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Julie Dickson, Superintendent for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Julie Dickson, Superintendent for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

OSFI needs to push for CMHC board revamp Add to ...

The federal banking watchdog is pretty picky about who sits on the boards of the financial giants she regulates, so it's hard to imagine Julie Dickson looking over the biographies of her new charges at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and feeling all that satisfied.

Here you have an insurer with a balance sheet of almost $600-billion and a board boasting a “career public servant,” a partner at a plumbing company, and a small town lawyer specializing in “real estate, wills, probate, municipal law and family law.” There are also a handful of people from the development industry. They are all no doubt good people and we don't mean to pick on them. But are they folks with backgrounds running large financial institutions? Not so much.

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That needs to change, and Ms. Dickson and her colleagues at the Office of the Superintendant of Financial Institutions surely know it. Over the years, OSFI has been instrumental in making the boards of the banks it regulates much more appropriate to the task of overseeing huge, complex financial organizations. Gone are the main-street types and farmers who once were tokens in the boardrooms. If a bank were to propose an unsuitable nominee, you know there will be a quiet call from Ms. Dickson to suggest the bank think again.

When it comes to CMHC and its board, the question is what she can do about it. The federal government handed OSFI the task of overseeing CMHC, a long overdue mandate. The federal government also opened the door to board changes by placing two deputy ministers, including one from Finance, on the board.

But the ability to hand out nominations to seats on government boards is something that no government in power likes to give up. Still, the next step is to give OSFI the required ability to scrutinize and veto directors, even if it means Ottawa has fewer treats to hand out.

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