PM to name Freeland finance minister, replacing Morneau

By | August 18, 2020

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to name Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s new finance minister, CTV News has learned.

This comes after Bill Morneau announced late Monday that he was resigning from his key cabinet role and as an MP.

Freeland will become the first female finance minister, and will keep her role as deputy prime minister, though her intergovernmental affairs position could be re-assigned in what’s shaping up to be a small shuffle of some current cabinet titles.

Quickly filling the vacancy comes as Morneau’s sudden resignation led to concerns about how the economy would react given the ongoing crisis caused by COVID-19. 

Largely seen as a steady hand that Trudeau has more than once put into a tough role, Freeland will take on steering Canada through what’s ballooned to be a $343-billion deficit, expanded in large part to pay for a suite of emergency benefits, and to stave off further staggering job losses.

There has also been considerable discussion about the particular impact the pandemic is having on women’s economic standing—a “she-cession” as some have called it—and having a female at the helm of the finance department could be the Liberals’ way of signalling that they’re aware of the challenges facing Canadians in rebuilding. 

Freeland has represented the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale since 2013. She’s a former journalist who since the Liberals came to power in 2015, has also been the minister of international trade and foreign affairs minister. She was integral in Canada’s renegotiation of NAFTA and recently fronted Canada’s latest retaliatory plans to U.S. President Donald Trump’s aluminum tariffs. 

While Morneau has said his departure is not due to the ongoing WE Charity student grant controversy, opposition MPs were quick to say otherwise, suggesting that Trudeau should also go given his own family ties to WE. 

In the last month Morneau had revealed he did not recuse himself from the cabinet table, where the organization was awarded a deal to run a now-halted $912-million summer program, despite having close family ties to WE. As well, he later revealed he had recently cut a cheque for $41,000 to cover expenses WE Charity paid for his family during 2017 trips to Kenya and Ecuador. 

His resignation means there is also another Ontario riding that will soon be up for grabs, the second Liberal seat to soon be vacated at a time when Trudeau’s minority needs to hold on to as many votes as possible due to the persistent push for a snap election from some opposition parties. 

While he insisted leaving was his decision, and not the result of Trudeau pushing him on account for the rumoured policy tensions between the two, Morneau said his relationship with Trudeau was built on “vigorous discussion and debate,” but that always led to better policy.

Morneau said he had come to the conclusion he was no longer the “most appropriate person” for the job of finance minister because he wasn’t going to be there for the long haul, and is now eyeing the international role of secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, with the prime minister’s backing.

While Trudeau will have Freeland at the cabinet table to take on financial matters, he is also receiving external informal advice from former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who some had thought was lining up to take Morneau’s job. 

With files from CTV News’ Meredith MacLeod, Solarina Ho, and Michel Boyer

More coming. 

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