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Federal finance minister Bill Morneau speaks in Waterloo, Ont. today, pitching his tax break plan and “tax fairness” — as a government press release calls it — to a small business forum.

Morneau and Small Business and Tourism minister Bardish Chagger are holding the talks at Communitech, a small-business based incubator focused on southern Ontario’s tech sector.

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Morneau has been under fire since the Globe and Mail reported Monday that Morneau did not put his business assets into a blind trust. That led opposition critics to accuse him of conflict of interest in sponsoring legislation involving private pensions, C-27, that could benefit him financially.

During a news conference Thursday on Parliament Hill, Morneau said he will unload the million shares, worth about $20 million, he has in Morneau Shepell, the human resources and pension management company his father founded.

His other assets will be placed in a blind trust in order to avoid any public perception of conflict of interest, he said.

Tax backtrack

Morneau has also climbed down from another controversial tax proposal to address the concerns of farmers and fishers.

The finance minister said the government is abandoning the proposed tax reform that would have restricted the conversion of income into capital gains.

  • Morneau climbs down from farming, fishing tax proposal

“We’re going to take a step back and reconsider that aspect of our tax proposal,” he said at a farm alongside Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay in Erinsville, Ont., about halfway between Toronto and Ottawa, and three area Liberal MPs.

The proposal would have made it more difficult for farmers and other business owners to pass on their businesses to their children.

Scheer also in region

Earlier in the morning, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer also spoke to two small business forums in Waterloo Region.

  • Conservative leader Scheer decries ‘irony’ of small business tax plan

Scheer described what he sees as ‘irony’ in Morneau’s propsed small business tax reforms while “we have a prime minister and a finance minister that used their own accounting schemes and accounting measures to avoid paying higher taxes.”