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Canada Plans Legislative Overhaul of Port Governance and Finances

Canada's ports
Canada's federal government plans efforts to modernize the governance and financial management of Canada's ports (Vancouver file photo)

Published Oct 12, 2022 12:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canada’s federal government plans to introduce legislative amendments in the coming months to update the financial management and operations of the country’s ports. The planned changes are the result of an ongoing, multi-year Ports Modernization Review that was started before the pandemic with the goal to strengthen the financial operations and efficiency of the ports and adapt to new challenges. The pandemic highlighted the challenges and the need to ensure the country’s supply chain.

Launched in 2018, the Ports Modernization Review examined the port system to ensure it has the governance structure and tools needed to adapt to an increasingly complex operating environment. During the review, Transport Canada considered how potential policy, legislative, and regulatory changes could assist Canada's port authorities to consolidate their position to support the Canadian economy.

Canada’s Minister of Transport, the Honorable Omar Alghabra, announced the completion of the Ports Modernization Review and detailing plans for the upcoming legislative initiatives. The announcement cited the ports as an essential link in Canada’s supply chain, economy, and deliver affordable goods on time. Government figures show that more than 343 million tons of cargo were shipped through Canada’s ports in 2021.

Alghabra said the proposed legislative changes will achieve several key policy objectives identified during the review that included input from the Canada port authorities, local and Indigenous communities, industry representatives, labor groups, provincial and municipal governments, and the public. 

The government will seek adjustments to port governance and financial management to provide ports with the tools to achieve greater performance, efficiency, and productivity while ensuring their continued competitive positions. They will also focus on port safety and security to further protect the transportation system from threats while ensuring that goods move efficiently through the supply chain. The government also wants the ports to assume a leadership role in advancing the greening of the marine sector by promoting environmentally sustainable infrastructure and taking action on climate change. 

The Government of Canada intends to update its approach to considering infrastructure investments of Canadian and international entities. The proposed amendments will support the development of a new investment policy for Canada's ports and port infrastructure to attract investment capital. The port authorities currently finance their capital projects using their revenues, but they can also collaborate with the private sector, borrow from a commercial lender, or apply for certain federal contributions related to infrastructure, the environment, or security.

In the next phase of the effort, Transport Canada will also lead an examination of Canada’s port authorities to support greater productivity of these key federal assets.