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Question for Min. Morneau on Canada’s Infrastructure Bank

Today I asked Finance Minister Bill Morneau a question on Canada’s new Infrastructure Bank. I wanted to know what process the Government intends to use to determine the location of the bank. You can listen to the question here or read the transcript below.

Hon. Douglas Black: Minister Morneau, thank you very much for being here, and thank you very much for your contribution.

The question I have for you today is in respect of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.  Many, including me, have urged the government to consider Calgary, Canada’s second most significant financial centre, as the head office for the infrastructure bank.

Minister, I’m hoping that you can outline for me the process that is going to be used to determine where the head office is going to be.  I’m also hoping, minister, you can assure us that the process will be open, fair and not work from the premise of a preordained conclusion that Central Canada is the natural home for this bank.

Hon. Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance:  Thank you for that question as well.

I’d like to start by putting that question in context.  What we’re trying to achieve with this Canada Infrastructure Bank is to get pension investors and institutional investors from around the world to invest in what I think will be transformative Canadian infrastructure projects.  We’re looking for the biggest potential projects that can have the biggest potential impact on the long‑term productivity of our country, which will also along the way have a significant impact on jobs.

I put that in context because I want to think about the scale of what we’re talking about.  We said that of our $180 billion investment in infrastructure over the next decade, $15 billion of that will be in this infrastructure bank.  On top of that, we’re putting in $20 billion of capital that can be used for loans and to get projects going.

The biggest amount of impact this bank is going to have is not, by any stretch of the imagine, going to be where the headquarters is located.  It’s going to be where the projects are actually taking place, whatever they might be: building the new electricity grids, dealing with significant wastewater systems, improving roads across the country or dealing with public transportation systems.  These projects can only be considered to be very significant because of the size that we’re looking at in terms of the investments.

If institutional investors are only looking to write very large cheques, we’re going to need very large projects.  It doesn’t mean we won’t have smaller projects ‑‑ we may bundle smaller projects together ‑‑ but it does mean these projects have the potential to create very significant job growth.  That’s important.

As we think about Calgary, Montreal and Toronto ‑‑ all of those cities have significant public transit challenges and around affordable housing that will need to be addressed.  These are the kinds of projects that we may be able to get at with the infrastructure bank and with that institutional money that will have a big impact on those local economies for years to come in terms of the building, and over the long term in terms of the enhanced productivity.  That’s important.

With respect to the headquarters, we haven’t come to a conclusion.  What we have said is our conclusion is going to be evidence‑based, and that is what we’re working toward.  As you may know, we’ve hired an adviser to help us with the governance of the institution, how we should go about making sure we have the project pipeline and how the organization should be structured.  The location of the headquarters will be important as we think about recruiting and attracting the kind of people we want for this institution.

As we go through that, we will be making our decisions based on evidence on where that can be most effectively positioned.  I have nothing really to say at this stage in terms of those conclusions, because we’re not there yet.