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

Defeated, as of June 22, 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.

Votes

June 22, 2022 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-245, An Act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

June 22nd, 2022 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-245 under Private Members' Business.

The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from June 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-245, An Act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act to Change the Name of the Electoral District of Châteauguay—LacollePrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit out of breath after running over here from the all-important operations committee.

I am pleased to rise on this private member's bill. I want to address all my comments to the bill itself. I am sure the member who presented it is a wonderful parliamentarian. I served with her on OGGO, but I have to say I am not a big fan of this bill. It is almost like it is “bad private members' bills” week. Earlier, I had to speak to Bill C-245, which was talking about bringing the $35 billion in the wasteful infrastructure bank over to be $35 billion to add to the wasteful infrastructure department.

I have to say that with this bill it is like “déjà vu all over again”, to quote Yogi Berra. I recall actually speaking to this bill about four years ago in the 42nd Parliament. I was not a fan of it then, and I am not a fan of it now. The big reason is that I have to wonder, of all the things going on in Quebec right now, or in Canada or around the world, if this is what we should be discussing in the House of Commons and taking up two hours of our time.

For example, I look at issues in Quebec right now. I think in the member's own riding we have an increase in problems at Roxham Road again. We have heard from the Government of Quebec of the incredible strain on its social services from these illegal or irregular crossings, however we wish to term them, but I think that is a bigger, more important issue we should perhaps be debating right now.

Of passports, we hear repeatedly in the House from across the country. In Edmonton, people are actually lining up at 12:30 in the morning to get passports, so that is not quite a day in advance, but it is the same problem in Quebec. We actually heard from Trois-Rivières that calls for help from citizens at the Trois-Rivières constituency office were increasing. They have been approaching decade highs daily for three weeks now. Why are we not talking about a private member's bill addressing that issue?

There is a labour shortage. I recall, actually now for several years, hearing about the labour shortage in Quebec. It is hurting productivity. It is hurting the economy of farmers, retail and aerospace. We cannot get workers in that province. Again, this is directed at the PMB. I would think it is a much more important issue we should be chatting about right now, as well as hurrying up the access to foreign workers.

Of course, there is inflation. It is 6.8%, and we will be hearing new inflation numbers tomorrow. My guess is that it is going to rocket past 7%. We hear in Quebec, again, about the shortage of bodies that is going to be driving wage inflation and making the inflation issue more troublesome. One would wonder if that is not a more important issue to be debating right now than a name change for a riding.

There are border issues and the ArriveCAN app, or “ArriveCAN'T” app, as we call it. This is a quote from the newspaper:

It's time to bid farewell to the ArriveCAN app, say border-city mayors, tourism industry leaders and others who complain Canada's stringent COVID-19 rules for international travellers are encouraging would-be U.S. visitors to spend their tourist dollars at home.

Estelle Muzzi, mayor of the Quebec border community of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, says that the rules are a drag on border crossings that are vital for the local economies. I think that mayor might actually be in the member's riding. Here we have the mayor saying she has issues with ArriveCAN and passports, and we have to wonder why we are talking about a riding change, especially right now.

With the redistributions, the ridings are going to change completely in Quebec, probably. My own riding is getting split into Edmonton West and Edmonton Winterburn. It would be strange for me to perhaps change the name of my riding right now to “Edmonton West Edmonton Mall” or “Edmonton Kanye West”, as I jokingly call it, knowing that in two years the riding was going to change to Edmonton Winterburn.

Again, we have a lot more important issues we can talk about. I want to give some examples of some PMBs that have come through the House recently from my Conservative colleagues that, perhaps, are better examples of how parliamentarians should be spending their time.

Bill C-296, which is from the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, is a PMB to amend the criminal code to find the person convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder of the same victim in respect of the same event—

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2022 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today for the second time to proudly speak to my bill, Bill C-245, an act to amend Canada's Infrastructure Bank, with a plea.

