An Act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act

Sponsor

Niki Ashton  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of April 6, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-245.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Opposition Motion—Subsidies for the Oil and Gas SectorBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2022 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate our NDP motion to call on the Liberal government once again to end subsidies to its buddies in big oil. The best time to do this was years ago. The second best time to do it is today.

Time is running out, yet the Liberals continue to hold on to the strange idea that we are just another couple of billion dollars to big oil away from solving the climate crisis. It is wrong, and they know it is wrong, but they continue to maintain this fallacy and hope no one will notice that they are doing the opposite of what they are saying.

They may say they care about reversing catastrophic climate change, but they do not get to say they care while propping up the same companies that are wrecking our environment with our tax dollars to fund their bonuses. They do not get to say they care when Cenovus recently announced its best first-quarter profit ever, raking in almost a billion more than it did one year ago, or Imperial Oil tripling its 2021 earnings, or Suncor quadrupling its. These companies are not self-made. They are doing it with the government's help and with our tax dollars.

Meanwhile, it is workers, indigenous peoples, young people and northerners who are paying the price in every way while the government sits back. These are the people who are getting ripped off at the pump and may no longer be able to even afford to drive to their jobs, or are struggling to pay rent or pay for groceries, people who are consistently left behind by a government that likes to cosplay as the plucky hero saving the environment.

It is not heroic to give billions to big oil. It is not brave. It is not challenging the status quo. It is the status quo, and it is going to get our planet destroyed.

It is funny. The government regularly talks about listening to science, but it rarely does so when it comes to climate change. The IPCC has been clear on the need to end oil subsidies, yet the government pretends that this is not the case. The IPCC has said that countries like Canada need to increase investments in renewables by at least a factor of three to meet our climate goals, yet the government still has not done this.

It goes without saying that I would never accuse members of the government of misleading the House or even Canadians while in the chamber, but it does beg the question, what would we call a government that says it is tackling climate change by giving billions to big oil? What do we call a government that presents itself as an environmental champion on the international stage and to the public while consistently missing every target it has ever set? I will leave that question to Canadians.

The facts are clear. Canada has the worst record in the G20, handing out 14 times more financing to the oil and gas sector than to renewables. It is no surprise that big oil has always had the ear of the government, which I guess is easy to do when the government has had 6,800 recorded meetings with big oil. It has worked, having successfully lobbied the Liberals for a $2.6-billion tax credit for unproven carbon capture technologies that allow them to justify increased production and higher emissions.

In total, the government gave $8.6 billion last year to oil companies already raking in record profits. It is always the same with the government: help for those at the top and nice words for everyone else.

Those words have been nice. In 2019, we heard about the just transition act. The government failed to deliver, and the environment commissioner recently had to call it out over its lack of a plan to support workers and communities through the transition to a low-carbon economy.

At COP26 in November, we heard nice words again from the government, to phase out public financing of the fossil fuel sector. We heard nice words in the mandate letters for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources. Every single one had nice words about phasing out public subsidies for big oil, but recent testimony from Finance and ECCC officials at the environment committee showed that it is not much more than nice words.

Let us be clear. Nice words do not help people afford their basic needs. Nice words will not stop the climate catastrophe.

My home is here in northern Manitoba, where long drives between communities are a daily reality of life. People here in Thompson regularly drive eight hours to our capital, Winnipeg, to pick up supplies and things they need. For many surrounding communities, Thompson is where many people come in for health care, to access other services, to pick up groceries and to shop for necessities. This morning, the cost of gas here in Thompson was $1.85; in Cross Lake, $1.89; in Lynn Lake, $2; in Churchill, $2.56.

How are people expected to have money left over for anything else when gassing up costs this much? Where do these people turn? Who is standing up for them?

A better way does exist. It is not too late for the government to reverse course from the path toward climate disaster it has put us on. It starts with ending subsidies to big oil and reinvesting that money toward both renewable energy and help for Canadians struggling with the cost of living. This is what our motion calls for today.

There is no reason the Liberals cannot start by eliminating tax credits for oil and gas exploration and development immediately. This would bring in almost $10 billion in the next four years. We ought to include profitable oil and gas companies in the Canada recovery dividend to tax their excess profits and redistribute that money to help Canadians struggling to get by. We must suspend the GST on residential energy bills, double the GST tax credit and increase the Canada child benefit for all recipients now.

I urge this House to support our motion, but there is so much we need to be doing. We must go further. We must do more.

My other question is, why have we not activated all the tools at our disposal, like our Crown corporations, and used public ownership in the fight against climate change? Why have we not made the types of investments necessary to support communities in need to fight back?

Indigenous peoples and northerners are already paying the price for climate change. How many catastrophic floods or fires before we take it seriously? How many evacuated communities, destroyed homes and livelihoods gone before we finally do what we need to do to save people, communities and our planet?

It seems that every year somewhere in the country there are record temperatures, floods or forest fires. Every evacuation, every destroyed community is a proverbial canary in the coal mine of climate change. Communities are crying out as they are being destroyed by our indifference. The worst part is that as long as we continue to give billions of dollars to big oil, we are subsidizing our own destruction. Every climate disaster, flood or fire is on our hands. We are doing this.

