October 10, 2019
WINNIPEG - Manitoba Liberals want the PCs to toughen up a bill on business ownership transparency that is supposed to help Manitoba meet its commitments under money laundering and tax avoidance laws.
Bill 22 is supposed to set up registries that show who owns businesses in Manitoba. The PCs bill only requires corporations to have a list of their owners at their office in Manitoba and requires individuals to take out an affidavit to access them.
Dougald Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface and Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, says that is not good enough. The OECD's anti-corruption unit, Transparency International, and Canadians for Tax Fairness all recommend an open and online public registry so that Canada meets its obligations under international money-laundering and terrorist financing acts.
"One of the reasons Canada can't collect billions in taxes that are being hidden offshore is that Canada itself is a tax haven and the secrecy of our laws makes money-laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion possible," said Lamont. "It is easier to register a business in Manitoba than it is to get a library card. If we want to stop being fleeced by international tax havens, we have to start by cleaning house."
Lamont and the Liberals introduced amendments that would reduce the declaration of ownership from 25% to 15%, require businesses to openly share the people who own and control businesses, and leave it open for the government to require businesses to post ownership on a website.
Lamont said governments must get serious about money laundering and tax havens.
The OECD estimates that tax avoidance costs G20 countries between US$100-billion and US$240-billion ($133-billion to $320-billion Canadian).
"Money-laundering, snow-washing, tax avoidance and tax evasion hurts every honest business and every honest citizen because it undermines the economy, government revenues, and leaves a greater burden for the rest of us," said Lamont. "This is a basic measure that Manitoba should be fulfilling and we hope that all parties can come to an agreement on this."