Montreal Air-Rail Link eyed by Canada’s Pension Fund

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CANADA: Country’s leading pension and insurance fund La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has announced an agreement with the Québec government for the execution of major infrastructure projects.

Under the terms of the agreement, the government will identify projects that may present an interest for la Caisse. Assuming this interest is confirmed, la Caisse will become responsible for project planning, financing, development and operation.

“Infrastructure has been central to our investment strategy for several years,” said Michael Sabia, President and CEO of la Caisse. “Our clients look for tangible projects that generate stable, predictable returns. Infrastructure is perfectly aligned with their long-term goals.

“Today’s agreement will allow us to increase our exposure to infrastructure while concretely putting our expertise to work for Québec’s economy,” Mr. Sabia continued. “These investments will generate returns that help to secure Quebecers’ retirement for the future. It’s a win-win partnership that benefits everyone.”

The launch of this business model depends upon the adoption of legislative amendments allowing for, among other things, the creation of a new infrastructure subsidiary for la Caisse. The Québec government has committed to introduce these amendments to the National Assembly as soon as possible.

TARGETED PROJECTS

While the agreement announced today does not limit the scope of projects that can be carried out by la Caisse, two projects have been identified as priorities:

  • A public transit system on Montréal’s new Champlain Bridge; and
  • A public transit system linking downtown Montréal to the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport and the West Island.

According to preliminary studies commissioned by the Québec government, these projects are expected to require financing of approximately CA$5 billion.

Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) enthusiastically welcomed the announcement that priority is being given to a public-transit system linking downtown Montréal, Montréal–Trudeau International Airport and the West Island, - "a project in which the airport authority has invested significant effort for more than a decade and that is absolutely essential to the future of airport operations and the development of air services in Montréal," ADM said in a press release.

Montreal Airport Future Rail Station Panorama

ADM has already built a dedicated space for future airport rail link station, located under the main terminal building. 

Based on its international experience, la Caisse is aiming to complete both projects by the end of 2020 at the latest. In addition to the timely adoption of legislative amendments allowing for the creation of its new subsidiary, achieving this objective will depend on the efficient delivery of permits and other required authorizations.

A NEW MODEL FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

Assuming it is approved by the Québec National Assembly, this new business model will see the government select infrastructure projects that could be executed by la Caisse, set broad guidelines, and make the final decision to go ahead with projects on the basis of options proposed by la Caisse.

It is understood that la Caisse will only assume responsibility for projects that have the potential to generate commercial returns that serve the interests of its clients, that is, all Quebecers who save for retirement. An independent financial expert will certify that la Caisse’s returns are in line with market standards for comparable projects.

All infrastructure projects covered by the agreement will be financed by equity investment and long-term debt. Insofar as la Caisse assumes ownership and control of a project, the impact of such infrastructure projects on public finances is significantly reduced, because the project is excluded from the government’s balance sheet. Only the government’s financial contribution, if any, would be included on its balance sheet.

All projects executed under this agreement will involve the following three stages:

  • Planning and solution development;
  • Review and approval; and
  • Project execution.

For every project, la Caisse will co-ordinate calls for tender. As controlling shareholder, la Caisse will encourage vigorous competition to control costs and access optimal solutions. Bidders for contracts worth CA$5 million or more will have to be qualified as such by the Autorité des marchés financiers. An independent auditor will also review the integrity of the tendering process.

“Throughout the process, our work will be guided by three principles. Efficiency: because we intend to deliver on time and on budget. Transparency: because public trust is a key ingredient for success. Collaboration: because we know that the government of Québec, municipalities, metropolitan communities and transportation authorities all have critical roles to play at every step of the process,” said Mr. Sabia.

Montreal Airport Bus

Curently the airport has a dedicated express bus link