Evidence of meeting #31 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cib.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jim Parsons  Mayor, City of Corner Brook
Réjean Porlier  Mayor, City of Sept-Îles
Ian Hamilton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority
Craig Stewart  Vice-President, Federal Affairs, Insurance Bureau of Canada
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Michael MacPherson

5:40 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I see that we are encroaching upon the time. We're within one minute of when we must conclude our meeting for the next meeting to take place.

As such, I want to make a motion to adjourn—if it's in order that I do so while interrupting MP Rogers, unfortunately.

5:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Actually, Ms. Kusie, I was going to deal with that at 5:45 p.m.

5:45 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Okay. Pardon me.

5:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

A motion would be somewhat redundant.

I will go back to Mr. Rogers and give him his last minute.

Mr. Rogers, go ahead.

5:45 p.m.


Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

As I was saying, these investments will help Canadians get back to work. One of the defining characteristics of the CIB is to invest in projects in a manner that attracts private and institutional capital now and in the future. In this way, every dollar of public investment has maximum impact.

In delivering this plan, the CIB will also work in close co-operation with provinces and territories, municipalities and indigenous communities across the country. Given the substantial amount of work already completed, the CIB expects to begin investing in projects before the end of 2020.

Mr. Chair, I know I don't have the time, but I would like to begin highlighting what some of these investments will be: $1.5 billion for agriculture infrastructure; $2 billion for broadband; $1.5 billion for zero-emission buses; $2 billion for energy-efficient buildings and retrofits; and $2 billion for clean energy. That leads me to be somewhat surprised by the NDP's not supporting this kind of investment, when we're talking about clean energy, clean buildings, retrofits and so on to combat climate change. There's also $500 million for project acceleration.

Mr. Chair, given that you're about to adjourn this meeting, I would want to come back to these comments at some later point to elaborate on each of the items I've just listed.

5:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

Thank you to all the speakers. We do look forward to this debate continuing on Tuesday.

Therefore, I will take this opportunity to suspend this meeting, and we'll see you all on Tuesday.

[The meeting was suspended at 5:47 p.m., Thursday, May 6]

[The meeting resumed at 6:35 p.m., Tuesday, May 11]

6:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Members, I will now take this opportunity to reconvene our meeting.

Welcome to the continuation of meeting number 31 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

As always, or of late, today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the committee.

To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few points to follow.

First off, members may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French.

For members participating in person—I don't believe there are any—proceed as you usually would when the whole committee is meeting in person in a committee room. Keep in mind the directives from the Board of Internal Economy regarding masking and health protocols.

Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on a video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. For those in the room, your microphone will be controlled as is normal by the proceedings and verification officer. I will remind you that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.

With regard to a speaking list, the committee clerk and I will do the very best we can to maintain the order of speaking for all members, whether you are participating virtually or in person.

Members, the committee will now continue its debate on the amendment to Ms. Kusie's motion presented by Mr. Scheer.

The order of speakers upon suspending was as follows: Mr. Rogers, followed by Ms. Jaczek, followed by Mr. Fillmore, followed by Mr. Scheer.

With that, Mr. Rogers, you have the floor.

6:35 p.m.


Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to restart the intervention that I started in the last meeting before we concluded. I just want to identify some of the key areas where, if the opposition motion succeeded, Canadians would end up with less infrastructure in our country, and institutional capital like pension funds would continue to build projects elsewhere, but not in our own country for the good of Canadians.

I started to identify some of the projects and investments that I feel are critically important for Canada and Canadians for the long term. We're talking about a period of 24 to 36 months. We're talking about major projects that would create in the vicinity of 60,000 jobs across the country.

One defining characteristic of the CIB is that it would attract investment in projects in a manner that attracts the private sector and institutional capital and, hopefully, gets some of these projects off the ground and built. In delivering this plan with provinces, territories, municipalities and indigenous communities across the country, we would see major investments in projects that would benefit all Canadians.

Given the substantial amount of work that's been completed, the CIB expects to begin investing in some great projects before the end of 2020. I want to identify some of these projects for the committee and talk about their value and what it means for all of us and for Canadians right across the country—from coast to coast to coast.

First, let me focus on the $1.5 billion for agriculture infrastructure. The CIB's investment will focus on transformative irrigation infrastructure projects that are high priorities in western Canada. Particularly, the benefit of this new initiative is estimated at 700,000 acres of newly irrigated land, which would increase food supply output. It would improve water resource management. It would also secure domestic food supply for all of us. Of course, there would be export opportunities.

Agriculture and agri-food sector growth can face obstacles in attracting long-term investment capital, as we know, to finance large infrastructure projects. The CIB's investment in irrigation will mitigate private sector leaders' concerns about the risks associated with financing projects that involve uncertain ramp-up periods and high-risk repayment sources due to exposure to the commodities pricing associated with revenues from agricultural products.

Preliminary estimates suggest that completed critical irrigation projects could also help stimulate an additional $1.5 billion in investments by the use of [Technical difficulty—Editor] and associated precision or smart technology that would create, of course, more efficiency in the agriculture sector.

As a world leader in agriculture and agri-food, Canada is uniquely placed to build up its competitive advantage while improving the food system for Canadians and strengthening the resiliency of Canada's supply chains. We all know the importance of that as, from year to year, we experience unexpected storms, droughts and climate change problems that occur from time to time and create all kinds of difficulties for the agriculture sector. That investment in itself would be a huge win for the agriculture sector, for sure.

Another project investment that I would like to identify would be the $2 billion earmarked for broadband. That would be a game-changer for all Canadians, particularly Canadians living in rural and remote areas that now have no access to the Internet system. They get left out of the marketplace. They get left out of the business opportunities that could exist, and they are challenged to receive even the basic service. The CIB's broadband investment initiative will accelerate connectivity in Canada by developing and delivering large-scale and high-impact projects.

These CIB investments will connect more than three-quarters of a million households and businesses, particularly in underserved communities by creating new economic, educational and health care service opportunities. This would assist communities, like mine, in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and many other communities that I represent in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as other communities across the entire country, in the north and in more remote difficult areas to access.

Broadband projects for underserved areas have high capital costs as can be expected, of course, but lack the user-based density to commercially support the initial capital investment. That is always the argument that ISPs provide when they talk about the challenge of servicing small, rural and remote communities. What makes it so challenging is density. That is a big issue and a big part of the equation when it comes to investing in broadband throughout rural Canada.

The CIB intends to bridge this gap with low-cost financing to help make projects more viable, and that's what that would achieve. The CIB will offer low-cost, flexible financing to broadband projects, connecting many premises that would otherwise not be commercially viable.

The CIB will execute its broadband plan in two primary ways.

First, it will partner with other federal and provincial programs designed to encourage greater broadband connectivity. We see some of that, of course, happening today in jurisdictions across the country. Just very recently, our government announced, in partnership with the Government of Quebec, a major investment to accelerate broadband connectivity throughout northern and rural parts of Quebec.

Second, the CIB will continue its direct engagement with Internet service providers across the country on projects that will not rely on those additional government programs but can still be viable with CIB participation and support. That's the key. These projects would not happen without this kind of participation and support from CIB.

We all recognize that the pandemic has made the need for widely distributed broadband connectivity more important than ever. It's more important today than we realize. Here we are tonight, for example, on Zoom meetings. We use it on a daily basis. I can sit in [Technical difficulty—Editor] rural Newfoundland and connect with the transport committee and other committees, and participate in the House of Commons or other meetings throughout my entire riding, and throughout the country, wherever I want to engage with people, constituents, residents and so on. That participation is crucially important to making sure that continues to evolve and improve.

When we talk about the investment in broadband, it's something that will only happen with the kinds of investments we've been talking about and we've identified, and at the pace that we've identified, by 2025, with major connections across the country, and by 2030 having connected all Canadians to some sort of broadband system that would allow them to be participants in the international marketplace and be able to open businesses in small and rural communities.

