Ever since Blatchford Field airstrip opened in Edmonton in 1927, Alberta has been at the forefront of transportation in this country. Now, as e-commerce grows and supply chain issues make headlines, Alberta is set to be a critical distribution hub for North America.
Alberta’s two international airports, in Calgary and Edmonton, have extensive cargo handling, consolidation and freight forwarding capabilities. They offer low operating costs, plenty of available warehouse space and single-hub locations that specialize in receiving, transferring, storing and distributing cargo.
Both international airports are designated as Foreign Trade Zones, which allow for the deferral of taxes and tariffs on goods, as well as value-added manufacturing to create Canadian labelled products.
Canadian National Railway opened a new intermodal terminal, the Calgary Logistics Park, which has 2.5 million square feet of space to allow for warehouse space and rail-to-truck loading.
Alberta also has an extensive highway system, a well-developed trucking industry and two competing rail networks — Canadian Pacific and Canadian National — that connect the province with the United States to the south, Ontario and Quebec in the east and seaports on the west coast.
Overseeing it all are Port Alberta — which was expanded in 2022 to serve the entire Edmonton region; also the Calgary Region Inland Port, which facilitate transportation, logistics and supply chain solutions to connect Alberta’s economy to worldwide markets.
invested in 172 transportation projects in the 2021-2022 construction season
Annual number of passengers that use the Calgary International Airport
Annual number of passengers that use the Edmonton International Airport
Committted to advance light rail transit projects in Alberta over the next decade
Intermodal: 32,350; Road: 10,259; Air: 2,094
Alberta’s exports by mode of transportation ($ millions CAD)
Sources: Statistics Canada, Government of Alberta, Edmonton International Airport, Calgary International Airport
Let the Sun Shine
The Canadian government has mandated that by 2035, all new light-duty vehicles sold in Canada must be zero emission. It has also set up a variety of incentives and rebates to encourage the adoption of electric and other zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).
In southern Alberta, the SouthGrow Electric Vehicle Charging Program supports municipalities, businesses and other organizations installing new EV charging stations for public and/or fleet use, with up to 46 per cent of the costs of purchasing and installing a new charging station rebated.
The policies, combined with a groundswell of popular support, are having an effect: There are now electric-vehicle charging stations from one end of Alberta to the other, but it is particularly strong in the south, where a network of Level 2 charging stations, many providing green energy from nearby wind and solar farms, allow ZEV drivers to criss-cross the region with no range anxiety.
A Hub for Aviation
The town of Cold Lake, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive northeast of Alberta’s capital, Edmonton, is home to the busiest fighter base in Canada. CFB Cold Lake provides general purpose, multi-role, combat capable forces in support of both domestic and international roles for Canada’s Air Force. It has operated since the 1950s, and has been home to generations of Canadian and allied pilots who have come for advanced training. It has also heavily influenced the culture and the economy of the town, making Cold Lake a hub of aviation and aeronautical expertise.
The region is capitalizing on this expertise with the establishment of Transport Canada approved training programs for aircraft maintenance engineers, commercial pilots and unmanned systems operators. A 2018 study pegged the local spending impact of the base at $220 million per year.
Take To The Sky
Building on Alberta’s long history as a leader in aviation, De Havilland Canada has begun construction of a large-scale manufacturing facility and airfield east of Calgary. When it is fully built out in 10-15 years, De Havilland Field will include a state-of-the-art aircraft assembly facility, runway, parts manufacturing and distribution centres and a maintenance, repair and overhaul centre. There will also be space for training, office buildings and an aircraft museum.
De Havilland Canada is well established across the globe, with aircraft that operate reliably in some of the world’s harshest climates. The company says it chose Alberta because of its large, young, diverse labour pool, its family-friendly cost of living and the nearby presence of a world class international airport that can support efficient parts distribution to its global customer base.
De Havilland Field will be the site of final assembly for the DHC-515 Firefighter aircraft, the DHC-6 Twin Otter and the Dash 8 400 aircraft.