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

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

Just Posted

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

Pipestone Community committee members and core rink volunteers each put in 600 hours of volunteer work to renovate the Pipestone Community Rink this year. From left to right: Andy Dansereau, Colton Huber, James Huber, and Dave Pockrant. Shaela Dansereau/Pipestone Flyer.
New renovations complete on Pipestone Community Outdoor Skating Rink

New boards and chain-link fence on sides of rink to reduce puck loss.

Silver or grey four-door sedan believed to be the suspects’ vehicle. Photo supplied/Leduc RCMP
Leduc RCMP investigate break and enter to Calmar Post Office

Over 50 packages stolen from the Calmar Post Office Monday morning.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Millet Fire Department 2019. Photo/ Pipestone Flyer.
Millet Fire Department hosts “Light it Up for Liam” event

The Millet Fire Department is lighting up the fire hall this season with holiday spirit.

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

Ilaria Rubino is shown in this undated handout image at University of Alberta. Alberta researcher Rubino has developed technology allowing mostly salt to kill pathogens in COVID-19 droplets as they land on a mask. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Alberta
Alberta researcher gets award for COVID-19 mask innovation

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval.

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Most Read