Howard Wetston has signed on for an extended term as chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission because he says he has too many new initiatives under way to walk out the door next year.
The Ontario government announced Wednesday that it has extended Mr. Wetston’s term at the helm of Canada’s largest securities regulator by two more years, until November, 2015. His original departure date was November, 2013.
The change means Mr. Wetston will have a five-year term as head of the OSC, which had been the standard for prior chairmen. He was initially appointed to a shortened three-year term in 2010 because the Ontario government believed the federal government would create a new national securities regulator by 2013 to replace the OSC.
That plan was scuttled by the Supreme Court of Canada in December, however, and the OSC is now planning for a long-term future as a standalone regulator.
Mr. Wetston, who turned 65 last weekend, says he agreed to stay on because the commission has just started implementing a new long-term strategic plan following a long review last year of its priorities and processes.
“You can’t put in place all of the requirements to meet that direction over night – it takes quite a while,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
“When I discussed this matter with the government, it was clear in my own mind that the direction we are setting was imperative, and I really felt it was necessary to follow through with it.”
Mr. Wetston says the OSC has been becoming more aggressive on enforcement, for example, and wants to make it clear to wrongdoers that they can’t set up base in Ontario with the expectation they are less likely to get caught or punished.
He said the commission is also trying to signal to the business sector that it is raising its expectations of them and their standard of behaviour.
“I believe that is really critical these days, when we have come through such significant market impact over the past few years. It’s very much part of increasing the confidence that investors have in the capital markets.”
He added that he is seeing a significant internal change within the operations of the OSC, and is keen to see the changes entrenched.
“I have felt over the past year and a half that the organization itself is working somewhat differently than when I first arrived,” he said.
“There is a strong sense of urgency in this organization, there is a strong commitment to being much more outward looking, there is a very strong commitment towards working more closely with market participants and investor advocates.”
The chairman of the OSC serves as the organization’s CEO and also heads the “board” of commissioners overseeing the regulator.
Before joining the OSC in 2010, Mr. Wetston was chief executive officer of the Ontario Energy Board. Earlier in his career, he served as a federal court judge and headed the federal Competition Bureau.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said the OSC is well positioned to become a “leading 21st-century securities regulator” under Mr. Wetston as the financial system becomes more globalized.
“I am pleased that Howard’s term has been extended so he can continue this important work,” Mr. Duncan said in a statement.