The Liberal Party of Canada’s stunning majority government election victory on Monday night may have been unexpected, but it is not roiling the investment industry.
The promised rollback in tax-free savings account (TFSA) contribution limits, an end to income splitting and plans to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) could all be perceived as negatives for the financial services sector. And having a majority government means that the Liberals will have the political power to follow through with these promises. Still, Ian Russell, president and CEO of the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC), indicates that his organization is looking forward to working with the new government.
Russell says he expects the new government will be incrementally different from the current regime, but this doesn’t represent a fundamental sea change in political philosophy. The two major points of difference, he notes, are the plans to expand the CPP and a planned increase in infrastructure investment. In both those areas, the IIAC would rather see private sector solutions. However, Russell believes the new government will come in with an “open mind” to hearing its views on these issues.
The Investment Fund Institute of Canada (IFIC) is similarly sanguine about the results, says Joanne De Laurentiis, its president and CEO: “Our expectations are that this government will give due consideration to policies that will encourage Canadians to save appropriately for retirement and be open to considering ideas from all stakeholders, including IFIC.”
De Laurentiis congratulates the new prime minister-elect, Justin Trudeau, on his victory and says IFIC is looking forward to “engaging in a constructive dialogue with his new minister of Finance on all the files that impact investors.”
Although Russell says he expects the Liberals to go ahead with certain election promises, such as rolling back the TFSA’s annual contribution limit, he doesn’t believe this will be retroactive. Furthermore, he expects the new government will likely compensate this with a complementary move that aids tax-assisted retirement savings.
Furthermore, even though the Liberals have also signalled a willingness to run deficits rather than rigidly seeking balanced budgets, Russell points out that this is the party that originally tackled Canada’s deficit problem in the 1990s, so he doesn’t see a return to the massive deficits of that era under the new regime.
As for the issue of the co-operative national securities regulator, Russell doesn’t expect this initiative to be derailed by the change in government either. He notes that this will be a very low priority issue for the new government and he doesn’t expect that it will move to halt the progress that has been made so far.
Heading into the election, the Liberals appeared to be generally in favour of the co-operative capital markets regulator (CCMR) initiative. In response to a query from Investment Executive before the election, a party spokesperson said, “The Liberal Party of Canada is supportive of a more co-ordinated approach to securities regulation in Canada, but only in agreement and cooperation with the provinces and in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on securities regulation.”
The CCMR project is continuing to make progress, Russell says, and he expects the new regulator will have a board appointed by the spring and to ultimately be up and running in 2017. Even though this would represent a bit of a delay, it will nevertheless be welcomed by much of the industry.
On the insurance side, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. (CLHIA) also indicates that it expects to be able to work with the new administration. Says CLHIA’ president and CEO, Frank Swedlove: “We look forward to working with the new government on a number of important policies, such as pensions and lowering drug costs for all Canadians.”