Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins answers a question during a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Wilkins, the second-in-command at the Bank of Canada says maintaining the independence of the central bank will be key to aiding the economy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Bank of Canada’s independence key to aiding post-COVID recovery, Wilkins says

The bank’s balance sheet has more than tripled from around $120 billion in early March

The Bank of Canada will need to maintain its independence to aid the economy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as the country’s debt levels rise, says the bank’s second-in-command.

In a speech on Monday, senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins detailed how the bank’s actions through the pandemic have been aimed at ensuring businesses and individuals can access lines of credit and short-term loans, and spur demand during an expected recovery through low interest rates.

The bank’s balance sheet has more than tripled from around $120 billion in early March before the shutdown, to around $385 billion as of last week as it purchases more federal and provincial bonds, effectively providing low-cost loans to finance government stimulus that federally stands at roughly $146 billion.

Wilkins said the financial risk to taxpayers is low because of restrictions around the bond purchase programs.

The country will be left with more public and private debt than before the pandemic forced a freeze on economic activity, she said.

“Whether it’s a risk of inflation or deflation, central bank credibility is critical,” she said in the text of her speech posted online by the bank.

“This requires keeping our eye on the ball in terms of our mandate and retaining the operational independence to achieve it.”

The question of keeping the bank free of political influence faced Finance Minister Bill Morneau last week when he unveiled the next governor, Tiff Macklem.

The Liberals and central bank have an “effectively working relationship,” Morneau said at the Friday press conference, adding the Liberals saw ”the independence of the Bank of Canada as critical” to the future of the economy.

Wilkins was considered a top candidate to replace outgoing governor Stephen Poloz, just as Macklem had been the favourite seven years ago when he was the bank’s No. 2 and Poloz got the top job.

READ MORE: 7.3M Canadians have received CERB, as wage subsidy pays salaries for another 1.7M: feds

The choice to appoint Macklem received praise in some quarters: private sector economists spoke highly of his skills and environment groups saw promise in his interest in the effects of climate change on the economy.

“Canada needed to move climate change to the front of the financial line, and with Tiff as incoming governor that need has been met,” said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

But there was criticism as well, including from some women’s groups who questioned why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government didn’t appoint Wilkins to head an institution that has never had a female governor.

“We made the determination on who would be the best to see us through this difficult time and seven years into the future as well, and I know that Tiff Macklem will do just that,” Trudeau said Monday outside his Ottawa residence.

The bank estimates that pandemic-related restrictions, which have closed non-essential businesses and led to more than seven million workers receiving federal aid, will result in a 15 to 30 per cent drop in gross domestic product for the second quarter from its level in late 2019.

Wilkins said the bank hasn’t published a full forecast because of the uncertainty about when restrictions will be lifted. There could also be other head winds slowing a recovery, she said, citing low oil prices.

“But even in a good scenario, lost output will be made up only gradually as containment measures are lifted, people return to work and production ramps up,” she said.

That level of uncertainty is why the Liberals have yet to introduce a budget, Trudeau said.

The government had pledged to introduce the spending blueprint at the end of March, but scuttled plans after MPs agreed to put the House of Commons on an extended hiatus as the pandemic took hold.

Trudeau said the Liberals are looking at when to present a budget or an economic update.

— With files from Mia Rabson

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronaviruseconomy

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

About one-sixth of students in School District 83 choose to ‘restart’ June 1

Superintendent of schools expects numbers may increase as word of safety protocols spreads

Drugs, machete found in truck with stolen plate driven by Salmon Arm man

Chase RCMP arrest driver and have vehicle towed

Column: Shuswap Emergency Program an important asset for region

Council Report by City of Salmon Arm Councillor Kevin Flynn

Trial of accused in Salmon Arm church shooting expected to be brief

Crown won’t dispute not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder defence

Okanagan home sales increase over last month, still below 2019 numbers: OMREB

Sales, listings see increase over May’s numbers but dwindle in comparison to 2019

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Princeton RCMP sergeant kills cougar threatening residential neighborhood

An RCMP officer shot and killed a cougar, close to a residential… Continue reading

Pilot project approved: Penticton to allow alcohol in outdoor spaces

For almost two hours, council debated the proposed pilot project, before eventually passing it 4-2

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Top cop calls video of Kelowna Mountie striking suspect ‘concerning’

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

HERGOTT: Can you get money back if COVID-19 disrupts plans?

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

Most Read