Liberal infrastructure plans to be paid for via privatization

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mark_alfred
Liberal infrastructure plans to be paid for via privatization

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mark_alfred

Of note too is that MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a Liberal member of the comittee (Standing Committee on Finance),  also spoke against this.  From the article:

Quote:
“I’m glad to hear some of my colleagues are for the sale of public infrastructure like roads and hospitals,” Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette said sarcastically. “I fail to understand why private investors like BlackRock would invest in infrastructure projects unless they could make a profit, and even an infrastructure bank seems like a means of ensuring … that that investment money will be making a profit on the backs of Canadians. It almost seems like a massive transfer of public funds toward the private funds in order for them to make money – a subsidy towards business.”

Ouellette is the same MP who was pretty well coerced by the Liberal whip into stalling and later voting against Guy Caron's motion to look into setting up a trial study case for basic income (an idea Ouellette supports).  I'm guessing he's frustrated with his party.

mark_alfred

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mps-grill-morneaus-growth-a...

If they follow through on this plan, then it's another broken promise.

Quote:

Parliamentarians got their first chance to debate ambitious plans for a national infrastructure bank as a hearing revealed general support from the Conservatives, strong concern from the NDP and signs of division within the Liberal caucus.

Speaking via video link from Seoul, Mr. Barton [the head of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth] argued that Canada faces a $500-billion infrastructure gap and that public money alone is not enough to address the problem.

He said private investors such as pension funds have so much money parked in low- or even negative-interest savings that they would be willing to accept relatively small returns in exchange for long-term equity in reliable Canadian infrastructure like airports, seaports, rail lines and energy grids.

Mr. Morneau has expressed support for the concept of an infrastructure bank and the government recently hired Credit Suisse to conduct a detailed study of options for fully privatizing Canada’s airports, but it is not clear exactly how Ottawa will respond to the growth council’s advice.

“I’m trying to see how this privatization, or this move, will actually be to the benefit of the country. Especially since most of the risk will be assumed by the federal government,” he [NDP member Guy Caron] said. “We never had this debate in this country. I don’t recall the word privatization being said during the electoral campaign and now this is the direction we’re going towards.”

ETA:  the title of the thread is a bit more definitive than it should be. This is still in the discussion stage; so there hasn't been a concrete decision.  Yet there are very strong indications that this is the direction the government plans to go in, which is simply more ceeding control of government and ultimately social policy to the private sector, IMO.

Badriya

mark_alfred wrote:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mps-grill-morneaus-growth-a...

If they follow through on this plan, then it's another broken promise.

Quote:

Parliamentarians got their first chance to debate ambitious plans for a national infrastructure bank as a hearing revealed general support from the Conservatives, strong concern from the NDP and signs of division within the Liberal caucus.

Speaking via video link from Seoul, Mr. Barton [the head of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth] argued that Canada faces a $500-billion infrastructure gap and that public money alone is not enough to address the problem.

He said private investors such as pension funds have so much money parked in low- or even negative-interest savings that they would be willing to accept relatively small returns in exchange for long-term equity in reliable Canadian infrastructure like airports, seaports, rail lines and energy grids.

Mr. Morneau has expressed support for the concept of an infrastructure bank and the government recently hired Credit Suisse to conduct a detailed study of options for fully privatizing Canada’s airports, but it is not clear exactly how Ottawa will respond to the growth council’s advice.

“I’m trying to see how this privatization, or this move, will actually be to the benefit of the country. Especially since most of the risk will be assumed by the federal government,” he [NDP member Guy Caron] said. “We never had this debate in this country. I don’t recall the word privatization being said during the electoral campaign and now this is the direction we’re going towards.”

ETA:  the title of the thread is a bit more definitive than it should be. This is still in the discussion stage; so there hasn't been a concrete decision.  Yet there are very strong indications that this is the direction the government plans to go in, which is simply more ceeding control of government and ultimately social policy to the private sector, IMO.

I'm not quite sure why you consider the Trudeau government's use of PPPs to be a broken promise.  It was announced during the election campaign, though sadly the NDP did not pick up on it and criticize it.  Am I missing something?