Time is running out, and our communities need help. It is clear the climate emergency is here. Our region is already being hit hard. Yesterday, in Winnipeg, we saw record high temperatures. Over the last month, Peguis first nation has seen unprecedented flooding. First nations such as Tadoule Lake had winter storm warnings in June, and we are already experiencing extreme forest fires, which have caused extensive damage. In parts of Ontario and Quebec, tornados and severe storms have been wreaking havoc the last number of weeks.

The bill is rooted in this reality, the reality that communities on the front lines, particularly indigenous and northern communities, need action to survive climate change now. Since I tabled this legislation, I have heard from many indigenous and northern leaders across the country who have advocated tirelessly for federal support, support they have yet to receive. I have also heard from many who have reached out to the Canada Infrastructure Bank only to be rejected.

I have heard stories of first nations that were refused funding to upgrade a community hall in desperate need of fixing because they could not show the Canada Infrastructure Bank how it would be profitable, and of a northern community that was trying to switch off from diesel and were told to apply for solar panel funding without any recognition of the infrastructure needed to transition the community.

Communities do not need band-aids. They want to work with government to build infrastructure that mitigates and adapts to the increased precarious realities they face. Two first nations in our region, Poplar River and York Factory, have been left stranded in the last few weeks. It is clear they need all weather roads.

The government might show up to put a on band-aid for a short-term solution, but that is it, and we continue slowly and surely down a path, and we know where it ends. This is not how the federal government should be governing. Canadians deserve better. Communities at the forefront of the climate crisis deserve better. Time is running out and communities need our help.

Instead of getting that help, indigenous and northern leaders, and advocates can tune into this debate and hear the Liberals tell us that the Infrastructure Bank is doing great and that nothing needs to change. It is business as usual.

What we heard from the Liberals today on the bank is pure fiction. Communities know it. Canadians know it. The bank is a corporate welfare scheme. It is not doing the job the Liberals promised it would. Ironically, this week marks five years since the bank was founded. Five years later, the bank does not have a single success story to point to. It has given plenty of ammunition to those that were critical from the beginning, and it reinforces what many of us believe, which is that Liberals are more concerned with helping their wealthy friends than standing with Canadians.

In committees, in the House and in private meeting with Liberal MPs, I have consistently heard an acknowledgement that the bank is not what the government hoped for. We in the NDP have made serious propositions to fix it so it is there for the communities that need it most. We believe that public ownership is a critical tool in taking on the climate crisis. We believe that reconciliation ought to mean investing in critical infrastructure in indigenous and northern communities.

We cannot afford to miss this opportunity. When this historic agreement between the NDP and the Liberals was signed, there was talk about our shared principles on the environment and reconciliation. The Liberal opposition to our bill flies in the face of the spirit of that agreement. It used to be that the Liberals would steal good ideas from the CCF and the NDP. Now they cannot even see the value of a good idea in front of them.

The bill has unprecedented support, and for that I am thankful, from indigenous and northern leaders, climate activists, labour leaders, economists and Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We need to wake up. The world is burning. Indigenous and northern communities are fighting to survive. We do not need the Liberal greenwashing.

Indigenous and northern leaders are fighting for a better future. We cannot miss the opportunity to create a livable future for the communities that are already on the front lines. I hope that members of Parliament will read the hundreds of letters they have received from constituents and communities on the front lines. Time is running out. Our communities need help. Bill C-245 is a step in that direction.

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2022 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand this morning in support of Bill C-245, an act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act.

It is important to note that it was just over three years ago when parliamentarians in the chamber admitted that we are in a climate emergency. If it is an emergency, then we should probably act like it is one. In fact, that is what international climate scientists called for in their most recent report from April. The co-chair of an IPCC working group said, “It's now or never, if we want to limit warming to 1.5°C”. That is the internationally agreed upon maximum to ensure that we are taking action at the pace that science tells us is required.

