Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Trudeau Pours Cold Water on Canadian Airport Sales Prospects

  • Prime minister says selling airports is ‘easy, quick’ answer
  • Preference is to get outside capital to fund new projects

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s more interested in attracting outside capital through his proposed infrastructure bank than selling off the nation’s airports to fund the construction of new roads, hospitals, and other projects.

"The fact is that’s always one of the easy, quick things people jump to," Trudeau said in an interview with Bloomberg News in Toronto, when asked about the prospect of privatizing the nation’s airports. "I’m interested in other things than that."

The Trudeau government said in September it had hired Credit Suisse Group AG to look at the benefits of privatizing the country’s eight largest airports, including in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and elsewhere. It has yet to make the findings of the report public.

Read more from Trudeau’s chat with Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait

Several big investors -- from Canadian pension funds to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. -- have said they would prefer to buy mature assets than fund the development of new infrastructure projects. Sam Pollock, the head of Brookfield’s infrastructure group, said in an interview last month there would be a "feeding frenzy" if the airports went up for sale.

Trudeau appeared to throw cold water on the prospect.

"I’m interested in actually drawing in fresh capital to build new things," he said.

The federal government continues to study the issue and no decision has been made on whether to proceed, Delphine Denis, press secretary to Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, said in an email.

Trudeau’s first budget pledged to provide “immediate” help to the economy through infrastructure spending. He’s found it challenging to spend the C$13.6 billion ($10 billion) allocated for his first two fiscal years. As of last month, less than 3 percent of the projects approved since June have officially broken ground, though updates on start times are subject to a sizable lag, according to Infrastructure Canada.

— With assistance by Luke Kawa

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