From the G & M, on May 12, 2015

Attracting more pension investment in Canadian infrastructure would require selling Canadians on a much larger role for public-private partnerships than is currently the case. It would also mean going further in a direction that is already preferred by the Conservatives. It is the Harper government that created a Crown corporation – PPP Canada Inc. – in 2009 focused on public-private partnerships for infrastructure. The 2015 federal budget promised a new public transit fund that would run through PPP Canada and would receive $1-billion in annual funding starting in 2019-20

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/liberals-to-encourage-pensi...

mark_alfred

Interesting.  Unless I'm mistaken, their platform doesn't mention it though.  It does mention the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank and the use of deficit financing, but it never mentions using privatization as a means to fund this.

Liberal Platform wrote:
We will run modest short-term deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years to fund historic investments in infrastructure and our middle class.

After the next two fiscal years, the deficit will decline and our investment plan will return Canada to a balanced budget in 2019.

There is no mention of pension funds, divestments, or private funding of infrastructure within their platform.

welder welder's picture

Why is this Canada Infrastructure Bank even being proposed,other than to line the pockets of the corporate and financial classes who will profit the most from it?? 

I forgot...The corporate Lib's are all in in the public to private wealth transference game...

 

Why not use the BoC,like we did until 1974,to finance these things?...

 

Over to you,Rocco..

mark_alfred

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/liberals-prepare-to-pitch-i...

Real Change = privatization, user fees, and tolls.

welder welder's picture

Public to private wealth transference...The neoliberal politician's favourite game...

mark_alfred
mark_alfred

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/stephen-gordon-the-liberals-lo...

Quote:

As an electoral strategy, the Liberals’ campaign promise to increase infrastructure spending and use deficit financing to pay for it was bold and clever.

[..]

But now that the Liberals are in power, that deficit-and-infrastructure mandate is looking more and more like a lobster trap.

Quebecers of a certain age will recognize that reference: it’s the analogy that then-Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau used in relation to his strategy of turning a Yes vote in a referendum into a unilateral declaration of independence. Once Quebecers had voted to negotiate with the rest of Canada for some form of autonomy, so the reasoning went, there would be no going back, even though many of them didn’t know they were voting for a unilateral declaration of independence.

The Liberals’ lobster trap mandate works much the same way. Canadians voted for deficit-financed infrastructure spending, and that’s what matters. The fact that they also voted for a small and short-lived deficit, and that nothing at all had been mentioned about tolls and user fees is no longer important. Once you enter the lobster trap, there’s no backing out.

[..]

When NDP MP Guy Caron asked where user fees were mentioned in the Liberal platform, he was told, in effect, that increased infrastructure spending was a good thing and that Canadians had voted for more of it. But the question of user fees deserves a better answer than that — especially if you’re also promising “inclusive growth,” as there may well be people who end up paying more in tolls than they receive in benefits. These distributional issues are real and cannot be dismissed so easily.

[..]

The decision to expand the use of tolled infrastructure and abandon balanced budgets in favour of a stable debt-to-GDP ratio is not entirely indefensible. But the Liberals chose not to defend those positions in the last campaign.

[..]

This is not a promising trend: the Liberals have casually blown past every fiscal limit they set themselves. It may be that the decision to hold a constant debt-to-GDP ratio is a line that they will not cross, and that we won’t end up in the sort of deficit-and-debt cycle that started 40 years ago under similar circumstances. But I’m not as hopeful as I used to be that the state of public finances will eventually stabilize. Stopping before things get worse is not how lobster traps work.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Someone should convince this Gordon fellow to join babble.  It would be nice to hear economic analysis from someone with a PhD in it.  But would he be welcomed?

quizzical
mark_alfred

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-public-private-infrastructure-1....

Quote:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a cadre of cabinet ministers are meeting with major Canadian and international investors Monday as part of an effort to convince them to invest their billions in the country's infrastructure.

The prime minister was asked repeatedly by reporters about the election of Donald Trump as president, but declined to answer. Trump has also pitched pairing public money with private funds to fund $1 trillion in infrastructure investment.

