Monday August 17, 2020
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, March 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
TORONTO — Bill Morneau, Canada’s finance minister, is stepping down amid the ongoing scandal of accepting gifts from WE Charity and rumours of a growing rift with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Morneau, who has held the post for five years, announced his resignation Monday evening in a press conference from Ottawa. He will give up both his cabinet seat and will not seek re-election as the member of Parliament for Toronto Centre.
He announced he will make a bid to become secretary general of the OECD.
Reports have swirled that Trudeau and Morneau were at odds over environmental initiatives, and pandemic relief spending. Morneau has been in the crosshairs of opposition parties since the WE Charity scandal broke last month.
Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying the prime minister had “full confidence” in Morneau.
WE Charity, which was granted a contract to deliver $543 million of an up-to $912-million grant, partly paid for two trips for Morneau’s family members to Kenya and Ecuador, including one trip he took part in himself.
Morneau said he made an “error” and intended to cover the cost of the trips. He then cut a cheque for $41,000.
Canada’s ethics commissioner is now investigating both Morneau and Trudeau for not recusing themselves from decision-making around the contract given their family connections to WE Charity.
Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, told CTV News Channel that the resignation is a case of Morneau “falling on his sword for the sake of the party and for the government.”
She said it’s possible a deal has been struck in which Morneau can take on a role with the government down the road. But his removal won’t before enough for a “reset” for the government. The next step, finding a replacement, will be crucial, she says.
Speculation will now begin about who will take his place, but there has been plenty of talk that former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who has been seen as a highly coveted potential politician, has had the ear of Trudeau about the best course for economic recovery.
Williams says it’s “tricky” to appoint a cabinet minister who hasn’t been elected to Parliament, but it has happened before.