Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill S-5, Financial System Review Act, at third and final reading.
As members may recall from the second reading debate, today's bill is the result of the long established practice of reviewing legislation governing federally regulated financial institutions every five years. This practice sets Canada apart from almost every country in the world and ensures the safety and stability of Canada's financial system. This practice has also been praised as an important reason that Canada's financial system remains the soundest in the world.
Earlier this year, the independent Financial Stability Board praised this practice when it said:
...a review of all legislation to ensure that it is current, contributes to stability and growth of the financial sector and, by extension, allows Canada to remain a global leader in financial services.
The present five year review process began with an open and public consultation in September 2010 when all Canadians were invited to provide their views on how to best improve our financial system.
Before continuing today, I want to recognize and thank the members of the House finance committee for their timely review and support of today's legislation. During the committee's consideration, representatives of groups appeared, ranging from the Credit Union Central of Canada, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada and more. We thank all the witnesses before the committee for taking the time to appear and give their thoughts. I will note that the witnesses were united in their belief that keeping Canada's financial system safe and secure was a very important goal.
Without a doubt, Canada's financial system is important to our economy and jobs as well. In fact, it employs over 750,000 men and women in good, well paying jobs and represents about 7% of Canada's overall economy. What is more, Canada is a world leader in this field and a model for the world to look to, especially during the recent economic turbulence.
We did not nationalize, bail out or buy equity stakes in banks like the U.S., the U.K. and Europe. In the words of Constantine Passaris, professor of economics at the University of New Brunswick:
The Canadian way is to record our national achievements in a low-key and understated manner. There is one economic achievement however, that has made the world stand up and notice. Indeed, in this case, we cannot hide from the international spotlight and we can proudly accept the global applause for our Canadian banking system.
At the end of the day, Canadian banks proved resilient in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Furthermore, they remain solid financial institutions capable of serving as the catalyst for the economic recovery. Indeed, they are a global beacon and a role model for exemplary banking in the 21st century.
It is little wonder, then, that over the past four years the World Economic Forum has ranked our financial system as the soundest in the world. The financial system review act would help ensure Canada continues to have a financial system so safe and secure that it remains a model for other countries around the world.
As I mentioned earlier, in order to keep the legal framework of our financial system up to date, Canada reviews this legislation on a five year cycle. Ordinarily this review cycle is sufficient to keep pace with new developments. However, faced in 2008 with the deepest and most wide-reaching financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression, our Conservative government took more immediate action.
Between 2008 and 2011, we took important steps to make our financial system more stable, reduce systemic risks and ensure we had the flexibility and power to support financial institutions during a crisis. Our actions included enhancing the power of the Bank of Canada to provide liquidity to financial institutions, expanding the tools available to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation for resolving a troubled institution and taking proactive steps to protect and strengthen the Canadian housing market.
Our approach proved effective as the Canadian financial system remained a rock of stability through the global financial crisis and won international praise. In the words of the Irish Independent:
The Canadian system has won praise worldwide, with US President Barack Obama among its fans.
The Canadian system is undoubtedly an excellent model....
Our government has not been sitting on its hands. Instead, we have improved many key elements of our financial system and strengthened it by adding new tools. Therefore, it will not shock members to learn that, in public consultations done in advance of today's bill, most agreed that a major overhaul was not needed. That is why the financial system review act focused on minor yet significant refinements of the system, not a major overhaul.
I will briefly highlight one such key element in today's bill that has attracted some attention.
The financial crisis highlighted the importance of evaluating the overall size of financial institutions, their global linkages and the impact these factors have on financial stability, and the best interests of Canada's financial system. As a partial response to lessons learned, today's bill proposes to reinstate an existing ministerial approval for select foreign acquisitions of financial institutions.
I will provide historical background. In 1992, the government of the day amended the legislation to allow federally regulated financial institutions to own a foreign subsidiary or to hold a substantial investment in a foreign institution with the approval of the minister. In 2001, the requirement for ministerial approval and review by the Department of Finance was repealed and oversight was limited to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
However, since 2001, the global banking crisis has highlighted new risk factors that support greater oversight to keep our financial systems secure. As such, we are reinstating some of those historical oversight provisions that were repealed in early 2001. This would simply add ministerial approval if a federally regulated financial institution acquires a major foreign entity which increases its assets by more than 10%. The criteria that the minister could consider are hard-wired in the legislation, that being the stability and best interest of the financial sector. The timeline for approval is also hard-wired. The legislation requires the minister's consideration in 30 days or it would be deemed approved. In effect, the minister has 30 days to deny or ask for an extension. This would likely apply only rarely. In fact, since 2004, there have been only a small number of cases where the proposed legislation would have applied.
I would note that the reaction from academics, bankers and the Superintendent of Financial Institutions herself have been quite supportive of the provision. For instance, Michael King, professor of finance at the Ivey Business School said:
This kind of a rule is actually one of the reasons why Canadian banks weathered the crisis so well over the years.
Canadian banks have done well. And it’s helped the Canadian economy to have such stable banks.
Our Conservative government believes that modern and effective regulation is important for consumers and for a prosperous economy. By enacting the financial system review act, we will ensure that our financial system remains safe and secure. That is why I ask all members of this House to support Bill S-5.