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Securities scofflaws now face the prospect of being denied drivers’ licences and licence plates in British Columbia if they don’t pay sanctions imposed by the B.C. Securities Commission (BCSC).

Under new powers that took effect on March 29, the BCSC can block people who haven’t paid monetary penalties levied by the regulator from obtaining (or renewing) a driver’s licence, licence plates or vehicle registration.

The measure is intended to give the BCSC another tool for enforcing the payment of regulatory sanctions, which has long been an issue for Canadian regulators.

In fiscal 2020, the BCSC reported that it assessed $4.1-million worth of enforcement sanctions, but $3.1 million of that amount wasn’t recognized as revenue because the sanctions were not deemed to be collectible. In many cases, sanctions go unpaid because the money has been spent, and regulators have long sought greater powers to improve collection of their enforcement orders.

B.C. is the first province to try denying access to other government services as a way of encouraging securities violators to pay their sanctions.

An Ontario government task force has recommended that the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) be given the same powers, for sanctions ordered by the OSC or the courts.

In B.C., the power to deny driving privileges was adopted as part of a set of legislative amendments that were passed in 2019 to beef up the BCSC’s enforcement powers, among other things.

“If investors and our capital markets are harmed because of misconduct, there should be consequences,” said Brenda Leong, chair and CEO of the BCSC, in a release. “If you don’t pay the sanctions we impose, it can have an impact on your everyday life.”

The power to restrict access to driver and vehicle licensing in B.C. can be used only for unpaid sanctions of at least $3,000.

The commission will consider exercising the power on a case-by-case basis. When it opts to use the power, it must notify the person affected; and, if they pay or agree to a payment plan, the BCSC must withdraw the notice.

The Ontario task force said that implementing the power in that province “requires careful consideration of privacy safeguards that may be appropriate” regarding information sharing.