Ontario budget pledges financial sector reform

Ontario’s provincial government reiterated its pledge to regulate financial planners, establish a co-operative national securities regulator and to bolster the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) role in guarding against systemic risk and overseeing syndicated mortgages in its autumn update on Tuesday.

Although the province’s plan to regulate financial planners is short on specifics, the government said again it intends to restrict the use of financial planning titles and to impose proficiency requirements on planners. The measures are designed to “ensure that consumers have access to high-quality financial planning services” while also reducing the “consumer confusion created by the wide variety of titles used in the industry.”

The government’s statement does not mention anything about introducing a best interests standard, which the Expert Committee to Consider Financial Advisory and Financial Planning Policy Alternatives that advised the government on the need to bring greater oversight to financial planners, in particular, and advisors, generally, also recommended.

Before a new regulatory framework for financial planners is adopted, the government says that it “will consult extensively with stakeholders.”

Read: New rules for advisors and financial planners?

The Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) lauds the government’s move — particularly the promise to restrict the use of the financial planner title, as part of its promised regulatory efforts.

“The current lack of regulatory standards for financial planning creates confusion and undermines the ability of consumers to make informed choices about their financial health,” says Cary List, president and CEO of the FPSC, in a statement.

“With careful implementation, these new requirements will create much-needed clarity and provide Ontarians with the confidence of knowing that any ‘financial planner’ they entrust will be someone who has demonstrated appropriate competence, is ethically sound, is overseen by experts who represent the public interest, and is accountable for their professional conduct,” he adds.

The FPSC notes that it intends to work with the government to help craft the new regulatory framework for planners.

The government also reiterated its commitment to a cooperative national regulator in the autumn update, by participating in the proposed Co-operative Capital Markets Regulatory System (CCMR) along with several other provinces and the federal government.

In addition, Ontario’s government also said it intends to introduce legislative amendments that would expand the power of the OSC to collect information to monitor systemic risk as part of the move to CCMR.

In addition, the province pledges to introduce amendments that would beef up anti-retaliation protection for securities industry whistleblowers by allowing them to sue; give the OSC tools to improve the proxy voting system; and to allow the OSC to extend protective temporary orders involving registration and exemptions.

Finally, Ontario also repeated its pledge to move ahead with regulatory changes to strengthen protections for investors in syndicated mortgages, including setting investment limits on these products, and transferring regulatory oversight of syndicated mortgage investments to the OSC.

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