'Traditional Bay Street thinking': Calgary mayor pans decision to put infrastructure bank in Toronto

Calgary business leaders and the mayor are disappointed by Ottawa’s decision to locate the new federal infrastructure bank in Toronto despite a hard lobbying push.

Naheed Nenshi says Ottawa passed up chance for more cost-effective, innovative institution

Officials in Calgary, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, were hopeful Ottawa would choose to locate its new infrastructure bank in the oil and gas capital rather than in Toronto. (CBC)

Calgary business leaders and the mayor are disappointed by Ottawa's decision to locate the new federal infrastructure bank in Toronto.

Officials in city lobbied hard to try to convince the government not to set up the new institution in the country's financial capital and choose Calgary instead.

The infrastructure bank will take $35 billion in government funding and leverage it to attract private investment in projects such as public transit, highways and electrical grids. 

Calgary Economic Development CEO Mary Moran says in the end, the federal Liberals weren't swayed by her pitch that the bank would have a greater impact out west.

"As I said to Ottawa, I said, 'Believe me, if you announce this in Calgary there'll be a ticker-tape parade. If you announce it in Toronto, nobody will really care," she said.

"We were encouraging the federal government to do something that wasn't kind of predictable and political, and wasn't as vanilla as the outcome was."

The federal government says putting the bank in Toronto will give its members easy access to investors and the right expertise in the city's financial district.

'Bad decision'

Mayor Naheed Nenshi argues Toronto is not a cost-effective location.

"I think this is a bad decision. I think it's going to mean the infrastructure bank's overhead is going to be more expensive being in Toronto," he said.

"And I think it's going to be difficult for the infrastructure bank to be creative and innovative, when it's surrounded by traditional Bay Street thinking."

The government expects the agency to be up and running by the end of the year.

Ottawa predicts it can leverage three or four times the federal investment in private dollars for projects in three key areas: trade corridors, green infrastructure and public transit.

Any project selected for the bank would have to generate revenue and be in the public interest.