This story was updated on March 25, 2020, to include comments from the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.
Financial markets are deemed an essential service and are to remain open amid the Ontario government’s declaration of a state of emergency in the province, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) says.
In an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19, the provincial government announced that all non-essential businesses must close as of 11:59 PM on March 24.
In a release, the OSC clarified that the shutdown order does not cover businesses in the capital markets sector, which are considered essential services.
The government also exempted banking, insurance and other financial services. As a result, financial firms can remain open.
“The extent to which firms choose to provide services through on-site personnel or other means are decisions to be made by each firm or organization,” the OSC said in its release.
The regulator also noted that its staff continue to “operate at the level necessary to deliver crucial services to the market and to protect Ontario investors.”
“Investor protections and regulatory requirements remain fully in place and are critical to Ontario’s capital markets functioning fairly and efficiently,” the OSC said.
The OSC, along with the rest of the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), have provided some relief to firms, including a 45-day extension of regulatory filings that must be made by June 1.
They’ve also said that the deadlines for existing policy consultations will be extended by 45 days. And the CSA has provided guidance to issuers on holding shareholder meetings online due to social distancing requirements.
Earlier this month, the OSC announced that most of its staff are now working remotely and that in-person meetings, events and on-site compliance work has been suspended.
In-person hearings before the OSC tribunal have also been suspended until April 30, although the OSC is continuing with written hearings and may use teleconferencing or videoconferencing for certain proceedings.
In a statement, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) said that it “remains fully operational as an essential service carrying out all core and critical regulatory responsibilities. This includes the real-time oversight of all equity trading in Canada to ensure our markets operate in an orderly manner and with integrity.”
IIROC formally closed its offices on March 20 and moved to remote working arrangements, but maintains “access to our facilities if required.”
“IIROC is in frequent contact with the Canadian Securities Administrators and key stakeholders — marketplaces, investment firms and governments. As the situation develops, we will adapt our plans and issue further communication, where appropriate,” it said.