Despite recent overtures of compromise on the issue of a single securities regulator, the provinces are still a long way from consensus.

Within the past month, two of the key securities regulators in Canada, namely Alberta and British Columbia, have been fairly outspoken about their opinions, with B.C. backtracking on a previous stance.

“The debate has been raging for the past 10 years and I’m sure there’s much more of a debate to get going on that issue,” says Doug Hyndman, chair of the B.C. Securities Commission in Vancouver. But B.C. did something interesting last month. Based on the advice of the B.C. Securities Commission, the government withdrew a proposed bill that would have created its own securities act. What it did instead was agree to support the so-called “passport model.”

“We’ve concluded that it’s best to work on reforms collectively with our colleagues. And one of the reasons we concluded that was that we’ve seen other jurisdictions become much more receptive to that kind of reform,” adds Hyndman.

At stake are essentially two visions of securities regulation in Canada. The first, adopted by the likes of B.C. and Alberta, is the passport model. It aims to streamline access to capital markets across Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. But each province and territory would still have its own regulator, enact its own laws and levy its own fees. Companies could register to sell securities in one province or territory and all other provinces and territories would recognize their credentials. The other vision is of a single national regulator.

The move by B.C. has strengthened Alberta’s stance. In a speech in Toronto last month, Bill Rice, chair of the Alberta Securities Commission in Calgary, essentially told the business community that his province is best served with regulation tailored to its own priorities. And speaking to BENEFITS CANADA, Rice said, “There are goals to harmonize, streamline, simplify, reduce duplications etc. And I see a system that is facing those goals and is achieving a great deal in a good time frame. I see a system that is facing its deficiencies very well and is making progress.”

Still, despite the seemingly newfound sense of cooperation among some of the provinces, there is still one—Ontario—that prefers a single national regulator. A statement from the Ontario Management Board Secretariat says: “Ontario has consistently called for a common securities regulator to improve the competitive position of Canada’s capital markets and strengthen the foundation for economic growth in Ontario and across Canada.”

Not exactly a rounding endorsement of the passport model sought out by other provinces. Bank of Canada governor David Dodge has spoken out in support of better cooperation between jurisdictions. At a press conference in Toronto, Dodge told BENEFITS CANADA, “What is really important is that we have appropriate and uniform securities regulations and securities law in this country. It can be done in two ways: either through a single regulator, or a harmonization of laws in 13 jurisdictions.”

Despite the largest province backing a single regulator, there will not necessarily be a push in that direction any time soon. Rice says the process needs cooperation from everyone. “If you’re going to try for a single regulator, everybody really has to nail down and focus specifically on that goal. If they’re going to reach harmonization through the passport model, then everyone has to work very hard at that. I don’t think you can do both at the same time.”

But even with all the debate, there does not seem to be a dedicated desire to change anything in the near term. Says Rice, “I would be surprised if there were a sudden leap and dedication into the single regulator model. Only because we are on another path that is trying to achieve, in the end, the same result. That is the greatest degree of harmonization possible.”

World View

It’s not cheap to retire. According to statistics from Fidelity Investments in Boston, the average couple retiring in the U.S. will need US$200,000 to cover its healthcare costs for 20 years.

The US$200,000 cost estimate is a 5.3% increase over last year’s estimate of US$190,000 and reflects costs for those who do not have any employerprovided retiree health coverage. Fidelity says the costs can be broken into Medicare premiums, prescription drug payments and “other” which includes co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles for doctor visits.

It’s been a long time in coming but retired cricket players in India have finally received the pension increase they have been waiting for. Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sharad Pawar said the monthly pension will be 25,000 Rupees or about $651 Cdn.

It seems that cricket in India has been making a lot of money lately from television rights and general public interest. “With such high income, the associations should pledge to improve the standard of the game and also give better facilities to players so that they remain with the sport, grow with it and can make a living out of it,” Pawar said.

Plans have been approved in Germany to raise the age at which people can draw on state retirement benefits from 65 to 67; Germany’s pension system had a shortfall of about US$4.8 billion last year. The Labour Ministry said that by 2030, more than a third of Germans will be older than 60, which heightens the need for adjustments in the pension system. Besides the retirement age increase, the German cabinet also approved a freeze on pension payments.

SOX THAT MATCH – Canadian executives believe implementation of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX)rules concerning governance and disclosure are not easy, but well worth the effort. Those are the findings in a survey conducted by the Certified Management Accountants of Canada.

The survey makes some important conclusions and offers tips for managing regulatory change on SOX implementation. For example, executives said there needs to be secure top-down support to meet the goals of SOX and to have the process perceived as a corporate-wide undertaking. Also, a dedicated team needs to be assembled that is dedicated to SOX implementation and that understands the core business. The survey also showed that using IT effectively to make reporting more efficient will save time and money. Finally, managers said it is important to get external support for the implementation process.

Hurry up and wait
Much of the time spent by Canadians waiting for medical treatments is made up of waiting to see a specialist, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information(CIHI) in Ottawa.

The Waiting for Healthcare in Canada: What We Know and What We Don’t Know report finds that in 2005, 2.8 million Canadian adults said they visited a specialist and half of those reported waiting four weeks or less. When it came to hip and knee replacements, 30% of patients said the total wait time was spent waiting for an initial appointment with the orthopedic surgeon.

But how does this affect plan sponsors? Some in the benefits world see this as purely economics.“From an employer perspective, where this becomes an issue, is in the disability management process,” says Greg Forbes, partner in the benefits consulting practice with Morneau Sobeco in Halifax. “That’s when an employer may look at it to say ‘this is too long a waiting period and it makes financial sense for us to have something done in the private network as opposed to waiting for the public.’” Across the country, the data shows that wait times tend to be the longest for knee replacements, followed by hip replacements and cataract surgery.

Joel Kranc