Canada's economy the envy of the world

Canada's economic system seems to work now, via AP:


The 20 world leaders at an economic summit in Toronto next weekend will find themselves in a country that has avoided a banking crisis where others have floundered, and whose economy grew at a 6.1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. The housing market is hot and three-quarters of the 400,000 jobs lost during the recession have been recovered.

World leaders have noticed: President Barack Obama says the U.S. should take note of Canada's banking system, and Britain's Treasury chief is looking to emulate the Ottawa way on cutting deficits.

The banks are stable because, in part, they're more regulated. As the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries over the last 15 years, Canada refused to do so. The banks also aren't as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.


There was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don't package mortgages and sell them to the private market, so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.

In Canada's concentrated banking system, five major banks dominate the market and regulators know each of the top bank executives personally.

"Our banks were just better managed and we had better regulation," says former Prime Minister Paul Martin, the man credited with killing off a massive government deficit in the 1990s when he was finance minister, leading to 12 straight years of budget surpluses.

But it is recovering from the recession faster than others, and although its deficit is currently at a record high, the International Monetary Fund expects Canada to be the only one of the seven major industrialized democracies to return to surplus by 2015.

This month Canada became the first among them to raise interest rates since the global financial crisis began.

"The rest of the world certainly thinks we're the model to follow," said Martin, who was prime minister from 2003 to 2006. "I've been asked by a lot of countries as to how to go about it."

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