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Think tank urges Liberals to sell money-making assets to private sector

Aircraft are pictured at the gates at Toronto Pearson Airport on May 26 2016.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A new report is urging the Trudeau Liberals to make their new, experimental infrastructure bank a centre for helping cities and provinces sell off existing assets, rather than just helping to build new infrastructure.

The C.D. Howe Institute says the Liberals, along with provinces, territories and cities, could raise between $67-$100-billion by selling off revenue-generating assets like airports that would be attractive to private sector investors.

The Liberals have been considering whether to sell off stakes in Canada's airports, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last week, adding that it is part of an ongoing discussion around what assets the government should continue to own.

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The paper says the Liberals should also consider allowing domestic or foreign investors to cover the full price for projects, absent public funding.

Benjamin Dachis, the institute's associate director of research and the author of the paper, says the Liberals should also provide provincial and municipal governments with financial incentives to work with the proposed bank.

Related: Ottawa hires Metrolinx CEO to advise on Canada Infrastructure Bank

The bank would use $35-billion in federal cash and financing to pull in four times that amount from the private sector, if all goes according to plan, to help pay for new construction projects.

"Government spending has its inevitable limits, and government ownership of much of Canada's major infrastructure is limiting the ability of governments to invest in the new infrastructure Canadians need," Dachis writes.

"A systematic policy in which governments seek to broaden the ownership of Canada's billions of dollars of government user-fee supported assets would address this problem. It would also open investment opportunities for institutional investors keen to invest in Canadian infrastructure."

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