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Morneau says fate of Wilson-Raybould, Philpott ‘will come down to caucus’

WATCH: Global B.C.'s Sophie Lui sits down with Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

The decision about whether former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will remain in the federal Liberal fold is up to caucus, says Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Morneau made the comments Tuesday in Vancouver while on a tour to tout the new federal budget.

“It’s really not up to me to decide,” said Morneau, when asked if the pair should remain in caucus.

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“They’ve said that they believe that they still want to follow what our Liberal Party has been doing. I think we’ve made enormous strides over the last few years, but it will come down to caucus to come to that conclusion.”

Wilson-Raybould, who quit cabinet on Feb. 12 over allegations the Prime Minister’s Office pressured her inappropriately to intervene in the corruption prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, has told her constituents she plans to run in the October federal election as a Liberal.

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On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was looking forward to seeing the two dissident MPs run as Liberals.

Morneau said he hasn’t spoken to Wilson-Raybould or Philpott because he’s been “busy through the process” of rolling out the budget but added that despite the rift, his sense was that MPs across caucus remain united and positive.

“They’re feeling good about the program, they’re feeling good that we’ve been invested in middle-class Canadians and they can see that this budget is going to do that as well, and there will always be people that have a different point of view,” he said.

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Morneau also said he believes his office did not overstep its role in dealing with the SNC-Lavalin case, which he said includes thinking through the economic implications of policy decisions.

“I’ve been pretty clear in saying I didn’t really have any interactions with Jody Wilson-Raybould on this issue,” he said.

“She approached me at one stage to say our offices were talking. In my view, that’s appropriate for them to be talking. Of course, we’ve had a broader discussion about this, and the prime minister has been pretty clear in terms of our discussions and in terms of the fact that we followed the rule of law all the way through.”

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Morneau’s budget tour took him to Vancouver the same day a new Research Co. poll found the Trudeau Liberals are facing an uphill battle in British Columbia, where they currently hold 17 seats after a breakthrough in the last election.

According to the survey, 53 per cent of British Columbians believe “a different party leader would do things better in Ottawa as prime minister than Justin Trudeau,” including one-third of people who voted Liberal in the 2015 election.

COMMENTARY: Justin Trudeau needs to remove Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus

Morneau touted elements of the budget he said would help British Columbians get ahead, including the government’s new first-time homebuyers’ incentive, which he argued would help young people get into the market.

“In the case of Vancouver, when we look at the average mortgage for a family under the age of 35 in Vancouver, it’s under $470,000,” he said.

Morneau also pointed to new initiatives in the federal budget to crack down on dirty dealing in the real estate market, a problem that experts believe is particularly pronounced in B.C.

“We’re trying to crack down on people who are in the market inappropriately. We’ve put money into the RCMP, we’ve got a team, an ACE team, that’s going to look at how we can ensure that people aren’t money laundering through the real estate sector,” Morneau said.

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Morneau’s B.C. budget tour comes two days after Trudeau visited Vancouver for the Liberal nomination of former TV anchor Tamara Taggart, who is aiming to unseat veteran NDP MP Don Davies in the Vancouver-Kingsway riding.

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