Charles Brenchley & Hugh Pouliot | CUPE Communications
Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been spending much of question period on his feet, responding to the opposition parties as of late. Admittedly, he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have a lot to answer to.
The controversy was unhinged when it was discovered this Fall that the finance minister broke ethics watchdog rules when he failed to report an offshore private corporation that held a French villa. Upon further investigation, it was found that he also failed to divest himself of 21 million dollars worth of stocks in his family’s pension administration and human resources firm Morneau Shepell. Morneau used a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act that allowed him to keep his shares in a private numbered company rather than divesting them or placing them in a blind trust, as the majority of politicians do.
A year ago, Morneau and the Liberals introduced Bill C-27, a bill that would let some employers break their pension promises and that CUPE has been working hard to stop. Bill C-27 would allow pension administrators to convert defined benefit pension plans to targeted benefit plans – a change Morneau Shepell had lobbied for and a change they stand to profit from.
The NDP was quick to provide solutions to closing conflict of interest loopholes by putting forward a motion to do exactly that. The Liberals were quick to vote it down.
It’s hard to recall a more flagrant and clear-cut conflict of interest in modern Canadian political history.
The controversy over Morneau’s ethical lapses has made it clear that Bill C-27 is all about weakening retirement security for millions of Canadians so that a group of CEOs can make huge profits.
Originally fining Mr. Morneau for failing to declare his shares, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson is pursuing the finance minister further. She is launching a formal examination into Mr. Morneau’s role in drafting the pension bill and his decision as Minister to sponsor it, despite his ties to Morneau Shepell.
It’s tough to say whether the political fallout will be enough to sink the bill, once and for all. But no matter the government’s political calculations, CUPE will continue to vigorously oppose this alarming legislation.