Morneau says he's sold all shares in family's pension company, made donation to charity

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he has sold all his shares in his family's pension company and made "a large donation" to charity, as the ethics watchdog continues to examine an alleged conflict of interest surrounding his ownership of the shares.

Finance minister makes return to House amid probe by ethics watchdog

Finance Minister Bill Morneau's conduct is being examined by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to see if it violated the Conflict of Interest Act when he sponsored a pensions bill while controlling shares in his family's pension company. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he has sold all his shares in his family's pension company and made "a large donation" to charity, as the ethics watchdog continues to examine an alleged conflict of interest surrounding his ownership of the shares.

Morneau, the target of the opposition's attack during question period again Monday, had previously promised to place his assets in a blind trust and unload about a million shares, worth about $20 million, in Morneau Shepell to calm a growing ethics controversy over his personal holdings.

Power Panel on Morneau's ethics back in the spotlight 8:27

"I will continue to work to assure that Canadians can retire in dignity. I will continue to work with the ethics commissioner to make sure her examination is competed. Now that I've sold all my Morneau Shepell shares and made a large donation to charity, I'm looking forward to continuing these efforts on behalf of Canadians," he told the House of Commons on Monday.

The finance minister had promised to donate to charity the profits earned on his Morneau Shepell shares since becoming finance minister. According to his office he directed the donation to the Toronto Foundation which will then spread the money to a number of different charities. 

It's not yet known how much profit was made from the sale. The nature of the sale, to whom the shares were sold and the total value of the sale also remain unknown. 

"Minister Morneau undertook to sell the shares on his own initiative and our office was not involved in the sale," said Marie Danielle Vachon, a spokeswoman for Ethics Commissioner Dawson.

For weeks Morneau has been dogged by controversy over his ownership of the company's shares and his use of private corporations to hold his assets — including one he failed to declare until September, which holds a villa in France. Morneau agreed to pay a $200 fine for failing to declare the company that owns the villa to Parliament's Conflict of Interest and Ethics Officer Mary Dawson when he took office.

Returning after the parliamentary break week, Morneau on Monday faced the opposition benches for the first time since news broke that Dawson was conducting an examination to see if he violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

Dawson initiated the examination after Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre, and NDP MP Nathan Cullen wrote to the commissioner earlier this fall, asking her to look into the finance minister's role in Bill C-27, a pensions bill, that Morneau sponsored while still controlling shares in his family's pension company. 

Cullen argued that, because Morneau held about one million shares at the time, he stood to make millions if the bill passed.

Poilievre had asked Dawson to investigate whether Morneau violated both the Conflict of Interest Act (which applies to cabinet ministers) and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (which applies to all MPs), but Dawson said she would examine his role in the bill under the Act alone. 

Where was the break down between the Ethics Commissioner's advice to the Finance Minister and the need for an investigation into his actions? 9:34

With files from Chris Rands

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