Canada’s reputation as a world leading trading partner should include a clear governance framework for managing and protecting trade corridors through comprehensive marine spatial planning. This should be delivered under the auspices of federal agencies with strengthened roles and clear responsibilities. The current framework relies upon the statutory authority of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and to a limited extent, Environment and Climate Change Canada through its agency, Parks Canada. This inevitably leads to a patchwork of initiatives and often does not include the necessary expertise or data to support informed planning. The current approach is not optimizing protection of the environment or trade.
Canada is a trading nation with over 60 per cent of our annual gross domestic product and one in every five Canadian jobs being directly linked to exports. This strong position could grow substantially with further trade agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and Can/U.S. Pre-clearance Agreements. Marine transportation is a critical enabler to domestic and international trade and vital to the North American and Global Supply chain. Shipping accounts for 90 per cent of good transported around the world and, in more remote communities in Canada, it provides the necessities of life.
The establishment of Marine Trade Corridors should include a comprehensive marine spatial planning strategy. Key elements to this planning include:A clear governance framework between federal and provincial departments, and Indigenous People that outlines roles and responsibilities;
- Statutory recognition of the economic importance of trade to Canadians, and the importance of commercial marine shipping in the export of Canadian commodities and manufactured goods, the movement of people, and to tourism;
- Recognition of the need to conduct marine commerce in a sustainable fashion that respects the importance of the ocean and its value to Canadians and Indigenous people. This should include an objective of de-coupling growth from environmental impact;
- Respect for international conventions established by the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization, as consistency in expectations is crucial for the global marine industry;
- A focus on marine safety, pollution and spill prevention preparedness and response;
- Support and optimization of short sea shipping, as it affords environmental benefits over other modes of transportation, especially in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions;
- A management plan for the use of anchorage areas and places of refuge;
- A focus on transparency that includes the integration of technologies such as radar, Automatic Information Systems, and remote sensing. This might also include aspects of commercial and regulatory reporting that could be beneficial to the efficiency of the transportation framework;
- Promotion of fact-based and transparent decision-making that leverages scientific research and open-source industry data; and
- Measured objectives and an adaptive management strategy.
Formal recognition of low-impact marine corridors must be done in collaboration with all marine stakeholders, including the United States where corridors affect both countries. Canadians and Indigenous People expect comprehensive, transparent, and inclusive management of Canadian waters and waterways. A coordinated and cohesive marine spatial planning strategy delivered by Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is essential to ensuring the safe and effective flow of goods by commercial shipping.