Flaherty surprised at Alberta regulator plan

TORONTO — A report that Alberta may approach its neighbour Saskatchewan about forming their own stock market regulator is a “surprise,” Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday.

TORONTO — A report that Alberta may approach its neighbour Saskatchewan about forming their own stock market regulator is a “surprise,” Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday.

“They’ve been taking the position that we don’t need to join securities commissions together,” Flaherty said.

“Now they’re I guess changing their position. But it supports our position that the best road here is to take all of these 13 securities commissions and bring them into one national securities commission.”

Flaherty’s comments followed a report that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach plans to approach Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall with a plan to combine their regulatory regimes.

Stock markets are currently regulated on a provincial basis, but Flaherty — with major with support from Ontario — has been pushing for the formation of a national body, like those in the United States and Britain.

Quebec and Alberta are fighting Ottawa’s attempts to replace the patchwork system of provincial securities regulators, and Manitoba has indicated it too is opposed to the idea, while British Columbia and New Brunswick have also expressed concerns.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said earlier Thursday that the province is getting frustrated with the ongoing debate over the need for a single regulator, which was reignited by a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper that Stelmach will make the pitch while the two premiers watch the Grey Cup football game together this Sunday.

Ontario supports Flaherty’s position that a single regulator is needed to make Canada more competitive following the global recession.

Duncan said he’s “getting very nervous” and complained there has been no federal leadership in the securities regulator debate.

“I think the federal government is losing control of this file,” Duncan said.

Ontario is open to having some of the functions of a securities regulator carried out in regional offices in Calgary and other cities, but Duncan said he’s afraid the debate “is falling apart” and “there’s no federal leadership.”

“We need some leadership on this. Somebody’s got to speak about the national interest and there is a national interest.”

Flaherty on Thursday acknowledged Duncan’s support for a single regulator, but said that the federal government has “moved the issue farther down the field than ever before in the history of Canada.”

Ottawa is now awaiting a Supreme Court decision on draft legislation submitted earlier this year by Flaherty.

“The Supreme Court of Canada will have a look at the constitutional question in April. And that’s I think quite properly where it ought to be now,” Flaherty said.

Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton told the Globe that a Western-based regulator “would make much more sense for Saskatchewan and Alberta to have a single commission.”

“Between oil and gas, mining, agriculture and forestry, we have virtually identical profiles.”

But Duncan said he rejects suggestions that a Western regulator would help protect natural resources-rich provinces.

“This does not harm the resource industry, it does not take away from their pre-eminence on that file,” he said.

“A lot of those functions can be headquartered through regional offices in places like Calgary. We’re very open to that, but this seems to be falling apart. I’m very worried about it, because this is one thing that governments need to do to make sure our financial markets remain competitive.”

— With files from Julian Beltrame in Ottawa