Please support democracy

Without your support, Democracy Watch can't win key changes to stop governments and big businesses from abusing their power and hurting you and your family. Please click here to support democracy now

Bank account and gift auditing needed, as UN requires, to help stop corruption

Set out below is an op-ed by Democracy Watch Board Member Duff Conacher which was published in the Hill Times on October 15, 2012

The corruption scandal in Quebec provides more evidence of how negligent federal politicians were in December 2006 when they approved changes to federal law to require audits of suspicious bank account transactions, but failed to apply those changes to Canadian politicians and government officials.

It also shows how negligent Quebec politicians and watchdog agencies have been for years, if not decades.

In December 2006, federal politicians quickly and quietly passed Bill C-25, amending the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA).

To comply with Canada’s commitments under Sec. 52 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards, Bill C-25 should have required Canadian financial institutions to monitor the bank accounts of senior politicians and government officials and their families and associates in all levels of government, adding them to the watch-list of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

But Bill C-25 only added foreign politicians and key officials and their families to FINTRAC’s watch-list—no Canadian politician or official was covered by the new system.

As well, as Democracy Watch has proposed for the past decade, ethics and political finance watchdog agencies in Quebec should have been doing random audits of donations and gifts, the donation limit should have been lowered and disclosure of organizers of fundraising events and donor’s employers and family members required, a whistleblower protection law covering all levels of government should have been passed, and government auditors should have been able to determine years ago that provincial and municipal governments were not getting value for the money they spent.

If Bill C-25 had covered Canadian politicians and officials six years ago, and politicians had strengthened laws, and watchdog agencies had increased their enforcement actions a decade ago, the corruption in Quebec would have been discovered much sooner.

Clearly, the laws must now be changed to strengthen the rules, and to require stronger enforcement, to help stop corruption in the future. Unfortunately, the provincial parties’ election platforms did not promise to make the many changes needed to actually stop corruption.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign