Bill Morneau says he has “no regrets” about entering politics in late 2015 and becoming Canada’s finance minister, in spite of another long week of turmoil surrounding his personal finances and alleged conflicts of interest.
During an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, Morneau stopped short of addressing possible regrets surrounding the decisions he made linked to his stock portfolio, registered companies and other personal financial matters.
“Let me tell you what I absolutely don’t regret. I don’t regret deciding to get into public life. I don’t regret having the opportunity to make a huge difference for our country.”
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Morneau has faced more than two weeks of sharp criticism after it was revealed he had maintained indirect control of his shares in his former company, Morneau Shepell, via two registered corporations, and failed to disclose a company in France that held his private villa.
On Thursday, things got even worse as Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson’s office confirmed she will look into the possibility of investigating Morneau for his involvement in a bill that would affect pensions and have a direct impact on his former firm.
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Morneau maintains he has always followed Dawson’s recommendations “to the letter,” that he broke no laws and that he has maintained appropriate conflict of interest screens.
“People are asking whether that’s good enough for a finance minister, and that’s new,” Morneau noted.
“I believe that when people have questions, you need to listen to those questions and decide if there’s a way that you can assure people that they’re not something they need to be concerned with.”
He would not say, however, if he understood why concerns were raised in the first place.
The minister also addressed his pledge to donate a portion of the profits he makes on the sale of his shares in Morneau Shepell (which he says will be placed in a blind trust first) to charity. The amount is estimated to be over $5 million, but Morneau said he doesn’t know for certain yet where it will go.
Some possibilities include Covenant House, a shelter for at-risk youth in Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital, which serves inner-city Toronto, he said.
“Right now my wife and I are working to bring some refugee girls from a school that we founded in a refugee camp in Kenya to Canada in order to get a university education,” he added.
“So these are all ideas, but I don’t actually have an answer to your question yet.”
For now, Morneau said, he remains eager to refocus attention on the work the government is doing. The opposition NDP and Conservatives, however, aren’t so eager to change the channel.
“If there’s something that I can do to make sure that people have absolute confidence, I’ll do it,” Morneau said.
— Watch the full interview with Finance Minister Bill Morneau above.