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Liberals face Senate showdown over infrastructure bank plan

Independent senator says the government has yet to fully answer questions about the so-called infrastructure bank.


OTTAWA — An independent senator wants the upper chamber to split the Liberal government’s budget bill in order to spend more time debating the plan to create a new $35-billion infrastructure financing agency.

Andre Pratte says the government has yet to fully answer questions about the so-called infrastructure bank, including its independence, transparency and the degree to which taxpayers will be exposed to financial risk.

Pratte, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says there simply isn’t enough time to study the proposal before Parliament goes on its summer break.

Whether Pratte has enough support is unclear, but Conservative Senate leader Larry Smith says discussions are ongoing about what to do when the bill arrives in the upper chamber next week.

The Liberals say they see no reason to separate the part of the legislation that would create the bank from the rest of the bill, which implements elements of the federal budget.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi says the government wants to move ahead with getting the new agency up and running by the end of the year, including appointing a chief executive and board of directors.

Sohi says they also need time to get staff in place for the new agency, to be headquartered in Toronto.

The Liberals plan to give the bank $15 billion in cash, plus a further $20 billion in repayable financing that won’t dent the government’s bottom line, to leverage additional dollars from investors such as large pension funds.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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