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Politics Ottawa hires Metrolinx CEO to advise on Canada Infrastructure Bank

Bruce McQuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx, sits in the conductor's seat of one of the new GO trains that will added over the next two years.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Bruce McCuaig is leaving Metrolinx after more than six years as president and CEO to serve as executive adviser to the federal government as it prepares to launch a $35-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank.

The move is the second high-profile federal appointment to the Infrastructure Bank team, following the announcement last month that former Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan CEO Jim Leech will work as a senior adviser.

The federal government is planning to introduce legislation before the summer recess that would establish the bank, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants the institution in place before the end of the year.

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Ottawa has set aside $15-billion in federal funds for the bank over the next 11 years, plus an additional $20-billion in capital through equity or debt. The 2017 budget offered some additional detail on that federal funding. The $15-billion will be split evenly between public transit infrastructure, green infrastructure and trade and transportation projects.

Federal funding is not scheduled to start until the fiscal year that begins April 1, 2018.

Read more: The big money bets on a building boom The government's rationale for launching the bank is that it will be able to bring together various forms of capital – such as government funding, private investors and pension funds – to build large projects more quickly than would have been the case with government funding alone. The projects would be a variation of public-private partnerships, which are already widely used in Canada for infrastructure projects. Critics warn that such deals can sometimes come back to haunt future governments, such as the Ontario PC government's privatization of Highway 407 in 1999. The province sold the highway to investors for $3.1-billion and allows them to profit from toll collection for the following 99 years.

Part of the federal bank's role would be to offer a team of experts to government decision makers so that deals are negotiated in a way that protects the long-term interests of taxpayers.

As head of Metrolinx, the Ontario government agency that plans and runs transportation infrastructure in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Mr. McCuaig would be very familiar with the types of massive projects that would attract the interest of institutional investors and the new bank.

Metrolinx is responsible for the ambitious Regional Express Rail program to link GTA communities with high-frequency commuter rail. It is also managing the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit plan in Toronto and launched the UP Express rail link between Pearson International Airport and Toronto's Union Station.

"Metrolinx has been on a remarkable journey and I have enjoyed every moment of being part of this endeavour since I joined the corporation in September, 2010," Mr. McCuaig said in a statement to staff that was released to the media.

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Metrolinx Chair Robert Prichard said a search for Mr. McCuaig's replacement would begin immediately.

Raymond Rivet, a spokesperson for the Privy Council Office in Ottawa, said Mr. McCuaig will work with Mr. Leech and other officials at the PCO who are setting up the Infrastructure Bank.

"The government is pleased to have such a qualified individual involved in this important initiative," Mr. Rivet said in a statement.

The federal government is planning to conduct a public search for the bank's CEO. The government must also decide where to headquarter the bank. While the city of Ottawa would be an option, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary are also campaigning to host the bank.

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