Debate in the House of Commons on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017) between Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Conservative MPs about Morneau’s personal finances:
Cathy McLeod (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo): Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear. The Minister of Finance’s letter was specific. In 2015, he told the owners of his company, Morneau Shepell, and Canadians that he would put his assets into a blind trust. He clearly knew what the right thing to do was. However, instead, he chose to use a loophole and continue to deliberately hide and control millions of dollars.
Another important question is this, and Canadians need to know. Was the Prime Minister complicit? When did he know?
Bill Morneau (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, to be absolutely clear, disclosing all my assets was very important. That was exactly what I did with the Ethics Commissioner. That is the way the system works. I did that because the Prime Minister asked me and all the members of our government to live up to the highest standards of integrity.
Working with the Ethics Commissioner and taking her recommendations is really respecting the role of that officer of Parliament. We will continue to respect the role of Parliament and take her recommendations as opposed to the ill-informed recommendations across the hall.
Karen Vecchio (Elgin-Middlesex-London): Mr. Speaker, I am going to remind the Minister of Finance that I will not be shamed by his personal lack of respect for this Parliament. I am going to remind him that his job is to uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, that he should have arranged his personal and private affairs with the conflict of interest rules. It was just not beyond the letter. The letter of the law may be there, but his job was to go over and above.
Could the Minister of Finance confirm whether he was hiding this from the Prime Minister as well?
Bill Morneau (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear that the Prime Minister expects us to live up to the highest standards of integrity. That is what we have done here. He expects us to work with the Ethics Commissioner. He expects us to take the recommendations of the Ethics Commissioner and put them into place.
In my situation, the Ethics Commissioner gave me some very specific ideas on how I could best ensure that I did not have conflicts of interest. I followed those recommendations. Now I am going to take some additional steps to go even further. That will assure all Canadians of confidence in this role.
Ted Falk (Provencher): Mr. Speaker, these are the facts. The Prime Minister clearly instructed the Minister of Finance to arrange his private affairs in a way that would bear the closest public scrutiny. The finance minister told Morneau Shepell and the press that he would place his holdings in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. However, two years later we now know that he did no such thing.
I will give the minister another opportunity to answer the question. When did he tell the Prime Minister that he chose not to put his assets in a blind trust, despite committing to do that?
Bill Morneau (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, I would like to actually go to the real facts as opposed to the alternative facts and give an explanation to the member opposite.
The real facts are that I gave all my assets to the Ethics Commissioner so she could determine the best way to avoid conflicts of interest. She told me that the best measure of compliance was to put in place a conflict of interest screen, which is exactly what I did. Complying with the Ethics Commissioner, respecting an officer of Parliament, that is the way we will continue to comport ourselves. In fact, I am going to go some steps further than that.