| That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public infrastructure should serve the interests of Canadians, not work to make private investors rich; (b) during the election, the Liberals did not reveal to voters their plans to privatize investment in public infrastructure; (c) infrastructure built by private investors will cost more than public infrastructure; (d) it is a conflict of interest to allow private corporations, who will be the largest beneficiaries of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to participate in the planning and development of the Bank; (e) the Bank will leave taxpayers with an unacceptable burden of fees, tolls, and privatization that will only make private investors wealthy, to the detriment of the public interest; and (f) the clauses concerning the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s creation should be removed from Bill C-44, Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, so they can be studied as a stand-alone bill.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their warm welcome.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with my fantastic colleague from .
As members just heard, today, we are presenting a motion on the Canada infrastructure bank proposed by the government, which we could call the privatization bank, the bank of broken promises, or the conflict of interest bank. These synonyms all aptly describe the Liberal government's proposal.
During the election campaign, there was an issue that was very important. All our communities, all our constituents, and, I would even go so far as to say, all the parties here in the House of Commons were concerned about it. That issue was, of course, our public infrastructure. We see various infrastructure problems every day, depending on where we live. If we live near a big city, we know that there are problems with traffic congestion and commute times. People from ridings like mine, Beloeil—Chambly, and those who live in remote areas are dealing with issues related to Internet access and other problems.
There are still major infrastructure problems affecting our communities and the people who live there.
What we heard during the last election campaign was a proposal to take advantage of low interest rates to help municipalities and the provinces to capitalize on that reality and invest public money in their public infrastructure. What we are seeing today is a plan that proposes a so-called infrastructure bank, but really, is more of a privatization bank, a bank that benefits people in the financial sector, groups like BlackRock, rather than people who are experiencing the day-to-day problems associated with our infrastructure.
I think when we look at how this whole plan of the infrastructure bank has gone ahead from the outset, we see it has happened behind closed doors. It has gone on with investment groups, like BlackRock, which we learned last week is going over presentations and talking points with ministers. I think there is a pretty clear indication of who stands to gain the most from this proposal that the government has put forward.
There are tangible facts here. It is not just wanting to go after the private investors who stand to gain the most at the expense of taxpayers, at the expense of Canadians. It is also looking at what we saw in The Globe and Mail just this morning, that an internal memo from Infrastructure Canada said a few things that are important for the motion that we are debating today.
The first is to take our time. It is hard to do that when it is part of an omnibus budget bill, which the Liberal Party promised to do away with in the last election. It is difficult to do that when we are going to spend one or two hours studying something that will so fundamentally change how we invest in infrastructure in Canada. Not only that, but it is going to be once again at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.
What else did we see in this report that was revealed to us today?
We saw that this is going to slow down, potentially, the going ahead of infrastructure projects. Why? It is because it will create all kinds of jurisdictional snafus.
I want to read one quote from the article, if I may, which I think illustrates very well the exact kind of problem that this kind of bank poses and the problem of putting what is done so well by public dollars, for the public interest, into the hands of the private sector. The report states:
| Catalyzing private capital to invest in Canada’s water utility industry is challenging and would require a transformation of the industry as a whole.
It uses the water utility industry as an example because, of course, issues related to water are some of the core issues related to infrastructure.
It is hard to examine this kind of fundamental issue when it is part of an omnibus bill that includes so many important points and that is also now under time allocation, I might add. The Liberals are cutting off the debate.
That is why we are asking the government to honour a number of its election promises. Obviously, we are talking about the election promise to invest public money in public infrastructure, but we are also asking it to separate this aspect from the rest of the bill. We simply cannot accept such an important change without giving it the attention it deserves, and we must have a separate bill on this issue alone.
Another thing that is problematic about the whole issue of the infrastructure bank and the omnibus bill is that the board of directors positions are already posted. The Liberals are going ahead with choosing the location of the bank and which of their friends will be on the board of directors.
All this is being done not only before we get to committee, but before Parliament has even voted on the bill, omnibus or otherwise. This is totally unacceptable for something as fundamental as infrastructure. Let us not forget that infrastructure is one of the federal responsibilities that has a direct impact on the daily lives of the people we represent.
Speaking of the impact on taxpayers, let us not forget that the Liberals were elected on a promise to invest this public money, whether we like it or not. On that we can all agree. There is no doubt that we desperately need to invest public money in our public infrastructure. We could have a whole other debate on the fact that these investments are being spread out over 10, 11, or 12 years and not over a shorter period to allow communities with the greatest need to benefit immediately, but that is a discussion for another day.
Let us focus on the impact on the public and let us talk about user fees and tolls. Taxpayers are being asked to pay twice. First, they are asked to pay taxes. We have a social contract in Canada whereby we agree to invest public money in our infrastructure so that our bridges do not collapse when we are commuting to work. The public is prepared to accept that.
However, it is not prepared to accept that the government will invest a significant amount of its money in infrastructure only to then tell its friends, such as BlackRock, behind closed doors that it will let them charge Canadians a second time by imposing user fees and tolls.
The government tells us not to worry, that there will be no tolls or user fees, and that it will depend on the project. However, we really wonder where businesses are going to get a return of 8% or more if not from the pockets of taxpayers, who have already invested in their infrastructure through government spending. It is completely unacceptable to ask middle-class families, which this says he is always defending, to pay twice for this infrastructure. This goes against what this government promised.
I want to focus on that point, because what is key here is what we are asking Canadians to be on the hook for. We are asking them to be on the hook through their tax dollars, and that is fine. They are ready to accept that. However, we are asking them to be on the hook for the friends of the Liberal Party, who are meeting Liberals behind closed doors and looking over their talking points and their presentations. They are then turning around and saying, “Great, we are going to pick and choose.”
We hear MPs from Toronto, for example, who tell us, “This is great. We are going to invest in social housing.” Good luck looking to the private sector to invest in social housing. Maybe it is social housing for the people who go to the 's fundraisers at $1,500 a pop, but I certainly have a hard time believing it is going to be the priority for those private investors. That is exactly why government has to play a role. The government's role is not bankrolling private companies to fleece the taxpayer twice on critical infrastructure. It is to really live up to its commitment to invest those public dollars in our public infrastructure. We cannot repeat it enough.
I will end by saying that we have hope today. We may be naively optimistic, but we have hope because it is not just the privatization bank, the Liberal Party's bank of conflicts of interest and cronyism, it is also the bank of broken promises, as I said at the outset.
In fact, this bill, which would create a bank that will fundamentally change how we invest in infrastructure, and that is worth repeating, and give power to the private sector, is part of an omnibus bill. The Liberals promised not to use this type of bill.
They promised to invest public money and not to privatize our infrastructure and airports. The privatization of our airports is another matter we could discuss, but I do not have enough time. In short, these are all commitments that the Liberal Party made.
I would remind my colleagues, cabinet ministers and backbenchers alike, who all represent their communities and say they want to invest in green infrastructure and affordable housing, that the commitments they made during the last election campaign consisted of investing public money, not BlackRock's money. BlackRock, I might add, will not be interested in investing in environmental protections and access to affordable housing for Canadians in need, which are fundamental issues.
We are making a heartfelt plea to the Liberal Party. We are asking the Liberals to put an end to their old ways, which have traditionally been to hold meetings behind closed doors with their Bay Street friends. We are asking them to finally follow through on their commitments to Canadians, who desperately need public infrastructure paid for with public money. We are also asking the government to put an end to omnibus bills and to really examine this fundamental issue.
Mr. Speaker, the infrastructure bank has been a long-standing issue that continues to be locked in the shadows. New Democrats had to put forward this motion today because of the lack of clarity, transparency, and accountability with respect to this bank. I believe that the most important part of today's discussion is this: If the government is so proud of the infrastructure bank, why make it part of an omnibus budget bill in 2017? Why not have this section of the bill separated out?
I believe that Canadians and municipalities deserve the right to hear, in detail, how this bank will work, especially when its creation is under a cloud of suspect behaviour, with private companies that will be the same companies making the profits from these ventures sitting in the driver's seat. This shows a clear conflict of interest. Now Liberals have cut our ability to debate this by virtue of shutting down debate.
This needs to be clear. First, the infrastructure bank was squished into an omnibus bill, creating a lack of accountability and vigorous debate in the House. Second, the debate was shortened so these issues could be rushed over by the government.
We have asked for this provision to be split from the omnibus bill, something the Liberals have yet to do. If the government is so proud, it should not be afraid and should be willing to have this discussion. I believe this would truly allow for an in-depth analysis, more hours of debate, and a specific committee to review the process, rather than one hour, as it currently stands. This provision will be reviewed quickly at committee, in conjunction with the 300 pages of legislative changes in Bill . This is a lack of accountability.
It is important that all parliamentarians take this seriously. There is a general lack of clarity with respect to the infrastructure bank, and there are many alarming issues surrounding this scheme. First, many measures will have to be dealt with in future legislation. Second, the lack of transparency is troubling. The bank will be able to withhold important information from the Attorney General of Canada and the parliamentary budget officer under the guise of being sensitive commercial information. Third, the bank will have serious consequences for our public infrastructure and the lives of Canadian citizens.
As the deputy critic for infrastructure, it has been a pleasure to advocate in this role, most notably for Canadians living in rural and small communities. Too often we hear the word “infrastructure” tied to larger communities. Too often smaller centres are simply left out of the equation.
For us to quickly demonstrate how the scheme will never benefit our rural communities or the middle class, we can simply break down the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that private investors will not be joining the government's scheme for the pleasure of building infrastructure but rather will be expecting a significant financial return.
I want to be clear. It makes sense to me that these investors will want a return. Investing is for the purpose of making a return. My concern is that infrastructure is moving in this direction. I am concerned that Canadians are not having a say on this bank. I am most concerned that these investors have been shown to be in the driver's seat in building this bank. It is like asking the fox to guard the hen house, with a complete lack of acknowledgement of the role of a fox.
The Quebec pension plan, for example, is very clear. It expects a return of 7% to 9%. Where do members think it would get that from? It would be from the tolls and user fees collected from Canadians. Simply said, rural communities cannot sustain the level of returns Bay Street bankers require. That means that all the communities I represent will be ignored. Other MPs in this House should really reflect on the usefulness of this bank in their ridings, and most importantly, must ask who this bank is really helping.
Why is the government so proud to encourage the urban-rural divide? Canadians deserve to know what will bring these returns. What will be sold off? Where will the new tolls be imposed? What user fees can we expect? Every time the is asked, he talks about the different models and the potential. The outcomes of these models require more taxpayers to shell out more money.
