Finance minister Jim Flaherty has delivered what sounds suspiciously like an ultimatum to Canada’s banks, to lower lending rates and pump more consumer credit into the system.
It’s understandable enough, but it raises a couple of questions. What evidence does Ottawa have that the banks are refusing to make loans, at reasonable rates, to people who deserve them? And if the ultimatum is “lend or else…” the obvious question is “or else what?”
The banks are clearly approaching full-on rebellion at the Bank of Canada’s strategy to re-inflate the economy (refusing to pass on fthe full impact of interest rate cuts etc.), but it’s not clear how much leverage Ottawa has in this case. The banks are sitting back and refusing to do the things that got us into this mess in the first place. We’re going through a period in which credit is tight for very good reasons. We don’t want or need Ottawa pushing the banks to behave like Citigroup or worse, Wachovia.