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NDP forces Commons debate on infrastructure bank

Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, speaks to reporters in Ottawa on May 9, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank will receive a full day of debate Thursday on the floor of the House of Commons amid concern the $35-billion bank is being rushed through Parliament.

The opposition NDP announced it will use its opposition day to trigger a day-long debate on the bank and will also force a vote calling on the government to remove legislation creating the bank from the Liberal budget bill so that it can be studied as standalone legislation.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank Act is included as part of Bill C-44, the Liberal government's omnibus budget bill. The act would create a $35-billion infrastructure bank that would be managed at arm's length from government as a Crown corporation. The goal of the bank is to attract private capital, including pension funds, to take a leadership role and ownership stake in building Canadian infrastructure.

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NDP infrastructure critic Matthew Dubé said his party finds it troubling that the government is moving ahead with filling executive positions for the bank even though it has not yet been studied and approved by Parliament.

The announcement of the NDP opposition day comes after The Globe and Mail reported that the Liberal majority was only planning to hold one committee meeting focused exclusively on the infrastructure bank legislation.

"Having a one- or two-hour study on something that's so significantly going to change the landscape of how infrastructure is funded in Canada is not sufficient," Mr. Dubé said Wednesday. "A lot of the decisions have been made behind closed doors with the people who stand to benefit from this scheme."

Mr. Dubé said the opposition day will force a public debate on the issue. He called on the Liberals to support the motion to split the budget bill.

"We were promised in the last election, no more omnibus legislation. This is an omnibus bill. We were promised this bank was going to be leveraging low interest rates for public spending and public infrastructure. That's not what we're seeing now. We're seeing a large privatization scheme," he said. "So I think there's a lot of issues from the last election that are at play here and hopefully some of the Liberal members will remember what was promised in the last election and will support us on this."

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Wednesday that it is up to committees to decide how much time they wish to study the infrastructure bank legislation. He defended the decision to include the bank legislation in the budget bill.

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"The infrastructure plan and the creation of the bank is part of the overall efforts to grow our economy and create jobs and that is directly tied to the budget," he said in an interview. "If [the committee] feels they need more time, that is a decision they will make.

"From my point of view, we have done extensive consultation. We have broad support from stakeholders, whether they're investors, whether they're municipalities who will build infrastructure or provinces or others in the building trades and the unions because people see the potential of this creating jobs, they see the potential of this building infrastructure. So we are not hearing concerns from whose behalf we are doing this."

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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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