One way to do that is to take existing Crown corporations and direct their resources toward solving the climate crisis we are in. That is why I support Bill C-245, along with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and that is why I really appreciate the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski bringing this legislation forward as her private member's bill. The bill recognizes that communities are at the forefront of the climate crisis and, as such, it would shift the priorities of the Canada Infrastructure Bank to be explicit about supporting climate adaption and mitigation efforts. The bill would do this in three ways: one would be to remove the parts of the Infrastructure Bank's mandate that allow it to seek out private investments; two would be to increase the transparency of the bank by requiring regular reporting to Parliament; and three would be to ensure that first nations, Inuit and Métis communities have a seat at the table on the board.

As it stands today, the Canada Infrastructure Bank was established back in 2017 as arm's length from government, with a budget of $35 billion. What an opportunity that is. Last year, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that it would not even spend half of that amount over the next 11 years. What a wonderful way to activate those funds if we are going to follow through.

As other speakers have mentioned, communities across the country are calling out for more. Municipalities are taking a leadership role, and Waterloo region is one example of that, but if communities across the country are going to follow through at the pace that science requires, they are going to need the federal government to step up. I recognize that the Canada Infrastructure Bank, as it stands today, requires projects to generate revenue, meaning they have to charge public user fees or tolls, directly or indirectly, to meet the needs of private investors. Instead, if approved, this bill would redirect those tens of billions of dollars toward the infrastructure projects we need, whether it is helping communities move off of diesel or moving to high-speech rail, the list goes on and on.

One person I respect on this topic is Seth Klein. He has said that we should think about urgency of the climate crisis the same way that we might have thought in the past about wartime efforts. I would like to share a quote from Mr. Klein, who said, “But in response to the climate emergency, we have seen nothing of this sort. In contrast to C.D. Howe’s wartime creations, the [Liberal] government has established two new Crown corporations during its time in office — the Canada Infrastructure Bank (a vehicle for privatizing infrastructure that has thus far accomplished very little), and the Trans Mountain Corporation (an ill-advised decision that makes all Canadians the owners of a 60-year-old oil pipeline). If our government really saw the climate emergency as an emergency, it would quickly conduct an inventory of our conversion needs to determine how many heat pumps, solar arrays, wind farms, electric buses, etc. we will need to electrify virtually everything and end our reliance on fossil fuels. Then, it would establish a new generation of Crown corporations to ensure those items are manufactured and deployed at the requisite scale.”

I invite members to think of the jobs we could create in this transition, and they would be good, unionized, well-paying jobs to transition our economy to that of the future. When I reflect on Mr. Klein's words and look at what is in this bill, that is what excites me about this.

Bill C-245 would be one step along a long journey, not only aligned with Mr. Klein's vision, but also with that of climate scientists, who are telling us that this is required and that action is not in eight years. It is certainly not thinking about net zero by 2050. The action is required now, and there are bills before the House, such as Bill C-245, which would equip us to do it.

That is the most important thing. It is not what one party or another is bickering about with each other. It is not about partisanship at all. Future generations will judge us and what we did in this chamber, and whether we collectively acted at the pace scientists tell us is required, rather than giving billions of dollars in new subsidies to fossil fuels, and invested it in the infrastructure we needed.

The bill is one we should all embrace, and I am proud to support it.

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-245, an act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act. I want to thank the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski for bringing this bill forward. I am very proud to stand in the House to speak in support of it.

The bill looks at something that is fundamentally important. It would take the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act and change it to focus on things that matter. The thing that matters most right now in this country is addressing the realities of climate change.

It is on the record since 2016 that I am not in support of the Infrastructure Bank. I am tired of seeing public money going to support private infrastructure and making the wealth of those few grow while the rest of us struggle. To me, it just makes sense that we have profound support and input into public ownership of public infrastructure, especially as we take on the crisis of climate change. If we are going to be serious about addressing this issue, we need to look at how we are going to adapt and respond in local communities, and make sure that those areas are recognized. We do not see that happening in this country right now under the leadership of the Liberals.

I come from a large rural riding, and one of the biggest challenges is transportation. A lot of people in my communities have to take one or two ferries and drive a long distance to get to the health care supports they need. There is very little support for bus services or for looking at how we are going to get people from one place to another in a safe and affordable way. This continues to be a massive concern and one that this bill addresses. This bill looks at the reality that more needs to be done, and it looks at taking the priorities of the Infrastructure Bank and supporting communities.

