Feds need say in infrastructure bank: Barton

OTTAWA — The man who played a lead role in drawing up the blueprint for Canada’s proposed infrastructure bank says the agency should not be completely independent of political oversight.

Dominic Barton, chair of the feds’ influential economic growth council, tells The Canadian Press that he’s fine with cabinet having a say in the selection of projects supported through a bank that’s designed to merge billions in public and private cash for infrastructure.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the federal cabinet will have powers when it comes to the approval of projects under evaluation by the bank.

Morneau says it’s important that the government be able to protect the best interests of Canadians when huge, multibillion-dollar projects are under consideration.

However, Barton says cabinet cannot have a role inhow projects are structured and that should left up to the market if Ottawa truly hopes to attract private investment.

After Morneau’s remarks, the head of the infrastructure group for a major pension fund said the possibility that cabinet approval will be necessary for some projects is his biggest concern about the bank’s design.

Andrew Claerhout of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan told a Senate committee hearing this week that private investors like his pension fund will want to know whether they’re negotiating with the bank or cabinet ministers.

The infrastructure bank is a key tool in the Liberals’ economic growth strategy. It’s designed to use $35 billion in public funds as leverage to attract billions more in private investment for large projects, such as roads, bridges and transit systems.

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