It was hard to understand the reasoning to create this bank from the start. This dubious venture was not in the Liberals' major campaign platform. Why suddenly is it such a major project priority? We have all witnessed the government's mammoth infrastructure stimulus plan fall flat: all this taxpayer money and very little to show for it. Does the arm's length nature of this bank allow the government to relinquish the hard decisions on the infrastructure file? Is this an excuse for its failed stimulus?
The Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy says the Liberals have not shown a solid business case for its new infrastructure bank. At the head of the institute is the former parliamentary budget officer, surprisingly enough. The omnibus budget bill also limits the independence of the current PBO. It does not look good when the Liberals are limiting the PBO's powers in this year's budget while ignoring calls from the previous PBO about this year's budget.
What are the Liberals hiding? It could do with the fact that the bank has the potential to increase overall costs to taxpayers, because infrastructure built by private investors will always cost more than public infrastructure.
The government has the capacity to borrow at a very low cost, so why will it not? It may have to do with its friends on Bay Street. Rather than building critical infrastructure that benefits everyday citizens, the Liberals are creating a privatization scheme that puts the need of their wealthy friends first.
Government records show that corporations and private investors were given unprecedented control in the planning and development of the Liberals' privatization bank. BlackRock's extensive involvement in the creation of the infrastructure bank of the private sector raises conflict of interest questions. These are very important questions that need to be discussed in the House. It is a conflict of interest to allow private corporations which would be the largest beneficiaries of the Canada infrastructure bank to participate in the planning and development of the bank.
The Conflict of Interest Act states that a “public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to...improperly further another person’s private interests.”
The Liberals promised investments in infrastructure to benefit everyday Canadians, but instead they are getting a government that puts the interests of larger corporations first. This is a fine example of a who has lost touch with Canadians who rely on public infrastructure. It is also a sign that he has lost touch with the middle class and those working hard to join it.
Infrastructure can create meaningful employment for many, but this bank will pay with taxpayer money with one hand and take our user fees and tolls with the other. Therefore, Canadians will be paying twice.
The government has yet to make a compelling case for why it would be better to work with private investors seeking high returns when Ottawa has the ability to finance projects itself at a much lower cost.
While the Liberals are unphased and standing tall in the face of this important criticism, Canadians deserve better. They deserve to know what is happening. Canadians need to know what is being pawned off, where the tolls will be, and what user fees they can expect.
This project will hinder the growth of middle-class Canadians by imposing costs that will line the pockets of millionaires and billionaires while leaving everyday Canadians on the hook.
While the Liberals and their buddies are too busy figuring out how to make this venture profitable, Canadians are quickly figuring out how unaffordable and impotent the government is.
Last night on Power Play on CTV, the member for said on a panel about the infrastructure bank that Canadians do not need to know. I disagree. The Liberal government needs to take this discussion out of the backroom secret meetings, pull it out from the omnibus budget bill, and put it in the House for debate. I hope the government will stop hiding and do the right thing.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the members of the NDP for their belated support for infrastructure. When we were discussing the infrastructure plan during the campaign, they were so focused on artificially balancing the budget at the cost of ignoring the needs of the communities that need infrastructure. I remember having a debate with one of the NDP's prominent candidates. I asked what the New Democrats' plans were for infrastructure. What I heard was they would build infrastructure five or 10 years from now.
When the New Democrats rise in the House to talk about affordable housing, public transit, water, and waste-water infrastructure or their support for rural communities, I welcome that, because at least they recognize that infrastructure is important, that it is the bones of our economy.
Since taking office, our government has been working hard to deliver unprecedented investments in infrastructure. I am pleased to tell the House today about the investing in Canada infrastructure plan. As well, I will speak more about the Canada infrastructure bank which is one of the government's new, innovative solutions to help address Canada's pressing infrastructure needs and build more infrastructure.
We want to build strong foundations that will allow all Canadians to thrive, excel, and innovate. In budget 2016, we launched the first phase of our long-term infrastructure plan which is designed to achieve three important goals: create long-term growth for those middle-class Canadians and those who are working hard to join the middle class; build inclusive communities so everyone has a fair chance to succeed; and support a low-carbon, green economy.
The plan would invest more than $180 billion over 12 years, bringing new and innovative infrastructure investment tools to the table and would support five key areas for investment: public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation infrastructure, and the rural and northern communities infrastructure. Our plan would deliver better public transit, clean water, and more social housing units for Canadians while creating long-term growth and jobs for the middle class.
When we ran during the last election, we said we would double the infrastructure investments across the country. We said that now is the time to invest in our country and in Canadians. Now we are delivering on that commitment. When we came into office, we started consulting broadly with our partners—provinces, territories, municipalities, and indigenous communities—to make sure we were investing in the right way, to make sure our investments would have maximum impact and would address the real needs of our communities.
It quickly became clear that everyone was feeling that the infrastructure deficit was caused by the lack of sustained, predictable funding from the previous government and it was clear that an ambitious plan was needed now. Our partners told us that existing infrastructure across the country was in dire need of repair and modernization.
We decided to roll out our plan in two phases. The initial phase of the investing in Canada plan was designed to focus on the recapitalization, repair, and modernization of existing infrastructure assets, making buses accessible, and giving access to clean drinking water to communities facing boil water advisories. Phase one also recognized the challenges municipalities face when trying to plan for the long term by funding the design and planning work of new, larger scale infrastructure projects like Ottawa's second phase LRT, the downtown relief line in Toronto, Calgary's Green Line, or Edmonton's LRT expansion.
We did this to help municipalities rebuild the foundations of their systems and to start planning for projects that will form the core of our ambitious long-term plan.
Our plan is about building not just more infrastructure but building infrastructure that meets community needs and addresses the pressing infrastructure gaps that are felt throughout Canada. To ensure that we are supporting the infrastructure that our communities need, we continue to work in close relationship with our provincial, territorial, indigenous, and municipal partners to plan and deliver infrastructure projects that will shape our country for years to come.
We have made great progress in delivering projects under Infrastructure Canada's new programs. We streamlined approvals under the new Building Canada fund to better support our municipal, provincial, and territorial partners, and to approve projects faster.
We added new eligibility categories to recognize our partners' priorities, making cultural and recreational projects and ferry infrastructure eligible, for example. The members of the NDP will remember that, because they are the ones, along with Liberal MPs, who requested that we change the category to include ferry infrastructure in our plan. These changes were not only made by our provincial and territorial partners, but also at the requests of other MPs.
Since taking office, we have approved 2,200 projects across the country, with a total combined investment of $20 billion since November 2015. We have approved more projects to help our communities in a year and a half than the previous government did in five years combined.
These projects are now rolling out in communities large and small and will make a big difference across Canada. Our investments so far mean 200 projects that will make public transit more accessible for people with disabilities, with more than 1,000 new buses along with other improvements. Together these investments will develop faster, more reliable service and help reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Another 1,000 projects will give more Canadians access to clean drinking water and reduce pollution in our lakes and rivers.
More than 89,000 social housing units have been renovated under our plan. As well, 182 arts and heritage facilities in 109 communities are being improved, and nearly 6,000 housing units on reserve for indigenous communities have been built, renovated, or planned, along with 125 projects aimed at building and improving schools for indigenous children. There are 251 projects under the post-secondary institutions strategic investment fund under way to enhance and modernize research and commercialization facilities on Canadian campuses.
An example of the results of our investments so far can be found in the town of Lanigan, Saskatchewan. Due to a lack of infrastructure investment by the previous government, the people in Lanigan were lacking quality water to bathe their children, wash their clothes, and prepare their food. Thanks to the financial support from our government, the community will soon upgrade their water and waste water treatment systems.
We have helped communities in North Bay, Ontario; Selkirk, Manitoba; and Moncton, New Brunswick to buy new buses that are reliable and accessible. They are better for the environment.
North Vancouver, London, and Inverness in Nova Scotia have installed new transit shelters. Durham in Ontario and Winnipeg in Manitoba have expanded their facilities to accommodate maintenance of their fleets.
Our plan is funding water supply main replacement in Clinton, Ontario. It is helping the community water conservation project in Tahsis, British Columbia, and funding the Mayo lift station in Mayo, Yukon.
In my home province of Alberta, we have supported key infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the Edmonton Yellowhead Trail, a project that was ignored by the previous government for 10 years. The Fort Edmonton Park expansion is a very important project from an indigenous reconciliation point of view. Other projects are the Southwest Calgary Ring Road and the Lacombe and Red Deer water and waste water line.
Our long-term infrastructure plan is focused on investing in the projects that will transform our communities for the 21st century. We know that Canada's infrastructure demands outpaced investments for decades, and let us make no mistake: underfunding infrastructure has a cost, and it is significant. That is why budget 2017 builds on the measures announced in budget 2016 and clearly outlines the next steps in our government's plan to make smart investments that will help grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.
The proposed budget implementation act includes legislation to establish the Canada infrastructure bank, which I would like to talk about now. Even with our historic investment in our country's infrastructure, there remains a gap that we cannot completely fill. We need to find a new way to build more infrastructure, understanding the limited resources of all orders of government. During the campaign, we committed to creating the Canada infrastructure bank. Through our consultations, our government recognized that we needed to find innovative new ways to effectively mobilize private capital to supplement our historic public investments and build more new infrastructure projects that will benefit Canadians.
Through consultations with mayors from across the country, municipal associations such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, provincial and territorial governments, first nations, industry associations, global organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and investment groups such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, we drafted the details of the bill that is before this House.
We are proposing the creation of a Canada infrastructure bank because we believe there is an opportunity for the federal government to attract private sector investment in infrastructure and partner with world-leading institutional investors to build more projects across our country. The bank would finance those projects that are in the public interest, but that often do not get built because they are too costly or face competing priorities. Such projects have a potential to be transformational but often do not receive funding under traditional infrastructure programs.
If approved by Parliament, the Canada infrastructure bank would do just that. It would invest up to $35 billion in new growth-oriented infrastructure across the country, including public transit systems in our largest cities, energy transmission corridors, and more. Fifteen billion dollars would be sourced from the investing in Canada infrastructure plan. This $15 billion is approximately 8% of the total commitment of infrastructure funds that we have made under our $180 billion long-term plan. It is on top of our initial commitment to doubling infrastructure investments.
We would make an additional $20 billion in capital available to the Canada infrastructure bank for investments that would result in the bank holding assets in the form of equity or debt. This $20 billion would therefore not result in a fiscal impact on the government.
If approved by Parliament, the bank's mandate would be to make investments in revenue-generating infrastructure projects that are in the public interest as well as to seek investments from the private sector and institutional investors in those projects.
