Anthony G. Ostler, President & CEO of the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), spoke at a CAFII Reception on 6 June, 2023, following the Association’s 2023 Annual Meeting of Members and first meeting of its newly appointed 2023-24 Board of Directors.
Mr. Ostler gave an overview of the key priorities of the Canadian banking sector, noting that Canada benefits greatly from a stable, innovative financial services environment.
He noted that the banking industry accounts for almost 4% of Canada’s GDP, employs nearly 300,000 Canadians, accounted for more than 10% of the country’s total corporate income tax in 2021, made annual dividend payments of more than $22 billion to millions of Canadians last year, and has extended $1.7 trillion in credit to Canadian businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises.
Mr. Ostler called out the tendency of the federal government to levy special taxes upon the banking and insurance sectors. Over the past year, he noted, the federal government has levied more than $9.4 billion in new taxes on banks and insurers. He emphasized that such special, additional taxes put those industries at a competitive disadvantage and run counter to prudent public policy, noting that “The cumulative impact of these discriminatory actions will deter the flow of capital into the financial system, resulting in slower growth, less job creation and diminished productivity.”
Climate change was another major theme Mr. Ostler highlighted, which he described as a very real crisis real that has produced complex challenges for society. He emphasized that Canada’s banks are committed to responding to this crisis, noting that they “are helping Canada realize its net-zero ambitions while also helping to meet interim energy demands in a volatile global context (…)”
Extending his message on the banking sector’s responsiveness, Mr. Ostler reported that Canada’s banks have continuously innovated, providing Canadians with extensive and trustworthy digital solutions. The sector has also made considerable investments in digitization to meet evolving consumer expectations. In that connection, however, Mr. Ostler expressed serious concerns about the lack of regulator scrutiny of non-bank payment service providers, an oversight gap which creates a material risk for the entire sector. Similarly, he also emphasized the importance of reviewing the reasoning behind creating a retail Central Bank Digital Currency, and questioned if such a currency is truly necessary.
Mr. Ostler concluded his remarks by underscoring the critical importance of the banking sector’s employees to its success and, in turn, to Canada’s success as a nation. He highlighted the sector’s related commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion so that all employees can thrive, noting that “Our industry has embraced action plans against systemic racism, exceeded benchmarks for women on boards and in executive positions, made meaningful progress on Indigenous reconciliation, and championed the rights of all Canadians.”