Federal Guidelines Governing Politicians Financial Assets Being Scrutinized

Federal guidelines governing the personal assets of elected politicians are under increased scrutiny following revelations that several ministers in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold their financial assets outside of a blind trust just as Finance Minister Bill Morneau does.

The Finance Minister came under critical fire in recent weeks after it was revealed that he keeps his personal assets outside of a blind trust and holds property that he rents out and earns income on in France. Now, it has come to light that Bill Morneau is not the only federal cabinet minister to keep his assets outside of a blind trust.

Under fire in the House of Commons on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused several demands by opposition politicians to identify the other ministers, saying that critics are slinging mud because they cannot criticize the government’s economic track record. However, late Monday, a senior government official, told The Toronto Star newspaper that federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is operating as Minister Morneau is regarding personal assets.

According to the federal source, Minister Wilson-Raybould doesn’t have a blind trust, an arrangement whereby someone’s assets are managed by an independent body as a way to prevent a conflict of interest when holding public office. Representatives in her office said Minister Wilson-Raybould does not hold any controlled assets in her private management consulting company called KaLoNa.

However, the minister does have an ethics screen to keep her hand out of any matters that relate specifically to First Nations clients of the company that she and her husband, Timothy Raybould, own and of which he remains president.

The House of Commons ethics committee voted Monday to study the Conflict of Interest Act and invite Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to discuss her recommendations from 2013, when she proposed closing a loophole in the legislation that allows ministers to own publicly traded securities without a blind trust if they are held indirectly.

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday that Ms. Dawson’s office confirmed fewer than five cabinet ministers currently hold controlled assets indirectly. Ms. Dawson’s office refused Monday to clarify further or to explain the rationale for keeping secret the number or their names.

“We will only say that fewer than five ministers currently hold controlled assets indirectly and that they are not required to divest them (either by placing them in a blind trust or selling them in an arm’s-length transaction),” said Ms. Dawson’s spokesperson, Marie Danielle Vachon.