Today we are witnessing here in our part of the country the devastating flooding in Peguis First Nation, a community to which the current government and governments before it promised they would fund flood mitigation efforts, a promise unmet. Now, Peguis is dealing with the catastrophic impacts: a total evacuation of the community of over 1,870 members, and more than 700 homes impacted. We are talking about a community that has flooded five times in the last 16 years. It knows how to deal with floods, but it is getting worse.

The feds and the province may show up with sandbags, but when it comes to long-term support, the federal government has been nowhere to be seen. When asked about this by the CBC, the federal government refused to commit to long-term supports, leaving communities like Peguis in the lurch. Why? Imagine if there was a place for communities like Peguis to turn to in order to get the funding they need for the infrastructure they know they need that would help with climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

My bill, Bill C-245, an act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, is motivated by the communities in my riding and across the country that have nowhere to turn to get the support they need to survive climate change. This is about standing with communities. It is ultimately about saving lives.

If this House is truly serious about supporting indigenous and northern communities, if we are truly serious about taking on catastrophic climate change, I invite all members to stand with communities like the ones I represent by supporting this bill when the time comes. For too long, this House, the government, has shown its loyalty to those at the top, those who need the least amount of help.

It is time this House, the government, stood with everyone else. It is time the government stopped being part of the problem and started being part of the solution. It is not too late, but soon it will be. Let us get to work now.

May 9th, 2022 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We've heard today about how both Air Canada and CN—now privatized—are not living up to their obligations when it comes to respecting the rights of francophones, that is, their responsibilities when it comes to services in French.

I'm very concerned by the government's most recent proposal, seeking private proposals to cover service for Via Rail's high-frequency corridor. Unifor, which represents more than 2,000 workers at Via, was clear in its opposition, saying, “Public-private partnerships cost more, don't work, and the facts speak for themselves. Privatization in transport means higher costs, broken promises, worse service and route closures”—and perhaps we could add that it will impact service in French.

Nevertheless, this is a strategy that your government is using time and again. We've seen this with the Infrastructure Bank. We are trying to fix that through my bill, Bill C-245, investing in indigenous and northern communities in light of the climate crisis.

Why is your government continuing to rely on bad economic policies that privilege the ultra-wealthy, push privatization and, ultimately, impact negatively on service and service delivery in French?

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, last fall, devastating rain and floods in British Columbia exposed how dependent we are on public infrastructure for the free movement of goods and people. Stable and robust public infrastructure ensures access to employment, food, medicines and the essentials that keep us and the economy running. The inability to easily move in and out of the Lower Mainland of B.C. for just a few weeks had a harrowing impact on people, businesses and industry. As livestock and crops were lost, so too was infrastructure. Sections of major connector roads were washed away, bridges destroyed and dikes failed, due to a lack of adequate maintenance and upgrades. This was the reality of just one extreme weather event.

Last year, B.C. was just another canary in the coal mine for Canada and the world with floods, droughts, heat domes and wildfires all happening in the same year within kilometres of each other. These incidents of communities losing so much is because of climate change. Black swan events are no longer a rarity, and they highlight the urgency of addressing climate change now.

Monday's report from the IPCC on climate mitigation was clear that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is all but out of reach without massive and immediate emissions cuts. While the federal government focuses on targets 10 and 20 years out, it is missing the other side of the equation: our local communities. People are suffering now on the front lines of climate change.

Across Canada, the past generation of public infrastructure is failing and is in urgent need of upgrading. New infrastructure must be built to specifications that will withstand today's and tomorrow's climate realities. However, local governments are struggling to fund these competing priorities with their limited tax base. They rely on other levels of government to assist through unpredictable grants, but what they really need is long-term, stable and predictable investment from the federal government to build the next generation of resilient infrastructure.

This reality is magnified in northern and indigenous communities. These are some of the hardest hit by the effects of climate change, and they have been left to fend for themselves after decades of inadequate federal investment and even the most basic of infrastructure. This long-standing inequity in infrastructure investment has led to a chronic lack of housing, inadequate water and waste-water treatment plants and a dependence on diesel with no access to other energy resources.

These communities have been abandoned for far too long.

As my NDP colleague, the member for Nunavut, said yesterday, in her riding there is a need for 3,000 homes, but the government has only committed to building 100. That is 100 homes in a territory that needs 3,000.

The current infrastructure funding model is obviously not working for indigenous and northern communities. The way the federal government allocates limited infrastructure funds to indigenous and northern communities, often on a year-by-year basis, has never been appropriate. This leaves them at a disadvantage and unable to do critical, long-term planning.

Indigenous and northern communities have waited too long for safe housing, clean water, broadband, public transportation and reliable roads. In places like St. Theresa Point in northern Manitoba, for example, the community is isolated and inaccessible by land 80% of the year. As Chief Flett tells us, their community needs more public infrastructure to enhance community services and to ensure all-weather access. Without public roads and publicly funded infrastructure to move goods in and out all year round, we can imagine what the price of food and other essential goods is in that community.

