Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's always a pleasure to be in committee, this time wearing a little bit of a different hat, but I'm pleased to be here nonetheless to give some background to the committee about Bill . Then I and officials from the department, who've been working very hard on this for a long time, can answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Chairman, this bill strengthens the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to ensure that Canada continues to be a global leader in combating organized crime and terrorist financing. As you know, recently addressed the first plenary meeting of the 18th session of the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, an international body, held in Vancouver this year. He assured the delegates there that Canada takes its global responsibilities very seriously.
We can be proud that for the first time ever, Canada has assumed the presidency of the FATF, the international standards-setting body whose purpose is the development and promotion of policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. We are a country on the move, a country with a G7-leading economy, and we are a country committed to meeting our international obligations, including the global fight against terrorism.
We live, as we all know, in an increasingly interconnected world, where terrorists and criminal organizations are becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to move, conceal, and launder funds through financial systems and by other means. I know you can appreciate that abuses to our nation's financial system can have a serious ripple effect well beyond our own borders. The FATF has made great strides over the years in working with regional bodies and international financial institutions to develop a more fortified international system.
Canada must do its part in preventing criminals and terrorists from using our financial systems to fund criminal activities. Canada wants to be relentless in its efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, and Bill reflects that.
We're committed to playing a stronger role at home and internationally, and we have already been doing so through a number of initiatives. We are committed to making the safety and security of our citizens, and our fellow global citizens, a priority.
The May budget, as you will recall, announced significant new funding for anticipated initiatives and to bolster existing capacities to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The budget announced funding of $64 million over the next two years for the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, called FINTRAC, funding for the RCMP, for the Canada Border Services Agency, and for the Department of Justice.
This additional funding will help in a number of ways. For example, it will increase the number of RCMP officers working within the anti-terrorist financing and anti-money-laundering units. It will also expand the capability of the Canada Border Services Agency to detect unreported currency at airports and border crossings. Furthermore, the new funding will ensure that FINTRAC can better analyze financial transaction reports and monitor the compliance of the unregulated financial sectors, such as money remitters.
Bill implements measures that will improve Canada's ability to act decisively against money laundering and terrorist financing. What part does the bill play in the fight against terrorism? Of course, one of the main things terrorists need is money. The measures in Bill C-25 will make it harder for terrorists to get funding. The fight against money laundering and terrorist funding is one where we must stay one step ahead of criminals by continuing to develop ways to defeat them, wherever and however they operate. These proposed amendments will make Canada's anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime more effective by making it consistent with new FATF standards.
As a founding member of FATF, Canada is committed to implementing forty recommendations on money laundering, as well as nine special recommendations on terrorist financing. In addition to these recommendations from FATF, we have now had the interim report of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. The Senate is calling for tougher measures to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank the Senate banking committee, on behalf of our committee, for their guidance in shaping the requirements of Bill .
The proposed measures in Bill also follow recommendations made in the 2004 Auditor General's report and, in addition to that, in a 2004 Treasury Board evaluation of the regime. So we have a number of expert voices calling for some upgrades to our regime.
For example, as recommended in the 2004 Auditor General's report, and at the behest of law enforcement, these proposed amendments enhance the information FINTRAC can disclose to law enforcement and security agencies on suspicious transactions that point to money laundering or terrorist financing. It's important to mention here that the bill proposes an amendment to the Income Tax Act that would allow the sharing of information between FINTRAC, the Canada Revenue Agency, and law enforcement agencies regarding charities where there are reasonable grounds to suspect they are being used for terrorist financing.
Mr. Chairman, these measures will increase the value of FINTRAC disclosures, ultimately leading to more investigations and eventual prosecutions.
The amendments proposed in Bill also include the creation of a registration regime for money service businesses. FINTRAC would act as registrar and would maintain a public list of registered money service businesses and foreign exchange dealers. These businesses are already covered by the existing legislation; however, given that this is an unregulated sector, the registry will assist FINTRAC in ensuring compliance with the regulation.
What's more, Bill provides for enabling legislation for enhanced client identification measures. What this means is that banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, and money services businesses will be required to take measures to identify and monitor the transactions of foreign nationals who hold prominent public positions.
Finally, Bill proposes to create administrative and monetary penalties to better enforce compliance with the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act. Current legislation only allows for serious criminal penalties if the act is contravened. But FINTRAC requires the ability to levy fines to deal with lesser contraventions in order to take a more balanced and gradual approach to compliance.
The government believes that the act strikes the right balance between protecting the privacy rights of Canadians and providing law enforcement with the necessary tools to fight serious crimes such as money laundering and terrorist financing. The act contains a number of safeguards designed to ensure privacy rights are protected, such as criminal penalties for unauthorized disclosure.
Officials in the Department of Finance have met with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and continue to work with them to ensure privacy rights are protected.
In sum, Mr. Chairman, the steps I have outlined here today add up to a better, safer world for Canadians, a world where our financial systems are used only as they were intended, to create better opportunities for our citizens and greater prosperity for our nation. The measures contained in this bill today will help win the battle against terrorist and criminal activity by making our regime smarter, more resourceful, and more tenacious. Mr. Chairman, criminals don't stand still, and neither can we. We need to take decisive action and Bill C-25 does just that.
We would now be pleased to answer any questions from the committee and we look forward to our examination of this bill.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Before the end of the round of questions, and before we leave the room, I would like to raise a procedural question.
Thank you for being here. I have two specific concerns regarding this bill. Like several of my colleagues, I would first like to speak about the protection of privacy. I believe this was something that was raised by all parties. Mr. , among others, asked whether we should protect the privacy of criminals and to what extent we should do so.
