Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on Bill C-245, especially after about three hours of sleep due to a late flight. Thanks Air Canada. I wish we were debating something about Air Canada. I am in the mood for that right now.
Bill C-245 would nominally change Canada's failed Infrastructure Bank from a colossal, failed boondoggle that is wasting taxpayers' money to a potentially massive failure that is also wasting taxpayers' money but in a different way and under different leadership.
Bill C-245 wants to change infrastructure investment to something that is in the public interest and relates to climate change mitigation or adaptation, except we already basically have a department for that. It is called Infrastructure Canada. The idea is that we are going to take $35 billion from the failed Infrastructure Bank, move it from one failed institution and hand it over to another poorly led institution.
It reminds me a bit of the even-steven Seinfeld episode where Jerry Seinfeld always ends up even at the end of the day. He gains a friend and loses a friend. He takes $20 out of his pocket and throws it out the window, then grabs a jacket and finds $20. That is all this is. We are shuffling things from one failed department to another failed department.
We have immense problems at Infrastructure Canada. The old PBO, Jean-Denis Fréchette, who is retired now and beekeeping, and I wish him well, noted often that billions could not be found from infrastructure spending. The 2018 PBO report showed the federal government was able to reduce its deficit in 2018, which is shocking, I know. It is almost heresy for the government. However, that was only because it did not spend the infrastructure money that was set aside.
I want to read a quote from the PBO report:
The PBO has published 4 reports regarding [Infrastructure Canada]. Our previous findings indicated that data gaps existed in the tracking of federal money; planned spending lagged; job creation and economic growth was lower than anticipated; and, increases in federal spending were partly offset by decreases in provincial money.
There is limited evidence that increased federal money resulted in increased provincial spending (while federal...transfers increased by $1 billion...overall provincial [transfers] decreased by $733 million).
The Senate did a report on infrastructure spending, and it said that the only measurement for success for all this spending on infrastructure was not actual results. It was not whether it actually helped the economy. Was it whether it helped the environment? No. Was it about productivity improvements? No. The only measurement of success the Senate was able to find for Infrastructure Canada was whether dollars were spent. This bill wants another $35 billion spent by the same people, who just want to spend the money, and the only metric of success is spending the money, not achieving results.
This is right from GC InfoBase on the Treasury Board's website on results: In 2021, Infrastructure Canada only achieved 25% of its goals for 2020-21. If we think about that, this bill wants to add $35 billion more to Infrastructure Canada to not achieve targets.
I have some of the missed targets for Infrastructure Canada. Again, this is right from the government's website, GC InfoBase. It missed out on the value of infrastructure spending. It failed to achieve its goal on projects that it was committed to. Here is a good one: It failed in its goal on changes in GDP, or increases in GDP attributed to spending. Again, what is the point of spending all this money when it is failing on its goals? Now it wants to add another $35 billion.
There is another good one, and the NDP should be interested, especially given where the riding of the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski is. The Liberals failed on the percentage spent toward clean drinking water and percentage spent on improving transit. Again, these failures from the government and failures on infrastructure are certainly telling us we should not be moving money from this failed boondoggle to another group that shows it can fail quite spectacularly. There is another good one: The Liberals actually failed on their projects for reducing GHG emissions.
That is Infrastructure Canada. Let us move on to the other half of our Laurel and Hardy pairing, the Infrastructure Bank. The Infrastructure Bank, when we look at it, is certainly in the competition for the most inept government department.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank has a lot of competition for this top ranking, including of course PSPC, Public Services and Procurement Canada, which has managed to bungle the jet fighter procurement and the ship procurement. We found out about its buying 100 million dollars' worth of vaccines that went to waste.
Another runner-up is, again, Public Services and Procurement Canada, on Phoenix. It has been six and a half years since the Liberals pushed the start button on Phoenix and we are still dealing with that.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank is in a tight race for the most incompetent with the CRA. Of course, this was before it started taking people three hours to finally get through to a CRA agent only to have the agent hang up on them. During the pandemic, the CRA managed to send CERB cheques to dead people and send cheques overseas.
Of course, recently, number one or number two would be Global Affairs. Despite Russia committing genocide, murdering children and women and targeting civilians, Global Affairs sent a top official to the Russian embassy tea party last week.
Service Canada, of course, wants to be recognized for its incompetence with respect to passports. We gave it months of notice. I rose in this same seat several months ago with respect to the complaints. The health minister got up and commented on how hard the staff were working. We found out that two-thirds of them are still sitting at home. They may be working from home, but probably not as efficiently as is needed to get passports to Canadians.
Rounding that out with another competitor, we have CATSA through Transport Canada, which ironically oversees the Canada Infrastructure Bank. With respect to the results of its departmental plan, through the public accounts we found out that one-quarter of CATSA funding for screeners had lapsed. It kept all the bureaucrats working, but not the screeners, the ones who are hired on contract to take a look at and screen the luggage that goes through, a vitally important cog in the scheme of airports. Twenty-five per cent of that lapsed, even though in January, February and March, the final three months of the fiscal year, the department produced numbers that very clearly showed that the number of Canadians being screened was growing exponentially. I think at one point it was within 70% of prepandemic numbers, but the department let the money lapse and let the screeners stay at home. Then we found out, just last week, that the department was unprepared for the increase. It had actually released its own numbers showing exponential growth in air travel, but it was caught unawares.
Apparently, the government was also caught unawares with respect to Service Canada and passports. Who would have known 10 years ago that a 10-year passport would be expiring at this time? I certainly would not have expected a 10-year passport to expire in 10 years. Who would have possibly known that we would see an increase in travel with the pandemic? The government said it was caught off guard.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank, knowing it had tough competition, doubled down for the goal of most incompetent government department. It has been over five years and it does not have a single project built. One more year, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank will be eligible for an MP pension. Like most MPs, it also has not done much in five years. There has been $35 billion into the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and nothing has been completed. One year it actually spent more money on termination benefits for executives than on salaries in its own department. The Canada Infrastructure Bank was set up to guarantee decent returns for large for-profit companies and investment firms, not to look after Canadian taxpayers. Those companies would be guaranteed profits, while the taxpayers would be guaranteed any risks or losses.
The main project the Canada Infrastructure Bank is so proud of, the urban rail project in Montreal, has been a disaster, which is no surprise. People do not want it. The actual construction does not look at all like the design. The cost has been $7 billion and growing, and this is its best product.
I understand the intent of the bill, but I have to say it is rather silly to take money from one failed government department to give it to another failed government department. Therefore, I will not be supporting it.