Bank of Canada runs $5.7 billion deficit, claims ‘generating profits’ are not the aim

The central bank has incurred $5.749 billion in comprehensive losses for the twelve-month period ending on December 31, 2023. The bank tabled $705 million in losses the year prior—the first time in its 88-year history.

Bank of Canada runs $5.7 billion deficit, claims ‘generating profits’ are not the aim
Iryna - stock.adobe.com and The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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The Bank of Canada released its 2023 annual report last week and the numbers show further uncertainty for Canada’s economy.

The central bank has incurred $5.749 billion in comprehensive losses for the twelve-month period ending on December 31, 2023. The bank tabled $705 million in losses the year prior—the first time in its 88-year history.

“The Bank of Canada had its first loss in its 87-year history, and they paid themselves nearly $10 million in performance bonuses,” said Martyupnorth, a fact-checker based out of rural Alberta. He attributed the extensive losses last year to “bad borrowing.”

“Not even the Conservatives [want to talk about it] because it's so bad,” claimed the fact-checker. “They don't want to scare Canadians.”

Rebel News reached out for comment from the Official Opposition but did not hear back at the time of publication.

According to the Bank’s annual report, the extensive losses happened because the interest incurred on deposits exceeded the interest earned on investments. 

The interest expense on deposits rose after a 4.75% interest rate hike from 0.25% in the first quarter of 2022 to 5.00% in the third quarter of 2023.

The Bank of Canada expanded its assets significantly during the pandemic as part of its government bond purchasing program, earning swift pushback from opposition parties at the Commons.

The expansion in assets now costs the central bank more than it earns from those assets, having paid for the COVID government bonds with the creation of settlement balances.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre earlier accused the Bank of “printing money” through quantitative easing—in an effort to stimulate the economy. “The elites in Ottawa are beside themselves that I would hold them to account for [the] harm they've caused to everyday people,” he said.

Poilievre specifically blamed Governor Tiff Macklem for the higher prices, fuelled by pandemic-related spending. “I don't work for the elites,” he said. “I work for you, the people, as a servant, not master.”

The bank’s aggressive push to increase interest rates since the first quarter of 2022 led to notable discrepancies on the balance sheet that are expected to worsen as interest rates remain elevated.

Bank of Canada spokesperson Paul Badertscher earlier told the Globe and Mail that the central bank is expecting total losses of between $5 billion and $6 billion over the next few years. 

In January 2023, the C.D. Howe Institute estimated the total losses over the next two to three years would add up to between $3.6 and $8.8 billion.

“Roughly estimated, the bank should return to positive net interest income sometime in 2024 or 2025,” said Badertscher.

Macklem concurred last April that the size and duration of the losses would depend on the path of interest rates and the economy's evolution. "As interest rates increase, we are starting to incur net interest rate losses," he said.

Macklem said the unprecedented losses would not affect the bank's ability to conduct monetary policy, given it had always turned a profit. 

“The Bank’s mandate under the Bank of Canada Act is to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada,” reads the 2023 third quarterly report. “Its activities and operations are undertaken in support of this mandate and not with the objective of generating revenue or profit.”

Since 1935, the Bank has incurred profits of roughly $160 billion in 2021 dollars.

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