The infrastructure bank argument.

As a general rule, it seems useless to respond to e-mails from readers that are longer than the original commentary. It also seems useless to try to correct someone’s misconceptions on the subject. Besides, if federal finance minister Bill Morneau is not interested in better explaining his new infrastructure bank to Canadians, why should others feel responsible?

The recent Babel-on-the-Bay commentary on the infrastructure bank drew such a long and obviously annoyed comment from a Nova Scotia reader that it needs an answer.

First, the reader seems to have confused infrastructure funding with public-private partnerships. While an infrastructure bank might decide to support a P-3 project, it handles it as a business case. The deal has to produce a revenue stream that can repay the bank’s investment.

Canada is a particularly attractive place for safe and secure investment today and the infrastructure bank would just be one more investment opportunity. It will attract both Canadian and foreign investment.

The infrastructure bank will be no “give away.” The larger the funds the bank gathers from investors, the larger the projects it will be able to fund for Canada. There might be people who think we should only spend money that we have and not use debt financing but you can also make a very strong case for what infrastructure can earn.

It is definitely not “running up our credit cards.” It has taken more than 40 years for Ontario to get started on inter-city high-speed trains. The availability of funds from the infrastructure bank might just break through some of the political inertia in this country.

It might have been in the heat of the moment that the reader suggested that your writer was not very bright to be promoting something that he considered to just be a give-away to the private sector. Having been chair of the federal government’s very thorough study of the potential for public-private partnerships back in the middle of the 1980s, this writer does know a bit about the subject.

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