Many examples of that exist here in my riding, in Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, on the tourism side. They are using that to their advantage and attracting—of course, prior to COVID—massive crowds to communities on the Bonavista Peninsula, for example. Many people were hired or employed because of the acceleration of broadband and because of the fact that these tourism businesses were able to market themselves over the Internet and were able to attract people from far and wide to that peninsula. It created hundreds of jobs in the tourism industry. It sustained many of the rural communities that would otherwise be existing on just a fishery, which has been a challenge at times.

The investment in broadband is critically important and it needs to continue.

Another investment I'd like to focus on, as well, is something that is very important for the future of our planet, our country, in terms of climate change and what we do to reduce emissions.

An investment of $1.5 billion for zero-emission buses would bring about a dramatic change in terms of the emissions we get from diesel-powered buses in city fleets and so on. The CIB's investment in this area will accelerate adoption of modern zero-emission bus fleets and reduce greenhouse gases and operating costs over the long term. I think we all understand and realize that's certainly the case.

The financing challenges, though, have often limited the development and expansion of clean transit systems. The CIB will address financial barriers faced by bus owners and operators, such as transit authorities and municipalities, school boards and school bus operators due to the high upfront capital costs of zero-emission buses and associated charging infrastructure that goes along with that. We probably wouldn't see that kind of uptake or change occurring very quickly, if we had to depend on these private individuals and boards to make the transition themselves to zero-emission buses.

The CIB's initiative to finance the high upfront cost differential of zero-emission buses, compared to other higher-polluting buses—diesel buses and gas buses and so on—will create long-term operating savings. These savings are estimated to be substantial, as the lifetime operating costs for ZEBs could be as much as 40% lower than diesel buses.

The initiative, of course, would also address the transition and procurement barriers by facilitating pan-Canadian participation, knowledge sharing and, potentially, bulk purchasing, which would probably lead to a less expensive product down the road, once we are able to accelerate the kind of technology and servicing that we would get from these electric buses.

Investing in public transit is essential to growing economies and reducing greenhouse gases. These investments contribute to the Government of Canada's goal of 5,000 zero-emission buses—school buses and transit buses—over the next five years. Obviously 5,000 ZEBs would equate to quite a reduction in emissions and greenhouse gases that would normally be spewed into the atmosphere and the environment through the diesel or gas-operated buses.

Beyond the immediate priorities in the $10-billion growth plan, the CIB will continue to focus on existing and new opportunities for transformational public transit projects across Canada, such as light rail—which we talked about—regional rail, subways and bus rapid transit. These are all great initiatives that will lead to greater transportation networks, particularly those in the large cities like Toronto or Vancouver, or bigger cities in western Canada like Edmonton or Winnipeg, and so on.

These cities would be the beneficiaries of that kind of advanced technology once we roll that out and that would make a huge difference, and not only as a transportation mode to move people. Just think about the impact in terms of cutting back on emissions and what that would mean for Canadian people living in these cities. The smog that you see on a hot sunny day, hopefully would be a thing of the past—not totally, of course, but certainly it would be far less [Technical difficulty—Editor].

A further tremendous investment of $2 billion for energy-efficient building retrofits is a part of the CIB plan, and that will help to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings by working with large private and public sector real estate owners to modernize buildings to use all proper lighting, heat pumps and that kind of stuff. That would make the buildings much more energy efficient and much more functional, and of course enable them to be maintained for the long term.

The CIB initiative will finance upfront capital costs of energy-efficient building retrofits, creating long-term savings from the efficiency that will of course be achieved from that.

The investment in large-scale projects will certainly crowd in private capital where investment from the private sector has traditionally been very limited due to the uncertain nature of the expected cost savings. The CIB can play a significant role in proving this market and providing the track record required to attract private sector capital.

The CIB is creating a mainstream, broadly marketed debt product to attract new market participants beyond the existing large equipment manufacturers and energy services companies that would be present in the current limited market. Inefficiency, energy consumption and commercial buildings are a major source of greenhouse gases, so energy-efficient buildings will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to Canada's transition to a low-carbon future.

The Government of Canada's climate plan identifies energy efficiency of buildings as a key priority, as energy to heat and cool buildings accounts for 12% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously, addressing this would be an important part of achieving climate change improvements for commercial and public buildings.

There is another $2.5 billion for clean power and clean energy. We like to hear about this. In eastern Canada, we refer to the Atlantic loop when we talk about hydroelectric power. Clean energy would displace coal-fired production facilities and create cleaner energy for the entire country in different regions of the country.

I would have thought the NDP would agree with this, and I'm surprised to see that they're considering supporting the motion. Of course, we've heard this already in the debate, but it's important to emphasize—

7 p.m.


Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

I want to give my colleague a chance to take a breath and grab a sip of water. It will allow me to offer that we've just hit the half-hour mark, and unless I'm gravely mistaken, we're debating a motion concerning the Lake Erie Connector project. I haven't heard any remarks related to that project.

I wonder if, in the most friendly way possible, I might steer my colleague back to the matter at hand, which is the Lake Erie Connector project and the production of documents. I believe this is the topic of the motion before us.

7 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Thank you, Mr. Bachrach.

To all members, I am keeping a very close eye on the comments being made. Right now we are debating the amendment to the motion. The amendment, of course, is about bringing forward documents in a certain way to the law clerk. These are the redacted documents. I'm taking out of Mr. Rogers' comments that.... A lot of what he's saying is about the implications of the presentation of those documents and, therefore, the implications ultimately on the CIB itself, its existence and the projects that are encouraged through the CIB.

Once again I'll ask that all members stick to debating the amendment at hand. Again, I'll be keeping a close eye on the comments being made.

Mr. Rogers, you have the floor.

7 p.m.


Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pointing out to my honourable colleague that I prefaced my remarks at the beginning by saying that this motion is putting at risk the projects that the CIB has identified and we have identified as a government, so on and so forth. What I'm trying to demonstrate is what might be a result of the consequences of passing such a motion, the amended motion and so on.

I just wanted to demonstrate that these projects are projects that are critically important. If we do something to circumvent and prevent this kind of thing from happening, the projects that I'm talking about, then obviously we've failed as a group.

I'll just carry on with a couple of other examples for clean power. When we're talking about CIB investing in clean power generation, transmission and storage over the next three years, a $2.5-billion investment is a major step towards CIB's intention to invest $5 billion into clean power over the medium term.

The CIB's interest in clean power will include renewable generation and storage and investment in interprovincial and territorial transmission that can stimulate the advancement of clean power. In pursing these initiatives, the CIB will work with indigenous communities towards a transition to cleaner power and more reliable sources of power.

These clean power projects are often delayed or not developed because of financing challenges and gaps in the capital structure. To help deliver clean power projects, the CIB will provide low-cost and long-term capital, often pegged to revenue streams that are not typically sufficient for traditional debt and equity investors.

In working with government and project developers on delivering clean power projects, the CIB will structure these investments to increase the use of private sector capital, reduce the weighted average cost of capital generally associated with this and provide certainty on long-term debt and equity returns. It will transfer more construction and operations to the rest of the private sector, so clean power investments will result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and help Canada achieve its 2030 and 2050 emission reduction targets. Therefore, the CIB's investment and participation in these projects are critically important.

A further $500 million for project acceleration has been identified. In addition to the five initiatives described before and as part of the growth plan, the CIB will invest in due diligence and early construction works in order to accelerate high-impact infrastructure projects in which the CIB expects to make a long-term investment.

The objective of the project acceleration is to expedite the studies, technical reports and analysis required to shorten critical paths to construction. Any capital deployed to fund development and early works activities will be structured with a view to rolling these amounts into eventual CIB investments in these projects.

Large infrastructure projects, as we know, take years to plan and develop. Many of the witnesses we've heard at committee talk about CIB and talk about infrastructure projects and development. Anybody who has been involved at the municipal or provincial government level knows that the development of projects like the Lake Erie project takes a lot of considerable planning and cannot be accomplished overnight. They are often years in the making.

