Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson was warned as far back as September that Finance Minister Bill Morneau could be in a conflict of interest over a bill he was spearheading that benefits his family firm, but the federal watchdog didn’t launch a formal examination until November when controversy over the matter had dominated the House of Commons for weeks.
A group representing retired Canada Post workers hand-delivered a letter to Ms. Dawson’s office on Sept. 18, outlining its concern about the Finance Minister’s shares in Morneau Shepell and his involvement in drafting legislation to rewrite federal pension law.
Bill C-27, sponsored by Mr. Morneau, opens the door for Crown corporations and federally regulated employers, including airlines, banks and telecommunication firms, to convert secure defined-benefit pension plans into less-secure target-benefit plans (TBPs).
The Canada Post Pension Advisory Council told Ms. Dawson that Mr. Morneau was receiving dividends and income from his shares in his family’s human-resources and pension-planning firm when he introduced the bill, which would shift the retirement savings risk to employees.
Peter Whitaker of the council also pointed out that Mr. Morneau was executive chair at Morneau Shepell in 2012 when it purchased the pension administrative branch of Mercer Canada – the chief actuary for Canada Post.
He told Ms. Dawson that Bill C-27 could benefit Mr. Morneau as a shareholder of Morneau Shepell because the firm stood to benefit from the shift to TBPs. At the time, Mr. Morneau owned one million shares valued at $21-million.