Quebec hoping to derail proposed national regulator

QUEBEC – Quebec is hoping to derail Ottawa proposal for a national securities regulator by coming up with improvements to the way Canada’s investment industry currently works.

Quebec Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau emerged from a meeting of provincial finance ministers in Quebec City on Monday to say there was agreement to improve the current ”passport” system.”

”All the provinces agreed to participate in these talks,” said Marceau, adding results are expected within a very tight deadline.

But asked in a later interview whether British Columbia would be part of that process, that province’s finance minister, Michael de Jong, said no.

De Jong said his province is clearly in favour of a proposed agreement announced last week by his province, Ontario and the federal government to proceed with a national body to oversee Canada’s investment industry.

They said they hoped to have the proposed ”co-operative regulator” in place by July 1, 2015.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Ontario, home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, have long sought a national securities regulator to replace the current patchwork of provincial and territorial bodies.

However, in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled Ottawa could not unilaterally create such a system because it intruded on provincial jurisdiction.

The Toronto-based regulator would administer a single set of regulations and be directed by a board of independent directors chosen by a federal-provincial council of ministers.

Marceau blasted the proposal last week and reiterated that opposition on Monday.

”It has never been shown, in any manner, that the current system in Canada is not working,” Marceau said. ”It has never been shown.

”This new system that is being proposed is not born yet and I don’t think it will be born, even eventually.”

Quebec’s position is in stark contrast with that of British Columbia, which describes the current system as ”cumbersome.”

De Jong refuted suggestions that Ottawa imposed last week’s proposed agreement on his province and Ontario.

He stressed the tripartite proposal fully respects provincial jurisdiction and that it contains safeguards to ensure that continues.

De Jong urged provinces to negotiate a co-operative agreement because the alternative would be unilateral federal legislation.

”And all of us will go out and hire constitutional lawyers and give them $5 million or $10 million.”

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa attended Monday’s meeting but left early without speaking to the media.

A common securities regulator is overwhelmingly favoured by Canada’s business leaders and may be hard to resist if a model can be shown to work.

The Canadian Bankers Association and the Investment Funds Institute of Canada were among those who lauded the announcement.

Getting Alberta on board would all but assure the project’s success.

On Monday, Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner said his province has an ”open mind” but that some elements in the proposed agreement just won’t fly as they currently stand.

”Some of the items in there, at this point in time, are not quite acceptable to Alberta, in terms of providing vetoes to the federal government or mitigating some of the expertise we have in Alberta in oil and gas,” he told reporters.

‘We are going to do due diligence on the agreement, but we’re going to continue to work with our partners in the passport system.”

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