Minister of Finance – Charles Sousa: Thoughts from the top!

On Jan 17, 2017 we had the pleasure of hosting Hon Minister of Finance Charles Sousa at CRELA luncheon (Commercial Real Estate Lenders Association). It was an interactive 2 hour session with the Minister where some of the key executives from various different lending institutions got to spend quality time with the Minister and ask questions in a professional setting. Despite bad weather, the event was well attended by over 70 key individuals from Lifeco’s, Pension Funds lenders, MICs, Credit Unions, Large Canadian banks and foreign lenders.

Minister reiterated his commitment to the finance community with modernization and reform of FSCO and setting up of FSRA in lieu of it – an entity that will have more powers and flexibility to deal with issues. It was a welcome news to all of lenders in the room who have expressed varying degrees of concerns with the emergence of shadow banking institutions and sub prime lenders without proper regulatory oversight.

Here is a brief excerpt from the Q & A with the Minister:

Fintech

  • Max Vo, Chief Investment Officer, R2Crowd (a FinTech company connecting investors with commercial property owners using power of technology) asked the Minister about government initiatives in this space.
  • Minister would like to see a single securities regulator across Canada but it isn’t possible currently. A more achievable first step is to merge willing provincial participants.
  • Ontario is well positioned to be a fintech leader because of our strong financial services and technology sectors.
  • Helping Fintech and Regtech get off the ground is part of Ontario’s strategy to grow the economy and create jobs.

 

Budget

  • Debt to GDP should be coming down towards 27%. Currently it sits at 39%.
  • Budget should be balanced over next two years
  • Liberal Government Priorities are healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
  • Ontario is a net contributor to Confederation (~$11b more than it receives).

 

Taxes

  • Max tax rebate to 1st time homebuyers doubled as of Jan 1, 2017. Improving housing affordability helps more people in Ontario participate in the housing market.
  • Ontario has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the developed world but various levels of further taxes including federal taxes make us middle of the pack when it comes to having a level playing field with other jurisdictions.

 

Infrastructure

  • Ontario is attracting more FDI than any North American state or province
  • Low interest environments are good for taking on long term debt to invest in infrastructure. It creates jobs which in turn enhances GDP.

 

Trump

  • Threats to Canadian auto sector are a concern – but the US may have more to lose. Trump recognises the auto production cluster in Ontario and the American rust best is critical to the US, and Canada imports much more cars than it produces.
  • But certainly it’s an area that the government is closely watching and looking into it.

 

 

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