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Ten directors named to new Canada Infrastructure Bank, including some with Liberal connections

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 15, 2017.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government has named 10 individuals to the board of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank, including some with Liberal connections.

The government noted that the appointments include an equal number of men and women and "reflect Canada's linguistic, cultural, and regional diversity."

The backgrounds of board members are primarily focused in areas of large infrastructure developments and investment management, particularly public pensions. The list includes James Cherry, the former president and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal, who has previously advocated for airport privatization.

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The federal Liberal government has contracted studies on the merits of fully privatizing Canada's airports, but the issue has been the subject of extensive internal debate and no decisions have been announced.

The goal of the infrastructure bank is to attract large institutional investors – such as pension funds – to partner with the federal government in building new, revenue-generating infrastructure. Pension fund executives have said they are more interested in purchasing infrastructure that has already been built – such as airports – but have expressed openness to working with the bank on new projects.

Legislation creating the bank faced scrutiny in Parliament earlier this year over whether or not its management would have enough independence from political decision makers.

Some of the board members announced Thursday have connections to the Liberal Party. David Bronconnier, a former municipal politician who was mayor of Calgary from 2001 to 2010, ran for the federal Liberals in the 1997 federal election. He lost to the Reform Party's Rob Anders in the riding of Calgary West.

Kim Baird, a former chief of B.C.'s Tsawwassen First Nation, has previously donated to the B.C. Liberal Party and is currently registered to lobby the federal government – including Infrastructure Canada – on behalf of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. The lobbyist registry states that part of Ms. Baird's work includes advocating for a natural gas project.

The B.C. Liberal Party tends to attract support from both federal Liberals and Conservatives. Ms. Baird also spoke at a 2014 town hall event organized by the Vancouver East federal Liberal riding association.

Ms. Baird was the subject of controversy in 2016, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government named her to a three-person panel to review the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Critics said her lobbying work and past ties to Kinder Morgan Canada via an executive exchange program placed her in a conflict of interest.

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Other board members announced Thursday include Vancouver lawyer Jane Bird, who led the development and construction of the city's Canada Line rapid transit project; Michèle Colpron, an international finance executive who has previously held senior positions with the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, as well as overseas banks as chief financial officer of both Merrill Lynch Bank (Suisse) S.A. and Standard Chartered Bank (Switzerland) S.A.; former public pension executive Bruno Guilmette, who managed infrastructure files for the federal Public Sector Pension Investment Board and the Caisse; Christopher Hickman, chairman and CEO of Marco Group of Companies; Osgood Hall Law School professor Poonam Puri, who was recently voted as one of Canada's top 25 lawyers and focuses on corporate governance and accountability issues; First National Financial LP chief executive officer Stephen Smith, who is also a former board member of Metrolinx Inc.; and former SaskPower president and CEO Patricia Youzwa.

Both Mr. Cherry and Mr. Hickman have made political contributions to both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party.

The bank is not yet operational but Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi has said he expects to launch before the end of the year. The board is led by Janice Fukakusa, who was appointed in July.

The position of president and CEO has not yet been filled.

With files from Chris Hannay

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