Three of Canada’s largest provinces are leading a revived effort to create a single agency to oversee the country’s securities markets, an initiative that comes nearly one year after the Supreme Court’s rejection of a national regulator.
Ontario has long been the closest provincial ally of the federal government in its fight to reform the country’s patchwork system of securities regulation. But British Columbia and Alberta are also expressing a new openness to replacing Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial regulators with a single entity that would police the buying and selling of securities.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he has had “productive discussions” with his counterparts in the two western Canadian provinces. The talks appear to signal a dramatic shift in stance for officials in Alberta, who had been among the staunchest opponents to a national agency. Officials in British Columbia also expressed serious concerns about relinquishing their province’s jurisdiction over securities regulation.
“Hope spring eternal,” Mr. Duncan told reporters on Monday, referring to the fact that all previous efforts to create a single regulator ended in failure. “Nobody is on board with anything, but we are having very good discussions about the areas where we agree and disagree.”
Mr. Duncan plans to meet with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Tuesday in Ottawa, where the main item on the agenda will be the latest push for a single regulator.
Mr. Flaherty said earlier this year that he plans to explore whether there is provincial support for another attempt to create a national regulator. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last December that proposed federal legislation was unconstitutional and infringed on provincial jurisdiction, leaving uncertainty about whether efforts to create a national regulator would be abandoned.
The failure on the part of the federal government to succeed with its plan to create a single regulator has prompted provincial officials to look at whether a new model can be created that could win support.
“It’s now time for the provinces to step up and lead and do some nation building,” said a senior Ontario government official who asked not to be named.
British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong told The Globe and Mail on Monday that the Supreme Court ruling makes it easier to support the concept of a national regulator, because it affirms that the provinces, and not Ottawa, have jurisdiction over securities regulation.
“I don’t think anyone is under any illusions about the challenges involved here,” Mr. de Jong said. “Having said that, there does seem to be a willingness to sit down in a very focused and concentrated way and determine whether there is sufficient common ground for a regulatory framework.”
Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner cited the “good discussions” that have taken place between officials in his province and the federal government and said he is open to sitting down with his provincial partners.
But Mr. Horner also cautioned that talks are at an early stage.
“We’re not joining anybody’s camp just yet,” he told The Globe.
With a report from Josh Wingrove in Edmonton