Stymied container movement a drag on the economy, and on Canada's climate change goals



This column was written by Greg Northey, with Pulse Canada, prior to the flooding of B.C.’s Fraser Valley. 

If Canada wants to address climate change in the now, we can start by fixing the current supply chain issues plaguing our exporters and driving up the cost of living for us all.

The global container shortage not only hurts Canadian businesses, consumers, and our reputation as a reliable exporter—it hurts our environment. Transportation is already Canada’s second largest emitter.

This isn’t surprising. We are the world’s second largest country, export dependent, with a widely spread-out population. However, when our logistics system is not functioning efficiently, boats and trucks idle, congestion leads to delays, and emissions go up as containers have to travel on train, trucks and vessels for longer periods. It can now take a container of pulses over 100 days on vessel to get to its destination, compared to a previous average of 30. Increased transit times lead to a lot of unnecessary emissions, full stop. The container crunch, while a very real and persistent economic challenge, is also an environmental challenge.

From an agriculture perspective, Canadian farmers have adopted sustainability practices that improve yields while reducing emissions, making our commodities and ingredients better for the environment than those of our international competitors. For the world to meet its food security and climate goals, we need to produce more food with fewer emissions, and Canadian producers are positioned to meet this challenge. Global companies are increasingly looking to increase their environmental credibility among consumers. All this demand for sustainable products can mean real dollars for Canadian farmers. It puts Canada in the driver’s seat. That is to say it would, if we could get our product to market.

Climate change mitigation requires efficient global transportation. From a Canadian perspective, Pulse Canada, along with likeminded groups from across various export-oriented commodities, is asking the government to use the tools at its disposal to make sure Canada’s logistics system is functioning to its full potential.

This sounds like a big task, and it is. But the government can get started today by:

  • Immediately launching an investigation under section 49 of the Canadian Transportation Act to provide greater transparency on the actions of marine carriers and clarity into how our system is functioning within the context of a global container supply chain disruption;
  • Appointing a joint industry-government task force with a mandate to explore immediate solutions to alleviate the pain being felt by Canadian consumers and businesses; and,
  • Naming a Supply Chain Commissioner to lead an industry-government task force to bring together stakeholders to identify immediate solutions to address supply chain disruptions.

As the container crunch goes unaddressed, Canadian consumers and businesses will be forced to make tough decisions in order to stay afloat. It will also increase unnecessary emissions into our environment at the very moment our government is committing to head in the opposite direction. So, let’s put common sense to good use and fix what’s in front of us.

It’s time to stand up for consumers, businesses, our economy and yes, our environment, by getting to work on solutions here in Canada. Add your voice to this cause today at

— Greg Northey is Vice President, Corporate affairs at Pulse Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]

Members of the Coalition to Fix the Container Crunch include the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Canadian Special Crops Association, Freight Management Association of Canada, Grain Growers of Canada, Prairie Oat Growers Association, Pulse Canada, Responsible Distribution Canada, Soy Canada, and the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

Editor’s Note: Since this column was written, the Container Crunch group has again asked the government for action on this file, citing the added pressure on the western logistics corridor stemming from the extreme rainfall events in B.C. in mid-November.

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