It is time for federal infrastructure to live up to the times, and the NDP have solutions. One of them is to reinvent the Canada Infrastructure Bank to make it work for people living on the front lines of the climate crisis.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank was set up to build infrastructure, yet in five years it has built none. Zero projects have been completed. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has noted that the CIB is not meeting its own goals. Other critics have said that privatizing infrastructure projects through private-public partnerships does not work for workers or communities because these projects are focused on investor profits.

The Infrastructure Bank adds no value to communities today. It is broken. Based on a failed P3 model, the bank cannot attract the investments it promised. This Crown corporation is currently being run under a model that has been proven to cost governments and people more.

Bill C-245 would use the Infrastructure Bank for good. By removing the for-profit corporate cronyism and instead investing in public infrastructure, this is an opportunity to make immediate and critical infrastructure investments across Canada, with a focus on indigenous and northern communities. We need investments in housing, roads, clean energy and water and waste water plants, all while fighting against climate change. This bill would ensure that decision-makers from first nation, Métis and Inuit communities are on the board so that infrastructure projects meet the needs of their communities. This bill would also increase transparency, with regular reporting so that the $35 billion in the CIB goes to projects that support communities facing the climate crisis instead of padding the pockets of wealthy Liberal insiders.

The House has the opportunity right now to commit to indigenous and northern communities that it will harness a public ownership model for the next generation of infrastructure. When this bill is enacted, it will finally put the Canada Infrastructure Bank to work, something that has not happened since its inception.

The power of a reinvented Canada Infrastructure Bank will explicitly support climate change adaptation and mitigation in the most underfunded communities, the communities most at risk of climate change. With this bill, the Infrastructure Bank would be more equitable and transparent and would ensure that indigenous and northern communities can plan for the long term with stable, reliable infrastructure funding. It would ensure the $35-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank lives up to the times.

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-245, introduced by my NDP colleague. To begin with, this bill deserves to be debated at the very least.

Bill C‑245 amends the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act. Before explaining why we might want to amend that piece of legislation, we should perhaps start by understanding what the Canada Infrastructure Bank is and where it came from.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank was created in 2016 through legislation introduced by former finance minister Bill Morneau. The idea was to get money from the private sector to finance infrastructure that would normally be public infrastructure.

Former finance minister Morneau came from the high finance world of Bay Street. It is no coincidence that the head office of the Canada Infrastructure Bank is in Toronto, as is the head office of the family-owned and highly profitable Morneau Shepell.

The government had some interesting discussions with all kinds of groups, superwealthy people and global figures in high finance, telling them that it could put lots of public money at their disposal, so they could complete more infrastructure projects and earn more profits. They found that interesting.

When the government saw how happy they were, it thought it had done a great job and could earn plenty of money by making lots of investments. It had some delusions of grandeur. The government thought the whole world was going to come and invest here, that all of our beautiful infrastructure would be privatized with public money, thereby filling its coffers. It was ready to brag about all the investments this would generate. That was basically the idea.

The government then handed out $35 billion for these folks to invest in all kinds of projects. It hoped to get four to five times the amount invested from the private sector, so a $35-billion investment would have generated $175 billion in private investment.

It was a dismal failure. Here we are in 2022, still waiting for that influx of cash from the private sector. Meanwhile, federal infrastructure continues to disintegrate. In the regions, there are ports where boats can no longer be moored, reservoirs that no longer hold water, military bases with dilapidated buildings and crooked, rusty fences. That is the state of federal infrastructure in this country.

Instead of investing where money was needed, the government decided to give money to the private sector, which would then go find great projects. That whole idea, giving the private sector money to go find great projects, never really materialized.

What actually happened was that public organizations took the money from the Canada Infrastructure Bank to invest in projects. In Quebec, we saw things like the Caisse de dépôt et placement investing in the REM light rail project and other projects at the Montreal airport or the Port of Montreal.

There were also projects with cities and public transit agencies to fund buses. Some regions got funding for Internet access, and even irrigation networks in Alberta got money. All those projects seem to make sense.

Why create the Canada Infrastructure Bank to fund projects that essentially could have been carried out and funded in other ways? It is because, originally, the Canada Infrastructure Bank was supposed to fund the private sector. There is something a bit schizophrenic there. What is actually happening is not what was supposed to happen.

At the end of the day, I would say I am a bit pleased about this, but not too much. I think that the Conservatives, on the other side of the House, are very frustrated and disappointed because they would have preferred the former PPP Canada Crown corporation that was kind of the predecessor to the Canada Infrastructure Bank. PPP Canada did not have the fancy title, but it had the same objectives, namely to privatize the country's infrastructure. The Canada Infrastructure Bank goes even further: instead of privatizing only federal infrastructure, it aims to privatize all infrastructure.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank targets all infrastructure, municipal and provincial, no matter where it is. We cannot forget that. What it means is that instead of funding projects that are in the public interest, the bank funds projects that have the potential to make money for the private sector. The public interest is no longer the priority. The idea of an infrastructure project that should serve the public good is being distorted.

This bank seriously lacks transparency. It is a nice Crown corporation, and when it starts a project, poof, all is settled. It is as though it becomes a federal project, bypassing all provincial, municipal or environmental laws. It does what it wants, how it wants, and when it wants. The private sector loves that too.

