Michael OuelletteClick image to enlargeby Michael Ouellette

There is a new reshoring initiative in Canada and it looks like this one may have some staying power. Launched by former politicians Sandra Pupatello and Tony Clement, Reshoring Canada (www.reshoringcanada.ca) describes itself as a “non-partisan advocacy organization" that will promote a "modern, secure, and less risky supply chain.”

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a vast amount of risks in Canada’s supply chain that weren't considered vulnerabilities before the pandemic—and they go deeper than making PPE and vaccines. Things we took for granted such as open borders, bustling shipping corridors and access to international import and export markets became liabilities under the pressure of the coronavirus. 

I recall conversations with people not involved in the manufacturing industry who were shocked to learn Canada had no vaccine or PPE manufacturing capacity and were scared of the consequences. My response was always the same: If you think that’s scary, wait until you see what happens when we can no longer manufacture cars or automotive parts, aerospace parts, products for the oil and gas sector or agricultural sector because the inputs we need are stuck in the Port of Shanghai or diverted to another country. 

Thanks to the ingenuity and diligence of our manufacturers, we escaped that worst-case scenario. But it showed that now is the time to bring our suppliers closer to home. While many Canadian manufacturers have spent the last year doing just that, they are going to need some official help, which brings me back to Reshoring Canada.

The real value this organization can bring is successfully advocating for a national strategy that encourages companies to make stuff here. It will require a shift in mindset at the federal level to finally develop a manufacturing plan that attracts investment to bolster regional manufacturing economies across the country. This won’t be easy—the sector has been calling for this exact strategy for decades and, aside from a few token gestures, has been largely ignored by successive governments from both parties. And it must be noted that several of the former politicians involved in this initiative were in positions during their political careers to enact these kinds of policies and did not. Hopefully they can accomplish more on this file from the private sector.

So, kudos to Reshoring Canada for bringing this issue to the forefront once again. It’s critical that Canada develops a national manufacturing strategy that makes it attractive for companies here to compete against low-cost countries or a long-entrenched domestic manufacturing policy. We have missed too many opportunities in the past to accomplish this and if we want our manufacturers to be the force behind a sustained, meaningful economic recovery, we must act sooner rather than later. SMT

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