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Canada Infrastructure Bank keen to invest in Manitoba

Key infrastructure projects on Manitoba’s to-do list are within the mandate and could see partnership financing with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, says Chief Investment Officer John Casola.

Casola, the guest speaker at an MHCA webinar Wednesday morning, said he could see the Bank playing a role in the development of land at CentrePort Canada South, as well as in the extension of Chief Peguis Trail, which would help complete Winnipeg’s inner ring-road and act as a trade corridor in the Capital Region.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank recognizes the value of trade-enabling infrastructure investment, and financing sewer and water is well within the Bank’s “investment bucket,” Casola said. While the Bank does not do equity financing in housing development, it could look at partnering to allow for the provision of sewer and water services to development lands where commercial entities would locate. See a summary of the Bank’s role here.

He offered that the extension of Chief Peguis Trail could be packaged in such a way to permit the Bank to enter with financing as an equity partner. The fact that such a project would likely already involve public funding – municipal, provincial and federal – doesn’t preclude the Crown corporation from joining in, he explained.

Some funding agreements cap the amount that can flow from total federal sources as a percentage of project cost. But, he noted, it may be possible to expand the project, and therefore its greater value to the region, such that any percentage cap already reached would be reduced, giving the Bank room to get involved.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank was established as a “gap filler” – becoming an equity partner to finance projects that otherwise would not get built with private-sector dollars, due to the risk or limited return on investment.

The Bank, capitalized by the federal government with $35 billion, also acts as a centre of expertise for infrastructure projects, structuring proposals and negotiating agreements. It aims to invest $10 billion in the next decade in projects in five key areas: public transit, trade and transportation infrastructure, clean power, broadband connectivity and energy efficient ‘green’ retrofits.

When asked about whether the CIB would be interested in partnering on some of the potential infrastructure projects that could flow from the proposed Western Canada Trade Gateways and Corridors Initiative that is picking up support regionally and nationally, Casola gave a definite thumbs-up.

“Yes, that’s exactly what we’re interested in,” he said. That type of infrastructure assists Canada’s and the West’s economy because of its impact on the GDP. Any particular project within the initiative would have to meet the Bank’s investment criteria, he added.

 To date, the CIB is involved in two projects within Manitoba, the first is the Valley Broadband to connect 49,000 underserved households in southern Manitoba, and the other is Nunavut’s Kivalliq hydro-fibre project, a 1,200-kilometre, 150-megawatt hydro-electric line from Manitoba.

The webinar was attended virtually by some 80 people, many of whom came from provincial and municipal government offices.

“Nothing happens without a growing economy nurtured with strategic investment in infrastructure with an ROI to GDP focus,” said MHCA President Chris Lorenc. “There are many areas of strategic infrastructure investment that Manitoba’s economy and environment could benefit by.”

Lorenc said those areas include irrigation, zero-emission buses, the extension of Chief Peguis Trail, the proposed Western Canada Trade Gateways & Corridors Initiative, and the extension of sewer and water into the CentrePort South footprint.

“The provincial and municipal governments, in partnership and collaborative discussion with the private sector, should ensure that Manitoba is at the forefront of CIB investment consideration, not an afterthought.”