Georgia Straight’s Charlie Smith notes that imperfect provincial legislation encourages corruption in British Columbia. His comments are in the February 10 article, Another media barrage about money laundering in BC:
…in the blizzard of Canadian media coverage about money laundering in B.C., there’s been little exploration of the legislative framework that enables this crime to flourish.
Here in B.C., for example, the Business Corporations Act makes it easy to hide the beneficial ownership of companies.
Section 49 of the act renders it impossible for the public or the media to visit a company’s records office to obtain a list of shareholders.
That wasn’t the case in the 1990s.
But this changed when Gordon Campbell’s first B.C. Liberal government overhauled the old Company Act in 2002 to encourage more investment and more secrecy.
The Campbell Government’s plan for additional secrecy was kept secret from voters the year before. The 2001 Liberal platform document promised they would “deliver real transparent, accountable government.“
Of course, Gordon Campbell’s 2001 platform also promised this:
You shouldn’t have to pay higher than necessary electricity or auto insurance rates, because government wants to play politics with BC Hydro or ICBC. You should be confident that government will protect your interests.
Charlie Smith quotes Transparency International Canada:
There is an even greater degree of anonymity for beneficial owners of trusts than for beneficial owners of companies. A trust’s existence does not need to be acknowledged by a government authority, and trust documents are entirely private.
The private nature of trust instruments, the fiduciary obligation of trustees to maintain confidentiality, and the absence of any record-keeping requirements combine to make trusts highly vulnerable to money laundering, according to a recent risk assessment by the Canadian government.
In its short life, the Horgan government has made no change to the law that replaced the old Company Act. Quoting Charlie Smith again:
NDP finance minister Carole James and NDP attorney general David Eby have not amended the Business Corporations Act to spread more sunshine…
I expect the NDP will alter noted legislation after it has consulted with affected parties and examined the consequences. This takes time and there are many bills to amend laws under consideration.
However, Georgia Straight editor Smith correctly identifies changes that must be a priority if we are to address money laundering and associated behaviour by groups operating outside legitimate society.