Industry Reports

Vancouver Mayor Uncomfortable by Quebec Reference, Achieves Broader Money-Laundering Inquiry Scope

A public inquiry might soon become a reality across British Columbia, as the number of individuals and communities supporting it rises with each passing day. Vancouver Councilor Christine Boyle might have rubbed Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart the wrong way with the addition of former Assistant Chief Deputy for the Charbonneau Commission to the conversation. Mayor Stewart said British Columbia’s money-laundering issue is completely different from Quebec’s corruption issue involving the government and organized crime.

In an attempt to make good use of an expert in public inquiries and his experience, Coun. Boyle attracted Simon Tremblay to the conversation that seeks to add Vancouver to the list of communities supporting a public inquiry in the next few months. Mr. Tremblay is former Assistant Chief Deputy for the Charbonneau Commission that conducted a 2011 public inquiry across Quebec in relation to the corruption allegations that linked Mayors, Councilors, and unions to schemes for government contracts awarding.

Focus Should Not Be on Vancouver City Hall

The links between Quebec leading individuals and organized crime on one hand and Vancouver’s money-laundering allegations is what seriously concerned Mayor Stewart, who wanted to distance the two situations. He pointed out that at the moment there is no evidence that the money-laundering crisis in British Columbia has anything to do with the government or Vancouver City Hall and the scope of the inquiry should be broader. The very mentioning of the expert from Quebec left a bitter taste in Mayor Stewart’s mouth.

He wanted to clarify his point and make sure that the letter that Vancouver would send to Premier John Horgan would leave the right impression and not imply that the province faces the same level of corruption as Quebec. As a result of the remarks made by the Mayor, Vancouver Council decided to make some changes to the motion previously presented by Coun. Boyle. She agreed to the changes and said that she does not mind, as long as the letter makes it to the Premier and achieves its goal to prompt a public inquiry across the province.

With this approval, Vancouver joins Richmond and Victoria that have already pushed for inquiry seeking the support of people across the province. Among the arguments in support of Vancouver’s prompt was that British Columbians are aware that there is something wrong with the system and they want to see changes and action taking place.

March Would Bring Two Money-Laundering Reports

While the motion was still considered, Mr. Tremblay made a suggestion that the inquiry that could launch at a point should come with the feature of commissioners summoning individuals of specific interest or in possession of information that could be useful. Quebec took matters seriously with the help of the Unité Permanente Anticorruption, an anti-corruption unit that battles illegal practices. British Columbia lacks such a unit but could put in the effort and seek answers.

At the moment there are two gaming locations in the Vancouver area. The relatively new Parq Vancouver that recently saw a change of ownership as Las Vegas-listed casino operator Paragon Gaming sold its ownership stake to PBC Group, a real estate and investment firm based in Ottawa. Hastings Racecourse also provides the city coffers with regular allocations and in the 2013-2017 time period, the allocations managed to reach CA$45 million.

Vancouver uses the money for community grants, as well as aiding the police and local parks among other departments. Next month two crucial reports related to the real-estate sector in British Columbia are projected to be issued by former RCMP executive Peter German and Maureen Maloney, former B.C. Deputy Attorney-General. Their revelations would shed more light on the real magnitude of the issue.