Canada has moved a step closer to the creation of a single securities regulator with the announcement of a new Transition Office to lead the project.

HyndmanThe office, headed by Doug Hyndman, Chair of the British Columbia Securities Commission since 1987, has been given twelve months to publish a plan for creating a single regulator.

A key part of Hyndman’s job will be gaining the support of Canada’s provincial authorities. The country is unique among developed nations in that it has a patchwork of provincial securities regulators and no national or federal body. Past moves to create a single regulator have run into political obstacles, but strengthening the country’s financial system is a key part of the government’s action plan to deal with recession.

Announcing the new office, Canada’s federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government would work with any of the country’s ten provinces and three territories that wanted to participate, but stressed none would be forced to join.

A single regulator would “enable Canada to respond swiftly and efficiently to developments in the financial sector and speak with one voice internationally,” Flaherty said. “It will also provide clearer national accountability, strengthen enforcement, better serve the needs of investors, and eliminate barriers within our own country,”

The Canadian Bankers Association welcomed the move and commended Flaherty for his “perseverance” in pushing the project forward. “A single Canadian securities regulator will enhance efficiency and allow regulators to respond more quickly to changing market events, which is particularly important as Canada copes with the recession,” it said.