Opposition parties question whether Morneau’s family business benefits from tax changes
Both opposition parties are using parliamentary tools to attack Finance Minister Bill Morneau, questioning whether his personal wealth is being ethically managed given his cabinet role.
The Conservative Party is devoting Tuesday’s opposition day to a motion calling on Morneau to table all the documents he has filled to Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson since taking office on Nov. 4, 2015, until mid-July, when his party introduced its proposed tax changes.
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The government’s changes attempt to close loopholes that allow the wealthy to use incorporation as a small business to reduce their income tax. Doctors, small businesses owners, farmers, premiers and even some Liberal backbenchers have criticized the proposals, arguing they’d hurt the middle class.
The Opposition motion, backed by shadow finance minister Pierre Poilievre, points to “accusations by experts” that Morneau stands to benefit from the government-introduced tax changes through his family business, the human resources company Morneau Shepell.
“If he knows what assets he holds, why not just tell Canadians?” Poilievre asked Tuesday.
“Common sense would dictate that these kinds of interests and these kinds of powers should be absolutely transparent,” he said
Asked whether Morneau’s assets should be placed into a blind trust if he reveals them, Poilievre said “we’ll know when we see them.”
Opposition days, officially called allotted or supply days, give the opposition parties the chance several times each sitting to set the subject of debate. However, the motion would likely be non-binding.
NDP sends letter to ethics watchdog
The NDP ethics critic, Nathan Cullen, has sent a letter to Dawson asking for a formal investigation into Morneau’s holdings, following a story from the Globe and Mail that he hasn’t put his assets into a blind trust.
Cullen alleges there’s “substantial evidence” Morneau is profiting from decisions he’s made in cabinet, particularly as sponsor of Bill C-27, which deals with target pension plans.
“The appearance of conflict of interest is worrisome. It’s shocking,” said Cullen.
“Years from now when you look through the political handbook of Canada, right beside the definition of conflict of interest will be a picture of Mr. Morneau.”
After announcing plans to lower the small business tax rate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took questions on Monday from reporters directed at Morneau.
“The ethics commissioner works with all parliamentarians who consult with her to ensure that what they are doing meets the highest standards of integrity and responsibility,” said Trudeau.
“The finance minister followed exactly every recommendation that the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner made to him.”
On Tuesday, Dawson said she told Morneau a blind trust wasn’t necessary and told reporters she would take questions explaining why later.
Cullen’s letter isn’t the only one on Dawson’s desk.
Conservative MP Peter Kent has asked her to take a closer look at SCI Mas des Morneau, a company incorporated in France that owns and manages Morneau’s villa in the picturesque town of Oppède in France’s Provence region.
As CBC News reported on Friday, for two years Morneau failed to disclose to the federal ethics commissioner that he and his wife are partners in the private company that owns the family villa.