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Thieves of Bay Street

Book review: Muckraker Bruce Livesey delves into how the Canadian government bailed out corporations in the latest recession.

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(Photo: Kayla Chobotiuk)

THIEVES OF BAY STREET: How Banks, Brokerages and the Wealthy Steal Billions from Canadians
(Random House Canada)
Bruce Livesey

In the wake of the 2008–09 financial crisis, there was a lot of back-patting taking place on this side of the 49th Parallel. Cautious and conservative corporate Canada had wisely stood on the sidelines as U.S. banks delved deep into the murky world of sub-prime mortgages and opaque trading practices. No AIGs or Lehman Bros. here.

Professional muckraker Bruce Livesey, in his new book Thieves of Bay Street, puts the lie to that notion of Canadian exceptionalism. He argues that our reputation for financial probity is but a mirage. Canada’s government, he asserts, did bail out our banks when the crisis hit—creating a program to move tens of billions of dollars in assets off their balance sheets. And looking at the bigger picture, Livesey sees Canada as a haven for investment fraud—a place where white-collar criminals roam relatively free.

While the many examples he pulls together—from Nortel to Hollinger to Sino-Forest—are not new, Livesey deftly weaves them together to tell the story of a less-than-savoury world. “If, like so many of us, you’ve bought the line that Canada’s financial industry is safe and sound and worthy of your respect,” he writes in his introduction to readers, “prepare to be robbed of something yourself: your faith.”