Government Rejects Committee Recommendation to Scrap Infrastructure Bank

By Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret
September 19, 2022 Updated: September 21, 2022

The Canada Infrastructure Bank is here to stay, according to a Sept. 14 letter issued by Infrastructure Minister Dominic Leblanc in response to a House committee recommendation calling for its disbandment.

The transport committee had tabled a report on May 2 calling for the bank to be abolished.

The government “strongly disagrees with the recommendation,” Leblanc wrote in his official response.

Leblanc argued that no witness cited in the report had called for the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to be dissolved and that the data used to compile the report was out of date.

The investigative work of the committee took place last winter during the previous Parliament.

The CIB was officially established in 2017 to fund revenue-generating infrastructure projects with $35 billion in taxpayer funds and to attract private investments.

“Attracting private capital is critical to reduce the cost of infrastructure for all levels of government while meeting our climate and economic goals,” Leblanc wrote.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux testified before the transport committee in March 2021 and indicated that all of the 13 CIB projects at the time were funded by taxpayers.

Giroux also specified that Canadian pension funds partnering with the CIB are not considered private entities based on Statistics Canada’s definition of a government entity.

Leblanc said the CIB has made “significant progress” since the transport committee completed its study, with participation in 39 projects.

The Epoch Times contacted the CIB to obtain a breakdown of private investments by projects but the agency didn’t provide the requested information.

“The CIB has collaborated with dozens of public, private and Indigenous partners across Canada to the tune of $7.7 billion in private and institutional investment and $6.3 billion public sector investment in Canadian infrastructure,” wrote spokesperson Ross Marowits in an email.

Marowits said the bank has realized 34 investment commitments and 17 financial closes at the end of the first quarter.

The CIB’s website lists its various projects, progress, and partners. Among the projects listed under the status of “financial close” and involving private entities, one is the retrofitting of the Algoma Steel factory in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to phase out the coal-fired steelmaking process.

The CIB’s investment is listed at $220 million, with an added $200 million from the Net Zero Accelerator fund from Innovation Canada. The total cost of the project is $703 million.

In his letter, Leblanc said the government has set priorities for the CIB in five sectors such as green infrastructure, public transit, and projects “that provide the greatest economic, social and environmental return.”

Leblanc highlighted that the bank saw its mandate broadened in Budget 2022, being allowed to invest in private sector-led infrastructure projects that are in the public interest to “accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Bank’s Efficiency Questioned

The transport committee’s report questioned the CIB’s efficiency, quoting witnesses saying the progress on projects was “pretty dismal” or that not much had been done.

Andrew Scheer, Conservative MP and infrastructure critic at the time, said in his comments on the report that the CIB has been an “absolute failure” for not attracting private investments and not completing projects.

The Bloc Québécois wrote in a supplementary opinion to the report that it sees the CIB as an encroachment on the jurisdiction of provinces and municipalities.

The NDP wrote in its supplementary opinion that the revenue-regenerating mission of the bank could go against public interest.

Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret