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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The province of Alberta said on Friday it will launch a court challenge of the Canadian government's move to create a national securities regulator, arguing the step intrudes on provincial jurisdiction.
The province said it will go to the Alberta Court of Appeal to test the constitutional soundness of Ottawa's plan to create a single, national regulator. Currently, each of Canada's 13 provinces and territories has its own securities watchdog.
In a release, Iris Evans, Alberta's finance minister, said allowing Ottawa to take over an area of provincial responsibility could result in the federal government intruding on other areas regulated by the province.
The release also says the national securities regulation plan was an "unwarranted expansion of the federal trade and commerce constitutional power."
"Securities regulation is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, and acknowledging federal authority in this area would have implications in other areas of financial regulation that have historically been provincial responsibility," Evans said in her statement.
"The interests of Albertans and the Alberta capital market are best served by the existing regulatory structure. There is no need for this intrusion into provincial jurisdiction."
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has forged ahead with plans to form a national securities regulator, creating a "transition office" led by Doug Hyndman, the former chairman British Columbia Securities Commission.
Hyndman has said he hopes a national regulator can be set up by 2012.
In mid-October, the federal government announced plans to seek the opinion of the country's highest court on whether Parliament has the authority to put in place a single national securities regulator.
The Alberta government said it decided to launch its legal challenge because a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the issue could take months.
Alberta also plans to intervene in a similar challenge launched by the Quebec provincial government in the Quebec Court of Appeal.
Raymond Bachand, Quebec's finance minister, welcomed Alberta's decision.
"We are very pleased with the government of Alberta's announcement of its decision to intervene in Quebec's reference as well as with its decision to seek a reference with its appeal court," Bachand said in a statement.
"Quebec considers that, out of respect for the Constitution of Canada, the federal government should suspend its work seeking to regulate securities until the courts have ruled on its constitutionality."
Ontario and British Columbia are the most vocal provinces in favor of the single regulator, while jurisdictions such as Quebec and Alberta have spoken out against the idea.
Reporting by Scott Haggett and Jennifer Kwan; editing by Peter Galloway