Bill Morneau moved from defending his personal stock sales to those of his father Thursday, as the opposition questioned the Finance Minister over whether he gave his dad a heads-up before an announcement on income tax rates.
Mr. Morneau forcefully dismissed the questions, noting that the plan to raise taxes on Canada's wealthiest 1 per cent as of Jan. 1, 2016, was public knowledge and announced by the government the day it was sworn in on Nov. 4, 2015. He also said he never shared confidential information with his father.
The opposition questions were focused on more than $3-million in stock transactions disclosed in a public database that provides transparency on insider transactions by publicly-traded companies.
"Is it just a coincidence that both he and his father sold millions of dollars worth of shares a week before he introduced tax increases that helped drop their value?" asked Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre.
"I have a level of disgust for what is going on in the other side of the House," Mr. Morneau replied. "I did not know the member from Carleton could sink any lower. I did not know that was possible, but he has taken efforts today to actually move from me to talk about my family."
Public registry records show Mr. Morneau's father, William F. Morneau Sr., sold 100,000 shares of Morneau Shepell Inc. for $15.20 per share on Nov. 23, 2015. They also show that he sold another 100,000 shares on Dec. 3, 2015, for $15 a share.
On Dec. 7, the Finance Minister introduced a ways and means motion and issued a news release to announce that the tax changes promised by the Liberals during the 2015 election campaign would be made effective Jan. 1, 2016.
The Finance Minister's father, who goes by his middle name Frank, founded the human resources company that his son would later manage. Shortly after his election as an MP in October, 2015, Bill Morneau resigned as executive chair of the company.
Mr. Morneau Sr.'s transactions were first reported by Global News just before Thursday's question period and the issue dominated the day's debate. At one point, Conservative MP Blake Richards was kicked out of the chamber by the speaker for excessive heckling.
The Finance Minister has faced questions for months as to why he did not divest all of his company assets or place them in a blind trust, as he had previously suggested he intended to do. The Minister's defence has been that he followed the advice of the federal ethics commissioner, who recommended an ethics screen instead that involved having his chief of staff ensure that the Minister did not get involved in decisions that might present a conflict of interest.
Following question period, Mr. Morneau pointed out that the government held a news conference on Nov. 4, 2015, to announce that Parliament would be recalled for the purpose of authorizing income changes that would take effect in the new year.
"I have no way of knowing what my father does or doesn't do with his personal affairs. What I can tell you is that my father, he's pretty good at reading. So he would have read the newspapers – like 36 million Canadians – and known that we were going to introduce policies that would raise his taxes, and we did," he said. "I did not at any point in time, nor would I at any point in time, discuss any confidential information with my father or anyone else who wasn't in that closed circle. His decisions on his financial affairs are his and his alone."
Mr. Morneau has said he sold some of his own Morneau Shepell shares shortly after the election. He did not sell his remaining shares until this year, in response to the controversy that followed after The Globe and Mail reported that the Minister had not placed his assets in a blind trust.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen said the Minister's explanations are incoherent.
"To suggest at the same time that everybody knew [about the tax change announcement], but only a few were allowed to know, makes no sense to me," he said. "It feels like they're making stuff up."