This government must work with other parties to end snow washing
In the 44e general election, voters sent Canada’s federal parties to bed with a message: Work Together.
Indeed, when it returns to the House of Commons with a minority government, the Liberal Party will likely have to make concessions and work with different mixes of opposition parties for its various policies to be successful.
One policy that all parties can work on, however, is beneficial ownership transparency, an essential tool in the fight against money laundering, or “snow laundering,” as it is called in Canada.
Almost all major parties’ election platform included some form of anti-money laundering plan. The Conservatives, the NDP and the Greens have all cited beneficial ownership transparency as a way to fight real estate tax evasion and money laundering.
The Liberals did not need to make it a political platform, as Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed a publicly available beneficial ownership registry in the 2021 federal budget. She wants it by 2025 and the government recommends ways to implement it by next year.
By advocating for a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership (disclosing the identity of owners behind shell companies), Canada has moved from being a laggard among OECD countries to leading the pack.
UK and EU countries have or are working on a public registry. Even the British Overseas Territories (notorious destinations for money laundering and tax evasion) have promised to establish public registers of beneficial owners. To date, 110 countries have pledged to ensure beneficial ownership transparency, according to the Open Ownership organization.
Two provinces have already made progress. Quebec passed Bill 78 this summer, which incorporates public beneficial ownership information into the province’s corporate registry.
British Columbia has created the Land Ownership Transparency Registry, which makes information on the beneficial ownership of land titles publicly available.
In addition to the support of most federal parties for beneficial ownership transparency, these provincial initiatives have created an excellent dynamic for cooperation between the federal government, the provinces and the territories.
Canada should use examples from other countries to create its own first-rate registry – a registry with data verification systems, an enforcement mandate and severe penalties for violators. To this end, all federal parties should work together to analyze the best policies and technologies.
All parties should also pay close attention to the results of the Cullen commission in British Columbia, which are expected at the end of the year. While the commission’s mandate is to focus on money laundering in British Columbia, the findings and recommendation will naturally have national implications.
The findings may also inform a new financial crime agency, which has been proposed in the Liberal Party platform. All parties should accept such an entity and ensure that it has a sufficiently strong mandate that it will not be dissolved or swallowed up by other law enforcement agencies, as has happened with other law enforcement agencies. similar organizations in the past.
Finally, the parties can unite to accelerate reforms by requiring that all federal government procurement, licensing and grants require beneficial ownership disclosure.
Even before a registry is established and a new enforcement agency is set up, the Canadian government – along with the provinces, territories and municipalities – should know who they are dealing with.
All parties should make it a political goal in order to increase the transparency of public spending and improve the security of sensitive issues such as rare mineral extraction and university grants for critical technologies and research.
Money laundering involves: inflating real estate prices in Canada; facilitate crime, such as the fentanyl trade and human trafficking; allowing tax evasion and allowing kleptocrats in the world’s poorest countries to hide their stolen money in Canada.
Canadians are against money laundering and they want this minority government to work with the opposition parties to fight it. Ending snow washing is an easy victory for everyone.
James Cohen is the Executive Director of Transparency International Canada.
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