The banks are stable because, in part, they're more regulated. As the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries over the last 15 years, Canada refused to do so. The banks also aren't as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.
There was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don't package mortgages and sell them to the private market, so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.
In Canada's concentrated banking system, five major banks dominate the market and regulators know each of the top bank executives personally.
"Our banks were just better managed and we had better regulation," says former Prime Minister Paul Martin, the man credited with killing off a massive government deficit in the 1990s when he was finance minister, leading to 12 straight years of budget surpluses.
"I was absolutely amazed at senior bankers in the United States and Europe who didn't know the extent of the problem or they didn't know that people in some far-flung division were doing these kinds of things. It's just beyond belief," he told the AP.
The Conservative Party government of Stephen Harper that took over from Martin's Liberals in 2006 broadly stuck to his predecessor's approach, though he cut taxes and, when recession struck, pumped stimulus money into the economy, with the result that Canada again has a large deficit.
But it is recovering from the recession faster than others, and although its deficit is currently at a record high, the International Monetary Fund expects Canada to be the only one of the seven major industrialized democracies to return to surplus by 2015.