In Brief: Charles Cirtwill, AIMS acting president, says the call for a regional forum to address transportation issues is the right move, but there is no need to create an entirely new organization; there are existing bodies that can take on the role.

Atlantic Canada needs a forum to provide a more regular voice on transportation issues, says a senior economist with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. Western Canada has the Western Transportation Advisory Council and a similar body is needed in the Atlantic region, said David Chaundy.

The council, founded over 30 years ago, is a non-profit association made up of a diverse group of business, government and labour representatives that meets on are regular basis to discuss transportation issues and take a co-operative approach to resolving issues.

“We seem to lack a way of having some continuity in discussion and I think we need something to provide a more regular voice on transportation issues, whether it is from the region in terms of federal national issues, or just in terms of being able to work together in this region,” Mr. Chaundy said recently.

The APEC spokesman, who touched on the issue at the recent Atlantic Provinces Transportation Forum, said there is a federal/provincial committee working on the Atlantic Gateway, “but . . . it is only government, no business involved, and . . . it is only on gateway and doesn’t have a broader transportation focus.”

Mr. Chaundy said the key issue will be making such a transportation group “viable from a financial point of view. There needs to be a strong business lead.”

“You need to bring transportation players together, the trucking companies, shippers and some of big users of region’s transportation system so you can discuss some of these multimodal issues. So I think it needs a strong business lead, but it still needs government at the table as well.”

The transportation expert says there are some models around, like the Halifax Gateway Council, which brings together some of the different modes, but they don’t have the full regional business and government mix.

Charles Cirtwill, acting president, Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, agrees with a regional body, but his preference “would be to have one of the already existing organizations take on this role.

“The model I’m thinking of is happening on the West Coast with PNWER (Pacific Northwest Economic Region).”

The organization unites legislative, government and the private sector together to develop public policies that promote the economies of the Pacific Northwest. That region includes American states and Canadian provinces. Mr. Cirtwill said that organization has structures that handle many issues, with transportation being one of them.

“It works very nicely; there is no need to create a body around it. To me the logical fit is to have the Atlantic council launch into this exercise,” he said.

Mr. Cirtwill agreed with Mr. Chaundy’s view that discussion of regional issues is happening only among governments “and quite frankly that is not the regional conversation that needs to be happening.”

Peter Nelson, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, said the idea of a regional body on transportation “sounds good in principle. . . . Certainly one voice in the region for road, marine, rail and air would certainly be a good thing.” Mr. Nelson said, however, he wasn’t sure how such an organization would deal with trucking issues and, in particular, its U.S./Canada border issues, since they are a unique set of circumstances.

“In some cases, we are better off looking after ourselves,” he said. But after saying that, he suggested the airline industry may be facing similar border issues with passports, no-fly lists and security.