These investments are made in return for tolls and fees from users, something that would likely be replicated here in Canada if pension firms take the lead on building new projects.

So, selling out to private investors is something both Trudeau and Trump have in common.  Get ready for user fees and tolls in the future.

quizzical

T & T they're dynamite.....

mark_alfred

Good ol' TNT. 

The NDP's Finance Critic Guy Caron had a press conference on this scheme.  He feels the Liberal plans are ripe for conflict of interest.

Caron on user fees wrote:

Caron told reporters these private investors who control pools of capital worth as much as $21 trillion are not joining an infrastructure bank out of the goodness of their hearts.

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec said it wants seven to nine per cent return on investments, Caron said. “How do you get that type of return on waste water plants or roads or other types of infrastructure? ...

“There is not a thousand ways to do it. It is through tolls and it is through user fees.”

Even if the infrastructure itself isn’t sold off, the NDP critic said, the user fees generated from the public will go to private companies and line investors’ pockets.

Caron on conflict of interest wrote:

Caron also used his press conference Monday to accuse the Grits of placing themselves in a perceived conflict of interest. Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s advisory council on economic growth includes, as chair, Dominic Barton, of McKinsey & Company, “whose bread and butter in the last five years was to promote the leverage of private capital with public funds for infrastructure.” Michael Sabia of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Mark Wiseman, the senior managing director of BlackRock — the world’s largest asset investment firm with more than $5 trillion under management — are also on the council.

“All three stand to gain from this scheme. Their groups will make hundreds of millions, maybe even billions out of the return of this scheme and they personally, obviously, stand to gain a lot as well, in terms of bonuses,” Caron said.

“The Trudeau Liberals were supposed to be for the middle class, they were supposed to be for the little guy. They are now showing their true colours — those of the party of wealthy private investors.”

So, big business is determining Liberal government policy for its own profit.  Real change?  I think not.

mark_alfred

Here's some further information on BlackRock, the private investment firm the Liberals plan to sell us out to.

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2016/11/trudeau-liberals-offer-shangri-la-to...

mark_alfred
Stephen Gordon

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Someone should convince this Gordon fellow to join babble.  It would be nice to hear economic analysis from someone with a PhD in it.  But would he be welcomed?

 

Yeah, funny story about that

Timebandit

Stephen Gordon sighting!!! Hi, Stephen, long time no see!

Stephen Gordon

It has been a long time - I was a bit shocked to see that it's been more than 13 years since I first signed up. I still have a soft spot for babble, because it's where I first learned about online engagement.

Stephen Gordon

Double-post. Can't figure out this new-fangled editor.

Timebandit

:)

mark_alfred

http://canadafactcheck.ca/justin-trudeaus-big-infrastructure-mistake/

Quote:

Put bluntly, the government’s case for involving private capital in the bank’s projects is bad policy because private investors in these schemes demand a much higher rate of return than the government borrowing rate.

Why is the government choosing to do this?

Martin N.

Why? Because they have already debt financed programs that *should* be financed from income, ie: current obligations from income vs long term assets from long term debt with the interest as a current obligation.

This PPP scheme is akin to using a home equity line of credit to finance toys and vacations and then paying the line of credit interest with a credit card.

Martin N.

Think of it as the taxpayer walking up the down escalator with the national debt as the baggage carried and interest rates controlling the escalator's speed. Little Potato himself is watching from a safe distance because he has no idea how this will turn out.

josh

You mean Joe Taxpayer has the power to levy taxes?  And to borrow large sums at prime rates?

milo204

hmmmm, i wonder what that lawyer who was arguing canada should be financing it's programs throught the bank of canada, rather than high interest loans from private banks would think of all this?

Martin N.

No, I mean that Joe is the one who gets hurt when he can't keep up. It's called 'other people's money'. When government has spent it all they devise deferral accounts to access more, hoping that the payments will stick to the next guy, not them.

Martin N.

milo204 wrote:

hmmmm, i wonder what that lawyer who was arguing canada should be financing it's programs throught the bank of canada, rather than high interest loans from private banks would think of all this?


