In one of her final moves as Canada’s ethics and conflict of interest commissioner, Mary Dawson found that Bill Morneau and a family member didn’t benefit from insider information when they sold shares in his family’s pension company, Morneau Shepell, in the fall of 2015.
In a letter dated Jan. 5 and addressed to Morneau, Dawson said the income tax increase for Canadians earning more than $200,000 was publicly announced on Nov. 4 and Morneau sold his shares on Nov. 30. The legislation was tabled on Dec. 7.
“The act prohibits the use of insider information obtained in his or her position by a public office holder and that is not available to the public, which, in light of the above [reasons] was not the case in this instance,” she said.
Dawson investigated the sale at NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s request. Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre also wrote to her office. Poilievre had argued the timing of the share sale was no coincidence as the share price later took a dip, and he has sought to tie the depreciation to the tax hike.
The finance minister had also come under fire after news reports revealed the Bank of Canada had an $8 million contract with Morneau Shepell to manage pensions and benefits.
But Dawson also dismissed any notion that Morneau, who is the minister responsible for the Bank of Canada, influenced the bank’s decision to renew the contract.
“I am satisfied that, as minister of finance, you had no involvement in the Bank of Canada’s decision of the renewal of the Morneau Shepell Inc. contract,” Dawson said in the letter.
“We have received the letter from the Ethics Commissioner and we are pleased with the outcome,” said a spokesperson for Morneau.
“The minister has gone above and beyond the initial recommendations from the ethics commissioner by divesting all his family’s holdings in his former company, donating upwards of $10 million to charity and setting up a blind trust.”
Pension bill investigation still pending
Dawson’s office hasn’t released the results of another investigation regarding Morneau’s role in introducing pension legislation, known as Bill C-27, while he still owned shares in his family’s company.
Cullen and Poilievre also both wrote to Dawson asking her to look into whether Morneau benefited…