In the last Parliament, I put forward Motion No. 53. That motion talked about the fact that we are not seeing enough sustainable funding and resources going to smaller communities across the country to respond to the changes that we are seeing in the climate.

We are also not seeing funding to support adaptation to, and mitigation of, what is happening in the climate, or to address the issue of making sure there is sustainable employment in our areas. We need to have the climate addressed by local solutions. The people in communities and regions know what they know, and what they know often works. My motion, similar to this bill, also brought forward the idea of making sure that at every step, we acknowledge and recognize UNDRIP and look at following the leadership of indigenous communities across the country. We need the voices of rural and remote communities, and of indigenous communities, to actually be heard because they are on the front lines. As we look at what is happening in our country, we see that they are on the front lines of climate change and its impacts.

I live in B.C. Our region is seeing the impacts of climate change significantly. Last year, we saw heat domes that killed so many because we were not prepared for that level of heat in our region. We saw excessive and extreme flooding that wiped out whole highways and made areas inaccessible. We actually had to have the military fly in and take out people who were stranded in their vehicles. They could not get out because those areas were completely destroyed. We have seen forest fires eliminate a whole community and threaten so many more. This is the new reality that we are living in today, and it concerns me greatly because it is expensive and it is threatening our way of life.

What is frustrating to me as well is the fact that we are not seeing the level of action that we need to see from the current government. For the past six years, the Prime Minister has pretended to care about the climate crisis, but at the same time his government has looked at raising subsidies for oil companies. They are higher now than they were under former Prime Minister Harper. Over $4.5 billion in public money was used to buy a pipeline, and we do not even know where that is going to end.

Canada has the most GHG emissions per capita in the G7. Greenhouse gases emitted by the government have increased by 11%, and Canada is the only G7 country where GHG emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement: so much for our Prime Minister standing in that place saying that Canada is back. We are not back. We are not doing what we need to do to invest in a future that is safer for our children, and we are not investing in a future that leads us to opportunity for business and growth, because the future will be dealing with the climate. We have already pushed things that far.

It is time for action. It is time for a vision, and this bill addresses these very important issues. We need solutions that focus on growing and sustaining the wealth of everyday Canadians and not just the top 1%. One part I spoke of earlier that is so pivotal to this bill is following the leadership of indigenous communities in this country.

The first people of this country need to be at every single table, and this bill would assure that this is the reality. We need to listen to those voices, we need to listen to traditional knowledge and we need to accept that there is a long history of awareness in regions all over Canada that only indigenous voices can bring to the table.

We also have to acknowledge that, when it comes to adapting to climate change, indigenous communities are largely underfunded for basic infrastructure. I think of the Dzawada'enuxw in my riding up in Kingcome. It is a very remote community. They have been facing immense flooding from the river for multiple years, and they have been very clear that they need an access road so they can get to the ocean in case the community floods, as it has. I want members to understand that they have been building their houses up every year to address the fact that their whole community is being flooded, and all they need is a road so that a boat can come to get them. Right now, their only solution is to stand and wait for a helicopter to land on a pad, which means only a few people can be taken out at a time. This leads to higher risk, and we do not see any support in that. Exactly what this bill would say is that we need to address these issues.

I live in, work in and serve communities that are small, rural and indigenous, and I will tell members that the leaders of those communities are often working very hard with their staff to write the proposals and do the work that needs to be done so they can get the support they need. Often, when they are trying to find the resources to do those key things they do not have them, and the complex processes do not acknowledge the different sizes of communities.

This bill really would open the door for these communities to have a voice. We know there is $35 billion in the Canada Infrastructure Bank. This is so important, because we need to start addressing these really important issues.

I think I will end there. All I can say is that this bill would make a difference for communities trying their best to adapt to a climate that is going to win. If we do not take action soon, we are going to see devastation, and all of us will have to take a part of that responsibility.

