International Monetary Fund/World Bank

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Ottawa has significant clout within the World Bank. Canada has a permanent (constituency-based) seat on the 24- member IMF executive board and as of 2008 Canada was the seventh largest donor among the World Bank’s 185 countries. Down from its highpoint, in 2015 this country’s voting share at the World Bank was nearly 6 times greater than Canada’s proportion of the global population.

Alongside its counterparts from the US and Britain, Canadian officials participated in the 1944 Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, negotiations that established the World Bank and IMF. During efforts to create the post-World War Two international financial institutions Britain and the US disagreed. The UK wanted financial institutions that would help indebted nations access loans. Washington (and Wall Street), on the other hand, wanted financial institutions that would favour creditors. Ottawa supported Washington’s basic outline for the fund. It simply proposed to make a larger pool of capital ($8 billion US) available. “They [Canada] were sensitive to the American desire for a fund with a limited liability. They had to be, for increasingly there was every likelihood that Canada too would emerge from the war as a creditor in current account.” In fact, when the IMF was founded Canada was the world’s second biggest creditor, after the US.

Canada’s proposal ultimately won out and most of the world suffered as a result. A member of Canada’s Bretton Woods delegation, Wynn Plumptre, explained: “It is true … that the [post-war] international institutions, largely fashioned in Washington, were designed to serve the international interests of the United States. The charge that they could in many respects be considered as the creatures of American ‘capitalist imperialism’ can in a sense be accepted. It does not follow, however, that their establishment and operation were contrary to Canadian interests as perceived at the time or subsequently by Canadian governments.”

Since the founding of the IMF and World Bank, Ottawa has generally supported the status quo, a situation where Europe and North America control a disproportionate number of votes. In 1974, for instance, Canada opposed the Group of 77’s demand for a greater voice in the IMF and World Bank. Five years later, when third world states unanimously pressed the IMF for less stringent loans, Ottawa rejected the request. Finance Minister John Crosbie stated: “Continuing balance of payments deficits by developing countries means their economic policies are wrong ... some stringent methods of economic self discipline are required.”