Morneau's 'conflict loophole' a 'huge error of judgment': former House law clerk
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau speaks to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill following Question Period, in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Justin Tang)
Published Monday, October 30, 2017 8:27PM EDT
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s sponsorship of Bill C-27 and simultaneous ownership of $21 million in shares from Morneau Shepell was a "huge error of judgment," former House of Commons law clerk Rob Walsh says, regardless of it being cleared by the ethics commissioner.
“I don’t understand how Mr. Morneau, and the other ministers as well, could think that they were complying with the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act by holding assets through numbered companies . . . That just astounds me,” Walsh told CTV Power Play’s Don Martin.
Led by Morneau, Bill C-27 proposes reform to the Pension Benefits Standards Act. While sponsoring the bill, Morneau owned millions in shares from his family’s company Morneau Shepell. The company operates in the pension industry and has publicly supported Bill C-27, and says it has done so “dating back to when it was originally considered by the previous government.”
Morneau recently told CTV’s Question Period “there is no conflict.”
"As you probably know, I have been focused on pension issues for decades. I've been very involved in working and advocacy to improve pensions for Canadians," Morneau said.
But Walsh, who has written a book on his time in Ottawa called On the House: An Inside Look at the House of Commons, said that a finance minister should follow a higher standard.
“When you get to a minister of the Crown -- a finance minister -- putting in legislation affecting pensions, and he’s in the business of pensions? . . . I mean what happened here? Why didn’t you wake up to this?” Walsh said. “He should’ve known better.”
Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has not yet confirmed whether or not there will be a formal investigation into Morneau’s involvement with the bill; however, she said that since Morneau’s shares were held indirectly using private companies, they were not considered “controlled assets” under the Conflict of Interest Act.
With files from The Canadian Press