Canada’s 18 port authorities, including Nanaimo’s, are about to undergo an extensive review that could result in substantial changes in how they do business.
Marc Garneau, Canada’s minister of transport, announced earlier this week that the review aims to gather information to optimize the port authorities’ roles as strategic assets that support economic growth and trade.
“Ports are a critical part of Canada’s transportation network and trade corridors, and need to remain innovative and competitive in today’s dynamic environment,” Garneau said in a press release. “I invite marine stakeholders and Canadians to provide input that will help shape the future of Canada’s port system, so that it continues to support sustainable and inclusive growth.”
The review is being done through a series of round tables and meetings to engage Canada’s port authorities, First Nations, provincial governments, municipalities and other domestic and international stakeholders, according to the release.
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Ewan Moir, Nanaimo Port Authority president and CEO, said he can only guess at what legislative and regulatory changes that might come from the review findings, expected sometime in 2019.
“It’s not because I think it would go negatively or positively,” Moir said in an interview Wednesday. “I think this is a really good opportunity for the government and Canadians and the port authorities to really take a close look at a model that’s been in place for just about 20 years now and there are very few businesses that don’t every now and then take a very close look at what they’re doing and say, are we still doing the right thing, heading in the right direction, having the right strategy? Is our vision still the right vision? Is our customer base? Our products?”
Moir noted numerous factors, such as communications, operations and security technologies, trade, shipping, world markets, products and banking have changed since port authorities were created in 1998. Even the Panama Canal, widened in 2016 to accommodate some of the world’s largest cargo ships, now allows passage of greater variety of craft and products with economic and business implications for Canada’s port authorities and the communities they serve.
“Everybody has to look at what they do once in a while and that’s what the port authority’s doing and, of course, we’re an agency of the federal government under Transport Canada and Transport Canada, that parent of ours, is really the one that’s saying, OK, we really want a review. Let’s take a close look and let’s get all the inputs we can,” Moir said.
Odai Sirri, spokesman for the Nanaimo Marina Association – which is seeking to replace the Nanaimo Port Authority with a locally controlled, non-profit society – intends to be one of the voices providing input.
“What [Garneau] has formally announced now opens the door to significant and meaningful changes to how Nanaimo Harbour is governed,” Sirri said.
He said a locally governed, non-profit society is still an option for Nanaimo that needs to be considered.
“That’s one of our options that we as a community need to look at,” Sirri said. “I think there are multiple solutions that are available other than the status quo and that’s up to us as a community – the Snuneymuxw, the City of Nanaimo, the marine industry and boaters – we have to all work together and discuss this in an open forum and determine what’s the best path forward for Nanaimo … this is really an exciting time.”
The public can give feedback and input on the review at http://letstalktransportation.ca/ports-modernization-review.