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Canada’s national Supply Chain Office a reality


By Colin Laughlan

Vancouver – Canada’s national Supply Chain Office is now a reality, an audience at the Chamber of Shipping’s 100th anniversary conference learned Wednesday, September 27, in Vancouver. Robert Dick, Assistant Deputy Minister, Pacific Region, Transport Canada and the person who heads the ongoing development of the new federal office, said Canada’s reputation as a reliable trade partner requires that the nation’s supply chain be made more efficient and resilient.

Citing transportation supply chain failures during the Covid pandemic along with destruction caused by fires and flooding, Mr. Dick said, “a perfect storm of events demonstrated to multiple levels of government that the status quo was not good enough.”

The new office, to be located in Vancouver where Mr. Dick is assigned, will also include staff in other parts of the country. “It won’t be concentrated in only one part of the country,” he told Maritime Magazine. “I need staff in Ottawa to do the government thing, and I need people in Winnipeg, Montreal and in Halifax. We’ll take expertise where we can get it. I want people who have done logistics, and we hope to get them from industry as well.”

Mr. Dick said the office will oversee the finalization and implementation of an end-to-end supply chain strategy – an idea that came out of the National Supply Chain Task Force arising from a National Supply Chain Summit hosted by the Minister of Transportation in 2022.

He said the Office will create a “focal point established with industry and also working across government to provide a focal point to streamline supply chain matters with industry.”

He stressed, however, that such streamlining would mean the supply chain was “more digitally driven” and would require data-sharing among all partners to become more efficient – a source of friction with some industry stakeholders.

“There’s a lot of contentiousness around sharing data – and commercial interests and everything else. But we need to get to transparency in the system because fundamentally if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” he said. “We do not have the right data in the right hands to make smart decisions now, and we need to get better at that.”  

Mr. Dick said that there was now “legislative power to regulate and compel data to be shared with us and others – so at the end of the day I think the existence of that legislation will serve to change the tenor of the conversation because there will be a benefit to our nation.”

However, he added, “I think it’s best to gather [data] in a collaborative move because ultimately what we’re seeking to do at the regional, or gateway, or corridor level is a collaboration. We can regulate data, but it’s harder to regulate the behavioural change that we want.”

Over 120 industry, government and academic attendees heard from expert panelists throughout the day and a half “Shipping 360” conference on an array of other topics including Canada’s Trade Outlook, Maritime Decarbonization, Environmental Sustainability, and Future Fuels. A Gala dinner closes the Chamber’s 100th anniversary event on Thursday evening.

(Photo by Colin Laughlan)