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Bill Morneau tries to divest himself of a controversy: Aaron Wherry

Bill Morneau tries to divest himself of a controversy: Aaron Wherry
From CBC - October 19, 2017

Just before question period, the finance ministersummoned reporters to a small media room in Centre Block's basement toexplain that he would be divesting himself of a million shares in his family business.

In the House of Commons, the opposition would attempt to divest from Bill Morneauits pound of flesh.

"The finance minister hidhis offshore company in France, until he got caught. And then he reported it," recounted Pierre Poilievre, Morneau's Conservative shadow. "He hid from Canadians his millions of dollars in Morneau Shepellshares in a numbered company in Alberta, despite wrongly telling others it was in a blind trust. Until he got caught. And now he's selling them.

"Why does he expect us to blindly trust that he is not hiding other conflicts of interest in his eight additional numbered companies that he has across the country?"

Morneau stood in his spot and repeated what he had just announced.

"Mr. Speaker, we have a process in this country to ensure that ministers do not have conflicts of interest. I worked with the ethics commissioner to make sure that I disclosed all my assets," he testified. "But I called her this morning and I informed her that I was going to take two additional steps beyond her recommendations."

The Conservatives laughed.

"First, I was going to put my assets in a blind trust," the finance minister explained."Second, I was going to work with her to ensure that neither myself nor my family have any shareholdings in Morneau Shepell, the company that I used to be with."

When he finished and sat back down, the Liberals around him stood and applauded, breaking from their habit of eschewing pep rally tactics.

As a familial show of support, it was perhaps a nice gesture. Whether there was anything here worthcheering isdebatable.

"Too late!" called a voice from the opposition side.

So it seems the price for clumsily proposing tax reform is your stake in the company you and your father built (if, as appears to have occurred here, one controversy led to another).

A remedy without wrongdoing

Morneau's task Thursday was to propose a remedy while maintaining he'd done nothing wrong.

"I, perhaps naively, thought that in Canada following the rules and respecting the recommendations of the ethics commissioner, respecting the recommendations of an officer of Parliament, wouldbe what Canadians would expect, would meet up to their high expectations," he said at his news conference.

"In fact, what we have seen over the last week is that I need to do more."

This will surely be the last time Morneauunderestimates the expectations of the public (or at least the opposition and press gallery).

The question now is whether he has done enough.

Morneau needs something else to talk about

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