Most likely how to leverage fees out of it.

josh

Martin N. wrote:
No, I mean that Joe is the one who gets hurt when he can't keep up. It's called 'other people's money'. When government has spent it all they devise deferral accounts to access more, hoping that the payments will stick to the next guy, not them.

 

Yes they just spend for the heck of it.  With no concommitant benefit to the society and public at large.  Either through jobs, and the resulting tax revenue, or the end product, whose benefits often have ripple effect that can last many years.

Martin N.

If you think excessive debt spending trickles down through the economy because it is public, not private spending, I have a bridge to sell you. Consider it a PPP. I have no issue with "benefits to society", my problem is with excessive debt spending that results in redirecting funding for "benefits to society" into debt maintenance.

NDPP

Without Any Mandate, Trudeau Pushes Privatization

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/11/18/tom-parkin-without-any-mandate-trud...

"Last week Justin Trudeau pushed his privatization plan even farther. He's now going well beyond anything considered by any previous Canadian government. He's closing in on Donald Trump. Don't believe it? Believe it..."

iyraste1313

If you think excessive debt spending trickles down through the economy because it is public, not private spending, I have a bridge to sell you. Consider it a PPP. I have no issue with "benefits to society", my problem is with excessive debt spending that results in redirecting funding for "benefits to society" into debt maintenance....

you can t help but be astounded at the stupidity of Canadians for voting for the neoliberal globalists....and now the chickens are coming home to roost...with ongling and unbeleievable credit acceleraations, the bond markets globally are now in collapse...interest rates across the board are gaining traction...and with another US Fed rate increase a durety? whew! It s the perfect storm...which will leave Trudeau s promies once again in the trash bin....

josh

Thinking of privatizing airports and ports goes far beyond a private infrastructure bank. Not that that is good.

mark_alfred

There's a petition here by the Friends of Public Services:  http://www.publicservices.ca/trudeau_privatization

mark_alfred

Good article by Martin Lukas (see conclusion below).  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2016/nov/22/justin-tr...

Quote:
Clear-thinking economists call it privatization. Liberal spin-doctors will call it by some fanciful name. I call it the legalized fleecing of Canadians, a giant corporate giveaway.

Martin N.

Quote:
Sergio Marchi, president of the Canadian Electricity Association, says the technological know-how to transmit electricity for vast distances across the country doesn't yet exist and, even if it did, would be prohibitively expensive.

More likely, Marchi believes the bank could be used to develop regional energy "interties" — connections between two electricity systems — between provinces.

For instance, he said it could finance the infrastructure needed for British Columbia to transmit its abundant hydro power to Alberta, which is trying to shift off coal-fired electricity, or for Manitoba to transmit its hydro to Saskatchewan, which gets more than 40 per cent of its energy from coal-fired power plants.

Similarly, he said more of Quebec's hydro could be transmitted to Ontario or to the Atlantic provinces.

"I think regionally and picking our spots, I think that's very doable," Marchi, a former federal cabinet minister, said in an interview.

Sounds good IF the intent is to make the grid more efficient, not as a vehicle for private rent seekers ( private equity, pension plans etc) to leverage income. Use a 'national' grid for hydro baseload and promoting grid-tied private renewables like home solar to increase use of green power.

Martin N.

iyraste1313 wrote:

If you think excessive debt spending trickles down through the economy because it is public, not private spending, I have a bridge to sell you. Consider it a PPP. I have no issue with "benefits to society", my problem is with excessive debt spending that results in redirecting funding for "benefits to society" into debt maintenance....

you can t help but be astounded at the stupidity of Canadians for voting for the neoliberal globalists....and now the chickens are coming home to roost...with ongling and unbeleievable credit acceleraations, the bond markets globally are now in collapse...interest rates across the board are gaining traction...and with another US Fed rate increase a durety? whew! It s the perfect storm...which will leave Trudeau s promies once again in the trash bin....

It's more a cycle than a storm. The storm part of the cycle is when interest rates go up, bankruptcies abound, the banksters leverage public resources to bail out (hello, CMHC), buy distressed assets for pennies on the dollar and start the cycle over again.

josh

mark_alfred wrote:

Good article by Martin Lukas (see conclusion below).  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2016/nov/22/justin-tr...

