NDP MP February 8, 2008 Niki AshtonTabled A billThat would instruct the Canada Infrastructure BankTo prioritize projects that will help the country adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate changes. It would also require the bank’s board to have at least three members recommended by Indigenous organizations to represent Inuit, Métis and First Nations people.
The bill could be used to help communities invest in solutions for wildfires, stated Chief Roddy Owens from Pauingassi First Nation during a virtual press conference hosted Friday morning by Ashton. Some members of Little Grand Rapids First Nation and Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba were forced to evacuate last July by wildfires.
Get the top stories delivered straight to your inbox
Our award-winning journalists bring you news that affects you, Canada, as well as the world. Don’t miss the opportunity.
“This bill is about giving tools to communities to survive,” said Ashton, who represents the riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski.
If the bill is passed, it could facilitate infrastructure projects such as roads that connect remote Indigenous communities. A Recent studyA surprising number of wildfire evacuees in Canada came from First Nations communities. These communities and municipalities are better positioned to make decisions about climate change.
At the press conference, Chief Elvin Flett of St. Theresa Point First Nation in Manitoba spoke about potential projects that would benefit his community, including a “fully functioning recycling program and facility” and ensuring all homes have access to water and sewage treatment.
“We also need energy-efficient homes, alternative energy sources,” he said.
The Canada Infrastructure BankCrown corporation that finances revenue-generating infrastructure projects that are “in public interest” through public/private partnerships. Its growth plan includes investments into clean energy, broadband internet and zero-emission buses.
Ashton’s bill would remove language in the bank’s mandate that allows it to seek out private investment and instead encourage the federal government to fund public projects that will help Canadians manage the climate crisis.
“The most critical infrastructure needs in Canada aren’t ones that have a profit attached to it, it’s basic infrastructure that is needed for communities to go about their daily lives,” said Angella MacEwan, a senior economist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and former NDP candidate for Ottawa Centre.
A new private member’s bill seeks to help communities weather climate crisis by changing Canada Infrastructure Bank’s mandate. Funds can now be used for public infrastructure projects, instead of private, for-profit ones. #ClimateCrisis
She stated that critical infrastructure should be owned by the public so that it can be used to benefit the greatest number of people.
“That’s where you get the biggest bang for your buck,” she added.
The bill does not earmark money for specific projects, it simply reorients the bank’s priorities so the $35 billion in its coffers would not be directed to for-profit projects with private partners.
“We’re talking about water and wastewater, roads to communities, we’re talking about getting off diesel, so clean energy,” said MacEwan. “The reason [those projects] haven’t happened is because there’s no profit there.”
If the Canada Infrastructure Bank could be the financing agent for different communities, it could get these critical projects off the ground, but right now, municipalities and First Nations communities can’t borrow on their own, she said.
“This is an important improvement for reconciliation to be realized,” said NDP MP Lori Idlout of Nunavut.
“All 25 of the communities that I represent in Nunavut run on diesel … Through this legislation, we could see many First Nations, Métis and Inuit applying to be self-reliant, so they can choose on their own what projects they will focus on in the communities that they represent.”
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer