Canada: Surprise Resignation of Finance Minister Bill Morneau

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau on Monday announced his resignation from the government amid mounting tensions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over spending against the pandemic. “While we are entering a new phase in the fight against the pandemic (…), it is time for a new Minister of Finance to be able to carry out this project,” Morneau said during a press conference.  “This is why I am resigning from my functions as minister of finance and member of Parliament,” he added after a meeting with Trudeau.  Morneau, who had held this post since 2015, announced that he intended to run for the post of Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For the past week, several Canadian media have reported deep differences between Morneau and the prime minister on how to revive the Canadian economy, weakened by the coronavirus pandemic, without jeopardizing public finances while the expected deficit has reached more than 340 billion dollars (216 billion euros). The minister of finance is also the target of an investigation by the Canadian Ethics Commissioner into his links with a charity that employed his daughter, and to which the government had awarded a major contract without a call for other bids. This investigation also targets Trudeau, several of his family members have also been paid by this association. Morneau revealed last month that he had reimbursed more than $41,000 in travel expenses covered by the We Charity association (United in French), shortly before being heard on the matter by a committee of the House of Communes. The Federal Ethics Commissioner has opened an investigation into Trudeau and Morneau after the government awarded a major contract to the association to manage a nearly $1 billion student scholarship program, despite ties between the families of the two leaders and the association.  This program has since been withdrawn, without ending the controversy. United had admitted having paid nearly $300,000 (189,000 euros) to Trudeau’s mother and brother for speeches in recent years. Trudeau’s wife reportedly received $1,500 (around $1,000) for an event in 2012, before Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party.  Morneau for his part acknowledged that two of his daughters collaborate with the association, one of whom is as an employee. He apologized for participating in the discussions on the award of the government contract to the association. 

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