To carry out its mandate, the bank would structure investments in infrastructure projects that have revenue-generating potential and are in the public interest; attract private sector and institutional investors to projects so that more infrastructure can be built; serve as a centre of expertise on projects in which private sector or institutional investors are making a significant investment; foster evidence-based decision-making and advise all orders of government on the design of revenue-generating projects; and collect and share data to help governments make better decisions about infrastructure investments.
The bank would amplify federal support by bringing private sector and institutional investors to the table to help pay for the transformational projects that our country needs.
The bank would offer our funding partners a new way to help meet their pressing infrastructure needs. It would be a new tool for provincial, territorial, and municipal partners to use in building infrastructure that Canadians need, should they wish to use it. It would free up public dollars to build more public infrastructure, such as housing and recreational and cultural facilities, and it is expected to attract private sector capital that would otherwise not be available for building the infrastructure our country needs.
If approved by Parliament, the bank would be established as an arm's-length crown corporation that would be accountable to Parliament and would report on its activities to Parliament twice a year.
The Government of Canada has engaged Canadians and stakeholders from across Canada on our long-term infrastructure plan. The development of the Canada infrastructure bank, we believe, will help us achieve the results that we want to achieve.
I would like to stress a few points again.
The bank is an optional tool for our partners to use. It is up to provinces, territories, and municipalities to decide if they choose to use the bank to help build more infrastructure.
The bank will focus on new infrastructure, not selling existing assets. We need to build even more infrastructure in this country. The bank is one way of doing that.
The bank is one additional tool we are putting into our infrastructure tool kit. Of the total of $186 billion in the plan, less than 10% would be delivered through the infrastructure bank.
The bank would be a tool for certain projects that have a revenue stream. It would enable us to focus our grant money on infrastructure that does not have revenue attached to it. It would allow us to stretch our infrastructure dollars even further.
Earlier this week, we were proud to announce the search for the leadership of the bank. This is an important milestone toward the creation of the bank and, if Parliament approves it, will allow us to be well positioned to have the bank operational in late 2017.
These searches will identify a chairperson, board members, and a chief executive officer. The process will be open and merit-based and will identify experts and professionals who are needed to lead and govern the bank.
The selection process is designed to attract diverse and highly qualified individuals, taking into consideration the desire to achieve gender parity and to reflect Canada's linguistic, cultural, and regional diversity.
We know that our country is stronger when decision-makers reflect Canada's diversity. That is why we are searching for people with the right talent who can help us design and build this bank and also help us deliver on the commitments we have made to Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to hear the minister defend this bank.
First, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I want to thank the member for for bringing this motion forward. This is a very important issue. Many of us would agree that Canada is open for business. However, it is about what kind of business and what that process looks like. As we have seen with the development of this bank, there are some serious concerns on this side of the House. I want to give a bit of an overview of this bank.
Of a total of $35 billion of taxpayer dollars, $15 billion are being taken away from communities, but the government has announced these projects. Therefore, there is an anticipation from communities that these projects will be built in their communities. However, that is not so, because $15 billion are being taken away from communities, $5 billion are being taken away from public transit projects, $5 billion are being taken away from trade and transportation, and $5 billion are being taken away from green infrastructure. Therefore, the minister should really let communities know which ones will be affected and which projects that have already been announced will not go forward. That is the prudent thing to do. The government talks about being transparent. That is a measure of transparency.
Also, the CPP Investment Board has stated that investors will only look at projects worth over $500 million because it needs a return on its investment. However, $20 billion will be provided to the bank through equity and debt, which means it will not be on the books unless the project defaults. This is another very problematic issue.
The bank will seek out private investors and public pension funds to invest in Canadian infrastructure projects. However, if we come back to what the expectation is from investors, they want a return on their investment as high as 12%. For those who have RRSPs invested or any investments whatsoever, 12% is a really good return rate. What is missing in this is that the minister has not identified where that money is coming from. How is that being paid back to the investors? If it is through taxes, tolls, road pricing, whatever fees and mechanisms that looks like, it should be implicit in the legislation. It is not there. There is no mention of what the return on investment will look like. Again, that is very problematic.
I go back to 2009, when the Conservative government set up PPP Canada. At the time, I was the mayor of a large city of 520,000 people. We were a beneficiary through PPP Canada. We worked together and commenced the building of a biofuel facility, which is being completed now. We leveraged private sector dollars. However, the taxpayers are not paying fees to investors on that front. Therefore, the structure is already there in PPP Canada. The initial investment into PPP Canada was $1.3 billion, which leveraged $6 billion in infrastructure. The mechanisms and the tools are there.
One of the other functions of the bank is data collection. The FCM has been doing data collection for quite some time. In fact, $50 million were given to the FCM by the current government specifically for data collection. Therefore, again, it is a repetition of things that are already being done.
The infrastructure bank portion of Bill will be studied for just one hour. For something as significant as this, with $35 billion of taxpayers' dollars, to be studied at committee for one hour is absolutely not enough time. Within the motion that has been put forward today, the NDP has requested that this be brought back to the House separately so we can have a wholesome debate on it. Unfortunately, the government has invoked time allocation. It is shutting down debate and giving one hour in committee. This is absolutely unacceptable.
In a Globe and Mail article on Wednesday, May 10, the stated: “We are not hearing concerns from [those on] whose behalf we are doing this”. Of course there are no concerns from the people for whom they are doing this. That comment from the minister is really telling.
I want to talk about the significant conflict of interest. The Liberals gave direct control over the development of the bank to the very same private investors that will be profiting from the bank. This is a clear and blatant conflict of interest. BlackRock officials were invited by the Liberals to work directly with senior public servants, as well as ministerial staff, ahead of a closed-door meeting with the and ministers on November 14. This was to ensure that BlackRock clients would hear from the minister about the infrastructure bank. In fact, they even looked over the speaking notes of the minister. Documents also reveal that a member of the finance minister's advisory council, who is the president and CEO of Quebec's largest pension fund, was the lead in the policy decisions of the infrastructure bank. That is interesting, because now the pension fund is seeking a $1.3 billion contribution from the Liberal government for a $6 billion light rail transit project. Again, this is a blatant conflict of interest.
The postings for the positions on the board are closing before the end of this month, and the legislation has not even been passed.
Let us talk about the Liberal infrastructure plan. Ninety per cent of the announced infrastructure projects have failed to start construction. That means there are no jobs being created and the economy is not being stimulated. The majority of the funds in the Liberal infrastructure plan are back-ended after 2022. There are no bilateral agreements for phase two that have been signed, and no projects have been submitted by the provinces.
The PBO, the Fraser Institute, the Senate, and the C.D. Howe Institute all have serious concerns. They cannot follow the money, there is no transparency, the projects are not getting built, and there is no way they can measure progress. No wonder the government wants to muzzle the PBO.
The Liberals continue to say “historic” amounts of spending, and they are spending. They are spending $253 million on the Asian infrastructure bank, but we are going to be on the hook for $1.3 billion in loan guarantees. The Chinese government is taking the lead on that.
I would like to make an amendment to the motion. I move:
|| That the motion be amended by adding to part (c) after the word “investors” the following:
||using taxpayer dollars while also imposing user fees on Canadians
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise in the House today to talk about the Liberals' infamous infrastructure bank, which I would say is loaded with conflicts of interest. I want to begin by thanking the NDP for moving this motion on such an important topic today.
I will have another chance to talk about these dubious relationships a little later, but I want to begin by outlining the unusual progress of this plan and the problems we have had from the start getting to the bottom of things because of the lack of transparency of the Liberal government, which was supposed to be so open and transparent.
In October 2015, the Liberals promised to run small deficits of $10 billion and announced the creation of an independent infrastructure bank. What a good way to hide public money in a shiny new Liberal government toy.
When the bank was finally announced in November 2016, I asked the where he intended to get the money to finance it. It was radio silence as usual, and I did not get an answer. The next day, when I again asked where the money was supposed to come from, I was told that the government was planning to take $15 billion out of the infrastructure program for Canadian municipalities and put it into the bank. At that point, a lot of people in municipal government did a double take, when the money they could have used to fund major projects in communities across Canada just evaporated.
A few weeks later, the government rubbed salt in the wound. Not only was it going to take Canadian municipalities' $15 billion away and invest it in the infamous infrastructure bank, but now, most of the projects funded by the infrastructure bank would be worth over $100 million or even $500 million because investors would not be interested in funding anything smaller. Where I come from, people call that getting shafted.
In November, December, January, February, March, April, and May, I asked the at every opportunity to name a single project worth $100 million or more that could be funded by this infrastructure bank in a small or medium-sized municipality in Canada. I did not ask him to name 10, 20, or 100 municipalities, but just one little project. I have asked him this question at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, during question period, and during various discussions, but he has never been able to name a single project.
That makes sense, because if you look at all Canadian municipalities, the average value of the projects partially or fully funded by the federal government is not $100 million or more, but rather $6.7 million. With the exception of projects in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and a few provincial megaprojects, there are no projects worth $100 million or more in the vast majority of Canadian municipalities. This means that that $15 billion, which could have helped all Canadians, will serve only a small group of individuals, namely foreign investors, the friends of the Liberal Party.
The and his did not understand the story of Robin Hood, who steals from the rich to give to the poor. What the Prime Minister and his , , and government are doing is taking money that should have been given to small and medium-sized municipalities and giving it to multi-billionaire foreign investors. That is what is happening.
Then, we learned from Michael Sabia, president of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, who sits with other investors on a committee that was put in place to advise the minister, the government, and the , that these investors will want returns of 7% to 9% before they are interested in investing in this bank.
My colleague who just spoke and I are former municipal officials, former mayors. We can say that all the municipalities are able, with obligations, to get funding at a maximum rate of 2%. As a result, the municipalities have no interest in investing in this infrastructure, except on the recommendation of the government. It will only serve to fill the pockets of these private investors, these foreign investors, and these friends of the government who are filling the Liberals' election coffers at fundraisers across Canada.
Every time we ask the government about this, it is radio silence. We learned from a document that I mentioned earlier, written by BlackRock, that in August 2016, the largest investment firm in the world secretly met with senior officials and their guests, potential clients of this bank. Through the Access to Information Act, we were able to get access to information about all of these meetings, including the agendas and subjects discussed.
Oddly, we have no information because everything except for the titles was redacted. We do not have the names of the people who attended the meetings with the , the , the , and the . Where is the list of BlackRock's guests and clients, those who are going to profit from this infrastructure bank? This is frustrating. The Liberal government says it is transparent, but it is impossible to get this list or what was on the agenda for the meetings.
BlackRock even helped the minister write his speech during an event that was held in November. It is unbelievable when we think about it. With all the support around the minister, including writers, he had to ask a private firm to help him write his speech.
