Don Martin: Despite damage control, Morneau’s reputation has taken a hit
When crisis communicators of the future need an example of a reputation-shredding failure to enact timely damage control, they will point to the Bill Morneau debacle.
It took four days for the finance minister to act on the obvious - he was, at very least, distracted by a perceived conflict of interest by controlling a million shares in a company which could, and in at least one case would, benefit from his actions as finance minister.
By pledging today to sell his Morneau Shepell shares and put all other assets in a blind trust, a minister who had a Boy Scout reputation lost the ability to claim a principled high ground response and was forced into surrender at knife point.
In the process, he took on the guilty aura of a minister on the run as he fled in Harperesque style to small towns far from national media to announce his full-scale retreat on tax changes.
He gave the appearance of being too weak to defend himself when a clearly angry prime minister blocked him from answering questions on his business affairs.
He showed a failure to grasp the essence of political life by hiding behind the Ethics Commissioner's technical absolution on the need for a blind trust when any clear-eyed politician would spot grave optical danger ahead.
That's the last word.
And he risks Trudeau's quiet wrath having ignored mandate letter orders from the prime minister to go beyond the letter of the law in putting his investments safely at arms-length.
But, having finally done the right thing, albeit in an untimely manner, the question now is how much damage has been done to a finance minister who should be basking in the glow of a robust economy leading the G7 in growth.
This could stick, at least for the medium term.
A flawed policy can be corrected and forgotten. But when the mistake is personal and the reluctant remedy takes so long to materialize, a minister's judgment comes into play.
Bill Morneau won't be sacked before the next budget. But he's no longer too big to fail in this cabinet.
And after seeing his name dragged through deep mud, a multi-millionaire more at home in elite business circles than the Commons may well decide bowing out of politics at the next election is the only ethical thing to do.