In a move that breaks key election promises, the federal Liberals are ramming through an infrastructure “bank of privatization” designed by Bay Street and Wall Street financiers.
The bank was designed in close collaboration with US‑based Blackrock Inc., the largest financial asset manager in the world, and other financial sector CEOs: the very people who will profit from it. The Liberals promised that the bank would provide low‑cost financing for municipalities, but the current plan won’t do that.
The federal government will finance the bank with an initial $35 billion, but it will rely mainly on much higher‑cost private financing. Effectively all the projects the bank finances will be privatized, with minority public financing and ownership through the bank. The Liberals say the bank will finance “revenue‑generating infrastructure” like toll roads and bridges, public transit, rail lines, water and wastewater systems, and electrical grids and utilities.
Higher project costs will mean Canadians get less bang for their infrastructure buck. Projects financed through the bank could cost twice as much over their lives than if they were publicly financed.
While firms like Blackrock may provide up‑front financing, the public will ultimately pay for this infrastructure through annual payments from governments and higher user fees. Tolls and fees will hurt middle and low income‑earners the most, restrict access to services, and damage the economy.
Details of the bank’s deals will be kept secret, even though it will use public funds. The bank won’t be subject to the stronger transparency and accountability rules that govern public projects. Those who disclose information could face fines and jail time. The federal Auditor General’s oversight of the bank and its projects will also be limited.
The bank will be entirely controlled by private finance and Bay Street representatives, with no seats on the board for federal or any other government representatives.
The bank will also be allowed to entertain “unsolicited bids”, which means the corporate interests running the bank will cherry‑pick the public assets and infrastructure projects they think will be most lucrative, behind closed doors. It has the potential to be a jackpot for private investors, while leaving the cupboard bare for the public sector.