Home Government 43rd Parliament of Canada Finance Minister Bill Morneau wraps up 2nd term early amidst COVID

Finance Minister Bill Morneau wraps up 2nd term early amidst COVID

Morneau said he wasn't pushed out by Prime Minister but voluntarily submitted his resignation.

Monday August 17, 2020 | NATIONAL

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

In the wake of political fire over the We Charity scandal, Bill Morneau has resigned as Canada’s finance minister.

In addition to leaving cabinet, Morneau will also step down as the MP for Toronto Centre, saying he never planned to run again for a third election cycle. Morneau first came to elected office in 2015 in the Liberal majority sweep, and again in 2019 after serving successfully in both terms as Finance Minister.

He met today with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before announcing his resignation, which he said was voluntary. Apparently the discussion included disagreements over COVID-19 spending plans and proposed environmental initiatives.

New finance minister to be chosen:

Morneau said today that it is time for a new finance minister to carry Canada forward amidst the complex economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Carney
Mark Carney was Bank of Canada Governor 2007-2013 and Governor of the Bank of England 2013-2020.

Trudeau has been said to be lately taking guidance from former Governor of the Bank of Canada Minister Mark Carney (who served during former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government 2007-2013, most notably during the financial crisis that hit in 2008 and lasted for many years).

Carney has just completed his time as Governor of the Bank of England (2013 to 2020) and is looking to return to Canada.

Tiff Macklem
Tiff Macklem, incoming Governor of the Bank of Canada, shown here during May 1, 2020 announcement in Ottawa.

It was just a few weeks ago that Canada has a new Bank of Canada Governor. Tiff Macklem started in the position on June 3, 2020 and seems keen to be responsive and creative to guide the Canadian economy through the COVID-caused recession (ideally keeping Canada out of a full economic depression). Macklem’s appointment could well be one of Morneau’s high-profile positive legacies.

Continuing in public service:

Morneau’s legacy will also include overseeing one of Canada’s strongest economic booms (for several years leading up to the crash-by-COVID). He oversaw the financing for Canada to start investing again in science, research, universities and tech innovation.

Morneau said he wants to continue in public service. He itemized having put in a bid to be the next secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Morneau has been under pressure to quit for several weeks now, since it was revealed that he had to replay $41,366 in travel expenses covered for him by WE Charity.

Both Morneau and Trudeau are presently subject to an ethics review for aspects of their involvement in the charity that had been tagged to be the sole administrator of a contract that would have provided many hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to students who have now missed out on an opportunity to receive that income and communities have missed out on that type of volunteer support ‘in the ground’ during the pandemic.

We Charity crisis undermined Canadians in need:

This whole scene is a perfect example of how mis-steps in politics can have far-reaching impacts for many people and a broad-sweep impact in communities. The We Charity scandal took the elevated profile of the Liberals for their handling of economic response to COVID-19 (including the highly popular Canada Emergency Response Benefit – aka CERB) and landed Canadian politics with a thud once again into the mundane scrapping in politics that is a turnoff for so many Canadians.

Despite what may ever be uncovered about the Trudeau and Morneau involvement in the We Charity scandal, the fact that Opposition parties chose to launch a political bombshell during the pandemic — particularly during the CERB transition time — is to many people disappointing. Even though in principle the matters of ethical governance are being held up for discussion, at this time of economic crisis during COVID it shows disregard for the many millions of Canadians who are struggling at this time.

Trudeau’s statement on Morneau’s resignation:

Finance Minister Bill Morneau greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before delivery of Budget 2018 in the House of Commons, February 27, 2018. [Web / Canadian Press on CBC]

“Since the day he was first elected and became Canada’s Finance Minister nearly five years ago, Bill has worked relentlessly to support all Canadians and create a resilient, fair economy that benefits everyone,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement today.

“Under his leadership, Canada developed a strong economy with one of the best balance sheets in the G7, created over one million jobs, achieved the lowest unemployment rate in recorded history, lifted over one million people out of poverty, and created a coherent plan to protect the environment while growing the economy.”

“Bill played a central role in transformational projects like the enhancement of the Canada Pension Plan and the creation of the Canada Child Benefit, which are improving the lives of millions of Canadian families.”

“That focus and commitment to supporting families and businesses has served Canadians well since the outset of the global pandemic. Bill led the creation of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, along with many other emergency measures that millions of Canadians and thousands of businesses continue to rely on today. Every step of the way, Bill and I have worked closely together, along with our team of cabinet ministers and caucus members to help Canadians navigate this challenging time. Our number one priority has been supporting Canadian families and businesses the best and fastest way possible. Thanks to his unwavering leadership and commitment to service through the pandemic, our government has laid the groundwork for a strong economic recovery.”

“I want to thank Bill for everything he has done to improve the quality of life of Canadians and make our country a better and fairer place to live. I have counted on his leadership, advice, and close friendship over the years and I look forward to that continuing well into the future. Bill, you have my deepest gratitude and I know you will continue making great contributions to our country and for Canadians in the years to come.”

“Today, Bill has announced that he will put forward his name as a candidate to be the next Secretary General of the OECD. Canada will vigorously support his bid to lead this important global institution that will play a critical role in the global economic recovery.”

NDP reaction on timing of Morneau’s resignation:

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh with Victoria NDP MP Laurel Collins on Friday August 14, 2020 making an announcement in downtown Victoria. [West Shore Voice News / Island Social Trends – Mary Brooke]

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will hold a press conference in Vancouver tomorrow at 9 am PDT to comment on the resignation of the federal Finance Minister.

Meanwhile this evening in a statement (issued around 7:15 pm) he said that “Canadians deserve a government that is focused on helping them, not on their own scandals and conflicts within their own party. That is especially true right now, as the pandemic has made it even more difficult for Canadians to make ends meet.”

“During the worst recession since World War II, millions of Canadian families are worried about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. Just two weeks before Justin Trudeau is about to cut Canadians off the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, his own scandals have distracted the government from the job of helping Canadians,” said Singh.