The federal government has committed another $10 million in funding to the RCMP so the force can further investigate money laundering across Canada.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau made the announcement along the waterfront in Vancouver on Thursday morning after a special meeting of federal cabinet ministers and their provincial counterparts to discuss national strategies for stemming the problem.
The B.C. government had said the meeting in Vancouver would highlight new legislative changes already underway in the province that could be replicated across the country.
On Thursday, Morneau said ministers and their counterparts discussed several gaps in the system designed to detect money laundering. In particular, Morneau stressed the idea of setting up registries of beneficial owners of real estate, who are the ones who actually benefit from the property as opposed to the legal or registered owners.
“We know we need to have some kind of co-ordinated leadership nationally even though it’s provincial jurisdiction,” the federal minister said.
B.C. has already announced plans for such a registry, which collects the names of people buying property using corporations, trusts and numbered companies.
Morneau did not give a direct answer when asked how the funding would be divvied among provinces. Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction, stepped in and said the leaders didn’t discuss specific allocations on Thursday, but it’s been decided that money would go “where the work is.”
The province also launched a public inquiry into money laundering in May after three independent reviews revealed that billions of dollars are laundered each year through B.C.’s casinos, real estate market and other sectors.
B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said in a statement that money laundering has distorted the province’s economy, fuelled the overdose crisis and driven up housing prices.
But she said criminals don’t stop at provincial borders.
“This is a national issue, and strong action is required from the federal government and all the provinces to combat money laundering in our country.”
B.C. Attorney General David Eby said the province is the leading jurisdiction for overdose deaths, luxury car sales and out-of-control real estate prices — all of which have been linked to a “cancerous” transnational money-laundering problem.
“At this summit, we will have one message: Without a significant federal financial commitment to increased law and tax enforcement in B.C., hard-working families who play by the rules will continue to be at a disadvantage to criminals and cheats,” Eby said.