Ontario launching infrastructure bank with $3B in public funding

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The Canadian Press

Ontario is proposing to launch its own infrastructure bank – with an initial $3 billion in public

funding – in order to help foot the bill for long-term care homes and transportation projects, as slowing economic growth has the province sinking deeper into the red.

The Ontario Infrastructure Bank, announced Thursday in the province’s fall economic statement, would be an arms-length agency enabling pension plans and other institutional investors to help fund what the province says is an infrastructure deficit.

The bank would reduce risk associated with complex, long-term projects and provide more flexible financing terms for investors, the government said. It would also reduce the amount of borrowing required by the government for those projects, therefore reducing spending on servicing debt.

“Following in the steps of many other jurisdictions around the world with similar entities, the bank will attract trusted institutional investors to help finance essential infrastructure that would not otherwise get built,” Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said Thursday.

“Canada is renowned for one of the strongest pension systems in the world, including the Maple Eight, the largest funds in Canada and some of the most influential investors in the world. We’ve heard from these funds that they are looking for more opportunities to invest workers’ savings in Canada.”

The Progressive Conservative government plans to spend $185 billion in the next 10 years on building infrastructure such as roads, transit and hospitals. The infrastructure bank will initially focus on long-term care homes, energy infrastructure, affordable housing, transportation and community infrastructure, the government said.

The bank is the biggest-ticket item in the province’s fall economic statement tabled Thursday by Bethlenfalvy.

The fiscal update also shows a larger deficit for this fiscal year, and has the province delaying its path to balance by a year.

The spring budget projected a $1.3-billion deficit this year, then getting to balance in 2024-25 with a small surplus, but Thursday’s update has Ontario $5.6 billion in the red this year and with a $5.3-billion deficit next year, followed by a small surplus in 2025-26.

The government said the revision is due to slower economic growth leading to smaller revenues, while the province is also adding $2.5 billion to its contingency fund for this year, bringing the total to $5.4 billion, to mitigate near-term economic risks.

“High inflation and the Bank of Canada’s rapid interest rate increases are weighing on Ontario’s outlook for the remainder of this year, and into the next,” Bethlenfalvy said.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the recent horrific terrorist attack against Israel, means continued heightened geopolitical uncertainty.”

The net-debt-to-GDP ratio is now forecast to be 38.4 per cent this year, up from the 37.8 per cent projected in the spring budget.

Ontario also announced through the fall economic statement that it is adding $100 million to its Invest Ontario Fund, intended to attract businesses particularly in advanced manufacturing, technology and life sciences, for a total of $500 million.

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