Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announces his resignation during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Canada’s election watchdog says former finance minister Bill Morneau broke the law when he promoted Liberal candidates at events he attended while in charge of the finance portfolio. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Former finance minister Bill Morneau broke election law in 2019: commissioner

The commissioner of Canada elections says before the 2019 federal election, Morneau pumped up two prospective Liberal candidates

Canada’s election watchdog says former finance minister Bill Morneau broke the law when he promoted Liberal candidates at events he attended while in charge of the finance portfolio.

The commissioner of Canada elections says before the 2019 federal election, Morneau pumped up two prospective Liberal candidates who were attending separate events he headlined as finance minister.

“Introducing and promoting prospective (Liberal Party of Canada) candidates at the events, promoted the LPC’s electoral prospects in these electoral districts,” commissioner Yves Cote wrote in his report, published Thursday.

“This caused the expenses related to these events to benefit the LPC.”

That, Cote concluded, broke a section of the Elections Act that prohibits anyone but individuals from donating to political parties: the government, which footed the bill for the events, is not an individual.

He noted also that ministers are not to use taxpayer funds for partisan gain.

One candidate who appeared with Morneau, Anita Anand, has since gone on to become the federal procurement minister.

She attended multiple events with Morneau on July 29, 2019, including a meeting at the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, where he gave a speech, and a subsequent roundtable, a tour of a clothing factory and a meeting with leaders of the Muslim community. All of the events were promoted by the Finance Department.

The commissioner said Morneau singled Anand out in his speech, remarking on her accomplishments and saying “when such a person steps forward for public life — with significant accomplishments in their private-sector life — I think it’s important that we, we support them and encourage them.”

The commissioner said the comments “provided a partisan benefit to Ms. Anand and to the LPC’s prospect in the electoral district of Oakville.”

A similar occurrence took place in August 2019, when Michele Fisher, the candidate for the nearby riding of Dufferin-Caledon, accompanied Morneau on a tour in the riding, and Morneau posted pictures of her on his social media accounts.

The commissioner said Morneau and his office co-operated fully with the investigation.

“There is no indication that Mr. Morneau intended to use public resources for directly partisan purposes. Nor is there any indication that Mr. Morneau personally participated in planning any of the tours in question,” Cote wrote.

The costs of the events was pegged at $1,661, which Morneau’s riding association has paid back. Morneau himself must also pay $300 within the next 30 days, and must also publish the notice of the violations on his social media accounts.

Morneau could not immediately be reached for comment.

Morneau resigned as finance minister and an MP in August, mired in a controversy about the government’s decision to award a multi-million contract to the WE organization to run a student program, and amid reports of tension between him and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over pandemic recovery plans.

He said he never intended to run for a third term as an MP and was leaving to run for secretary-general of an international economic co-operation body.

Throughout his political career, which began with his election in 2015, Morneau repeatedly came under scrutiny for appearing to cross the lines between his role as an MP and cabinet minister and personal or partisan matters.

Among other things, he’s been twice investigated by the ethics commissioner for matters related to his family human-resources business, once for selling shares ahead of an income tax increase and once for introducing pension-law changes that could have benefited the company. He was cleared both times.

The current ethics investigation is probing his ties to WE Charity in the context of the government’s decision to have it run the Canada Student Service Grant program.

One of Morneau’s children works for an arm of the organization, and Morneau revealed during committee hearings he took trips sponsored by WE, money that he has since paid back.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Kootenay teachers’ union going to labour relations board over COVID-19 related work conditions

Union issues open letter to premier, education minister, health minister and Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Trail market goes garlic

The event goes Saturday in downtown Trail from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Two men killed in Hwy 3 collision west of Castlegar

The single-vehicle incident happened Thursday morning

Central Mountain Air to offer flights out of Castlegar

The company will be offering Castlegar to Vancouver flights October 1.

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read