Gateways and Corridors

A Strategic Imperative
The Canadian Gateway and Corridor system is a vast, country-wide network of land, sea, air, and cybernetic interconnections that weaves each of the pillars of our democracy – social, economic, environmental, international, security, and defence – into a national fabric. From a national security perspective, the idea of a gateway and corridor system of systems is a purely strategic notion. Having started with the canals, roadways, ports, and railroads built by the Fathers of Confederation, these trade and transportation systems have evolved, allowing Canada to prosper in a rapidly changing “global village” marketplace.

By positioning ourselves to connect the expanding blocks of international enterprise and trade, Canada’s evolving gateway and corridor system will reinforce our status as a trading nation in the global economy. Security is a critical part of this strategy development – not just to keep Canadians safe, but to remain competitive and assist in marketing our particular attributes to other partners in world trade.

The security threat environment is dominated by the specter of terrorist attacks against western civilian targets – many of which have been perpetrated against transportation targets. Terrorism experts are in general agreement radicals will continue to seek targets of highly symbolic value that would cause either mass casualties and/or major economic disruption.

In the medium to long term, Dr. Elinor Sloan of Carleton University has opined that “terrorist attacks will have an economic focus with transportation and cybernetic systems being among the most attractive targets.” Moreover, Michael D. Greenberg, in his study “Maritime Terrorism: Risk and Liability” for the Rand Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy, holds that maritime terrorism has specific importance to Al Qaeda in that “Osama bin Laden has emphasized that attacking key sectors of the Western commercial and trading system is integral to his self-defined war on the United States and its major allies.”

However, while terrorism captures the imagination, other threats pose challenges to Canada. Devastating natural catastrophes (from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to the South East Asia Tsunami, to SARS) have occurred more frequently in the last decade and have had a huge impact on security systems. Moreover, organized crime is more widespread and more ­powerful than ever before – and may be developing links to ­terrorism through failed states, piracy, and trans-border law breaking. When assessing vulnerabilities and risk levels, an all-­hazards approach is deemed the most thorough.

The terrorist threat, however, remains the foundation of national security thinking and planning. Ongoing assessments of all transportation security sectors keep the process of risk mitigation alive and well. While the USS Cole incident in 2000 and the attack on the French oil tanker Limberg in 2002 alerted the marine security community close to a decade ago, and pirates off the Somalia coast are currently in the news, it is the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack on the Indian port of Mumbai that has renewed vigor in the marine security sector. Western governments, including the US, UK, and Canada, pondered how 10 heavily armed terrorists from the group Deccan Mujahideen (affiliated to Al Qaeda) could slip into central Mumbai harbour in a fishing boat, completely undetected, and wreak havoc on an alerted but unsuspecting financial hub port city. Two defining facts stand out on the security front:

  1. the change from suicide bombing to a commando-style attack methodology; and
  2. the approach, and apparent exit, from the water – this was a maritime security event.

It appears as though the Indian authorities were alerted by the U.S. about possible maritime attacks prior to the event. However, after a week of high-alert, security forces relaxed… and then the attack occurred. Multi-jurisdictional confusion was apparent when the act was finally perpetrated. Situational awareness was incomplete both in surveillance and in reacting effectively to actionable intelligence.

Port of Halifax.

It is lesser known, yet Caroline Alexander reports on the Bloomberg.com website, that Britain’s security services have recently “intercepted up to 100 suspects posing as postgraduate students who aim to acquire weapons material and expertise.” There is a link to Al Qaida here, and security alerts for airlines and airports (among other critical infrastructure) are based on this sort of intelligence and information.

As a result, the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory System warns that the current threat level is HIGH (Orange), for domestic and international flights. The British M15 Security Service website lists the ­present threat level from international ­terrorism to the UK and its overseas interests as “SEVERE.” We have recently (April 2009) seen an embarrassing, but partially successful, ­harvest of 12 Al Qaeda followers in Britain. There seems to be no question that Al Qaeda is alive and planning its next move in numerous countries.

Is it any wonder that governments are trying to understand the challenges of the various national security sectors, and to build a more integrated security system that injects risk-management solutions into threatened areas of national interest? The Canadian government is no exception; our national security agencies and departments are challenged with the task of keeping in step with our allies who are obviously feeling a great deal of discomfort from the present level of threat. We are linked; this threat is ours in Canada as well.

The Emergence of Gateway and Corridor Systems
In the last five years, the world economy has grown more than during any other five-year period since World War II. As one of the most trade-reliant nations in the G-8, Canada is benefiting from this global growth. By the end of 2008, exports and imports of merchandise had both hit record highs, reaching $461.8 billion and $436.7 billion, respectively. At the same time, the global economy is changing significantly. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the European Union (EU) gave rise to trading blocs that have underpinned the new integrated global marketplace. Coupled with the emergence of new economic powers such as China and India, global marketplace integration is driving the distribution of economic activity, as well as the expansion of world trade. The recent global economic downturn can only be a bump in the long road of this trading behavior evolution.

