Pierre Gratton is president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada.
Any government initiative with a $35-billion price tag is bound to drum up political debate, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) has been seeing its fair share. But I stand with the International Monetary Fund, Canadian and global business groups, and aboriginal organizations who say that the CIB, if well structured, is exactly what Canada needs to grow the economy over the long term. Bold action is needed to address an area that we’ve been failing at: constructing strategic, nation-building infrastructure.
Many of you are probably reading this on a digital device connected to wireless high-speed Internet. And I’ll assume that many of you are reading this at work, a place that you travelled to on roads, and that is powered by the electrical grid. Pretty mundane stuff, right? But it’s not if you’re living or working in remote and northern areas of Canada.
I should know. I represent a major Canadian industry whose opportunities for growth are increasingly in areas where infrastructure simply does not exist, or is severely lacking. As a direct result of this lack of infrastructure – power, ports, roads, telecommunications, you name it – it costs up to six times more to explore for minerals and metals in remote and northern Canada, and more than double to build and operate a mine in these regions compared with more southern areas of the country.
The mining industry, therefore, is a good case study on why the CIB needs to be established.
Let’s look at the example of Agnico Eagle Mine Ltd.’s Meadowbank gold mine, which has transformed Nunavut’s economy. The mine represents 15 per cent of the territory’s GDP, directly employs 300 Inuit employees at an average wage of $107,000 a year, and generates $280-million annually in local business procurement. The company also invests strongly in aboriginal skills training initiatives at more than $5-million a year.
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