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Morneau says he will donate millions in capital gains amid ongoing controversy

Finance Minister says he will donate portion of Morneau Shepell shares
Finance minister Bill Morneau says he will donate profits made on Morneau Shepell shares.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is adding a new item to his to-do list following an uproar over his personal finances, saying he will donate some of the money he makes on the sale of his family’s shares in Morneau Shepell to charity.

Morneau made the announcement during Question Period in the House of Commons, following a meeting with Federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson.

“I had a constructive discussion with the ethics commissioner this morning,” the minister said, adding that he informed Dawson of “the intent of myself and my family to donate any difference in value in my family shares from the time I was elected on Oct. 19, 2015, until now.”

It’s unclear exactly how much money that could represent, but the share price for Morneau Shepell in mid-October 2015 was $15.50 per share. Today, it sits at $21.10, meaning that Morneau’s over one million shares could net him a two-year profit of $5.6 million upon their sale.

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But the opposition Conservatives fired back, saying that if Morneau hadn’t held on to the shares in his former company after he was elected, “he wouldn’t have had those profits in the first place.”

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Morneau offers no timeline on balancing books
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Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre then asked if after donating the profits to charity, Morneau would also donate any resulting tax savings he receives next spring via the federal charitable tax credit.

The minister did not answer that question directly.

Outside the House of Commons, Morneau said he has not decided which charity or charities would receive the money. He also would not confirm an approximate sum of $5.6 million, saying his financial advisors will need to connect with the ethics commissioner’s office first.

The NDP’s Nathan Cullen called the move “an admission of guilt.”

“From my experience, people don’t generally pay a fine or a fee if they’re innocent of something.”

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The Conservatives and NDP have been attacking Morneau for weeks now over his failure to place his assets in a blind trust or sell them.

Morneau was able to retain indirect control over the shares legally by placing them in a corporate structure involving two companies, one registered in Ontario and the other in Alberta.

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Amid the controversy, Morneau announced last week that he would move all remaining assets into a blind trust. He said he will then sell them off in a way that respects the law governing conflict of interest on Parliament Hill.

In doing so, the minister said, he is going above and beyond what Dawson initially told him was necessary after he was elected to the House of Commons.