On Monday, the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), which invests (and seeks to attract private investment) in complex and innovative infrastructure in the public interest on behalf of the Canadian Parliament, announced the first financial closing of a project under an ambitious, infrastructure-driven Growth Plan announced earlier this fall.
The target of CIB’s first major investment isn’t a bridge, highway or pipeline project, but, instead, a pioneering agriculture initiative (the Alberta Irrigation Initiative), for which CIB will partner with the provincial government of Alberta and eight irrigation districts.
CIB will invest C$407.5 million in the project, Alberta’s government will contribute another $244.5 million and the eight local irrigation districts will contribute a combined $163 million to build modern irrigation infrastructure and significantly expand irrigable land opportunities.
Alberta, which is home to more than 1.4 million irrigated land acres, relies heavily on the irrigation industry, which contributes close to $3.6 billion each year to Alberta’s GDP, or 20 percent of its total agri-food sector GDP, all generated on less than 5 percent of its cultivated land base.
The irrigation industry itself is also a major job creator, supporting about 56,000 jobs in Alberta and generating $2.4 billion in annual labor income for the province. Monday’s announcement marks the single largest irrigation expansion in Alberta’s history, aimed at growing the provincial economy and creating more irrigation sector jobs.
In October, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s Growth Plan, a $10 billion commitment to new major infrastructure initiatives aimed at job creation, economic growth and energy decarbonization in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
The three-year plan is expected to create 60,000 jobs nationwide, connect more households and small businesses to high-speed internet, strengthen Canadian agriculture, and help build a low-carbon economy.
Spending for the $10 billion Growth Plan has been earmarked across five major initiatives:
- $2.5 billion for clean power to support renewable generation and storage and to transmit clean electricity between provinces, territories, and regions, including to northern and Indigenous communities.
- $2 billion to connect approximately 750,000 homes and small businesses to broadband in underserved communities, so that Canadians can better participate in the digital economy.
- $2 billion to invest in large-scale building retrofits to increase energy efficiency and help make communities more sustainable.
- $1.5 billion for agriculture irrigation projects to help the agriculture sector enhance production, strengthen Canada’s food security, and expand export opportunities.
- $1.5 billion to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission buses and charging infrastructure, so Canadians can have cleaner commutes.
CIB will also allocate $500 million for project development and early construction works to accelerate the projects in which it plans to invest.
The $10 billion post-covid Growth Plan is part of a larger, $35 billion mandate to CIB to support Canada infrastructure projects by attracting private sector and institutional investment to build sustainable infrastructure projects that are in the public interest
“Canada’s infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country, and builds stronger communities,” said Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, upon the Growth Plan’s launch earlier this fall. “The Canada Infrastructure Bank is critical to expanding Canada’s ambition by bringing in the private sector to get more infrastructure built.”
Canada has also taken swift and decisive action to deliver high-speed Internet access to Canadians in rural and remote communities since the onset of covid-19. Earlier this month, the Government announced the first project — again, in the province of Alberta — to be funded under the Canadian Universal Broadband Fund’s (UBF) Rapid Response Stream to address the rural-urban broadband disparity.
Under the $1.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund launched in November, a special Rapid Response Stream of accelerated funding was designated, which makes up to $150 million immediately available for shovel-ready projects that can be completed by November 2021. The UBF will also allocate $50 million of its total budget for mobile Internet projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples.
Since that announcement in November, multiple provinces have highlighted allocations under UBF to improve connectivity. Quebec Lieutenant, the Hon. Pablo Rodriguez announced a $600 million agreement with Canadian satellite company Telesat (the world’s fourth largest satellite operator) to secure low-earth-orbit satellite capacity for better connectivity and expanded Internet coverage to rural and remote regions. In Quebec alone, the Canadian Government has invested nearly $214 million across 54 projects to connect more households to broadband.
Projects funded under the UBF, which was announced in 2019 but has received additional funding and acceleration under the CIB Growth Plan, are aimed at achieving high-speed broadband connectivity (defined as at least 50 megabits per second download speeds and 10 megabit per second upload speeds, regardless of location) for 98 percent of the Canadian populace by 2026, and 100 percent by 2030.