Federal provincial agreement on corporate ownership transparency a big step forward but needs to go further.

Ottawa: Canadians For Tax Fairness, Publish What You Pay Canada, and Transparency International Canada applaud the announcement by the federal, provincial and territorial Finance Ministers today of cooperation on transparency of beneficial owners but are concerned that it is not yet clear and robust enough to effectively combat money laundering, tax evasion and other criminal activities. The three organizations are advocating for a public ownership registry that matches the ambition of international partners such as the U.K.

“Canada is currently a laggard and is seen as having a “doors wide open” approach to money laundering,” says James Cohen Director, Policy and Programs for Transparency International Canada (TIC), “Canadians don’t always know who is buying their real estate and businesses.”

Transparency of beneficial ownership information can help to combat money laundering of the proceeds of crime, terrorist financing and tax evasion. It will also help to reduce the amount of ‘dirty money’ finding its way into Canada attempting to be ‘snow washed’.

“While this announcement is commendable, it lacks specificity and falls short of the recommendations our groups have been making, says Paul Rowe, Interim Director of Publish What You Pay Canada, “The report Secret Entities and its accompanying policy note by author Mora Johnson, released last week, called for a mandatory public registry to meet best practices set by other nations.”

Recommendations in the policy note are for an effective and truly world class Canadian approach. They included:

• Requiring companies and trusts to disclose beneficial owners to provincial, territorial and federal corporate registries and then compiling this data on a national public searchable database that would facilitate access on behalf of law enforcement, financial institutions, civil society, and journalists.
• Creating a common reporting standard in which the federal government, provinces, and territories can collect the same information to facilitate sharing.

“We look forward to discussions with federal, provincial, and territorial governments, business, law enforcements, and citizens, to inform them why a public registry of beneficial owners is good for all sectors in Canada,” says Sasha Caldera, Program Manager at Canadians For Tax Fairness.