The federal infrastructure bank takes a glass half-full approach to privatizing municipal water systems
The Canada Infrastructure Bank says it sees a lot of “potential” to further privatize water management systems in communities “across the country.”
Buried in its latest end-of-year report, the federal crown corporation founded in 2017 by the Liberal government offers praise for a $20 million Public-Private Partnership managing the water and wastewater system in Mapleton, Ontario.
The CIB says spending $20 million to “attract private sector capital and expertise to renew its publicly-owned local system” is an “innovative approach” that could be replicated across Canada.
“This has potential as a pilot project and demonstration to other communities with water and wastewater challenges across the country,” the CIB report notes.
The CIB’s glowing assessment of the project reinforce the Liberal government’s previous hints that its $35 billion infrastructure bank would direct funds towards public-private projects.
François-Philippe Champagne, previously Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, praised the project last year as a “new model” for ensuring access to water facilities.
As PressProgress reported previously, the plan has been sharply criticized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which notes it risks locking municipalities into expensive arrangements with private financiers who gouge small communities with big user fees.
The Infrastructure Bank’s CEO even admits the scheme will see money flow from the pockets of ordinary citizens to big companies, telling a business magazine “users will fund the bulk of the operations and of the returns to investors through user-fees and other revenue mechanisms.”
The report further notes the CIB assessed 72 projects totalling $38 billion during the quarter, part of the 111 projects worth an estimated $55 billion assessed since April 2019.
“The CIB continues to influence the thinking of project sponsors, engaging 10 federal departments/agencies and 18 provincial/territorial bodies in the last three months to collaborate on advisory and investment opportunities.”
Also of interest, the CIB notes it has established partnerships for “greater involvement in industry infrastructure committees.”
Those partners include: the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the International Project Finance Association, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
In turn, its five-year plan notes the CIB is also considering ways to make users pay to fund its projects. It reads it will:
“Develop mechanisms to engage private sector partners earlier in the project planning and design process to facilitate more commercially focused infrastructure decisions which can better support user-pay funding models or sustainable public investment through revenue generating business model.”