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

After dragon boat races, the Carnation Ceremony remembers those who have died and those who are fighting cancer. This year, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Friends Abreast Dragon Boat team delivered 400 carnations to the staff at nine public schools, three SASCU offices and the women’s league at the curling rink as a reminder for women to book their mammogram appointments. (File photo)
Salmon Arm dragon boat team gives carnations as mammogram reminder

Breast cancer second leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

Snow started falling early Oct. 23, 2020 to leave Salmon Arm and area with a wintery look. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Snow in Shuswap this early in October rare but no records broken

Environment Canada predicts clear weather in Salmon Arm for election day – Oct. 24

City workers Mike Jamieson and Jamie Greencorn perform the wintery ritual of putting up road closed signs on 10th Avenue SE (also known as Shoemaker Hill) on the morning of Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm’s Shoemaker Hill closed by snow, might still reopen

City staff say steep, winding portion of 10th Avenue SE could see a few more weeks of use

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Thanks to efforts by a Kelowna shelter and Elections BC, anyone who wishes to can vote in the 2020 BC Provincial Election, even if they don’t have a fixed address. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Kelowna group ensures people experiencing homelessness can vote

Shelter supervisor says voting ‘a fundamental right’ even for those without a fixed address

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
Big White receives 21 cm of snow in 24 hours

Resort’s snow base 41 cm deep, one month until opening day

The deer were allegedly shot within Princeton town limits, late at night. Black Press File Photo.
Armed man, in full camouflage, allegedly shoots deer in downtown Princeton

‘The list of charges goes on and on,’ said RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Most Read