There is clearly a lack of transparency. What is worse, this organization is not subject to the Access to Information Act. We have no idea what goes on there. Information about executive compensation is secret. No one knows who gets paid how much. Basically, we only know that people are well paid.

Not that long ago, the Parliamentary Budget Officer spoke about this at committee. He stated that even his enquiries went unanswered. It is not just MPs or the public that do not get any answers from the bank. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer cannot get an answer. He should have access to any information he needs, but that is not the case.

The excuse the bank gave him for not providing any information was that it was confidential commercial information. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is authorized to receive confidential information. The bank is refusing to disclose confidential information to an organization that is authorized to receive it. That is quite something. Given that the PBO has this authorization, if he were to receive the information, he would go through it and not publish anything that should not be disclosed. He would use his judgment to avoid compromising the security of this information. He would maintain its confidentiality, but it seems that the bank sees things differently. Clearly, the government agrees with the bank, because it has never forced the bank in any way to provide the requested information.

That brings me to the NDP's bill. I hope I have enough time to unpack that. The goal of the NDP's bill is to eliminate the private sector from the Canada Infrastructure Bank's mission. That could work. The bill would also have the bank receive unsolicited proposals. That means it could get slightly out-of-the-box proposals from people who think their project is a good idea, which the bank would then have to assess the merits of. That could work too. The bill states that priority should be given to northern projects, projects put forward by indigenous nations, infrastructure projects aimed at mitigating or adapting to climate change, and projects that are not harmful to the environment. Those are all good things. We see no problem there. The bill states that the membership of the board must include three people representing the interests of the Inuit, first nations and the Métis, respectively.

Another interesting aspect is the requirement to annually submit a report to the minister on the bank's activities and investments to give an account of what is happening there. At the moment, we do not know. It is a state secret, apparently. We do not know what goes on at the bank at all, except when it makes a public announcement. The report would also be tabled in Parliament once a year.

We do not see much in the bill that really concerns us, that really makes us want to tear our hair out. On the contrary, it could make this monster a little less awful. That is part of the problem, though. That is what the NDP does not understand. The Canada Infrastructure Bank is basically a huge federal intrusion into provincial jurisdictions. Some 98% of public infrastructure is provincial or municipal infrastructure, and the bank is sticking its nose into that, instead of just transferring money or cutting taxes. No, the federal government just has to stick its nose into everything. That is the fundamental problem with this bank.

This is a centralizing government that is always trying to impose its vision, to wade in where it is not wanted and mix things up even further, add stakeholders and complicate matters.

Every dollar in that bank is one dollar too many, and we will continue to fight against it.

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity this debate provides to discuss the important issue of stakeholder capitalism.

Fundamental to our current economic system has been the idea of shareholder capitalism, the idea that corporations exist for the specific and narrow purpose of maximizing value for their shareholders. I think it is important to acknowledge that there are legitimate criticisms of this shareholder capitalism model.

When companies only consider the interests of their shareholders, they may end up doing harm to non-shareholders. Questions of morality and long-term sustainability are part of the equation in shareholder capitalism insofar as they impact a company's reputation and bottom line, but insofar as they do not impact the bottom line, they are excluded from consideration. Maybe that presents a problem.

Historically, we have tried to address these harms associated with shareholder capitalism through law, regulation and tax policy, which force companies to internalize social costs. Needless to say, those efforts are never perfect. One increasingly popular response to the potential problems with shareholder capitalism is the proposed alternative model of stakeholder capitalism. I will argue today that stakeholder capitalism is dangerous. It exacerbates the problems of shareholder capitalism and creates new problems of its own.

Stakeholder capitalism is the idea that we should pursue an economic system in which companies seek to maximize value for all stakeholders instead of just their own shareholders. On the face of it, the idea that companies should concern themselves with the social good instead of their own bottom line is obviously intuitively appealing to many people, but we need to go beyond the superficial, nice-sounding platitudes that usually shape the defence of stakeholder capitalism to understand the substantive implications of this radical shift in thinking.

To start with, it is important to understand the history of the idea. Stakeholder capitalism is a new name, but not a new model. In fact, the process of early European colonization was generally affected through large monopolistic companies that were granted charters to trade exclusively in certain areas, partially in exchange for commitments to undertake certain other non-economic actions that were perceived to be in the interests of the home state.

The Hudson's Bay Company and the East India Company were early examples of stakeholder capitalism at work. These companies acted like governments when they were in the field, and they were protected in their undemocratic exercise of political authority by the fact that they took into consideration the interests of their chosen or assigned stakeholders. Of course, they did not take into consideration the interests of all stakeholders, but neither do their modern equivalents.

Today one of the most prominent proponents of stakeholder capitalism is the World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab. Stakeholder Capitalism is his most recent book, and it is explicitly endorsed in the Davos Manifesto. Here in Canada, Mark Carney is a leading advocate and his book Values makes similar arguments to those made by Schwab. Schwab, Carney and the NDP member proposing this bill today have every right to advance a particular set of proposals about how they believe our economy should change, but we should talk about the fact that these ideas have significant unseen consequences.

