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Europe, like Canada, divided over single regulator

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You may not think Canada's financial system has much in common with Europe's. Ours is strong, Europe's isn't. Ours didn't need bailouts, Europe's did.

But there's a big issue in which we share some common ground: the push for a single regulator.

Here in Canada, the battle has been fought for decades. Some provinces, like Ontario, think a single governing body is necessary, while others, like Quebec, would rather go it alone.

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Over in Europe, there's a similar situation. Most countries are in favour, but then big bad Germany entered the fray and tried to make its own demands. Chancellor Angela Merkel's argument: a common regulator could work for the big banks, but let us retain control of our smaller regional financial institutions.

Not only is the divide between provinces/countries a similar trend in both Canada and Europe, but both regions also have strong support for a national regulator from overarching bodies. In Canada, it's primarily the Department of Finance, led by Jim Flaherty. Across the Atlantic its the European Commission, which recently put forward plans for a "single supervisory mechanism."

The clock is also ticking in both regions. After the Supreme Court of Canada shot down dreams of a pure national regulator late in 2011, Mr. Flaherty said the he would try to salvage some sort of plan over the next year before letting the dream die. In Europe, the Commission set a time line for setting something up by January 2013.

Last weekend EU countries held talks to try to iron out plans for a single regulator for the region's 6,000 banks, but those ended with few accomplishments. (What a surprise.) However, there at least seems to still be some sort of commitment to making something happen – even if, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the result is something more of a "shotgun wedding."

In Canada, there hasn't been much chatter about the prospects for any sort of single regulator plans. But there's always hope.

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