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Bill Morneau broke elections rules ahead of 2019 campaign: commissioner

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Former federal finance minister Bill Morneau broke campaign rules ahead of the election last year by promoting a Liberal candidate in his official capacity as a cabinet minister.

Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté on Thursday issued a decision that orders Morneau to pay a $300 fine and rules that he violated the Canada Elections Act by promoting the candidacy of then-Liberal candidate and now-minister Anita Anand.

Morneau is also required to post the decision on his website.

According to the decision, Côté found that Morneau attended a meeting of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce on July 29, 2019 — a little less than two months before the start of the federal campaign.

At that meeting and during the meetings and talks afterwards — which Côté notes Morneau attended in his capacity as finance minister — Morneau promoted the candidacy of Anita Anand, who was running for the Liberals in the riding.

Côté said that amounts to using public office for partisan gain, something expressly prohibited under federal elections rules.

He added that Morneau “opined that ‘when such a person steps forward for public life—with significant accomplishments in their private sector life—I think it’s important that we – we support them and encourage them.’”

“These comments provided a partisan benefit to Ms. Anand and to the LPC’s prospect in the electoral district of Oakville.”

As well, Côté pointed to another case of similar behaviour.

In the second case, he says Morneau was given a tour of a business area in Caledon, Ont., on Aug. 27, 2019, during which he met with local residents and leaders.

The local Liberal candidate was also there and afterwards, both Morneau and the candidate posted a photo of their meetings on social media.

“Ministers are prohibited from using public resources and funds from their departmental budgets for partisan purposes,” the decision states.

“Specifically, the guide required that ministers ensure that all official Government of Canada communications products and activities be devoid of partisan content.”

Morneau resigned as finance minister and as an MP over the summer in the midst of the WE Charity scandal. He remains under investigation by the ethics commissioner on that matter.

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