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QUESTION PERIOD — Infrastructure and Communities

Canada Infrastructure Bank

April 5, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, my question today is for the government leader in the Senate.

Senator Gold, the Canada Infrastructure Bank was created by the Trudeau government and has been operational since the 2017-18 fiscal year.

In the five years since its creation, the Canada Infrastructure Bank has failed to complete one single project. A recent answer to the question on the Senate’s Order Paper shows that in 2021 alone, the Canada Infrastructure Bank paid out over $5.7 million in short-term incentives to its 79 employees. This works out, Senator Gold, to a bonus of over $73,000 per employee.

Leader, how could the NDP-Liberal government possibly think that these bonuses are appropriate?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

Thank you for your question, and welcome back, senator.

I have no information about the circumstances under which these incentive payments, as you describe them, were made, so I’ll have to make inquiries and report back when I can.

Thank you for that. I see no reason why you would have had the information at hand, so I expect that you will get back to us on that.

I think you would agree that a bonus of $73,000 is more than the average Canadian family’s income was in 2020. The answer to my Order Paper question shows that in total since 2019, the Canada Infrastructure Bank has paid out over $10 million in short-term and long-term bonuses to its employees, again, while zero projects were completed.

Leader, your Canada Infrastructure Bank is an expensive failure. You should agree with that. Senator Gold, I think you should have the answer to why Canadian taxpayers should continue to fund the Canada Infrastructure Bank. If you don’t have the answer to that, will you get us the answer to this: Will you scrap the Canada Infrastructure Bank?

Senator Gold [ - ]

Though I have no knowledge of plans to scrap it, I will certainly make inquiries, and I will endeavour to report back to the chamber the activities and the rationales that were the subject of your question.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ - ]

Honourable senators, my question for the government leader also concerns the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

In April of 2021, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, PBO, released his most recent report on the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The PBO’s analysis concluded that the Canada Infrastructure Bank was losing money, unlikely to deliver on its mandate and would miss its own infrastructure spending targets by over 50%. Yet the Canada Infrastructure Bank is very good at spending taxpayer dollars on bonuses, as Senator Plett has just mentioned.

Senator Gold, does your government disagree with the findings of the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer?

Senator Gold [ - ]

Thank you for your question. The Government of Canada values the work of the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer and takes the work of that office seriously. That work informs their decisions going forward.

Senator Martin [ - ]

When announcing the creation of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the Trudeau government claimed it would attract four to five dollars in private capital for every tax dollar invested. In the five years of the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s existence, this has never occurred or even come close. The Canada Infrastructure Bank’s website currently shows that of $19.4 billion invested so far, about $7.2 billion is from private and institutional investors, and the rest appears to come from different levels of government — in other words, taxpayers.

In February, Minister LeBlanc acknowledged before a House committee that he was not satisfied with the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s ability to raise funds from private investors. Isn’t that grounds for scrapping the Canada Infrastructure Bank, leader?

Senator Gold [ - ]

Thank you for your question. I think that, as for any program, government or private sector, ongoing evaluation is critical to make sure, whatever the intentions were at the beginning, that corrections are made where necessary.

In that regard, as you reported the minister reporting, these ongoing evaluations, I am confident, continue.

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