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Former RBC CFO picked to chair Canada Infrastructure Bank board

An RBC sign is seen in Toronto’s financial district in this file photo.

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

The Canada Infrastructure Bank is beginning to take shape, with the federal Liberals naming former Royal Bank chief financial officer Janice Fukakusa as the first chair of the board.

Just two weeks ago, Parliament approved the creation of the new $35-billion institution, which Ottawa wants up and running before the end of the year.

Ms. Fukakusa retired from RBC in January after a 31-year career in banking. She is on the boards of several corporate and non-profit organizations, including Cineplex and General Growth Properties and is chair of the board of governors of Ryerson University.

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In a news release on Thursday, the government said the appointment followed a merit-based selection process.

"Janice Fukakusa is a highly qualified and well-respected professional who will be able to guide the bank in delivering the transformational infrastructure projects that Canadians need," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement.

The government is counting on the bank to provide expertise in structuring deals with major private investors, such as pension funds, to launch large revenue-generating projects. Potential projects include public transit, transportation networks and electricity-grid construction.

RBC chief economist Craig Wright, who has worked with Ms. Fukakusa for more than 20 years, praised the appointment.

"Janice is an extremely competent and capable individual who is the perfect candidate for such an important role," he said in an e-mail. "With Janice as chair, the infrastructure bank is in good hands."

In an interview this week with The Globe and Mail, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said his department has a list of projects it intends to forward to the bank for consideration once the institution is operational.

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"And there will be a process where other proponents can directly submit projects to the bank," he said. "It would be my hope that once the bank is in operation, they will seek interest from various stakeholders and partners to identify potential projects."

The competition has closed for board of director positions with the bank. However, Ottawa is accepting applications for president and for CEO until July 21.

The bank will be headquartered in Toronto.

Mr. Sohi sent letters to the provinces on Thursday outlining Ottawa's expectations as it seeks to negotiate bilateral deals on how to spend a separate $33-billion over 11 years through traditional infrastructure grants. This money constitutes what Ottawa calls its second phase of funding.

Mr. Sohi has invited his provincial and territorial counterparts to a two-day meeting in September in Ottawa and said he wants all bilateral agreements in place by March, 2018, at the latest. Provinces, territories and municipalities already have access to funding announced under the first phase, as well as previously existing programs and automatic transfers from the federal gas tax.

In his Thursday letter, Mr. Sohi said second-phase funding will focus on projects that meet specific criteria. He said the program will aim to increase the rate of economic growth "in an inclusive and sustainable way," improve the environment, boost mobility, make communities more inclusive and accessible and manage infrastructure sustainably.

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Also on Thursday, the Senate national finance committee released a report that urged the government to be more transparent about where the billions in infrastructure spending are going.

According to the committee's research, the government has approved 6,194 projects worth a combined $13-billion through new infrastructure programs. However, the committee report said gathering details continues to be a challenge given that more than 30 departments or organizations are involved.

"A number of gaps remain regarding access to information," the report said. "For example, our committee was unable to obtain details on 2,632 projects worth nearly $1.7-billion, as the departments and organizations responsible for them consider this information confidential."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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