/Canada Infrastructure Bank says ‘organizational changes’ behind loss of second executive in matter of months

Canada Infrastructure Bank says ‘organizational changes’ behind loss of second executive in matter of months

OTTAWA — The head of project development at the $35-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank has left the organization, the second executive in a matter of months to depart from the Crown corporation amid criticism that it has been slow to approve new projects.

The CIB has confirmed that François Lecavalier, who led the bank’s project development strategy, is no longer with the corporation after roughly 12 months on the job. His departure, which has not been previously reported, comes after the bank’s former head of investments, Nicholas Hann, stepped down in July 2019 after just nine months in the position. Lecavalier officially left his role on Dec. 20.

Canada Infrastructure Bank spokesman Félix Corriveau said the executive’s departure was part of a streamlining effort undertaken by the bank, and stressed in an email that the move was “simply related to organizational changes.” A new corporate structure would “enable a better integration of our investment and advisory work,” he said.

Lecavalier’s departure could point to further turbulence within a Crown corporation that has been criticized for tardiness in getting funding out the door.

The CIB was established in June 2017 as part of a bid by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to maximize the flow of private capital into Canadian infrastructure projects. The bank has a mandate to spend $35-billion in taxpayer dollars over 10 years, largely on public transit projects, clean energy technology, telecommunications, and developments that expand Canada’s trade corridors.

The bank is part of the Trudeau’s broader $188-billion infrastructure spending program, promised during the 2015 election campaign as a way to jolt the faltering Canadian economy.

Months before the bank was officially established, former Infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi said it would give Canada the ability to build more “transformational” projects that generate real revenue.

But delays in bringing the bank online, and a perception by some that it has been slow in approving new projects, has led to criticism of the CIB. Those criticisms served to inflate other complaints about the early phase of the Trudeau spending plans, which had seen some delays in funneling money to lower orders of government.

We’ve achieved lift off

The bank has since approved eight projects worth $3.65 billion. Much of that funding went toward the GO Expansion rail project in the Greater Toronto Area, to which it committed up to $2 billion in funding, and to the Réseau express métropolitain rail project in Montreal, for which it provided $1.28 billion in low-interest loans.

The other five projects include advisory services, initial memorandums of understanding, and smaller-scale projects totaling $375 million in commitments.

“I think we can say we’ve achieved lift off and now, sky is the limit,” Corriveau said in an email.

The Réseau express métropolitain was criticized by some observers for simply replacing the $1.28 billion in funding that Ottawa had already promised. It also set the loan at well below market rates, beginning at just one per cent interest and rising to three per cent over 15 years.

The National Post could not immediately reach Lecavalier for comment. Lecavalier has 30 years of experience in the infrastructure industry, most recently as a senior vice-president at the Business Development Bank of Canada.

His role at the CIB was to provide advisory services and, among other things, “build and maintain a national inventory of new infrastructure projects,” according to a press release.

The bank said in an email the position was eliminated because Lecavalier’s role can now be covered by its new chief investment officer, John Casola. Casola replaced Hann last year, and has since taken over as head of investments.

In an interview with the National Post in August 2019, CIB CEO Pierre Lavallée disputed claims that the bank has been slow to approve projects. He argued that critics often overlook the unique complexity of major infrastructure developments, and cautioned against rushing commitments toward inherently risky ventures.

“I disagree that things have been slow, just to be blunt,” Lavallée said at the time. “I think we made a lot of progress in the first year. Generally speaking in infrastructure development, these projects take a long time to get together — they are very often very large, very complex, and require a lot of due diligence.”

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