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Morneau cleared in ethics probe on WE travel, remains under spotlight on failure to recuse

Click to play video 'Bill Morneau a ‘walking conflict of interest;’ Fife' Bill Morneau a ‘walking conflict of interest;’ Fife
Robert Fife, Ottawa bureau chief for The Globe and Mail, weighs in on the WE Charity controversy, the upcoming throne speech and the charges laid against former Liberal MP Raj Grewal. Fife tells Mercedes Stephenson former finance minister Bill Morneau’s violation of the Canada Elections Act plays into the Conservative narrative that the Prime Minister and his cabinet are unethical. – Sep 13, 2020

The federal ethics watchdog has cleared former finance minister Bill Morneau of failing to disclose a gift from WE Charity — but he remains under investigation for failing to recuse himself from cabinet talks.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion accepts Morneau “genuinely believed” he had paid for the entire cost of two trips he and his family took in 2017 to view WE’s humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya.

READ MORE: Documents suggest Bill Morneau’s office played key role in WE decision

As soon as Morneau became aware in August that WE had in fact covered $41,000 worth of expenses for the trips, Dion says he reimbursed the charity.

Because he immediately took “the appropriate corrective measures,” Dion concludes in a letter to Morneau that the former minister did not accept a gift from WE.

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READ MORE: Bill Morneau broke elections rules ahead of 2019 campaign: commissioner

WE’s invitation to view the projects was intended to encourage Morneau’s wife to donate to the charity, but Dion accepts Morneau’s explanation that he was not involved in her subsequent choice to make two large donations through the family foundation.

Dion continues to investigate whether Morneau breached the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to recuse himself from the cabinet decision to pay the charity $43.5 million to manage a since-cancelled student grant program.

Morneau stepped down as finance minister in August.

“We are pleased with the Ethics’ Commissioner’s finding that there was no ethical breach in these volunteer trips,” Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE, said in a statement. “We have always maintained that these trips were done in good faith and welcome this important clarification of the facts.”