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National securities regulator coming: Flaherty

Nov 19, 2008 07:33 PM

Julian Beltrame

OTTAWA–Finance Minister Jim Flaherty insisted today that Canada will create a national securities regulator even if some provinces remain opposed.

The finance minister made the blunt pronouncement Wednesday in answering questions about a reference in the throne speech to the government's long-standing commitment.

Asked about Quebec's continued opposition, Flaherty replied in no uncertain terms that a Canadian regulator will be established after the Tom Hockin committee delivers a final report and a model for draft legislation.

"This is a time of international economic volatility, instability. Canada's system is held out and looked as a model around the world but the flaw we have in our system is the fact that we still have 13 securities regulators," Flaherty said.

"We are going to go ahead and create a Canadian securities regulator, we're going to do this with our willing partners. Those willing partners include, of course, some of the provinces."

Flaherty has advocated the idea since becoming finance minister in January 2006, with limited success. But the global financial crisis has given greater impetus and urgency to the proposal since global leaders have talked about the need for co-ordinated action.

Ontario has been the staunchest supporter of a single national securities regulator while some have been more resistant to the idea.

Flaherty said Wednesday that more than one province is on board now and "I hope we will be able to have quite a few provinces." He didn't name any provinces who might have changed their position.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach continued to voice concern Wednesday.

"My concern is for the junior oil and gas companies ... just the whole increase in the whole regulatory burden to raise cash in Ontario, in a place where they don't understand what drives the Alberta economy," Stelmach said in Edmonton.

British Columbia Primer Gordon Campbell has said recently he is more open to the idea, citing the need for "new thinking" in the midst of the financial markets crisis.

The Canadian Bankers Association said it supports the federal move, saying a common regulator will enhance efficiency and increase confidence in Canadian capital markets at a critical time.

"When international securities regulators sit down to deal with this economic turmoil, Canada needs a single voice at the table," said CBA president Nancy Hughes Anthony. "Our fragmented regulatory system is out of step with the rest of the world, and it's time that we moved into the 21st century."

Canada's big banks own all of the country's biggest investment houses, which make them major players in the country's stock and bond markets as well as the mutual fund industry.

Federal officials have said previously they have detected greater comfort with the concept among some provinces as a result of the financial crisis that has plunged the world into a recession.