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2022 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to see you today, as always, and it is very interesting to debate Bill C-245 and the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

The bank is a newly designed institution. It has only been around for a few years and, even though it is still in its infancy, there is already talk about a lack of transparency and changes to the management approach and the board of directors. This institution has hardly been around for any time at all and we are already talking about the many problems with it.

The Bloc Québécois's position has always been clear. This bank never should never have existed, for the very simple reason that we did not need it. To date, the bank has basically been a failure, not because it did not fund any projects, but because it failed to do its job properly and to ensure that projects were carried out. To understand why the bank makes no sense, we need to look back at the past.

Let us go back to 2015. The current Prime Minister was on the campaign trail. He said that there was an economic slowdown and that we had to invest, in particular in infrastructure, since it was urgent that we help Quebec, the provinces and municipalities.

When things are urgent, the thing to do is to sit down with partners and finance projects. However, the government’s Liberal reflexes took over. It decided that, instead of taking action, it would waste time: It would create a new institution with various layers of public servants and invest in a big machine in Ottawa instead of delivering for Canadians.

That was what it announced in the 2015 electoral campaign and again in 2016. In 2017, the bank was legislated into being. However, it was still not in operation, and it was finally up and running when the economy was no longer in a slowdown.

So far, they have not learned from their mistakes. Since then, we have had a pandemic and another slowdown. The bank has not changed since then, and has not met its objectives. The government is once again behind in its projects. This is an example of poor service delivery and an inappropriate investment vehicle.

With his banker’s mentality, the finance minister at the time, Mr. Morneau, said that taxpayers would benefit. He said that the bank would drive job creation and economic development and that, for every dollar invested by taxpayers, it would draw four, five or six dollars in investments from the private sector. It was supposed to be a windfall.

Finally, nothing much happened, except for a few small projects that could very well have been financed more quickly using other methods, such as bilateral agreements.

If we look at the three-year growth plan of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, we can see that, by 2028, $2.5 billion will be invested in clean energy. We have a list of emergencies. At the same time, the Liberals tabled a budget in which they plan to invest—surprise, surprise—$2.5 billion a year, and not by 2028, in dirty energy. They are investing $2.5 billion in clean energy through the Canada Infrastructure Bank with their right hand and doing five times worse with their left.

That is what we call an inconsistent government. The Liberals are investing $1 in clean energy and $5 in dirty energy, and then they will tour the country this summer saying that oil is green. That is our federal government for you. They are investing $2.5 billion in broadband connectivity projects. The digital transition should have accelerated during the pandemic but, because we were wasting time with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, we were unable to speed up the process.

They are also investing $2 billion in building upgrades. These projects are closest to those on the ground, closest to the people, while the federal government is the level of government farthest from the people. The government thinks it is smart to invest like that.

There were a few good projects. I know that the hon. member for Winnipeg North will be talking about zero-emission vehicles. There were also good projects in Ontario, but that is not enough.

Here is what the Liberals did: They made a list of emergencies and created a huge bank. After years of wasting time, the projects were not carried out in time. However, the Liberals told us that they were urgent. Today, when we look at the institution’s performance, we can see that all of this was so urgent that they did not meet their commitments. That is exactly what happened with the bank.

No one can ask us to like the Canada Infrastructure Bank, because we like our people, we like Quebec, we like our infrastructure projects and we like our economy. That is why we do not like the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Today, we are in a situation where they will try to meet their targets. They have money to spend and they have to meet their targets. They are looking for projects, because there are not enough of them.

I will give the same example as the Liberal member just gave, namely the famed high-frequency rail line between Quebec City and Windsor. This is not a high-speed train. It is a bad project. Everyone wants a high-speed train, but everyone is resigned to never getting anything from the federal government. We will therefore get a tortoise that passes by twice as often and we will be told that it is a great project.

The project, which is supported by the Canada Infrastructure Bank, will prove to be a bad risk for taxpayers and a good risk for the private sector. The project’s sponsor, VIA Rail, has decided that we should privatize the public infrastructure in the profitable corridor. However, the key mission of the government, that is to say, projects that provide a public return, will be paid for by taxpayers. They will privatize the good part and leave the bad part for the taxpayers.

