The federal cabinet will be asked this week to consider Calgary as the home of the government's promised Canada Infrastructure Bank.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers are meeting in Calgary Monday and Tuesday for a two-day retreat to plan the government's 2017 agenda, which is expected to focus heavily on the Canada-U.S. relationship, boosting innovation and delivering on pledges to spend billions on major new infrastructure projects.
The Liberal government announced in November that it will launch a Canada Infrastructure Bank in 2017 that would have $35-billion to prioritize projects and pool public money with private cash from large institutional investors.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who is scheduled to meet with the ministers during the retreat, told The Globe and Mail that he is urging Ottawa to set up the bank in Calgary.
"You need innovative, creative financial thinking outside of the Bay Street bubble," said Mr. Nenshi in explaining his pitch for his city to play host to the bank. "All the world's global investment banks have locations in Calgary. Eight out of the 10 largest banks in the world have locations in Calgary and we do a lot of very creative things in finance."
This week's retreat follows Mr. Trudeau's decision to shuffle his cabinet this month with moves clearly aimed at preparing the government for the sweeping political change south of the border as Donald Trump begins his first term as President of the United States.
Renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement has been stated as a top priority of the new administration and Republicans in Washington are also calling for sweeping tax reform. Both issues carry major implications for Canada, given that the U.S. is Canada's largest trading partner by far. This month's cabinet shuffle saw veteran minister John McCallum leave cabinet to become Canada's ambassador to China, in a clear signal of the Liberal government's desire to expand its trading relationships beyond the U.S. market.
"We have to make sure that we have alternative trading relationships so that we can lessen our dependence on the United States," said Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who is co-chair of the Canada-U.S. interparliamentary group.
Mr. Easter said the federal government will need to keep a close eye on the evolving trade situation with the United States, as well as with Britain as it withdraws from the European Union.
"Our economy is very dependent on exports to the United States and elsewhere around the world," he said.
As for the infrastructure file, few details have been released on the shape of the infrastructure bank since it was announced in November by Finance Minister Bill Morneau. The goal is for the bank to be a centre of expertise for packaging the financing and management of projects in a way that will attract outside investment. Canadian and international pension funds are among the main targets.
Canada's big-city mayors met with Mr. Trudeau on Friday morning in Ottawa, where they made their pitch for the next federal budget to devote $12.6-billion for affordable housing. Municipalities also want the federal government to cover 50 per cent of the cost of major new infrastructure projects. The Liberal government has not yet agreed to such a plan but mayors said they felt positive after their discussions with Mr. Trudeau.
The Calgary retreat will be an opportunity for ministers to compare notes after a flurry of high-level international meetings over the past week. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, the retired lieutenant-general who was recently named to the cabinet committee on Canada-U.S. relations, were all in Washington to represent Canada at Mr. Trump's inauguration.
Meanwhile, Mr. Morneau attended the World Economic Forum in Davos last week with Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Treasury Board President Scott Brison, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Mr. Trudeau was originally expected to attend the Davos summit, but opted instead to hold a cross-country listening tour, where Canadians expressed a wide range of concerns including calls for the government to do more for veterans and First Nations.
The Liberal government had previously credited Mr. Trudeau's 2016 trip to Davos as a key opportunity for meeting with institutional investors who would be interested in partnering on major Canadian projects, possibly through the proposed infrastructure bank.