* Says a common position might be reachable
* Goal is to replace provincial and territorial patchwork
* Flaherty met Ontario minister
* December high court decision changed ball game
OTTAWA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Tuesday he has seen movement in discussions on creating a national securities regulator, and expressed optimism that federal and provincial authorities can reach a common position.
“We’ve made some significant progress. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I think there is some prospect that we’ll be able to get to a common position,” Flaherty told reporters after discussing the issue with Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
The goal has been to create one securities regulator that will replace the patchwork of 13 provincial and territorial regulators, or at least to cover most of them if not all provinces opt in. The French-speaking province of Quebec, which recently elected a provincial government that wants to separate from Canada, could well remain a holdout.
The character of the new regulator would be different than originally planned, in light of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last December that said day-to-day regulation of financial markets is a provincial responsibility. The court said, however, the federal government could legitimately get involved in areas related to systemic risk, and pointed to a more cooperative approach as the way to go under the Canadian constitution.
Some of the provinces had argued against Flaherty’s original vision, but after the Supreme Court decision forced Flaherty to rethink the plan, they have been pushing ahead to try to reach a consensus.
Asked if there would now be a national securities regulator, Flaherty said: “You know, I wish I could say yes. I’ve been working on this for 6-1/2 years. I‘m very cautious about it. I think we’ve made some progress. There’s a lot of good will. We’ll see in the next little while.”