Opposition politicians are calling for federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to resign his position as controversy continues to grow around his personal business dealings.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has publicly demanded that Minister Morneau hand in his resignation, claiming he is unfit to continue to serve in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, the Prime Minister continues to standby his Finance Minister who has been mired in controversy for several weeks now. In fact, Prime Minister Trudeau strongly defended Minister Morneau during Question Period this week and accused the opposition Conservatives of baseless personal attacks.
"After careful consideration, in my capacity of leader of the Opposition, I am officially calling on Bill Morneau to resign as Finance Minister," said Mr. Scheer. He went on to advise the Prime Minister to fire his Finance Minister if he refused to step aside on his own.
But Prime Minister Trudeau said he has full confidence in Minister Morneau and then went on the offensive against the opposition.
“The fabrications and the personal attacks, the slinging of mud in this place, and hiding behind parliamentary privilege, is not what Canadians expect from this place,” said the Prime Minister.
The push for Minister Morneau's departure is yet another challenge to a Finance Minister who's been forced to navigate several ethics related controversies in recent months. In July, he proposed tax-system changes that enraged small business owners to the point that he had to back off several elements of his plan.
Minister Morneau has also faced intense political pressure over how he handled his personal financial arrangements after coming into public office. The questions focused on his shares in the human resources firm Morneau Shepell, which was built by his family and for which he was Executive Chairman until his 2015 election win.
After the controversy erupted, Minister Morneau sold off the remainder of his holdings in the company – worth about $20 million – and vowed to place his other substantial assets in a blind trust. Nevertheless, the federal ethics commissioner fined Minister Morneau $200 for failing to disclose a private corporation, in which he is a director that owns a villa in France. Then came conflict-of-interest allegations over proposed pension reforms, spearheaded by Minister Morneau, that opponents have alleged would bring him personal financial benefit. The federal ethics commissioner has launched a formal examination into that matter as well.
This week, the Conservative and New Democratic Parties have been grilling the Liberals about Minister Morneau’s late-2015 sale of shares in Morneau Shepell – a transaction that took place ahead of a tax change announcement. Minister Morneau called any claim of insider trading “absurd” and threatened to sue the Conservatives over the insinuation.
The Conservatives added a new argument to their charge that Minister Morneau personally benefited from the 2015 tax announcement, pointing out that it prompted some market analysts to encourage wealthier shareholders to sell off some of their stock before the changes came into effect on January1, 2016.