New Brunswick

Walk the walk on Russia, Cardy told

New Brunswick’s education minister is being challenged to live up to his tough talk on Russia by supporting promised changes that could make it harder to move foreign money through the province.

Green MLA says minister should support more transparency on foreign money

Education Minister Dominic Cardy (Ed Hunter/CBC)

New Brunswick's education minister is being challenged to live up to his tough talk on Russia by supporting promised changes that could make it harder to move foreign money through the province.

Dominic Cardy has been using Twitter to call for a bold response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including by retweeting calls for Western countries to send more arms and use air power to create a "no-fly zone" over the country.

On Friday Green MLA Kevin Arseneau challenged Cardy to "walk the walk" by ensuring that New Brunswick's corporate registry is made more transparent.

"Here is some stuff you could actually act on right now, being in cabinet and whatnot, that have been continually pushed under the rug by your government," Arseneau said on Twitter.

"Let's shut down the NB loopholes right here at home, right now!"

Arseneau linked to a New York Times opinion column arguing for a crackdown on Russian oligarchs who hide their wealth in banks in Western countries. 

He also linked to a CBC News report from 2020 showing that New Brunswick has lax corporate rules that make it difficult to tell who really owns and controls corporate entities.

That investigation traced connections between an Alberta-registered company that operated a vessel insured in Russia and fishing off the coast of Mauritania. 

The Alberta-registered company and another company registered in New Brunswick had both received large sums of money via the Russian banking system, according to records shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists by Buzzfeed News as part of the FinCEN Files investigation.

The Higgs government promised in December 2020 to require companies registered in their province to maintain a list of people with ownership control and make it available to police and governments. 

But that change still hasn't happened 15 months later.

Getting that done "could be a good way of walking the walk," Arseneau suggested to Cardy on Twitter.

A man standing and speaking at a microphone which is placed at stomach-level.
Over Twitter, Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau said Dominic Cardy should "walk the walk" on Russia by making it harder to hide money-laundering efforts in the province. (Jacques Poitras/CBC News)

Cardy responded: "If there are NB specific loopholes let's talk about them. Here or offline!"

The minister told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton on Monday that the government is "absolutely" looking at those measures and others.

"We're looking to try and see: are there any areas within government operations where there are loopholes, openness, any possibilities of Russia using New Brunswick in any way to evade the full blockade of their economy?" 

Cardy said he spoke to Arseneau and Liberal education critic Benoît Bourque on Friday about other possible steps. 

Service New Brunswick said late on Friday that amendments to the Business Corporations Act are expected to be introduced in the legislature this spring.

 After his exchange with Arseneau on Friday, Cardy tweeted that he was making a donation directly to Ukraine's military and added a link for donations to the United Nations' humanitarian aid program for the country.

The minister has been using his Twitter account to criticize what he considers a too-tepid Western response to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

In one tweet he predicted the West will eventually "be at war with, or be defeated by" Russia and China.

"The sooner we talk about this, how to plan for it, what it means, and why it's important that we win, the better," Cardy wrote.

"That means reforms at home, not just war abroad. But it means war."

Cardy has been criticized by some Twitter users for tweeting more about Ukraine than about his responsibilities as minister of education and early childhood development.

He responded that it's his personal account and while he uses it to answer questions about his "day job," he'll block anyone who complains about him talking about other subjects. 

Arseneau says rather than retweeting calls for military intervention in Ukraine, Cardy should use his position to support actions he can influence, such as the corporate registry change.

"We still have one of the more opaque corporate registries in Canada, and Canada is already not very high up there in transparency," he said.

Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson said in the legislature in December, 2020 that the new beneficial ownership requirements "will increase ownership transparency and assist in exposing activities such as money laundering and tax evasion."

On Friday, N.B. Liquor said it was "voluntarily removing" Russian products from its shelves. 


Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.