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Canada Ontario seeks federal funding on par with B.C. to establish money-laundering task force

Ontario is calling on the federal government to fund an anti-money laundering task force in the province, with its Finance Minister raising concerns that it is not receiving as much money to combat the problem as British Columbia.

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said in a letter sent this week to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau that Ontario is concerned about millions in funding for anti-money laundering initiatives going predominantly to British Columbia.

“Ontario faces similar challenges to B.C. and deserves equal treatment in the allocation of funding,” Mr. Fedeli said.

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“I propose a new task force dedicated to anti-money laundering measures in Ontario that would be federally funded proportionately to the B.C. initiatives.”

Mr. Morneau will meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts Thursday in Vancouver, where, along with Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair, they will discuss Canada’s attempts to crack down on money laundering and terrorist financing. Mr. Fedeli, who is travelling in Europe this week, will not attend but is sending his parliamentary assistant, MPP Doug Downey, in his place.

In the March federal budget, the Liberal government announced an extra $29-million in anti-money-laundering spending each year on the RCMP and the country’s financial-intelligence watchdog, much of it to be focused in B.C. The budget also earmarked $50-million over the next five years for the Canada Revenue Agency to create residential and commercial real estate teams to audit “high-risk regions” in B.C. and Ontario.

On Wednesday, B.C.’s Attorney-General David Eby said he expects Ottawa to step up and provide significant new funding to fight money laundering in his province. He said B.C. has a rough proposal for about $50-million in new policing resources from the federal government over the next three years to investigate this sophisticated crime.

He said Ottawa must also help other provinces create their own public registries that disclose the true owners of real estate as well as a separate database of the true or “beneficial” owners of any corporation – policies B.C. has moved ahead with this year.

“B.C. can’t do these reforms alone because all that will do is displace the activity to other provinces,” Mr. Eby told The Globe. “So, national initiatives around beneficial ownership of companies and beneficial ownership of real estate are badly needed.”

A spokesman for Mr. Morneau said the government is making investments that benefit all parts of the country, and blamed Ontario for its lack of action on collecting beneficial ownership data and making it available to law enforcement.

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“Our government is fully committed to ensuring that our businesses remain competitive and that we do not place undue burden on the vast majority of legitimate and hardworking entrepreneurs," spokesman Pierre-Olivier Herbert said. "However, if legislative gaps in beneficial ownership transparency are not closed, they will continue to be exploited by organized crime groups and white-collar criminals.”

In his letter to Mr. Morneau, Mr. Fedeli said Ontario is “willing to do its part”on beneficial ownership, to prevent business entities from being used to evade taxes, launder money or finance terrorism. But, he said the Ontario government is evaluating all measures to ensure they would not create “unnecessary red tape” for businesses.

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