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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada will rule on Thursday on whether the federal government has the power to create a national securities regulator, which Ottawa hopes would replace the existing patchwork of provincial watchdogs.
Ottawa sought the ruling in the face of opposition to a national watchdog from several provinces, including Alberta and Quebec.
The government wants to replace 13 provincial and territorial watchdogs with a single body, arguing that this would help crack down on white-collar crime and improve international co-ordination.
But the western provinces, Quebec and New Brunswick asked the Supreme Court to rule that creating the securities regulator is outside the federal government's jurisdiction. Under the current "passport" system, regulatory decisions in one province are valid in another.
The federal government says it is acting within its powers, arguing that provinces would be able to opt out of the new national regulator and retain their existing securities laws.
If the ruling, due 9:45 a.m. EST, favors the government, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hopes to introduce a single national regulator in 2012.
The Supreme Court case is titled: In the Matter of a Reference by Governor in Council concerning the proposed Canadian Securities Act, as set out in Order in Council P.C. 2010-667, dated May 26, 2010, No 33718.
Reporting by Randall Palmer and Allison Martell; editing by Janet Guttsman