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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian banks should be able to get through the financial crisis without relying on the kind of government aid that is being deployed to financial institutions in other countries, Toronto-Dominion Bank's top executive said on Wednesday.
While the Canadian government just announced an increase in the size of its bank mortgage buyback program -- boosting the program to C$75 billion from C$25 billion -- the federal government is actually making money on that program, TD Bank President and Chief Executive Ed Clark said.
"This is a pretty good deal from the government's point of view," since it gets paid to buy mortgages from banks that a government agency has already guaranteed, he said.
Canadian banks, with strong balance sheets and healthy mortgages on their books, are using the government buyback program to fund themselves at rates comparable with, or better than, what banks elsewhere in the world can get, he said.
Clark was speaking at a financial conference in New York organized by Merrill Lynch.
"We would like to get through this crisis without government bailouts, there have been no bailouts of the Canadian banking system," Clark said.
TD, which has grown substantially in the United States through acquisitions in recent years, does not have to make another U.S. purchase to fulfill its business objectives, he said.
The bank acquired New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp earlier this year, and privatized TD Banknorth in 2007.
"We can grow organically, if you take a look at the average bank in the U.S. and strip out acquisitions, it's not obvious that there's a lot of organic growth there," Clark said.
But TD, Canada's second largest bank, would consider U.S. acquisitions if certain conditions were met -- that is, if a potential deal were in its existing East Coast footprint, if it were cheaper to buy than build out its branch network, and if it involved minimal asset risk.
"You're not going to see us suddenly move up the risk curve in this environment," Clark said.
He also said it seems "inevitable" that a U.S. recession will spread to Canada, where the bank's loan book is more retail oriented. TD expects provisions for credit losses to rise in the next few years, but from a low base, Clark said.
Reporting by Lynne Olver; Editing by Peter Galloway