Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to see you today, as always, and it is very interesting to debate Bill C-245 and the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
The bank is a newly designed institution. It has only been around for a few years and, even though it is still in its infancy, there is already talk about a lack of transparency and changes to the management approach and the board of directors. This institution has hardly been around for any time at all and we are already talking about the many problems with it.
The Bloc Québécois's position has always been clear. This bank never should never have existed, for the very simple reason that we did not need it. To date, the bank has basically been a failure, not because it did not fund any projects, but because it failed to do its job properly and to ensure that projects were carried out. To understand why the bank makes no sense, we need to look back at the past.
Let us go back to 2015. The current Prime Minister was on the campaign trail. He said that there was an economic slowdown and that we had to invest, in particular in infrastructure, since it was urgent that we help Quebec, the provinces and municipalities.
When things are urgent, the thing to do is to sit down with partners and finance projects. However, the government’s Liberal reflexes took over. It decided that, instead of taking action, it would waste time: It would create a new institution with various layers of public servants and invest in a big machine in Ottawa instead of delivering for Canadians.
That was what it announced in the 2015 electoral campaign and again in 2016. In 2017, the bank was legislated into being. However, it was still not in operation, and it was finally up and running when the economy was no longer in a slowdown.
So far, they have not learned from their mistakes. Since then, we have had a pandemic and another slowdown. The bank has not changed since then, and has not met its objectives. The government is once again behind in its projects. This is an example of poor service delivery and an inappropriate investment vehicle.
With his banker’s mentality, the finance minister at the time, Mr. Morneau, said that taxpayers would benefit. He said that the bank would drive job creation and economic development and that, for every dollar invested by taxpayers, it would draw four, five or six dollars in investments from the private sector. It was supposed to be a windfall.
Finally, nothing much happened, except for a few small projects that could very well have been financed more quickly using other methods, such as bilateral agreements.
If we look at the three-year growth plan of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, we can see that, by 2028, $2.5 billion will be invested in clean energy. We have a list of emergencies. At the same time, the Liberals tabled a budget in which they plan to invest—surprise, surprise—$2.5 billion a year, and not by 2028, in dirty energy. They are investing $2.5 billion in clean energy through the Canada Infrastructure Bank with their right hand and doing five times worse with their left.
That is what we call an inconsistent government. The Liberals are investing $1 in clean energy and $5 in dirty energy, and then they will tour the country this summer saying that oil is green. That is our federal government for you. They are investing $2.5 billion in broadband connectivity projects. The digital transition should have accelerated during the pandemic but, because we were wasting time with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, we were unable to speed up the process.
They are also investing $2 billion in building upgrades. These projects are closest to those on the ground, closest to the people, while the federal government is the level of government farthest from the people. The government thinks it is smart to invest like that.
There were a few good projects. I know that the hon. member for Winnipeg North will be talking about zero-emission vehicles. There were also good projects in Ontario, but that is not enough.
Here is what the Liberals did: They made a list of emergencies and created a huge bank. After years of wasting time, the projects were not carried out in time. However, the Liberals told us that they were urgent. Today, when we look at the institution’s performance, we can see that all of this was so urgent that they did not meet their commitments. That is exactly what happened with the bank.
No one can ask us to like the Canada Infrastructure Bank, because we like our people, we like Quebec, we like our infrastructure projects and we like our economy. That is why we do not like the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
Today, we are in a situation where they will try to meet their targets. They have money to spend and they have to meet their targets. They are looking for projects, because there are not enough of them.
I will give the same example as the Liberal member just gave, namely the famed high-frequency rail line between Quebec City and Windsor. This is not a high-speed train. It is a bad project. Everyone wants a high-speed train, but everyone is resigned to never getting anything from the federal government. We will therefore get a tortoise that passes by twice as often and we will be told that it is a great project.
The project, which is supported by the Canada Infrastructure Bank, will prove to be a bad risk for taxpayers and a good risk for the private sector. The project’s sponsor, VIA Rail, has decided that we should privatize the public infrastructure in the profitable corridor. However, the key mission of the government, that is to say, projects that provide a public return, will be paid for by taxpayers. They will privatize the good part and leave the bad part for the taxpayers.
Things are so bad that, in the last budget, the Liberals had to set aside $400 million in public funding for the project. We asked public servants what was going to happen with the $400 million and they said it would be used to find partners for the train project. I do not know of any functioning bank that has so few projects or friends, or that operates so poorly that it has to invest that kind of money to find partners. When you have to spend $400 million to find friends, maybe you need to change the way you do things.
The same is true for the REM light rail project. It did not need the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Normally, this would have been a Quebec government project. Investissement Québec would have bought shares, and the federal government would have helped. It would have been done quickly and properly, in a bilateral manner. We have a loan for the REM here, but this could have been done more efficiently without the new layer of administration in the federal government.
That is quite the bank we have. It is slow and does not meet its objectives. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the Bank of Canada would likely never be able to disburse the $35 billion it has to spend by 2028. There is now a $19-billion discrepancy. This is $19 billion for emergencies, according to the Liberals, that will never be used to meet the needs on the ground for the people who really need infrastructure. The bank does not work.
Now, if we are going to have a bad bank, we might as well improve the way it operates. That is why Bill C-245 is interesting. There is a lack of transparency in the management of these funds and in the reporting to the House. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that the Canada Infrastructure Bank did not provide information or respond when his office tried to evaluate its performance, on the grounds that it was keeping trade secrets confidential. The bank is becoming like Export Development Canada, which is one of the major funders of oil projects in Canada and which also hides behind supposed trade secrets.
Another positive aspect of the bill is that it requires that the board of directors include indigenous and Inuit members. The idea behind this is that we are our own best advocates. This proves that the Canada Infrastructure Bank is not listening to people on the ground, and that is the least of it. I would be surprised if the Liberals did not support this bill for that reason.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank was supposed to be a miracle. My grandfather, and I am sure many others, used to say that if something looks too good to be true, it likely is neither good nor true.
The federal government is capable of meddling in Quebec's affairs. It has been no better at delivering infrastructure through its Canada Infrastructure Bank than at managing passports, airport services, unconditional health transfers or the temporary foreign worker program, as Quebec and the provinces have been calling for.
This is a reminder that Quebec must be in charge of its infrastructure projects, that the federal government needs to be smaller and that it needs to provide the money to Quebec and the provinces.
As Quebec's national holiday approaches, I want to take this opportunity to remind members how important it is for Quebec to have all of its revenue and resources and that it be the master of its own destiny. This bank serves as a reminder that Quebec must be free. Vive le Québec libre.