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West Coast Port Strikes Puts Saskatchewan’s Landlocked Economy at Risk

July 5, 2023

July 5, 2023

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is sounding the alarm on the strike at the West Coast ports, emphasizing the severe consequences it can have for Saskatchewan. As a landlocked province, businesses in Saskatchewan already face significant disadvantages, and any disruption in trade through the West Coast ports could have both immediate and long-term negative impacts on the province’s economy. The Chamber has written to Minister O’Regan and Minister Alghabra, stressing the need for quick resolution to avoid further harm to the Canadian economy, competitiveness, and our reputation as a stable trading nation.

In a statement, Prabha Ramaswamy, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, expressed her concern: “The strike at the West Coast ports poses a significant threat to Saskatchewan’s economy. Our province heavily relies on trade through the Vancouver-Fraser Port, with billions of dollars’ worth of commodities passing through annually. The inability to access these ports will force us to resort to high-cost alternatives in the United States, causing losses for Canadian businesses and workers.”

Saskatchewan’s landlocked status puts it at a distinct disadvantage in international trade. The province’s economy thrives on exporting various commodities, including agricultural products, minerals, and manufactured goods. The West Coast ports, particularly the Vancouver-Fraser Port, serve as vital gateways for these exports, facilitating billions of dollars in trade each year. The Vancouver-Fraser Port alone handles $17B worth of Saskatchewan commodities each year, and a total of $65B in western Canada’s trade goes through the port of Vancouver.

The strike has far-reaching implications beyond Saskatchewan’s borders. With over 7,000 workers on strike, the West Coast ports currently handle a staggering $800 million worth of goods per day. This disruption poses a significant threat to Canada’s overall economy and affects businesses and consumers across the nation. Furthermore, the strike compromises Canada’s reputation as a reliable and stable trading nation, potentially leading to long-term consequences for international partnerships and investment.

The situation is exacerbated by the lack of alternative Canadian ports with additional capacity to absorb the diverted products. The existing trade infrastructure is already operating at its maximum, leaving Canadian businesses with no choice but to turn to high-cost port options in the United States. This alternative not only incurs significant financial burdens for businesses but also undermines the benefits that come from handling and shipping products domestically.

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is urging Minister O’Regan and Minister Alghabra to take swift and decisive action to resolve the collective bargaining agreement between the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada. Their intervention is crucial in ensuring the prompt resumption of operations at the West Coast ports, safeguarding Saskatchewan’s economic stability, and preserving Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner.

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