OTTAWA: Canada’s finance minister Bill Morneau has announced his resignation as finance minister in the midst of allegations involving conflicts of interest with a Canadian charity called WE. (WE, formerly known as Free the Children, bills itself as a charity and youth empowerment movement founded in 1995 by human rights advocates Marc and Craig Kielburger.)
Deputy Prime Minister and Chrystia Freeland will replace Bill Morneau as Canada’s finance minister but will remain in her current roles as well.
Morneau and will also resign as the Liberal MP for Toronto Centre. He made the announcement after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.
“I met with the prime minister to inform him that I did not plan to run again in the next federal election,” Morneau told the media. “It has never been my plan to run for more than two federal election cycles.”
Morneau and the Prime Minister are under the lens of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion after reports emerged that the Liberal government gave a $43.53 million contract to WE Charity to manage an ambitious $900-million student grant program as part of the government’s COVID-19 benefits program.
The government apparently went ahead with the contract despite both Morneau and the Trudeau families having ties to the organization.
Morneau also faced questions about travel expenses of around $41,000 covered by WE on some trips abroad. He has since given a cheque to WE to cover the amount. Morneau said: ““Since I’m not running again, and since I expect that we will have a long and challenging recovery, I think it’s important that the prime minister has by his side a finance minister who has that longer term vision. “That’s what led me to conclude during this time period that it’s appropriate for me to step down.”
Trudeau too is facing questions about his personal and his family’s involvement with the charity over the past few years. Morneau also announced that he has planned to put his name forward for the post of secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
However, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took to Twitter to say that Morneau’s departure from cabinet was an effort to scapegoat the finance minister in order to save the prime minister “Bill Morneau’s ‘resignation’ is further proof of a government in chaos,” Scheer said. “At a time when Canadians are wor ried 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.”
On Monday, Trudeau also announced that Dominic LeBlanc, currently President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, becomes Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. He will
remain President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada.
Hailing Morneau’s contributions, Trudeau said: “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.
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.”
“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 …Canada will vigorously support his bid to lead the OECD.”
About Freeland, Trudeau said: “For five years, she has been at the heart of economic issues, including the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Recently, she played a crucial role in the Team Canada response to COVID-19. As the new Minister of Finance, she will lead the safe restart and recovery of our economy.”
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister asked Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, to
prorogue Parliament. This will provide an opportunity to present a Speech from the Throne on Wednesday, September 23, 2020, the same week the House of Commons was previously scheduled to return.
This speech will present the government’s detailed vision for the future, and will provide the opportunity for a vote of confidence on this new plan, a government statement said.