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Opposition parties question whether Morneau’s family business benefits from tax changes

Canada

October 17th, 2017

Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks during an announcement in Ottawa, Monday, December 7, 2015. Adrian Wyld/CP

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 their proposed tax changes.

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 critic 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.

Polievre demands that Morneau reveal his holdings

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.

After announcing plans to lower the small business tax rate, Trudeau took questions 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.”

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.

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.