Alberta’s NDP government silent on fate of national securities regulator – LeCanadian
OTTAWA — There has been plenty of speculation the new NDP government in Alberta would be anxious to break through the province’s political roadblock to a truly national securities regulator.
But since defeating the long-governing Conservatives, who for decades had adamantly opposed a single Canadian watchdog system, there has been little or no movement on the issue.
The NDP did not raise the regulatory issue during the election campaign.
As well, neither Premier Rachel Notley, who ousted Jim Prentice’s Tories from office in the May 5 election, nor Finance Minister Joe Ceci have since clarified where the government stands on the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System — now expected to launch in the fall of 2016, after being pushed back from an initial mid-2015 target.
“It wasn’t in our platform,” said Ceci’s spokesperson, Marion Nader.
I think their silence, so far, is entirely due to being overwhelmed by all the decisions that have to be made
“We support harmonization, but no decision has been made around the national securities regulation,” she said. “We’re still going to be reviewing our options over the summer.”
Ceci and Joe Oliver, the federal finance minister, have agreed to meet “at a later date” to discuss the new system, according to a spokesperson for Oliver.
Alberta is home to the second-largest capital market in Canada, after Ontario.
Last year, Oliver took his pitch for a single regulator directly to Alberta, telling a business audience in Calgary that the province “would play an important role in policy development and governance, including an office in Calgary that would be a centre of excellence for oil and gas companies.”
“I believe that Alberta has the opportunity to be a more robust decision maker in the regulation of Canada’s capital markets than it is now in practice,” he said, one day after meeting with the Tory premier — interim leader Dave Hancock — and Doug Horner, then finance minister.
“I am not going to pretend that they were immediately convinced, but it was a good discussion.”
Horner, who resigned in January of this year, had previously argued the province is “not going to be bullied into signing something that’s not right for Alberta.”
Right now, there are 13 such regulators across the country.
So far, five provinces and one territory have agreed to go along with the Ottawa-initiated single national securities body, with more likely to follow over the next year.
Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute said “the NDP (elected) in Alberta makes it more likely that Alberta will come on sooner rather than later.”
“I think their silence, so far, is entirely due to being overwhelmed by all the decisions that have to be made, and they just have relegated this one to the back burner. I suspect that they’re just not very conversant on the arguments one way or the other,” Crowley said.
“Ultimately, they’ll have to make a decision on this, and if I look at the decisions the government has made so far, they have —generally speaking — said ‘Alberta has been too much unlike the rest of the country and we’re going to make it more like the rest of the country’.”
Along with Quebec, Alberta has been leading the opposition to the voluntary securities body. Manitoba has also fought against it.
“I think we will get probably everybody but Quebec in due course,” said Crowley, at the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “Quebec will just stay out on principle.”
Elsewhere in the country, resistance appears to be waning. The latest entry to the fold in Yukon, which signed on in April, the first of Canada’s three territories to do so.
The other two — Nunavut and the Northwest Territories — will likely join before the regulator comes into being.
Ontario and British Columbia were first to sign up for the CCMR. That was in 2013, when then-Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was pushing the federal case for a unified regulator — a concept he had championed since the federal Conservatives were elected in 2006, even though he later had to modify his plan to make it a cooperative body following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a federally operated entity would be unconstitutional.
Saskatchewan and New Brunswick joined in 2014, by which time Oliver had replaced Flaherty.