Canadians as the Voice of Reason on Financial Regulation

From Chrystia Freeland’s book Plutocrats, pp. 216-217:

The self-interested, and ultimately self-destructive, herd mentality on Wall Street and the City of London shaped policy around the world, but it didn’t prevail everywhere. One exception was Canada. Canadian regulators required their banks to hold more capital and permitted less leverage than their peers in London and New York. The result was no bailout of the Canadian financial sector and a recession (and budget deficit) that were much softer than in the United States. To this day, the Bank of Canada divides the world in to “crisis economies,” which means those whose banks failed, and everyone else, like Canada. 

Ottawa chose a different course because the government had a profoundly different attitude about its duties toward the system as a whole and its relationship with its bankers. As minister of finance in the 1990’s, Paul Martin laid the foundations for this approach…. “I knew there was going to be a banking crisis at some point and so did everyone else who has read any history. I just wanted to be damn sure that when a crisis occurred it wouldn’t occur in Canada, and that if it did occur internationally, Canada’s banks wouldn’t be badly sideswiped by the contagion.” …

“I think one of the things that happened was the great competition between New York and London pushed the two into more of a light touch in terms of regulation,” Martin recalled. “I remember talking to [the regulator] and we agreed that we were not prepared to take that approach. Light-touch regulation in an industry that was so dependent on liquidity didn’t make any sense." 

One Bay Street financier summed it up more saltily: "Canadian regulators didn’t have penis envy." 

… A Canadian finance executive who spent the 1990’s in Toronto, then moved to Asia, and now lives in London sheepishly recalls thinking: "Come on, guys, get in the game! The world’s changing." 

Plutocrats, pp. 252-254:

… in the fall of 2011, [Mark] Carney [who is now making the transition from being head of the Bank of Canada to being head of the Bank of England] became a protagonist in a central battle between the plutocracy and the rest of us–a crucial fight over the regulatory power of the state. 

… Carney was tipped to become the next head of the Financial Stability Board, a body of international regulators that comes closest to being the world’s banking boss. The FSB’s big job at the moment is refining and implementing new international bank capital rules. These regulations, known as Basel III, have taken on particular importance because a lack of capital in many U.S. and European banks was a central cause of the 2008 financial meltdown. …

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, told Carney he thought the proposed Basel III rules were "cockamamie nonsense” In fact, the bank chief said, the rules ran counter to the national interest. “I have called it anti-American,” Dimon said, according to one participant. “The only reason I am calling it anti-American is because I am American. I also think it’s anti-European.” …

At first, Carney responded calmly: “I hear what you are saying. I don’t think it will surprise you that I am taking a different view. These are reasonable responses to the financial crisis.”