Things are so bad that, in the last budget, the Liberals had to set aside $400 million in public funding for the project. We asked public servants what was going to happen with the $400 million and they said it would be used to find partners for the train project. I do not know of any functioning bank that has so few projects or friends, or that operates so poorly that it has to invest that kind of money to find partners. When you have to spend $400 million to find friends, maybe you need to change the way you do things.

The same is true for the REM light rail project. It did not need the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Normally, this would have been a Quebec government project. Investissement Québec would have bought shares, and the federal government would have helped. It would have been done quickly and properly, in a bilateral manner. We have a loan for the REM here, but this could have been done more efficiently without the new layer of administration in the federal government.

That is quite the bank we have. It is slow and does not meet its objectives. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the Bank of Canada would likely never be able to disburse the $35 billion it has to spend by 2028. There is now a $19-billion discrepancy. This is $19 billion for emergencies, according to the Liberals, that will never be used to meet the needs on the ground for the people who really need infrastructure. The bank does not work.

Now, if we are going to have a bad bank, we might as well improve the way it operates. That is why Bill C-245 is interesting. There is a lack of transparency in the management of these funds and in the reporting to the House. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the Canada Infrastructure Bank did not provide information or respond when his office tried to evaluate its performance, on the grounds that it was keeping trade secrets confidential. The bank is becoming like Export Development Canada, which is one of the major funders of oil projects in Canada and which also hides behind supposed trade secrets.

Another positive aspect of the bill is that it requires that the board of directors include indigenous and Inuit members. The idea behind this is that we are our own best advocates. This proves that the Canada Infrastructure Bank is not listening to people on the ground, and that is the least of it. I would be surprised if the Liberals did not support this bill for that reason.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank was supposed to be a miracle. My grandfather, and I am sure many others, used to say that if something looks too good to be true, it likely is neither good nor true.

The federal government is capable of meddling in Quebec's affairs. It has been no better at delivering infrastructure through its Canada Infrastructure Bank than at managing passports, airport services, unconditional health transfers or the temporary foreign worker program, as Quebec and the provinces have been calling for.

This is a reminder that Quebec must be in charge of its infrastructure projects, that the federal government needs to be smaller and that it needs to provide the money to Quebec and the provinces.

As Quebec's national holiday approaches, I want to take this opportunity to remind members how important it is for Quebec to have all of its revenue and resources and that it be the master of its own destiny. This bank serves as a reminder that Quebec must be free. Vive le Québec libre.

Canada Infrastructure Bank ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2022 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on Bill C-245, especially after about three hours of sleep due to a late flight. Thanks Air Canada. I wish we were debating something about Air Canada. I am in the mood for that right now.

Bill C-245 would nominally change Canada's failed Infrastructure Bank from a colossal, failed boondoggle that is wasting taxpayers' money to a potentially massive failure that is also wasting taxpayers' money but in a different way and under different leadership.

Bill C-245 wants to change infrastructure investment to something that is in the public interest and relates to climate change mitigation or adaptation, except we already basically have a department for that. It is called Infrastructure Canada. The idea is that we are going to take $35 billion from the failed Infrastructure Bank, move it from one failed institution and hand it over to another poorly led institution.

It reminds me a bit of the even-steven Seinfeld episode where Jerry Seinfeld always ends up even at the end of the day. He gains a friend and loses a friend. He takes $20 out of his pocket and throws it out the window, then grabs a jacket and finds $20. That is all this is. We are shuffling things from one failed department to another failed department.

We have immense problems at Infrastructure Canada. The old PBO, Jean-Denis Fréchette, who is retired now and beekeeping, and I wish him well, noted often that billions could not be found from infrastructure spending. The 2018 PBO report showed the federal government was able to reduce its deficit in 2018, which is shocking, I know. It is almost heresy for the government. However, that was only because it did not spend the infrastructure money that was set aside.

