Ports Modernization Review


Canada is home to 17 strategic and significant marine ports, known as Canada Port Authorities (CPAs). These ports play an important role in the global and North American supply chains, connecting people to the services and goods they need. While CPAs are federal entities, they operate at arms-length from the Government of Canada in a commercially oriented and financially self-sustaining manner. They are non-share corporations with independent Boards of Directors who set their own strategic direction and manage day-to-day operational decisions.  

As Canada continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada is focused on the importance of maintaining a fluid and resilient supply chain. To better position ports today and into the future, there is recognition that ports need flexible tools that will enable them to respond to increasingly complex operating environments, while also ensuring greater transparency and accountability for their actions.

Two key steps the government will take for a resilient supply chain are the completion of the Ports Modernization Review, and a new policy on port infrastructure investments. To this end, in fall 2022, the Government of Canada intends to introduce legislative reforms to update how Canada’s ports are managed and operated, coupled with a policy framework that will guide investments in port infrastructure.   

Ports Modernization Review

The Ports Modernization Review was launched in March 2018 with an aim to optimize CPAs’ current and future role in the transportation system as innovative assets that support inclusive growth and trade. The Review focused on how ports can best advance five key themes:

  • Supporting the competitiveness of Canada’s economy by facilitating the movement of goods;
  • Strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples and local communities;
  • Promoting environmentally sustainable infrastructure and operations;
  • Enhancing port safety and security; and
  • Optimizing governance and financial management.

Throughout 2018 and 2019, Transport Canada engaged with stakeholders, including with Canada Port Authorities, Indigenous communities, industry representatives, provincial and municipal governments, among many others. In total, the department received over 130 comments and over 120 formal submissions. In 2020, the Minister of Transport released a What We Heard Report summarizing stakeholder views.

Today, the Minister announced that the government intends to introduce legislative amendments in the coming months to update how Canada’s ports are managed and operated based on the results of the Ports Modernization Review. The proposed legislative amendments will deliver on several main policy objectives, including:  

  • Given ports central role as intermodal hubs that support supply chain performance and economic growth, they need to ensure they are positioned as strategic enablers of trade and traffic. For example, fluidity of traffic flows at Canada’s ports should be improved to maximize efficiency and allow for faster handling of goods between marine and land-side operations and addressing issues such as congestion and wait times.
  • To foster meaningful relationships with Indigenous and local communities, ports must continue to advance reconciliation based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. CPAs need to be economic enablers in support of Indigenous economic development. For example, aligning contracting practices with the government’s five per cent procurement target would aim to strengthen economic participation and benefits to Indigenous Peoples, businesses, and communities.
  • In line with broader government efforts, ports can and should assume a greater leadership role in advancing the greening of the marine sector by promoting environmentally sustainable infrastructure and acting on climate change, notably by better integrating environmental considerations in their work in a transparent and accountable manner. For example, this would include implementing recommendations from the Financial Stability Board's Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.
  • Port safety and security further protects the transportation system from threats while ensuring that goods move efficiently through the supply chain. For example, this would include modernizing the scope and application of programs to secure access to these key federal assets.
  • Adjustments to port governance and financial management are needed to provide ports with the tools needed to unlock greater performance, efficiency, and productivity, while also providing for a higher degree of accountability in line with leading international management practices. For example, new governance measures would better frame and augment board performance, accountability, and transparency, while improved financial tools would emphasize proportionality and port financial self-sufficiency.

Transport Canada will lead examination of the complementarity of Canada Port Authorities with a view to supporting greater productivity of these key federal assets.

Port Infrastructure Investments

CPAs are invested in providing world-class services to grow Canada’s economy and to meet trade demand. To remain competitive, ports rely on private investment to support their development, growth, and modernization.

It is essential that port investments preserve the integrity of our supply chains. Given the significance of investments on port development and the long-term reliability of supply chains, the Government of Canada is committed to continue supporting investments in ports while also ensuring they align with the public interest, such as competition and national and economic security. The government will, therefore, set out a new policy framework to guide infrastructure investments at CPAs.

These actions will also help to establish a strong foundation that will build on the National Supply Chain Task Force’s recommendations, particularly around easing port congestion. Read the full report.

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