In recent weeks, the allegations of wrongdoing in the legislature have started to undermine the public’s trust in the integrity of this institution. The implications of this are disturbing. The allegations suggest more than financial mismanagement or improper spending — they suggest a culture of entitlement, questionable ethics and a wavering moral compass. It’s clear that there is a lot of hard work left to do to improve transparency and accountability in the B.C. Legislature. But it is not just the legislature where this needs to happen
My BC Green colleagues and I have now officially called for a public inquiry into B.C.’s money laundering scandal. It’s clear that this nefarious activity has been rampant in our province for over a decade. And it’s had direct, adverse and tragic consequences on the housing and opioid crises plaguing British Columbia. A public inquiry with the power of subpoena is required to ensure transparency in process, to provide recommendations to government, and to hold those responsible accountable.
Independent public inquiries are government-appointed commissions that look in-depth into matters of public interest. The purpose of a public, non-partisan inquiry is to find facts and make recommendations to government that will set us on a path to improved accountability and transparency. Do they take time and do they cost money? Yes, but in comparison to the scale of the impact money laundering has had and its cost to society, a public inquiry is a very small price to pay. British Columbians deserve the type of thorough investigation that only an independent public inquiry, with its power to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony, can provide.
We are continually learning more and more about the scale of the money laundering crisis. What was once estimated to be $100 million is now estimated at more that a billion dollars a year in dirty cash laundered in B.C. To our collective shame, we’ve also recently learned of the “Vancouver model”, a term used by organized crime around the world to illustrate how easy it is to launder money here. Once again, B.C. is making international news for all the wrong reasons.
To top this all off, in question period my BC Green colleagues and I learned that one of the top five transnational criminal organizations was getting tax credits in British Columbia. The fact that a criminal organization would receive tax credits to launder money is absolutely stunning.
Our democracy is based on public trust. If the public loses trust in its government, the support for that government is lost. British Columbians are demanding and deserve answers. It is up to all MLAs to ensure that questions are asked, answers are given and that those who are responsible are held accountable.
The BC Green caucus is committed to ensuring a culture of transparency and accountability in B.C. politics. Rebuilding public trust won’t happen overnight and we have a lot of work to do, but it is incumbent on me as an elected member of this legislature to do everything I can to see this trust restored. And that is my commitment to you.
Andrew Weaver is MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and leader of the B.C. Green Party.