Liberal government to spend $10B on infrastructure to fuel pandemic economic recovery

The Liberal government today promised to spend $10 billion on infrastructure initiatives such as broadband, clean energy and agricultural projects — part of a plan to boost growth and create one million jobs after the pandemic pummelled the economy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced details of the three-year Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) plan during a news conference today. The government says it’s expected to create 60,000 jobs.

“With smart, targeted investments, we can get people back on the job, grow the economy while building a healthy, sustainable future for everyone,” Trudeau said.

The plan has five elements: 

  • $2.5 billion for clean power to support renewable generation and storage and to transmit clean electricity between provinces, territories and regions, including northern and Indigenous communities. 
  • $2 billion to help connect about 750,000 homes and small businesses to broadband in under-served communities. 
  • $2 billion for large-scale energy efficient building retrofits.
  • $1.5 billion for agriculture irrigation projects to boost production, strengthen Canada’s food security and expand export opportunities.
  • $1.5 billion to speed up the adoption of zero-emission buses and charging infrastructure. 

The Liberal government’s throne speech promised to create more than one million jobs to rebuild an economy knocked sideways by the pandemic.

WATCH / Trudeau says infrastructure spending will create jobs

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announce a $10 billion growth plan over three years in partnership with Canada’s Infrastructure Bank. 1:07

The $10 billion announced today is part of the CIB’s $35-billion pot for federal investments.

Scrap the bank: O’Toole

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said today he would scrap the infrastructure bank, calling it “nothing but a waste of taxpayer dollars.” He said he would bring forward a different plan to create jobs and get projects built.

He accused Trudeau of making empty promises with a “Liberal re-announcement” and slammed the government’s progress on infrastructure projects.

“Justin Trudeau’s record on infrastructure is abysmal. In five years, the Liberals have failed to get money out the door and shovels in the ground,” he said in a statement.

WATCH / McKenna on building green communities

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Catherine McKenna, joins Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in announcing new $10B Infrastructure plan. McKenna says there are “real opportunities to have transformative investments that show the ambition that Canada has to improve the quality of life for Canadians.” 0:46

McKenna said the pandemic created a time of crisis, but also a time of opportunity to rebuild with stronger, cleaner, more inclusive communities. She said the investments align with the federal vision to build clean, modern communities.

“Canada has an opportunity to be the low-carbon economy that global investors beat a path to,” she said.

CIB chair Michael Sabia said the federal funding is meant to leverage additional money from private and institutional investors, stretching each public dollar into several.

“That is value for taxpayers,” he said.

WATCH / Michael Sabia on securing outside investment in infrastructure

Chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank Michael Sabia says third party investors are eager to put money into Canadian projects. The Bank’s challenge is coming up with enough projects. 1:45

The CIB, which was created in 2017, has been criticized for delays in getting projects launched.

Sabia acknowledged it has taken some time to build the organization up from scratch.

Pandemic won’t deter investors: Sabia

“I would say that one of the ways to think about the announcement we’re making this morning is it reflects our confidence that the foundations set at the bank are sufficiently solid to support a very large investment program,” he said.

Sabia said he expects that, despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, international investors will show interest in the projects because Canada is seen as a stable place to secure long-term returns.

Trudeau said the bank has developed an approach and a model that has generated much interest around the world.

“We have now seen the infrastructure bank really hit its stride at a moment where Canada really needs this kind of investment to boost economic activity right now during this pandemic,” he said.

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