BUSINESS

National Securities Regulator Won't Pressure Provinces To Join: Chairman

08/18/2015 04:33 EDT | Updated 08/18/2016 05:59 EDT
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CANADA - AUGUST 16: The Standard & Poor's / TSX Composite Index value is shown during trading hours at the Toronto Stock Exchange, or TSX, in the financial district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007. Canadian stocks fell, wiping out the main index's gains in 2007, as investors worldwide sold raw-materials and energy assets on concern a credit crunch may hurt economic growth and curb demand for oil and metals. (Photo by Aaron Harris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
TORONTO — As the plan to create a national securities regulator forges ahead, the organization's newly minted chairman says he isn't bothered by the fact that not all of the provinces have signed on.

"My dominant goal at the moment ... is to make it work for the people who have already signed up, because that's going to be a big enough job as it is," Nova Scotia businessman William Black said in his first sit-down interview since being appointed to lead the new co-operative regulator.

"And if it turns out that Nova Scotia or Alberta or anybody else wants to join in as we're going along, great."

Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Yukon have all signed on to participate. Alberta, which initially came out against the plan, has been softening its stance, while Nova Scotia — home to the regulator's new chairman — is said to be mulling it over.

Black, who served as the president and CEO of Maritime Life and has sat on a number of boards, including the Bank of Canada's, says he plans to visit all of the provinces that have yet to get onboard over the next several months.

"But I think this should be viewed as kind of a diplomatic mission just to assure them that the door's always open," he said, adding that he won't be employing any "high-pressure sales" tactics.

Canada is the only country in the G20 that does not have a national regulator — a fact that can be attributed to the country's Constitution, which places securities regulation squarely in the realm of provincial jurisdiction.

Proponents of a national regulator say that centralizing the process would cut red tape for publicly traded companies and for investors. They also claim it would give smaller jurisdictions access to a more robust regulatory regime.

Opponents — including Quebec, which has launched a legal challenge against the latest proposal to create a national regulator — say Ottawa is attempting to seize power away from the provinces.

The opposition to the plan has resulted in delays. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled the plan unconstitutional, but hinted that structuring the regulator as a co-operative model — where provinces can choose whether or not to participate — would make the proposal fair game.

The newest proposal, dubbed the Co-operative Capital Markets Regulator, has been created with the Supreme Court's ruling in mind, but despite that, Quebec has taken the plan to the Quebec Court of Appeal to rule on its constitutionality — a move that Black says he finds "puzzling."

"Quebec can join or not join, it's entirely their choice," said Black. "I don't know why they should be offended that other provinces want to do some stuff together."

The provincial ministers involved are hoping the agency will be fully operational in the fall of 2016. But in order for the plan to move ahead, both the federal government and the participating provinces will have to implement legislation.

In addition, there is an "enormous amount" of operational integration that needs to occur between the provinces to make the new agency functional, said Black.

"If it was only the operational integration, I would be fairly optimistic that we would get it done next year," he said, noting that the legislative process can be tricky to predict.

"Whether (the deadline) is realistic or not, time will tell," said Black. "That's the one we're aiming for. We'll find out if it's realistic as we go forward."

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Alexandra Posadzki, The Canadian Press