Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for the area of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, and also as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, it gives me great pleasure to speak today about the budget implementation act, better known as Bill C-44. Passage of this bill implements the next chapter of the government's plan to strengthen and grow the middle class. A strong and growing middle class is the engine of our economy and our highest priority.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the House of Commons finance committee for its hard work on this bill. Its careful study of the legislation has helped to provide members in this place with a clear sense of its intent. In particular, I would like to thank it for its work in ensuring that the legislation helps our government achieve the goal of a truly independent and transparent parliamentary budget officer, also known as the PBO.
Our government is committed to openness and transparency. That is why we have taken steps to strengthen the PBO in ways to make it truly independent. Bill C-44 recasts the head of the PBO as an officer of Parliament, supported by a team that is separate from the Library of Parliament and with the authority to report directly to Parliament. It would expand the PBO's right of access to government information and give the office a new mandate to provide costing of platform proposals during elections so that voters make informed decisions based on an independent analysis.
The government believes that the work of the PBO is fundamental to Parliament's ability to debate and consider economic and fiscal considerations of the day. That is why we listened and took action when we heard that more could be done to further strengthen the PBO's mandate and independence.
The government took action by introducing 12 amendments to Bill C-44 at the House of Commons finance committee that further strengthen the PBO's mandate. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the members of the committee for their hard work and collaboration and for improving the said legislation. It was with their efforts that those amendments have found broad support.
In fact, The Globe and Mail reported that the government has placed Canada's PBO on a “strong legislative footing”. That is why I was stunned that the opposition members seemed to oppose the changes. In fact, they have moved to delete every clause of Bill C-44. Blocking openness and transparency is not the only consequence of this ridiculous proposal. The proposed deletions will also have an impact on the ability of Canadians to live, work, and get around in their communities.
Our government is working hard to make significant and unprecedented investments in infrastructure. We have more than doubled our commitments for infrastructure under our plan. We are meeting Canadians’ most urgent needs when it comes to infrastructure.
We knew that the infrastructure deficit had been caused, in part, by the lack of stable and predictable funding. Our partners across the country told us that they had major needs, not just for new projects, but also for repairs and modernizing.
Our infrastructure plan provides for investments in projects that will transform communities for the 21st century. We are aware of the risks and costs associated with underfunding of infrastructure, and those risks and costs are very significant. That is why the 2017 budget is the next step in the government of Canada’s plan to make wise investments that will promote the growth of our economy and strengthen the middle class.
That is why, under our plan, funds will be allocated in three different ways: the funds will be paid out following negotiations for signing bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories, under programs offered by the federal government that are based on merit, and through the new infrastructure bank of Canada.
The budget implementation bill includes provisions to establish the infrastructure bank of Canada, which I would like to talk about now. When our government was preparing the long-term infrastructure plan, we met with numerous people all across the country. We met with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, with representatives of the aboriginal nations, and with various stakeholders and partners, and we listened to their views.
When it came time to design the infrastructure bank of Canada, we took the same approach. We consulted everyone: the mayors of cities all across Canada, and also international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF.
We also met with representatives of investment groups such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Thanks to the invaluable comments we received from those people and those groups, we were able to prepare the bill that is under discussion today.
The federal government has proposed to create the infrastructure bank of Canada because it believes that this is an opportunity for us to attract investments in infrastructure from the private sector and to establish partnerships with the leading players among the institutional investors on the international stage, in order to carry out more large infrastructure projects all across the country.
Subject to Parliament’s approval, the bank will finance projects that would produce benefits for the public, but that might not have received funding otherwise because they are too expensive or because of competing priorities in a particular sector.
These are projects that could play a transformative role if they received support, but that have not been funded under traditional infrastructure programs.
The bank will invest up to $35 billion in new infrastructure focusing on growth all across Canada. The kinds of projects that are envisioned and that could receive support from the bank include public transit in big cities, energy corridors, and many more.
An amount of $15 billion for the bank would come from a long-term infrastructure plan. Additional funds of $20 billion would be made available to the bank for making investments that would result in the bank holding assets in the form of equity or debts.
If the bank is approved by Parliament, its mandate would be to invest in infrastructure projects that would generate revenue and that would be in the public interest. The bank would seek to attract private sector investment by institutional investors for those projects, which would help cover the cost of transformative infrastructure projects across the country.
The bank would also be a centre of expertise that would work with other levels of government to gather and share data aimed at guiding future investments. Once operational, the bank could provide added value through its work, to help governments make evidence-based decisions regarding infrastructure investments.
The bank would be a new means of helping our financial partners finally meet their urgent infrastructure needs. If they want to use it, this new tool would help our partners, the provinces, territories, and municipalities, to create the infrastructure Canada needs.
I would like to reiterate that the bank is another tool that we could offer to our partners. We would not impose this tool on our partners.
By using the bank for large-scale projects, we would have more public funds to create more public infrastructure. Private capital would be used to carry out new projects that might not have been carried out otherwise, and federal funds will continue to support the achievement of municipal, provincial, and territorial priorities.
Our government believes it is important that decisions be made at the local level and it wants to support municipalities in achieving their priority objectives on infrastructure. Community representatives are the experts, and they are in the best position to know what is best for their community.
The Canada infrastructure bank was designed to leverage public funds to carry out more infrastructure projects for Canadian communities.
The investments we make today will create benefits for years to come, clean and sustainable economic growth, stronger and more inclusive communities, and more good jobs for Canada’s middle class.
I call on all members of the House to support Bill C-44 and join us in helping build a brighter future for Canadians.