As I was saying, all the top Liberals were at that meeting: the Minister of Finance, the , the , the , the , the , the , the , and, of course, Justin Trudeau.
Surprise, surprise. The infrastructure bank is exactly what the investors were hoping for. Investors have managed to create a bank to meet their needs and that will yield minimum returns of between 7% and 9% and possibly 10% to 12% in some cases. Of course the projects will have to be worth more than $100 million to be of interest to them.
Who made these smart recommendations? Michael Sabia and Mark Wiseman, two members of the Trudeau government's advisory council on economic growth who, coincidentally, will directly benefit from the establishment of this infrastructure bank.
Michael Sabia is the president of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Mark Wiseman is member of the global executive committee of BlackRock. There is obviously a conflict of interest. It begs the question: did these people declare a conflict of interest? The answer is no. There is no declaration, and they have no intention of stepping away from the consultations. They came up with the idea for this infrastructure bank. They recommended it to the government. They got the Justin Trudeau government to make that decision. We asked many questions, which all went unanswered.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am very happy today to have the opportunity to rise in support of the motion from my colleague, the member for . The motion, in my view, is very clearly worded and its purpose is also clear and concise. The clauses concerning the Canada infrastructure bank's creation should be removed from Bill , the budget implementation act, 2017, No. 1, so that they can be studied as a stand-alone bill.
This is not an unreasonable ask. It is widely acknowledged that the government's proposed infrastructure bank scheme is complex. Canadians and parliamentarians should take the time to study it before it is enacted as part of an omnibus budget bill, which is precisely the type of bill that the current government used to decry and condemn as undemocratic. After all, if we are to invest $35 billion into this scheme, we should allot more than a couple of hours of study.
I am sure my colleagues would agree that this sort of spending deserves more careful scrutiny, which is why it needs to be excised from Bill and studied as a stand-alone bill. Why is the government burying such an important and expensive initiative in a 300-page bill? What is it afraid of? A government that has boasted over and over again about its pledges to be open and transparent is afraid to allow any sunlight to fall on its infrastructure bank scheme. Could it be because this scheme would benefit its wealthy friends first and foremost instead of the citizens of Canada?
What are the criteria and governance models that this bank would operate under? Already there are concerns that corporations and private investors have been given unprecedented control over the planning and development of this scheme. Where is the consultation with everyday Canadians that Liberals are so fond of? Why will the Liberals not even allow elected members of this House to study this scheme? Are they concerned that their scheme will not pass the smell test?
The government promised that investments in infrastructure would benefit Canadians, but it is difficult to see how a scheme that would pad the profits of corporations and wealthy private investors would do that, especially when everyday Canadians would be paying the price through new tolls and years of user fees with nothing to show for it in the long run. This is the oldest trick in the book, and we all know how it ends. Governments give sweetheart deals to corporations for infrastructure projects, people pay through the nose, corporations make profits, and then the crumbling infrastructure is dumped back on the public. It is not a scenario that benefits taxpayers.
How can Canadians be sure that decisions made by this bank would, indeed, be in the best interests of taxpayers? Will corporate profits always trump public good, or just sometimes? Either way, it is not acceptable to push this through without consultation, without study, and without the disinfectant of sunlight on this scheme that seems to have been concocted between the government and a few of its wealthy friends. It is just the latest example of the arrogance of the government, “Just trust us; we know best.”
It is passing strange that the consultation the government loves to trot out as a delaying tactic whenever convenient is so conspicuously missing here. When it came to pay equity for half of our population, the Liberals conveniently kicked the can for a couple of years, citing the need for consultation, even though pay equity is a human right and has been studied to death. After ragging the puck on electoral reform for months, the Liberals insisted on consultations in many forms, town halls in each riding, postcards, and even a famously incoherent and universally ridiculed online questionnaire, only to abruptly pull the plug on their promise to make 2015 the last election under first past the post. However, when there is an opportunity to help their wealthy friends get even richer off the backs of Canadians, it is suddenly inconvenient to have consultations. It must be just a coincidence.
If the Liberals think they have a case to move forward, they should not be afraid to pull the plug, just like they did on electoral reform. They should pull the infrastructure bank scheme out of the omnibus budget bill so it can be studied properly. If they acted as they claim, in the best interest of Canadians, they should not be afraid of scrutiny, and their scheme should be able to stand, or fall, on its own merits. This unseemly haste does not bode well for Canadians. If elected representatives cannot be allowed to properly study this costly scheme, one must ask again what the government is hiding. What is it afraid of?
Public infrastructure should serve the interests of Canadians. Privatizing investment in public infrastructure is not just a bad business decision for the taxpayers of Canada; it represents a blatant conflict of interest.
We do not have to look very far to find examples of boondoggles that have cost taxpayers dearly. In my home province of Saskatchewan, I can point to a couple of infamous examples. The Regina bypass portion of the Trans-Canada Highway is contracted to a foreign company that has been accused of unfair labour practices, and the cost of this project has ballooned from $400 million to $2 billion. What about the sketchy land deal known as the Global Transportation Hub scandal, particularly the revelation that the land purchased by the GTH could have been bought years earlier for a tenth of the cost? As a result of the Saskatchewan Party's GTH scandal, two businessmen, who also happen to be Sask Party supporters, took $11 million in profits out of the pockets of Saskatchewan taxpayers. Now the Sask Party government has unilaterally killed the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, STC, because it thinks that a private operator will be able to take it over. Yes, a private operator would be only too happy to buy STC's assets in a fire sale and then only offer service on routes that would be profitable. What happens to the less profitable routes that serve Canadians in remote communities who have no other means of transportation to get to cancer treatment?
Selling off profitable crown corporations like SaskTel will only lead to higher costs for consumers and an unnecessary loss of equity and revenue for the province, and therefore the taxpayers. I really do not care which party people belong to. Stories like these should make their skin crawl.
In the last 30 years, there have been many failed experiments that have exploded the myth that private business can deliver essential public services and infrastructure at less cost and with better results than the public sector. Canadians pay taxes for the common good. That includes public services and public infrastructure.
During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals promised to establish the Canada infrastructure bank to “provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects”, but in 2016, they subsequently announced that the bank would be financed largely by private-sector investors. I am pretty sure that private-sector investors are not known for their pro bono work.
Projects financed by the infrastructure bank would have to generate revenues that would pay significant returns to investors, resulting in user fees, tolls, and of course, new costs to be assumed by Canadians across the country. What the Liberals are proposing is nothing short of privatization of our infrastructure. This privatization would benefit their friends: wealthy investors. It would not help middle-class Canadians, and middle-class Canadians are who the Liberals keep saying they are trying to help.
All Canadians should ask this question: If the bank's mandate would be to finance projects with income-generating potential, what would happen to essential infrastructure projects in the regions deemed unprofitable but that are in the public interest and are necessary for public safety? Based on the Liberal plan, the bank would have great autonomy in choosing which infrastructure projects were financed. Given these circumstances, who would guarantee that the decisions made by the bank's board and executive director were in the public interest, and moreover, who would have the power to prevent corruption and ensure accountability?
In fact, we are learning through the news media that there is an internal federal report that warns of a wide range of potential problems with the proposed Canada infrastructure bank, including that it would duplicate the work of provinces, slow down projects, add new layers of bureaucracy, and expose Ottawa to “public relations disasters and embarrassment”.
If the government is so convinced that its infrastructure bank scheme is in the best interest of Canadians, it should have no objection at all to severing it from the omnibus budget bill and having it scrutinized by parliamentarians and Canadians. After all, what does it have to hide?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this important motion brought forward by my colleague, the hon. member for .
For decades, Canada's vital public infrastructure has been suffering from serious neglect from the lack of political will of government after government to adequately invest in it. To make matters worse, not only have federal governments continued to fail to adequately invest in public infrastructure, but there has also been a significant downloading of the responsibility to provincial and municipal governments. In turn, many provincial governments over the years have followed suit and downloaded their responsibilities to local governments, as well.
The result is that local governments have been left holding the bag. Local governments have been even further handcuffed by successive cuts to transfers made to them by both the federal and provincial governments. Between the 1990s and 2000s alone, transfers from other levels of government were reduced from 26% to 16% of total annual municipal revenue.
While estimates of the infrastructure deficit can vary, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in its annual alternative federal budget, pegs that figure at $171.8 billion. There is absolutely no doubt that investment is needed.
Canada's public infrastructure is desperate for upgrade and expansion, and these are not just some make-work projects. Public infrastructure, such as improving roads and highways and expanding public transit services would not only significantly improve the lives of Canadians as they go about their day, but would help Canada build a more environmentally sustainable society, allowing us to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example.
As Canadian cities continue to grow, the failure to provide the essential funding to increase public transit options impacts Canadians at a personal level and the broader economy as well.
The 2014 traffic index found my city of Vancouver was home to the third largest amount of gridlock in North America, just behind Los Angeles and Mexico City, with Toronto not far behind. Gridlock was believed to cost the average commuter nearly 79 hours in 2014. That means for over three days per year, people are stuck in traffic.
In 2009, the OECD estimated that the greater Toronto area alone lost $3.3 billion in productivity as a result of urban sprawl, congestion, and underinvestment in public transit. Fast, frequent, reliable, accessible, affordable, high-capacity transit is essential.
In my riding, we often see buses drive past stops because they are full. There is no question that more buses are needed. The B-Line on Broadway often has long lineups. People in my community would love to see a rapid transit that takes them all the way to UBC. Enhanced HandyDART services are also much needed for seniors and those with mobility challenges.
Significant and stable long-term funding is required to provide the services needed to meet existing and future transit demands. Investments in public infrastructure are investments in our country's future.
Aside from a deficit in transit infrastructure, we also need soft infrastructure support. Things like libraries, community centres, neighbourhood houses, art and cultural spaces, theatres across Canada in both cities and rural communities are vitally important community institutions.
In , Vancouver's Chinatown is one of Canada's major tourist and historical sites. It is a recognized national historic site yet today, it is number three on Heritage Vancouver's top 10 watch list of endangered sites in Vancouver and on the top 19 endangered places list on the National Trust for Canada.
Today, historic Chinatown is faced with enormous redevelopment pressures and the neighbourhood is fast gentrifying. Currently, the community is very concerned about the future of 105 Keefer Street. It is located next to the Chinese memorial which commemorates the Chinese railway workers and soldiers. This memorial depicts the history of Chinese Canadians in Canada and is profound in its meaning to our community. The Vancouver Chinese memorial is one of a kind in North America and is also a major tourist attraction.
In recognition of the above factors, the Chinese Benevolent Association, the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society, Chinese Canadian youth and seniors living in Chinatown held a joint press conference earlier requesting all levels of government to work in collaboration to acquire 105 Keefer Street and develop it for the community with special emphasis for low-income seniors housing.
The community would like to see all levels of government contribute to this much needed affordable housing in our community and to include the purchase of 105 Keefer as part of that initiative. This would be an excellent infrastructure project for the federal government to support.
Also, there is a historically significant role for Chinese society and clan associations in serving the social, political, and financial needs of Chinese Canadians. To bridge the history to the current realities of today, the community would like to see our government help rejuvenate these historic Chinese society and clan buildings. These buildings could be renovated in order to better serve the needs of today's community by creating usable community cultural spaces, space for food programs, and affordable housing.
The critical shortage of affordable, social, and co-op housing in this country is acute. Despite big talk about affordable housing strategies and big announcements about making investments, the government is simply continuing to kick the can down the road. In fact, it is investing in this year's budget exactly zero dollars to address the crisis.
My constituent Emily wrote:
|| Today I had the opportunity with my daughters school, Fresh Air Elementary, to tour Lookout's shelter in North Vancouver.
|| We learned that the shelter is full every night and that BC Housing waitlists are impossibly long. I know that the people who are homeless often face multiple barriers that will make it almost impossible to find housing in the regular rental market.
|| We need a national housing plan that includes mixed income housing such as Co-ops, accessible housing, housing for seniors and housing for people that are really hard to house. There has to be affordable options for families too.
The city of Vancouver has 20 sites ready to go, and we can see affordable housing developed there now. One of them is at 58 West Hastings, a city-owned site. The mayor signed a pledge and committed that the project would be 100% welfare, pension rate community-controlled social housing. One partner of the project is the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation. The city is now seeking additional financial support from senior levels of government, and it is vital that the federal government become a partner in this important project.
Aside from housing, soft infrastructure is also critical in our community. Take for example the Chinese Cultural Centre's newly re-elected board chair, Fred Kwok, would like to see a theatre built for community use at the Chinese Cultural Centre. The land is available. The plan was drawn up by the late Joe Wai, an architect that left a huge legacy in our community. A partnership with the federal government would be essential to see this project succeed.
I wholeheartedly agree that Canada needs significant, immediate, and sustained investments to upgrade, improve, and expand our public infrastructure. However, like my New Democratic colleagues, I have very serious concerns about the government's proposed Canada infrastructure bank. The government can pick any name it wants, but it cannot change what it really is: the growing privatization of Canada's public infrastructure. We know the government has given large multinational corporations significant control in the creation of this program. It had even decided where it should go before the matter was examined by committee.
What we know is that this is just another term for private-public partnerships, what we call P3s. Why the fancy name? Years of evidence have shown P3s for what they really are: costly, private profit-generating projects that are prone to cost and time overruns, high user fees, and when something goes wrong, it is the public that is on the hook.
A 2016 paper from the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy concluded that P3s cost as much as, or even more than, conventional fixed-price procurement arrangements. As I alluded to, it also found “risks that are supposedly transferred to private partners are never truly transferred.”
This is going to be done on the backs of Canadians. The government is rushing this through because it wants to hide it so that people cannot have accountability and cannot have transparency, which is exactly what the government said it would not do.
It is time to support this motion. Canadians deserve no less.
Madam Speaker, I would first like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is an honour to stand in the House today to speak about the important work our government is doing to support our municipalities' infrastructure investments for the 21st century.
In budget 2016, we launched the first phase of the plan, which is designed to achieve three major objectives: encouraging long-term economic growth, building inclusive communities, and supporting a low carbon emission green economy.
The initial phase focused on repairing and modernizing existing infrastructure. It also provided for financing the design and planning stages of new large-scale projects.
That first phase has been successful. Through Infrastructure Canada's two funds, the $2 billion clean water and waste water fund, and the $3.4 billion public transit infrastructure fund, the Government of Canada has supported 1,760 projects across the country. Over 70% of these projects are currently under way.
When we first took office, we made a commitment to Canadians and Canadian municipalities to be transparent and to make strategic evidence-based investments in infrastructure. We knew the best way to do this was in partnership with provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous peoples, and key stakeholders, so we met with them. We talked to them, and we continue to talk to all our partners and stakeholders. We know the best way to be successful is to ensure that the work we are doing and the plans we are putting forward are based on the needs and expectations of the people it is meant to serve.
As the said in the House on Tuesday, we ensure we talk to people, like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the big cities mayors' caucus, and to engineering and construction industry members. Last week, I spoke to a group of mayors from the UMQ, who put forward their views on our project, and they were very positive about it. With their valuable input and contributions, we were able to develop our long-term infrastructure plan, which we call “investing in Canada”, through which we will invest over $180 billion over 12 years.
Our plan focuses on five key areas: public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation, and rural and northern communities. It also features two new initiatives: the smart cities challenge, which I spoke to the mayor and guests about yesterday in Toronto; and the Canada infrastructure bank.
When we were developing the Canada infrastructure bank, we also met with groups like the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. We knew the importance of having the experts at the table from the very beginning. That is also why I would like to commend the House of Commons and Senate committees that are looking into the bank very carefully. The bank is being reviewed by four distinct committees. I would like to thank those members for their time and hard work on the matter.
The Canada infrastructure bank is a new tool for communities across Canada to take advantage of in order to build strong and stronger communities.
We are proposing the Canada infrastructure bank because we believe that the federal government has an opportunity to make a place for itself among the many private sector investments in infrastructure and to form partnerships with some of the largest institutional investors in the world.
If Parliament approves it, that is exactly what the Canada infrastructure bank will do. It will invest up to $35 billion in new infrastructure focusing on growth everywhere in Canada.
Fifteen billion of those dollars will come from the investing in Canada plan. That $15 billion represents approximately 8% of the total funds we have committed to infrastructure under our long-term plan, which I referred to earlier, of over $180 billion.
We will make an additional $20 billion in capital available to the Canada infrastructure bank to enable it to hold assets in the form of equity or debt.
The bank will be the federal government’s contact point with the private sector and will hire experts from the private sector so that the government can maximize the investments made with private capital.
The bank’s funds are in addition to the funding for infrastructure that we have committed to doubling. Most importantly, they represent a new way of helping our financing partners meet their urgent infrastructure needs. We will free up public funds to build more public infrastructure using private capital to build these new projects.
We expect that the bank will attract private sector capital that would otherwise not have been invested in public infrastructure. That will have a multiplier effect on our transformational infrastructure capacities. Once the bank has been created as an autonomous crown corporation, it will provide a new tool that the provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous partners will be able to use to build the infrastructure that Canadians need.
It will also be responsible for negotiating complex transactions and finding innovative financing solutions for transformational infrastructure projects everywhere in Canada. It is therefore essential that we find and attract talented and experienced managers who will ensure that the bank fulfils its mandate. My colleague, the , has initiated the search for senior management, namely the chairperson, the board of directors, and the chief executive officer of the autonomous crown corporation. The objective is to ensure that the bank is operational by the end of 2017.
This process is open and merit-based, and it will enable us to find the experts and professionals who are needed for managing the bank. The selection process is designed to attract diverse and highly qualified personnel.
At this point, I would like to address some of the allegations made in the House, in particular by the member for . The suggestion has been made, and it was not simply made by her, that the bank would take away from current projects that have been announced or are under way. That is patently false. The member can rest assured that the projects in her riding, totalling $72.5 million, half of which is federally funded, will go through.
Another issue that was raised was the ownership of the gas tax fund. It bears reminding the House that the gas tax fund was created by the last Liberal minister of finance, now the current , to truly balance the budget. The gas tax fund is a Liberal initiative that creates sustained funding to municipalities through regular funding from the government.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, I met with the UMQ. We do not share entirely the same opinion on how much money gets funded by the federal government. We are entering into a difficult, earnest, and open negotiation phase with Quebec, and municipalities will participate in the advocacy. It was very eager to hear what our plans were.
Wherever I go in Quebec to make announcements, the mayors of the cities, and especially the councillors, who work as hard as we do, if not harder, are delighted to be getting infrastructure. There has been a crying need for decades, because of capital underfunding, and that has consequences.
If approved by Parliament, the bank will be an important new tool for our provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous communities to build more infrastructure, while freeing up public funding for public projects.
The Government of Canada has been open and transparent regarding all phases of the bank's development. We will continue to work openly with our partners to ensure our investing in Canada's infrastructure plan continues to meet the needs of communities across Canada.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the importance of public infrastructure and how it will help stimulate the economy and provide additional support to Canadian families.
We believe that one of the best ways to restore the confidence of Canada's middle class is to invest in public infrastructure in order to build stronger communities and build an economy that works for all Canadians and their families.
Strengthening the middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their children and grandchildren. When the middle class succeeds, we all succeed.
We know that our investments in our communities will help everyone contribute to improving our economic, social, and environmental well-being, but how can we achieve those objectives in practical terms? That is a good question.
Governments throughout the world are constantly struggling to create public assets, such as roads and bridges, that meet taxpayers' quality expectations while also standing the test of time. That is why, in budget 2016, the government announced its proposal for a historic infrastructure plan.
We are working closely with the provincial and territorial governments on making targeted investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure as soon as possible. Budget 2016 announced $11.9 billion over five years in support of these priorities.
In the speeches I heard today, several members talked about projects that have yet to start.
This morning, many individuals were saying that there are not a whole lot of shovel-in-the ground or shovel-ready projects. I just made a quick call to my office to find out, in the beautiful riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, what projects in fact had been approved, and that we do have shovels in the ground. Again, we can totally see that the federal contribution for some projects that have been made was $84 million and project total values were $225 million.
There are some wonderful projects that we see, which I know I am very proud of and I advocated for very strongly during my campaign. One of them was the restoration of the beautiful Petitcodiac River. For those members who are not familiar with my area, the Petitcodiac project consists of replacing a causeway with a 200-metre bridge in order to achieve maximum recovery of the Petitcodiac River system. Back home, it is a project that is very near and dear to all of our hearts. Restoring the full tidal flow was expected to restore as much as 80% of the functions of the river, creating conditions necessary to restore fish passage and the unique Petitcodiac tidal bore. I can say that even last summer some individuals were out there with their surfboards, so we can almost promote tourism in a lot of ways, which is fantastic.
The first part of our plan outlined a new collaborative approach and use of infrastructure investment to make our communities stronger, but we knew that we needed to do more.
That is why in last fall's economic statement the government announced an additional $81 billion over 11 years for public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, infrastructure to support trade, infrastructure for rural and northern communities, and smart cities.
In all, combined with existing funding, we will be investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in our cities, our towns, and our trade corridors to provide cleaner air and water, better neighbourhoods for our children, and smarter, more connected communities. This investment is unprecedented in Canadian history and it comes at a time when the need is great.
Our communities need to keep people and goods moving. Our most vulnerable citizens need housing. To meet this challenge, we need to think even bigger.
Finally, I will address the issue of the creation of the Canada infrastructure bank. No level of government can achieve on its own the ambitious infrastructure objectives. We must work with the other levels of government, public and private organizations, and investors around the world. Canada has enormous infrastructure needs, with a huge potential for building world-class infrastructure that will improve communities, create good jobs, and make the economy stronger and greener.
It is important to attract investment that will fund a larger number of infrastructure projects. Investors have told us that they want to invest in Canada, but that certain specific conditions must be in place. That is why we introduced Bill , which establishes the new Canada infrastructure bank as a crown corporation. The bank will be run by a CEO and governed by a professional board of directors.
Through the new infrastructure bank, which is an independent institution, we will work with the provinces, territories, and municipalities to build world-class infrastructure that will improve our communities, create good jobs, and make the economy stronger and greener.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank will seek to attract investments from private sector institutions in new public infrastructure projects that will generate revenue in Canada. Simply put, it is a new way of funding transformative projects in communities across our beautiful country. By attracting new investors, we can carry out more infrastructure projects that Canadian communities need.
The bank will be entrusted with investing at least $35 billion in federal funds using a wide range of financial instruments. Through the creation of a new institution that is able to work with the private sector when it makes sense to do so, public funds will be used more wisely and more strategically. These investments will lead to better projects that will create the good, well-paying jobs that are needed to sustainably strengthen Canada's economy.
In closing, I want to say that we know that we will not overcome the challenges we are facing overnight. We know that to govern effectively, we cannot just focus on today and tomorrow. We also have to focus on the years and decades to come. We need to ensure a better future for our children. We are optimistic, knowing that we can build a better life for the next generation.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Today we are debating the government's proposal for a Canada infrastructure bank. In particular, today's NDP motion asks the House to remove the clauses concerning the Canada infrastructure bank from Bill , the budget implementation act, so they can be studied as a stand-alone bill.
I would like to start with a short history of the proposal and then move on to some of the concerns I have about the infrastructure bank.
In the 2015 election, the Liberal platform stated that it would:
...establish the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects. The federal government can use its strong credit rating and lending authority to make it easier and more affordable for municipalities to build the projects their communities need.
This was not one of those high-profile promises, like electoral reform, which the Liberals have since broken, and it seems to be an entirely reasonable promise to make: using public money wisely to build and maintain public infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the plan has changed radically. In the latest budget, the government reveals that the infrastructure bank will involve $35 billion, $15 billion of which is public money. The rest will come from private investment banks and funds that expect a sizable return on their investments and a real say in the priorities of where that money is invested.
Do we need such a private infrastructure bank in Canada? Do we need to pay more for infrastructure projects? Do we need to pay tolls and extra fees? Do we need to give up the planning control of where our money is spent on public infrastructure?
According to a study by researchers at the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, the federal government could build even more infrastructure simply by borrowing at preferred rates and then passing the savings on to cities and provinces. That was exactly what the Liberals promised in the last election.
The government seems to be doing this for only one reason, and that is to take the credit for infrastructure projects it has had little or nothing to do with, projects that will profit wealthy investment bankers, projects funded by taxpayers paying extra tolls and fees, all the while taking the costs off government books so its fiscal record looks better than it is.
I would like to look a little more closely at some of the concerns surrounding the Canada infrastructure bank proposal. First among these is that unnecessary added cost that it would bring to public infrastructure projects.
As the Liberals pointed out in their election promises, the federal government can use its strong credit rating to access funds to help provinces and municipalities move forward with infrastructure projects that will benefit all Canadians. Why bring in private investment firms that demand higher returns? The government is simply adding a middleman who wants a profit.
As we heard earlier in various speeches, the Liberal government recently commissioned a study by KPMG to look into the infrastructure bank idea. It obviously did not like the answers it got since it initially refused to release the report.
One of the points the report makes is that Canadians do not like paying extra fees and tolls for the use of public infrastructure, something that really should not come as a surprise, especially when those fees and tolls will not be paying back public monies used for the project, but instead paying for profits to investment bankers.
The report mentions the push back the government might get if we start charging fees for water use. It points out that private investors internationally have only taken on municipal water assets after the community has adopted full costing and metering of water use.
In my riding, water metering is already in effect in many communities, simply because water is a precious commodity in the dry interior of southern British Columbia and paying for use instead of per household is a strong incentive for water conservation. People are paying their own municipal governments, not a private corporation, for that water use. This example points to the fact that private investors are simply interested in making a profit rather than getting involved for the public good.
Every municipality has ongoing infrastructure maintenance and operating costs that they must bear every year. Small rural municipalities and regional districts already are struggling with per capita costs that are much higher than those in larger cities. It makes no sense to them to embrace an infrastructure bank that will inevitably cost their citizens even more in the long term. They need a federal government that will provide the funding they need in the form of grants or low interest loans, just as the Liberals promised in their election platform, not through a private infrastructure bank.
Small municipalities in rural Canada are also concerned that $15 billion have been taken out of the infrastructure pot and put in a bank that probably will not be that interested in funding small town projects.
In recent years, governments across the country have been undertaking public-private partnerships despite the obvious fiscal and control problems that come with them.
A couple of years ago, the auditor general in my home province of British Columbia found that provincial taxpayers were on the hook for about $31 million in extra interest rates on one project alone, the Fort St. John Hospital, representing the private equity in the project borrowed at an interest rate of 14.79%. This led one journalist to wonder if the B.C. Liberals had put the charge on their Visa card.
The amount that B.C. taxpayers pay every year for the extra interest costs of PPP projects has been calculated at $81 million.
I do not have time to go into all the other concerns about this proposal: concerns about the privatization of airports; concerns about the lack of public oversight, the lack of public input into the priorities of the infrastructure bank, the lack of public involvement in the board of the bank; concerns that the people who the Liberals are getting to design the system are the very people, wealthy investment bankers, who will benefit from it; and concerns about the rush to get this started. The jobs are already posted on the government website before the bill has been fully debated in the House, let alone passed through the House and Senate.
The KPMG study I mentioned earlier calls for careful study of the infrastructure bank proposal, but instead the government is trying to rush this through with only two hours of committee hearings. We all know what can be done at a committee in two hours, maybe hear from six witnesses who have 10 minutes each to speak and answer a few questions. This is entirely inadequate to cover the myriad of concerns about this proposal.
We are talking about a lot of money, $35 billion. The Liberals might point out that it is merely the amount of the annual budget deficit, but to Canadians it is a big number, especially with the extra tolls and fees they will be paying to fund this investment. The minister has said, “We are not hearing concerns from [those on] whose behalf we are doing this.” We are doing this on behalf of the citizens of Canada and I am hearing concerns from my constituents. I am left to wonder who the minister has been listening to and who he thinks we are doing this for.
We in the NDP feel the Canada infrastructure bank proposal needs to be taken out of Bill and thoroughly studied as a separate stand-alone bill. That way Canadians can provide some input into a major change in government policy, a change that will unnecessarily cost Canadian taxpayers a great deal of money, while at the same time giving up public oversight into how that public money is spent and which public infrastructure projects move forward.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the motion tabled by my colleague the member for . This is an important debate. I am pleased that my colleague has chosen to bring this forward, because otherwise we would not have an opportunity to even debate this important legislation, which is included in a major omnibus budget bill.
Among the 30 laws that would be enacted or amended by the omnibus budget bill is division 18, which if approved would establish the Canada infrastructure bank as a crown corporation. I emphasize “if approved” because none of the myriad measures contained in the budget bill would come into effect until the bill is deliberated at committee, receives final debate and votes, and is reviewed in the other place. The law to establish a Canadian infrastructure bank is not in legal effect.
Our first concern is that the law to establish significant reforms in the allocation of tax dollars was tabled as part of an omnibus budget bill, which is yet another promise broken. The decision to include the bill in the 300-page budget bill clearly diminishes opportunities for its thoughtful and careful review and is a concern raised by KPMG, who the Liberal government hired to advise it on whether it should proceed quickly and expediently to set this up. In fact, the government's own consultant advised to take it slowly. Then there was time allocation on debate, before the majority of members had the opportunity to even share their concerns and ask questions, and a mere one hour for committee review. It is absolutely astounding. This shows a high degree of disregard for the role of Parliament, including our very important duty to scrutinize spending, a responsibility of every member of this place.
Our party has allocated this opposition day to enable this very expanded debate to all members of this place, and we encourage all members to participate.
Second, the government has taken premature and possibly illegal actions to establish the proposed bank before the law enabling its creation is debated and approved by Parliament, let alone declared in legal effect. Bill has only just been referred to the finance committee for study.
As persuasively raised in a question of privilege presented by the NDP House leader, the member for , yesterday in this place, the government has already chosen and publicly announced a location for the yet unauthorized bank. It has already initiated a search for the board of directors, its chair, and the CEO. It has also announced on its website that the deadline for appointment is the 23rd of this month, a mere two weeks from today, and yet we are still just debating the law that would establish the bank.
These actions are beyond presumptuous. They could well be considered illegal, certainly based on past Speaker's rulings, as the enabling law is a long way from being enacted. No such actions may even be authorized by order in council. No authorizations have been issued by Parliament to establish the bank or to authorize the spending of funds to take effect. A case has been made that these premature actions may be held to be in contempt of the House and an attack against the authority of Parliament. We await the ruling by the Speaker. This is hardly a great start to the establishment of this institution.
Third, there remains a level of confusion about what is the actual purpose of this proposed bank and whose interests it is intended to serve. The stated purpose of the bank is to seek and attract investment from private sector institutional investors in infrastructure projects in Canada and partly in Canada, which I will speak to in a minute; to generate revenue, by levies and tolls—how else; and finally, to be in the public interest, adding that the definition of what is in the public interest is fostering economic growth or contributing to the sustainability of infrastructure, presumably developed by these private interests.
This provision alone raises myriad issues. What does “projects...partly in Canada” mean? What are the risks to Canadian investment if projects are partly located in the United States of America? Is the government thinking of export power lines perhaps from coal-fired power in Alberta and Saskatchewan? How does this benefit taxpayers? The law empowers the bank's board to determine what is in the public interest. Do Canadians agree with this? These are public dollars.
Who decides what is in the public interest for Canadians? It is the bank's board of directors? The law specifically precludes that the board would include any federal, provincial, or municipal government representatives. Therefore, clearly, no elected officials would have a say in what is public interest.
