Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks with the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Conservatives call for embattled Finance Minister Bill Morneau to resign

Morneau has faced intense pressure for not fully disclosing his personal financial arrangements

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called for Bill Morneau’s resignation Wednesday as political rivals stepped up their attacks on a finance minister mired in controversy for weeks.

Scheer demanded that Morneau step aside, and if he won’t, then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should just fire him.

“After careful consideration, in my capacity of leader of the Opposition, I am officially calling on Bill Morneau to resign as finance minister,” Scheer told reporters before question period, where the issue dominated debate and saw Trudeau come to Morneau’s defence.

Scheer’s call for Morneau’s departure is the latest fuel thrown on the political fire that’s swirled around the finance minister since the summer, when he proposed tax-system changes that enraged small business owners.

Since then, Morneau has faced intense political pressure for not fully disclosing his personal financial arrangements.

Then came conflict-of-interest allegations over proposed pension reform, spearheaded by Morneau, that opponents have alleged would bring him personal financial benefit. The federal ethics commissioner has launched a formal examination into the matter.

This week, the Tories and the New Democrats have been grilling the Liberals about the 2015 sale of shares in the human resources firm Morneau Shepell, built by Morneau and his father, ahead of a tax change announcement.

During Monday’s question period, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre had claimed Morneau’s December 2015 announcement, which unveiled the government’s plan raise income taxes on the highest earners, caused the entire stock market to drop — including the value of Morneau Shepell shares.

Poilievre said 680,000 shares in the company were sold off roughly a week earlier — saving the owner half a million dollars.

He repeatedly asked Morneau on Monday if he was the person who sold those shares, but the minister sidestepped the questions. On Wednesday, Morneau acknowledged that he sold Morneau Shepell shares after coming into office in the fall of 2015.

Poilievre has also suggested that Morneau used his inside knowledge to benefit himself financially.

“It is actually the responsibility of government to ensure that no minister ever uses inside knowledge to benefit from transactions on the stock market,” Poilievre said Monday during question period.

A day later, Morneau threatened to sue the Conservatives for suggesting he used his inside knowledge.

He challenged the Tories to step outside the House of Commons, and away from the legal shield known as parliamentary privilege, to repeat the insinuation.

Anything said in the House of Commons is subject to parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs legal protection from libel and defamation laws.

On Wednesday, Morneau and Trudeau took turns challenging the Opposition again to bring their accusations outside the House.

“If the member opposite has an allegation, if he wants to say something, he should say what he means,” Morneau said in a response to a question from Scheer.

“He should say it here, he should say it now, he should stand up and say it — and then he should go out into the foyer and say it again.”

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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