PM must come clean on costly new bank

Kingston Whig-Standard - - OPINION -

The Op­po­si­tion in Ot­tawa is draw­ing at­ten­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s costly in­fras­truc­ture bank. and Cana­di­ans are scratch­ing their heads try­ing to fig­ure out what it’s about.

Is this a gov­ern­ment boon­dog­gle wait­ing to hap­pen? Is our hard-earned money go­ing to be handed over to big busi­ness? Are we get­ting best value for our money? Trudeau needs to an­swer th­ese ques­tions and do more to sell Cana­di­ans on the is­sue — or shut the whole project down.

The Lib­er­als tech­ni­cally have a man­date for this confusing pro­posal. It was in their plat­form: “We will es­tab­lish the Cana­dian In­fras­truc­ture Bank to pro­vide low-cost fi­nanc­ing for new in­fras­truc­ture projects. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment can use its strong credit rat­ing and lend­ing au­thor­ity to make it eas­ier and more af­ford­able for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to build the projects their com­mu­ni­ties need.”

Trudeau did win a man­date to go into “mod­est” deficits to fund in­fras­truc­ture across the coun­try. While his even­tual tally far ex­ceeded his pledge to in­cur no more than $10 bil­lion an­nu­ally, the ba­sic gist of deficit spend­ing to build in­fras­truc­ture was backed by the vot­ers.

How­ever, the peo­ple were ex­pect­ing we’d be us­ing pub­lic funds to build those projects. That’s the im­pres­sion given by those quotes from the plat­form.

But here’s the new ap­proach, as Tom Parkin ex­plained it in a re­cent column: “The In­fras­truc­ture Bank would col­lect fare, fee and toll rev­enue when Cana­di­ans use in­fras­truc­ture fi­nanced by the bank — tran­sit, roads, bridges, wa­ter­works, etc. — and re­mit it back to the bank’s pri­vate in­vestors.”

Pri­vate funds are licking their chops at the prospects of get­ting a seven to nine per cent re­turn from the feds. That’s the amount of money we could be shelling out to have pri­vate com­pa­nies fi­nance th­ese projects in­stead of do­ing it with pub­lic cash — for less.

Mean­while, Trudeau is ram­ming through this confusing new bank in an om­nibus bud­get bill. The Op­po­si­tion want him to break it out as sep­a­rate leg­is­lation. They’re right.

Why the bait and switch from the cam­paign pledge? Why the sneaky leg­is­lation? Trudeau needs to drop the se­crecy, fess up to the peo­ple and get real pub­lic sup­port for this bank. Or drop it al­to­gether.

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