Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday outlined a plan to spend $10 billion through the Canada Infrastructure Bank on infrastructure and clean technology projects that he says will create 60,000 jobs.
Trudeau laid out broad strokes of the new spending plan in a press conference alongside Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Michael Sabia, chair of the bank’s board.
“This plan alone will create about 60,000 jobs right across the country,” Trudeau said.
“With smart targeted investments, we can get people back on the job and grow the economy while building a safe, sustainable future for everyone.”
Trudeau said the three-year plan will focus on funnelling money into projects that can create jobs and build infrastructure in priority areas like clean power generation, zero-emission transit, broadband internet access, and irrigation infrastructure for farmers in Western Canada.
McKenna said the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic shows the need to create jobs and projects that can draw investor capital from around the world, adding that investors are increasingly looking for opportunities in clean energy and infrastructure.
“It is a huge economic and jobs opportunity for Canada,” she said.
Sabia described the plan as the “top priority” for the bank going forward but acknowledged that the plan alone is not enough — it needs to be executed well.
“Today’s plan was carefully designed step by step by the Canada Infrastructure Bank. This plan is the result of meaningful, serious analysis of current and future problems. This plan is the real deal,” he said.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us in order to bring this plan to life … We know the quality of the plan rests on its execution.”
Prior to the announcement, government officials told The Canadian Press that the plan is part of the promise made by the government in the throne speech last week to create one million jobs and meet the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It comes as part of the broader effort to revive an economy raved by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau’s government launched the infrastructure bank in 2017 with the authority to spend $35 billion over 10 years. The idea was for the bank to leverage funds from private sector partners, particularly big institutional investors like pension funds, to pay for what the government called “transformational” infrastructure projects.
However, the bank has been criticized for the relatively few investments it has made thus far in just nine projects. During last fall’s federal election, both the Conservatives and the NDP promised to abolish the bank if elected.
The bank has invested $1.28 billion in the REM automated light rail network in Montreal and pledged up to $2 billion to expand GO Transit service between Toronto and Hamilton and up to $300 million to increase container handling capacity at the Port of Montreal.
Other investments are smaller — such as $55 million to Via Rail for the development of plans for an eventual high-speed rail corridor between Toronto and Quebec City — are for consulting or advisory services, or are just at the stage of memorandums of agreement.
Sabia, the former head of Quebec’s pension fund, was named chairman of the board in April amid a shakeup of the bank’s senior executives.
At that time, he and the government predicted that the bank would play a major role in stimulating the economy after the pandemic.
Sabia acknowledged the bank has faced scrutiny but said the plan announced Thursday should be a show of confidence in how it has developed over recent years.
“That does take time to build an organization from scratch,” he said.
“It reflects now our confidence that the foundations set at the bank are sufficiently solid to support a very large investment program – a very large investment program that is going to move out quickly.”
—With files from The Canadian Press.