the cascading effects on global supply chains.

The frequency of these disruptions tarnishes Canada’s reputation for reliable transportation and procurement, particularly impacting the food and beverage sector. This sector depends crucially on both the steady supply of manufacturing inputs and the distribution of finished products across the country. Repeated labour disputes and logistical bottlenecks have become annual threats to the economic stability of our agri-food industries.

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