Ottawa still mulling decision to axe Canada Savings Bonds: Morneau
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, September 27, 2016 6:33PM EDT
Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the decision to pull the plug on the 70-year-old Canada Savings Bond program remains up in the air, noting the future of the long-time staple of fixed income investment will hinge on efficiency and utility to Canadians.
“My ongoing responsibility is to make sure that the programs we have in place function as we expect them to,” said Morneau on Tuesday. “We have not taken any decision in this regard.”
A report commissioned by the Finance Department in 2013 compiled by KPMG and its subsidiary ITnet released last year urged Ottawa to wind down its Retail Debt Program -- which includes Canada Savings Bonds (CSB) and Canada Premium Bonds.
“There is currently no valid economic rationale for the Retail Debt Program. It is no longer a net source of funds for the government,” said the report, which estimates Canada’s administrative costs are the highest among jurisdictions where data is available.
The operating costs for the program administered by the Bank of Canada have ballooned to $58 million, according to the report, leading the auditor general to raise questions about its profitability.
The Retail Debt Program was set up in 1946 to allow Canadians to buy small denomination government bonds with a set interest rate and short redemption periods.
Approximately 2.5 million Canadians continue to hold over $6 billion in Government of Canada retail debt products, according to an estimate from the Finance Department in June.
The bonds are seen as one of the safest investment vehicles, because they are fully backed by the federal government, and can be cashed in at any time. For many Canadians, they represent a first brush with long-term savings and compound interest.
CSBs have been a favourite among families as a means to gift money for future post-secondary education and other major life expenses to young children.
Still, many wonder if they’re a good fit for the financial times. Demand for the savings bonds has been slipping since the 1980s, as record-low interest rates reduced their appeal compared with other investments.
In 2013, CSBs accounted for just 0.7 per cent of retail savings in Canada, with banks commanding a 72.3 per cent market share, according to KPMG ITnet.
Canada would follow Germany, which eliminated its savings bond program in 2012, if Ottawa decides the loan tool is indeed a relic of financial history. The fate of the CSB program is widely expected to be decided in the next federal budget.
“We will … consider all Canadian programs to make sure that they are efficient, that they meet the objectives that are set out,” said Morneau.