There are three central loan agencies in Canada: the CRTC, the BMO, and the BIS.
All three of these agencies have been around for decades and are well-respected for their service.
But now, they’re being forced to close their doors.
“In recent years, the central banks of Canada have been struggling to manage the growing costs of inflation and the growing reliance on the public to provide their support to the banks,” explains Mark Toner, director of policy analysis at the Centre for Automotive Research.
“The cost of servicing a central bank’s obligations is rising, and there are no obvious options to mitigate the growing burden on the financial system.
The CRTC has become increasingly important in this environment.”
The CRtc’s chief financial officer, John Gagnon, has been under fire in recent months for failing to take advantage of a key opportunity: the ability to buy shares of central banks that have historically been able to borrow cheaply.
The central banks now have the ability — in theory, at least — to buy these shares, which will give them a substantial advantage over other lenders.
But there are some significant hurdles that must be overcome before they can buy the shares.
“One of the problems is that there are very few central banks in Canada that have been able in recent years to buy the stocks of the banks that the central bankers have had access to,” says Toner.
“And, the CRT has had very limited experience with the purchase of stocks from other central banks.
The only other central bank that has been able, in recent times, to buy stocks from the banks was the Bank of Canada.
So that has really limited the ability of the CRTs to acquire these stocks.”
There are other hurdles, too, for the CRTA to buy from the BOS, which has the same issues with the ability for the BMA to buy.
“There are a number of other issues that need to be addressed,” says the CRTD.
“That is, the price of the shares needs to be relatively high enough that the BBO can buy them, and it needs to also be relatively inexpensive.
And the BCO needs to have a significant presence in the market.
And it needs some support from the central bank to be able to operate.
The problem with that is that they are not in a position to do that.”
Toner notes that some of the central banking agencies are also struggling with inflationary pressures in their portfolios.
“As the cost of financing their debt service increases, and as the cost for servicing their mortgage-backed securities and other debt service is also increasing, there is also the prospect that their portfolios will become increasingly over-capitalized and riskier,” he says.
“So that is a problem for the central planners, and a problem that the federal government has been trying to address.”
The problem is that the CRTB, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Bank of Nova Scotia are all struggling with this.
In a recent interview, chief executive officer John F. Gagnone described the problem as a combination of over-extension, too much debt, and under-extent of their capacity to manage their portfolios, and said they have no choice but to cut back on their lending capacity.
“We have a very limited ability to raise capital on our own,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the problem is the BBA cannot raise capital at all.”
And this year, the government has imposed a new tax on bank lending that will take effect Jan. 1.
In response, the banks have taken measures to limit their lending.
But the BSO is currently facing the threat of a government takeover of its business, which could result in the banks’ debt being written off.
“When a government takes over a bank, there are a lot of unintended consequences, including the potential for a change in regulatory standards, for example,” says Tom Fenton, director at the Tax Foundation.
“It is very difficult to anticipate all the possible consequences of that.
But it does give the regulator a great opportunity to limit the exposure to risks that are occurring, to limit losses that are taking place, and to limit other things that might affect the bank’s ability to operate.”
The Bank of Montreal is currently one of the biggest beneficiaries of these new tax measures, as the new legislation will allow it to deduct some of its losses from its capital-raising costs.
But Fenton warns that the tax measures also limit the ability banks to borrow and increase the cost to the BMM, and that will likely have a negative impact on its ability to continue to lend.
“They’re going to have to make some adjustments,” says Fenton.
“But the BPM has to make the most of this opportunity to make adjustments.”
The BMO has been struggling for years with a shortage of funds and, in particular, debt.
In 2016, it reported a net loss of $3.3 billion