The fixation on Bill Morneau and his family wealth is becoming mind-numbing, with new conspiracy theories and allegations of conflicts of interest arriving daily. While the Conservatives made him the subject of their Supply Day motion, demanding he produce all documents he shared with the Ethics Commissioner while continuing to promulgate the absurd conspiracy theory that he was pushing through the private corporation tax changes for the benefit of his company, while the NDP crowed about more alleged “appearances” of conflicts with his tabling a pension reform bill that his family company could, in theory, benefit from. And the subject of whether or not he still controls shares in said family company went through the media cycle like a tornado, with confirmation from the Ethics Commissioner in committee testimony that she didn’t tell Morneau to place his shares into a blind trust – because, as it turns out, he doesn’t control them, having already offloaded them into a holding company that he doesn’t control (apparently his wife does), and none of this is subject to current rules under the Conflict of Interest Act. In response to it all, Morneau sent a letter to the Commissioner requesting a meeting to see if there’s anything else he can do to further comply with the rules that he’s already complying with per her advice.
Two things here – one is that the Commissioner has raised this exception to the Act in the past, and when the Act last came up for review in 2014, she flagged it then and it wasn’t acted upon. Guess who was in power then? The Conservatives, who also pushed through all of those changes to various accountability legislation in 2009, along with the NDP. The second point is that we have constantly been bombarded with constant baseless accusations about the “appearance” of a conflict of interest for everything under the sun. And with these various conspiracy theories being put forward, even Occam’s Razor will tell you that the idea that these changes being put forward, either to pensions or private corporation taxation, for the benefit of Morneau’s company are absurd on the face of it. Pension reforms have long been debated, and there are reams of data about the problems that these private corporations are being used for reasons they were not intended to be by wealthy individuals in order to avoid taxation. Trying to use Morneau as an excuse to make the government back off on either is absurd and shows just how debased our ability to debate is in this country if debate is being replaced by personal attack. Never mind the fact that there has been a whole lot of crying wolf. If everything is a conflict, then nothing is a conflict. Sooner or later a wolf will come, and nobody will care anymore, having been completely numbed by the constant cries beforehand.
(Incidentally, Dawson also called on the government to amend their fundraising bill to include parliamentary secretaries as those who must report, for what it’s worth).
- Bill Morneau will be in New Brunswick today to sell them on the narrower scope of their plan to crack down on passive income in private corporations.
- NAFTA talks are starting to get testy and ministers are getting in digs, while it sounds like American negotiators don’t like the offers they’re putting on the table.
- The federal government is promising to safeguard Bombarider jobs before they sign off on the Airbus deal, while Trudeau called Turmp to sell him on the deal.
- There are questions about how seriously the government is taking the issue of crooked immigration consultants, as they have made no specific promises.
- The veterans ombudsman says that programs to help aging veterans stay in their homes are too complex and the eligibility is confusing to many.
- Here’s a look at things the government could do to improve gender equality in Canada (and hint: it involves a lot of funding).
- The Auditor General dropped some hints about his forthcoming report on the Phoenix pay system gong show.
- The House of Commons’ Board of Internal Economy goes (mostly) public for the first time this week.
- The new Conservative campaign chair is Hamish Marshall, Scheer’s former campaign manager who also used to be a director of Rebel Media.
- Susan Delacourt makes note of some big-name Liberals of the pre-Justin era being vocal critics of his recent missteps.
- My column laments the way in which message control is smothering our democracy under the weight of so much pabulum.
Odds and ends:
Former GG David Johnston has joined Deloitte as an “executive advisor” about innovation.