Ottawa to buy $50B in mortgages, hopes to spur loans

November 12 2008

The federal government is purchasing another $50 billion in residential mortgages to further stabilize the lending industry and encourage lower interest rates, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced Wednesday.

The Canadian economy has stalled and is on the brink of a recession. The government hopes that its cash injection will keep consumers spending and keep businesses afloat.

The announcement follows a similar move last month in which Ottawa bought $25 billion in mortgages.

The combined mortgage debt, both purchased through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), will bring the maximum value of bought securities to $75 billion.

“At a time of considerable uncertainty in global financial markets, this action will provide Canada’s financial institutions with significant and stable access to longer-term funding,” Flaherty said at a press conference in Toronto.

“This extension of the program to purchase insured mortgages will further support the availability of credit, which will benefit Canadian households, businesses and the economy.

“In addition, it will earn a modest rate of return for the Government with no additional risk to the taxpayer.”

Flaherty said the government “will not allow Canada’s financial system, which has been ranked as the soundest in the world, to be put at risk by global events.”

Patrick Grady of Global Economics LTD told CTV News, “the banking system would weather this storm whether the government provided assistance or not. But what it would do is cut back on loans it made.”

Will the move help average Canadians?

It is hoped that the announcement will be a boon to entrepreneurs like Joseph Saikely, the owner of an upscale hair salon in Ottawa.

He said despite the economic downtown, business at his salon, Byblos, is booming.

Saikely says he wants to expand his operation, but can’t get a loan from the banks.

“We have been trying to expand for the last few months, even trickling it down to a minor renovation and there is just not one dollar to be given out or lent,” he told CTV News.

Flaherty says that the $50 billion in mortgage purchases should allow banks to start lending again with greater ease.

“It is up to private sector lenders to keep on doing their jobs, making loans to credit worthy people and enterprises of all sizes,” he said.

But Saikely isn’t hopeful that the banks will start passing on the loans anytime soon.

“Put it in the hands of people that will do something with it, the banks are doing absolutely nothing will it,” he said.

Last month, Canada’s big banks lowered their prime lending rates following the announcement about the $25 billion buyout.

Not a bailout, gov’t says

The Tories have been quick to indicate that the deal to buy mortgages is an asset swap, not a bailout.

The idea is that banks can take good assets, in this case the mortgages, and turn them into cash — which can then be made available to people seeking mortgages or to small business.

The “high-quality” assets are already guaranteed by the Canadian government, Flaherty said.

“It is an efficient, cost-effective and safe way to support lending in Canada at a time of extraordinary strain in global credit markets,” he said.

Despite the global financial crisis, Flaherty said he still expects to report a budget surplus.

“We’re still on track for a small, and I emphasize small, surplus in the current fiscal year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada said Wednesday it will inject an added $8 billion into Canada’s tight money markets.

The Bank said it plans to introduce a Canadian Dollar Term Loan Facility (TLF) in four auctions of $2 billion each in the coming weeks.

Under the plan, qualifying financial institutions will be able to offer non-mortgage loans as collateral — meaning they can offer most loans currently on their books.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announces that Ottawa will be purchasing another 50 billion dollars in residential mortgages. View Video

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One Comment

  1. Good information. It’s interesting to see how people are trying to help with the mortgage situation.


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