CUPE is concerned that a mandatory review of the Canada Infrastructure Bank is happening behind closed doors, with no public input.
Documents obtained through Access to Information suggest the Liberal government’s approach to reviewing the bank doubles down on the lack of transparency that defines the CIB and its privatization projects.
Dominic LeBlanc, the minister responsible for the CIB, is legally required to review the bank every five years. The Canada Infrastructure Bank Act directs that review to begin in June 2022, with a report due to Parliament by June 2023. To date, there is no public information about the review process, and members of the public have not been invited to participate.
Review happening behind closed doors
A heavily blacked-out memo to LeBlanc reveals that, on paper, the CIB review started last June. But details are kept secret about how the bank is being evaluated and how concerned individuals and groups can participate. The memo to LeBlanc was prepared in June 2022 and released in response to an access request in December 2022.
The CIB’s focus on expensive private financing, combined with the risks and delays of privatization, has been a recipe for failure. Many experts and a Parliamentary committee have come to the same conclusion. The bank needs a major overhaul so it can meet community needs and tackle the climate crisis. This cannot happen without public input.
CUPE calling for major overhaul
In October 2022, CUPE released an expert report assessing the CIB’s track record and outlining how to build a better bank. A public bank for the public interest highlights successful European public bank models. The report aims to contribute to a public conversation during the CIB review.
CUPE National President Mark Hancock and NDP infrastructure critic Bonita Zarrillo also published an October 2022 column in the Hill Times highlighting the legislative review as an opportunity to scrap the bank’s privatization mandate in favour of serving local governments and Indigenous communities.
Recent legislative reviews of other federal crown corporations have requested input from key players, but members of the public aren’t even allowed to know what’s being planned for the CIB. The entire section of the memo on “Engagement and Communications” is blacked out, along with information about the review’s scope and process.
Backroom study not acceptable
The blacked-out document for LeBlanc’s approval says that “by way of this memo the department is effectively launching the review internally.”
A backroom study that rubber-stamps the bank’s focus on private investment in for-profit infrastructure projects is unacceptable.
After five years of privatization problems, it’s time for an open and transparent review of the bank’s track record, one that listens to experts and community members about how the CIB should serve the public.