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In your opinion, how can energy infrastructure development in Canada help Canadians access more clean and affordable energy solutions for their homes and businesses? What is the role of the Infrastructure Bank in this regard?



Energy infrastructure development in Canada can help Canadians access more and affordable energy solutions for their homes and businesses. But that infrastructure has to be properly planned, accessible and ultimately affordable for people. Oh yes, it also should work.

We have seen lots of examples in different Canadian provinces where well intended energy infrastructure projects backed by governments’ money, more specifically your cash, don’t go as planned or don’t go at all. Look at the Muskrat Falls initiative in Labrador as a case for the former and ask Dalton McGuinty about nixing gas plants in Ontario as an example of the latter. In circumstances like these, taxpayers money disappears by the dump truck load and the average person or business owner sees no benefit but likely will eventually experience the burden of those lost dollars in new taxes or higher costs of living.

The nature of human beings is we always want more and better things. In public policy that often manifests itself into a desire for infrastructure. When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected in 2015 they promised to create a Canadian Infrastructure Bank to provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects. By the end of the summer of 2017 that bank was on its way to becoming operational.

The government is counting on the bank to provide expertise in structuring deals with major private investors, such as pension funds, to launch large revenue-generating projects. Potential projects include public transit, transportation networks and electricity grid construction. Many Canadian pension funds are already invested in projects, such as airports, in other countries but have been reluctant to make similar moves in Canada.

The government is counting on the bank to provide expertise in structuring deals with major private investors.

“The government is counting on the bank to provide expertise in structuring deals with major private investors.”


Critics of the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) such as The University of Ottawa’s Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy have questioned the need for the bank as well as its effectiveness.  According to a report done by that Institute, “the case for establishing the CIB is not compelling, as it has the potential to increase overall costs to the taxpayers while privatizing the most high-return, low-risk infrastructure assets.” They go on to say, “So, why the CIB? ‘We don’t know’ and ‘just because innovation’ is not a good enough answer.”

Conservative Member of Parliament Dan Albas said the bank “scares the heck out of me.” He thinks the bank will only fund projects in Canada’s biggest cities. He also argued the government is borrowing money it doesn’t have and the only winners will be the big investors.

It will be a while before it can be definitively determined whether the CIB will be able to help actual people have more clean and affordable energy solutions for their homes and businesses. Clearly the potential exists for that, but it would seem early winners of any bank investment would be lenders and their shareholders. Now many of those shareholders would be the same people who want affordable energy in their homes or offices.

Finally, it is hard not to imagine the CIB being fully scrutinized. Hopefully this leads to more accountability which could create better outcomes or maybe I am just dreaming.

Tim Powers, is the Vice-Chairman of Summa Strategies Canada and the managing partner of Abacus Data, both headquarters are in Ottawa. Mr. Powers appears regularly on CBC’s Power and Politics program as well as on VOCM in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gabriela Gonzalez


This summer my family and I spent a lot of time outdoors, camping and hiking at Ontario’s Algonquin Park. One time we took the long way home and drove from the eastern gate of the Park to Toronto, which took us through the eastern part of central Ontario. We couldn’t help but notice the abandoned houses, farms and few businesses, a different sight from our occasional drive through Southwestern Ontario. I happened to mention my weekend drive to a colleague who has considerable knowledge of Ontario’s energy system and his answer to my observation was simple: Southwestern Ontario has access to natural gas whereas many parts of rural Central and Eastern Ontario do not.

Access to natural gas has been making headlines in Ontario for some time. Leading up to last year’s Ontario Climate Change Action Plan announcement, there were reports that natural gas may be phased out in Ontario. Naturally the industry and consumers kicked up a storm and the final version of the Plan did not include such a phasing out measure. Why is this? Well, it’s because Premier Wynne and her team understand that natural gas is an affordable and cleaner way of heating millions of homes and businesses across the province and that access to natural gas can make the difference between a thriving community and one that struggles.

The Ontario government is not just talking about access to natural gas but it is taking action. In January of this year, Ontario’s Infrastructure Minister, Bob Chiarelli, launched a new Natural Gas Grant that will help expand access to natural gas for rural and northern communities that do not currently have access. Why is the province investing $100 million into rural, northern and indigenous communities? According to Minister Chiarelli, “Increased access to natural gas in towns across the province will generate significant local investment, help businesses grow and create jobs, and it will improve the quality of life for all Ontario residents.”


