The Concept

A Canadian Northern Corridor

The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary is undertaking research to explore the potential for an ambitious national project: the Canadian Northern Corridor. 

What is the Canadian Northern Corridor concept?

The Canadian Northern Corridor would be a network of multi-modal rights-of-way across middle and northern Canada, with an accompanying policy, regulatory and governance structure. The corridor would provide a space for the coordinated development of infrastructure such as road, rail, transmission, pipeline and communication.

Read on to learn more about the concept. To learn more about the research program and how it will develop the information base, analysis and policy options to support effective corridor implementation, see our Research Program page.

Why is a new national corridor needed?

Canada's economy is highly integrated and relies on a considerable volume of inter-regional and international trade. Because of this, our shared transportation infrastructure truly forms a critical economic backbone for the country. This infrastructure benefits every economic sector from telecommunications and agriculture to manufacturing and mining and it has helped shape Canada’s shared history and prosperity over the last 150 years. But many regions of Canada remain under-served or inaccessible and, as we look to the next 150 years, a lack of infrastructure development has the potential to work against our socio-economic goals.
To that end, the Canadian Northern Corridor Concept envisions a trans-provincial and trans-territorial set of multi-modal infrastructure rights of way, facilitating the kind of private and public investment critical to extending our infrastructure backbone, ensuring Canada’s continued prosperity and improving access to currently under-served regions. The concept is proposed as a potential solution to Canada’s challenges to trade and transportation infrastructure development.

What could it mean for Canada?

A Canadian Northern Corridor would provide economic growth and diversification through access to expanding international markets and under-served regions within Canada, while creating opportunities for Indigenous communities and supporting Canada’s northern security and sovereignty objectives. Major infrastructure would be co-located within a contained geographic footprint, which, compared to the current model of one-off uni-modal projects, would mitigate environmental risk and damage, enable cumulative effects management and adaptive responses to climate change, and improve regulatory certainty.

A properly designed Canadian Northern Corridor would prepare the way for privately-funded and economically driven projects to, for example, transport a full range of export commodities efficiently to port facilities on all three coasts, while also improving economic development and living conditions in remote and currently disadvantaged areas.

Successfully implemented, the Canadian Northern Corridor could:

  • enable more effective land-use, more efficient use of future infrastructure, and rationalization of existing infrastructure across Canada;
  • improve access for Canadian goods to alternative markets;
  • enhance regional development and inter-regional trade opportunities in Canada;
  • support Northern and Indigenous economic and social development goals (including Arctic sovereignty objectives);
  • mitigate environmental risks through assessment and monitoring within a contained footprint; and
  • reduce the emissions intensity of transportation in Canada’s north and near-north.

Support for the corridor concept is growing across Canada. Read about endorsements to-date, here. See media coverage highlights here.

“There is a need to increase certainty for investors and help get major infrastructure and transmission projects done in a timely fashion while minimizing environmental impacts, lowering the costs of environmental assessments, and maintaining high standards of Indigenous consultation and science-based assessments. These options should include further discussions on pan-Canadian economic corridors, both east-west and north-south, to increase productivity by distributing energy, communications, and economic potential currently locked in a single province or territory to other jurisdictions.” - The Council of the Federation, Canada’s Premiers. July 11, 2019.