OTTAWA _ At least three other members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet have personal financial arrangements similar to the setup that has landed Finance Minister Bill Morneau in hot water, despite the blessing of the federal ethics commissioner.
Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi are using so-called conflict-of-interest screens, a step short of the blind-trust gold standard for politicians seeking to avoid the sort of controversy Morneau now finds himself in.
Sohi says he has a screen in place to prevent him from participating in decisions that could benefit his wife’s holdings in a company that is also a partial owner of farmland in Alberta.
He says the screen is an effective tool that has already seen him removed from the approval process for an infrastructure project, proposed by the province, that would be in close proximity to the farmland.
In response to accusations that he’s personally profited from decisions he’s taken as finance minister, Morneau has promised to sell off $21 million worth of shares in his family’s company and place the rest his substantial assets in a blind trust.
Morneau, who says he was never in a conflict of interest amid questions about his work to spearhead pension-reform legislation, has promised to donate to charity any gains in the value of his Morneau Shepell shares since he was elected two years ago.
Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson has said she told Morneau a blind trust wouldn’t be necessary, since his shares were indirectly held through private companies and were therefore not considered a controlled asset under the Conflict of Interest Act.