NUPGE calls for a fresh start for infrastructure bank plans

“Without major changes, the Canada Infrastructure Bank will be used to push privatization of roads, public transit, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure that Canadians depend on,” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President.

Ottawa (24 May 2017) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has made a submission to the House of Commons and Senate Committees studying the legislation to create a Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB). The submission outlines many of the fundamental flaws with the federal government’s current plans for the CIB.

The union concludes that the flaws are serious enough that the federal government needs to withdraw the proposed legislation and restart the process.

“Without major changes, the Canada Infrastructure Bank will be used to push privatization of roads, public transit, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure that Canadians depend on,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)..

Infrastructure bank very different from what was first proposed

The current proposal for the CIB looks considerably different than what was promised in the Liberal election platform.

The original 2015 proposal for a CIB described it as a way to “provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects.” The National Union feels that an infrastructure bank set up along those lines is needed. Lack of investment means that much of our infrastructure needs major repairs or upgrading.

However, under the current proposals, the CIB’s goal has changed to attracting private investment. Given that investors will be relying on user fees to make a profit, they will want control over the infrastructure. Regardless of how it’s done, giving investors control means privatizing infrastructure.

“The way the infrastructure bank will be using $35 billion in public funds to encourage the privatization of public infrastructure is starting to look all too similar to the Harper government’s policy of making federal infrastructure funding conditional on using P3 privatization schemes,” said Brown.

Privatization industry heavily involved in making plans for the CIB

The privatization industry has been heavily involved in the design of the CIB. This may help explain how the CIB went from providing low cost financing for infrastructure to being a vehicle for privatizing infrastructure.

It was the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth that first recommended the infrastructure bank be a vehicle for privatizing infrastructure. Key members of the Advisory Council, including the chair, work for companies or other bodies that profit from privatization. In fact one of those companies, McKinsey, provided staff to the Advisory Council free of charge.

“Given how profitable privatization has been for McKinsey, helping pay for the Advisory Council wasn’t a gift, it was an investment,” said Brown.

Including CIB legislation in omnibus bill limits scrutiny

The legislation setting up the CIB is part of a much larger bill to implement measures in the 2017 federal budget - Bill C-44. Including the legislation to set up the CIB as part of Bill C-44 means the CIB will not get the scrutiny and discussion it desperately needs.

 “It’s time the federal government recognized that both the process and its current plans are fundamentally flawed. If the federal Liberals want an infrastructure bank that lives up to what they proposed in 2015, they need to throw out the current proposals and start again,” said Brown.

 


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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