Quote:
Clear-thinking economists call it privatization. Liberal spin-doctors will call it by some fanciful name. I call it the legalized fleecing of Canadians, a giant corporate giveaway.

Where are our resident Liberal supporters on this? Pretty clear that that corporate hack Morneau is running things.

jjuares

I have to admit that privatizing infrastructure with this bank is brilliant politics. The Liberals will be able to access all sorts of private capital to stimulate growth. After all building a bridge and charging tolls is great for business. Especially if you build in a place where there is continuing development and bridge traffic increases. Your return on your initial investment will continue to grow. Politically the Liberals will be able to point to greater employment and growth, which will be wonderful for their re-election prospects. It might be a decade or more before Canadians notice that we are a nation of toll roads and bridges in which the very rich pay the same rates as the very poor and give us nothing less than a hidden regressive tax regime. Bad economics, bad tax policy, brilliant politics.

mark_alfred

Yeah.  It's a way to be able to make big spending announcements without having to include the costs upfront (that'll come later).

Here's a good opinion piece by Neil MacDonald:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/liberals-infrastructure-bank-1.3862634

Quote:

Meaning it's a pretty safe bet that if the Caisse bankrolls new bridges or roads or electrical grid, it's going to want a handsome profit, and that pretty much means one thing: user fees. Tolls, higher electricity charges, that sort of thing.

If Morneau was permitted and inclined to tell the unvarnished truth, it would be something like this:

"The Canadian deal is changing. It used to be that the government would tax everything that moves, and in return would build and provide stuff. The new deal is that the government will keep taxing everybody just as enthusiastically, but you'll also have to pay extra to use the stuff we build."

mark_alfred

Robin Sears, former NDP strategist who was involved with the Rae government in Ontario, writes in favour of P3s, countering the current stance (as I understand it) of the federal NDP.

Sears opinion:  https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/11/27/why-p3s-are-best-f...

Current NDP position:  http://www.ndp.ca/news/liberal-privatization-scheme-will-leave-canadians...

 

Sean in Ottawa

mark_alfred wrote:

Robin Sears, former NDP strategist who was involved with the Rae government in Ontario, writes in favour of P3s, countering the current stance (as I understand it) of the federal NDP.

Sears opinion:  https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/11/27/why-p3s-are-best-f...

Current NDP position:  http://www.ndp.ca/news/liberal-privatization-scheme-will-leave-canadians...

 

Sears has some good points. The relationships can offer a great deal. But that is not the only objective or impact of P3s.

I can think of three others and they must be considered -- if they are P3s could play a role:

1) Overall public ownership: P3s usually result in a divestment of public ownership. In theory they do not have to. For example a P3 managed with the public interest in mind could increase the public stake in one thing to make up for a reduction in soemthing else. The P3 does not need to leave all assets in private hands either. A partnership can create new assets in the public domain the contracting party may help manage. Most of the time the result is less public ownership, the public holding the bag while the private sector has the asset and profit. It is unlikely to happen but it is possible not to do things that way.

2) Worker relationships and jobs: Many P3s are explicitly designed to save the government by outsourcing work to non-union and lower paid workers. This is easy to fix if anyone wants to. Require any P3 contracts to match comparable wages and require unionized workers. If done this would actually serve to increase a falling rate of private sector unionization. Only unionized contractors should be able to bid. You want a bid -- get it done.

3) Marketization: Often P3s are designed to distort values form what the public needs and wants to fit a market model. This does need to be the case. Deliverables must be measured as the public mandates intend not convert them to private sector models. Quite often this is done by design to pave the way for full privatization.

It is not the concept of P3s itself that is so bad. It is the history and models of them. Public and Private sectors working together is not a bad thing. It is the purposeful side effects and design of these that is the problem. In many cases these negative effects are completely intentional and cannot be removed from the concept.

People have very good reason to be concerned about P3s. History proves their point.

But could I design the rules for a P3 plan that would be fine -- sure but I don't expect P3 proponents to want to follow them as the negative effects usually are the point.