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Don’t look now, but the long-criticized Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) is emerging as the standard bearer for regulatory progress.

With the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) now seemingly taking marching orders from Queen’s Park, the OSC – which historically led much of the policy work for the rest of the CSA – has receded from the forefront of the provincial regulators’ ongoing reform efforts.

Impressively, the CSA has stepped up to take the OSC’s place by following through on a couple of major investor protection projects that have been in the works for years.

Late last year, the CSA pushed ahead with its client-focused reforms (CFRs) and promised to proceed with a proposed ban on mutual funds’ deferred sales charge (DSC) structures in 2020.

The CSA has delivered on that promise, announcing that a DSC ban will be adopted in mid-2022 to finally address the regulator’s long-standing misgivings with the compensation structure.

Ontario, the only holdout, has proposed a series of curbs on DSCs that aim to limit investor harm.

The CSA should be lauded for sticking to its guns on DSCs, even as the OSC has been forced to drop back as regulatory leader.

With the OSC hobbled by its government, the rest of the CSA’s members could easily have wilted – potentially squandering years of research, consultation and hard work – and once again left retail investors to fend for themselves.

Instead, the CSA is proving it has convictions after all.

In the past, the OSC often appeared to be dragging the rest of the provinces’ regulators kicking and screaming into any sort of policy reform. If anything, the CSA seemed to serve as an obstacle to progress and not an agent of it.

Yet, on CFRs and DSCs, the CSA is proving that it’s not an empty, ineffectual bureaucracy.

In doing so, the regulator, which touts itself as a “virtual” national regulator, also has revealed a couple of the inherent virtues of its model: flexibility and resilience in the face of political interference.