The idea of setting up a national securities commission in Canada has recently returned to the forefront. However, the debate is not based on a rigorous empirical study. Most arguments put forward to support the idea of the inefficiency of securities regulation are not supported by regulatory and finance theory, and are generally based only on unsupported statements put forward by pressure groups. Our study analyses the arguments put forward by proponents of the centralization of securities regulation and highlights the current problems of the Canadian securities market.

The Canadian securities market is confronted with major challenges. It faces direct competition from a much larger market, where various market systems compete fiercely with each other. It appears difficult to impute to the provincial regulatory structure these difficulties which essentially affect the secondary market and the costs of which are mostly related to stock exchange operations and brokers. The direct costs of regulation are not higher in Canada than in other jurisdictions, especially when the comparison takes into account the number of reporting issuers. The process for an initial offering is not only less costly in Canada, it is also more rapid than in the United States. It must be admitted that the argument of the negative effects of the regulatory system on Canadian issues has not been proven. The proposed centralized model would change little with respect to harmonization of securities legislation which, to a great extent, is now governed by national standards. It would create a regulatory monopoly, a dangerous situation given the very high concentration of the regulated industry, and would cause the loss in Canada of the benefits of regulatory competition which currently prevails. There are few arguments to the effect that such a structure would reduce direct costs and the Australian example seems to indicate the opposite. On the contrary, a system based on harmonization and mutual recognition (the passport) presents advantages which have lead the European Community to opt for this system of securities regulation.

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