Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to add to everything my honourable colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley just said.
Today's motion is extremely important because it relates to a fundamental principle that everyone in the House of Commons should respect and an issue that we should all be deeply concerned about. In the context of the motion and the Minister of Finance's actions, we have to ask ourselves whether the Minister of Finance should apologize for misleading Canadians and whether the Liberal government should immediately close the tax loophole uncovered in the Conflict of Interest Act that made these actions possible.
One thing is clear, and my colleague set out the facts. For two years after the election, the minister knew that he probably had to put his Morneau Shepell shares in a blind trust. He said so himself. His colleagues, including the member for Spadina—Fort York, thought that he had done so. The media were told that his shares were in a blind trust. The Minister of Finance himself told his company that his shares were in a blind trust. However, a little while ago, we learned that this was not the case.
The only explanation here is that he misled Canadians. This is important, because the company in which he holds shares handles pension plans. The Minister of Finance advocated for legislation such as Bill C-27, which is extremely important and which will affect the pension funds of federal employees, before he even became a member of Parliament. When the Minister of Finance introduces measures for which he had previously advocated and which will have a direct impact on the shares he still owns, it can only be described as a conflict of interest.
Do members of this Liberal government have such poor ethical judgment that they do not remember what happened before? Two incidents that are directly related to this situation occurred over the past 15 years on the watch of the Liberal government of the time. In 2002, the Minister of National Defence, Arthur Eggleton, was forced to resign from cabinet after awarding a $36,000 contract to a company that was owned by an ex-girlfriend.
I will rephrase that. The Liberal defence minister in 2002 had to resign from cabinet because he had given a $36,000 contract to a company owned by an ex-girlfriend. That same year, the current agriculture minister, who was at the time solicitor general, had to resign from cabinet because he have given a contract worth over $6 million to a college that belonged to his brother. Now we are in a situation where the Finance Minister, despite the fact he said he would put his interests in a blind trust did not do so and stood to personally benefit from the decisions he made. According to the current government and its members of Parliament, that does not put him in a conflict of interest.
Let us remember that a conflict of interest does not mean that he purposely tried to benefit from his actions. However, he placed himself in a situation where he could benefit from his actions and decisions, and that is it. Now he is trying to hide behind some smokescreen or loophole.
He claims that he was not in a conflict of interest. He told the Ethics Commissioner what he was going to do and how he was going to protect himself, by divesting himself of his shares in Morneau Shepell. However, we have learned that he divested of his shares by putting them into a numbered company where he is the sole shareholder. This trick allowed him to indirectly do what he could not do directly. He banked more than $125,000 a month in dividends from his company, Morneau Shepell.
I do not understand how the Minister of Finance, who is a smart man, did not see that he was in a conflict of interest. When he came to the House to answer questions on this subject, it was shocking to see that he did not even seem to regret his actions or the fact that he is perceived to be in a conflict of interest. On the contrary, he never admitted that he had made a mistake and that he should have acted otherwise. Rather, he seemed to want congratulations from members on this side of the House for doing things he should have done two years earlier, when he was elected.
How then can the Liberals vote against the motion that is before us today? All the motion does is ask the Minister of Finance to apologize for misleading Canadians. The motion also calls on the government to recognize that there is indeed a loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act and to do something to fix it as soon as possible.
As my colleague mentioned, the government said, both during the election campaign and after it took office, that ministers must not only follow the letter of the law but also go the extra mile to ensure that their actions bear the closest public scrutiny. However, the government is holding to the letter of the law, which clearly allowed the finance minister to maintain control of a company in which he holds shares.
I am therefore calling on the members of the Liberal government to take action and adopt this motion in order to join the opposition in saying that the finance minister should apologize for misleading the media, his colleagues, his company, and Canadians. This motion criticizes the Minister of Finance for not telling the truth and asks him to immediately take steps to remedy the situation so that members of this and future government cabinets are no longer tempted to enter into conflict of interest situations.
This is about the credibility of the Canadian government in the eyes of Canadians, who go to the polls every four years to vote on who will represent them in the House. They have the right to know that their representatives and their government are not in a position to personally benefit from any of the measures taken here.
How would it look if the Minister of National Defence possessed holdings in an arms company that does business overseas and he decided not to sign an agreement that would limit opportunities to sell his company's weapons? The minister would be in a conflict of interest. It would also raise some questions if the Minister of Agriculture owned a dairy farm and made decisions regarding supply management that could be to his benefit because of his interests in the farm. We are dealing with the same sort of situation here.
I therefore call on the Liberal members to do what Canadians expect of them. I ask them to call on the Minister of Finance to humbly apologize for having misled Canadians. I ask them to call on the government to immediately correct the situation and close the loophole, which is something that the Ethics Commissioner has been recommending since 2013. It is about time that something was done about this.