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Dollars to gold 1971

  The dollar in the 1970s Immediately following the government’s announcement that it would allow the Canadian dollar to float, the currency...


The dollar in the 1970s Immediately following the government’s announcement that it would allow the Canadian dollar to float, the currency appreciated sharply, rising roughly 5 per cent to about US$0.97. It continued to drift upwards through the autumn of 1970 and into 1971 to trade in a relatively narrow range between US$0.98 and US$0.99. By 1972, the Canadian dollar had traded through parity with its U.S. counterpart. It reached a high of US$1.0443 on 25 April 1974. The strength of the Canadian dollar through this period can largely be attributed to strong global demand, which boosted the prices of raw materials. There were also large inflows of foreign capital, partly reflecting the view that Canada’s balance of payments was expected to be less affected by the tripling of oil prices that occurred through 1973 than that of other major industrial countries, since it was only a small net importer of oil. During the early 1970s, the dollar’s strength was also due to the general weakness of the U.S. currency against all major currencies as the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates collapsed. With the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit widening to unprecedented levels, 

the U.S. government suspended the U.S. dollar’s convertibility into gold on 15 August 1971 and imposed a 10 per cent surcharge on eligible imports. This action followed a series of revaluations of major currencies. On 18 December 1971, the major industrial countries agreed (the Smithsonian Agreement) to a new pattern of parities for the major currencies (excluding the Canadian dollar) with a fluctuation band of ±2.25 per cent. The U.S. dollar was also A History of the Canadian Dollar 73 devalued by 8.57 per cent against gold, although it remained inconvertible. This last-ditch attempt to save the Bretton Woods system failed. By 1973, all major currencies were floating against the U.S. dollar. The strength of the Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart during this period concerned the authorities, who feared the impact of a higher dollar on Canada’s export industries at a time of relatively high unemployment. Various measures to rectify the problem were examined but dismissed as being either unworkable or harmful. 

These included the introduction of a dual exchange rate system, the use of moral suasion on the banks to limit the run-down of their foreign currency assets, and government control of the sale of new issues of Canadian securities to non-residents. None of these options was ever pursued (Government of Canada 1972). However, under the Winnipeg Agreement, reached on 12 June 1972, chartered banks agreed, with the concurrence of the minister of finance, to an interest rate ceiling on large, short-term (less than one year) deposits. The purpose of the agreement was to reduce “the process of escalation of Canadian short-term interest rates” (Bank of Canada Annual Report 1972, 15). Lower Canadian short-term interest rates and narrower rate differentials with the United States helped to relieve some of the upward pressure on the Canadian dollar.

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