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Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Hudak shares Liberal doubts about value of TMX-LSE merger for Ontario Add to ...

Ontario's Opposition Leader is echoing many of the same concerns uttered by the province's Finance Minister over a transatlantic deal between the Toronto and London stock exchanges.

"Is it a merger of equals? Is it a takeover?," asked Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. "I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered."

Mr. Hudak waded into the growing debate around the $7-billion-plus deal for the first time on Tuesday. His comments provide fresh ammunition for Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who signalled Friday that the McGuinty government could block the proposal to combine the two exchanges.

Mr. Duncan defined Canada's premier stock exchange as a "strategic asset" in expressing strong misgivings about the deal. Mr. Hudak said he agrees with that characterization.

"In many ways it is," he said, in response to a question on CBC TV's Power & Politics.

Mr. Hudak also talked about the significant role the Toronto Stock Exchange plays in Canada's financial hub. Along with Mr. Duncan, he questioned what the transaction means for high-paying jobs in Toronto's financial district.

"The TSX plays a significant regulatory function," he said. "While we survived the financial crisis much better than other countries did - much better than they did in the U.K. - let's see if this is in the best interests of Ontario and Canada."

One day after federal Industry Minister Tony Clement confirmed that he will review the deal to decide whether it's a "net benefit" for Canada, Mr. Hudak said the architects of the deal must provide more information on what it means for jobs, for investment and for facilitating mineral development in Ontario.

"Those are the kinds of questions I will ask when I get my chance," he said.

It was the first time Mr. Hudak has been interviewed since a week ago Monday, when the Progressive Conservatives flip-flopped on a pledge to keep the controversial health-care tax, backtracking on what was expected to be a key plank in their election platform. Mr. Hudak, who typically does several media scrums a week at the provincial legislature, has not been seen around Queen's Park since then.

Mr. Duncan has suggested that the transaction is in fact a takeover of TMX Group by the London Stock Exchange and not a "merger of equals" as billed by executives. Canadian shareholders would own a 45-per-cent stake in the combined entity.

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