The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) says Justin Trudeau has “full confidence” in the federal finance minister after a recent news report suggested Trudeau was uncertain Bill Morneau remains the right person for the powerful cabinet position.
Citing unnamed inside sources, The Globe and Mail reported on Monday that the prime minister isn’t committed to keeping Morneau in the finance portfolio following some clashes over policies crafted during the government’s coronavirus pandemic response.
Asked about the claims on Tuesday, the PMO defended Morneau’s performance before and during the global pandemic, saying the Toronto MP “played a lead role” in the creation of Canada’s main COVID-19 income support program and the wage subsidy program for businesses.
“Of course the Prime Minister has full confidence in Minister Morneau and any statement to the contrary is false,” Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s communications director, said in a written statement.
“The Prime Minister knows that Minister Morneau and the entire team of cabinet ministers will keep doing the work that Canadians rely on to get them through this pandemic.”
The Globe and Mail’s report came after Bloomberg reported earlier Monday that Trudeau had recruited former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney as an “informal adviser” on policy matters as Canada tries to recover from the economic shock dealt by the spread of the coronavirus.
Sources told the Globe and Mail that the prime minister had relied on Carney — who also served as governor of the Bank of England from 2013 to 2020 — during the lockdown for “informal policy advice.”
The PMO was also taken aback by Morneau’s recent revelation that he repaid $41,000 in travel-related expenses to WE Charity, the group at the centre of an ongoing political controversy over the delivery of a massive student volunteer grant program, according to the Globe’s sources.
Both Trudeau and Morneau are being investigated by the federal ethics watchdog for possibly violating conflict-of-interest rules in the WE affair.
The Globe’s report claimed Morneau has said privately that he would leave politics early if he could no longer serve as federal finance minister.
Global News asked Morneau’s office if he is resigning or considering leaving politics. The answer, provided by a spokesperson, was “no.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer appeared to reference the Globe’s reporting as he addressed the WE affair and the Liberal government’s performance during a press conference on Tuesday, claiming “it’s clear the Liberals are going to try and invent some kind of policy excuse if they do make a change.”
“Justin Trudeau’s going to try to invent some kind of a conflict. We all know though that it’s not only Mr. Morneau’s scandalous ethics problems, but also the prime minister’s himself,” Scheer said.
“And it really doesn’t matter — making a trade for Bill Morneau when you’ve got a prime minister that has such a lack of ethics, embroiled in so many scandals.”