Updated May 25th, 2020
The Bank of Canada is a crown corporation and Canada's central bank. It was chartered in 1934 under the Bank of Canada act and is responsible for formulating Canada's monetary policy and regulating Canada's financial systems. Its principal role is "to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada". Led by a governing council, its main tool for conducting monetary policy is the target for the overnight rate, or the key policy rate. By changing this rate, it can influence the supply of money circulating within Canada's economy. It is also solely responsible for the issuance and distribution of Canadian currency and regulation of foreign currency reserves.
The Bank of Canada makes its decisions based on the growth of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from Statistics Canada. This is calculated from the price of a monthly “basket” of goods and services typically used by Canadians. It represents a broad picture of consumer spending across Canada.
Using its monetary policy tools, the Bank of Canada aims to maintain inflation, as calculated by changes in the CPI, within a certain range. Introduced in 1991, the inflation-control target sets a range of 1% – 3% as the ideal range for annual inflation, with the midpoint of 2% being the common target rate. This range is reviewed regularly with the latest review being in October 2016.
The Bank of Canada reviews its benchmark interest rate eight times a year and considers both local and international current and potential influences in their review. Although the Bank of Canada operates independently of the government, it is are ultimately responsible to Parliament through the Minister of Finance.
Through the key policy rate and its other monetary policy tools, the Bank of Canada influences the interest rate for all borrowing and lending transactions in Canada. For example, changes in the key policy rate usually lead to changes in bank Prime rates. Subsequently, the key policy rate has significant influence on variable mortgage rates that are based on a lender's Prime rate.
Changes in the key policy rate and monetary policy can also affect fixed mortgage rates. Fixed mortgage rates usually follow the yields of Government of Canada 5-Year bonds. A shift in monetary policy can lead to changes in the bond yields, which will then lead to changes in fixed mortgage rates.