The challenge for federal and provincial governments today is to move ahead of the emerging trade flows to create policies and commercial frameworks that provide Canada with a competitive and secure transportation advantage for the development of trade that flows to and through North America. As Graham Parsons, Barry Prentice, and David Gillen point out in their paper, North American Gateway and Corridor Initiatives in a Changing World, this will undoubtedly involve increased infrastructure investments, inland ports, gateway and corridor designations, improved border clearances, grade separations and competitive, regulatory legislation.

Parsons and his team continue to highlight that the emergence of “Gateway and Corridor Systems” has forced nations to redefine how they organize and develop their trading behavior to match their strategic capabilities and situation.

A gateway city can be viewed, in this landscape, as a transition point or node which separates a barren hinterland on the one side and a well-developed and energetic environment on the other. It acts as a funnel for goods and services to enter a market area. The hinterland side often has a narrow trade corridor with trucking, rail, or maritime transportation services that connect the gateway city to a distant consumer city – another gateway in another market. The well-developed side usually has a thriving multimodal network of transportation services and infrastructure.

When two or several corridors cross, as they exit from the hinterlands, hub cities emerge. Winnipeg and Montreal are examples of hub cities due to their multi-modal connections for east-west and north-south corridors in the central portion of North America. Cargo traffic is funneled through a gateway city or port because it sits at a strategic position at which transportation costs can be reduced along a land corridor or a sea route. Ocean ports like Prince Rupert, Vancouver, and Halifax are obvious gateway cities.

Gateway cities that are inland and away from the ocean, like Calgary or Windsor for instance, can emerge due to the hinterland influence of nearby geographical discontinuities such as mountain ranges, deserts, lakes and rivers, and political boundaries such as international borders.

Canada’s G&C Initiatives
Recognizing the change that was upon them, Canada’s Government developed a National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Corridors in 2007, to advance economic competitiveness in the rapidly changing field of global trade and commerce. In the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (2006), the Government had previously indicated that a select number of regions were potential targets for an integrated “gateway and corridor” approach, based on international trade and commerce volumes of national significance. A robust foundation for these initiatives has developed from Canada’s substantial investments on transportation and border security since 2001. Future federal gateway and corridor strategies will be guided by the 2007 framework – focused on transportation systems of road, rail, marine and air infrastructure of strategic significance. Security is a major part of this policy evolution.

The Government also launched the Building Canada infrastructure plan. With a budget of $33 billion between 2007 and 2014, Building Canada will provide more funding for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. It includes $2.1 billion through the new Gateways and Border Crossings Fund to improve the flow of goods between Canada and the rest of the world by enhancing infrastructure at key locations such as major border crossings between Canada and the United States.

Three strategic gateway and corridor (G&C) initiatives have been identified: Ontario-Québec Continental; Asia-Pacific; and Atlantic. A fourth initiative may be possible as the northern climate changes over time: an Arctic G&C system which would use rail, sea, and air to handle cargo flows between Asia, North America, and Europe. Once again, Canada could become a linking piece between the U.S. market and other large trading bocks of the world. While security of the supply chain is a significant feature of gateways and corridors, the G&C approach (national policy framework) is also about linking policy and physical infrastructure together with relationships that ­transcend traditional institutional boundaries (public/private; federal/provincial/municipal).

Ontario-Québec Continental G&C
The Ontario-Québec Continental Gateway and Corridor system is the key avenue for international trade between Canada and the United States, as well as to Canada’s other Gateways. It is a fine example of a fully-developed, multimodal, international trade and transportation system.

Ontario and Québec businesses have easy access to 135 million consumers within 1000 km – an easy one-day trip for a trucker. On the Ontario-Quebec Conti­nental Gateway website, it states that the top five Canada-U.S. border crossings are located along the Ontario-Québec corridor. This represents almost 65% of total trucks crossing the Canada-United States border. They each display impressive trade figures: Windsor-Detroit ($1139.8B); Niagara-Fort Erie ($66.2B); Sarnia ($49.0B); Lacolle ($20.5B); Lansdowne ($14.3B).

Port of Montreal

The trans-continental rail system provides access to major markets all across North America. Moreover, the St. Lawrence Seaway provides access from the Great Lakes to trans-Atlantic shipping. Keep in mind that to navigate from one end to the other, one must cross the Canada-U.S. border 37 times. Finally, and impressively, Canada’s busiest airports for freight and passengers are in Ontario and Quebec. They are a key component of just-in-time courier deliveries and multimodal connections.

