In Question Period, I asked BC’s attorney general what the timeline is for the government to decide if a public inquiry is warranted.
Over a year ago I asked the Attorney General for more information on the extent of money laundering happening in the province. I asked about how this illicit money was being generated by the fentanyl crisis and being parked in real estate. Yesterday we discovered that the U.S. Department of State has now listed Canada as a major money laundering jurisdiction. Our country was also designated as a major precursor country for illicit narcotics and a source country for fentanyl. The Wild West indeed.
Since 2016, over 8,000 Canadians have died from opioid-related overdose deaths, thousands of overdose deaths. A housing crisis, with billions in laundered money. It’s all linked with Vancouver at its centre. The Attorney General said last week that a big piece of the public inquiry would be to determine if the decisions that augmented this crisis were “simple incompetence, willful blindness or whether, in fact, it was corruption.”
My question is to the Attorney General. We’ve heard for months and months that a public inquiry is a maybe. But as we learn more and more, it becomes harder and harder for this government to sit on the fence. What is the timeline for the government to decide if a public inquiry is indeed warranted?
Hon. D. Eby: I thank the member for the question. The member knows we hired Peter German. He’s been out there doing phase 2 of the work, focused on real estate, luxury cars and horse racing. We’ll be getting that information out to the public as soon as we can. In part, we commissioned that report so the public would know what was going on and so the members of this place would also know, if they don’t already.
The second piece that the member asked about is in relation to political accountability and a public inquiry. And I’ll note simply that we have written now multiple times to the member for Abbotsford West asking for the opposition to disclose to the government, confidentially, the work that they did when they were in government on anti-money-laundering. We heard from the member for Langley East they did a great deal of important work.
We’re having trouble finding it, hon. Member, so we’re hopeful that they will waive the privilege and allow us to review the documents, confidentially, so we can build on the very important work that they tell us that they’ve done. I don’t know why, but the member for Abbotsford West has stopped replying to our correspondence.
Mr. Speaker: House Leader, Third Party, on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: Thank you to the minister for his response. Let’s hope we can have a collaborative approach to this very serious problem in our province. Sam Cooper, the journalist who has been a leading force behind the exposure of the money-laundering scene in the province has stated that, in Vancouver, approximately 50 percent of the most expensive luxury real estate is owned by non-transparent structures like shell companies. Often the owners, on paper, are stay-at-home parents or students — people whose reported income couldn’t possibly support the ownership of $20 million or $30 million homes.
Statistics like this shed light on the urgent need to better understand the potential connection between money laundering and real estate. I appreciate that the Minister of Finance has introduced Bill 23, which is meant to increase transparency of land-ownership, but will not answer the many questions about how we got to this terrible place.
The Attorney General now has two reports in front of him that were designed to look directly into the real estate, money-laundering connection. British Columbians have waited a long time for answers on this.
My question is to the Attorney General. Since we don’t have clarity yet on a public inquiry, can the Attorney General provide a timeline on when he will be commenting on these reports and what they contain?
Hon. D. Eby: Just before I get into that timeline, might I just take a moment to reflect on the amazing work of the Finance Minister of British Columbia, who introduced two bills yesterday that are literally going to transform law enforcement and tax authority. They’re going to transform law enforcement and tax authority’s ability to see who owns real estate in our province, who actually owns it and how they paid for it. It is transformational, and I thank her very much for the work.
On the issue of the release of the reports. The process is that staff go through the reports. They identify individuals who have been specifically named in the report. Those individuals are given an opportunity to respond and explain. This helps mitigate potential defamation risk, for example. We also make sure that we’re not compromising any active law enforcement investigations.
It’s is a bit of a time-intensive process. However….
Hon. D. Eby: Now, the member for Langley East again, the one who called the RCMP to yell at them about reporting money laundering in the casinos, which we know was actually happening.
I have yet to hear an apology from that member for getting that RCMP member disciplined who had the courage to speak out about a problem in our province. He owes that officer an apology.
It’s a bit of time-involved process. We will get there, hon. Member.
One of the main reasons we commissioned these report was to let the public know what’s going on in this province.