Canada’s supply chains “desperately” need an overhaul as global issues continue to limit the supply of goods in the nation, a new report indicates.
Supply chain issues, which have limited the availability of many items at various points throughout the year like some children’s pain and fever medication, vehicles and even Halloween candy, have “exposed and exacerbated longstanding weaknesses in the Canadian supply chain,” the final report from the National Supply Chain Task Force 2022 reads.
Released Thursday, the report’s authors highlight how government and industry struggle to cope with uncertainties arising due to factors like rapidly changing trade patterns, human- and climate-caused disruptions, shifting geopolitical risk and increased consolidation in major transportation modes.
“As such, government, transportation and logistics providers, shippers, producers, manufactures and retailers must act decisively and urgently together to create a supply chain system that is more agile, flexible, resilient, competitive and efficient than it is today,” the report reads.
“Modernized and future-proof regulatory frameworks, along with intensified cooperation between and within the public and private sectors, will be needed if Canada is to remain relevant in the global marketplace.”
The report makes 21 recommendations. Short-term recommendations include easing port container congestion, addressing labour shortages and speeding up the process to approve winter transportation on ice roads.
Long-term recommendations include developing a transportation supply chain labour and workforce strategy, and establishing, funding, and hiring staff for a “Supply Chain Office.”
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That office would help “unify” Ottawa’s position across federal departments, said Jean Gattuso, the report’s co-author, at a news conference on Thursday,
“To name only a few, these departments include labour, Agriculture Canada, Canadian Border Service Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and international trade,” he said.
“Without an overreaching perspective in supply-chain lens, these departments can inadvertently negatively affect the operation of supply chain.”
The office should also develop, implement and regularly renew a 30-to-50-year transportation supply chain strategy, said Louise Yako, co-author of the report, at the news conference.
“Such a strategy would enable Canada to provide a comprehensive response to current issues, and long-term governance planning and accountability,” she said.
“This will provide a roadmap and greater certainty for Canadian businesses involved in international trade, as well as transportation and supply chain providers. Importantly, creating and delivering on such a plan would demonstrate that Canada continues to be a reliable trading partner.”
In January, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced plans for the task force after both the pandemic and weather disasters led to widespread shipping disruptions.
The eight task force members, who consulted with industry associations and others affected by transportation issues, come from a range of backgrounds including trucking, rail, airports, manufacturing, government and supply chain consulting.
“I’m confident this report will help guide our work in making our supply chain better and deliver more affordable products and goods to Canadians,” Alghabra said at a separate news conference on Thursday.
“The report will also inform our government’s national supply chain strategy, which will be announced in the coming months.”
Canada have many natural resources and products the world wants, but the nation needs improved supply chains to be reliable in the global marketplace, the report said.
“As Canada’s trade volumes continue to increase, investment in critical infrastructure assets such as seaports, railways, highways and roads, and airports must also increase to meet demand,” it said.
“Furthermore, we must ‘sweat’ these assets in every way possible, including through operational innovation. Building new infrastructure is only part of the solution. Data and visibility can also unlock capacity.”