Bank without infrastructure

With so much Canadian media reporting on the recent appointment of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, many Canadian stories got lost in the shuffle. 

One story I suspect few have heard about is the progress of the Trudeau Liberals vaunted $35-billion Infrastructure Bank.

I first raised concerns about this bank when it was introduced by the Liberals in 2016.

I questioned the move to develop yet another expensive federally funded agency where none was needed. In a subsequent MP report in 2017, I raised the concern that the Infrastructure Bank doesn’t actually build any infrastructure. 

The Liberal government has stated that the purpose of the Infrastructure Bank is to attract international investors who would invest privately and ultimately build infrastructure here in Canada.

This raises the question as to where the Infrastructure Bank is today, in late 2018. 

CBC recently reported the Infrastructure Bank has only been involved in one project since it was created.  

The project in question is committing a $1.28-billion loan to help build a $6.3-billion transit project in Montreal.

What is interesting about this particular project is that it in no way was instigated by the Infrastructure Bank.

This Montreal light rail project was already in progress before the Infrastructure Bank was created.

Another interesting aspect to the Montreal light rail project is that it is being constructed by a French construction firm with the rail cars being built in India.

That single project aside, my earlier concerns about the Infrastructure Bank being an expensive and unnecessary waste remain.

Access to information requests have revealed some staggering costs to run this new Infrastructure Bank. 

Almost $11.4 million has been spent on salaries, compensation and other administration expenses while close to another $ 1.4 million has been spent on capital expenses.

The Liberal government has now spent close to $12.8 million, which could have been used building infrastructure instead of paying for expensive administration.

On a different note, earlier this week the Liberal government announced it was providing $1.44 million to a “near net zero” private grocery store in an Liberal cabinet minister’s riding in Ontario.

This project was not funded through the Infrastructure Bank, but rather through Natural Resources Canada.

My question this week is:

  • do you believe the Infrastructure Bank is a good investment of $35 billion in tax dollars or is it an expensive, wasteful and unnecessary abuse of resources?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.


Is the price too high?

Canadians learned this week that Canada has negotiated a draft NAFTA agreement with the United States and Mexico.

The new agreement, subject to ratification, is called the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement, otherwise referred to as the USMCA.

This agreement involved a significant number of concessions from Canada from the previous NAFTA agreement.

Some of those concessions are listed down below.

Dairy: the United States received increased access to the Canadian dairy sector — roughly 3.6 per cent. The Liberal government has promised it will compensate Canadian dairy farmers for their losses.

Auto sector: Canada has agreed to a maximum number of vehicles that can be produced in Canada (2.6 million) and be exported to the United States without duty. As well, to avoid duties, 75 per cent of the parts used in the manufacture of the vehicles, must originate from USMCA partner countries. 

Drugs: Canada has agreed to extend patent protections for biological pharmaceutical drugs to 10 years. This change is widely expected to increase the cost of some prescription drugs.

Copyright laws: Canada has agreed to extend the terms of a copyright from 50 years up to 70 years. A change that many experts have called a “capitation on Canada’s copyright policy."

De Minimis: this is a term that represents the amount of goods a person can bring across the border without being hit by duties.The basic exemption when crossing the border in person will increase to $40 of U.S. goods up from the current $20. For online shipment (e-commerce) the level is increased to $150 CAD.

Trade autonomy: one more alarming concession that has many concerned in Ottawa is language that may restrict Canada's ability to negotiate a trade deal with a "non-market" country, for example, China. This is an emerging topic requiring more clarification.

B.C. Wine: on a topic closer to home another concession is that B.C. grocery stores current selling only B.C. wines will be required to also sell wines from the United States, a problem that many thought could occur and made their concerns known when this provincial program was first put into place.

What has not changed is that an independent arbitration panel will still be used in the event there is a trade dispute. Many view preserving this as one of the few key wins for Canada in this new agreement that shall have a 16-year expiry date with an option to renew for another 16 year term.

Things not addressed in the new USMCA:

  • United States tariffs on Canadian produced steel and aluminum remain in effect as do the punitive tariffs on Canadian
  • Softwood Lumber.
  • In addition the United States “Buy American” provisions also remain in effect.

Is this a good deal or a bad deal for Canada? 