What happened to elected officials being held accountable for spending taxpayer monies or deciding on priority projects that serve the public interest? We have to remember that up to $35 billion of public monies are going to be given either directly to the bank to be accessed by private entities or through loan guarantees.
As National Post columnist Andrew Coyne has commented, the government appears to be relying on “the old political euphemism—it's not spending it's 'investment'”.
It is important to keep in mind that the government has committed $35 billion of taxpayers' money, including for loan guarantees, and that $15 billion of those dollars, gifted to this bank for access by private entrepreneurs, are removed from allocation for public infrastructure, including light rapid transit and green infrastructure, which the government speaks of ad nauseam.
Others have queried whether it actually qualifies as a bank. Despite the private investor board, the law mandated considerable role by government. For example, loan guarantees require approval of the minister of finance, and yet there are no clear criteria or requirements for transparency. Second, the cabinet chooses and fires the board and chair. Third, the board reports to the infrastructure minister not the minister of finance. It is not really clear who, in fact, in the government is responsible and accountable for the bank. Perhaps one minister would be accountable when it works and another minister would be held to account when we lose money.
There is concern that the bank is to be established as a crown corporation, thereby exempting it from access to information requests, so significant to the promises of transparency and accountability. Of course, we can read in the mandate letters over and over again about responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability, except for this bank.
Will it be subject to scrutiny by the PBO? It appears not. That is $35 billion that the PBO cannot even scrutinize.
Another issue that has been raised by a good number of persons is on conflict of interest. There are already serious concerns with the fact that the government sought advice and had direct guidance in establishing the bank from a number of the very entities that would most likely benefit from the bank and potentially be candidates for the board.
A proper study would include a review of any potential conflicts of interest, the impact of the bank on existing infrastructure programs, and how taxpayers would be affected if a project fails. Therein raises the spectre of bankruptcy. Canada's is promising that taxpayers will not be left holding the bag should any projects funded through a proposed infrastructure bank go bankrupt. How this assurance can be given by the government is unclear if the board is to be run by its board of directors from the private sector.
The government will be left holding the bag when, under bankruptcy law, creditors have been deemed priority over government seeking recovery of costs for the cleanup of abandoned well sites. We recently had decisions of the court saying that, in the occasion that there is a problem, the creditors go first, so these private entrepreneurs will gain the money first, not the taxpayers.
It is absolutely important that all members participate in this debate on behalf of their constituents and find out what the risks are to their communities and what the projects are that will not proceed if these monies are funnelled through the infrastructure bank.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is a pleasure to participate in the debate today on the government's infrastructure investments and the Canada infrastructure bank. We know that efficient public transit helps Canadians get to and from their jobs faster, that social infrastructure makes for great communities to live in, and that green infrastructure provides clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Across Canada, infrastructure spending is on the rise, but so too is demand for better neighbourhoods and better communities. As Canadian communities continue to grow, the need for vital infrastructure also grows, and Canadians feel the effects of this growth every single day. Business owners struggle to get their products to customers through congested ports and border crossings. Commutes can be long, buses and trains overcrowded, and getting the kids to hockey practice takes far too long. I think we can all agree that we need more Sidney Crosbys and Connor McDavids in this country.
In budget 2016, the government made a down payment on future growth through investments of $11.9 billion for phase 1 of its infrastructure plan. These smart, strategic investments are already making a difference in communities across Canada, supporting the repair of our aging pipes and roads, building and refurbishing affordable housing, upgrading public transit, and improving indigenous communities. Building on this historic investment, the fall economic statement added an additional $81 billion in funding starting in 2017-18, targeting public transit and green and social infrastructure. This funding would also go to projects in northern and rural communities and those that help to facilitate trade. Total federal investments in infrastructure will now exceed $180 billion over 12 years, a truly historic initiative by this federal government.
This is our opportunity to finally break the gridlock, a call to action for leaders across Canada to work together to plan, to implement, and indeed to deliver transformative infrastructure renewal. With their help, long-term regional transportation plans of Canada's major cities will be funded and transit systems will be built and expanded.
Let me add to that by focusing locally. In my own home city of London, Ontario, I had the pleasure recently of announcing a number of transit projects—54, in fact. I will highlight a few here.
One is the rehabilitation of Dundas Place. Anyone in London knows what that means. That is $8 million. As well, here are new and accessible transit paths and sidewalks, for $1 million; the Kiwanis parks pathway connection, for $1.05 million; funds to construct new downtown cycle tracks, for $1.075 million; replacement of all our bus shelters, 380 in total; the purchasing of closed-circuit monitors for 213 buses; and also funds, $4 million in total, for 14 buses in 2018 and 2019.
These proven investments in infrastructure and transit will boost the economy, not just for today but for years and even decades to come. It is the means by which all countries can build a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable society.
Canada's cities continue to attract people from around the world for their diverse and energetic offerings, but the same things that make these cities desirable can also bring discord. Challenges ranging from traffic congestion that takes time away from families and friends to poor-quality air that can make it difficult to enjoy city life are just some examples. We must find solutions as a country.
To encourage cities to adopt new and and innovative approaches to city-building, this government proposes $300 million over 11 years to launch a smart cities challenge. Through a nationwide merit-based competition led by Infrastructure Canada, participants would be invited to create ambitious plans to improve the quality of life for urban residents. Participants would propose ideas that leverage better city planning and implementation of clean and digitally connected technology. These might include greener buildings, smarter roads and energy systems, and advanced digital connections for homes and businesses.
Winning cities would be selected through a nationwide merit-based competition facilitated by the government's new impact Canada fund. These challenges present opportunities to leverage 21st century innovations and technological advances to strengthen and grow our communities.
However, there is more. I want to focus now on the Canada infrastructure bank.
We know that no level of government can accomplish ambitious goals for infrastructure by itself. We need to work in partnership with other levels of government, with public and private organizations, and with investors from around the world.
It is important to attract investment that will allow more infrastructure projects to get under way, especially infrastructure projects that might not otherwise be built were it not for these important partnerships coming into being.
Canada is a country with enormous infrastructure needs and a great deal of potential to build world-class infrastructure that will enhance communities, create good jobs, and build a stronger, greener economy. Investors have told us that they want to invest in Canada, but they need specific conditions to exist. That is why the Government of Canada is establishing the new Canada infrastructure bank. Through this new bank, an arm's-length organization, we will work with our provinces and our territories to build world-class infrastructure that will enhance communities, create good jobs, and build a stronger, greener economy, which is something that I hope we all want. Certainly on this side, we want that.
The Canada infrastructure bank would provide innovative funding and financing for large, complex infrastructure projects that improve economic performance. Very simply, it is a new way of funding transformational projects in communities right across this country. The bank will be responsible for investing $35 billion—federal dollars—through loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments into large infrastructure projects that contribute to economic growth.
By establishing a new organization capable of working with the private sector where it makes sense, we will see public dollars go further and put to smarter use, leading to better projects that create the good, well-paying jobs needed to strengthen the economy over the long term. This is a long-term vision, something that we have to embrace and endorse.
Let me conclude by speaking about the importance of green infrastructure.
We know that provinces and territories are looking at ways to ensure their communities remain healthy and productive places to live. Investments in sustainable infrastructure are needed to support greenhouse gas emission reductions, enable greater climate change adaptation and resilience, and ensure that more communities can provide clean air and safe drinking water for their citizens.
To achieve this, the government is working with all levels of government and with indigenous partners to evaluate, select, and fund green infrastructure projects that would deliver the best outcome for Canadians. Projects that may receive these additional investments include, among others, interprovincial transmission lines that reduce reliance on coal-fired power generation; the development of new low-carbon, renewable power projects; the expansion of smart grids to use power more efficiently and effectively; water treatment projects on reserve; and the construction of infrastructure to help manage the risks associated with floods and wildfires.
This investment builds on those in budget 2016, which are now supporting communities right across this country as they adapt to the challenges of climate change. This includes investments that support electric vehicle and alternative transportation fuel infrastructure, initiatives to foster regional electricity co-operation, and the development of building codes and standards that integrate climate resiliency requirements. These measures support the ongoing transition to a clean growth economy.
To conclude, these investments in infrastructure that we make today will pay dividends for years to come, delivering clean, sustained, economic growth; building stronger, more inclusive communities; and creating more good, well-paying jobs for Canadians.
We have a plan that will bring hope not only to Canadians, but I hope also to the opposition, who I think all agree that economic growth in this country is of vital significance. It is about how we achieve it, and I am sure we disagree on that—I know we disagree on that—but this is a plan that I truly believe in. It is a plan that we consulted on right across this country.
One of the best ways we believe that we can bring confidence back to the middle class is through such plans. We know that investing in our communities means everyone can contribute to advancing our economic, social, and environmental well-being.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address a key portion of the government's plan for economic growth in our country. Investing in infrastructure was a key pillar of the economic platform we ran on in the 2015 election. I am pleased to see, as part of the budget implementation act that introduces serious investments in infrastructure as well as the concept of the infrastructure bank, that we are making good on this commitment. We are going to achieve economic growth across our country.
Over the course of my remarks, I hope to cover a few themes. For example, why are infrastructure investments important, particularly in the economic context we live in today, and why is an infrastructure bank a wise idea? I also want to cover some of the investments in my community so I can demonstrate through examples how meaningful economic growth can happen with strategic investments in our country's infrastructure.
I will begin with the importance of investing in our infrastructure. The economic context is key to understanding why this is a good time to be making such serious and substantial investments. Right now we live in a time that has historically low interest rates. Money has never been cheaper in the history of currency. At the same time, we are coming out of a period of slow economic growth, culminating with the third quarter of 2015 having us on the border of a recession.
When we are trying to spur economic growth when the private sector is going through a difficult time, and when it is cheap to gain access to capital, it makes sense to be making investments in infrastructure. However, it is also important to invest in certain kinds of infrastructure. We want to make sure that the investments we make create jobs in the short term to kick-start the economy but also set the conditions for long-term economic growth. We cannot simply hire people to dig holes in the ground. We need to be investing in projects that will create prosperity in the long term.
There are a handful of key focus areas for the $180-billion infrastructure plan that have been laid out.
We are investing in public transit, which disproportionately has a positive impact on people living in poverty, people living with disabilities, and seniors, which are key demographics in my riding.
We are investing in social infrastructure, such as housing and child care, to the tune of $11 billion and $7 billion, respectively, because we know that the cost of investing in these key parts of social infrastructure is cheaper than the cost of failing to make investments that are much needed.
We are investing in trade and transport infrastructure, because we know that we are competing in a global marketplace, and getting our goods to the global marketplace in a timely manner is essential if we are going to create good-paying, middle-class jobs across Canada.
