ACOC had the opportunity to join industry leaders from across the region to provide testimony to the Senate of Canada on their upcoming report analyzing the impact of climate change on critical infrastructure across Canada. Here our CEO, Alex Mitchell, focused on Abbotsford’s strategic importance to the region, the Abbotsford International Airport (YXX), the need importance of Highway 1 to regional supply chains, and the need for investments in flood mitigation infrastructure to protect the Sumas Prairie which is home to Canada’s most productive agricultural land.
Ms. Alex Mitchell:
Hello Honourable Senators,
It is my privilege to represent the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and deliver this message on behalf of our nearly 700 members from across Abbotsford’s diverse business community.
In our community, we're grateful to live and work on the traditional territory of the Halq'emeylem-speaking people, the Sto:lo people.
Our members include businesses of all sizes, across all sectors, including those who rely on critical infrastructure like the Trans-Canada Highway for the movement of goods and people not only through the Fraser Valley, but from the Fraser Valley as products move from Abbotsford to the Port of Vancouver and out to the rest of the world.
I have two priorities I’d like to address today - The first is looking at infrastructure from the lens of its impact on connectivity of the region and our supply chains, and the second with respect to Abbotsford’s importance to national and global food security.
Connectivity through strategic corridors
While we are discussing the impacts of climate change on infrastructure in Vancouver, there is strategic national and regional importance of Abbotsford as one of the largest communities in British Columbia by geography. Abbotsford is a border city, host to numerous rail networks, and also home to the Abbotsford International Airport, a strategically important asset that adds to the region’s capacity for air travel and the movement of goods. As extreme weather events continue to impact infrastructure – connectivity often suffers.
Here I’ll speak to Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway, remains one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure that relates to the region. We know that the Highway through Abbotsford and Chilliwack is not meeting current needs, with over 80,000 vehicles daily, and we also know how a significant climate event causing an interruption on this corridor, can wreak enormous economic havoc on our province and country.
We saw this during the devastating flooding in November in 2021 and the unparalleled impact of economic disruption from the closure of Highway 1. When supply chains ground to a halt, an estimated $16.3 billion in GDP coming out of the largest port in Canada, the Port of Metro Vancouver, was cut from the rest of the lower mainland for days.
Preservation of Farmland to address Canada’s Food Security
The Abbotsford Chamber’s recent report on the economic impact of agriculture found that the sector generated $3.83 billion in economic activity annually. With the highest gross farm receipts in the country, Canada’s food security is contingent on Abbotsford – we need to ensure that critical infrastructure is maintained and is resilient to the impacts of climate change, ultimately speaking to the paramount need for new investments into flood mitigation infrastructure.
A small pump station in Barrowtown became part of the national conversation in November 2021, as did our dyking infrastructure as many Canadians learned what businesses and farmers in the Fraser Valley have known for years – infrastructure matters in protecting the Sumas Prairie and the agricultural sector that feeds so many Canadians.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a comment related to community resiliency when discussing the atmospheric river event, as it fell to community to organize quickly to reduce impacts on farmers and get through the immediate disaster. Through the Abbotsford disaster relief fund, the Chamber alongside community partners like the Community Foundation quickly activated to quickly disperse emergency funding to businesses and farmers, however, the community still asks the question, what about next time?
We must ensure that our critical infrastructure remains open and accessible as climate change continues and build the additional resiliency-focussed infrastructure to mitigate climate impacts.
We truly appreciate the opportunity to engage in this committee’s work. Any assessment on the impacts of climate change on critical infrastructure must been seen the lens of connectivity through strategic corridors like Abbotsford in addition to understanding how our flood mitigation infrastructure is essential to national food security and the preservation of Canada’s most productive agricultural land.
About the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce:
The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce has served the business community of Abbotsford with an attitude of vibrant engagement and proactive non-partisan advocacy for over 110 years. With 700 members, it is the largest Chamber in the Fraser Valley, located in the 5th largest city in the province. The Abbotsford Chamber is nationally accredited to meet standards of business excellence and provide benefits to its member organizations.
Alex Mitchell, CEO
Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce