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Bill Morneau steps down as finance minister

Click to play video 'Bill Morneau resigns as Canada’s finance minister' Bill Morneau resigns as Canada’s finance minister
WATCH: Bill Morneau resigns as Canada's finance minister

Bill Morneau is stepping down from his post as Canada’s finance minister and as Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre.

Speaking at a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday evening, Morneau said he never planned to run in more than two federal elections, adding that as Canada continues to work towards economic recovery amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is “the right time for a new finance minister to deliver on that plan.”

Read more: Trudeau, Morneau clashing over green initiatives and coronavirus spending: sources

“That’s why I’ll be stepping down as finance minister and as Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre,” he said.

Morneau had served as Canada’s finance minister under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since 2015.

His resignation comes after he had reportedly been clashing with Trudeau over coronavirus spending and over the scope and scale of proposed green initiatives.
Click to play video 'Bill Morneau says he’s resigned as Canada’s finance minister, MP' Bill Morneau says he’s resigned as Canada’s finance minister, MP
Bill Morneau says he’s resigned as Canada’s finance minister, MP
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But Morneau told reporters the prime minister did not ask him to step down from his post as finance minister, adding that he tendered his resignation Monday morning.

Morneau also announced that he will put forward his name as a candidate to be the next Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“ll be spending the next few weeks preparing for this bid,” he said.

Morneau’s resignation comes as both he and Trudeau are are both facing investigations by the new federal ethics watchdog, Mario Dion, for taking part in talks to hand WE Charity a contract to run a pandemic-related student-volunteer program.

Morneau came under fire last month after he told a House of Commons committee he had recently reimbursed the organization more than $41,000 to cover travel expenses incurred when he, his wife and their daughters took part in trips with the organization in 2017.

Click to play video 'Morneau says it’s ‘appropriate’ time to resign, will support decision for next person for role' Morneau says it’s ‘appropriate’ time to resign, will support decision for next person for role
Morneau says it’s ‘appropriate’ time to resign, will support decision for next person for role

He had faced calls from the opposition to resign over the incident.

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Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet had threatened to try to trigger an election this fall if Morneau and Trudeau didn’t resign.

Read more: Ethics commissioner sets sights on Morneau as WE Charity grant probe expands

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Morneau said in hindsight he wished that the contract with WE Charity had been handled differently.

“As I’ve said, I think that it would have been more appropriate for me to recuse myself from that decision,” he said. “But moving forward, I think that the most important thing is to think about where you can have the appropriate impact at the appropriate time.”

“And what I’m saying now is it’s appropriate for the prime minister to find someone with a longer term approach to being finance minister that I can give.”

Click to play video 'WE controversy: Bill Morneau says he wishes he had ‘done things differently’ with charity' WE controversy: Bill Morneau says he wishes he had ‘done things differently’ with charity
WE controversy: Bill Morneau says he wishes he had ‘done things differently’ with charity

The recent news that Mark Carney, a former governor of both the Bank of Canada and Bank of England, is helping to advise Trudeau on the post-pandemic economic recovery fuelled speculation that Morneau was about to be replaced.

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However, a senior government official confirmed to Global News that Carney will not be the next finance minister.

In a statement released Monday evening, Trudeau said he had accepted Morneau’s resignation.

“Since the first day he was 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,” the statement reads.

Click to play video 'Bill Morneau says he tendered resignation, was not asked to resign' Bill Morneau says he tendered resignation, was not asked to resign
Bill Morneau says he tendered resignation, was not asked to resign

“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,” he said. “I have counted on his leadership, advice, and close friendship over the years and I look forward to that continuing well into the future.”

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Read more: ‘Why hasn’t Justin Trudeau fired him?’: Tories demand Morneau resign over WE scandal

In the statement, Trudeau said the country will “vigorously support his bid to lead this important global institution that will play a critical role in the global economic recovery.”

Canada’s Associate Minister of Finance Mona Fortier said she has been “proud to serve alongside Bill” as an MP and minister.

“I wish him all the best, and look forward to supporting his OECD leadership bid,” she said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Click to play video 'Bloc’s Blanchet issues public ultimatum, threatens fall election' Bloc’s Blanchet issues public ultimatum, threatens fall election
Bloc’s Blanchet issues public ultimatum, threatens fall election

Opposition reacts

In a series of tweets Monday evening, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer said Morneau’s resignation is “further proof of a government in chaos.”

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“At a time when Canadians are worried about their health and finances, Justin Trudeau’s government is so consumed by scandal that Trudeau has amputated his right hand to try and save himself.”

Scheer said “scapegoating Morneau does not solve the problem.”

“As long as Trudeau is Prime Minister, the corruption will continue,” he wrote.

What’s more, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Canadians need a government that is “focused on helping them.”

“Not their own scandals,” he wrote in a tweet. “In the middle of a financial crisis, Justin Trudeau has lost his Finance Minister.”

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-With files from The Canadian Press