That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public infrastructure should serve the interests of Canadians, not work to make private investors rich; (b) during the election, the Liberals did not reveal to voters their plans to privatize investment in public infrastructure; (c) infrastructure built by private investors will cost more than public infrastructure; (d) it is a conflict of interest to allow private corporations, who will be the largest beneficiaries of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to participate in the planning and development of the Bank; (e) the Bank will leave taxpayers with an unacceptable burden of fees, tolls, and privatization that will only make private investors wealthy, to the detriment of the public interest; and (f) the clauses concerning the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s creation should be removed from Bill C-44, Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, so they can be studied as a stand-alone bill.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their warm welcome.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with my fantastic colleague from North Island—Powell River.
As members just heard, today, we are presenting a motion on the Canada infrastructure bank proposed by the government, which we could call the privatization bank, the bank of broken promises, or the conflict of interest bank. These synonyms all aptly describe the Liberal government's proposal.
During the election campaign, there was an issue that was very important. All our communities, all our constituents, and, I would even go so far as to say, all the parties here in the House of Commons were concerned about it. That issue was, of course, our public infrastructure. We see various infrastructure problems every day, depending on where we live. If we live near a big city, we know that there are problems with traffic congestion and commute times. People from ridings like mine, Beloeil—Chambly, and those who live in remote areas are dealing with issues related to Internet access and other problems.
There are still major infrastructure problems affecting our communities and the people who live there.
What we heard during the last election campaign was a proposal to take advantage of low interest rates to help municipalities and the provinces to capitalize on that reality and invest public money in their public infrastructure. What we are seeing today is a plan that proposes a so-called infrastructure bank, but really, is more of a privatization bank, a bank that benefits people in the financial sector, groups like BlackRock, rather than people who are experiencing the day-to-day problems associated with our infrastructure.
I think when we look at how this whole plan of the infrastructure bank has gone ahead from the outset, we see it has happened behind closed doors. It has gone on with investment groups, like BlackRock, which we learned last week is going over presentations and talking points with ministers. I think there is a pretty clear indication of who stands to gain the most from this proposal that the government has put forward.
There are tangible facts here. It is not just wanting to go after the private investors who stand to gain the most at the expense of taxpayers, at the expense of Canadians. It is also looking at what we saw in The Globe and Mail just this morning, that an internal memo from Infrastructure Canada said a few things that are important for the motion that we are debating today.
The first is to take our time. It is hard to do that when it is part of an omnibus budget bill, which the Liberal Party promised to do away with in the last election. It is difficult to do that when we are going to spend one or two hours studying something that will so fundamentally change how we invest in infrastructure in Canada. Not only that, but it is going to be once again at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.
What else did we see in this report that was revealed to us today?
We saw that this is going to slow down, potentially, the going ahead of infrastructure projects. Why? It is because it will create all kinds of jurisdictional snafus.
I want to read one quote from the article, if I may, which I think illustrates very well the exact kind of problem that this kind of bank poses and the problem of putting what is done so well by public dollars, for the public interest, into the hands of the private sector. The report states:
Catalyzing private capital to invest in Canada’s water utility industry is challenging and would require a transformation of the industry as a whole.
It uses the water utility industry as an example because, of course, issues related to water are some of the core issues related to infrastructure.
It is hard to examine this kind of fundamental issue when it is part of an omnibus bill that includes so many important points and that is also now under time allocation, I might add. The Liberals are cutting off the debate.
That is why we are asking the government to honour a number of its election promises. Obviously, we are talking about the election promise to invest public money in public infrastructure, but we are also asking it to separate this aspect from the rest of the bill. We simply cannot accept such an important change without giving it the attention it deserves, and we must have a separate bill on this issue alone.
Another thing that is problematic about the whole issue of the infrastructure bank and the omnibus bill is that the board of directors positions are already posted. The Liberals are going ahead with choosing the location of the bank and which of their friends will be on the board of directors.
All this is being done not only before we get to committee, but before Parliament has even voted on the bill, omnibus or otherwise. This is totally unacceptable for something as fundamental as infrastructure. Let us not forget that infrastructure is one of the federal responsibilities that has a direct impact on the daily lives of the people we represent.
Speaking of the impact on taxpayers, let us not forget that the Liberals were elected on a promise to invest this public money, whether we like it or not. On that we can all agree. There is no doubt that we desperately need to invest public money in our public infrastructure. We could have a whole other debate on the fact that these investments are being spread out over 10, 11, or 12 years and not over a shorter period to allow communities with the greatest need to benefit immediately, but that is a discussion for another day.
Let us focus on the impact on the public and let us talk about user fees and tolls. Taxpayers are being asked to pay twice. First, they are asked to pay taxes. We have a social contract in Canada whereby we agree to invest public money in our infrastructure so that our bridges do not collapse when we are commuting to work. The public is prepared to accept that.
However, it is not prepared to accept that the government will invest a significant amount of its money in infrastructure only to then tell its friends, such as BlackRock, behind closed doors that it will let them charge Canadians a second time by imposing user fees and tolls.
The government tells us not to worry, that there will be no tolls or user fees, and that it will depend on the project. However, we really wonder where businesses are going to get a return of 8% or more if not from the pockets of taxpayers, who have already invested in their infrastructure through government spending. It is completely unacceptable to ask middle-class families, which this Prime Minister says he is always defending, to pay twice for this infrastructure. This goes against what this government promised.
I want to focus on that point, because what is key here is what we are asking Canadians to be on the hook for. We are asking them to be on the hook through their tax dollars, and that is fine. They are ready to accept that. However, we are asking them to be on the hook for the friends of the Liberal Party, who are meeting Liberals behind closed doors and looking over their talking points and their presentations. They are then turning around and saying, “Great, we are going to pick and choose.”
We hear MPs from Toronto, for example, who tell us, “This is great. We are going to invest in social housing.” Good luck looking to the private sector to invest in social housing. Maybe it is social housing for the people who go to the Prime Minister's fundraisers at $1,500 a pop, but I certainly have a hard time believing it is going to be the priority for those private investors. That is exactly why government has to play a role. The government's role is not bankrolling private companies to fleece the taxpayer twice on critical infrastructure. It is to really live up to its commitment to invest those public dollars in our public infrastructure. We cannot repeat it enough.
I will end by saying that we have hope today. We may be naively optimistic, but we have hope because it is not just the privatization bank, the Liberal Party's bank of conflicts of interest and cronyism, it is also the bank of broken promises, as I said at the outset.
In fact, this bill, which would create a bank that will fundamentally change how we invest in infrastructure, and that is worth repeating, and give power to the private sector, is part of an omnibus bill. The Liberals promised not to use this type of bill.
They promised to invest public money and not to privatize our infrastructure and airports. The privatization of our airports is another matter we could discuss, but I do not have enough time. In short, these are all commitments that the Liberal Party made.
I would remind my colleagues, cabinet ministers and backbenchers alike, who all represent their communities and say they want to invest in green infrastructure and affordable housing, that the commitments they made during the last election campaign consisted of investing public money, not BlackRock's money. BlackRock, I might add, will not be interested in investing in environmental protections and access to affordable housing for Canadians in need, which are fundamental issues.
We are making a heartfelt plea to the Liberal Party. We are asking the Liberals to put an end to their old ways, which have traditionally been to hold meetings behind closed doors with their Bay Street friends. We are asking them to finally follow through on their commitments to Canadians, who desperately need public infrastructure paid for with public money. We are also asking the government to put an end to omnibus bills and to really examine this fundamental issue.