Scheer ditches Morneau Shepell sponsorship for Toronto speech

Andrew Scheer swiftly dropped Morneau Shepell as the sponsor of an upcoming speech in Toronto. The Conservative leader has spent weeks invoking the firm's name as he hammers the Liberal finance minister for continuing to own shares in the company.

Conservatives nix sponsorship after days of invoking firm's name in attacks on finance minister

An upcoming speech Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was co-sponsored by pension giant Morneau Shepell, but the sponsorship was abruptly pulled on Tuesday. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

An awkward and short-lived alliance came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, when Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer ditched pension adminstration giant Morneau Shepell as the co-sponsor of an upcoming speech in Toronto.

For weeks, Scheer and his MPs have been giving plenty of free, if probably unwelcome, attention to Morneau Shepell in the House of Commons, as they hammered Finance Minister Bill Morneau for retaining roughly a million shares in the business, which was started by Morneau's father. 

So it prompted giggles on social media when an email went out Tuesday morning announcing that Scheer's speech on Nov. 30 for the Canadian Club of Toronto, entitled "A Prosperity for Hardworking Canadians," would be co-sponsored by Morneau Shepell.

An Oct. 31 email from the Canadian Club of Toronto promoting the speech included the Morneau Shepell logo. (CBC)

On Monday, Deputy Opposition Whip John Brassard noted that — while the finance minister has agreed to sell his shares and donate the millions in profits to charity — the federal Ethics Commissioner was still considering whether to launch a formal investigation into whether Morneau had a conflict of interest in sponsoring pension legislation while still owning shares in his family's business. 

"How could the minister betray Canadians like this for his own financial gain and that of his family business?" Brassard asked in the House.

Quick change

Just a few hours after the email went out announcing the speech, Morneau Shepell's name had disappeared from the event website. 

It seems the email went out without first being cleared by Scheer's office. 

When Scheer's team heard about the awkward pairing, it asked for Morneau Shepell's sponsorship to be pulled.

"We believe, given the current context, it would be inappropriate for the leader to attend an event sponsored by that particular firm," said Scheer spokesman Jake Enwright.

As for how the two became such awkward bedfellows in the first place, a Morneau Shepell spokeswoman explained that the company regularly sponsors Canadian Club events when elected officials speak.

"This arrangement predates any of the issues currently being discussed in the media," said Cathren Ronberg, director of corporate communications, in an email


Catherine Cullen

Senior reporter

Catherine Cullen is host of CBC Radio's The House and a senior reporter on Parliament Hill.