Generally speaking, though not always, the proponents of stakeholder capitalism come from the political left. The political left has a long track record of critiquing shareholder capitalism, but has generally done so in the context of a broader critique of corporate power. That critique has been that corporations should not be too powerful because they can use their position of power to exploit workers and to push agendas that may be contrary to the democratic will of the people. This is actually a potentially good critique, and many modern conservatives would embrace it, adding as well that too powerful corporations can often use their power to subvert and undermine the market itself.

Conservatives and past versions of left-wing parties have both critiqued powerful monopolistic corporations, but have disagreed about solutions. Left-wing parties have critiqued capitalism itself and pushed for greater state ownership, while conservatives have sought pro-competition and other forms of regulation to ensure that private enterprise can do its job without any single private company having enough power to distort the market or undermine the common good.

Today the parameters of the economic debate have dramatically changed. Today many on the left no longer critique corporate power itself, but simply argue that corporations should be asked to champion progressive or woke causes. The political left now seems fine with large and powerful corporations as long as those corporations are talking about climate change, racial inequality, and trans rights. The left is no longer talking about the problems of corporate power, but about how to use corporate power.

It is very telling that Bill C-245, the bill we are debating tonight and a bill proposed by someone who is arguably one of the most left-wing members of this chamber, is about using corporate power instead of limiting corporate power. She is demonstrating that shift in the thinking of left-wing parties. In particular, Bill C-245 proposes to use the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a Crown corporation, as an ideological tool to shape the kinds of investments that are made in the private sector and to do so with non-economic objectives in minds. This is what stakeholder capitalism has been all about since the colonial era, the use of corporate power to advance ideological objectives that are distinct from shareholder interests.

I believe that modern conservatism must strongly make the case against the kind of stakeholder capitalism championed by this bill and others.

Modern conservatism must take up the arguments against corporate power and recognize that centralized corporate power can be just as dangerous when wielded on behalf of stakeholders as it can be when wielded on behalf of shareholders. We have to defend workers and defend one person, one vote democracy against the idea that corporate power brokers should be the ones defining collective values. This is not an unquestioning defence of shareholder capitalism, which requires appropriate control. It is simply a recognition that the prevailing concept of stakeholder capitalism is worse.

Broadly speaking, I would make three arguments against stakeholder capitalism.

First, an emphasis on stakeholder values is often done insincerely as a branding exercise to mask a lack of real and substantive action on genuinely important issues. It could be used as a basis for claiming that public interest or anti-monopoly regulation is not necessary, even while not moving substantially on the values that are claimed. On this point, I would like to challenge all corporations that have said Black lives matter to say the same about Uighur lives. The NBA, among many others, has figured out that campaigning for racial justice in America is good for their bottom line and campaigning for racial justice in China is bad for their bottom line. However, those who only campaign for racial justice when it is good for their bottom line are not really for racial justice.

Mark Carney, whom I referred to earlier, got himself into hot water for making and then walking back the dubious claim that the half-trillion dollar asset management firm where he works is net zero. I think some members of the House would call that greenwashing. The prevalence of hypocrisy and its potential to distract from real action is one important critique of stakeholder capitalism.

The second critique is that, even when corporations are sincere about championing certain values, encouraging them to identify and then act in the best interests of stakeholders gives companies too much power to make decisions about the common good that they do not have the mandate to make and that are outside of their expertise.

The House decided at one point to ban corporate and union donations to political parties. Why? It was because we determined that corporations should not have a privileged ability to shape public conversations about the common good by funding certain candidates over others. It was recognized that corporations' being able to throw their weight around in politics has a distorting effect on decision-making. However, what is the point of banning corporate and union donations to political parties if we then allow and even encourage those same corporations to use their unique privileges to advance political positions in other ways, by requiring their employees to take courses on progressive ideology, pushing investments toward certain kinds of enterprises or enjoying the privilege of limited liability while participating in explicitly political activity?

I believe that decisions about the goods that a society pursues should be made through democratic competition and debate, not through corporate-directed stakeholder consultations that perpetuate corporate interests and power, even when well intended. The goods that a society prioritizes should be selected on a one person, one vote basis, not on a one share, one vote basis. Even the most generous-hearted corporations necessarily reflect the power of shareholders and management to aggregate feedback from their chosen stakeholders as they make decisions.

A society in which large corporations identify stakeholder values and then push those values is functionally much less democratic than a society in which collective social priorities are identified through open and transparent democratic debate. Again, the corporatized nature of European colonialism should point us to the risks of excessive and unconstrained corporate power, even when corporations are supposed to be responding to certain non-economic, stakeholder-driven imperatives.

My final concern with the stakeholder capitalism model is about the way that it enables government to use corporate action to advance its objective, which is very clear in this bill. Those with regulatory power over corporations can achieve a great deal through the power of suggestion. Corporations understand that they are less likely to face hostile regulation if they are on the same page as governments when it comes to non-economic matters.

If the government tells social media companies to regulate speech or tells banks to deny banking services to certain kinds of people, then it is very much in the interest of those corporations to be helpful. Governments are doing this sort of thing more and more. Stakeholder capitalism provides the intellectual tool kit for governments to ask corporations to use their corporate power in a particular preferred way. In the process, by using corporate power to their advantage, governments can exercise far more power over people's lives than they would otherwise. When the government acts directly, it is subject to scrutiny and accountability mechanisms that do not apply to private corporations. By acting through corporations and using the power of suggestion, governments can achieve preferred outcomes with less scrutiny and accountability.

In general, a world in which political and corporate leaders establish common values and use corporate power alongside state power to push them is less democratic than one in which business sticks to business and common values are identified through democratic debate and advanced by regulators through transparent regulation. In the process, we must preserve a healthy skepticism of corporate power and recognize that a functioning capital system is one in which no single player dominates the field.

Instead of using the Canada Infrastructure Bank to push so-called stakeholder values, Conservative believe that we should eliminate the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which has been a failure by any standard. This so-called bank already represents a perverse structure for combining government and corporate interests because it involves the taxpayer assuming the risk associated with private investments.

The genius of a market system is that private actors must bear risk in proportion to their potential gains. The only thing worse than socialism is a policy that privatizes gains while still socializing losses—

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

moved that Bill C-245, An Act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to speak to my private member’s bill, Bill C-245. It is a bill that would amend the act of the Infrastructure Bank of Canada, a bill that would use public ownership in the fight against climate change, and a bill that would give hope to communities like the one I come from, the ones I represent and the ones across our country that are already paying the price for climate change.

This bill would provide a new avenue for indigenous communities, northern communities and all Canadians to develop the infrastructure they need right now.

The climate crisis is on our doorstep, and what we are hearing back home in the north is alarming. The permafrost is melting and jeopardizing our municipal infrastructure. Thousands of people rely on temporary winter roads to receive deliveries of heavy equipment, but the season for using them is getting shorter and shorter. These communities need help dealing with climate change before it is too late.

Meanwhile, the Canada Infrastructure Bank has failed. Not a single project has been completed, and billions of dollars are sitting unspent.

As the UN Secretary-General said this week, time is running out. We must use all of the tools at our disposal to tackle the climate crisis. The bill I am proposing today is part of the solution.

This past September, I sat with the chief and council of Pauingassi First Nation at the hotel in Winnipeg where they had been evacuated. They were into the third month of their forced evacuation from wildfires raging in eastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. This was their third evacuation in four years. This time it lasted four months.

We sat in one of the hotel meeting spaces that had been converted into a makeshift school. The leaders and principal of the school shared their concerns. “These fires are only getting worse,” they shared. “We need support to keep our communities safe,” they said. Pauingassi is one of two first nations in Manitoba that, despite years of advocacy, does not even have an airport. They have no all-weather road and no airport. “We felt trapped,” they said.

Pauingassi lost community members during the time of the evacuation. Many community members were desperate to go home, and when they got home, they found hectares of their traditional lands devastated. Traplines were gone and cabins had burned to the ground. A way of life was under threat.

Last summer saw a series of devastating climate events. Perhaps the one that received the most attention was the burning to the ground of Lytton, in British Columbia. The excruciatingly high temperatures of the heat dome created the conditions of a fire that engulfed a village, a community, lives and livelihoods. As Edith Loring-Kuhanga, school administrator for Stein Valley Nlakapamux School in Lytton, said, “The extreme temperatures of 49°C-plus leading up to June 30 contributed to the Lytton Creek fire that destroyed the Village of Lytton in 25 minutes and burned many homes and businesses on IR 17, 18 and 22 of Lytton First Nation and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. Our lives were forever changed on June 30. Nine months later, those who lost their homes continue to be homeless and struggle with high anxiety and PTSD as they continue to reconnect with their families, culture, way of life and the land.” To this day, Lytton is still waiting to be cleaned up and rebuilt.

Pauingassi, Lytton, Little Grand Rapids, St. Theresa Point, Shamattawa, Thompson, Iqaluit, Old Crow, The Pas, Fort Chipewyan, Prince George, Pinaymootang First Nation, Peguis, Inuvik, Uashat-Maliotenam and Happy Valley-Goose Bay: this bill is for all of our communities. These communities have been sounding the alarm on climate change for some time. They have been clear on what they need and what we need to mitigate and adapt, and they are communities that have been ignored. This must change. Time is running out.

Just this week, the IPCC came out with a damning report highlighting the absolute urgency needed to fight climate change. The report outlined the need to ditch fossil fuels. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the report, but just as easily could have been talking about the Liberal government record on climate change, as a “litany of broken promises” and “a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world”. He said, “The jury has reached a verdict. And it is damning. We are on a fast track to climate disaster.”

There have been many reports and many words, but not enough action. The Liberals continue to maintain the anti-science fallacy that fossil fuel investments will pay for a clean-energy transition. The government has given more to oil companies than even the previous Conservative government could have dreamed of. We are, shamefully, the worst G7 country when it comes to GHG emissions, and at a time when we should be supporting the transition to green energy, dozens of northern communities in our country are running on dirty diesel.

Time is running out. We must act now. It is time that we commit to investing in indigenous and northern communities and all our communities in supporting their efforts for a just transition by supporting this legislation, because it is that important. The infrastructure needs are that important.