Project acceleration can create more immediate employment opportunities and economic growth. We know that, of course. That's why there's investment in $500 million to project acceleration.

Mr. Chair, I'll close up now by saying that the areas I just identified that CIB is focused on.... I've identified some of the areas and opportunities, and I'll go back to my initial opening comment from the previous meeting, which is that by passing a motion like this we're talking about putting at risk some of these projects and all of these jobs that I've referenced, the 60,000 jobs across the country that can be created over the next one, two or three years in the partnerships between CIB, provinces, municipalities and indigenous communities. Some of the people we heard from at committee referenced these.

Ms. Jaczek has already talked about the value of the Lake Erie project and what it means for people in her region, certainly, and for the people in Ontario.

Mr. Chair, thanks for your indulgence and I now turn it back to you. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to present all this important information with regard to the CIB.

7:05 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

We're now going to move on to Ms. Jaczek.

Ms. Jaczek, you have the floor.

7:05 p.m.


Helena Jaczek Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

I have had some connectivity issues, so hopefully there will be no interruption.

I think it's really important that everyone realizes that, while this motion is addressing a particular project, the Lake Erie Connector project, if that project gets derailed because of the conditions that Mr. Scheer has put in his amendment and the companies back out of this important project, you're really jeopardizing all the other projects potentially that are lined up waiting for approval and confirmation through the CIB. Therefore, I think it's important to really understand what the priorities and the accountabilities of the CIB are, as they've been very clearly articulated by the minister quite recently to the new chair of the board.

I think we can all recognize that infrastructure does play a critical role in building our country and growing our economy. The Canada Infrastructure Bank is a cornerstone of the Government of Canada's plan to build really transformational infrastructure in the public interest, to create good jobs and to move ambitiously to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The minister, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, has written to Tamara Vrooman, the newly appointed chairperson of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, with an updated statement of priorities and accountabilities. If you've had an opportunity to look up the qualifications of the chair of the board, first of all, Tamara Vrooman is CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority. The bios of the other board members are all on the website, and they look particularly adept at being the stewards of the Canada Infrastructure Bank. They have very strong resumés in finance and in public procurement opportunities, so I feel that the board is an excellent one.

We heard, as a committee, from Mr. Cory, who is the new CEO. He has an excellent reputation from when he headed up Infrastructure Ontario.

When the minister wrote to Ms. Vrooman, she set out the government's expectations for the bank's activities across five priority areas: public transit, green infrastructure, trade and transport, broadband and clean power. Obviously, it's a huge range of important areas for all of us. The Canada Infrastructure Bank is already making progress in these priority areas as it implements its growth plan, which aims to invest $10 billion over the next three years in strategic initiatives such as zero-emission buses; energy-efficient building retrofits, which is incredibly important and popular, certainly here in Ontario; agricultural irrigation; broadband, which we've been studying in this committee; renewables and energy storage.

Of course, these investments will help grow our economy, create good jobs, build inclusive communities and support Canada's climate goals.

To advance the government's commitment to close the indigenous infrastructure gap—and my colleague, Mr. Rogers, made reference to this—and to support the prosperity of indigenous communities, the government has set a target for the CIB to invest at least $1 billion in total across its five priority sectors with revenue-generating projects that benefit indigenous peoples. Again, we heard from witnesses at this committee what a popular and important aspect this was.

The bank recently announced a partnership for the Oneida Energy Storage project. This is an example of the ambitious projects this new investment target may unlock.

As the government undertakes Canada's first-ever national infrastructure assessment, the CIB will provide advisory services to help identify needs in Canada's built environment, particularly with respect to the role of the private sector and investment community. This speaks, of course, to having that baseline of measuring what we have, where we want to go and what we need to do to get there.

This work will complement the Government of Canada's overall efforts on sustainable infrastructure and building back better, and I do want to quote the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, whom we had at our committee just recently. She said:

The Canada Infrastructure Bank has all the key elements in place to deliver jobs, growth and nation-building infrastructure for Canadians that drives us to a net zero future. With new leadership and clear priorities, including a new commitment to identify opportunities to invest in major projects in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, I'm confident the Bank will help drive Canada's economic recovery and build the infrastructure we need for Canada's long-term success.

Why would we ever want to jeopardize an ambitious goal such as the minister has articulated?

As part of the government's historic investing in Canada plan and building a better Canada, the CIB was established as an innovative financing tool to address our country's significant infrastructure needs, and it has been allocated $35 billion to support infrastructure projects across the country and attract investment from private partners to those projects.

The CIB is a Crown corporation that operates at arm's length from government. Statements of priorities and accountabilities are used, however, by ministers to communicate government priorities and expectations to Crown corporations, so while the government sets the priorities for the CIB, the CIB's board of directors is responsible for the organization's ongoing governance and supervision of its business, final investment decisions, forward planning and strategic direction. As I've said, in my view, having reviewed their qualifications, they are eminently able to do so.

Like other federal Crown corporations, the CIB is accountable to the government, Parliament and the public through a corporate plan and annual report. Recently, the CIB announced its growth plan to invest $10 billion over the next three years in infrastructure projects that will help Canadians get back to work, and it's expected to created approximately 60,000 jobs across the country. Of course, this is all related to building back better post-COVID-19.

I think it's worthwhile to look directly at the statement of priorities and accountabilities itself because it provides more insight into how the CIB is charged with attracting private and institutional investment to make tax dollars go further, something that I'm sure our Conservative colleagues are keenly interested in. It also goes into how that mandate would be unfairly impeded by our committee's passing a motion such as the one we are debating today.

I will read the statement of priorities and accountabilities letter from the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to the chair of the CIB. She says:

As the Minister responsible for the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), it is my pleasure to provide you with this Statement of Priorities and Accountabilities for the attention of the CIB's Board, Chief Executive Officer and management. As the CIB enters the next phase of its development, this letter sets out the Government's priorities to guide the CIB as it delivers on its commitments and develops its Corporate Plans and outlines the CIB's accountabilities to the Government and the public.

We face a health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government of Canada is taking strong and quick action to protect the health and safety of Canadians, stabilize our economy and stimulate growth, and [in doing so will] support communities across Canada. Canada's recovery from this crisis will require aligning efforts of all our institutions, and infrastructure will continue to play a vital role in supporting job creation, planting the seeds for long-term growth, promoting inclusivity and building a low-carbon, clean economy. This document builds on the previous Statement of Priorities and Accountabilities dated December 20, 2017, and other guidance provided by the Government, and reflects the evolution of the Government's priorities for the CIB. The CIB can and must play a bigger role at this time of crisis—but also a time of opportunity to build back better—as we focus on safely restarting our economy and responding to changing circumstances in Canada and worldwide.

The CIB was established to ensure that Canadians benefit from modern and sustainable infrastructure through partnerships between governments and the private sector. It does this through its core responsibilities in investment, advisory services and research, that leverage the capital and expertise of the private sector to achieve public outcomes and value for taxpayers.

The CIB helps public dollars go further by investing in revenue-generating infrastructure projects in the public interest and developing innovative financing tools. The goal is more infrastructure built across the country. It is critical that the CIB collaborates with federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, Indigenous and private investor partners to transform the way infrastructure is planned, financed and delivered.

The CIB model is a component of the Investing in Canada Plan, designed to address our country's significant infrastructure needs and the fiscal pressure being placed on government resources. We need to attract new investments from everywhere. Families and businesses want to locate and build where they know infrastructure is modern, clean, and resilient. Canada has an excellent opportunity to be the low-carbon economy that global investors beat a path to—if we keep making smart choices right now.

The Government has allocated, and Parliament has approved, $35 billion for the CIB to fulfill its purpose and functions set out in the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act. The CIB is expected to prudently manage its portfolio so the net fiscal expense tot he Government of Canada will remain under $15 billion. You will find at Annex A the Government's priorities for the CIB's investments, advisory and research responsibilities, as well as guidance on government collaboration.

