MP McLeod hounds Morneau on conflict issues, stops short of demanding resignation

By James Peters
October 20, 2017 - 11:24am

OTTAWA — Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod is chiding Finance Minister Bill Morneau for failing to follow through with a commitment to put his significant personal assets in his family company into a blind trust when he was appointed to the federal cabinet.

But McLeod stops short of calling for Morneau's resignation.

In Question Period Thursday, Morneau was hounded by opposition MPs, who demanded to know why he didn't take steps to avoid what seems to be a clear conflict of interest.

Morneau says Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson okayed his plan to move his assets in Morneau Shepell into a separate numbered company.

McLeod says that's dodgy at best.

"He used a loophole — a loophole that the ethics commissioner has clearly indicated needs to be changed," said McLeod. "But he knew it was wrong because he indicated in 2015 that he believed he would have to put everything into a blind trust, and found a loophole so that he didn't have to do that."

McLeod says standard operating procedure for incoming cabinet ministers is to place personal assets that may be affected by government policy into a blind trust, keeping them at arm's length.

"In 2015, he told his colleagues at Morneau Shepell that he expected to be doing that. He told Canadians in an interview with the media that he expected to be doing that. I know his caucus colleagues indicated that he had done that," said McLeod.

"We're understandably very, very concerned about decisions he made as the finance minister while benefitting as a private individual."

During Friday's Question Period, McLeod brought up another aspect of Morneau's finances that she says may put him in a conflict.

"Morneau Shepell has a subsidiary registered in Barbados," McLeod posed. "In clear conflict, the finance minister is also responsible to oversee the tax treaties, including the one with Barbados."

"Did the finance minister recuse himself from all discussion regarding the tax treaty with Barbados?"

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue Kamal Khera responded to McLeod by pointing out the government's commitment to fighting tax evasion, but didn't directly address Morneau's situation.

Despite all the controversy, McLeod won't call for Morneau's resignation — yet.

"At this point, we need a whole lot of significant answers from the finance minister. For example, he put forward a bill, C-27, which directly impacts the pensions of Canadians and it also benefitted the company Morneau Shepell."

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