Bank of Canada Review - Winter 2005-2006

BoC Review - Winter 2005-2006
Available as: PDF

Cover page

Silver Presentation Salver

The salver, which was bequeathed to the Bank of Canada by Lady Macmillan in 1967, is part of the artifact collection of the Bank of Canada Archives.
Photography by Mone Cheng, Innovacom, Ottawa.

December 22, 2005

70 Years of Central Banking: The Bank of Canada in an International Context, 1935–2005

Bordo and Redish examine the evolution of central banking over the past 70 years and identify periods where Canada was either a notable innovator with regard to central banking practices or appeared to be following a slightly different course. They note that global forces seemed to play an important role in determining inflation outcomes throughout the 70-year period, and that Canada and the United States experienced roughly similar inflation rates despite some important differences in their monetary policy regimes. Canada, for example, was comparatively late in establishing a central bank, launching the Bank of Canada long after most other industrial countries had one. Canada also operated under a flexible exchange rate through much of the Bretton Woods period, unlike any other country in the 1950s and early 1960s; adopted inflation targets well before most other central banks; and introduced a number of other innovative changes with regard to the implementation of monetary policy in the 1990s.
December 18, 2005

Free Banking and the Bank of Canada

Economists in the nineteenth century spent considerable time discussing the merits of a free-banking system, in which each commercial bank would be able to issue its own notes and deposits, subject to a convertibility requirement backed by its own gold reserves. Such a system, the proponents argued, would be able to deliver price-level stability yet be flexible enough to withstand the vicissitudes of the business cycle. Moreover, there would be no need for central banks. While this idea has received less attention in recent years, some economists still put it forward as a practical alternative to the current system. Laidler suggests that the centralizing tendencies in banking would inevitably undermine competition within a free-banking system, and lead to the natural emergence of one dominant bank. Other developments in the twentieth century, most notably the demise of the gold standard and widespread agreement that governments should play a determining role in setting monetary policy goals, have also limited the practicality of such a system. Laidler examines the Bank of Canada's history from the free-banking perspective and concludes that the current system of inflation targeting provides a much better anchor for orderly price-level behaviour than the free-banking system's convertibility could ever guarantee.
December 8, 2005

Towards a Made-in-Canada Monetary Policy: Closing the Circle

When the Bank of Canada was first established in 1935, it had two very different models to choose from—the Bank of England and the U.S. Federal Reserve—in terms of the instruments that it might use for implementing monetary policy. Although some aspects of the Bank's early monetary policy practices, including the role of discount facilities and moral suasion, reflect the British example, other important differences shaped a distinctly Canadian approach. Chant describes what he argues are distinctively Canadian innovations: the Bank's favoured means of managing chartered bank liquidity through transfers of government deposits, the adoption of lagged reserve requirements, and the two periods in which it decided to float the Bank Rate. He also describes the series of bold initiatives that were undertaken in the 1990s with regard to simplifying clearing and settlement procedures, reducing reserve requirements, and setting the Bank's target for the overnight rate. Chant suggests that these changes have improved market efficiency, reduced risk and uncertainty, and strengthened the Bank's influence over its short-term operating target.
December 2, 2005

From Flapper to Bluestocking: What Happened to the Young Woman of Wellington Street?

Helliwell traces the changes that have occurred at the Bank of Canada since the early 1960s, when he first began a long and extensive relationship with the institution and its staff. He begins with his work on the Royal Commission on Banking and Finance (the Porter Commission) and continues over the next 40 years, giving particular focus to the Bank's analytic and research activities. Although he is careful to note the benefits of alternative analytical and information-gathering techniques, such as the extensive mail and direct interview survey that he and his colleagues conducted as part of the Royal Commission, Helliwell devotes most of his attention to the Bank's econometric modelling efforts, starting with RDX1 and RDX2 in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He cites some of the internal, as well as external, obstacles that had to be overcome as the Bank's modelling efforts advanced, and how shifting trends in the economics profession have sometimes posed a challenge. Helliwell concludes that these developments helped the Bank to come of age and take its place in the front ranks of the world's evidence-based policy-research institutions.