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With a new leader in place, the Canada Infrastructure Bank is out of excuses

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“I speak both languages,” Vrooman said in a separate interview, referring to her experience in both the public and private sectors. “There’s a clear plan in place. There’s a CEO with experience. We’re well-positioned to execute.”

CIB’s initial plan was less than clear. In effect, McKenna inherited a beta version of a new Crown corporation that was not ready for prime time, so part of the former environment minister’s new job became fixing the infrastructure bank.

McKenna and her staff looked at governance, wondering if operational bugs were impeding performance. She recruited Sabia, who had retired from the Caisse after turning it into one of the world’s biggest and most-respected pension funds, to put the weight of his reputation behind an overhaul of CIB’s mission. Finally, in October, Ehren Cory, the well-regarded head of Infrastructure Ontario, was drafted to execute a new game plan.

“After a slow start, things have picked up,” Vrooman said. “Focus is key.”

There’s a clear plan in place. There’s a CEO with experience. We’re well-positioned to execute

High expectations explain some of the negativity that now hangs over CIB. As Vrooman said, “everyone wants infrastructure yesterday.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did too little to explain to the public that it takes time to build new Crown corporations from scratch, which was a costly mistake. CIB emerged as a political liability, an example of Trudeau’s alleged weakness as a manager.

The Conservatives promised during the 2019 election campaign to kill the infrastructure bank, a pledge that helped them win the most votes, although not the most seats. The political controversy probably made it even harder to get money out the door, as it’s unlikely investors were keen to partner with an institution that was only an election away from death.

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