Harper told the Financial Times today that Canada’s banks should capitalize on the relative strength of their balance sheets by acquiring assets in the US and other countries.
Harper’s logic is that because we had a regulated banking system, Canada is now the only country that is not nationalizing or partially nationalizing our banks and therefore we have the only remaining free enterprise based financial system. In a frequently recurring marketing theme about Canada the brand, Harper would like to see our five major banks take advantage of their comparative strength and expand into new markets and in his words build the brand – the country’s brand, their own brand.
Despite Harper’s somewhat questionable brand management skills and his natural economic inclination that crumbling markets present good buying opportunities, this is probably not the best time for our banks to start acquiring foreign assets, since no one knows what toxic assets are still on the books out there.
Anyway Harper then goes on to hypothesize that in the long run the current trend to nationalize financial institutions will not be effective and that a regulated, free enterprise system, like the one created in Canada is necessary.
All this would of course make sense if every country only had say five national banks that operated under government regulated exclusivity with no foreign competition and the ability to collusively set services, fees, credit card interest rates and the like with no government interference.
A made in Canada form of free enterprise where the profit of the banks is generated by a captive market with no options other than to pay unregulated government sanctioned usury.
As much as I am pissed at Harper running around taking credit for a regulated system, his party once opposed, I find all this clamoring about the strength of the Canadian banking system a bit much since it us, the Canadian consumer, that has been paying the bill every month.
I don’t think I can take a whole week of Harper interviews and I have the feeling that Europeans will also tire of them quickly.