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

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

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

During the summer at peak times and days, the angled parking lot and the small parking additional parking area north of the playground are congested due to visitors utilizing one of the few public boat launches on Pigeon Lake. Image/ Metro Creative Connection.
New parking lot to open in Mulhurst for the summer season

The paid parking lot will be able to accommodate 26 vehicles and trailers.

File photo
Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin RCMP requesting public’s assistance in shooting that left one male injured

The gun shot victim was transported to hospital by STARS Air Ambulance.

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

The historic Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne in southern Alberta is up for sale

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
Alberta RCMP investigating possible threat to police after Mirror rally

Online images show RCMP members, vehicles in crosshairs of a rifle

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Most Read