As a Crown Corporation that operates at arm's length from Government, the CIB's Board is responsible for the organization's ongoing governance and supervision of its business, financial investment decisions and forward-planning and strategic direction, in line with the Government of Canada's priorities. The CIB must be open and transparent with Canadians about its operations, investments and decision-making processes, while respecting the confidentiality of commercially sensitive information.

I think that particular paragraph speaks directly to the motion that we have in front of us and the important issues that many of us have raised with the fact that the motion could very well derail business confidence in the CIB.

It continues:

The Financial Administration Act requires the CIB to submit a Corporate Plan for approval by Treasury Board in order to align with the Government on a strategic vision for the organization, as well as approval of operating and capital budgets so that the CIB has financial authority to carry out its purpose and functions.

There is an Annex B:

[It] details the CIB's accountabilities to the federal government, and the Canadian public, including ensuring that the CIB's investments, advisory and research functions create jobs, grow our economy and increase our competitiveness while creating a cleaner and more inclusive future.

To fully realize its purpose and functions, the CIB should draw on a diverse range of talent and perspectives from across Canada as well as international best practices. This includes continued commitment to diversity of the workforce in

—the organization, the CIB—

and efforts to foster the inclusion of a broad range of voices and views in governance and decision-making. In doing so, the CIB should take into consideration Canada's gender, linguistic, cultural and regional diversity, including the unique perspectives of Indigenous Peoples.

The CIB has an unparalleled opportunity to deliver critical and innovative infrastructure projects that maximize taxpayer value and benefit all Canadians, including demonstrating how partnerships among governments and the private sector create jobs and growth, build a more inclusive society and fight climate change.

[The minister is] committed to support [the CIB] and everyone at the CIB to achieve these goals. [Her] department officials, as well as those in partner departments and central agencies, as always will provide the CIB the support it needs to be successful in meeting the infrastructure needs of Canadians and their communities.

As Mr. Rogers has detailed, the government priorities are many. There are five major areas, and I think again it's worth thinking long and hard about how important these areas are.

Public Transit, including major transit projects, and zero-emission buses with a long-term target of $5 billion in investments.

That's a subject, actually, that the industry, science and technology committee has been hearing a tremendous amount on from witnesses at that committee.

Green Infrastructure, including energy efficient building retrofits, water and wastewater with a long-term target of $5 billion in investments.

Trade and Transport, including trade corridors, bridges, passenger rail and agricultural infrastructure, with a long-term target of $5 billion in investments.


—which we have hear so much about—

including for unserved and underserved community broadband connectivity with a long-term target of $3 billion in investments.

Clean power, including renewables, district energy, storage,...and transmission with a long-term target of $5 billion in investments.

These five areas are absolutely crucial for us in terms of building back better not only for Canada but also for the opportunity to be a real model for consideration going forward.

As the Government undertakes Canada's first-ever national infrastructure assessment, the CIB will be expected to participate in consultations, research and providing advice, particularly on the role of the private sector in identifying Canada's long-term infrastructure needs and priorities. Such an assessment is considered a global best practice, and is critical as our Government moves into recovery planning and charting the path towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Now I will focus on the accountabilities:

The CIB is accountable to the federal government and Canadian public through the mechanisms set out in its enabling legislation, the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, as well as legislation applicable to all Crown Corporations, including the Financial Administration Act, Access to Information and Privacy Act, and Official Languages Act. The CIB is responsible for meeting all of its legal obligations, including responding to the Duty to Consult to Indigenous groups and ensuring that projects have met environmental assessment and other regulatory requirements.

The CIB's annual Corporate Plan should set out how the CIB will invest, provide advice and conduct research in the priority areas, including by detailing investment strategies and ensuring that investments are revenue-generating and in the public interest. The Corporate Plan should explain the total capital and operating budget for the organization, over a five-year period and should continue to describe how the CIB will conduct due diligence and analysis as it manages its resources and investment portfolio, including under adverse investment scenarios.

In order to guide the development of future Corporate Plans, the CIB must work in partnership with Infrastructure Canada to collaborate with public officials across relevant departments and central agencies to inform project development and the parameters of the CIB's financing initiatives. This engagement will allow the CIB to align with policy priorities, avoid overlap with government programs and assess risks associated with CIB investments.

The CIB must remain accountable to the Government and Canadians through its Corporate Plan, which will include plans to achieve the objectives and outcomes through the CIB's activities. This work will involve a Results and Delivery Framework with a clear articulation of the characteristics, thresholds and risks for investment or initiatives. Additionally, the framework should set out the intended outcomes of a particular initiative, such as economic growth or job creation, impacts on diversity and inclusion, and anticipated greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The CIB is required to produce an Annual Report on its operations and activities that is provided to Infrastructure Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, and that must be tabled in Parliament. The Annual Report must include information on the CIB's finances, an auditor's report and information on how the CIB has met the objectives and achieved the outcomes set out in its Corporate Plan.

As required by the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, [the minister] will be undertaking a review of the CIB's enabling legislation by mid-2022 to ensure that its provisions and operation enable the corporation to achieve its purpose and functions, and meet the government's policy objectives. This will be an opportunity to review the CIB's impact to-date, consider any landscape changes and lessons learned, and to ensure the CIB remains positioned for success throughout its mandate.

As far as I'm concerned, this statement of priorities and accountabilities is extremely thorough. To a certain extent, it does explain that these are very large projects requiring a huge amount of consultation, consideration and research, and certainly, these are very time-consuming projects to actually deliver, but we're well on the way.

In respect to the Lake Erie Connector project, you may recall from the last meeting we had that it was actually started in 2014, so at this point, to derail it through this particular motion that asks for information to, as far as I'm concerned, absolutely no purpose other than to jeopardize the future work of the CIB as well....

Mr. Scheer has made it very clear how he feels about the CIB, and it seems to me that the purpose of this motion is simply to have this particular Lake Erie Connector project fail, potentially endanger the future of the CIB, and in that way, become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that Mr. Scheer keeps hopping on that the CIB at this moment in time is a failure.

Therefore, I will certainly not be accepting the amendment or the original motion.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

7:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Thank you, Ms. Jaczek.

I'll now move on to Mr. Fillmore.

Mr. Fillmore, you have the floor.

May 6th, 2021 / 7:30 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Thank you very much, Chair.

I want to start my intervention by referencing Mr. Bachrach's point of order.

We're all very focused on the relevance of what we're saying here this evening. The motion itself and the amendment that we're debating now open a very wide and dangerous door. It's not just a door that my colleagues and I are now compelled to walk through. It's actually a door that future investors are going to walk out of, potentially at great loss.

One of the areas that we know is the focus of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, where we're intent on attracting private and institutional capital, and where, if we lose that it could be particularly harmful, is in indigenous infrastructure. The last thing we need right now is a motion or amendment like the ones we're debating, which would jeopardize the Canada Infrastructure Bank's ability to get much needed infrastructure built in places that need it most.

We've spoken, in previous meetings, about the potential harm to investors and what this motion and this amendment might do to them and their willingness to participate. Let's also remember the potential harm to future beneficiaries of these investments. This is very serious business.

I want to just give you a quick quote from Ehren Cory, the CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank. He said:

The CIB's initiative is an engagement toward collaborative, respectful and beneficial partnerships with indigenous communities. The CIB is a unique tool to address the infrastructure gap in these communities through innovative financing. This is another example of the CIB taking action and focusing on investment to deliver impactful infrastructure. When indigenous communities grow and thrive in a sustainable manner, all of Canada benefits.

Furthermore, as a press release notes:

The Canada Infrastructure Bank recently announced “the launch of its Indigenous Community Infrastructure Initiative (ICII), which will enable the building of new infrastructure projects in indigenous communities. The CIB initiative is going to generate more investment in projects that are vital to economic growth and to environmental protection with indigenous communities across Canada.

Here is what the Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, had to say:

The infrastructure gap in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities has existed for far too long. Indigenous Services Canada welcomes the new Indigenous Community Infrastructure Initiative as it will help advance the Government of Canada's commitment to closing the critical infrastructure gap while also supporting wealth and job creation in indigenous communities.

I want to talk for a moment about the experience I had in the 42nd Parliament as the chair of the indigenous and northern affairs committee. In that chair, I led a study on the unforgivably high rates of suicide amongst indigenous youth. As part of that study, the committee members and I—I don't see any of my colleagues from that committee on tonight's committee—had the opportunity to travel to northern and remote communities to understand, see and learn first hand the kind of infrastructure challenges that are present in these communities.

It was a life-changing experience. This is not hyperbole. This was literally a life-changing experience for me. We saw communities in which there were not culturally appropriate facilities for blanket ceremonies, for talking circles or for healing circles. There were not culturally appropriate—or, in fact, humanely appropriate—infrastructure assets in place for medical care, for protecting women and children from abusers or for addictions healing. There wasn't proper energy infrastructure. There wasn't proper transportation infrastructure that allowed indigenous students who were going to the south to learn to be able to come home for important holidays and to reconnect with their family and their elders in a way that they could afford. We all know of the atrocious costs of travel between the north and the south in Canada.

The wake-up call that came from that trip sent me on my own mission. I was heading to New York city to watch a play written by a playhouse in Halifax: 2b Theatre. The play was called Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, with “Old Stock” taken from those unfortunate words spoken by Stephen Harper on the eve of 2015 election, differentiating and essentially creating two categories of Canadian citizens: old stock and new Canadians.

While I was in New York, I took it upon myself to create a meeting at the United Nations with the office that manages the United Nations sustainable development goals. I was so glad that they were willing to grant me an audience.

We spoke for quite a long time about a number of the goals that pertain to reconciliation and the needs of indigenous communities in Canada for more investment and more attention. They were goals like number six, clean water and sanitation; goals like number one, no poverty; goals like number 17, partnerships for the goals; number 16, peace and justice; number 14, life below water; and number 11, which I wear on my T-shirt whenever it's clean—it's often not clean because I wear it so much—sustainable cities and communities.

It was a profound moment for me to be visiting that office on the 24th floor, it might have been, of the United Nations building on the banks of the East River. What they said to me was that the work that Canada is leading in reconciliation is leading the world. Now, this was in 2018. We've come a long way since then and, of course, we have a long way to go, and the CIB, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, is part of the way in which we are going to get across the distance we need to get across with reconciliation in Canada.

That was another life-changing experience: sitting in that office with those professionals who have dedicated their lives to the UN SDGs and, in particular, those who serve indigenous communities.

As stated, first nations, Inuit and Métis communities will have “the opportunity to partner with the [Canada Infrastructure Bank] to make innovative investments in...projects” that are going to help address the infrastructure gaps in indigenous communities. I want to tell you what Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said about this. He said:

The Canada Infrastructure Bank...Initiative is a major step toward closing the infrastructure gap in First Nations, while prioritizing green energy projects—

—like the Erie Connector—

in the overall effort toward climate action. I support the efforts of the CIB to work directly with First Nations in meaningful and collaborative ways that will lead to much needed investments toward better infrastructure and sustainable economic growth.

That was from National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

The projects that the Canada Infrastructure Bank enables have the potential to provide more low-carbon energy supplies. They have the potential to provide enhanced energy security, reduced greenhouse gases and improved broadband connectivity.

I should have mentioned that when we were studying the high rates of suicide among indigenous youth, online connectivity is a major and even fundamental cause of that.... We landed in Iqaluit and, like many people, once I found my way to where I was going to sleep that night, I tried to open my laptop to check Facebook to see what my constituents were saying and who was trying to reach me. I could not get on Facebook. Now, imagine being a young person whose entire social life is based around the Internet and not being able to get on Facebook because of poor digital infrastructure.

Let's not trivialize it by just talking about social infrastructure. This is also the infrastructure of commerce, of innovation and of health and telehealth. These are fundamental investments that are needed in first nations communities for them to live the life that people on this committee, including me, take for granted every single day. We must not take them for granted. We must do everything in our power to enable them.

Community-based revenue-generating projects can be from any one of the CIB's priority sectors, be they green infrastructure, clean power, broadband, public transit, trade or transportation, as I've discussed.

This program, the ICII, the indigenous community infrastructure initiative, is a major step towards investing in infrastructure projects that benefit indigenous communities. Now, one party present on this committee has put a few stakes in the ground on the importance of investing in infrastructure for first nations communities. I would hope for them to be able to open their eyes a little bit wider and see that this dangerous, reckless motion, and this equally reckless amendment, are a roadblock to providing the exact kind of help they campaigned on and testify to in the House of Commons on a near daily basis.

The indigenous community infrastructure initiative was developed with input from indigenous leaders, communities and infrastructure organizations to create an initiative that will support access to capital for community-based projects. I would like to quote from Natan Obed—I'd like to call him a friend, but he's at least an acquaintance—who is the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Mr. Obed said:

Major long-term investments are essential to build the infrastructure Inuit need to thrive. Innovative programs like the ICII add to the financial tools we can use to begin to address the longstanding infrastructure gap between Inuit Nunangat and other parts of Canada.

He's just asking to begin to close the gap. Please let us not let this motion and this amendment prevent Natan from his work of allowing his community to begin to close the gap.

In connection with the launch of the indigenous community infrastructure initiative, the Canada Infrastructure Bank has expanded its specialized indigenous investment team to provide advice, develop projects with indigenous communities and conduct internal due diligence on all project investment opportunities. The Canada Infrastructure Bank is taking action quickly, following the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities' statement of priorities and accountabilities to the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which sets a target of at least $1 billion in indigenous infrastructure across its priority sectors. That's $1 billion. This motion and this amendment are putting a roadblock in front of that.

Now, I've spoken about the need that I saw first-hand and that I think members on the committee here have seen first-hand. There is an abject need for investment in the infrastructure of indigenous communities in Canada. We must not let frivolous, partisan motions stand in the way of that.

This is what Minister McKenna had to say:

We have a huge opportunity to work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities to get important infrastructure built which benefits their communities economically, creates jobs and addresses the Indigenous infrastructure deficit. That's why I set a new target for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to invest at least $1 billion in revenue-generating infrastructure projects in partnership with and that benefit Indigenous Peoples. I am very pleased that as part of this initiative, the CIB will advance smaller-scale projects and will drive progress towards that target.

Now, I want to remind my fellow committee members that the Canada Infrastructure Bank is designed to act as a catalyst—a catalyst—for revenue-generating infrastructure projects that are in the public interest and that support economic growth for the benefit of Canadians. It's not designed to be a repellent. It's not designed to be susceptible to motions and amendments that cause the CIB to become a repellent to these kinds of investments, as the opposition parties seem to want it to be. The indigenous community infrastructure initiative is a sign of further momentum for the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is focused on executing its growth plan to make investments in community, make investments in projects in priority sectors and get more infrastructure built to grow the economy over the long term.

This is a nice moment to share with committee members what David Chartrand, national spokesperson and vice-president of the MNC, the Métis National Council, had to say. He said:

There are many areas where lack of infrastructure holds back the social and economic development of Métis communities. We believe the [Canada Infrastructure Bank]’s initiative is an important step towards closing the infrastructure gap in our communities, as the Government of Canada committed to work with the Métis Nation to close this gap by 2030.

Those are the words repeated again and again by indigenous leaders: close the gap, invest in communities, help our people. This is what the CIB can do.

As an example of the growth plan in action, the Canada Infrastructure Bank's recently announced memorandum of understanding on the Oneida energy storage project is a partnership between NRStor Inc. and Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation for the largest energy storage facility in Canada. Investment in our first nations' communities, moving Canada toward a low-carbon economy, creating jobs, building an inclusive economy in which all Canadians can participate is at the core of the Canada Infrastructure Bank's mandate.

I want to dwell for a moment, if I can, Mr. Chair, on the Oneida energy storage project. This is an incredible opportunity in Canada and for first nations' economic growth. Another area that the CIB is making great progress on, as we discussed, is clean energy projects, like the Erie Connector and many others.

These benefit Canadians economically, and they also benefit our citizens and future generations by helping to combat climate change.

If members on this committee can recall, the last time we were all knocking on doors in 2019, it wasn't just the mid-career professionals and retirees who were talking about climate change. It was students, youth and older Canadians whom I had never heard talk about climate change as a serious issue before for the reason that their kids are talking about it. It was dinner-time conversation in Canadian households across the country.

This battle against global climate change is so very important, and it's also an area where large pools of private and institutional capital can be tapped to get even more built even faster to benefit Canadians. This is what we mean when we say you can't have a strong climate plan without a strong economy.

Climate action is an economic development proposal. It will create jobs, it will save the planet, it will provide a future for our children. If the opposition gets its way and decides to intentionally impede the Canada Infrastructure Bank's ability to fulfill its mission, we are not going to be able to perform at our highest calibre. We are going to be hampered in reaching our net-zero commitments.

I would like to give you a good recent example of the Canada Infrastructure Bank's making a difference on a clean energy project.

The CIB, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and Oneida Energy Storage LP announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding earlier this year for the Oneida energy storage project in Ontario. Oneida Energy Storage LP is a joint venture between NRStor Incorporated and, as I mentioned, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation. This MOU confirms the CIB's collaboration with Oneida Energy Storage LP in support of the project. The CIB and Oneida Energy Storage LP have an agreement on the parameters around a CIB investment in the project, which will be confirmed imminently by further due diligence and a final investment decision in the spring of 2021.

This partnership is another step forward toward the CIB's delivering new clean power infrastructure as part of its $10 billion growth plan.

This is a project that checks so many of the boxes that we urgently need to be checking: investment in first nations, clean energy, job creation, economic growth, recovery from a pandemic. It is all here. This is what the CIB is for.

The Oneida energy storage project represents the largest project of its kind in Canada. The proposed Oneida energy storage project includes development of a 250-megawatt/1000-megawatt-hour energy storage facility in southwestern Ontario. The facility would provide clean, reliable power capacity. It would draw and store existing surplus, baseload and renewable energy during off-peak periods, to flatten those peaks and troughs that we know about from renewable energy generation. Power would be released to the Ontario grid when energy demand is at its peak. In addition, the energy storage facility would help stabilize Ontario's electricity sector by providing important grid balancing services.

By helping to better use the existing assets of Ontario customers, great efficiencies would be secured, leading to a more affordable and cost-effective electricity system.

What would be the benefit of the CIB's involvement in this project? The CIB engages and builds relationships with all levels of government—at least in the absence of such harmful motions as the one we're currently debating—and with indigenous communities and private and institutional investors. Its team of infrastructure experts conducts market analysis and provides special commercial and investment expertise, including innovative financial modelling, project structuring and procurement options to support project sponsors.

You can hear in this the language of relationships, the language of trust, the language of contractual fairness, the language of reasonableness, which this motion and this amendment fly in the face of.

Here are some endorsement for this approach:

The CIB is excited to be part of this project as it has the potential to deliver sustainable, reliable and affordable energy for customers in Ontario. The project is founded on a strong partnership between an innovative Canadian energy company and a First Nation community. The CIB is proud to support this partnership.

—as we all should be, as members of this committee.

As part of the Growth Plan, the CIB has a goal of investing $2.5 billion in clean energy projects across Canada within three years. The CIB will continue to encourage projects which include meaningful Indigenous community participation.

That is something that Ehren Cory, the CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, said.

Now, Annette Verschuren is a name we know in the east. She's made her name known throughout Canada. She's the CEO and founder of NRStor, among many other entries in a long and notable resume. She said:

Energy storage is a game-changer that can help to enable Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy and make Ontario a global leader in cleantech innovation. We are excited to work with industry-leading partners on the Oneida project to deliver grid efficiencies at scale resulting in meaningful savings for rate payers. We believe Oneida will be just the first of many exciting storage projects on our country’s horizon.

Elected Chief Mark Hill of Six Nations of the Grand River had this to say:

The Oneida Energy Storage project has the potential of contributing significantly to our mission of achieving economic self-sufficiency for the people of Six Nations.

Just let that sink in for a moment: “the potential of contributing significantly to our mission of achieving economic self-sufficiency for the people of Six Nations”.

Reconciliation is about self government. It's about self-direction. It's about economic independence. It's about empowering residents of a nation to build economic opportunity and to provide for themselves, to enrich themselves and to give their kids the same opportunities that the rest of us on this committee enjoy.

Matt Jamieson, president and CEO of Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, said:

We are thrilled to partner with NRStor to develop energy storage as the means through which energy savings can be realized while providing reliable clean energy to our communities and businesses.

Those are First Nations communities and First Nations businesses he's talking about.

Greg Rickford is the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs in Ontario, and he said:

Ontario is uniquely positioned to take advantage of energy storage solutions and I congratulate the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, NRStor and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank on this important project milestone today.

I understand from engaging in debate on this motion with committee members over the last several weeks—it might be two weeks; it might be more—that they, as oppositions members, would like to substitute their judgment and their belief for these indigenous leaders, for these infrastructure leaders, for these community leaders. I must say, it is offensive.

We have created, through consultation, the Canada Infrastructure Bank. We have created, through consultation, the indigenous infrastructure investment organization—the indigenous community infrastructure initiative—to allow the will of first nations communities in Canada to proceed and for their leadership to provide for the needs of their communities.

This will close the gap of some of those terrible situations I described to you, which I witnessed first-hand from being on the indigenous and northern affairs committee, and which have led, in the worst cases, to suicide and many other shades of horror. These are present in indigenous and first nation communities, and they are directly traceable back to insufficient investment in infrastructure.

That is what we're trying to change. It is incumbent upon us, in 2021, in the context of the United Nations sustainable development goals, the mandate of the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the indigenous community infrastructure initiative to allow these programs to proceed, not by throwing roadblocks in their way or to discourage investment, but instead by removing roadblocks to accelerate their success, and to always keep in mind the end-user, the beneficiary, our community members from across this country, first nations and others alike.

Bringing it full circle back to the government's intention here, I want to tell you what Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, said:

Renewable energy projects in partnership with Indigenous communities - like the Oneida Energy Storage project with the CIB, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and NRStor Inc. – are a great example of how our economy will grow in the future and how forward-looking investments can help Canadians achieve their economic and environmental goals. Investors here in Canada and from around the world are looking to locate and create jobs in places that innovate in this way, helping them reduce carbon emissions and be more competitive at the same time.

She's talking there about the attraction of foreign capital, of investors from outside of our borders, to help make our communities better, to help us face the challenges of the future, to help us face the fight against climate change, to help us recover from the economic scourges of the pandemic, to help us build an economy that brings everybody along with it, so that we all prosper equally and no one is left behind. We don't just focus on those who stand to profit; we focus on those who must survive, and whom these projects can help to survive.

One of the reasons I'm surprised to see this motion moved by the Conservatives is that their ideological brothers and sisters in the Prairies have a lot of very nice things to say about the Canada Infrastructure Bank and its ability to get important new projects off the ground.

I'm not sure why the NDP and the Bloc are swimming in the wake of the Conservatives on this. Perhaps they'll have something to say about that themselves, and about why they want to block, for example, investment in indigenous communities.

However, for the moment, Alberta's government, together with the Canada Infrastructure Bank and eight irrigation districts, is modernizing irrigation infrastructure to create jobs, to expand agricultural production, and to diversify value-added food processing.

We're talking about 21st century economies here, about bringing a workforce from a shrinking means of production to a growing means of production, and helping to continue to grow the economy of Alberta. An $815-million investment will modernize the irrigation district infrastructure, and increase water storage capacity, creating up to 6,800 direct and indirect permanent jobs, and up to 1,280 construction jobs.

Indeed, Jason Kenney said:

This historic investment in irrigation infrastructure will create thousands of jobs and support Alberta's economic recovery, while strengthening our competitive advantage.

He went on to say:

Agriculture is the beating heart of Alberta's economy and as global demand for agri-food products continues to grow, our producers and irrigation districts will be better positioned to meet that demand for generations to come.

Again, he was talking about historic expansion for irrigation in Alberta at the hands of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Michael Sabia, the former chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, had this to say:

The [CIB] is very pleased about the opportunity to invest $407 million in agricultural infrastructure to grow Alberta's economy and create jobs. This project is the single largest irrigation expansion in Alberta's history. Our investment is an example of the CIB's $10 billion Growth Plan in action. We look forward to developing more projects with the Government of Alberta, to invest in its infrastructure and to strengthen and diversify the province's economy.

Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, said about this project:

Today's irrigation investment announcement shows the immediate and tangible results delivered by the Canada Infrastructure Bank through its new three-year $10 billion Growth Plan to improve [the] lives of Albertans and Canadians. This Thanksgiving, we can be thankful that further improvements to Alberta's already diverse agri-food sector will boost food production while strengthening Canada's food security and expanding [our] export opportunities. Through its Investing in Canada Plan, the Government of Canada is helping build sustainable modern public infrastructure, creating jobs, and making Canada more globally competitive.

Devin Dreeshen is the Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and he had this to say:

[The] visionary investment in agriculture is made possible thanks to the partnership between Alberta's government, the CIB and irrigation districts. [The] expansion will see hundreds of kilometres of pipelines built, contribute about $436 million annually to Alberta's GDP, and create over 8,000 jobs. The more than 200,000 acres of new irrigated farmland created from this expansion is roughly a third of P.E.I.'s total farmland. Alberta started out and always will be an agriculture powerhouse.

Let's just go back to his words. This is a “partnership between Alberta's government, the CIB and irrigation districts”. Had any three of those partners been asked, as this motion asks, to show the competitive details of an infrastructure project, commercially sensitive, proprietary information, the door that this motion opens, I think we would have seen these partners walking out that door and not in through it.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said this:

This is a major development for Alberta farmers. Through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and with our provincial counterparts, this investment will leverage private sector partners to significantly increase the acreage of irrigated land in southern Alberta. For farmers of grains, pulses, and other crops, this will not only increase the yields of their crops, but also the long-term sustainability of their operations.

The CIB said:

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding amongst all parties and agreement in principle for the CIB to invest about $407.5 million in this project, to be paid back by the irrigation districts, represents an innovative approach to...a unique asset class. Projects focus on increasing water conveyance efficiency and allowing more acres to be irrigated with the same amount of water.

It said that modernizing and building new irrigation infrastructure would increase irrigated acreage, increase primary crop production, improve water use efficiency, increase water storage capacity, enhance water security, and provide flood protection to support long-term value-added processing activity. The Government of Alberta will contribute $244.5 million to this and the irrigation districts are contributing $163 million towards this important work.

Dan Shute, board chair of the Western Irrigation District, said:

This is a historic day, for the Western Irrigation District and for irrigated agriculture. A generational investment is being made to ensure productivity and stability of Alberta farms long into the future. With this funding, we will expand irrigation, increase water efficiency, and make the service we provide to our water users even more secure.

Only two months after this investment was announced, it was able to reach financial close so that the work could begin.

This is what's at stake here when we talk about the Erie Connector and the importance of preserving the legislative privacy of that deal. Do we want this project to proceed? Do we want it to proceed after lengthy court dealings? Do we want it to be terminated because of commercially sensitive information being revealed? Do we want it tied up in court because this motion is asking the Canada Infrastructure Bank to violate its own legislation, and to violate the trust of the investors and partners in that project? This is what's at stake:

[In December] the Canada Infrastructure Bank... Alberta's government and eight irrigation districts...formalized an agreement for the Alberta Irrigation Project with the CIB investing $407.5 million.

The Alberta government will contribute $244.5 million, and the...districts will contribute $163 million to build modern irrigation infrastructure and significantly expand irrigable land opportunities.

Achieving financial close signifies all contractual steps have been completed. All partners have worked diligently to close the transaction after signing a memorandum of understanding in October. The project is the single largest irrigation expansion in Alberta's history and will help grow Alberta's economy and create jobs.

Look, just in that paragraph, it states: “signifies all contractual steps have been completed. All partners have worked diligently to close the transaction.” They have signed a memorandum of understanding to create the single largest project of irrigation expansion in Alberta's history.

Trust is paramount in deals of this magnitude in which we're trying to attract private and institutional investment to make the lives of Canadians that we all represent, that we were all elected and sent to this place to represent, better.

Now, when the deal was completed, Ehren Cory, the CEO of the Infrastructure Bank of Canada, said:

The CIB is delivering on its commitment to invest $407.5 million to expand irrigation infrastructure in southern Alberta. This is an innovative deal that will create jobs and new infrastructure. Today marks our first financial close under the Growth Plan, our first investment in Alberta and our first opportunity in agriculture. We are just getting started and look forward to more opportunities to attract new investment to Alberta.

“Just getting started”—isn't that what Natan Obed said? Let us get started helping these communities. Let us not scare these opportunities away. Let us not send them running to the hills, running for other investment opportunities that don't have such a high invest public use and public good as these do.

Devin Dreeshen, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, said upon the closure of the deal:

This is a massive deal for farmers, ranchers and food processors across Alberta. Our province is a leader in Canadian agriculture, and more irrigated acres means more investments, local jobs and the ability to feed a growing global population. Irrigation already contributes up to $3.6 billion to Alberta's GDP, and this deal will further diversify our economy, which is good news for Albertans and Alberta farm families.

Well, is it ever. In this era of low oil prices, of corporate movements away from petroleum extraction, large corporations even like Suncor and others in the west are making new plans for the future that are not reliant on petroleum. Albertans need new opportunities. The Canada Infrastructure Bank in conjunction with other federal programs can provide those opportunities. It must provide those opportunities.

Catherine McKenna, again, at the close of the deal, said the following in citing the Alberta minister:

The Canada Infrastructure Bank's $407 million investment in irrigation in Alberta will boost food production, bring long-term sustainability to farmers and create thousands of jobs. The single largest expansion in irrigation in Alberta is moving ahead. Under their new three-year $10 billion Growth Plan, the Canada Infrastructure Bank is delivering immediate and tangible results for Albertans and for Canadians.

I feel as though my colleagues on the government bench and I will have made the case by now that this motion is foolhardy and works at cross-purposes to the reasons each us were elected to come to this place to serve our constituents. This motion would frustrate investment in communities at the very moment when it's needed most, at a time of climate crisis, at a time of economic crisis and at a time of an equity and inclusion crisis. These projects must be given every opportunity to proceed and not be damaged or hindered in the opposition's hopes of scoring partisan points in what may be an election year.

I really hope that the opposition members are allowing some of this to sink in. Perhaps even one paragraph of the many that I've shared here tonight might sink in, might get past that their defences, so that you might consider quietly over your coffee tomorrow morning, or as you rest your head on your pillow tonight and try to slow your brain down, the communities that are at stake here and the kind of investment they need.

My friends from Quebec will know that the Governments of Canada and Quebec recently announced a major investment in the Réseau express métropolitain at the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport. Since we're debating a motion that seeks to undermine the ability of the Canada Infrastructure Bank to get new projects built, let's take a look at another recent announcement that may not have happened without the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the commitment to build the new REM, the REM station at the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has had a completely unprecedented impact on all areas of society, infrastructure projects are going to be crucial to economic recovery. Go back to the Great Depression under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who responded to the depression with the New Deal. Substantial generational investments in community infrastructure are what transform communities, put people back to work and cause economic recovery, all while rebuilding communities for future generations to be able to live happy, prosperous, fulfilled lives in wonderful, functional communities.

These projects are going to create good-paying jobs. They are going to grow the economy. They will improve the daily lives of Quebeckers and all Canadians and build a better tomorrow. The construction of the Réseau express métropolitain, the REM station at the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, will help reduce traffic congestion and improve accessibility and connectivity to the airport by offering an environmentally sustainable link between downtown Montreal and the airport.

I'm sure that members of the committee are aware that other world cities are undertaking very similar investments by connecting their airports. The necessity of land consumption tends to be on the outskirts of—

8:15 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

8:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Go ahead, Ms. Kusie.

8:15 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Thank you very much.

I see that it's 15 minutes past the hour. I'm wondering if we will be concluding today on the half-hour or if we will be going past that.

8:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

That's a great question. I have asked the clerk to give me some indication on how long we can go on for tonight. He is checking with his people, and he will be getting back to me. I can probably give you that answer, hopefully within the next five or 10 minutes.

8:15 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Okay, thank you, Chair.

Second, is it your intention to suspend the meeting or to adjourn the meeting?

8:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

It depends if we're still in debate. If we're still in debate on this amendment, I will be suspending. If we get by this, and we get to a vote, then I'll have the opportunity to adjourn.

8:15 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

I just want to make it clear that we will not be giving consent to suspend; we wish to adjourn. If my counterparts in the other parties would like to express their thoughts regarding that, they certainly can. I just want to express that we will be looking to adjourn and not suspend when the meeting concludes.

Thank you.

8:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Thank you, Ms. Kusie.

Mr. Fillmore, go ahead.

8:15 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I was just talking about the kinds of projects that are at risk with such a reckless motion.

We want Canada to be a competitive country on the global stage. We want our cities to help to lead our economies.

As we know, economic activity and success in our cities help to fund investment in communities across the country. One thing that world cities—Paris, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and others around the globe—have been focusing on of late is connecting their airports—which, for reasons of land consumption, tend to be on the outskirts, in suburban or exurban areas—by high-speed rail.

This transforms.... All of us on this committee have probably had to drive in from Pearson airport to downtown Toronto on a rainy night on those miserable 12-lane highways. Wouldn't you rather have sat in a nice train and glided silently while you had a nap, reflected on your day's work or read the newspaper? That's what global cities are doing. That's what the REM project, the Réseau express Métropolitain, promises—a kind of environmentally sustainable connection between downtown Montreal and the airport.

Just last month, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra; the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Catherine McKenna; the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Quebec lieutenant, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez; Quebec's Minister of Economy and Innovation, Mr. Pierre Fitzgibbon; Quebec's Minister for Transport and Minister Responsible for the Metropolis and Montreal Region, Ms. Chantal Rouleau; and the chief executive officer of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, Mr. Ehren Cory, together announced a $500 million financial package to support l'aéroport du Montréal and to enable the construction of the REM station at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.

If anyone didn't catch those names, I'm happy to repeat them, Mr. Chair.

The construction of the REM station, an estimated $600 million project, will be led by l'aéroport du Montréal, with financial contributions from the following organizations. Transport Canada is investing up to $100 million in funding as part of a program to support large airports, as announced in the fall economic statement of November 2020. The Government of Quebec, through Investissement Québec, is providing a loan of up to $100 million to l'aéroport du Montréal. The Canada Infrastructure Bank is providing a loan of up to $300 million to build on its previous $1.3 billion investment in the REM. L'aéroport du Montréal is providing up to $100 million in addition to reimbursing the loans granted by the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Quebec government.

The Montreal-Trudeau International Airport plays a significant role in Montreal's economy and in the lives of Montrealers. The station at this airport has been a cornerstone of the REM vision since the project's inception. I'm sure every member of this committee and others who are listening have flown into Trudeau airport, and have found their way to various points in Montreal via that airport. We would also have wished to avoid the white-knuckle ride in a private automobile on the expressway during rush hour.

This project will allow seamless connectivity between the airport and Montreal's transit system. It will benefit the greater metropolitan region by improving mobility and connectivity, and it will contribute to Quebec's and the rest of Canada's efforts to address the threat of climate change.

We haven't heard what the Honourable Omar Alghabra has to say yet about these kinds of investments. He's the Minister of Transport in this government, who said:

As Canada looks ahead to economic recovery, transportation and tourism will be vital while we build back better. Our government clearly stated its commitment to ensuring that critical infrastructure projects at Canadian airports was a priority. The funding announced today will ensure that Montrealers and all Canadians benefit from an efficient and green connectivity to the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport.

Catherine McKenna is back and here's what she had to say about REM:

[This] announcement that the new Réseau express métropolitain station at [Pierre Elliot Trudeau] will be able to go ahead with support from the federal government, the province, and a $300 million investment from the Canada Infrastructure Bank demonstrates our commitment to this critical Montreal project and to the importance of integrating the airport to the broader...transit system. We look forward to continued investments in public transit in Quebec that reduce congestion, create jobs and economic growth, tackle climate change and improve the lives of Quebecers.

Pablo Rodriguez—you may recognize that name; he's the leader of the government in the House of Commons and the Quebec lieutenant—said:

Today, through the collaboration between the governments of Canada and, Quebec, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank, we are announcing that the Réseau express métropolitain station will be built at the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport. Just as we have been doing from the beginning, we will continue to work with Quebec and our partners to support Quebeckers.

Monsieur Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation for the Province of Quebec, said:

The agreement between the governments of Quebec and Canada, and the...Infrastructure Bank [of Canada], is the realization of a strategic project for Montreal and will make it possible for the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport to rely on modern infrastructures. I believe that all Montrealers, Quebeckers and travellers are looking forward to using the new REM station at this airport, which is in fact a window on all of Quebec.

Ms. Chantal Rouleau, Minister for Transport and Minister Responsible for the Metropolis and the Montréal Region, had this to say:

In the context of the pandemic, which had a major impact on airports, the contribution of the Government of Quebec and the other financial partners, is essential. Montréal, just like any other big city, should have its own intermodal mass transit network. This station and the rest of the REM roll-out clearly represents the strong links of public transportation system in the greater Montréal region. This is why we believe that a direct access to the passenger terminal through the REM, and therefore the construction of this station, is [critical].

I want to just finish off here with two final testimonials. One, not surprisingly, is from Mr. Ehren Cory, the chief executive officer of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, who said about this project:

The [CIB] is proud to be a key investor in the REM project, and to contribute in a bigger way to connect Montréal's citizens to their airport. Montréal, and Quebec, have ambitious plans for green and sustainable infrastructure and the Canada Infrastructure Bank looks forward to being a key partner in transit and more. The opportunity is to accelerate projects that both support economic growth and protect the environment. Together, we can have real impact in building net-zero communities and sustainable, world-class cities.

Key in what he said there—and you heard it—is that the bank “looks forward to being a key partner in transit” projects like this “and more.” Well, I hope that it gets the chance to be a key partner. I hope that it does not have its knees cut out from under it by this thoughtless motion.

I'm going to close with a quote from Monsieur Philippe Rainville, president and chief executive officer of Aéroports de Montréal, who said:

By responding to the request for loan financing, the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Québec government - along with the Canadian government through its generous direct contribution - have demonstrated exceptional solidarity in this matter. We can now finally say that the REM will be coming to Montréal-Trudeau International Airport. Their financial contribution was essential for the construction of our station. For Aéroports de Montréal, it was unimaginable to pass up on a project that will provide a reliable and sustainable public transit option serving the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, as is the case of all major cities around the world. The airport station is highly strategic for the REM network since it will not only enhance Montréal's competitiveness but also ensure the attractiveness of the airport for passengers and employees in the community. The REM project is also a structuring project that will benefit the entire Quebec community.

Mr. Chair, I can't wait to ride on that link from Pierre Elliott Trudeau to downtown Montreal.

I will leave my remarks there.

Thank you very much.

8:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Vance Badawey

Thank you, Mr. Fillmore.

Next on the list, we have Mr. Scheer.