Access to natural gas is not a partisan issue, we know that farmers represented by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and municipalities represented by the Association of Ontario Municipalities support expanded access to natural gas because it gives them one of the best economic development tools. Ultimately and as the Ontario government announcement indicates, greater access to natural gas will attract new businesses, make agriculture and the transportation of goods more affordable, all while using a cleaner source of energy at a lower cost.

To add a federal layer to a topic that is mostly dominated by the provincial government, the newly formed Infrastructure Bank presents an opportunity to bring the ‘access to natural gas’ conversation to the national stage. Because as Prime Minister Trudeau said at the CERAWeek energy industry conference in March of this year: “…there is no path to prosperity in Canada that does not include a thriving, vibrant energy sector, both traditional and renewable…”.

I know that in a few years when I drive through Central Ontario, returning once again from a beautiful long weekend at Algonquin Park, I will be able to see thriving communities that are surpassing their economic potential thanks in part to investments in greater natural gas access.

Gabriela Gonzalez is Consultant at Crestview Strategy. Prior to joining the Crestview team, Gabriela worked at Queen’s Park for four years and is a long-time Liberal organizer. Most recently, she worked as a Senior Communications and Operations Advisor to Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Growth. Gabriela holds an Honours Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology from York University and a bilingual (English/French) Master’s degree from the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.



Being good stewards of our planet, addressing climate change, and meeting our international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas  (GHG)emissions, means we must move to a low carbon economy. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, introduced in December of last year, laid out the country’s clean energy objectives and set the target of reducing Canada’s GHG emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels of by 2030.

As Canada implements the Pan-Canadian Framework, policy drafters must keep in mind that Canadian families, consumers, and businesses who are seeking clean energy solutions also want to find solutions that are accessible and affordable. That’s why, to achieve scale and mass-deployment of low-carbon energy solutions, government needs to incentivize investment in clean energy infrastructure.

A report issued earlier this year by Evergreen and the Coalition for Green Capital proposed the creation of a ‘Green Bank’ within the new Canadian Infrastructure Bank to be the catalyst for investment in clean energy infrastructure and the deployment of new technologies. It is an interesting idea, and one that has been implemented in other jurisdictions like New York and Connecticut. We’ve all heard of “angel investors,” well, the Green Bank proposed would be a way to finance large clean energy projects. It would also provide seed capital to create local initiatives with community centered Green Banks, to lend to smaller projects and serve local needs. This would spur and support local innovation, something that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has called for in their Green Municipal Fund. If the new Canadian Infrastructure Bank was to embrace this idea much, I think, could be achieved.

Policy drafters must keep in mind that Canadian families, consumers, and businesses, who are seeking clean energy solutions also want to find solutions that are accessible and affordable.

“Policy drafters must keep in mind that Canadian families, consumers, and businesses, who are seeking clean energy solutions also want to find solutions that are accessible and affordable.”


The idea of strategically using the Canadian Infrastructure Bank as a ‘generational opportunity’ to build new energy networks and urban environments that will spur growth, is an exciting one. With a Green Bank in place, priority could be given to the development of new renewable generation plants and the necessary transmission and distribution lines. It could fund green housing projects, public transit, and support ‘just transition’ to the low-carbon economy for working Canadians by upskilling jobs in “sunset” industries.

The new leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, suggested in his policy development process that Canada should focus on building a renewable electricity super grid connecting the country nationally, linking the country’s vast renewable resources from east-west where they are needed. Buildings also could be retrofitted so Canadians can lower their energy consumption and reduce household bills. Remote communities also need solutions to come off diesel and facilitate the efficient use of energy in the North. There is much work to be done, but if policy makers decide to seize this opportunity and always remain focused on Canadian families, business and the future of our planet, together we can build our future.

Kathleen Monk is a Principal at Earnscliffe, where she is trusted by Canadian leaders to navigate complex public strategy issues, design strategy and bring together diverse stakeholders to tell authentic stories that deliver results. She appears regularly on CBC The National’s preeminent political panel, The Insiders, and provides analysis for CBC News Network’s Power and Politics.