A recent report claimed that the infrastructure gap for first nations is conservatively estimated at $25 billion to $30 billion, yet many of the infrastructure needs we see are for projects between $1 million and $25 million. Bluntly speaking, slapping a profit requirement on Infrastructure Bank projects locks communities like the ones I represent out of these dollars. Do their infrastructure needs not matter?

Chief Owens of Pauingassi First Nation said, “We have already seen the effects of climate change over the last few decades. It’s real. I was surprised in conversations with Niki to even hear of Canada’s Infrastructure Bank. We’ve never heard of it. We’ve never been able to use it. Investments to connect us with the rest of the country or help us deal with fires we would like to see, and this bill would help with that.”

Chief Redhead is from Shamattawa First Nation, a community that as been failed by Canada time and time again. It deals with massive infrastructure gaps, a housing crisis, tuberculosis outbreaks as a result of the housing crisis and a recent COVID outbreak that was so bad that the military had to be sent in. In regard to this bill, he said, “One of the benefits of seeing this bill pass would be the ability to connect Shamattawa to the main hydro line. Right now we’re dependent on burning dirty diesel for the entire community. It’s 2022 and it’s time to bring communities like Shamattawa into 2022. I’d really like to see this bill pass and for all parties to support it so we can make real change in the fight against climate change.”

Chief Flett of St. Theresa Point has talked about the need for an all-weather road system to the Island Lake Region, given the melting ice roads and the chance to cut down on the carbon footprint that comes from an absolute reliance on air travel.

We have heard from leaders about water pipes breaking down in their communities because of melting permafrost, radio towers snapping because of the weight of record snowfalls, historic droughts and unpredictable flooding.

In discussions with indigenous, territorial and northern leaders, we repeatedly heard about how they want to move forward with mitigation and adaptation. We also heard how hard it was for them to access any federal dollars. Overwhelmingly, there was a sense that the federal government existed to serve the needs of the southern part of the country, if that.

In conversations with some of my Liberal colleagues in advance of today, I heard concerns that there are other federal institutions that can do this work, that can fund these type of projects, but the reality is that they are not. That is why so many of these communities are in such dire straits.

If we acknowledge that the need is great, if we acknowledge that current institutions are not getting the job done, why do we not use Canada’s Infrastructure Bank to do the job we originally wanted it to do? We cannot afford to wait in terms of climate, and we certainly cannot afford to wait when it comes to people. If not now, when?

It is clear that the Canada Infrastructure Bank is not living up to its promise. We are talking about a Crown corporation with a budget of $35 billion dollars that has yet to complete a single project in almost five years of existence. A recent PBO report said it would not even spend half its money. In the infrastructure committee study called for by my colleague, the MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, witness after witness made it clear that the bank in its current form does not and cannot work, yet when the bank was first established, many folks were excited. Robert Ramsay, senior research officer at CUPE, described the excitement when they thought that they were hearing about the creation of a public infrastructure bank that could invest in desperately needed infrastructure across the country. This has not been the case. The reality is that the bank is refusing to do the work that it promised to do.

At committee, the PBO reported that the Canada Infrastructure Bank had only approved 18% of the projects it considered, with one of the most common reasons given for rejection being that the projects themselves were not considered big enough. This bill would fix that. It would prioritize the infrastructure needs of the communities the bank claims to be working for.

The bank's privatization agenda has been a key part of the problem. There was a consistent feature of testimony at committee from witnesses, including Canadians for Tax Fairness, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Council of Canadians, that public-private partnerships, particularly ones that include private operators collecting revenues through user fees, inherently raised questions about which projects are selected. They questioned whether Canadians can be satisfied that an infrastructure project is being funded because it serves the greatest public interest and not because it offers the highest rate of return for private equity providers.

Mr. Sanger testified:

The only purpose that P3s fill is to engage in some off-book financing and provide private finance with lucrative low-risk investment opportunities that taxpayers will cover for decades to come. If these projects are really privatized, we will undoubtedly end up with some really inadequate infrastructure....

In Mapleton, Ontario, it took public outrage to stop the Infrastructure Bank from privatizing water services.

As Angella MacEwen, a senior economist at CUPE, said, “The most critical infrastructure needs in Canada aren’t ones that work with a profit attached to them. It’s basic infrastructure that is needed for communities to go about their daily lives. It should be publicly financed and publicly owned so it benefits the most people. I’m really excited to see this bill. This is what we’ve been asking for at CUPE and the broader labour movement: for the bank to move in this direction.

Along with its privatization agenda, there is a lack of transparency from the bank. At committee, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux discussed the bank's refusal to share information, saying that the bank was probably less transparent than the Department of Infrastructure. He also pointed out that parliamentarians had yet to receive a full status update on the bank because the government has not kept track of information on all funded projects. This is obviously unacceptable.

Through this bill we are also calling on the bank to include first nations, Inuit and Métis voices in its governance. If we acknowledge that the greatest infrastructure gap in the country is within these communities, it is frankly inconceivable in 2022 and in an age of reconciliation that these communities do not have a say in what is happening on their land.

