Ottawa set to launch $1B initiative for Indigenous community projects


The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) is expected to launch a $1 billion infrastructure initiative on Friday to spur investment in First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities, CBC News has learned.

Ehren Cory, CEO of the Crown corporation, and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna will make an announcement later this morning during the online First Nations Major Projects Coalition Indigenous Sustainable Investment Conference.

The move comes one month after McKenna set a new target for CIB to invest at least $1 billion for revenue-generating projects that benefit Indigenous peoples. 

Loans of at least $5 million will become available, for up to 80 per cent of total project capital costs, to promote private investment in clean water, broadband, public transit, clean energy, trade and transportation projects. 

“This is about needs that are at the community level, well-understood and defined,” Cory said in an interview with CBC News.

“We come with a one tool and one solution, but we’re very humble about that. We think partnership is the key to this being successful.”

Needing to build

The initiative is a response to a long-standing request from several Indigenous groups.

Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations in northern British Columbia said he wants to build a solar farm, but it’s challenging to convince banks to lend since there isn’t private property ownership on reserve. 

“If we had a private investor, they may look at that as being risky because they wouldn’t be able to get their money out of the project if they wanted to sell it,” Willson said.

“Communities are needing to build things.”

The initiative aims to close the infrastructure gap in Indigenous communities, which is estimated to be between $25 billion and $30 billion in First Nations alone, according to the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. 

The $1 billion is part of the CIB’s $35 billion to help finance infrastructure needs and attract investment from private partners.

Jugs and boxes of water bottles stack the community centre of Neskantaga First Nation, which has been under a long-term boil water advisory for 26 years. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC) 2021-03-19 08:00:00


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