The Canada Infrastructure Bank will advise proponents of a plan to bring hydroelectricity and broadband internet from northern Manitoba to several communities in Nunavut.
Known as the Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link project, it would lead to the construction of a 1,200-kilometre, 150-megawatt transmission line joining Gillam, Man., to four Nunavut communities on the northwestern shore of Hudson Bay, as well as inland to Baker Lake. The project would also include a fibre-optic link, bringing broadband internet to the region.
Proponents say the project would bring environmental benefits by replacing diesel power, while also supporting Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.'s gold mining activity in the region.
Infrastructure Bank chief executive Pierre Lavallée announced on Wednesday that the bank has signed a memorandum of understanding to provide an advisory role for the proponents.
The proponents include the Kivalliq Inuit Association and its business arm, Sakku Investments Corp., as well as Anbaric Development Partners, which includes Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
The federal government announced $1.6-million in February, 2019, for a two-year technical and feasibility study. The project is still in the review phase and the proponents have not yet pledged their full support for construction.
In an interview, Mr. Lavallée said his team will analyze the various options for funding the project and help the proponents get a better understanding of the regulatory issues involved, such as environmental assessments. He said it is “absolutely” possible that the bank could ultimately decide to invest in the project directly, in addition to providing advice.
“We are very open-minded at this stage as to the various financing options,” he said.
The proposed project is estimated to cost $1.6-billion. It promises to cut the region’s energy costs in half and increase internet download speeds by 3,000 per cent.
Created in 2017 with a 10-year budget of $35-billion, the bank has a mandate to encourage institutional investors such as pension funds to invest in Canadian infrastructure projects that generate revenue and that are in the public interest.
It also has a mandate to become a centre of expertise that other levels of government can rely on for advice on structuring projects with outside investors.
The project is the ninth to receive some form of support from the bank and the second one that involves a Canadian pension fund. The first is the bank’s partnership with Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec to build a new light-rail line in Montreal.
“I’m really happy that Ontario Teachers’ is part of this partnership and I think it is a sign of good things to come – hopefully more with Ontario Teachers’ – but also with other pension plans across the country, as well as international investors, who are looking at Canada with very favourable lenses and are looking for opportunities to invest in new infrastructure developments," Mr. Lavallée said.
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