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Understanding Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) Program

    How the Bank of Canada Helps Canadian Financial Institutions During Times of Crisis

    The stability of a country’s financial system is essential for the economy to function properly. In Canada, the Bank of Canada plays a critical role in maintaining financial stability through its various monetary policies and programs, including the Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) program. This program is designed to provide emergency funding to Canadian financial institutions during times of crisis, such as the 2008 financial crisis or the current COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we will explore the ELA program in detail, including its purpose, eligibility criteria, and the process involved in obtaining funding.

    Purpose of ELA Program The primary purpose of the ELA program is to provide liquidity support to Canadian financial institutions that are facing severe funding pressures and are unable to obtain funding from other sources. The program is intended to help institutions maintain their operations and meet their obligations, even in extreme situations where normal funding sources have dried up.

    Eligibility Criteria for ELA Program The Bank of Canada has established strict eligibility criteria for the ELA program to ensure that it is used only as a last resort and that the institutions receiving funding are solvent and able to repay the loans. The eligibility criteria include:

    1. Solvency: The institution must be solvent and able to repay the loan in a reasonable timeframe.
    2. Exhaustion of other funding sources: The institution must have exhausted all other sources of funding before applying for ELA.
    3. Security: The institution must provide sufficient collateral to secure the loan.
    4. Business plan: The institution must provide a detailed plan outlining how it intends to restore its financial position and repay the ELA loan.

    Process of Obtaining ELA Funding

    The process of obtaining ELA funding begins with an application by the financial institution to the Bank of Canada. The application must include detailed information about the institution’s financial position and the nature of its funding pressures. The Bank of Canada then reviews the application to determine whether the institution meets the eligibility criteria for the program.

    If the institution is deemed eligible for ELA funding, the Bank of Canada will provide the funding on a secured basis, meaning that the borrower must provide sufficient collateral to secure the loan. The institution must also agree to certain conditions, including restrictions on its activities and reporting requirements.

    The ELA program has been used in the past to support Canadian financial institutions during times of crisis. For example, during the 2008 financial crisis, the Bank of Canada provided emergency funding to several Canadian banks to help them maintain their operations and avoid a systemic crisis. In March 2020, the Bank of Canada announced that it would offer ELA funding to financial institutions to help them cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    According to David Laidler, a Canadian economist and former Bank of Canada advisor, the ELA program is an important tool for maintaining financial stability in Canada. In his book, “Bank of Canada and the Monetary Policy Regime, 1945-1985,” Laidler notes that the ELA program was developed in response to the banking crisis of the 1980s, which demonstrated the need for a mechanism to provide emergency funding to financial institutions during times of crisis.

    The ELA program is likely to continue to play a critical role in maintaining financial stability in Canada in the future. As the economy continues to evolve and new risks emerge, the Bank of Canada will need to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to ensure that the financial system remains stable and resilient.

    During the 2008 financial crisis, the Bank of Canada’s ELA program was less widely used than the Federal Reserve’s Discount Window, which was criticized for being too restrictive and difficult to access.

    There are several books written about the Canadian banking system and its response to financial crises, including the Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) program. Here are a few examples:

    1. “The Big Banks: The Rise and Decline of the Canadian Banks” by Larry Allen (2017) – This book provides a comprehensive overview of the history and evolution of the Canadian banking system, including its response to financial crises and the role of the Bank of Canada in providing emergency funding.
    2. “Stability with Growth: The Canadian Experience” edited by Charles Freedman and David Laidler (2012) – This book is a collection of essays by Canadian economists and policymakers on the Canadian experience with macroeconomic stability and the role of the central bank in promoting growth and stability.
    3. “Bank of Canada: 75 Years of Central Banking” by David Laidler (2011) – This book provides a detailed history of the Bank of Canada and its role in the Canadian economy, including its response to financial crises and its development of key policy tools such as the ELA program.
    4. “The Bank of Canada and the Monetary Policy Regime, 1945-1985” by David Laidler (1986) – This book is a historical analysis of the Bank of Canada’s monetary policy regime and its response to financial crises during the post-war period.

    These books provide valuable insights into the Canadian banking system and its response to financial crises, including the Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) program.

    The Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) program is a critical tool for maintaining financial stability in Canada, providing emergency funding to Canadian financial institutions during times of crisis. The program is subject to strict eligibility criteria and conditions, ensuring that it is used only as a last resort and that the institutions receiving funding are solvent and able to repay the loans. As the Canadian economy continues to evolve, the ELA program is likely to remain an essential part of the Bank of Canada’s toolkit for maintaining financial stability and supporting the Canadian financial system.

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    Christopher - BSc, MBA

    With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.

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