Finance Minister Bill Morneau rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Monday July 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Morneau stepping down as federal finance minister

Resignation comes as We Charity controversy continues in Ottawa

The only finance minister to serve under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suddenly resigned Monday night, saying someone else should guide the country through a long and bumpy economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Morneau said he had considered leaving his role as finance minister for some time, adding that he never intended to run for a third term as an MP.

The path to an economic recovery could take years to play out, and Morneau said the government needed a finance minister who wanted to stick around for the long haul.

During a hastily called news conference on Parliament Hill, Morneau said he had tendered his resignation to Trudeau in the morning, and that he was also stepping down as the Liberal MP for his riding of Toronto Centre.

“It’s really important for someone to want to be in this political role for the next period of time and that period of time will be very challenging,” he said Monday evening. “So that is what I’m sure the prime minister is reflecting on as he thinks about the next finance minister.”

Morneau said he is putting his name forward as a candidate to replace Angel Gurria as the next secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Gurria announced last month that he wouldn’t seek a fourth five-year term and would step down next summer.

Trudeau, in a statement issued Monday as Morneau was speaking, said Canada would “vigorously support” Morneau’s efforts to take on the new role.

The person who takes over Morneau’s job will have to manage all manner of relationships — including with provinces and territories that receive huge sums in transfers, the Bank of Canada, and Liberal caucus colleagues asking for funding — all while holding the federal purse strings, and holding down their own riding, said Elliot Hughes, a former Morneau policy adviser.

“All of that for someone who has been in the job for five years is still really challenging,” said Hughes, now with Summa Strategies.

“Having someone to do that, to come in fresh, completely new to the job in this situation, needless to say is a lot to ask.”

Morneau has been finance minister since late 2015, when the Liberals returned to power with a majority government. He remained in the job after the 2019 federal election, when the Liberals were reduced to a minority government.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Scuttled were plans for a late March budget, and one has yet to be released. The expected deficit plunged to a record $343.2 billion, fuelled by costs for emergency aid that stand around $214.3 billion, according to the Finance Department’s latest estimate.

Morneau then faced opposition calls for his resignation in recent weeks over allegations that he had a conflict of interest in the WE Charity affair. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet had even threatened to try to trigger an election this fall if Morneau and Trudeau didn’t resign.

Morneau and Trudeau are both facing investigations by the federal ethics watchdog for taking part in talks to hand WE a contract to run a student-volunteer program for youth whose summer job opportunities vanished with the pandemic. Both have familial ties to the organization.

One of Morneau’s daughters worked for the organization, another has spoken at its events and his wife has donated $100,000. Morneau also revealed last month that he had repaid WE some $41,000 in expenses for trips he and his family took in 2017 to view two of its humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya.

The recent news that Mark Carney, a former governor of the Bank of Canada and Bank of England, is helping to advise Trudeau on the post-pandemic economic recovery had fuelled speculation that Morneau was about to be replaced.

Last week, Trudeau tried to shut down that speculation by taking the unusual step of issuing a statement to say he had full confidence in Morneau and that reports of policy clashes between them were false.

Morneau denied on Monday that Trudeau had asked him to resign.

On Monday, Trudeau’s statement also highlighted the way they had worked together, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic to quickly get aid to families and businesses.

“Thanks to his unwavering leadership and commitment to service through the pandemic, our government has laid the groundwork for a strong economic recovery,” the statement said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement that Morneau’s resignation was further proof of a government in chaos and consumed by scandal.

“At a time when Canadians are worried about their health and their finances, Justin Trudeau’s government is so consumed by scandal that Trudeau has amputated his right hand to try and save himself,” Scheer said.

Similarly, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Morneau’s resignation comes just when people “need a steady and reliable government” with many worried about paying the bills in coming months resulting from the current economic crisis.

READ MORE: Trudeau, Morneau, Telford must resign, or trigger an election: Blanchet

READ MORE: Morneau repays $41K in travel expenses to WE, faces resignation calls

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirusJustin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria gets new collegiate baseball team, training facility

Golden Tide coach wants to see as many local kids play for the HarbourCats as possible

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Greater Victoria

Thunderstorm may produce strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain, warns Environment Canada

Sooke couple that owned Sooke Harbour House given $4 million after lengthy court case

B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of Frederique and Sinclair Philip

Local MP Elizabeth May likes aspects of throne speech, but questions execution

According to May nobody is as ‘reckless’ as BC’s John Horgan in dismissing snap election

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Most Read