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OTTAWA, April 30 (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government will make an announcement soon on progress in its push to create a national securities regulator, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said on Wednesday, and it could include more backing for the initiative from the country's provinces.
Regulation of financial markets in Canada is a provincial, not a federal responsibility. Last September, after decades of failed attempts to get all 10 provinces to agree to a national regulator, Ottawa and the governments of the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia announced they would go it alone and set up a common capital markets watchdog, similar to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The hope was that more provinces would join in over time and that the current patchwork system of regulators in each province and territory would be replaced with a national system. There have been no visible signs of progress yet.
"There has been progress but it's been behind the scenes," Oliver told reporters in Ottawa. "I expect fairly soon that there will be news on this matter."
Oliver would not elaborate when asked whether he was referring to a report that the government would unveil draft legislation for the regulator on Wednesday, or if he would announce another province was coming on board.
"Well that's the nature of an announcement. You make it when you make it, but it could include both," he said.
The regulatory body would be voluntary and cooperative, since the Supreme Court has ruled that Ottawa cannot unilaterally impose a new system on the provinces. The International Monetary Fund has long criticized Canada for its fragmented regulatory system.
The western oil-producing province of Alberta said earlier this month it was working to build support among other provinces for an alternative to Ottawa's plan, which would leave day-to-day regulation to the provinces but include a national enforcement agency and adjudicator tribunal based in Toronto.
Oliver said any province that opts out of the national body would still be able to cooperate with other provinces, as most do now under a "passport" system, whereby a company incorporated in one province is automatically recognized in another.
"Those provinces, if there are any, that decide not to participate will still have an opportunity to cooperate with a cooperative body and, as they have been in the past, cooperate with each other," he said. (Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Peter Galloway)