Documents show federal push for infrastructure bank to back Via project

OTTAWA — Federal officials are pushing the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to back Via Rail's high-frequency rail project.

The government's response to a written question from New Democrat Robert Aubin details the eight times between October and December 2018 that officials from the Finance Department met with the federal agency to make the business case on Via's behalf.

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The rail company wants to build a multibillion-dollar new network of dedicated passenger-rail lines in Ontario and Quebec, so its trains would no longer have to yield to freight trains on borrowed tracks.

The Finance Department told Aubin that a range of public-private models are still being assessed "with varying degrees of private sector investment."

Options include having a private partner help with designing and building the new lines, or a broader deal that would include financing, operating and maintenance agreements.

The Liberals created the infrastructure agency in 2017, hoping to use $35 billion in federal funding to pry three to four times that from the private sector to pay for new infrastructure projects that are in the public interest.

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