From Bad to Worse as Ethics Commissioner Begins Investigation
Things keep getting worse for embattled Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Morneau’s troubles began with the ill-advised changes to the small business tax regime. Morneau’s next bout of problems centred on the revelation that his vast shareholdings in Morneau Shepell were not held in a blind trust.
Morneau’s most recent troubles arose from his sponsorship of Bill C-27, which would allow for target benefit plans.
Morneau’s former company, Morneau Shepell, could potentially profit from the introduction of target benefit plans. Morneau served as Executive Chair of Morneau Shepell prior to his election to parliament in 2015. Morneau advocated for target benefit plans while leading Morneau Shepell. Morneau introduced Bill C-27 while still holding approximately a million shares in the company.
Offical Investigation – Bill C-27
Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson announced on Friday that she was officially launching an investigation into Morneau’s sponsorship of Bill C-27. Dawson wrote in a letter to Conservative MP Pierre Polievre:
“I have reasonable grounds to commence an examination under subsection 45(1) [of the Conflict of Interest Act], and have so informed Minister Morneau”
The examination will give Dawson the ability to further investigate Morneau’s decision to sponsor Bill C-27 and the extent of his personal holdings in Morneau Shepell at the time of his sponsorship of the contentious bill.
The Liberals continue to try and shift the blame for Morneau’s handling of his personal wealth on to Mary Dawson. Chloé Luciani-Girouard, a Morneau staffer, stated in an email:
“Since the first day in office, the minister of finance has worked with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner and followed her recommendations and advice, including having a screen in place that was determined to be the ‘best measure of compliance’ by the commissioner”
The Liberals have been pushing this conflict of interest screen as an excuse for an unknown reason. The screen is supposed to have removed Morneau from any discussion that may have personally profited him. As the sponsor of Bill C-27 Morneau would have been part in a number of discussions on target benefit plans. Morneau certainly couldn’t have sponsored the bill if the screen worked effectively. Continuing to use of the conflict of interest screen line only hurts the Liberals.
The sad case of Bill Morneau serves to illustrate the lack of leadership in Justin Trudeau’s administration.
Someone in the PMO should have understood what an undeniable political misstep it would be for Morneau to sponsor Bill C-27. Katie Telford and Gerald Butts should both take responsibility for the real trouble they have placed Justin Trudeau by not properly managing this crucial piece of legislation.
The way in which Trudeau deals with Bill Morneau going forward will be a true test of our charismatic Prime Minister’s ability to pull his government out of its nosedive. With every additional embarrassment, it becomes more clear that Bill Morneau cannot continue to serve in the finance portfolio. The symbolic end to Morneau’s credibility was when Trudeau refused to let reporters ask Morneau questions at a press conference.
Every day in which Bill Morneau continues to serves as finance minister is another day in which the Trudeau government is diminished in the eyes of the public. If Trudeau cannot see how cancerous Bill Morneau’s continuing presence is to his cabinet then he deserves to be a one-term prime minister. We can only hope that Mary Dawson’s investigation finally forces Trudeau to do the right thing and fire Bill Morneau.