Roundup: Morneau cleared – mostly

On her way out the door, now-former Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson released a statement saying that there was no ethics issue or conflicts of interest with Bill Morneau’s share sales, which blows the hysterical arguments about “insider trading” out of the water. As well they should be – these claims were never serious to begin with, and were part of the attempt to throw everything at the wall in the hopes that something, anything, would stick. This of course leaves the “investigation” into Morneau introducing Bill C-27 on pension reform while he still indirectly held those Morneau Shepell shares, and the opposition are still waving their hands around this and trying to insist that this is some kind of Major Ethical Issue, never mind that the allegations themselves depend on a fundamental misunderstanding with how ministers sponsor bills, and ignoring the fact that clearing bills with the Ethics Commissioner before they are tabled would be a violation of cabinet confidence and parliamentary privilege. But hey, we’ve already established that we don’t need plausibility or facts to get in the way of laying allegations – it’s simply about trying to build a “narrative” by whatever means necessary.

Meanwhile in Maclean’s, Paul Wells has a lengthy interview with Morneau about how his last six months have gone, and it’s a good read. The major takeaway in all of this is that Morneau and the cabinet got complacent after a string of successes, where they managed to get some pretty big wins despite initial grumbles from provinces around things CPP reform or healthcare premiums. The fact that they shopped those planned changes to private corporation tax rules several times and got no pushback meant that they let their guards down, and then with a combination of misrepresentation around what those changes were, and reporting that didn’t question those narratives, Morneau wound up blindsided, which was compounded by his dislike of being scrappy enough to respond to allegations and mistruths forcefully. One hopes that he’ll have learned his political lessons and that he’ll start stepping up a little sooner – and communicating better – but time will tell.

Good reads:

  • Senator Lynn Beyak not only disputed Andrew Scheer’s version of events in her dismissal, but she attacked his leadership, while Scheer’s office passes the buck.
  • Continuing their look at harassment on the Hill, Canadian Press finds that female MPs are unsure of what to make of #MeToo, as it could all prove to be fleeting.
  • Liberal MP Alexandra Mendès wants to set up a cross-party “harassment watch” to help those affected, while in-person harassment training is being developed.
  • Thanks to delays at the Seaspan shipyards, the Canadian Forces is holding off on a $20-million payment for new Joint Support Ships.
  • Another exit interview with Mary Dawson, another chance for her to defend her record (and pat herself on the back a little while she’s at it).
  • The government is moving on reforming the Social Security Tribunal to deal with appeals for denied EI claims and such.
  • More veterans groups are coming out against the government’s promised reforms for disabled veterans pensions, but the government insists they’ll be better off.
  • The government has a plan to offer reprieves for those public servants overpaid by Phoenix, and as usual, the unions are not mollified.
  • In case you’re gripped by the Joshua Boyle saga, he’s been remanded for another week at the request of his lawyer.
  • Saskatchewan is promising private retail sales for recreational cannabis, but still hasn’t decided on a minimum age yet.
  • Kady O’Malley’s Process Nerd column previews those upcoming “extraordinary” ethics committee meetings.
  • Colby Cosh gives an interesting look at the issue of abstinence rules for liver transplant patients.
  • Stephen Gordon looks at correlation and causation in economics research, and the danger of dismissing links when you get results you don’t like.
  • Andrew Coyne says it’s too early to dismiss Scheer and Singh as leadership duds.

Odds and ends:

In the Law Times, I wrote about how changing motor vehicle thresholds in Ontario are negatively affecting accident victims.

A Kingston pub named for Sir John A. Macdonald is changing its name (which I will come out and say is ahistorical bullshit).