Ethics commissioner confirms Morneau only minister still holding indirect assets
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau listens to a question as he speaks to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill following Question Period, in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, November 3, 2017 12:39PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, November 3, 2017 1:57PM EDT
OTTAWA – After much back and forth between the opposition and the federal government over Liberal ministers' holdings and potential conflicts of interest, ethics watchdog Mary Dawson confirmed Friday that Finance Minister Bill Morneau is the only member of cabinet currently using an ethics loophole to indirectly hold assets.
While Morneau is the only one now, Dawson also confirmed that he was one of two in the current government.
As CTV News first reported on Oct. 18, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould held "a significant interest" in a management consulting company called KaLoNa Group, which also owned publicly-traded securities. She later told reporters that all the publicly traded shares were divested in April 2016.
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Dawson’s statement comes after an earlier comment from her office said that the number of ministers that held assets indirectly without blind trusts was “fewer than five,” which contradicted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that Morneau was the only one. She followed up by saying that less than five could mean “one, two, three or four,” before getting precise on Friday.
“There has been much attention given to the number of cabinet ministers who indirectly hold controlled assets and do not have a blind trust,” said Dawson in an emailed statement.
“Based on the information available to my Office, there is only one cabinet minister, the Finance Minister, who currently indirectly holds controlled assets and does not at present have a blind trust. Another cabinet minister, the Minister of Justice, previously indirectly held controlled assets and did not have a blind trust,” Dawson said.
Both Morneau and Wilson-Raybould took Dawson’s advice when they joined cabinet and set up ethics screens.
Since CTV News first reported that Morneau still indirectly held shares in his family’s business Morneau Shepell through a corporate structure that keeps him from having to divest or put his shares in a blind trust, he has since begun the process of divesting himself and plans to donate to charity any money earned from his shares since he’s been elected.
Dawson highlighted again Friday that the Conflict of Interest Act only requires public office holders to divest controlled assets by putting them in a blind trust or selling them, if they are directly held, to avoid personal gains while in office.
It’s a loophole she flagged in a 2013 report, when the Conservatives were in power.
“This requirement does not cover controlled assets indirectly held through a company,” Dawson said in her statement Friday.
Despite an attempt from the NDP to have the government commit to closing it, no clear indication has been made that the Liberals intend to.
With files from CTV News' Glen McGregor