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Canadian Infrastructure

Taxpayers Face The Burden Of Canada's Infrastructure Investment

Infrastructure Bank Will Use Public Money For High Risk Projects
posted onAugust 24, 2017
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Canadian Infrastructure Bank

On Nov 1st, 2016 Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced his fall economic update in the House of Commons. Speaking in the parliament, the Minister said that government was creating “a new Canada infrastructure bank, through which at least $35 billion will flow to help us undertake transformative projects that might not otherwise get built. This bank will allow us to create thousands of jobs, get more projects built, and attract $4 to $5 in private capital for every tax dollar invested.” He added “The new infrastructure bank will allow us to identify a pipeline of projects on which we can base our long-term investment decisions. In short, the bank will change how we plan, fund and carry out large infrastructure projects in Canada.”

Liberal Party Manifesto

The proposal to create a Canadian Infrastructure Bank formed part of the Liberal Party election manifesto in 2015. The priorities outlined for the bank in the manifesto included providing financial support for the construction of affordable homes for middle to low- income Canadians. Another aim of the Liberals was to establish a bank with could provide loan guarantees and small capital contributions to provinces and municipalities to ensure that projects are built. The bank is targeted to support renewable energy initiatives by supplying ‘Green Bonds’ to fund projects like electric vehicle charging stations and networks, transmission lines for renewable energy, building retrofits, and clean power storage.

Criticism

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose criticized the plan saying: “Today, we heard a lot of excuses for the failed Liberal plan, and more claims that growth is just around the corner if only they spend a little more of your money,”.

Critics have highlighted flaws in the proposal. The Canadian government has not had difficulty previously attracting private investment for infrastructural projects. According to the Fall Economic Update, capital markets, pension funds, and private sector banks have invested $2 trillion worldwide into construction projects.  The aim of the bank appears to use public money to underwrite risky projects. One of the main functions of the Infrastructure Bank is to provide funding to projects that have little hope of attracting funding from elsewhere.  

Private Funds

Private investment firms have a sound understanding of the risks of investments. Their primary duty is to ensure that their clients witness a decent return on capital that they entrust to their advisors. If private firms were to place client’s funds into projects subject to high levels of risk, they would be failing in their duty to their customers. Therefore, private firms will always carry out a sufficient risk assessment of projects prior to committing funds.

Joe Oliver

Joe Oliver is a former Canadian Finance Minister. He now serves as Chairman of Echelon Wealth Partners. As a leading Canadian owned wealth management and capital markets firm, they have overseen the investment of $2.2 billion since 2014. During his period as Finance Minister, Mr. Oliver sought to protect Canadian taxpayers from overspending in risky projects. Following his career in Parliament, he has promoted the ideas of using private investment in Canadian infrastructural projects.

For example, Joe Oliver co-authored a report detailing why private funding has been a more efficient method of funding pipeline projects. These pipelines have raised private capital of over $30 billion. This is a comparable amount to what the Canadian government had projected as a deficit for 2016.

As an independent investment firm, Echelon has put the welfare of their clients to the forefront of all their work. When embarking on the role as Chairman, Joe Oliver said “More than ever, independent firms can play a crucial role in the financial markets and in enhancing prosperity for both clients and for the Canadian economy. Echelon benefits from substantial and committed financial backing, a key driver for success in the independent space.”