Canada's Liberals urged to accelerate infrastructure plans

Thu Mar 23, 2017 5:31pm EDT
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By Matt Scuffham

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Liberal government has been urged to move more quickly to roll out a C$180 billion ($135 billion) infrastructure spending program and provide more details on how its planned infrastructure bank will work.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals came to power in October 2015 promising to spend big on infrastructure to stimulate Canada's economy and address an infrastructure deficit estimated at C$123 billion by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents Canada's mayors.

Construction and engineering companies as well as infrastructure investors were hoping Finance Minister Bill Morneau would use Wednesday’s budget to provide more details on specific projects and the infrastructure bank, which is being set up to facilitate private investment in large-scale projects. But it contained little new information.

"The government is looking for infrastructure to grow the economy and create wealth and revenue. We don't want to push that too far down the road," said John Gamble, president of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies.

"We’re supportive of this government’s commitment to infrastructure," he added. "What we don’t see is enough of a roadmap or a timetable of how we’re going to get there."

The government has been courting Canada's largest pension funds as well as overseas investors to finance projects facilitated by the infrastructure bank.

It hopes the agency will give it an edge as it competes for capital with the United States, where President Donald Trump is planning to finance a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program entirely from private sources.

Hugh O'Reilly, chief executive of OP Trust, one of Canada's biggest 10 public pension plans and a big investor in infrastructure, said the government should take whatever time it needs to get the structure of the bank right.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie