Ottawa will keep the program that sells Canada Savings Bonds and Canadian Premium Bonds despite a report Wednesday from KPMG that recommends it be wound down.
The KPMG report, prepared for the Finance Department, said there is “no valid economic rationale” for the retail debt program that allows ordinary Canadians to buy the government bonds in small amounts.
“While noting KPMG’s recommendations, the government recognizes that approximately 2.5 million Canadians continue to hold over $6 billion of government of Canada retail debt products and over a million Canadians today still purchase Canada Savings Bonds and Canada Premium Bonds, demonstrating Canadians’ continuing interest in the program,” Stephanie Rubec, a spokeswoman for the Finance Department, said in a statement.
If the government does not want to end the program, KPMG recommended a “no-frills version” that would eliminate the ability of Canadians to buy bonds through deductions from their paycheque.
That option would allow the government to continue to provide Canadians with access to government bonds while reducing costs related to the program.
“The only channels maintained would be cash sales channels,” the report said. Among other things, this would allow “a gradual downsizing of the call centres as the payroll sales channel gradually winds down.”
Rubec said the government is assessing potential efficiencies to reduce program costs, but that it planned to maintain its existing distribution channels.
The KPMG report noted the savings bonds program was consistent with Ottawa’s responsibilities, including providing equitable access to safe, low-risk investments to all Canadians.
“However, the mature domestic financial retail market in Canada reduces the value and need for a retail debt program,” the report said.
Low interest rates in recent years have reduced the appeal of Canada Savings Bonds compared with other similar investments.
And because there are alternative investments that are insured by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corp., the report said there would be virtually no market void unaddressed if the retail debt program were ended.
The total outstanding amount of retail bonds has been steadily declining in recent decades, totalling about $7.7 billion at March 31, 2013, just a small fraction of the retail savings of Canadians.