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ALBAS: Some pressing concerns about the Infrastructure Bank

Dan Albas, member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.
Image Credit: Contributed
May 14, 2017 - 2:00 PM

 


OPINION


Editor,

I was asked recently if it is difficult to come up with a different topic every seven days for my weekly MP report to citizens. It is difficult, however not for the reason that you might expect. The challenge is not finding new topics to discuss but rather narrowing down the many subjects available to one or two that can be briefly covered with the limited space available in my reports. Case in point this week I would like to reference the Liberal Government's efforts to muzzle the Parliamentary Budget Officer however a more pressing concern is the Liberals plans for a proposed $35 Billion Infrastructure Bank.

Why is the $35 Billion Infrastructure Bank a serious concern? Canadians pay taxes to the federal Government for a variety of different purposes and uses. One of the important uses of your tax dollars is building infrastructure. The challenge here is that $35 Billion in funding and guarantees that could be building Infrastructure in communities like Kelowna, Peachland, Penticton, Merritt or elsewhere in Canada will instead be diverted to create the Liberals new Infrastructure bank to be located in the Liberal stronghold of Toronto.

The concern here is that this Infrastructure Bank doesn’t actually build any Infrastructure. The role of the Liberals new Infrastructure Bank is to attract international investors to ultimately invest and privately build Infrastructure here in Canada. In order to attract sophisticated and often international investors the Government will be paying lucrative rates of return on large scale projects with a minimum price of $100 Million or more.

Why is this a concern? For starters the Liberal Government is borrowing money it does not have at lower rates of interest solely to subsidize higher rates of return to largely private investors. Worse, is that with a minimum project threshold of $100 Million many rural communities and even smaller to mid-size cities will not be able to afford projects of this magnitude. Despite this fact the taxpayers who live within these areas will be saddled with paying part of the borrowing debt and high rates of interest even though they do not directly benefit from the projects. Paradoxically this also comes at a time where new capital requirements put in place by a Federal Government regulator significantly limit the ability for sectors like Canadian insurance companies to invest in Canadian infrastructure. There are other concerns however this summarizes some of the more significant.

This week the NDP will table a motion in Ottawa to remove the Infrastructure Bank from the Liberals' omnibus budget bill so that it can be debated and opposed on a stand-alone basis. For those who might think the Infrastructure bank is only being opposed by Opposition parties alone it should be noted that other analysts such as the former Parliamentary Budget Officer through the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy has also has stated serious concerns and questioned the need for a costly new level of bureaucracy and administration to create a bank that borrows funds at relatively low interest rates solely to pay high rates of return to international investors.

It is my intent to oppose the Liberals new Infrastructure bank however I welcome your views on this topic. Do you support the Liberals $35 Billion Infrastructure Bank? I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.


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