Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
Whenever the government creates an expensive new program, the burden of proof for its necessity falls on that government. In other words, it is not the responsibility of the opposition to prove that the program is unnecessary; it is the duty of the government to prove that it is necessary.
What arguments has it made today to exhibit the necessity of this $35-billion bank? Most recently, the parliamentary secretary across the way has said that this bank is necessary to help pension funds earn a return. He points to the Canada pension plan, teachers' pension plans, and other pension plans that invest in infrastructure to produce returns for future retirees. He is right. They do, and they have, all around the world and right here at home. In fact, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is a large shareholder, currently, in the Canada Line, which is the largest infrastructure project in British Columbian history. It is a large rapid transit train project funded one-third by private investors who formed a consortium that included Quebec pensioners.
There is Pensionfund Realty, which built a public transit station in Coquitlam with the money of its future pensioners because they wanted to bring more traffic to their shopping centre. They said, “We'll build the station in our own shopping centre; then the people getting off the train and walking around will buy stuff from our tenants, and we'll make more money.”
The Canada pension plan was at one time, and may still well be, the largest shareholder in the privately owned Highway 407 in the greater Toronto area, an investment that produced for it very large dividends that support the retirement of Canadian pensioners.
The member is right. Pension funds do buy, own, and even manage infrastructure, and do so well. They have been doing it across Canada for many years, which raises a question: why do we need an infrastructure bank to have them do it? They are already doing it. That cannot be the reason for the bank.
Second, the Liberals suggest in their budget document that there is $2 trillion of potential worldwide investment looking for projects. “Global capitalists have money for projects,” they say, “and Canada has projects that need money, so let's connect the dots.”
Wait a second here. If the dilemma is that there is too much money in the world looking for infrastructure projects, how could the solution to that dilemma be another $35 billion of money? I thought the premise of the program was that there is already a lot of money out there and that we would not need taxpayers' money to build infrastructure, because these global investors would build it for us with their money. That cannot be the reason either.
What is the reason? One needs to look at division 18 of the budget implementation act to find out, because the overwhelming preponderance of money in the infrastructure bank will be delivered in the form of something called loan guarantees.
What are loan guarantees? I can tell members that they are a fantastic instrument for the person being guaranteed. They mean that a person can make risky investments that could produce profits for him or her, but that if money is lost, the investor is guaranteed against those losses.
Be careful. That does not take the risk out of the project. It takes the risk out of the hands of the person who invested in it.
Where does it go? It does not vanish. It has to be somewhere. If a global investor builds a bridge and goes over budget or has a revenue shortfall, that risk is materialized in serious losses. Someone has to pay for it. Who is holding the bag? The answer is right there in the budget, division 18, clause 23: $35 billion Canadian tax dollars would backstop the losses of these international investors. Therein lies the real function of this bank: to backstop the profits of investors in large and sometimes risky infrastructure projects.
That does violence to the basic free market principle that risk and reward go together. When we sever those two things, we have something called moral hazard. Moral hazard is when someone is encouraged to take risky behaviour because they can transfer that risk to someone else. That is exactly what the bank does. It is a gigantic insurance fund to backstop the profits of the wealthiest people on earth.
If anyone has any doubt about this, the Prime Minister got the idea for the establishment of the bank at Davos, a congress of billionaires, from the head of the biggest asset managing firm in the world, BlackRock, which controls over a trillion dollars of wealth. He then met again with the same billionaire firm in New York. He then allowed that firm to organize an entire planning session for the establishment of the bank at the swanky Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, at which his own minister's remarks were vetted by these millionaire pension fund and investment fund managers.
After two years of consulting the billionaires on how they could use $35 billion in tax dollars, he is allowing a parliamentary committee two hours to represent taxpayers. That is right. The billionaires, who have everything to gain, get two years of consultation. The taxpayers, who have everything to lose, get two hours of consultation.
This is a growing phenomenon, whereby powerful financial interests are increasingly looking for ways to put the risk of their investments onto the shoulders of taxpayers.
There is something called “rocking chair money”. It is money that comes to people as they sit back in their rocking chairs. It used to be that institutional investors would get it by buying government bonds. It was risk-free money. However, bonds only pay 2.5% now. They are too low, so these investors are looking for higher rates of risk-free returns. They persuaded the Liberal government in Ontario to pay thousands of percentage points of markup in price on electricity for so-called wind and solar power electricity, which has bankrupted families and driven 60,000 people to food banks across the province. It gave Ontario the highest poverty rate of any of the 10 provinces in the country in order to backstop the profits of wealthy so-called green energy entrepreneurs.
We see it with Bombardier, where, instead of issuing new shares to raise money to pay for their cash shortfalls, the billionaire Bombardier Beaudoin family protected its feudal privileges to control a majority of the company with a minority of the shares by getting money from Canadian taxpayers, handed to them by Liberal governments in Quebec and here in Ottawa.
We see this phenomenon of crony capitalism spreading far and wide, seeking to put the burden of risk on the shoulders of the hard-working middle class through government backstops while giving all the profit to the wealthy elite who can afford the lobbyists, the donations, and the influence to control the levers of government.
The greatest concentration of wealth there, of course, is government, and those with the most power to influence government always attempt to unlock that vault to their own benefit.
Therefore, today we stand in opposition to this naked attempt to undermine Canadian taxpayers by taking $35 billion from their hands and using it to backstop the profits of the wealthiest elite, and we reaffirm our commitment to true free enterprise on the side of those who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules.