Questions loom over timing of when finance minister sold Morneau-Shepell stock

Click to play video: 'Opposition questions timing of sale of $10 million worth of Morneau-Shepell shares'
Opposition questions timing of sale of $10 million worth of Morneau-Shepell shares
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre asked Finance Minister Bill Morneau who sold ten million dollars worth of shares in Morneau-Shepell just one week before tax measures were tabled – Nov 27, 2017

Shares of Morneau-Shepell, the finance minister’s former company, were sold a week before Bill Morneau tabled tax legislation that might have affected the company’s shares, an MP alleged in Question Period Monday.

Tory MP Pierre Poilievre said there were 680,000 shares of the company sold on Nov. 30, 2015 – one week before the tax legislation was tabled on Dec. 7, 2015.

READ MORE: Tax rate dropping for middle class, will take $2.1 B from federal coffers (2015) 

He asked the minister to name who sold the shares, because “it is government’s responsibility to ensure no minister ever uses inside knowledge to benefit from transactions of the stock market.”

He also asked Morneau in Question Period whether he sold the shares himself.

“On Dec. 7, 2015 the minister of finance introduced a motion in the House of Commons to raise taxes effective Jan. 1 in the forthcoming year,” he said in Question Period.

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“The stock market dropped and so did Morneau-Shepell … but not before someone could sell $10 million in Morneau-Shepell shares, one week before that drop and that bill was introduced. Can the minister tell us who sold those shares.”

“Was that this minister?”

WATCH: Timing of sale of Morneau-Shepell shares saved $500k: Opposition

Click to play video: 'Timing of sale of Morneau-Shepell shares saved $500k: Opposition'
Timing of sale of Morneau-Shepell shares saved $500k: Opposition

He said the difference between selling shares before the legislation was tabled at $15 a share, compared to after at around $14.2 per share, amounted to a profit of around $500,000.

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For his part, Monreau deflected the question, saying Poilievre was “trying to concoct conspiracy theories out of thin air.”

His office later called the accusations false and wrong.

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“The absurd allegations being made by the opposition are completely and utterly false,” Chloe Luciani-Girouard, spokesperson for Morneau, said in an email to Global News.

“The opposition continue to show they would rather focus on the minister of finance than the priorities of Canadians.”

Poilievre also referenced documents viewed by the National Post, which said the minister sold 680,000 in shares for just over $10 million.

Poilievre told Global News he had viewed public trading records that confirm 680,000 shares were sold for $10.2 million at 10:25 a.m. on Nov. 30, 2015. It was not clear if the Post report referred to the same transaction, though the journalist said the relevant statements were dated Dec. 3.

Though Poilievre said he wasn’t accusing Morneau, he is calling for him to come clean on when exactly he sold all his shares in the company.

“Obviously finance ministers are privy to highly sensitive financial information, they need to ensure that they are operation with the highest ethical standards in buying and selling shares on the stock market,” he told Global News.

“I’m not accusing the minister of anything. I’m simply asking him to tell us when he sold his directly held shares in Morneau-Shepell.”

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This is the latest attack on Morneau, after criticism in recent months over his controversial small business tax proposal, as well as perceived conflicts of interest having to do with Bill C-27. (In that case, the bill in question would affect pensions and Morneau’s family company is Canada’s largest provider of pension administration technology and services.)

The office of the ethics commissioner is currently investigating Morneau for his involvement in that bill.

Poilievre was one of the MPs, along with NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who called for the office to investigate.

Morneau is now in the process of selling off his shares and placing his other considerable assets in a blind trust.

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