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Report On Business Alberta Securities Commission proposes gender diversity rule

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Alberta's securities regulator is reversing course and has unveiled a proposal to adopt new reporting rules requiring companies to disclose their approach to gender diversity on their boards.

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) said Wednesday it will seek public comment on a proposal to adopt "comply or explain" rules requiring companies to explain their policies regarding the representation of women on their boards and executive positions, including whether they have internal targets for women.

The rule, open for comment until Oct. 14, would not require companies to add women to their ranks or adopt a diversity policy, but would require them to explain why they have opted not to have one. Companies would also have to report on the proportion of women on their boards and in executive officer roles.

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The same reporting rules were adopted by most other provinces in 2014 and took effect in 2015, but Alberta, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island did not participate. At the time, the ASC said it did not believe it had a mandate to get involved in board diversity issues.

However, the regulator said it was asked by Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci to reconsider its position, and said other participating jurisdictions have published materials clarifying that the intent of the rule is to provide transparency that assists shareholders when making investing and voting decisions.

In practical terms, Alberta's adoption of the new rule will not have a major impact on disclosure because the rule was adopted by Ontario in 2014 and already covers companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, including many companies based in Alberta.

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