Morneau’s mistakes now threaten re-election for Liberals

Bill Morneau's multitude of ethical lapses over the last five months has put a second Liberal majority in doubt. In fact, we may now see a future in which we ask “can the Liberals be re-elected at all?”

Trudeau and Morneau

Daddy issues were inevitably going to be an issue with Justin Trudeau’s government. However, it is a major surprise that the most politically explosive problem facing the Liberals is to do with Bill Morneau’s father and not Justin’s.

The relationship between Justin and his father was expected to feature far more prominently in the narrative of Justin’s government.

Pierre Trudeau served as Canada’s prime minister for more than fifteen years. Trudeau the elder was a deeply divisive figure during his premiership. Pierre never really got Western Canada. Western Canadians didn’t warm to Pierre either. Quebecers also had a troubled relationship with Pierre.

Pierre’s major accomplishment appears to be that he served for a long time. Pierre Trudeau enacted the constitution over the objections of Quebec. The absence of Quebec’s approval of the constitution means the document remains flawed and divisive in the country. Despite his long tenure in office, Pierre was unable to win consecutive majority mandates.

Justin is far less accomplished than his father. Pierre was a lawyer and noted Quebec intellectual. Justin finished undergraduate degrees in arts and education but dropped out of engineering and environmental science programs. For what it’s worth, Justin is inarguably more physically attractive than his father was.

All boys want to surpass the accomplishments of their fathers. Justin has no chance of surpassing his father in terms of substantive achievements. Justin only hopes to outdo his father is to win a second majority government. Justin’s Liberals looked on course to do that through their first 18 months in office. Yet Bill Morneau’s multitude of ethical lapses over the last five months has put a second Liberal majority in doubt.

In fact, we may now see a future in which we ask “can the Liberals be re-elected at all?”

Frank Morneau is causing the Liberals headaches?

Bill Morneau Sr., known as Frank, founded the company that eventually became Morneau Shepell (MSI). Frank’s leadership of Morneau Shepell undoubtedly lead to Bill’s rise to the leadership of the company. Frank is causing problems for Bill because of some suspiciously timed MSI stock sales by Frank.

On December 7th, 2015 Bill Morneau, while acting in his capacity as minister of finance, announced the creation of a new tax bracket for the highest earning Canadians effective for the 2016 tax year. Wealthy Canadians would be inclined to sell shares in 2015 so any capital gains would be subject to the lower tax rates in effect for 2015. The concurrent sell-off of shares would mean a dip in the market.

According to a Global News story on the issue, Frank Morneau sold 100,000 shares of MSI on November 23, 2015, at $15.20 per share. On December 3, 2015, Frank sold another 100,000 MSI shares at $15.00 a share. On the day of Bill’s announcement about the new tax bracket, MSI closed at $14.27. Frank Morneau avoided a paper loss of $166,000 on the sale of his 200,000 shares.

Bill Morneau is again caught in a pretty glaring seeming conflict of interest. Some of Bill Morneau’s defenders may argue that Frank ‘only’ saved $166,000 with his well-timed share sale. The amount of money involved, while substantial, is not the key element of this case. People don’t like seeing insiders take advantage of the system. Martha Stewart served 15 months in prison for avoiding a loss of ‘only’ $46,000 US on the insider stock deal that led to her imprisonment.

Bill Morneau’s political career is done. Morneau symbolizes how Justin Trudeau doesn’t really get middle-class Canadians. The longer Morneau remains in power the more he hurts the Liberal brand.

It isn’t surprising that Frank Morneau is caught up in Bill’s myriad of questionable ethical behavior. It is sad that Justin hasn’t shown the leadership to dump Bill Morneau from arguably the most important cabinet job.


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Burt Schoeppe

Burt is a dedicated CPA based in Edmonton. When not at work assessing financial competencies he can be found cheering for the Oilers or the Redskins. In terms of the economy, he advocates for fiscal responsibility at all levels of government.

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