That is the question for Canadians to decide upon and will also serve as my question for this week:

  • Do you think the many concessions that the Liberal government made went too far or is this simply the price to be paid for a new North American trade agreement?

Opposition targets Liberals

An unusual event occurred in the House of Commons, this week.

On Tuesday, the Conservative Official Opposition tabled a motion:

  • “That, given the Prime Minister has told veterans that they are ‘asking for more than we are able to give,’ the House call on the Minister of Veterans Affairs to revoke the Veterans Affairs Canada benefits that have been extended to Chris Garnier, who is not a veteran, is incarcerated for second-degree murder and for interfering with the dead body of police officer Catherine Campbell, and is currently receiving benefits for a disability he sustained while committing his heinous crimes.”

The unusual event?

After the debate on this motion, all opposition parties — the Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc and the Green Party — voted unanimously in support of stopping veterans benefits being provided to this convicted killer of a police officer.

The Trudeau Liberals used their majority to defeat this motion.

It is unusual for all opposition parties to vote together, however this issue crossed all partisan party lines.
I have heard outrage from a significant number of people and in particular from members of our law enforcement

The Liberals, in support of their move to defeat the motion, have argued that because the convicted murderer’s father is a veteran, there is justification to provide these benefits to his son.

There is some positive news related to this motion.

On the day this motion was being debated in the House of Commons, CBC reported that that “Veterans Affairs Canada will no longer pay for benefits for incarcerated relatives of veterans in the wake of the Christopher Garnier case.”

This revised policy is one that I am already hearing strong support for, from many citizens in our region.

Despite this new policy, the Trudeau Liberals have decided it will not be applied retroactively, meaning that this convicted killer will continue to receive treatment for PTSD that he admitted was caused by events that occurred during his brutal act of violence against an off duty-police officer.

My question this week:

  • Do you agree with the Trudeau Liberals decision to continue to allow Veterans Affairs to pay the cost of PTSD treatment of the man convicted of murdering an off-duty police officer?


Canada at cross roads

I was recently honoured to be named as the Opposition shadow minister for innovation, science, economic development and internal trade. 

This new role is one I take very seriously and I would like to briefly explain one of the reasons why.

In some ways, Canada is at a cross roads. 

We have a Prime Minister who believed that if we had a national carbon tax, it would buy social licence to support getting a new pipeline to tidewater.

Today, we know that plan is failing for a variety of different reasons. 

The Prime Minister says he remains committed to getting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built, despite the fact that a growing number of provinces are rejecting his federally imposed carbon tax.

The important question here is “What are the alternatives?” 

This is where innovation, science, economic development and internal trade come in to the picture.

Recently, I learned of a new high-tech refinery being built in Alberta. As refineries go this is a small one producing roughly 500 barrels per day. 

But what is exciting is this refinery is producing clean diesel.

What is clean diesel? 

It is a synthetic sulphur-free diesel fuel that is made from a mixture of liquid gas, wood chips and bio solids that has near zero CO2 emissions.

Not only does this fuel meet the low carbon fuel standard target for 2020, the same technology can also be adapted to produce synthetic jet fuel for aviation applications.

Another important consideration is this synthetic fuel is fully compatible with existing engines and requires no costly retro fitting.

Synthetic diesel can also be used as a concentrate. As an example, mixing 20 per cent synthetic diesel with 80 per cent conventional diesel produces a diesel fuel that is well below current European and Californian emission standard levels. 

There is also a local connection to this technology. 

A company located in the South Okanagan is currently manufacturing some of the equipment to be used at the refinery in Alberta.

With some adaptation, the same technology can also be used to generate electricity.

With a fairly robust supply of wood waste in addition to many local governments struggling to find locations to deal with bio solids, there are opportunities to use these materials to generate electricity. 

Currently, there are some exploratory efforts to identify possible locations for such a plant here in the Okanagan.

Synthetic fuels and energy production are obviously only one step in a complex problem, but it does clearly illustrate the important role that innovation can play as we look to find lower carbon solutions in our future.

My question this week: 

  • Should the federal government encourage development of innovation projects such as this one to reduce our CO2 emissions, instead of imposing carbon taxes?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free a 1-800-665-8711.

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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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