In my opinion, that is not the problem. Rather, the problem is that we do not know whether the people are criminals or not. That is why we protect people's privacy. You cannot label someone a criminal and share information about that person without taking a number of precautions.
You said that the act provides measures and penalties in the case of unauthorized disclosure of information. What mechanisms for protecting privacy do you plan on implementing in the various organizations?
As Ms. said earlier, it is not enough for a piece of legislation to prohibit the unauthorized disclosure of information. There also needs to be a system to ensure that people who handle such information will not disclose it and that, if they do, we will be able to find out and take appropriate action.
Well, second only to yours.
There isn't a conflict on the face of the globe that doesn't have groups of people living in my riding. If you want to go to Sri Lanka, I have both sides of that conflict. If you want to go to Afghanistan, Iraq, or Sudan, again, I have all sides of the conflicts, etc.
It would be naive of me to assume that fundraising doesn't occur in my riding. It would also be naive of me to assume that the lawyers in particular, from a variety of ethnic groups, aren't implicitly or complicitly involved in “suspicious transactions”, shall we say, where things would be of interest to various law enforcement agencies.
What I'm having difficulty understanding is how the average lawyer in Scarborough in a small practice, in a one- or two-person practice—we're not talking McCarthy Tétrault here, where lawyers really do know their clients—is possibly going to comply with this legislation. A lot of these folks just walk in off the street. They're buying a house--but the proceeds are just being parked for the purposes of funding something else at some other date.
How does this proposed legislation make a whit's worth of difference to that kind of transaction?
Thank you, Madam Ablonczy. Thank you, all. Thanks to committee members for their attention, despite their chocolate levels here this morning.
We will excuse the panel now, and the cameras will be off momentarily so we can continue our civil discussions this morning.
I think I can deal, actually, with Monsieur St-Cyr's issue in advance. It may save us time, and we'll then move to Madam Wasylycia-Leis's motion. Also, I should notify the committee that we've received notice from Mr. Paquette of his desire to present a motion on Thursday.
I want to quickly give you an overview of the work we have before us. This Thursday we will continue dealing with Bill . I will encourage all committee members, if they have amendments to this bill, to bring them forward in advance of the discussions. It would facilitate discussion of the bill. I would encourage you to give those to the clerk by 5 p.m. tomorrow, knowing, of course, that you can bring amendments during the discussion if you so desire. It would facilitate our discussion at that time.
Also, we have , the budget implementation bill, before us, which we must deal with by.... When? Is there a deadline on that? It should be as soon as possible.
We also have Bill . Supplementary estimates also have to be dealt with by December 5. We have the fall fiscal forecast. And the minister will be appearing, we think, but not until the week after, we hope, the Remembrance Day recess.
We also have, of course, the priorities that I've asked you to identify and forward to us, because we want to get those over to Finance so they can come to speak to those and provide us with further information. That process will begin next Tuesday. So those priorities, I'd remind you.... When did we say we wanted those in by? They should be in by tomorrow at noon. Please do so, because we do want to make sure that Finance officials have a bit of lead time to prepare fully for your questions.
As well, we have private members' bills and the tabling of reports on the pre-budget consultations. We need to prepare that as a result of our weeks of deliberations. That has to be done by December 4. As well, Mr. McCallum has a notice of motion on the record in regard to GST rebates.
We have 10 meetings to do all of that. That being said, Mr. St-Cyr has raised with the chair his concern about--
||That the Standing Committee on Finance reconstitute its program of quarterly independent fiscal forecasts employing the services of the Conference Board of Canada, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Global Insight and Dr. Vaillancourt or other independent forecasters, as determined by the Finance Committee, with an initial appearance before the Finance Committee in November.
To speak to it very briefly, in terms of the program I'm referring to in the motion, I would refer committee members to the motion that was put before the committee on December 1, 2004, by Monte Solberg, which was adopted and began a process for the committee. It outlines the purpose and the format that we used in the whole program, so I won't go into detail on that front.
The second point I would make is that the four organizations that are named, including one individual, are only there because that's basically the list we used the last time; however, it is open for other suggestions. It's not a fixed list. In fact, the last report of the fiscal forecasting program included Ellen Russell of CCPA; Dale Orr of Global Insight; Don Drummond of TD Bank; and François Vaillancourt from the University of Montreal.
That's basically the motion. And I'm suggesting we have some initial appearance in November just because with this period of time where we're expecting the report from the minister, where we have concerns about the accuracy of fiscal forecasting and the surplus dollars that are presumably rolling up, we need to have all the facts before us.
Finally, let me say that this is an interim program that always was intended to be a temporary initiative until such time as we have a more independent bureau in place to provide us with the budget advice we need. That idea is ensconced in Bill , which, once through, will hopefully be the permanent way we deal with this. This is, therefore, only a temporary and interim measure.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There are just a couple of issues.
The first issue is that it doesn't say “interim”, so I would propose a friendly amendment to make it read, “an interim program of quarterly independent fiscal forecasts”.
Second, I have a problem because there's no cost attached to this. I remember dealing with these independent forecasters. We can get the costs down, but I think we should at least put the cost in. I don't remember what the cost was, but I think it went down exponentially as we took out contracts with them, whether it was for one or two quarters, because there's some work involved for the forecasters before they can do this type of work.
I understand that the committee is busy. We've been working quite hard. I don't see why we should just not have time to have another meeting, if need be, but we can always get summaries prepared by these independent forecasters.
I suggest that maybe another friendly amendment would allow all parties to submit names, and then perhaps the research staff could decide which four we should pick.
That's it. Those are my points.