OTTAWA – Finance Minister Bill Morneau is threatening to take the Conservatives to court after the official Opposition peppered him with questions about a stock sale that occurred before he introduced pension legislation in the House of Commons.
Morneau calls the insinuations by Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre “absurd” and says they have “no basis in any sort of fact.”
Poilievre says a motion introduced by Morneau in December 2015 to raise income taxes on the highest earners caused the entire stock market to drop — including the price of Morneau Shepell shares, 680,000 of which the minister sold off a week before the announcement.
WATCH: Timing of sale of Morneau-Shepell shares saved $500k: Opposition
Morneau said if the Opposition wants to make its claims outside the Commons, where MPs enjoy the legal protection afforded by parliamentary privilege, they will “absolutely be hearing how the legal system works.”
“What I heard, first of all, was that a couple of weeks ago people were saying that I should have sold shares, shares that I held, that were held with the knowledge of the ethics commissioner. Of course I went ahead and sold those shares,” Morneau told reporters on Tuesday afternoon in a hastily scheduled media availability.
“Yesterday I’m hearing that shares that I sold … was somehow something inappropriate. So, you can’t make this stuff up.”
He called it “absolutely crazy,” adding that the Opposition has no idea how the stock market works.
But less than an hour later, Poilievre called Morneau’s bluff.
Shortly after Question Period began, he challenged the now-absent finance minister to take things outside.
“I am absolutely confident that everything I’ve said out there and in here is true,” Poilievre told the House.
“Would he commit that if I go out and repeat my question in the lobby at this moment, that the finance minister will meet me out there and answer the question?”
Poilievre then walked out, and did just that. But he was greeted by an empty lobby, as Morneau had already left to deliver a scheduled speech in Toronto.
WATCH: Conservative MP calls Morneau’s bluff
Throughout Question Period Monday, Poilievre asked Morneau repeatedly if it was merely a coincidence that the 680,000 shares were sold off a week before the announcement.
Morneau largely avoided the queries at that point, although a spokesman also later dismissed them as “absurd” and “utterly false.”
Morneau’s shares in his former family business have been the subject of intense scrutiny recently. He had about two million of them when he was elected, then sold off 680,000 in the transaction that Poilievre referenced this week. Morneau legally held on to about a million more, but eventually sold those as well earlier this month after it was revealed he had not placed them in a blind trust.
— With files from Global News