I want to read a quote from the PBO report:

The PBO has published 4 reports regarding [Infrastructure Canada]. Our previous findings indicated that data gaps existed in the tracking of federal money; planned spending lagged; job creation and economic growth was lower than anticipated; and, increases in federal spending were partly offset by decreases in provincial money.

There is limited evidence that increased federal money resulted in increased provincial spending (while federal...transfers increased by $1 billion...overall provincial [transfers] decreased by $733 million).

The Senate did a report on infrastructure spending, and it said that the only measurement for success for all this spending on infrastructure was not actual results. It was not whether it actually helped the economy. Was it whether it helped the environment? No. Was it about productivity improvements? No. The only measurement of success the Senate was able to find for Infrastructure Canada was whether dollars were spent. This bill wants another $35 billion spent by the same people, who just want to spend the money, and the only metric of success is spending the money, not achieving results.

This is right from GC InfoBase on the Treasury Board's website on results: In 2021, Infrastructure Canada only achieved 25% of its goals for 2020-21. If we think about that, this bill wants to add $35 billion more to Infrastructure Canada to not achieve targets.

I have some of the missed targets for Infrastructure Canada. Again, this is right from the government's website, GC InfoBase. It missed out on the value of infrastructure spending. It failed to achieve its goal on projects that it was committed to. Here is a good one: It failed in its goal on changes in GDP, or increases in GDP attributed to spending. Again, what is the point of spending all this money when it is failing on its goals? Now it wants to add another $35 billion.

There is another good one, and the NDP should be interested, especially given where the riding of the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski is. The Liberals failed on the percentage spent toward clean drinking water and percentage spent on improving transit. Again, these failures from the government and failures on infrastructure are certainly telling us we should not be moving money from this failed boondoggle to another group that shows it can fail quite spectacularly. There is another good one: The Liberals actually failed on their projects for reducing GHG emissions.

That is Infrastructure Canada. Let us move on to the other half of our Laurel and Hardy pairing, the Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank, when we look at it, is certainly in the competition for the most inept government department.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank has a lot of competition for this top ranking, including of course PSPC, Public Services and Procurement Canada, which has managed to bungle the jet fighter procurement and the ship procurement. We found out about its buying 100 million dollars' worth of vaccines that went to waste.

Another runner-up is, again, Public Services and Procurement Canada, on Phoenix. It has been six and a half years since the Liberals pushed the start button on Phoenix and we are still dealing with that.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank is in a tight race for the most incompetent with the CRA. Of course, this was before it started taking people three hours to finally get through to a CRA agent only to have the agent hang up on them. During the pandemic, the CRA managed to send CERB cheques to dead people and send cheques overseas.

Of course, recently, number one or number two would be Global Affairs. Despite Russia committing genocide, murdering children and women and targeting civilians, Global Affairs sent a top official to the Russian embassy tea party last week.

Service Canada, of course, wants to be recognized for its incompetence with respect to passports. We gave it months of notice. I rose in this same seat several months ago with respect to the complaints. The health minister got up and commented on how hard the staff were working. We found out that two-thirds of them are still sitting at home. They may be working from home, but probably not as efficiently as is needed to get passports to Canadians.

Rounding that out with another competitor, we have CATSA through Transport Canada, which ironically oversees the Canada Infrastructure Bank. With respect to the results of its departmental plan, through the public accounts we found out that one-quarter of CATSA funding for screeners had lapsed. It kept all the bureaucrats working, but not the screeners, the ones who are hired on contract to take a look at and screen the luggage that goes through, a vitally important cog in the scheme of airports. Twenty-five per cent of that lapsed, even though in January, February and March, the final three months of the fiscal year, the department produced numbers that very clearly showed that the number of Canadians being screened was growing exponentially. I think at one point it was within 70% of prepandemic numbers, but the department let the money lapse and let the screeners stay at home. Then we found out, just last week, that the department was unprepared for the increase. It had actually released its own numbers showing exponential growth in air travel, but it was caught unawares.

