The Ontario government has appointed a task force to lead the first review of securities regulation in the province in more than 15 years.
The aim is to “modernize and streamline” capital markets regulation by targeting regulatory burdens that stifle innovation and levelling the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses that make up the majority of Ontario’s capital market participants.
The government is also seeking recommendations to improve investor protection.
The five-member task force, which includes the Canadian chair of a major Bay Street law firm, the founder of a shareholder advisory firm, and a senior insurance executive, will publish a report this summer for public consultation. The report and feedback will be delivered to the province’s minister of finance, Rod Phillips, in the fall.
“Ontario’s Securities Act has not been updated in over 15 years and has not kept pace with rapid change in global capital markets,” Phillips said Thursday.
“Ontario needs capital markets to attract and grow businesses that support and sustain an innovation economy that can compete for investment and talent worldwide.”
In an interview, Phillips said he wants the task force to examine international “best practices” and provide advice on how to make Canada, through Ontario, a bigger draw for global investors.
“We have global funds today that don’t have Canadian market allocations, so that means global investment isn’t coming into our province because of lack of a diversified capital market from the perspective of those investors,” Phillips said, adding that more “robust” public markets would benefit innovators and retail investors as well.
While investor protection is one of the priorities identified in the review, Phillips said he and his government “also want to make sure investors have access to the kind of investments they want to make so they can get the returns for their portfolios just like the big pensions and institutional investors can today.”
The chair of the newly appointed task force is Walied Soliman, Canadian chair of law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. The volunteer task force will itself be advised by a group of a dozen experts that includes members from the legal, regulatory, investment and academic communities. Among the expert advisors are Naizam Kanji, director of the office of mergers & acquisitions at the Ontario Securities Commission, and Larry Ritchie, a partner at law firm Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, who is a former vice-chair of the OSC.
The 12-member expert advisory group also includes Sian Burgess, senior vice president of fund oversight at Fidelity Canada, and Rosemary Chan, senior vice president of internal control and regulatory affairs in global wealth management at Bank of Nova Scotia, as well as Jeffrey Steiner, president of Angel Investors Ontario.
Brigitte Goulard, senior counsel at Torys LLP, is expected to bring consumer and investor protection expertise from her tenure as deputy commissioner of The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC).
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The securities regulation review, which was announced by Doug Ford’s government in its fall economic statement last year, will move ahead largely without the head of the province’s capital markets watchdog. Maureen Jensen announced last month she would be stepping down as chair of the Ontario Securities Commission in April, about 10 months before the end of her current contract.
OSC vice chair Grant Vingoe has been appointed acting chair for up to a year following her departure.
Phillips said he does not expect the review his government is undertaking to interfere with finding a new permanent head for the country’s largest capital markets regulator.
“This has been something that the investment community and the business community have been calling for for a long time, so I expect that in general people will be enthusiastic about the modernization of our capital markets,’ he said, noting that such reviews are supposed to happen every five years.
“The OSC, of course, is a full participant and will be supporting the review,” added Phillips. “That’ll be a positive in terms of seeing that we want to update the capital markets to make sure that they can be effective for investors, and for listed companies, and for those that want to be listed companies.”
For its part, the OSC said in a statement Thursday that such reviews are important for “healthy, well-functioning” capital markets.
“We fully support this review, and are grateful for the government’s continued support,” said Kristen Rose, an OSC spokesperson. “Their focus on modernizing the securities regulatory framework is timely and we look forward to contributing our perspective.”