Secrecy provisions in privatization bank legislation worrying

“Even though $35 billion of public money will be given to the privatization bank, it’s likely that key information on how public funds are being spent will be kept from Canadians,” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President.

Ottawa (19 April 2017) — Provisions in the federal government's legislation setting up the Canada Infrastructure Bank restricts what information can be made public and may make it impossible for Canadians to find out how public infrastructure dollars are being spent.

In the legislation introduced last week, Section 28 of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank Act prevents any information related to proponents of, or investors in, infrastructure projects funded through the bank from being made public. This is similar to what has been done by other governments privatizing public services who claim that the need to protect investors trumps the public’s right to know how their money is being spent.

“Even though $35 billion of public money will be given to the privatization bank, it’s likely that key information on how public funds are being spent will be kept from Canadians,” said Larry Brown, President. of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Whistleblowers could find themselves in jail

Research shows that Canadians support protection for whistleblowers who go public about abuses in government or the private sector. Many recognize that if people are worried about being fired, they are less likely to report wrongdoing.

But with the legislation to set up the Canada Infrastructure Bank, being fired may be the least of the problems facing whistleblowers. Under Section 30 of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank Act whistleblowers could face a fine of up to $10,000 or 6 months in prison — or both. While it may be politically difficult for governments to jail whistleblowers, the possibility of a jail term increases the danger that people will keep silent when they should be speaking out.

Omnibus bill means debate limited on privatization bank 

Even though the Canada Infrastructure Bank could result in widespread privatization of our public infrastructure, don’t expect much debate in Parliament on the legislation to set it up. That’s because the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act is part of a much larger omnibus bill dealing with a number of different issues. The former Conservative government under Stephen Harper was fond of passing omnibus bills that contained a mish-mash of important issues. Not only did the Liberals oppose these motions in Parliament, but committed themselves to "change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice."

Privatization proponents still not satisfied

Even though the creation of the Canada Infrastructure Bank will result in federal, provincial, and municipal governments handing billions of dollars to private investors through expensive privatization schemes, privatization proponents are still not satisfied. Apparently, they want the federal government to give investors a blank cheque.

Last week, the C.D. Howe Institute, a small-c conservative think tank that promotes privatization of public services, complained that under the proposed legislation the federal government will have the power to fire or suspend the directors of the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The institute also didn’t like the fact that loan guarantees will have to be approved by the Minister of Finance.

The criticism from the C.D. Howe Institute is a sign of how entitled the privatization industry has become. Reasonable people look at plans for the Canada Infrastructure Bank and wonder why there is no accountability or transparency around how $35 billion in public funds will be spent. Instead of recognizing just how far the scales are tipped in their favour, privatization proponents are complaining about the extremely limited protection the public does have.


NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE

 

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