Apparently, the government was also caught unawares with respect to Service Canada and passports. Who would have known 10 years ago that a 10-year passport would be expiring at this time? I certainly would not have expected a 10-year passport to expire in 10 years. Who would have possibly known that we would see an increase in travel with the pandemic? The government said it was caught off guard.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank, knowing it had tough competition, doubled down for the goal of most incompetent government department. It has been over five years and it does not have a single project built. One more year, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank will be eligible for an MP pension. Like most MPs, it also has not done much in five years. There has been $35 billion into the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and nothing has been completed. One year it actually spent more money on termination benefits for executives than on salaries in its own department. The Canada Infrastructure Bank was set up to guarantee decent returns for large for-profit companies and investment firms, not to look after Canadian taxpayers. Those companies would be guaranteed profits, while the taxpayers would be guaranteed any risks or losses.

The main project the Canada Infrastructure Bank is so proud of, the urban rail project in Montreal, has been a disaster, which is no surprise. People do not want it. The actual construction does not look at all like the design. The cost has been $7 billion and growing, and this is its best product.

I understand the intent of the bill, but I have to say it is rather silly to take money from one failed government department to give it to another failed government department. Therefore, I will not be supporting it.

The House resumed from April 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-245, An Act to amend the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

June 16th, 2022 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, York Factory First Nation has lost its lifeline, its ferry, for longer than expected. The community is now isolated and needs immediate assistance. It also needs an all-weather road. Climate change is already wreaking havoc here, as the ground-breaking report from the Canadian Climate Institute indicates. Urgent federal action is needed now across our north, including by building all-weather roads.

My bill, Bill C-245, supports this work. Will the Liberals invest in all-weather road access for York Factory and support my bill to invest in our communities that are on the front lines of climate change?

May 30th, 2022 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Hello, Mr. Minister.

In the last while, Canadians across the country have lived first-hand the extreme weather events that are increasingly common as a result of climate change. Last summer, Lytton, B.C., was burned to the ground following horrifying wildfires that ravaged the west coast. Last fall, a month's worth of rain fell onto the south coast of B.C. over two days, forcing over 15,000 people to leave their homes. Lives were lost, and communities were destroyed.

Ottawa, where this committee is taking place, is still dealing with the fallout of a storm so extreme that 350,000 people lost power. The Northwest Territories and northern Ontario have been dealing with unprecedented flooding in recent weeks. In my riding, Peguis First Nation had to evacuate over 1,800 people, and more than 700 homes were impacted. This is a community that has dealt with flooding five times in the last 16 years.

Every year we see more and more of these extreme weather events. It's only getting worse, yet it seems the federal government is always reacting to these events and not making the type of long-term, sustainable investments to help communities keep themselves safe in the face of climate change.

Peguis, for example, has asked for flood mitigation investments to stay safe for over a decade, but the government has largely refused to deliver them. I have put forward Bill C-245 to reform the Canada Infrastructure Bank to support communities in the fight against climate change. The word is that the government will vote against this bill.

On what grounds is your government willing to say no to supporting communities to survive in the face of climate change and to finally put the Canada Infrastructure Bank to good use?

May 20th, 2022 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, NDP

Niki Ashton

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My question is to both ministers.

Here we are talking about violence against indigenous women and indigenous communities. We know that climate change is currently having a disproportionate and devastating impact on a number of indigenous communities, and that impact is felt most strongly by women as well across the board.

With that reality in mind, I have put forward a private member's Bill C-245, seconded by my colleague, Leah Gazan, that shifts the foundations of the Canada Infrastructure Bank to focus on the desperate need for mitigation and adaptation infrastructure with a particular focus on indigenous and northern communities to deal with everything from devastating flooding and forest fires to melting ice roads. The reality of the climate emergency is already with us, and we need solution-based ways of dealing with this crisis.

My question to both of you is this. Given your responsibilities as ministers and your interest, both in terms of gender equality and putting an end to violence against women and lifting up indigenous communities, will you be supporting my Bill C-245?

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

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

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.