TORONTO — The Ontario government has picked a former judge with extensive federal and provincial regulatory experience to lead Canada’s largest securities commission as it integrates with a new national watchdog.
Howard Wetston, a former vice-chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission and head of the provinces energy board since 2003, has been nominated to replace OSC chairman David Wilson, whose five-year term ends Oct. 31.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Wetston’s experience will help him through a transitional period as federal government works to integrate most of Canada’s 13 securities regulator into a national securities regulator.
“Mr. Wetston’s knowledge and experience in legal, securities, business and economic regulation will serve Ontarians well as we work with the federal government and our provincial partners to create a Canadian securities regulator, which provides best-in-class oversight and investor protection,” Duncan said.
Wetston declined to comment until his nomination is ratified.
Ontario, home to Canada’s largest stock exchange, has been a vocal supporter of a national securities regulator and is advocating to have Toronto as its headquarters. But a national regulator, which is being challenged by Alberta and Quebec, is at least two years away.
Wetston has extensive experience at both federal and provincial regulators.
He has been chairman of the Ontario Energy Board since 2003, after stint as vice-chairman of the OSC from 1999 to 2003. Prior to that, Wetston had a varied career including as a Federal Court Judge from 1993 to 1999.
Wetston’s decisions at the Federal Court include a 1996 ruling that gave prisoners the right to vote in federal elections.
He has was at the federal Competition Bureau from 1989 to June 1993, during which he focused on busting up monopolies. He won several legal victories against multinational corporations including against Xerox and Chrysler Canada.
Outgoing chairman David Wilson said Wetston’s prior experience at the OSC will make him a worthy successor.
“Howard knows the OSC, the quality of its people and its work as an effective securities regulator,” Wilson said in a release.
“I offer my best wishes to him in the role of guiding the OSC through the immediate challenges of regulating the province’s capital markets.”
In addition to his other responsibilities, which include overseeing the OSC’s board of directors and ensuring proper administration and enforcement of the Securities Act, Wetston will work with the Canadian Securities Transition Office to assist in the switch to the national body.
The OSC’s vice-chair, Lawrence Ritchie joined the transition office in July.
Canada is the only country in the G20 without a national securities regulator like the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States. In Canada, there are 13 provincial and territorial regulators, which critics say creates regulatory red tape and raises the cost for companies who want to list their shares on Canadian stock markets
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has called Canada’s lack of a national regulator “an embarrassment” because although Canada is considered an economic leader in other areas, it is out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to securities regulation.
Alberta and Quebec are challenging the constitutionality of the plan in their respective appeal courts, and the issue is being dealt with in the Supreme Court of Canada. Both provinces say the federal government would be overstepping its bounds if it were to form a centralized watchdog to oversee all of Canada’s capital markets.