Canada's Original Think Tank

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Carignan)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Carignan)

Third reading of Bill C-45, Cannabis Bill (debate on amendment by Senator Carignan)

Hon. Art Eggleton: 

Colleagues have made some very compelling reasons for this particular amendment. The list of possibilities in terms of tax havens is something we have talked about here and we all want action taken on it. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that whatsoever.

The difficulty with a motion like this is it gets presented at the last minute and, as Senator Woo asked, what are the unintended consequences of it?

I wanted to ask a question of Senator Joyal and Senator Carignan, but they ran through their 10 minutes of time so I didn’t get an opportunity to do that.

This isn’t done generally with other corporations; that is, the making of it publicly. I can understand the government getting this information. The government should get every bit of this information and should be able to flesh out the tax havens or the illicit operators. There’s no doubt about that. But we don’t make all of that information on other corporations public, either private corporations or publicly traded corporations. Are there some privacy concerns? What are the unintended consequences of it?

We were obviously interested in this issue when it was at the Social Affairs Committee, so we asked the questions of the government with respect to it. Mr. Blair, the point person on this, said:

I would like to draw your attention to one thing. This bill will require the organizations that acquire and maintain licences for the production and processing of cannabis submit to enhanced financial transparency. Health Canada can obtain the records of these financial transactions and the investments. It’s built right into the bill.

In fact, there is a requirement that the name of the licence holder will in fact be made public. All of this additional information, yes, the government should have it, but should it be made public? What are the consequences of all of that?

I certainly agree with the endeavour to get people using illicit funds out of any kind of licensed position on cannabis production, but I think we need to have a better understanding of the consequences of all of this.

Might I add one other thing? Senator Carignan, of course, because of his position, will paint the bleak picture of what’s happening in Colorado and other parts of the United States and will draw on the witnesses that back up the information, but there are other witnesses, on the other side of the coin, who have a very different view.

There’s one aspect, for example, in Colorado, where there has been some increase in organized crime, but it’s people coming from out of state who are then sending shipments back into the state they’re from. There are no border controls between the two states. You can easily do that, whereas in Canada you would be subject to criminal penalties if you tried to export outside of the country. A lot of the other statistics, I think, are refuted by very notable figures in the government and people who have been involved in the academic community in the analysis of what is happening in Colorado and other places. I don’t buy all of that.

But certainly tax havens, yes, we want them out. Is this the means to do it? I don’t know. We really should be taking more time to consider these things. That’s why I wanted these resolutions put at committee. This resolution wasn’t put at committee. Instead it’s being put here for the first time, and it puts people in an awkward position in trying to understand the unintended consequences.