We are investing in clean growth and green infrastructure. I have to point out, in light of the flooding in recent days, that I lived in Calgary in 2013 during the massive floods and was evacuated. With investments in flood mitigation infrastructure, we can see economic benefits that do not shut down downtown cores for weeks at a time. With investments in alternative energy, we can become greener, and create good-paying 21st-century jobs at the same time.
The final theme of the infrastructure plan laid out in the budget, which is of key importance to my riding, is an investment in rural Canada. There is $2 billion set aside for rural and northern infrastructure. This does not prejudice the ability of small towns and rural communities to seek investments from the rest of the infrastructure funding envelope. However, to see that there is actually a carve-out for rural infrastructure makes me incredibly proud, because it is something that I and a number of my rural colleagues have been advocating for. To see that recognition says to me that the Government of Canada is interested not just in the biggest urban centres but in the small towns and rural communities that make up the vast majority of our geography.
The great news is that the plan is already starting to work. We have seen, over a six-month period, over a quarter of a million jobs added to the Canadian economy, most of which are full-time. Unemployment has crept down. The plan is starting to work. While the private sector is seeing some improvement, public investments in infrastructure are also paying dividends early on.
I do not want to talk just in generalities. I hope that some examples from my own riding will be illustrative of the difference our investments are going to make.
With 32 Atlantic Canadian MPs on the government side of the House, we have had an opportunity to inform the policy-making process in a manner we have never had before. The government has responded to the advocacy of Atlantic Canadian MPs by coming up with the Atlantic growth strategy, under which infrastructure is one of the key pillars that is going to drive economic growth. There have been investments in infrastructure in my riding that not only play to our strengths but seek to mitigate some of our weaknesses as well.
We saw recently at St. Francis Xavier University, of which I am a proud graduate, as are my five sisters and both of my parents, an investment to the tune of $30 million to establish the institute of government and the centre for innovation in health.
The Brian Mulroney institute of government—Brian Mulroney is also a graduate of this fine institution—is going to focus on things like Canada-U.S. relations and international trade, the politics of environment and climate change, and women in leadership, among other things.
Each of these programs is going to not only contribute to long-term economic growth by promoting women to senior leadership roles and by understanding what policies we can adopt to enhance trade with our largest trading partner but is also going to create 600 jobs, for four years, in my backyard, in a community of only 4,500 people. This is a phenomenal investment in small-town Canada that I am incredibly proud of.
At the same time, another portion of this project is going to the centre for innovation and health. In Nova Scotia we have the highest proportion of seniors of any province in Canada. We need to come up with innovative solutions if we are going to succeed in the 21st century. Investing in a facility that is going to create jobs in the short term and help us solve our long-term demographic problems is essential and smart, and I am very proud of it.
Keeping with the theme of post-secondary education infrastructure, we have seen a tremendous investment, a combined federal and provincial investment of over $15 million, in the Nova Scotia Community College Pictou Campus that is going to see a new trades innovation centre. This educational hub for the skilled trades is what keeps many of our good-paying jobs in our community today. Without an institution that is keeping our machine shops filled with employees, I do not know where my county would be. To know that we are investing to make sure that we are not just protecting the jobs we have now but are educating a workforce for the jobs of the next 10 or 20 years, or more, is something I am incredibly proud of.
When we talk about infrastructure, we often limit ourselves to the envelopes of funding that fall under the , but in fact, in my community, there is all kinds of infrastructure that matters.
I have two coasts in my riding, the Northumberland Strait and the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. That is why I was so proud to see investments in small craft harbours to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. In my riding alone, to protect the fishery, to provide our fishermen with a safe place to work, we have seen investments to the tune of $10.8 million. A lot of this work is under way or complete today, and fishermen who are achieving an all-time high in terms of the price of lobster are able to know they have a place to bring in their product.
We are seeing investments in major highways, such as the Aerotech connector, which is going to connect some of the residents of my neighbour, the hon. member for , to the key economic hub outside the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, which is the Aerotech business park. This is an innovation hub in the aerotech sector that is key to the future of the Nova Scotia economy.
We are seeing investments in the connect to innovate program that are going to extend access to rural Internet to places that do not have it today. The importance of this investment cannot be overstated. I have talked to business owners who closed their storefront in a tourist community because they did not have reliable access to the Internet and their debit machine worked only 50% of the time. Tourists do not carry cash like they used to, and the owners have to operate their business in a community a little way down the road, where they have a reliable connection.
I have talked to tourism operators who cannot attract people to come to stay at their facilities because these people cannot achieve a wireless connection while they are there. I have talked to property owners who have been on the verge of a sale of their home, and when a person went to make a phone call and could not connect, they backed out of the deal. The investment in connectivity in rural communities is essential, and I look forward to the results. I know that it will serve Nova Scotia well.
I could go on about a number of other municipal infrastructure investments, including long-term commitments to the ferry service, but I want to turn my mind to the infrastructure bank, which is the specific subject of the motion today.
There is a unique opportunity to create more jobs in our communities and improve the strength of our communities. Currently, the global context is perfect for an investment like this. There is approximately $16 trillion in negative yield bonds around the world. What this means is that there is $16 trillion sitting waiting and looking for a better home. We can provide that home by putting up $35 billion of our own to create an infrastructure bank that will attract investments from international companies in Canadian communities to create jobs.
We have an infrastructure deficit in our country of about $1 trillion. We cannot do this solely through public financing if we do not want it to take three generations. The infrastructure bank is going to help cut into that deficit and make a meaningful difference in the communities I represent.
I support the infrastructure bank. It is a great idea. The time is right. I am so pleased to offer a few thoughts on this investment for my community.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to address an extremely important subject, that being the Liberals’ infrastructure privatization bank. I will explain why it is absolutely necessary that it be withdrawn from the omnibus bill . We must be able to debate it and to hold a vote specifically on this infrastructure privatization bank, which is completely unacceptable. The people of Drummond do not accept it. They are shocked, and even furious, to know that the Liberal government wants to privatize our infrastructures.
Before going any further, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague, the member for .
Before taking the debate any further, I would like to read the motion that my colleague from has moved in the House of Commons. It is an extremely important motion. It is not something that is easy for the layperson to grasp, but when we look at it in detail, the Liberals’ plan is quite clear. It is a plan that aims to support their cronies the private investors, and not the Canadian people, the middle class and those working hard to join it.
The motion reads as follows:
|| That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public infrastructure should serve the interests of Canadians, not work to make private investors rich; (b) during the election, the Liberals did not reveal to voters their plans to privatize investment in public infrastructure; (c) infrastructure built by private investors will cost more than public infrastructure; (d) it is a conflict of interest to allow private corporations, who will be the largest beneficiaries of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to participate in the planning and development of the Bank; (e) the Bank will leave taxpayers with an unacceptable burden of fees, tolls, and privatization that will only make private investors wealthy, to the detriment of the public interest; and (f) the clauses concerning the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s creation should be removed from Bill C-44, Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, so they can be studied as a stand-alone bill.
As I was saying, the part that is totally unacceptable, scandalous even, is that the Liberal government has broken yet another promise. It promised not to draft omnibus bills like the Conservatives did. Omnibus bills are undemocratic. They prevent MPs from doing their work properly, from analyzing all of the bills up for amendment, and from sending them to the proper committees for thorough analysis.
By including the infrastructure bank in this bill, the government is preventing MPs—preventing lawmakers—from doing a proper analysis and from sending the bill to a committee where expert testimony would enable them to pick apart all the ins and outs of the proposed infrastructure privatization bank legislation and reveal all of its possible negative impacts.
By putting all of this in a mammoth omnibus bill and breaking the Liberal promise to put an end to omnibus bills, they are making it impossible for this bill to receive proper analysis. They are depriving not only the members, but also the Canadian people, of the right to have full knowledge of and properly analyze the bills to be amended here. This is extremely serious. This is another broken promise of the Liberals, in addition to their broken promise to stop the constant tabling of time allocation motions.
What are we seeing? We are seeing the very opposite. The Liberals are well on their way to matching the Conservatives’ record for time allocation motions and gag orders, the same Conservatives who broke the all-time record, the worst record ever in the Canadian history. The Liberals, who had been so critical of that, are on their way to doing the same thing. It is truly deplorable.
What is more, they recently told us to get ready, because they are going to pass even more time allocation motions. I hope that the Liberal members will tell the that the time allocations must stop, that they have fought their fight and promised to be much more reasonable about this. However, that is not the case at all at the moment.
What is an infrastructure privatization bank, and what is its main consequence? First of all, the profits are given to private investors, while the government assumes all the risk and all the downside. The government is not just the Liberals. It is Canadians who are going to pay for all this, including the people in the riding of Drummond, which I represent. They are the ones who will have to pay for this ill-considered infrastructure bank.
Another consequence of creating such a bank is that the regions are forgotten, since private investors, who are looking to make profits, will invest only in projects located in the big cities, where there is far more opportunity to make a profit and where there are enough people to make it worthwhile.
Regions like Drummond have no infrastructure that can generate a big return; the infrastructure there exists to serve the population. Therefore, cities and regions like Drummond are not going to benefit from an infrastructure privatization bank. The money generated by Drummond and other regions of Canada will be taken and they will be told that it is not going to be invested locally. It is a shame.
The regions that will be able to benefit from this bank will be charged tolls and other fees. More tax pressure is going to be put on the middle class and those aspiring to join it. It really makes no sense.
The money they are going to invest in the infrastructure privatization bank could have been invested more wisely. Right now, Canadians all over Quebec and Ontario are suffering as a result of the flooding, because there has been no planning to adapt our infrastructures. We must ensure that we are resilient and can adapt to the effects of climate change, since there are going to be more and more extreme weather events.
The 2017 Green Budget Coalition has made some very important recommendations regarding investment in natural infrastructures and ecosystems. The following is an excerpt from one of the recommendations:
|| The Green Budget Coalition recommends that in Budget 2017 the Government of Canada allocate 30% of planned phase-2 Green Infrastructure funding for investments to protect and enhance Canada’s vital natural infrastructure...
Rather than investing that money in an infrastructure privatization bank, which will not serve Canadians or the Drummond region, it could have been invested in green infrastructure and in climate resilience and adaptation for existing infrastructure. That is of the utmost importance, given what is happening to our regions.
For instance, near Yamachiche and near Gatineau, right here, people are suffering because of flooding, and yet no planning is being done to adapt to climate change. That is in the green budget, which the Liberals unfortunately did not read. What a shame.
In closing, the part of Bill that deals with the privatization of infrastructure must absolutely be taken out, so that we may debate it properly and study all the ins and outs at the appropriate committee, where experts could show that the bank is in no way good for the Drummond region. That is why we will be opposing the bill.