It is clear that the foundations of the Canada Infrastructure Bank must be rebuilt. We can do this work. We know that the fight against climate change requires bold collective action. It requires the leveraging of public investment in historic ways. Crown corporations are key tools in this fight. Our Crown corporations belong to us, the Canadian people, and they ought to be leading players in the fight against climate change. Today we can start with the Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank can be the solution and not a tepid part of the problem. I urge my Liberal colleagues and indeed all members of the house to be part of that solution. The bank should be issuing green bonds, as many have called for. Let us let the CIB be a driving force in the fight against climate change, in the fight against the infrastructure gaps our communities face.

Rather than allocating public funds to be used by the private sector, which will prioritize profits, let us direct that money to the communities that are struggling to survive in the midst of a climate emergency. Let us use all levers of government and put them to work for the people. Let us create green jobs. Let us join forces with indigenous peoples who are experiencing the climate crisis firsthand. Let us identify all of the government's underperformers, like the Canada Infrastructure Bank. We need to do this for the survival of our planet.

My message to the Liberals is clear: If they want the Infrastructure Bank to live up to its promise, make these changes.

My message to all MPs in the House is clear: If they believe communities across our country deserve federal investment as they take on the climate crisis, vote for this bill. If they believe we need bold action to take on the climate emergency, vote for this bill.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

April 1st, 2022 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, 2030 is quickly approaching, and the Liberals still do not get it when it comes to climate change. They refuse to meet the urgency of this moment. They are still handing out billions to big oil, and it is no surprise that emissions continue to go up. We cannot wait any longer. We need infrastructure investments for indigenous and northern communities that are already paying the price for climate change.

Canada's infrastructure bank is just sitting there, literally, because it has yet to complete one project. That is why we in the NDP want to put it to work with my bill, Bill C-245.

Will the Liberals stand with indigenous and northern communities by voting for this bill?

Opposition Motion—Cost of LivingBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 21st, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that more and more Canadians are tuning in to the fact that one of our Crown corporations that was created to meet the infrastructure crisis across the country is simply not delivering. It has turned into a corporate welfare model pushing disastrous PPP projects with a for-profit agenda, and ultimately the result is that we have not seen one project brought to completion. This is unacceptable from a public entity or Crown corporation that is sitting on money that is ours as Canadians, an entity that we desperately need to do the work of meeting Canada's infrastructure needs, particularly in the face of the climate crisis. That is why I am proud of my private member's bill, Bill C-245, which I hope MPs will support, which would allow us to reform the bank so that it works in support of Canadians and Canadian communities in the fight against climate change.

February 28th, 2022 / noon
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Excellent. Let's try that again.

Mr. Minister, just today the IPCC released a new report warning that climate change, which is already deadly, is about to get much worse. Your government has acknowledged that urgent action is needed to tackle climate change. Today, you have talked about the need to invest in infrastructure relating to climate change.

We also, though, have an infrastructure bank that could be doing this work, investing in infrastructure that mitigates climate change, as well as helping communities adapt to this devastating reality. This committee, however, has heard that Canada's infrastructure bank is running on a parallel track, focused on profiteering and not helping those in greatest need.

My private member's bill, Bill C-245, aims at shifting the mandate of the Infrastructure Bank, by using public ownership to mitigate climate change and by investing in infrastructure desperately needed by vulnerable communities, such as indigenous and northern communities that are already paying the price of climate change. These projects focus on mitigation as well as adaptation, including the transition from diesel to green energy, to all-weather road construction, to forest fire protection, to public transit and so on.

Given the sense of urgency once again reiterated today, will you and your government support Bill C-245 ?

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

February 10th, 2022 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Lisa Marie Barron NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member opposite's response, but the actions of the government over the last six years speak loudly. It is clear we are not getting the results we need. The climate crisis is growing worse as the government continues to miss its targets.

On this side of the House, NDP members have put forward bold legislation to ensure Canada is supporting indigenous communities with meaningful investments while standing up to the climate crisis.

For example, my colleague's bill, Bill C-245, would ensure the Canada Infrastructure Bank prioritizes indigenous and northern communities in the fight against climate change. Similarly, my colleague's motion, Motion No. 1, calls on the government to develop a green new deal for Canada. The motion demands the government invest in a net-zero future with reconciliation at the forefront.

Does the member opposite agree we need to rethink our approach to the climate crisis and ensure indigenous communities get the investments they deserve?

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActRoutine Proceedings

February 8th, 2022 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-245, An Act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present my bill, an act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act. This bill leverages public ownership in the fight against climate change and in support of the most marginalized communities in our country, including indigenous and northern communities.

Catastrophic climate change is a threat to our survival. Indigenous and northern communities are already paying the price. Regions like ours have already been living the devastating impacts of climate change, and we do not have the infrastructure and resources needed to respond.

From the need to transition away from diesel-generated power to the need for all-weather roads, fire protection and flood and drought mitigation, indigenous and northern communities need infrastructure support now. It is clear the fight against climate change requires bold, collective action.

The Infrastructure Bank was designed by billionaires for billionaires, and it is time to change that. The Canada Infrastructure Bank must be part of the solution by doing away with for-profit private agendas, focusing on investing public funds through green bonds and ensuring indigenous representation and transparency. It is time Canada put people over profit and built up the infrastructure we need to fight climate change.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)