Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill S-5, the financial system review act.
The bill has cleared the Senate and is now in the House. Some of my colleagues on the other side are asking why now and why so fast. It is not really fast. The consultation process started in September. We had to use that process to be able to get it to this place. Then we need to get it to committee and move it through so that it can actually be implemented by April of this year. That is very simple to understand.
We have a very strong and stable financial system in Canada. In fact, we came through the financial crisis with flying colours as a country, as did our financial institutions. Why? It is because we do these regular reviews. We ensured we made changes as we moved along and that nothing would be left on the back burner. We are actually moving forward and doing something with it to accommodate Canadians and their interests in the changing world in which we live.
Bill S-5 would make a number of improvements to key areas in the Canadian economy. The financial sector is very stable, and there are reasons for that. It is stable because of these mandatory reviews we are doing. It is also very big. We must realize that 750,000 people work in the system, all in well-paying jobs. It makes up about 7% of the GDP of this country. A lot is made up of the oil sands in my province, being 6% of the GDP in this country, and yet the financial institutions are larger than that and is doing very well.
The bill is not only big but also good. Why would it not be good when we have the number one Minister of Finance in all of the world? That is something that has never happened before to Canada. In fact, we are rated number one in the world in many different areas, especially in the field of financial management. In fact, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada as having the soundest banking system in the world. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review as the best country to do business with as we move forward. Bloomberg has recently listed our five big banking institutions in Canada as the world's strongest banks, more so than in any other country in the world.
There is a competitive environment in this place and opposition members do what opposition members do, they oppose.
I have a quote here from a past Liberal finance minister, the now president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, John Manley, who said:
Our financial system and institutions were tested during the financial crisis and have proved sound. Canada’s banking system is now widely viewed as the most stable and efficient in the world.
That is high praise from a former opposition individual who knows the financial system very well.
Last month, an independent financial stability board appeal review praised the government's swift and effective response to the global financial crisis. We did come through it quite well. In its review, it highlighted the resilience of the financial system that we have as a model for other countries to follow. As Canadians, we should be proud of that.
We must realize that as we went through the financial crisis in Europe there were many problems with a lot of the banks there, as well as south of the border in the United States. If we compare ourselves to our number one trading partner, there was a meltdown of the financial systems. Not one of the financial institutions in Canada failed. Not one failed or required direct government support in the form of cash injections or debt guarantees during the global financial crisis. That is something that did not and does not happen by accident. It happened because there was good management of the Canadian financial systems and it is directly related to what we are doing here today with this legislation.
In fact, the report stated:
This resilience, which was achieved in spite of Canada’s relatively complex regulatory structure, highlights a number of key lessons for other jurisdictions.
What are those lessons that Canada can teach other jurisdictions? The first is to be proactive with targeted macroeconomic policies supported by adequate fiscal space and flexible exchange rates that will help absorb the external shocks.
The second is a prudent banking system management so that we do not become over-leveraged, as has happened in Europe, the United States and other banking systems and sectors. This is particularly important if we are to go through a crisis, such as what is happening around the world. We hope that we are through it now and that we will not revisit it, although what is happening around the world should make us a bit cautious, particularly the debt crisis in Europe and perhaps some overspending in the United States that could impact us in years to come.
The third thing is the comprehensive regulatory supervisory framework that effectively addresses the domestic prudent concerns including, when necessary, adopting regulatory policies that go beyond the international minimum standards.
Those are three lessons that other jurisdictions can learn from.
As the board noted, since 2008, the Conservative government has taken significant steps to make our financial system more stable and to reduce systematic risk to Canadians and to the system. In fact, the first thing we did in the 2008 budget was to modernize the authorities of the Bank of Canada to support the stability of the financial system.
We came through it in glowing fashion, as far as our financial institutions, but in budget 2009 we suggested other changes. Just in case we were to run into problems with our banking system, we wanted to ensure we were able to capitalize our banks so that they would not go into receivership. This is very important. What it really allowed for was, if there was an injection needed into our banking system to sustain it, the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation would have the flexibility to do that. That is actually a very wise thing. We did not need it, thankfully, and, hopefully, we never will. A bridging institution was what we needed. In banking terms it is called a bridged bank. Bill S-5 includes a number of technical refinements to ensure that the efficient implementation of those bridged bank tools are there.
Budget 2011 also announced our government's intention to establish a legislative framework for covered bonds, which are debt instruments secured by high quality assets, such as residential mortgages. This bill would make it easier for Canadian financial institutions to assess the low cost sources of funding and help to create a robust market for covered bonds in Canada.
Let us look ahead. We have this five year review. It is very important that we do this review, mainly adding to some of the changes that we have made over the last number of years, chiefly technical. One of the changes that would actually make it a little stronger goes back to one of the changes that was made by Liberals in 2001. It would back that off so that any bank that invests in more than 10%--