In an effort to calm the ongoing controversy surrounding his personal business interests, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has sold all the shares he owned in his family's pension company, Morneau Shepell, and donated the proceeds to a charity.
Minister Morneau’s move to unload his stake in his family’s pension company comes as opposition politicians continue to attack him during Question Period and the federal Ethics Commissioner examines an alleged conflict of interest surrounding his ownership of the shares.
Minister Morneau said he sold about a million shares in the publicly traded Morneau Shepell, worth $20 million, and donated the money to an undisclosed charity. He has also placed the remainder of his personal assets in a blind trust while he is an elected politician.
“I will continue to work to assure that Canadians can retire in dignity. I will continue to work with the Ethics Commissioner to make sure her examination is completed,” said Minister Morneau in the House of Commons. “Now that I've sold all my Morneau Shepell shares and made a large donation to charity, I'm looking forward to continuing these efforts on behalf of Canadians."
The Finance Minister has been dogged for weeks by controversy over his ownership of the company's shares and his use of private corporations to hold his assets — including one he failed to declare until September, which holds a villa in rural France. Minister Morneau agreed to pay a $200 fine for failing to declare the company that owns the villa to Parliament's Conflict of Interest and Ethics Officer Mary Dawson when he took office.
Returning to Ottawa after a Parliamentary break week, Minister Morneau again faced an onslaught of criticism from the opposition benches on Monday. The opposition seemed invigorated by news that Ms. Dawson is conducting an examination to see if he violated the Conflict of Interest Act. Asked about the sale of the shares in Morneau Shepell, the Ethics Commissioner`s office responded through a spokesperson.
``Minister Morneau undertook to sell the shares on his own initiative and our office was not involved in the sale,`` said Marie Danielle Vachon, a spokeswoman for Ethics Commissioner Dawson.