Martyn Brown: Shining a light on Canada’s dirty money do-nothings in “Ozark North”

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      “The world needs more Canada,” former U.S. president Barack Obama once famously told Parliament to thundering applause, in also lauding Justin Trudeau’s “outstanding leadership”.

      These days, about the only ones who might agree with that assessment are outlaw motorcycle gangs, money launderers from Canada and around the world, global drug cartels, corrupt politicians, foreign dictators, and the world’s most oppressive governments.

      A safe haven to launder our illegal cash? Yes, please.

      Easy access to Canadian blood money for government contracts? More of that, absolutely.

      A blissfully ignorant and hopelessly underfunded, poorly regulated, ill-coordinated and weakly enforced oasis for dirty money and crimes rarely prosecuted?

      You bet—err, we bet! Our world needs so much more of that Canada, they have all been quietly saying to themselves over these past decades.

      For as Peter German’s latest report makes clear, along with B.C.’s expert panel report on money laundering in the real estate sector, Canada is rapidly defining itself as the world’s money laundering capital.

      Indeed, I’m waiting for Netflix to announce its new Ozark spin-off series: Ozark North.

      Rumour has it, it will be filmed on location in Vancouver. And also in other dirty-money magnet centres beyond the Rockies—across the invisible “Canadian shield” that has made Canada such an easy mark for organized crime over the decades.

      You want a riveting story of rampant corruption, unwittingly aided and abetted by revenue-grubbing politicians who have systemically turned a blind eye to the bribery, fraud and sordid practices of large corporations that have also feathered their nests with illegal political donations?

      You’ve come to the right place.

      Finance Minister and Attorney General David Eby released two reports on money laundering this week.

      Canada is once again on the OECD's and the World Bank's “most (not) wanted” bribery and corruption watch lists.

      When Canadian corporate “Crown jewels” like SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier take centre stage in the global battle against bribery and corruption, you might think that would be enough to make Canada’s governing party perk up and act.

      When report after report details the scope and magnitude of money laundering in British Columbia—from casinos, to luxury cars, to real estate—you would think it would oblige the federal politicians in Ottawa to take the lead in demanding a public inquiry to get to the bottom of that national travesty.


      And wrong again.

      I’ll spare you the details of the money laundering problems that Attorney General David Eby’s capable hired pit bulls have already unearthed.

      They are readily available in the Straight (see Related Stories), countless media stories, and broadcast news clips. Or better yet, in the reports noted above and in Peter German’s initial review on casino money laundering.

      Suffice it to say, they are not just shocking; they are mindboggling in all they suggest about the ways and means in which illegal bucks flowed like cheap wine in and out of B.C. and Canada over so many years.

      Untold billions of bucks we now know, which until now, never stopped at the politicians’ doors.

      Ending those practices is, of the course, the end game.

      But simply outing them is also itself a worthy public purpose.

      It urgently warrants a public inquiry, whatever the minor millions it might cost taxpayers in search of solutions and individual accountability.

      It would be a very wise and modest public investment that would stand to save us exponentially more in all it reveals and recommends in cracking down on money laundering, to say nothing of corporate corruption.

      Fact is, none of the major party leaders have been pushing for a public inquiry into money laundering and corruption, federally or provincially.

      They say it’s because it would be too expensive and too protracted to be of much use. A waste, really. No point. And anyway, there’s no percentage in finding fault or casting blame.

      Let’s just “move forward” and resolve to “do better”. That’s the ticket.

      Guilty, as charged, they might as well stamp on their parties’ compromised foreheads.

      Deep down, they and we all know, why they don’t want a corruption inquiry. 

      Because it will point the finger back at their parties’ gross negligence in government to crack down on money laundering and corporate malfeasance.

      They welcome it like Trudeau does an RCMP investigation into his LavScam scandal.

      The truth can be a terrible thing for those whose stock and trade is hiding it at all costs.

      Former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German was hired to report back on money laundering in casinos, luxury car sales, and horse racing.

      You can bet that it is not just the likes of Andrew Wilkinson, Rich Coleman, Mike de Jong, and their past B.C. Liberal cabinet colleagues who are politically petrified of a public inquiry on money laundering.

      It’s not just the key actors in the Clark government who are not keen on the prospect of calling witnesses under oath to testify about “who knew what, where, and when”. Including from the legions of civil servants and Crown agency employees who could tell us all so much about where and how the bodies were buried.

      As we have just learned, the NDP’s expert panel “conservatively estimates annual money laundering activity in 2015 in Canada at $41.3 billion ($46.7 billion for 2018) and in BC at $6.3 billion ($7.4 billion for 2018).”

      That includes an estimated $5 billion laundered through the real estate sector alone last year—illegal cash that pushed the price of buying homes up by five per cent, averaged across B.C., or by about $50 grand on a $1-million home.

      That’s just a well-educated guesstimate, as the panel admitted, given its limited means and legal ability to really crack that egg on a national basis, or even just as it effects B.C.

      Oh, it’s “extremely alarming”, Trudeau concurs. But no worries, rest assured, his government is on the case, with strengthened audits and so much more.

      Just don’t ask him to show us all how hollow those assurances are by putting the problem to a public inquiry.

      Similarly, the last thing Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservatives want is to expose the true extent of their party’s scandalous neglect of the problem over almost a decade government.

      Together, the Harper government and Trudeau government have made Canada a sitting duck for dirty money and for dishonest predators preying upon our country’s compliant dopes and dupes.

      They sure don’t want shine a light on their woeful underfunding of the law enforcement and financial reporting and compliance agencies, which effectively threw out the welcome mat to organized crime and global money launderers.

      They don’t want to have to explain why the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre known as Fintrac fell down on its job. Be it from underfunding, from statutory deficiencies that were known and ignored, or from the lack of coordination with the RCMP, CSIS and other agencies that Eby’s money laundering warriors have highlighted.

      Nor do those party leaders want to have to answer for Export Development Canada’s failings. 

      Failings that include extending taxpayer-funded loans to Canadian corporations that allegedly used some of that money to engage in bribery, fraud or other illicit activities aimed at securing international contracts from some of the world’s worst political regimes.

      Or why it was that the politicians hadn’t put proper safeguards and auditing mechanisms in place to identify and prosecute those activities.

      Watch CBC News reporter Eric Rankin's documentary examination of suspicious transactions in casinos.

      Precious few of the politicians at any level of government have called for a public inquiry.

      They don’t want to broadcast the roll that Canadian politicians, banks, lawyers, realtors, car dealers, and largely foreign resident—students, homemakers and other intermediaries—played in washing the world’s filthy money, padding corporate profits, or enriching government coffers.

      But we, the people, do.

      We want to know what really went on.

      Because Obama’s appeal to Canada’s ethically inflated sense of itself is now a sick punchline for international ridicule and for domestic revulsion. At least, in respect of the money laundering and corporate corruption our elected “leaders” have tolerated and obliviously invited.  

      Indeed, we demand to know who was responsible and how the system is being gamed even today.

      We demand to know how organized crime and corporate criminals have also indirectly filled government treasuries with buckets of tainted gaming revenues, property transfer taxes, vehicle sales taxes, and corporate income taxes. 

      Fingers crossed, B.C. premier John Horgan’s NDP government will run that risk and lay down the gauntlet, by deciding to launch a public inquiry later this month.

      It’s worth noting, doing that sure wouldn’t hurt the federal New Democrats.

      It would serve that wedge issue up on a platter for Jagmeet Singh. He should have been screaming about it from the rooftops, in trying to make his mark as party leader.

      Instead, as with so many other issues ripe for the picking, he has largely missed the boat. What he stands for, or what he hopes to achieve in contrast to the main contenders, is largely anyone’s guess. Even his call for an inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin fiasco has been anemic, at best.

      Same goes for federal Green party Leader Elizabeth May. 

      As the one Canadians identify as their nation’s most ethical leader, she needs to champion the need for a national corruption inquiry as a key part of her campaign pitch.

      I dare say that voters’ desire for a new and more ethical alternative to the “old school” parties was instrumental in Paul Manley’s impressive byelection win in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

      The NDP and Greens both ought to make combating money laundering and corporate corruption a central campaign focus, starting with a clarion call for a public inquiry as one of their “deal breakers” in deciding which party to support in the event of a minority government.

      Indeed, if Andrew Scheer was smart, he would also jump on the bandwagon in trying to lead that charge, if only to distance himself from Stephen Harper’s government.

      Whatever mistakes it may have made are now only relevant in the review mirror. Those objections to his objections, as it were, are smaller than they appear.

      To Canada Proud, Ontario Proud, B.C. Proud and all those other conservative surrogates now rallying Scheer’s troops on social media, I say this.

      You want to really make Canada proud? Stand up to Justin Trudeau and demand a public inquiry into money laundering and corporate corruption.

      Make no mistake: Canadians have had it up to their eyeballs with politicians who are all talk and no action on “ethics” and on the need to “get tough” on crime.

      If Horgan launches a public inquiry, it will really challenge all federal leaders to follow suit.

      In the meantime, whatever his government’s political motives might have been in initiating its battle against money laundering back in 2017, Premier Horgan’s New Democrats should all take a bow.

      Their efforts to illuminate and combat the problem of money laundering in its ever-widening public scope and salience have given “public service” a good name.

      Keep up the good work, for which most of us are thankful, is my advice.

      Go the next major mile.

      Launch that public inquiry, before the legislature rises.

      And then sit back and watch as the federal opposition party leaders scramble to hold that torch high as their own Olympic vision for the Canada that we all tell ourselves should be an example to the world.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at