ST. JOHN'S, April 8 /CNW/ - Canada's economic strength and the success of its financial sector, demonstrated during the recent crisis, provides a model for economic recovery, Scotiabank President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Waugh said today.
"Canada has the ability to be a leader in the world in areas where we have experience and expertise, such as energy, mining, telecommunications and of course, financial services," Mr. Waugh said in an address at the Bank's 178th Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Newfoundland and Labrador. "We've proven and demonstrated that we've got what it takes. But we must also have the vision and the commitment to make it happen and to understand that our future prosperity depends on it.
"Modesty is a virtue - and a Canadian value - but to compete, we have to market ourselves," he added. "We must continue to remind the world that Canada's model works in good times and bad."
Mr. Waugh highlighted Canada's strengths - including a diverse, highly educated workforce, its abundant land, water and natural resources, a strong and diverse economy, and a strong democratic government, plus rights and freedoms that are the envy of the world - and urged Canadians to put them to work.
"We do some very important things very well," said Mr. Waugh. "We need to nurture our strengths - invest in them - and take them to the world.
"With these strengths," he added, "Canada has the ability to create global centres of excellence that can become hubs of innovation, attracting capital, talented people, corporate head offices and jobs. All of these things benefit the entire country, and contribute to a higher standard of living for everyone."
Other countries are forging ahead, added Mr. Waugh, pointing to the U.S., where President Barack Obama has announced a target of doubling exports over five years. Mexico and other Latin American countries have entered free trade agreements, and Asia continues to open for business.
"Canada must set its own aggressive targets and Canadian companies must do the same because the opportunities are huge and the cost of inaction is that these opportunities will be forever lost," he said.
Mr. Waugh's address to shareholders also carried a cautionary note about regulatory reforms.
"Certainly many reforms are necessary, especially in raising global capital," he said. "But there is a real danger that Canada will perhaps inadvertently be significantly hurt in these reforms which could, in fact, weaken us.
"In particular, it's not the call for more capital - Canadian banks have lots of high quality capital," said Mr. Waugh. "It's the many detailed prescriptive rules presented under what is now called Basel III, that threaten Canadian banks' ability to achieve growth - and our ability to provide our customers with mortgages, credit cards and business loans."
Mr. Waugh said some proposals may, for example, force Canadian banks to securitize and sell mortgages, significantly weakening a fundamental strength which enabled Canadian banks to do so much better than others during the downturn.
"Thankfully, our government leaders, our policy makers and our regulators are not only aware of these dangers, but I believe are willing to take a lead position to protect Canada's interests while still trying to implement needed changes in the global financial sector," said Mr. Waugh. "Scotiabank and I'm sure others will strive to work with the government on these details."
Scotiabank is one of North America's premier financial institutions and Canada's most international bank. With close to 68,000 employees, Scotiabank Group and its affiliates serve approximately 14.6 million customers in some 50 countries around the world. Scotiabank offers a diverse range of products and services including personal, commercial, corporate and investment banking. With more than $507 billion in assets (as at January 31, 2010), Scotiabank trades on the Toronto (BNS) and New York Exchanges (BNS). For more information please visit www.scotiabank.com.
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