Canada's nascent national securities regulator took more steps forward Friday after it named former insurance executive William Black as chairman, and Alberta signaled it may be willing to become a member.
Black was tapped to head the board of directors for the Capital Markets Regulatory Authority, making him the point-man for unifying regulations in what is currently a patchwork system. Five provinces, one territory and the federal government support a joint regulator, while notable holdouts have included Quebec and Alberta, though the latter has softened its position.
The Council of Ministers responsible for the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System announced Black's appointment in a statement Friday. A spokesman for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Thursday the province would review the proposed system before deciding whether to join.
Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Yukon have already signed up.
Alberta changed governments in a May election, and Notley spokesman Matthew Williamson didn't rule out Alberta joining the effort, after the previous government had steadfastly refused.
"Alberta is committed to an effective and efficient regulatory system for the securities industry," Williamson said in an e-mail. "Our government's primary consideration is defending the best interests of Albertans and our economy. Once the federal government has drafted and shared its legislation, we will review it and consult with Alberta industry on its implications."
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa called Alberta's statement "encouraging" and said he met his counterpart Thursday in Edmonton and discussed the issue.
"We'll proceed as we are with or without the other provinces, but we're hopeful they'll be able to jump in sometime throughout," Sousa said in a phone interview.
The provinces are aiming to unify and streamline the existing patchwork system of regional watchdogs. Canada is the only Group-of-Seven country without a national securities regulator.
It's "difficult to say" if Alberta is now more likely to join as talks with the Notley government have just begun, British Columbia Finance Minister Michael de Jong said at a news conference Friday.
'A Reality' Ian Russell, chief executive officer of the Investment Industry Association of Canada, which represents the country's securities firms, called the appointment of Black "an excellent choice," given Black's experience in business and financial markets.
Black is a former CEO of Maritime Life and has served on several boards, including at the Bank of Canada and Dalhousie University.
"The odds of this going forward are now virtually 100 per cent, even if it might take some time to get Alberta and Quebec in," he said.
The group of ministers announced the incorporation of the Capital Markets Authority Implementation Organization, an interim body, and said they hope to launch their regulatory authority by the fall of 2016. The ministers also said they would soon publish revised draft legislation, seeking feedback.