Ethics watchdog starts full-blown probe of Morneau's involvement in pension bill

Federal ethics watchdog Mary Dawson is launching an examination of Finance Minister Bill Morneau's involvement in a pension bill that could have benefited a company in which he owned some $21 million worth of shares.

In a letter to NDP ethics critic Nathan Cullen, Dawson says she believes she has "reasonable grounds'' to commence an examination of Morneau's conduct.

The letter points to a section of the Conflict of Interest Act that empowers the ethics commissioner to examine a matter if she has reason to believe a public office holder has contravened the act.

Cullen had asked Dawson to investigate whether Morneau was in a conflict of interest when he sponsored Bill C-27.

Dawson had initially said she'd look into the matter and follow up with Morneau; she's now upgraded that to a full-blown examination.

Bill C-27 would allow pension administrators to convert direct benefit pension plans to targeted benefit plans, a change for which Morneau had lobbied when he was the head of Morneau Shepell, a pension administration and human resources company founded by his father.