High court rul­ing paves way for na­tional reg­u­la­tor

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - GOR­DON HOEK­STRA With files from The Cana­dian Press ghoek­stra@post­media.com

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a plan to cre­ate a na­tional se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tor that in­cludes Bri­tish Columbia is con­sti­tu­tional.

B.C. has pre­vi­ously taken a lead in ef­forts to cre­ate a multi-pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal mar­kets reg­u­la­tor, but pro­vin­cial Fi­nance Min­is­ter Carole James had a cau­tious re­ac­tion Fri­day to the high court rul­ing that could open the way to im­ple­ment­ing a new co­op­er­a­tive sys­tem.

“Our gov­ern­ment’s first pri­or­ity is to pro­tect the peo­ple of Bri­tish Columbia. We be­lieve there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for B.C. in a Canada-wide ap­proach to th­ese types of cap­i­tal mar­ket pro­tec­tions and reg­u­la­tions. But we also know that we need to move ahead on our pri­or­ity of get­ting white-col­lar crime out of B.C.,” James said in a writ­ten state­ment.

James said the prov­ince will take time to re­view and an­a­lyze the court’s find­ings.

Canada is the only ma­jor in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­try with­out a na­tional se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tor. In­stead, each prov­ince and ter­ri­tory has its own se­cu­ri­ties laws and over­sight body. Sup­port­ers of the na­tional con­cept say it would elim­i­nate du­pli­ca­tion, re­duce red tape and en­sure more con­sis­tent en­force­ment and in­vestor pro­tec­tion.

James pointed to ef­forts the B.C. NDP gov­ern­ment, which took power in 2017 with sup­port of the Green party af­ter 16 years of B.C. Lib­eral rule, al­ready has un­der­way to tackle white-col­lar crime. The gov­ern­ment has taken aim at money laun­der­ing in casi­nos, made changes to un­cover ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship of prop­erty, and launched a panel on money laun­der­ing in real es­tate.

James has also or­dered the B.C. Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion to im­prove its penalty col­lec­tion record and im­prove en­force­ment of fi­nan­cial fraud­sters, and also promised pro­vin­cial changes to im­prove both.

The ac­tion fol­lowed a Post­media in­ves­ti­ga­tion that found more than half a bil­lion dol­lars in se­cu­ri­ties com­mis­sion penal­ties had gone un­col­lected in the past decade and that crim­i­nal prose­cu­tions were a rar­ity. An­other 2017 Post­media in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­cov­ered money laun­der­ing in B.C. casi­nos.

Said James: “White-col­lar crime is not an easy prob­lem to fix. But af­ter years of ne­glect, our gov­ern­ment is rolling up our sleeves to make sure peo­ple’s in­vest­ments are pro­tected and (we are) con­tin­u­ing the im­por­tant work of mod­ern­iz­ing our se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tor and im­prov­ing their en­force­ment pow­ers.”

The ef­fort to put a na­tional reg­u­la­tor in place goes back half a cen­tury. Work on the lat­est it­er­a­tion, the co­op­er­a­tive cap­i­tal mar­kets reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, be­gan in 2013.

Par­tic­i­pants in­clude On­tario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Ed­ward Is­land and Yukon, as well as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Al­berta and Que­bec have been op­po­nents, with Que­bec launch­ing a le­gal chal­lenge that gave it a par­tial vic­tory, which the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ap­pealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The new co­op­er­a­tive reg­u­la­tory sys­tem was sup­posed to roll out this year, but the tim­ing has been in ques­tion, in part, be­cause of the le­gal chal­lenges.

What are the next steps, or when they might hap­pen, is un­clear.

The B.C. Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion, which is in­volved in the move to the new sys­tem, did not re­ply Fri­day to a re­quest for com­ment.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment said Fri­day it will also re­view the de­ci­sion care­fully.

Dis­cus­sions with par­tic­i­pat­ing provinces to de­velop a co­op­er­a­tive sys­tem will con­tinue, Fi­nance Min­istry spokesman Pierre- Olivier Herbert said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Ot­tawa will also pur­sue dis­cus­sions with provinces and ter­ri­to­ries that are op­posed to the co­op­er­a­tive sys­tem “to en­sure that views and con­cerns con­tinue to be shared and ad­dressed,” said Herbert.

The move to the co­op­er­a­tive sys­tem in­cludes a com­mon reg­u­la­tor, a coun­cil of min­is­ters to play a su­per­vi­sory role, a model law that provinces and ter­ri­to­ries could pass, and fed­eral leg­is­la­tion to man­age sys­temic risk, al­low for data col­lec­tion and ad­dress crim­i­nal mat­ters.

Carole James


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