Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

U.S. ports take aim at B.C. rivals

with 5 comments

Globe and Mail

All entirely predictable – in fact I am pretty sure I have predicted this in the past.

U.S. port officials yesterday brought their complaints against Canada to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, making the case that government help for ports such as Vancouver is partly to blame for a decline in business at American terminals.

Perhaps the most revealing statement from the Port of Vancouver’s spokesperson is “the fact that almost all imports arriving in Vancouver are bound for Canadian destinations”. Which is not at all what has been admitted by the proponents of the Gateway. Which of course includes the Port of Vancouver. The whole case for port expansion at Deltaport is that shippers will save time and money coming through the new facilities as opposed to using US ports further south. The whole ethos of the Gateway is based on how we are better placed to compete for trans-Pacific trade than they are.

Actually US ports get a lot more subsidy than Canadian ports – but do not expect that to get in the way of this fight. In tough times, the US turns protectionist – as we have already seen with the restriction of the use of federal stimulus funding to “buy American”. In fact when the same policies have been applied to the transportation business, US business has not done well. For instance, the protection provided by various Transportation Acts to reserve federal capital spending for US built buses did not help preserve bus building companies – rather the opposite. Big, heavy inefficient buses with much dirtier engines than their European counterparts have been the result – and more foreign ownership with final assembly and other dodges to try and get around requirements of percentage of US content.

We have also seen how these fights go – just look at softwood lumber and how Canada caved. The facts and realities have nothing to do with who wins these fights. But US protectionism is also going to hurt their own ports too. The economic recovery  is going to have to be based in large part on import replacement – if only because no-one is going to be willing to finance US trade deficits as they have in the past. Imports are way down – and well never recover to pre-recession levels, especially if the US gets serious abut living within its means and  finding employment for its huge skilled and currently idle workforce.

More and more it looks like the Gateway is going to be a white elephant. I wonder how long it will take for this realization to dawn in Victoria? Think they will back down?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Gateway, port expansion

5 Responses

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  1. We have a lot of ‘white elephants’ in the region and Gateway will be another in a long list. But this is BC and votes come ones way by building highways, it has been like this for 60 years.

    More and more the Americans are blaming Canada for loss of jobs (funny this whole thing happened with US subprime junk mortgages sold by US banks), because we are an easy target, our politicians are wimps. So as container traffic slowly moves South, the need for a new east-west highway lessens.

    Anyways, the Premier wants a legacy and the 10 lane Gordon Campbell Fraser River Bridge will make such a legacy. That’s why the Prem just could not have the present Port Mann Bridge left standing.

    DM Johnston

    June 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  2. There is a tradition that bridges get named after people posthumously. Looks like Campbell has just 3 more years to live 😉

    Sadly we are the land of the white elephant and every party to ever come to power in BC has at least one such skeleton in their closet.


    June 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

  3. The Alex Fraser Bridge was named for the Transportation Minister of the day, before he died.

    Premiers all want a named legacy – WAC Bennett Dam is an example. The NDP having the Millennium Line stop between Gen Drive and Clark Avenue. Bill Bennett now has his bridge in Kelowna.

    It’s just a rumour I heard from a ‘highways’ type.

    DM Johnston

    June 11, 2009 at 5:20 am

  4. Of course I was joking about Campbell’s life expectancy and I know full well that a lot of things in BC get named after living individuals. Arthur Laing already had his name on the unfinished bridge to YVR when he passed away and Duff Pattullo got his bridge, originally known by locals as the “pay toll o”, while he was still in office.


    June 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

  5. If we’re playing trivia, there’s also the John Hart Highway, John Oliver High School, the town of McBride (I think), and any number of 19th century premiers (Robson, Davie)


    June 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm

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