Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling on federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to resign amid questions about alleged ethical lapses.
Scheer says the Conservative caucus has lost faith in the Toronto-area Liberal.
"The finance minister isn't competent, and he can't follow the rules, so why is he still in cabinet? He misled Canadians about putting his assets in a blind trust ... and he introduced pension legislation that could benefit himself and his family's company," Scheer said in question period Wednesday.
At issue is a Conservative claim Morneau unloaded hundreds of thousands of shares in his family's human resources company, Morneau Shepell, days before the Liberal government introduced legislation to raise taxes on the country's highest earners.
Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre has asked Morneau repeatedly if it was he who sold roughly 680,000 shares in November 2015, shortly before Bill C-2, the legislation that hiked the tax rate for the highest income bracket, was tabled in Parliament.
Poilievre said the timing of the share sale is no coincidence as the share price later took a dip, and he has sought to tie the depreciation to the tax hike.
"It is actually the responsibility of government to ensure that no minister ever uses inside knowledge to benefit from transactions in the stock market," Poilievre said Monday in the House.
Morneau has ducked questions about the sale of shares over the last two days. On Wednesday, under questioning from Scheer in question period, Morneau said he did indeed sell shares before he entered office and subsequently donated some $5 million in proceeds to charity.
(Morneau sold his last batch of Morneau Shepell shares earlier this month and donated the profits to charity after it was revealed his holdings had not been placed in a blind trust after he became minister.)
"There are no secrets here ... I am absolutely happy to answer the question and, as has been reported in the press, I did sell shares before I took office," Morneau said.
The finance minister said the Liberals openly campaigned on a pledge to make the tax changes — it was a centrepiece of the party's 2015 election platform — and that he had no idea the stock might drop weeks after he sold his shares. "Nobody knows about the stock market in advance," he said.
Morneau said if Scheer wants to repeat the insinuation that he engaged in insider trading, he should clearly make the allegation outside the House — where parliamentary privilege protections do not apply.
"If the member opposite has an allegation, if he wants to say something, he should say it here, he should say it now, and he should stand up and say it and he should go out in the foyer and say it again."
During a heated exchange with Scheer, Trudeau said the insider trading allegation is a "smear campaign" by an opposition that has "nothing else to say" as the Canadian economy is booming and posting the best growth rates in the G7.
"They make wild allegations, and sling mud, that's simply what they do," Trudeau said. "It's sound and fury signifying nothing."
Liberal and Conservative MPs bickered over whether Poilievre did in fact repeat the allegation outside the House — which he says he did Tuesday — or whether he watered down his assertions in the face of legal advice from party lawyers. Trudeau said Poilievre simply repeated his question over the timing of share sales, and not his actual allegation of insider trading.
As for the calls to turf Morneau, Trudeau responded by saying he had "full confidence" in the finance minister. "One only has to look at the 500,000 new jobs to understand why," he said.
- 'You can't make this stuff up,' says Bill Morneau after Tories go after 2015 sale of Morneau Shepell shares
Scheer said Wednesday that outstanding questions — on issues beyond the share sale — mean Morneau cannot remain at his post.
"Under a cloud of suspicion, and while serious questions about his dealings go unanswered, he should not continue in his role, and if he will not step down, it's up to Justin Trudeau to remove him," Scheer said.
Morneau is also facing an examination by Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson amid allegations he acted improperly by introducing another piece of legislation, Bill C-27, which would have made changes to Crown corporation pension plans, something the opposition alleges would have directly benefited the minister's company. The bill has been inactive since October 2016.