The Windsor-Detroit Trade Corridor is a key component of the Ontario-Québec Continental Gateway. On 18 June 2008, the Governments of Canada and Ontario announced an end-to-end transportation system that will link Highway 401 to Interstate 75 in Michigan. It was also recently announced that the preferred access route on the Canadian side, the Windsor-Essex Parkway, would start construction as early as summer 2009. The new crossing will include state-of-the-art facilities to respond to modern multimodal requirements that this corridor presents.

On 2 June 2006, the Governments of Ontario and Quebec signed a Cooperation Protocol with an agreement on the transportation sector. Among other objectives, it sought to promote the development of the Ontario-Quebec trade corridor and to collaborate on improving the efficiency of all transportation modes within. On the Quebec side, the new section of Highway 30 will create a southern bypass for the Greater Montreal Area. This infrastructure will help integrate highways 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 540 into a more efficient network to better connect the Greater Montreal Area, Ontario, the Maritimes and U.S. markets. According to the planned schedule, the new bypass will open in 2012.

Asia-Pacific G&C
This network of transportation infrastructure includes British Columbia’s Lower Mainland and Prince Rupert ports, their principal road and rail connections through hub and gateway cities on a corridor stretching across Western Canada, connections through major Canadian airports, and then arches south from the Winnipeg hub towards the United States, through key border crossing gateways into the American heartland.

Calgary and Edmonton owe their location and size to the mountain passes that provide smooth access for railways through the Rocky Mountains. They have evolved as inland gateways which distribute goods from British Columbia to the western prairies. Edmonton has a special role in that it houses the CN western rail operations centre. Winnipeg, on the other hand, was founded as an eastern gateway to the prairies and has developed into a central hub for the continent. Calling itself the Manitoba International Gateway, Winnipeg is a major hub for the Asia Pacific G&C System. It brings together Trans Polar Air Flights to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, container hub and multimodal services for the Asia Pacific Corridor through to the U.S. and Mexico (CN lines to Memphis) and, looking forward, the Churchill Maritime Gateway linking Europe and Asia via sub-arctic maritime corridors. Finally, Fort Frances and other border crossing towns are gateways to the U.S. for the Asia Pacific cargo flow – which mostly travels west to east and then south into the American heartland.

Across corridors and through gateways - by air, rail, truck and sea - containers are transported to market.

Atlantic Canada G&C
Future trade patterns and demand for deepwater ports point to growing potential for Atlantic Canada – in particular, rising container trade, increasing use of the Suez route for Asian exports to North America, and the expansion of the Panama Canal. Major shippers are increasingly considering North America’s east coast to balance inbound and outbound logistical flows. An integrated approach to the Atlantic Gateway and Corridor could significantly enhance Canada’s ability to capture a larger share of growing trade flows between North America and foreign markets. A memorandum of understanding from 2007 provides the framework for collaboration between Canada and the Atlantic provinces toward an Atlantic Gateway strategy. In the broader national context, it would include the linking of the Atlantic system with other gateway and corridor strategies.

A Lexicon for National Security Strategy
Canada has embarked on a bold strategic venture by focusing effort and investment on the National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Corridors. The inclusiveness of this project and the fact that these corridors span all regions of the country will ensure strategic “comprehensiveness.”

As we have seen, this venture brings a new lexicon to the national security community. Its foundations lie in the integration of government, businesses, infrastructures, and trade flows, as well as international linkages and domestic stakeholder communities. Practitioners of security will have to become accustomed to this lexicon and this new, integrated way of looking transportation and trade flows. They will also have to adapt their vocabulary to the evolving multi-modal and interlinked movement of cargo and personnel and the effect on the people, environment, economics, international relations, defence, and security of Canada.

The Gateway and Corridor approach brings together traditionally disparate players into a common partnership with a vision linking trade, transportation, and security. It also leverages assets and information. Governments are both setting the rules and investing in infrastructure and technology while the private sector works in partnership, making significant investments themselves.

The need for improved security in the post-9/11 era is evident. The altering of Canadian mindsets about security in both public and private communities challenges future Canadian governments – for it will take years of effort to bring about full-scale acceptance of the notion of security as an integral part of life in Canada.

Just as the British government has published The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom: Security in an Interdependent World (March 2008), Canada must take formal steps to publish its own National Security Strategy.

Because Canada is known as a trading nation, the strategic notion of secure trade and transportation Gateway and Corridor systems linking Canadian interests to suppliers and markets in the world economy is a major foundation pillar for such a modern Canadian National Security Strategy.

We have Gateways and Corridors, and are working to secure them. It is time for the overarching national strategy to balance the management of scarce resources to improve our management of these national interests in the future.

Recently retiring as a Navy Captain after a 33-year career in the Canadian Navy, Peter Avis is now a Senior Consultant at Lansdowne Technologies Inc. in Ottawa.
© FrontLine Security 2009