CIB makes billion-dollar move to spur private investment in First Nations infrastructure

As part of the federal government's efforts to end longstanding drinking water advisories on First Nations in Manitoba, Parkwest Projects was contracted to construct the brand new water treatment plant for Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation in 2020. Photo Credit: Parkwest Projects

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) has launched the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Initiative, which plans to invest at least $1 billion to support access to capital for infrastructure projects in First Nation communities.

CIB — an arms-length Crown Corporation that uses federal support to attract private sector and institutional investment — will customize low-interest and long-term financing to provide loans of at least $5 million for up to 80% of total project capital cost to spur investment from the private sector.

CIB says it wants to close the infrastructure funding gap of some $30 billion for First Nations, while helping to create revenue-generating projects that benefit Indigenous peoples. The money could fund projects for clean water, broadband, public transit, clean energy, trade and transportationand green infrastructure.

Last month, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Catherine McKenna, issued a Statement of Priorities and Accountabilities to the CIB with the $1 billion target.

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“We have a huge opportunity to work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities to get important infrastructure built which benefits their communities economically, creates jobs and addresses the Indigenous infrastructure deficit,” McKenna announced in a statement. “That’s why I set a new target for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to invest at least $1 billion in revenue-generating infrastructure projects in partnership with and that benefit Indigenous peoples. I am very pleased that as part of this initiative, the CIB will advance smaller-scale projects and will drive progress towards that target,” added McKenna.

McKenna’s statement to the CIB said that new investment could advance Indigenous reconciliation and urgently address the Indigenous infrastructure deficit through advancements in priority areas such as green infrastructure. Green infrastructure, she noted, could include energy efficient building retrofits, and water and wastewater projects with a long-term target of $5 billion in investments.

The CIB announcement comes on the heels of the federal government’s acknowledgment that it would miss the March 2021 target for ending long-term water advisories on First Nations reserves.

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