Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour to be able to enter into debate on the important issues that Canadians are facing in this country and, specifically, those issues that impact Battle River—Crowfoot.
However, I was celebrated, along with so many in this place and fathers across this country, this past weekend on Sunday, as our nation recognized fathers. If I could for a brief moment, before I get into the substance of what is a very substantive debate, I would just like to pass along my greetings, officially on the record, to my father, all fathers across the country and those grandfathers who have impacted us. Although I do not have grandfathers alive anymore, I know the significant role they played in my life. I wish a happy belated Father's Day to all the fathers represented across our country from coast to coast to coast.
We are debating Bill C-42 here this evening. Although, unfortunately, it seems that the government did some tricky manoeuvring to change the debate from Bill C-18 to Bill C-42, this is an important issue that bears fulsome and comprehensive discussion in this place.
I will back up a bit and talk about something that is probably not on the radar of many Canadians, because when it comes to the idea of money laundering, most Canadians do not really understand the significance of what it is. For example, I know the Panama papers are part of the discussion that has surrounded this bill in particular. I will enlighten us on the challenge that brought us to the point that we would be debating this here this evening. I will then get into what is proposed and where I think some additional items need to be challenged, discussed and addressed, when it comes to the larger issue of what the bill is trying to accomplish.
Most people who have spent much time watching Hollywood movies will have heard of the Cayman Islands, Switzerland or other jurisdictions that are known for hiding money. Criminal enterprises, gangs and thugs store money there, access it in a secretive manner and ensure they could take dirty money that was earned by some nefarious process, whether that be the sale of something illegal, the proceeds of crime or whatever the case is. They go through a process where the money comes out, and it might not be clean on the other side, but at least it is not traceable to the original way that it was earned. This is why we call it “laundering”.
Things like the Panama papers and other news articles make headlines on occasion, and specifically, they often only make headlines when there are significant figures that are involved. This may happen if there is a businessperson or a politician who has some notoriety and is named in these sorts of releases. However, one of the really unfortunate realities is that Canada has become a place where we are known for being able to have money laundering take place.
That is incredibly concerning, especially in a world where digital technology, artificial intelligence and the dynamics associated with some of these things are incredibly complex. We have not had a great deal of time to discuss artificial intelligence in this place. The fact that Canada has become something of a safe haven for money laundering and the proceeds of crime is incredibly concerning.
Some of those proceeds would be from criminal activities that take place on Canadian soil, but the unfortunate signal that has been sent to the criminal enterprises that exist around the world is that Canada seems to be the place where one can see money laundered, regardless of where those proceeds are from. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed.
This has a few unintended consequences as well that I think bear mentioning. Just to highlight for those watching, one of the things that has been highlighted that would be a possible way to see this happen is through the purchase of real estate. At a time when we already have some of the lowest per capita housing availability in the developed world, it is incredibly concerning that some of the pressures that exist there would be for purposes that are nefarious and certainly not benefiting Canadians for the pricing structure that exists. Especially when we have a price point that is determined in a market that is not based on the product and its availability, laundering artificially inflates it. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed.
That is the problem. Now we have Bill C-42, which is a step in the right direction to address some of those things. The question is whether it goes far enough, and I will get to the ways that I do not think it does. However, it does address some of the challenges and attempts to ensure that some of the currently existing loopholes that allow Canada to be this safe haven, as I mentioned, are addressed.
One thing is to ensure that there is greater accountability for those who are purchasing businesses that have those large financial interests in this country. The reason this is important is to ensure that there is that registry and that ability to have accountability at every stage of the corporate process. For those who have no reason to hide their actions, of course, this is not something that will concern them. There may be some reporting requirements through financial institutions and whatnot, but if a person is not doing anything wrong, these burdens are not something that would be part of the daily life of the accounting of a business's operations; that is valuable.
When it comes to the fines, and we have certainly heard a lot about the fines as we have had debate about this issue, there would be an increase in the penalties, both monetary penalties and possible prison sentences. Certainly, I think that is important, although I will note the irony that it seems as though the Liberals have this habit of being soft on crime in many regards, but they want to send a signal through the legislation, it would seem, that Canada is willing to get tough when it comes to white-collar crime. However, there are certainly some challenges when it comes to the crime that is affecting so many Canadians.
There are a number of aspects that build on some of the actions that have been taken by the previous Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which saw this as a challenge and started to make some of those changes. Notably, back in 2014, I believe, there were some significant changes that the Harper government made to ensure that it would tighten up some of the areas that were loopholes at that point in time. A number of steps have been taken over the last number of years.
I believe my colleague for Wellington—Halton Hills said it well when he talked about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link. We are seeing that there could be some holes plugged in the challenges that Canada faces when it comes to money laundering. However, it is fundamentally important to ensure that we do not stop here.
A lot of this discussion took place at committee, and I know folks who are watching are interested in seeing some of that. The work that the committee did highlighted some opportunities that existed in terms of strengthening this legislation, and we saw a few amendments pass. However, a whole host of other amendments could have made this legislation stronger.
To address some of this strange occurrence that happens increasingly with the government, it seems to be quick to rush everything through, because it is a crisis. This is unfortunate; as it is rushing things through, it often ends up having to go back and fix the challenges or the gaps that could and should have been addressed in the earlier stages of the process. At the industry committee, there were some challenges brought up, including from some senior public servants who were concerned about the possibility of challenges when it comes to implementation. There are privacy concerns that the Liberals have to address, and this is simply another part of those areas.
To conclude, it is incumbent on us all in this place to do our utmost to ensure that every bill that comes forward is debated thoroughly and that we have engagement from the affected stakeholders. When it comes to something like this, it may not be on the forefront of many Canadians' minds, but it is fundamentally important that we get it right, so that we can stop Canada from being a safe haven for money laundering in this world.